What’s the number one tip you’ve learned about managing people?
Skilled employees who are team players are few and far between - treating them like a resource that you “get the most out of” will do nothing but drive them away, and that's a problem. As a business owner, you can only do so much, so if you want your business to grow, you’re going to have to find like-minded individuals to help you build your dream.
Every person is blessed with creativity in one way or another. A good manager or boss knows that managing people means allowing asks to be done in ways that are different to theirs, which gives employees room to breath and brings their own colour and flavour to your business.
We had a chat about management to Liz Cahalan, Director and “Bey Boss” of a trendy dance school in Australia. Liz and her business partner Lauren Thiel manage numerous staff in the business’s eight locations. Called Bey Dance, the dance community is dedicated to “releasing the disco diva within onto the dance floor, full of flawless fabulousness, just like Queen Bey.” The business describes itself as fun, tongue in cheek, inclusive and divalicious.
“It’s all about taking your secret passion for dancing in your bedroom, hair brush for a mic, sassy ring finger flourishing to within an inch of its life, and putting you in a room full of like-minded Bey devotees,” their website says.
The fun and inviting atmosphere that the Bey Dance community has come to expect has been essential to its success, and employees play a big part in creating and protecting that environment. Liz and Lauren see it as their roles to bring out the best in all of their staff, rather than giving them instructions on what to do.
“The most important thing I’ve learned about managing staff is to value and commend their unique skills, and to not be afraid if they have a style which differs from, or talents which surpass, my own,” Liz says.
In the past, Liz has worked for managers who have either actively shut down innovations she has suggested, or demanded that she operate as an exact replica of their own style. She says it always felt like a waste of her individual talents so when it came to starting her own business, she was determined not to have this type of culture.
“In every case I have ended up leaving the workplace and working for myself because I haven’t felt valued and trusted. I remind myself often that my way of doing things is good for some, but not all. So I try to outline to my staff which elements I need, for practical and brand reasons, to be uniform, and where they can be flexible and creative.”
Each Bey Dance teacher has their unique styles and ways of communicating, which may suit different students’ needs, and Liz sees this as an asset rather than a problem.
“I would much rather that the teachers feel they can be creative and expand their skills within my business, than they get frustrated and feel shut down and end up feeling they have to go it alone,” she explains.
That’s not to say it’s easy to relinquish the control you have over your baby. You’ve worked hard to raise your business to the point it’s at today and it can be daunting to let go of your ego and allow things to be done differently from your own approach. But not doing so is detrimental.
“I have learned that not letting go is the quickest way to suffocate a business,” Liz continues. “The best thing you can do to gain the loyalty and hard work of your team is to let them breathe into their own ways of doing things.”
This method of management has proven popular within the Bey Dance community, but it was not something that Liz was taught. In fact, she has had no formal management training at all, learning what she knows by pushing herself into volunteering and community leadership positions as a teenager. Liz’s intuitive rather than procedural style of management works for her because it ’s not forced. It’s the result of feeling connected to the people around her and wanting what’s best for them.
Liz discovered that she’s not the only one to have inclusive management styles after reading Emotional Economy by author Jeremy Scrivens.
“Scrivens’ approach mirrors my intuition that our strongest asset as managers is tapping into the sense of community that our employees and customers have, and showing a great deal of trust,” she says. “It’s about operating in a way that is not hierarchical in the traditional sense and not afraid of change. Scrivens’ descriptions of coming from an attitude of plentitude, rather than deficit, has been revolutionary in my business approach.”
This approach, and Liz’s fierce Bey-like persona, has enabled the business to grow to eight locations that cater to hundreds of sassy Australian girls each year. Using those core management principles has allowed each dance school to develop its own flavour without diluting the essence of the business which makes it great.
Finding a sustainable business model that is able to be reproduced in each location has been challenging, and Liz and Lauren are grateful for the help of their business mentors, Clear Business Dynamics. Together, they have set up business and management models that keep what’s precious intact, while allowing personal flavour creativity and to soar.
Liz knows that it’s her people who make her business what it is, and she has invested a lot to make sure they’re all cared for, listened to, and valued. As a result, she’s been able to grow Bey Dance at a tremendous pace without losing what makes it special, proving once again that good management is key to business success.