Let’s Hear it for the Team


Although America is known for its rugged individualism, spas rely more on teamwork to keep their operations running smoothly. From the front desk staff that greets guests and bids them farewell to the estheticians and therapists who care for them in the treatment room, your spa’s staff is ultimately a team that needs to work together as one. According to Bruce Piasecki, Ph.D., president and founder of AHC Group, a management consulting group, and author of Doing More With Teams: The New Way to Winning (Wiley, 2013), there is truth to Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The same holds true for your spa, as each team member plays an integral role in the guest experience. “The days when a larger- than-life personality is allowed to steamroll over the rest of the company are over,” says Piasecki. “This destroys morale, which destroys results. Teams, not individuals, drive performance.” Here, Piasecki shares eight insights on effective teams and how they operate.


Great teams have great leaders. Most likely, it’s your spa’s director or manager that acts as team captain. It takes a special type of leader to build not just a loose affiliation of individuals but a true team that is centered around shared values and focused on a common goal. “Captains are quick to recognize the key capabilities of their team members, including strengths and weaknesses, and to build the plan around those capabilities,” says Piasecki.


Fierce individualism has no place on teams. Captains, aka spa directors and managers, need to be sure that the “MVP syndrome” is not allowed to define their teams. They also need to be alert for individuals who might be losing sight of the team’s best interests. “Seek to hire coachable individuals rather than individualist- minded high performers,” says Piasecki. “Do everything possible to promote and reward teamwork rather than individualism. Whether your efforts are centered on pay structure, group incentives, verbal recognition, or some other technique, always seek to send the signal that it’s strong teams and not strong individuals that make up a strong company.”


Teams hold the bar high for everyone (especially the superstars). There is a desire in all teams to protect the superstars, who could be your spa’s most popular therapist or top seller, and to help them to keep winning. However, it is important not to neglect those whose quieter contributions are no less critical to your operation.


Teams have to be willing to accept defeat, or they will eventually self- destruct. Winning teams can often become addicted to victory and may even feel entitled to it. It is important to look at failure as an opportunity to improve. “Teams become great because they keep things in perspective and understand the broader context of competition: namely, that there is always a larger league and a set of better players out there, no matter what you’ve achieved or what rung on a ladder you’ve just hit,” says Piasecki.


Great teams revel in the pleasure of persistence. At the heart of a great team is the knowledge that it will stumble and fall from time to time but that it will try again and eventually succeed. It’s crucial to prepare your team to accomplish its various goals, be it boosting your spa’s retail sales, return rate, or overall guest satisfaction. According to Piasecki, it’s also critical to keep going in spite of hardship. “Life can be a tough slog, and victories are sporadic at best,” he says. “Maybe we can’t win, but we can keep going.”


Successful teams share values, integrity, and a commitment to one another. When a person joins a team, a trans- formation takes place in which team members end their individual associations and create a collective identity built on shared experiences. A strong bond is created when members prepare and train together. Even donning uniforms can give members a shared sense of identity.


Teams must feel “at home” with uncertainty and complexity. The spa industry is a competitive world in which uncertainty and complexity are the rule rather than the exception. As a result, your spa director and team need to feel comfortable functioning in a fast-changing environment. “In complex situations where outcomes are unknown, the temptation is always to play it safe,” says Piasecki. “But in a world of constantly changing tides, yesterday’s ‘safe’ is likely to be today’s ‘not enough.’”


Effective teams take risks. Today’s business climate is constantly changing, which is why teams and the captains who lead them shouldn’t be overly constrained by rules and orders. Instead, they need to push boundaries when appropriate. When led by a great spa director, a team can regularly work beyond normal and limiting boundaries to increase productivity and success. “The word ‘team’ is more than just a business buzzword,” says Piasecki. “If done well, building and captaining a team will determine whether you merely survive or instead thrive in this strange new economy.”