Listen to Lead
Being a studio owner requires many skills—vision-casting, discernment, financial know-how, relationship-building, risk management—the list goes on. But one skill stands out to me as an underestimated asset:
I believe that true, deliberate, active listening is often overlooked as a business advantage. I’ll admit there were times in my early days as a studio owner that I probably was not a good listener. I just wanted to get things done!
But now, after decades of experience, I understand how important it is to really hear people—especially people I trust. When I coach studio owners, I advise them to be active listeners. I ask them to focus on what they’re hearing from others; to absorb the feedback and questions … and respond with intention where appropriate. Too often leaders find themselves juggling a variety of projects and responsibilities and as a result of being so busy, they tune out. Folks, if this is you, like it has been me at times, it’s time to tune back in!
Listen to your clients. While the adage, “The customer is always right,” may be outdated, I do believe the customer always has something valuable to tell us—even when it is hard to hear. As a studio owner, you provide a service—products too—and the goal is to deliver on your promises. You are solving problems and meeting needs. But you can’t do any of those things without understanding the parents and students you serve
Listen to your employees. There’s a lot to be said about employees earning respect in the workplace. But they also must be given respect, and an important way to do that is to listen. If an employee has a suggestion or wants to contribute an idea, encourage them to speak up. (Have you ever noticed the word “encouragement” contains the word “courage”?) You may not be able to act on every employee’s idea, but the very act of listening shows you care.
Listen to the industry. I’ve said it before and I think it bears repeating: the dance industry is an ecosystem. It’s full of interdependent relationships between studio owners, teachers, vendors, parents, and students. If your finger is on the pulse of the industry, you’re more apt to make good decisions for your business.
Listen to your instincts. Sometimes what we need most is to remember to trust ourselves. In the busyness of life you might forget to listen to your gut—but instincts are there for a reason! Stay true to yourself, but don’t shut off the alarm bells if you hear them ringing. If you feel more confident in your instincts, your confidence in leadership will grow too.
I hope you will keep developing all your entrepreneurial skills so that you can succeed at your highest level! Just keep listening along the way.