Attributes You Need To Be a Successful Hairdresser

By Sarra Pond

Co- Founder  Cobella – London

Hairdresser – Salon Manager - Licensed Psychotherapist

When I started hairdressing, I had a very definite vision of what I wanted from this exciting industry but I didn’t have a definite plan of how to go about materializing my vision. I was a visionary, I could be a leader but I had to learn gradually how to manage my plan.  I had to throw myself in the deep end of managing people at the naïve and tender age of 18. I had aspirations and ambitions but my enthusiasm was clouded by my naiveté.

 Today, 28 years in such a fast moving industry, I find myself being able to lead and inspire my team of 35 members to give their maximum toward achieving their goals and those of the organization. I went to great lengths to learn a long lasting style of inspiring passionate and enthusiastic hairdressers. I became aware that hairdressers share common characteristics. They are passionate, glamorous and have a certain power over their clients. Young trainees and recruits can learn this power by acquiring the attributes that make a good hairdresser. For these attributes to come naturally, they must be learnt inside out. To be a good hairdresser doesn’t just require technical knowledge. To be a good hairdresser also requires to develop certain personal attributes and behavior which will not only make a client feel good and give them their monies worth but also and most importantly make the client find us special enough to come back and stay with us in the long run.

Cope with problems and stress with unexpected strength

A hairdresser needs to be able to cope with problems and stress with unexpected strength. A certain percentage of people in any work setting has this strength or knows how to cope but some don’t. Here we will look at the “processes” of coping and adapting in a busy salon rather than reflect in failure and incompetence. We will place emphasis on how resistant people cope with stress. We will look at how we react when we are faced with a problem rather than what is the problem. We look at how we can find and acquire self-generated strengths to cope with situation problems that cause us stress.

In today’s hair salons, the demands for hairdressers as well as salon managers come from all directions, staffing, finances, promotions, training needs, staff room politics and very stressed out demanding clients, that if we dare get it wrong we’ll have a lawsuit on our hands. At any one day a problem will arise just to stress our tolerance. We are in an industry where stress has to be coped with and used positively if our clients are going to breath the body and mind experience we promised them.

Our focus here is to define and understand those attributes that the individual hairdresser needs for emotionally healthy as well as adaptive ways of working. These attributes include a collective, cooperative concern for the well being of the group/team and a profound personal development. The emphasis is on qualities and skills that can be developed through awareness and understanding.

I have spent years developing them myself through trial and error and nine years studying psychology and psychotherapy. Once I taught myself these attributes, my own trainees would learn by watching me.  They also learned by role modeling. I found myself relaxing and being able to leave the salon for longer periods. Only to find out that the new recruits, not trained in our salon, even though brilliant technically and sometimes coming from big well-known salons, had no idea how to handle people. Their social skills inadequacies were presenting problems for the salon as a whole and client complaints were on the increase. How could this problem be eliminated? If I did nothing some of my old staff would leave because they were not used to working in a negative environment. I therefore, had no option but to act and develop seminars on how to succeed as a hairdresser, which we taught hand in hand with their technical training. 

We looked at attributes that are of greater value in validating strengths and abilities. These attributes once acquired, could become our pool of resources from which we gain power and in turn enable us to contribute as well as to receive from our salon. These are not techniques but rather ways of becoming a powerful and resourceful hairdresser. 

Social competency

Social competency is that combination of professional behavior that allows the hairdresser to find and retain people (colleagues and clients). It is the ability to be liked by others, to get along with colleagues and clients and be respected by them. It includes the quality of empathy, flexibility, responsiveness, sense of humor and the skills of communication and adaptation.

Of great importance here is openness to tolerance and open-mindedness combined with a sense of boundaries. In other words to be aware and sensitive to colleagues and clients moods, to be flexible, adapt to them, respond to them and if everything fails, use good old humor and also your ears and mouth effectively and resourcefully. Be open, creative in different ways and tolerate circumstances within the framework of salon restrictions. Be it a meeting with a boss, employee, a stressed out client, a heavy column or unfriendly and uncooperative colleague. Take in to consideration other people’s circumstances and needs and balance them with your own at any given moment. We are there to service others before we service ourselves.

Remain positive

Resist the impulse to getting entwined in the staff room grapevine. Instead of complaining, try to look at negative situations another way and make a point of saying positive things about people instead of joining in the gossip.

Develop a reputation for kindness, genuine caring about the needs of others, customers, managers, co-workers and suppliers alike.

Keep your word - Stay Truthful

Don’t make commitments you can’t keep. Consider verbal promises good as honored and if you need to, write them down to ensure you fulfill them. While sometimes it may seem that bending the truth, playing work politics and undercutting others will help you get ahead, you will be much better off conducting yourself with honesty and integrity. Not only you will build a firm foundation for success, you will also find it easier to live with yourself during the day and sleep well at night.

Problem solving skills – Trust

Problem solving skills involve both a mental ability to think abstractly, reflectively and with flexibility. Have the courage to find and implement alternative solutions. This concerns both internal decisions and also issues and conflicts with others. Specifically for us hairdressers, it often means finding and using options other than anger, frustration, misunderstandings and placing the blame on others. In my everyday life in the salon I came to realize that to change a troublesome situation that was occurring time and time again I had to change myself. To do that, I had to change my perception, as the previous belief was not working. There was no room for pointless pride. I realized that two people could see the same thing, disagree and yet both are right. It’s not logical it’s psychological. This opened a new dimension of dealing with complaints and staff disagreements. Through continued calm, respectful and effective communication, I was finally able to see the other’s point of view.

Another example in a salon environment is trust. I realized that if I wanted staff and clients to trust me I had to become trustworthy first.

The way we see the problem IS the problem.

Sometimes the way we see the problem IS the problem. I went to a seminar after seminar on effective management training, seeking solutions. I had high expectations of my employees, I treated them right, I worked hard alongside them but hairdressers were not as loyal, motivated or as responsible as I expected. After a lot of searching I realized that maybe I was empowering my employees weaknesses and was enabling them behave that way. I thought that maybe they are disillusioned by all the motivational seminars and techniques, which were all quick fixes and not long-term solutions. The way I saw the problem, was the problem. I started seeing that my employees really wanted substance more than quick fixes. To employ people and expect them to give us their all doesn’t work. For hairdressers to keep changing salons and expect salon owners to give them success will not work either.  The only way is to undergo the slow process of training our employees or ourselves toward acquiring the character traits of highly successful people.  Success will then automatically come to us and recognition will follow. Only then we can become a highly effective person and a highly successful hairdresser recognized by others. In other words, there are no quick fixes and short cuts. As my hairdressers learnt to be more resourceful and see a problem from different angles the more able they became in offering various solutions to problems.

Autonomy – Self Control

Autonomy is the ability of the individual to relate to herself, acting from an internal self control, what can you do to control a situation affecting you, your colleagues and clients, instead of relating to others to change it for you. You can only control change for yourself and in turn it might influence the way others see you.

This concept includes all the self-qualities such as self-esteem, self-efficiency and self-discipline. A sense of independence is particularly vital when the influence of the immediate environment is negative (staff politics, colleagues being too busy to help you, your support system or boss are being overstressed or absent).

Self-control is defined as the ability to act independently and have some control over one’s workplace. This complex quality involves separateness       (being distinct or different) held in balance with connectedness (being connected). For example: I can work independently and I am also a part of the team and salon organization. Even though I work independently, the way I do it is as if I am a part of and enhance my team. Everything I do, I do it relating to my team that I belong.  In the salon I have to be considerate, loyal, honest, helpful as these are vital qualities for my salon and my colleagues. Otherwise isolation and in turn destruction are inevitable if I work in a way that doesn’t relate to others. Others in turn will isolate themselves from me.  Autonomy is not to be confused with isolation.

Sense of purpose and future

Sense of purpose and future describes perhaps the most essential of these attributes, the one that gives meaning to the others as well as to life in general.

Qualities like aspirations, anticipation, expectations and “hardiness” can be defined as the belief that things will probably go as well as can reasonably be expected under whatever circumstances present themselves.

The have the motivation to achieve and to set goals & targets that you believe you can successfully reach. Perhaps most important is hopefulness, the ability to imagine, a sense that every working day, every working week, month and year has meanings and inner connection to a spiritual dimension.

My motto in the salon is “ I am here to work, I have to work, I might as well have a sense of purpose to achieve my targets and furthermore I will make my time a happy one for me and others”

When times feel difficult at my work place as well as in my personal life, when life places me between a rock and a hard place, I notice the flowers which grow between the cracks and they are beautiful. I show these flowers to my colleagues too. Some of your colleagues will make the effort to show you these flowers too.

I do hope you will plant your own garden, which in time will fill your own salon with your own flowers for colleagues and clients to enjoy!!!!


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