Managing Millennials: How to Decode the “Me Generation”
Stefanie Fox is a hair stylist and salon owner of Canvas Salon & Skin Bar in Powell, Ohio. But she’s also a woman on a mission. Through consulting, coaching and speaking engagements, Fox hopes to bridge the generation gap between salon owners and their stylists. As a hairdresser, she has felt frustrated with her salon leaders and their lack of vision and understanding in the past. And as an owner, she has experienced frustration with her team.
A Millennial herself, Fox also holds degrees in marketing, psychology and an MBA. Because of her research and personal experiences, she believes the solution to growth and harmony in the salon lies in leaders understanding the next generation and becoming great coaches to them.
Recently, Fox spoke to a jam-packed crowd at Serious Business about how the Millennial generation can be the salon team’s biggest asset.
A Misunderstood Generation
Millennials, who have been lumped in with Generation Y, were born between 1980-1999. They’re the number-one most researched generation in history, and they sometimes get a bad rap.
Often, Millennials are unfairly associated with negative attributes like being hungry for attention or needing instant gratification—especially in the work place. But Fox maintains a good leader can bring out the best in Millennials through communication and understanding.
“By 2020, they will make up more than half the workforce,” she says. “We need to lead by example and help them grow.”
But first, owners and managers need to understand the stylists they are leading.
“Millennials have been engaging in social media crafting their whole lives,” Fox says. “Social media crafting is the act of making your life look like you want it to look—for example, only posting flattering photos or pictures of vacation on Facebook. It is deliberately constructing your social media content to control the way others view your life.”
The downside to social media crafting is everyone else’s life looks perfect. It causes people to look in the mirror and see their lives as all wrong.
“So Millennials don’t know how to deal with the hard things in life because they are so used to looking around and seeing everyone else’s perfect life,” Fox says.
This translates into how they view their salon owners. Stylists don’t see all the hard work—the struggles and failures—that’s underneath being an owner.
“They forget that’s what lies under success,” she says.
And then, a vicious cycle of misunderstanding ensues. The stylist feels discontented, the owner sees attitude. The owner feels overwhelmed, the stylist feels they aren’t good enough.
“They struggle to communicate with us and we think they don’t care,” Fox says. “Where does this leave leaders? Frustrated, unsure and overwhelmed. Where does this leave hairdressers? Uncertain, discontented and unhappy.”
A team committed and aligned to the mission of the salon and its leaders is a happy team. But achieving this alignment is easier said than done.
“We’ve had it backwards,” Fox says. “Leader development gets sidelined, but they are the link. Stylists see the vision of the leader and follow.”
A passionate, caring owner who is in the trenches with her stylists is a leader the team can get behind. “We need to lead with them, taking everyone’s thoughts and opinions into consideration,” she says. “They need to see their leader has their backs.”
Fox says they also need systems in place to feel safe and emotionally connected to their leader.
“At Aveda, we have all sorts of systems—service wheel, prebooking, retail, etc. These are crucial,” Fox says. “It allows you to scale your business, and train employees. If something goes wrong in the system, we change and try again—over and over.”
She also encourages salon owners to look at how much leadership development they are giving their employees in comparison to technical education.
“We can’t keep them cutting, coloring and serving people if we’re not helping them along,” she says. “So what happens? Instant gratification, pointing fingers, no dependability.”
This is when the three big stereotypes of Millennials come into play: entitlement, lack of commitment and unrealistic expectations.
“But what if we see things differently?” Fox challenges.
“Instead of systems first, develop employees and leaders first. Then we see emotionally mature employees, loyalty, self accountability, gratitude and people who want to help.”
The result is not perfect, but the salon team ends up with collaboration and connection instead of bad attitudes and disengagement.
When an owner sees the stereotypical Millennial behaviors, Fox says to look for the underlying meanings:
Entitlement = Collaborate with me
No commitment = Build a connection with me
Unrealistic expectations = Align with me, help me see how I’m part of this, too
Changing the Way You Lead
“We have limited resources, so we have to figure out what’s getting in our way of doing this,” Fox says. “What’s stopping us from being effective leaders to Millennials?”
- Our mindset
- We’re overwhelmed
- Fear of being emotionally exposed
Getting Millennials committed to you means committing to them. “There must be trust, ownership and commitment that you are in this together and have each others’ backs—no matter how much you frustrate each other,” Fox says.
Below is Fox’s collaborative connection process:
Vision (alignment): The stylist needs to know: Can I grow here? Do you have a path for it? Are we in this together?
“How are you helping them achieve their vision and how are they helping achieve yours?” Fox asks.
“A simple way I do it is to meet with each team member once a month. I ask them at the beginning of year: how much money do you want to make in a month? Until we meet that monthly goal, we keep having that conversation.”
Fox goes over what education they need to get better at goals like prebooking. And then suddenly, the stylist’s numbers are matching Fox’s. Alignment in growth is achieved. “It’s about meeting goals set for the business and their own personal goals,” she says.
Mind (clear it): “We have to get into the right frame of mind to be effective leaders,” Fox says. “If you’re having a bad day, what are you doing to clear your mind so you can perform and lead? How do you reset? That is leadership work. How do you teach your team to reset? How do you teach them to reset themselves so they can perform?”
Time (make it): “Not having enough time is not an excuse,” Fox says. “As a leader, saying you don’t have time is unacceptable. Millennials need a connection and relationship with you. How are you making time to properly lead your team? How are you making sure in the morning, you don’t sneak into your office when nobody is looking?”
Fox says she has had to learn how to make time and make her team make time.
“My team has to clock in 30 minutes before their shift. Then they have time to look through the day rather than scramble around as soon as they run in the door. But they had to be taught to use their time wisely.”
Voice (say it): Fox encounters many owners who are afraid to have a voice. But just like a football coach watches his quarterback from the sidelines and tells him how he can do it better the next time, a salon leader needs to do the same with his or her team.
“Millennials see the leader as the expert,” she says. “They want to know how to get there, but will never know if you don’t teach them.”
“It’s not always comfortable and you don’t know how they will respond, but you should encourage two-way communication.”
One way to do this is to allow the team to review their leader. “My team reviews me once a year on an online survey I create,” Fox says. “I want to work with people who all have a voice.”
But change is work, and it won’t necessarily come naturally to everyone. “I have one hairdresser I love so much—she’s so sassy though. Every emotion shows on her face,” Fox says. “She wants to be an educator, so I’ve had to work with her many times on what her face says.”
Action (do it): “As leaders in business, we are busy. There’s so much on our plates that we’re juggling every day. But you need to think about what you’re doing in your business right now that’s holding your team accountable. What does it look like?
“One of my tools is accountability. I don’t want to remember everything, so I share something with a team member and tell them to follow up. Then I put the item in my calendar, which will eventually pop up. If the team member took care of it, I delete it. If not, I hold them accountable.”