Many studio owners and dance teachers confuse “leadership” with “management.” Management is making it possible for a group or set of entities to accomplish a goal: think creating workable schedules. But leadership is influencing and motivating others to accomplish a goal: think empowered, enthusiastic employees.
Leadership is essential for growing your business. And it’s not just about you; it’s about developing leaders who create other leaders. It’s about exponential leadership.
John C. Maxwell, leadership expert and author of 5 Levels of Leadership: Proven Steps to Maximize Your Potential, states, “Leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less.” Maxwell calls the highest level of leadership the “Pinnacle.” This is where leaders continually focus on growing themselves, and through the process, develop other leaders who do the same. This multiplication of leaders is the secret sauce of a successful organization.
Why is it important to multiply leaders?
Do you feel like you wear all the hats in your studio? Do you feel like you are the schedule maker, the teacher trainer, the community organizer, the front desk greeter, and the janitor? Depending on the size and age of your business, you will—at first—wear most of those hats. However, as your business matures and grows, it is necessary to have other leaders. Those people allow you to work in your areas of strength as the studio owner or director. For many people, the dance studio business structure consists mostly of part-time employees. If you start small, with a few key employees who have shown leadership potential, you can shift some of your hats to other team members.
One of the best rewards you’ll experience as a studio owner is the value you add to others. As a leader, it is your responsibility to discover strengths in your team members and equip them to be successful. For example, a student assistant who has been a part of your studio for years graduates and is now part of the studio staff. Let’s say one of her strengths is creative and innovative choreography. You could start out with giving her the recital finale to choreograph, which could eventually lead to competition pieces, which could eventually lead to company director.
Like a sports team with a reliable bench, a leadership-driven culture allows you, the owner, the freedom to work in your “zone of genius” while developing other members of your team.
How do we develop strong leaders?
Developing strong leaders is accomplished through intentionality, commitment, and follow-through. Leading people—who, in turn, lead other people—is infinite work. It’s not once-and-done; it doesn’t happen overnight. Just like creating the choreography for an award-winning routine, leadership development takes time and intention.
Try implementing these three steps to grow your studio leaders:
i. One-on-one meeting
Schedule a growth planning meeting with each team member at the beginning of the season or session. Discuss the team member’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their individual and studio work-related goals. Discover individual goals with questions like, “What are some short-term personal goals you’d like to share, such as owning a home, traveling more, or digging into a hobby?” Professional goals should be a collaboration between you and the employee. Prompt this discussion with questions like: “Do you see yourself in a leadership role?” and “What area of work can I help you grow in?” and “What are specific goals you would like to achieve at the studio?”
ii. Map it out and track
Develop a growth plan that includes consistent feedback about each employee’s individual leadership journey and holds them accountable. This step requires a “guide from the side” approach in your leadership. Try the “I Do, We Do, You Do” system when leading someone new through a task, project, or position:
- “I do” and you observe
- “We do” together
- “You do” and I observe
- “You do” on your own
- “You do” and teach someone else
The last part of the system (“you do” and teach someone else) is often forgotten. But in order to grow layers of leaders, each employee will eventually need to teach what they have learned to the next leader who is coming up behind them.
For example, let’s think about a young leader who you raised up to handle the front desk supervisor role. In the beginning, she may have done tasks such as answering the phone, enrolling students, and organizing merchandise in the retail corner. As this leader grows in her position, she will in turn, raise up someone underneath her and repeat the development process from the top. This is the art of multiplying leaders, even if it is the simplest of tasks such as taking over the bulletin board in the lobby or completing birthday cards.
iii. Re-evaluate and Communicate
After each level of the I Do, We Do, You Do, immediately communicate your feedback to your leader through a quick check in or guide from the side. You can also schedule a consistent check in weekly, monthly, and quarterly to take time to review each leader’s progress and getting feedback.
Feedback questions could be: Where is the leader excelling? What are the areas he/she can improve on? What does he/she need to strengthen in order to reach the established goals?
Circling back to the one-on-one meeting keeps everyone on the same page.
Make leadership growth a priority
Leadership requires far more than a Monday morning check-in—for healthy leadership at your studio, you must make your employees a priority and give them consistent attention. Here are some additional, actionable tips.
Prioritize the leadership focus for the entire team. While you need to work individually with each team member, it’s also a good idea to identify two or three key areas to strengthen throughout your entire team: accountability, for example, or sales tactics, or communication. Design a season-long strategy to focus on these chosen areas.
Educate yourself and your team. There are many podcasts, audio books, seminars, and other resources on leadership (see Higher Learning, page 64). Involve your team by starting a book club or sharing the link to a YouTube leadership lesson. Check out Dave Ramsey’s EntreLeadership Summit, John Maxwell’s Leadership Podcast, and Studio Owner University® .
Schedule leadership time. Schedule leadership time into your day. When will you spend intentional time with your employees to equip them and track their progress? Put it in your calendar just like your workout time or department meetings. What gets scheduled gets done!
Whether your studio is a small team with one or two team members or an organization of many, success lies in how you intentionally prioritize leading leaders to multiply others. Take the time to put these steps and ideas into actions. The reward will be leaders who add value to others, allowing you to wear only the hats that fit you best.