What are people over 35 years of age and not yet in management doing in the spa industry? The traditional employment market is fading, and independent specialists are on the rise. By Fifi Kao
Many spa owners and directors have told me that most of the newcomers in the industry today set their career goal as being promoted to the post of Spa Manger. It makes sense. However, to be promoted to the management level is not the only path of career development.
Only very few people can reach the pyramid’s peak. But those who haven’t been promoted to the management level in the spa world can also give full play to their talents, even in a more flexible and free manner.
I know a senior spa trainer who does treatment training sessions for international spas in various regions around the world. She is now already in her early 60s, but maintains a very good life style. She gets up early and goes to bed early each day. She is self-disciplined and keen on learning. Every time I meet her, she is always full of energy and has a decent appearance. Every year, she travels to different places and shares her years’ of experience with more and more people. She has a good income of course. Yet she is not a manger or a director. Just a freelance.
Another friend of mine shares a similar experience. As with me, she is a post-1970s girl with two children. She is in the spa marketing field. Due to her rich experience and deep insight into the business, she can handle all the market consulting and researching work by herself and has won great trust from her clients. However, she has no interest in becoming a manager at all. In my conversations with her, she tells me that she doesn’t want to manage other people. Her goal is to keep honing her skills and making self-progress continually and becoming a specialist in the marketing and research fields. She quits her job and began to work for different spa consulting companies in a part-time capacity. She has no team, and she enjoys her work as an individual. Her clients still put much trust in her.
These two examples show that persons who have enough talents and experience only need a platform. And the whole spa industry is their platform.
I often discuss with consulting companies what the future of the spa world will be. The mainstream belief is that the traditional employment market will gradually disappear. The value of talented people working as independent individuals is the coming trend. Companies are more and more serving only as a platform.
Undoubtedly, the future is the age of internet. The power of speech and decision-making of experts will become increasingly influential. As long as you are good enough, you can freely choose the platform you want to work with and even become an independent third-party that offer services to various enterprises. In other words, the future is the age of “experts” and “super-individuals”.
SPA manager or an expert in a certain field? Which way to go? It depends upon your work value.
Two scholars from the University of Minnesota, Rene V. Dawis and Lloyd H. Lofquist, developed a Work Adjustment Theory in which they subdivide work value into the following six aspects:
Sense of achievement: How do you define the sense of achievement in your work?
Level of comfort: How much do you emphasize the steadiness and comfort of the work?
Status: Do you want to be promoted to management level?
Altruism: Do you want to do work that can help others?
Sense of safety: How much do you care whether you are honestly and equally treated by the company?
Initiative: Do you seek for more freedom to give play of your abilities?
The way in which people answer these questions is closely related to their final decision. Let’s take “sense of achievement” as an example. Which gives you more sense of achievement? To sell a big SPA membership through your own efforts or see the people who you have trained being able to sell it? Other questions that need to be asked include: Are you eager to be promoted? Do you want to rule over others? Do you want more freedom in decision-making?
Normally, an independent individual expert will have more freedom to take the initiative and make decisions in work. Many people think that they will have more freedom and power after they are promoted as managers, but the actual case is not so. In many big companies, the mangers have to finish the tasks and requirements from their superiors, as well as train and raise subordinates. Every decision they make must be in accordance with the company’s rules and regulations. Their freedom of decision-making is not as big as one imagines.
When you ask a new therapist about his or her career development plan, most possibly they will tell you that they want to reach the management level in 3 to 5 years and the sooner the better. But is that really the best path? Not necessarily.
When you are doing your career planning, first ask yourself two questions. The first is: Am I able to manage others? A qualified manager needs to possess particular excellence of skills and breadth of mind to lead and enlighten the whole team.
Communication skills: You can’t always try to oppress the subordinates, let alone your peers and superiors. You need to possess the art of persuasion and the ability to listen and give proper feedback. You need to know how to give a speech as well as compromise.
Altruism: As a leader, you should not just focus on your own success, but fix your eyes on the whole team. Don’t push every team member to imitate your way of doing things. The ways that work for you aren’t necessarily fit for everyone. So try to think from others’ points of view and help them analyze and solve the problems concretely. This is true leadership.
Comprehensive management skills: As a leader, you need to possess the ability to deal with different tasks flexibly, including budget layout, project design, marketing, organizational structure adjustment, trans-department cooperation and more.
I have seen many spa professionals who, after being promoted, can’t get used to management work and even sink down in self-doubt. I have also seen some pretty good SPA managers who rudely rebuke their subordinates and blame poor revenues on the subordinates alone. Such people may be talented and professional, but they are not fit for the position of Spa Manager.
The second question is: Am I able to become a qualified expert?
Keen on learning: Even the most outstanding experts need to continue to learn. Once you stop, you will soon become out of date and have the danger of being eliminated.
Spirit of innovation: Are your knowledge and skills able to cater to the new market and environment? If your rival comes up with something new, are you ready to deal with it?
Spirit of sharing: Are you willing to share and good at sharing your knowledge and skills with others? The spa industry needs experts to share their things with ordinary staff.
Ability to solve problems independently: No matter in what country, an outstanding leader is definitely a superman who is able to carry forward a whole project oneself.
Many employees, in the spa industry or elsewhere, often have a wrong perception. They regard becoming leaders as the one and only goal in their career development. However, according to corporate pyramid structure theory, top leaders are very few. For the professionals who are not fit for a management position or fail to be promoted, the best way out is to become an expert in a particular field. An independent senior trainer or project designer often enjoys more freedom and flexibility in their work than a top manager.
Never think that management work is easy. Actually, a manger’s work is more complicated than an expert’s because they have to bear the pressure of reaching certain targets, struggle in complicated interpersonal relationships, or do things against their values such as laying off employees.
Some say that a manager is not afraid of being fired. Pitifully, when big layoff occurs, the top management level is always the first to be considered because they get the highest salaries and make little contribution to business maintenance in their daily operational work. But if you are an expert working comparatively more independently, you will be more sensitive to the potential risks and have more chances of job-hopping. Managers who are fired won’t be able to find a new job as easily as individual experts do.
Some other say they feel a manager has the sense of authority. However, true authority comes from one’s ability and breadth of mind. The former means your ability to solve a tough problem and the breadth of mind refers to your willingness to protect your subordinates and help your team to grow. There is a saying: first-rate leaders recruit first-rate staff and second-rate leaders recruit third-rate staff because they don’t want to have outstanding staff work with them, let alone helping them to grow.
I have seen many “bosses” who just love to issue orders. They are not true “leaders” who help people to grow. They have power and authority, but they just use their position to oppress the staff. They will by no means win the respect from the staff.
I have also seen many individual experts. They are not in management positions, but they care for and love their workmates. As a result, the people around them regard them as true leaders and love to hear their advice with respect.
I’d like to end with the words of Simon Sinek, a leadership specialist in America: Leadership is a choice, not a rank. I hope that everyone in the industry can discover their own specialty and find their best role in the next five years.