So if you know me, you know that hair is very important to me. I'm not going to say I have the best hair in the world, but I have done a lot to keep what I have on the top of my head rather than having it be in the drain. This comes from over 33 years of having a father in the hair replacement industry. I guess all the years of seeing my father place toupees and wigs on people's heads including his own made me realize I didn't want to have to be a "customer" of my fathers.
Since I've been successful (for the most part) keeping my hair on my head, a good hair cut is very important to me. Unfortunately, after 35 years of receiving a consistent haircut from my father, that time came to an end when my dad passed away from pancreatic cancer. Of course, a good haircut is not all that I appreciated about my father. I loved him dearly and miss him every day, but I will say that through this process I've come to learn that I underappreciated my father in so many ways, including how well he cut my hair.
Fast forward to today. Since my father's passing, our family decided to sell his salon and move on. With that, I lost any connection (albeit small) to a team of amazing stylists. There just wasn't anything that felt right about continuing to go there after the ownership change and my father's name was taken off the door.
So that lead me to my new pursuit of "my stylist". In reality, I haven't tried very hard. I went to cost cutters for a bit, but then landed at Sport Clips, which is my new home. Since I'm a "D" (DiSC ™ ) personality and am inpatient I always choose the "Soonest available stylist option". Which means there is not any consistency to my hair cutting. Quite the polar opposite from where I once was.
I generally feel like I leave with a good haircut most of the time. With that said, there was one time where I didn't. In fact, it was probably the worst haircut I've ever had. I thought based upon observing what my hair looked like when I came in the stylist would know what to do. Also, I assumed they read the notes and would know from the notes in my file. Boy, was I wrong. Instead of the "Adam Levine" style haircut I typically strive for (don't worry I know I'm not nearly as good looking as Adam and can't pull it off nearly to the degree he can - but I do try), I left with a very "Skateboarder-ish" style. I even had a "tail" in the back. When I hopped in my car my wife confronted me on it and insisted I go back in and have them "fix-it". As embarrassed as I felt, I listened and went back and had it fixed. It didn't look great, but it did look suitable.
After that circumstance, I vowed that I would never use that stylist again.
Well, I lied. Today, I went to Sports Clips to get my haircut and again picked "Soonest available stylist" and guess who I received -you guessed it the same stylist that gave me the skateboarding cut. Of course, I was nervous and part of me wanted to bolt out of the store and come back another day, but I was in a rush and decided I'll give her "one last chance".
I'll let you be the judge. How do you think it looks? Amazingly to my surprise, I felt like the haircut I received today was one of the best I've ever received from that store. So it lead me to ask myself, why. At first, my wife told me that she thought the stylist was likely "new" last time and just had more experience. I wouldn't be surprised normally if that was the case, as we know that behaviors drive technique and technique improves with more behaviors, just like in sales. But in this circumstance behaviors had nothing to do with it. In fact, the stylist I had was one of their longest tenured stylists and this was true even last year when she cut my hair the first time.
So if it wasn't her tenure, then what made the difference? I thought well maybe it was her technique. But after further review, nope, still the same.
So if not the technique, perhaps it was her attitude that day as we all know attitude drives behavior and behavior drives results and results drive attitude. But again after further hindsight, nope, not the case. My stylist was very chipper and very friendly the first time I met her.
So if it was not her attitude then what was it? I finally got it. The answer was direction…
This time I had my haircut, I gave very clear directions to my stylist. I informed her exactly how I like it, where I like my part, what guards I typically prefer and how long I prefer it. With that direction, she was able to produce exactly what I had in my mind.
She clearly had the experience, skills, attitude, cognitive ability, and habits built to cut my hair right the first time, but with lack of direction even the best stylist in the world would have only been guessing how I like my haircut, as I waited over two months to get my hair cut, and it was exponentially longer than it normally would be. Therefore there was no way for her to even guess, in lieu of a picture, the best notes would not have never mattered without direction.
How does this apply to me, you may ask?
For me, it hit me like a sack of bricks. As a leader, I often assign projects to my team and find myself disappointed by the outcome. However, my team has the skills, experience, attitude, cognitive abilities and habits to succeed. They would walk through fire for me and what our organization represents. But it doesn't matter absent of direction. So if you are a leader think to yourself, are you the leader asking for the outcome without direction? Or are you the leader providing direction to assure the outcome you hope for?
Allow for failure. Embrace "failing forward". Just like the stylist that was cutting my hair, the first time your team does anything, it's likely the results will not replicate perfection. But that's ok. With repetition perfection or just shy of will come over time. To shorten that cycle, provide direction and the rest will be history.
I know the next time I go to get my haircut, I'll be providing clear direction. Will you?