Team work

Five foundations for happiness in your salon workplace

5 Jul 2018 by Lisa Conway

Imagine if everyone was happy working in your salon. Imagine never having to worry about whether a team member was staying or going. Imagine being able to plan long-term to develop your team to meet their full potential. Imagine being able to step back and let your team run the show.

For many salon owners, having a happy workplace is only ever a dream. The truth is, the difference between daydreaming and living the reality is within your reach. There are five key foundations for happiness in your salon workplace and I’m going to share them with you here. But first, let me explain why.

Why is it important to create a happy workplace? 

When you know why staff leave and what to do about it, you’re well ahead of the curve. There’s a huge opportunity for growth. You can make changes, minimise the fallout of staff turnover and offer your clients (and team) continuity. Your workplace culture becomes more settled and you can all focus on doing your best work.

When asked to write about this topic, I jumped at the chance. My joy has been 30 years behind a salon chair and building teams. I had no training. At times it really challenged me, yet I loved every minute of it. Yes, even those “just shoot me now” moments!

Many of the principles that underpin my thinking on building amazing teams come from a book I stumbled across a few years back. I couldn’t put it down; it made absolute sense to me. For the first time, I had a written structure and understanding as to why I had had such success.

I highly recommend you read (or listen to) the book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. It tells the story of an office team who are actually not a team at all … until CEO Catherine sets about changing all that. Yes, this book is a game-changer.

Based on my broad findings from the book, here is my spin on the five foundations you need for a happy salon workplace, where team members will be falling over themselves to stick around (rather than lining up to leave).

Salon owner training her team

1. Trust

If you don’t have trust, you’re doomed before you even begin. Why? Because it’s a basic human need. Without it, your salon team cannot operate. 

The capacity to trust comes easily to some people. To others, not so much. Some people take their time and make you earn it. They don’t give an inch until they’re sure it’s safe to do so. As a salon owner, you need to understand trust and work to develop it as a core value within your team.

Perception is projection. If you don’t trust, you’ll project that outwardly and get stuck in a loop of distrust. Instead, ask yourself this: Why don’t I trust people? What’s holding me back? Is my distrust clouding new relationships? Resolve to leave that old baggage at the door and start afresh.

The trust bomb: if you truly can’t trust someone on your team, they truly need to go. Not sure if you trust them? How do you feel about them having a key to your salon? Or to your house? There’s your reality check right there.

Quote: If you don’t have trust, you’re doomed before you even begin. Why? Because it’s a basic human need. Without it, your salon team cannot operate.

2. Conflict

It seems counter-intuitive, but you actually need some conflict (and resolution around it) in order to clear confusion. It’s how we grow and learn. Conflict is where honesty lives.

Invite healthy conflict into your salon workplace through team meetings, one-on-ones and open communication. Aim for robust rather than aggressive dialogue. Put in place structures where one person will speak while the other person listens, then vice versa. 

Set the guidelines, focus on REALLY listening and you’ll be surprised what you hear. There are always at least two sides to every story. Your version is only one.

How to create a happy salon team

3. Commitment

From time to time, every one of us lacks commitment. Yes, all of us. Mostly it springs from not caring about the task at hand. Get into your team member’s head (and your own) and work out what’s going on.

Maybe you have a part-time job that gives you part-time commitment. You justify it as a “fill-in” job, you’re not looking for a career and that makes it hard to give your clients the experience or service they deserve. Whether it’s the coffee you just made or the phone you just answered, you don’t give it your best.

What if you could shift that thinking? Convince yourself (or your team member) that you’re there anyway, so you may as well do it to your best capacity, get involved, be the best you can be. Watch the quality of your day change!

Salon team members laughing together

4. Accountability

In your salon, learn to hold each other accountable. If you say you’ll check with your husband to see if he can mind the kids so you can come in early to do a training, then follow through. Confirm and let the others know what’s going on. There’s no excuse. Write a note, put it in your bra. When you get undressed the note falls out. Boom! You’re prompted to ask the question and SMS the answer.

Hold each other to the tasks. Every single day. Make the tasks SMART. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time framed, so there’s no doubt about expectations.

For more tips on SMART goal setting, check out SMART goal setting tips for salons, spas and clinics.

Hair stylist with client

5. Results

Learn to focus on the results. Understand the difference between being busy and actually achieving an outcome. Work together to set clear goals and then set about making them happen.

Work it out, define it: what’s the end prize and how will you know when you’ve arrived? And when you hit a milestone (big or small) celebrate and give yourselves credit for work well done.

When you integrate these five foundations into your salon, you build a solid base for a happy workplace. Own the five foundations, work them like nobody’s business and watch your salon turn up a huge notch as your team finds their happy place.

For more salon team wisdom, email me at, visit my website, find my video tips on YouTube, join Club ZING or read more about salon teams in my book Your Salon Team: The salon owner’s guide to finding, motivating and keeping great staff.

Free e-book: Create Your Dream Team

Want expert tips for creating the salon team of your dreams? Download our free e-book for salon owners: Your Dream Team, for tips for building a high performing, engaged and happy team that you can action now for immediate results!

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Editor’s note: This article was updated on 22 February 2022 for relevance and comprehensiveness.

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