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  • Writer's pictureCheryl Patella

Leaving a Piece of Your Heart

Updated: Mar 30

This article is a follow up and final piece to a sequence on leadership and training your staff.  It is also, for me, the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another.  I have accepted a new position with greater challenges and opportunities. It is bittersweet for me, and, for many Spa Directors who have moved on. We leave a piece of ourselves, of our hearts, behind. My staff and I have grown close through working, training, learning, and, sharing together. 

The past few weeks were spent training my replacement and encouraging staff to stay happy and do well in their work with the realization of how much we have all grown in our time together.  What we have created must continue to flourish. I am sure the staff at my new position is apprehensive about a new director as is my current staff that has a sense of perceived loss and apprehensions about their new director.

It is very rare for a spa director to remain at one property for their entire career.  As you grow and become better so do the opportunities.  It is unrealistic to think, as I did, that I would retire at this spa as my predecessor did.  During my employment at a previous spa there were four directors, including me, over seven years.  That is a bit unusual but generally three to four years is the term allowing for exceptions such as Joe Baron, an outstanding director at Boca Club for more than 12 years now.  Even for a property or hotel the general manager career span, on average, is five to seven years.  The general manager, Janettte Giddings, at my upcoming property has nine years of tenure at Williams Island!

All good spa directors grow with each management experience and become better.  On the job experience forces us to build our weak areas turning them into strengths that enable us to face new and bigger challenges.  Skills you needed to develop unfold, and you become more complete as a director.

The Global Spa & Wellness (GSWS) Executive Report written in 2012 researching gaps in developing Spa Management stated: “Since there is no well-defined educational or career pathway for entering spa management, most spa managers/directors are deficient in at least one of the key skills areas…. Additionally, spa management is a highly demanding career (with long hours/weeks and significant mobility/travel required)…Spas rate “experience working in management and in the spa industry” as the most important background qualifications when hiring spa managers/directors,….”

On the job is where you build your skills, refine your expertise and “sink or swim.”  You learn hard lessons that stay with you. Those lessons increase your understanding of people; both your staff and the people you serve.   The opportunities I have at my new spa are limitless and exciting.  I will step up to face these new challenges by building new relationships with both staff and residents.

How do you prepare your staff for this change and keep them motivated?  How do you alleviate the fears of new staff and excite them to be motivated about eventual changes and expectations?  You do this from your heart and your professional experience.  “The services delivered by spas to their customers are fundamentally about the power of human touch and human interaction.  As such people are at the heart of a spa.  People are a spas greatest asset and are essential to its success….” 

Your staff is vital to your operation and you must invest in them.  The population that you serve is also vital and you must invest in building relationships with them as well.  That investment brings you closer together.  In life, interactions with others teach us many things: patience, knowledge, a better understanding of people and a joy in sharing.  That experience remains with us forever.  So we remain a part of each other.  This also gives us strength and that is what gives staff you leave the encouragement to look forward and continue being the best they can be. 

The GSWS also defined our professional role as: “Spa management is a very challenging career that requires a huge mix of hard and soft skills, combined with a deep passion and understanding of spa.  A good spa manager/director must have both a “head” and “heart” for spa; exceptional people skills; the abilities of an entrepreneur; and must be flexible, adaptable, and mobile.”

Some may say it is not wise to get personal in your profession. On the other hand being passionate in your career, investing in people, and having exceptional people skills means you must get personal, but, you do not cross the line.  Always remain professional and allow people the space to be themselves and to grow to their potential. This means listening a lot and spending time with them.

If you don’t know yourself, both strengths and weaknesses, how can you grow to your potential, overcome challenges and become better?  In order to be good at what you do you must be honest with yourself, have strong self-esteem, and, you must love what you do.  That is where your passion plays a key role.  Being a spa director is challenging and you must develop your resources for support, to see where and how you can grow, to learn to overcome challenges and to develop a good spa.

“People go to spas expecting an experience that takes them away from the stress of their lives and creates a positive impact on their health.” That is a very tall order to fulfill but doable with a well-developed team and program.  That is your goal every day, every hour, and in every training you conduct with your team.  Do it from your heart knowing that one day you may be leaving a piece of it behind as you move forward in your career.

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