Empower your team during times of change

Business leaders learned many lessons in our last economic recession, and many of them, the hard way. I was promoted to president of The Charles Penzone Salons in 2008, and thinking back, my first critical initiative was to empower everyone to step up and make an even greater contribution to the company, our customers and each other.
It was the biggest economic downturn in our company’s history, as our community faced the loss of jobs and businesses shutting their doors. A few strategic initiatives guided me to successfully navigate adverse situations, while also sparking organizational change.
Encouraging collaboration
There’s no “I” in team — and that’s exactly where I started. I pulled together our internal executive team and reassured them: no matter what it takes the salon is here for the long run.
We had to get creative, roll up our sleeves and get involved in helping our company not only survive but also thrive.
It was inspiring to see each department find ways to help one another. They reduced spending on unnecessary items and then redirected the funds to areas that serviced our guests and professional team. We learned to master mundane operations and took a hard look at every dollar and cent.
“When we faced challenging times, we refocused our training model by cross-training our front staff to be able to multitask and cover multiple roles for maximum efficiency. With this, managers were empowered to be more present in the salons to help support this operational change,” says Renee Drewry, director of Salon Operations & Sites, who worked as a salon director at the time.
After seeing how collaboration at the management-level returned results, I realized that collaboration from the front-line team would be the next important step.
The people who have first contact with guests are some of our most vital team players. We needed to hear their ideas and also empower them to know they make a difference in the bottom line and our customer’s satisfaction. And to do this, we communicated with them.
Open lines of communication
To ensure we had open lines of communication, we developed a Team Member Engagement survey, which has evolved into an anonymous online survey with a blend of scale-based and open-ended questions.
This platform has allowed us to obtain feedback from our internal team members. We empower them to share their opinions and knowledge, which in turn helps us shape our priorities, projects and initiatives.
We change the survey when needed, and we communicate the results and the changes it initiates to our teams after we tally and analyze the results. Due to this transparency and empowerment, we still have successful completion rates — almost 300 this past year.
We’ve noticed a ripple effect from this connectedness. When our team members feel empowered, that’s when attitudinal changes happen. Team members want to step up, rise to the challenge and work harder.

Through collaboration, communication and connectedness, brand advocates are born — and we all know how critical that is, for both internal and external audiences, during times of change.

Debra Penzone is the president of the Charles Penzone Family of Salons. Debra’s expertise as a business leader, hair professional and her avid philanthropy have earned her the respect of the salon industry and the nonprofit community.