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Panel asks: What makes an effective spa leader?

01 Mar 2017
Leading and empowering teams is a complex effort, but effective communication, flexibility, trust and simply showing up are some of the most important aspects, according to a panel of spa leaders at the World Spa & Wellness Conference in London.

Reena Hammer, managing director of Urban Retreat; Josh Luckow, executive director of health and healing at Canyon Ranch; and Irene Forte, director of spas and learning development at Rocco Forte Hotels all spoke on the panel.

Hammer, who manages a staff of 250 within the Urban Retreat at famed London department store Harrods, said it’s important to make staff feel like they have the authority to make decisions and deal with problems on their own.

Forte echoed that sentiment, but said that the right training is also vital in order to give staff the skillset to make decisions and problem-solve. She said Rocco Forte also spends time training on different learning styles and emotional intelligence.

Luckow said it’s important to leverage the passion of your staff in order to grow your business.

“At Canyon Ranch, we have spiritual advisers, creative artists, medical experts – and each one of those has a distinct voice,” he said. “It’s about finding the commonality among all of us.”

Hammer said that for her Millennial staff, using WhatsApp to communicate works well, but wouldn’t for other generations. “You’ve got to be able to be flexible,” she said. “You have to treat each person with a level of individuality.”

Forte agreed that integrating technology is key in inspiring Millennials, and she has developed an app, Map My Future, which helps younger employees see a pathway to a career within the company. The app has company news, online training, and a points system that can be redeemed for stays in hotels, spa treatments or skincare products.

Having something as simple as an ideas box – with ideas that are actually implemented – can also be important.

“People feel recognised, and feel like they’re making a difference,” Forte explained.

Hammer said when she was made managing director, she moved from a corporate office to being on the floor of the spa every day, so she could have boots on the ground, see her staff in action – and be there to help with any problems or concerns.

Luckow said the idea of servant leadership – where a manager’s job is to work to make sure staff have the tools they need and that their passions are realised – is also important at Canyon Ranch.

“Being visible and being a part of the team is a massive key,” said Luckow. “Our job is to make staff’s jobs easier. Some managers feel like they have to put on a mask, rather than inspiring people to act. Instead, be humble, open-minded and vulnerable by showing mistakes, and bring that heart-centred quality into your business.”

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