Episode 121: Evolving As A Leader In Your Design Business

stock photo of leadership and collaboration

Show Notes:

In this episode I’m diving into a topic that's close to my heart - leadership. Whether you're leading a team or going solo, leadership is the key to unlocking freedom in your interior design business, and how you are as a leader is crucial to your team and business success. 

I share my journey, starting from managing tables in a restaurant at 23 to running my own interior design business. Leadership became essential when I realized I couldn't do it all alone.I had to learn the delicate balance of setting high standards for your team while recognizing and celebrating milestones along the way. It's not just about the destination; the journey matters too.

Whether you have one team member or ten, treat them as collaborators. It's not about hierarchy; it's about working together towards a common goal. Leading a team requires clear communication, accountability and understanding that everyone thinks differently. Be open to learning from your team while teaching them, creating a reciprocal environment where iron sharpens iron.

Being a leader isn't about being perfect; it's about inspiring greatness in those around you. As an entrepreneur, you already have greatness within you. Step into that role and share it with others.

Thank you for tuning into this episode, I hope I encouraged you to step fully into the leader you need to be for your team and that you’ve got some great tips to take with you and start implementing right away. 



It would be very much appreciated if you would leave a rating and review wherever you listen to podcasts. It really helps to keep the show relevant, and I would love to come back to see some of your kind words. Enjoy this fall weather, and take some breathing time for yourself too!


About Michelle:

Michelle Lynne began her interior design career after spending more than two decades working in Corporate America. She began in the home staging arena and has since built a successful, award-winning, full-service interior design firm, employing talented designers and serving clients across the country.

In the summer of 2018, Michelle began focusing on a big gap she saw missing in the interior design industry: teaching interior designers how to run the business of an interior design business. She now engages in private coaching and leads an in-depth, 12-month group coaching program, both options focus on teaching designers profitable processes, systems, strategies, and mindset needed to run a streamlined, profitable interior design firm.

Her motto is simple: we rise by lifting others.


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A Podcast Launch Bestie production



Welcome to designed for the creative mind, a podcast for interior designers and creative entrepreneurs to run their business with purpose, efficiency, and passion, because while every design is different, the process should remain the same. Prepare yourself for some good conversations with amazing guests.

[00:00:20] a dash of Jesus and a touch of the woo woo and probably a swear word or two. If you're ready to stop trading your time for money and enjoy your interior design business, you are in the right place. I'm your host, Michelle Lynn.

[00:00:40] Hey y'all, welcome to the design for the creative mind podcast. Today I want to talk to you about leadership and whether you have a team currently supporting you right now or not, leadership is the number one skill that leads to freedom.

[00:00:57] You actually need to learn how to get results through [00:01:00] others. And empower others so that they can manage the business while you take a step back and you can enjoy the results of your work. It's really hard for me to get out of my mouth, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. It's the number one skill and it's not something that you can go and read a book about.

[00:01:20] So I want to share with you. Almost like a checklist of things that you can work on and who you need to be as a leader to get the best out of your team. And I bring this to you with, gosh, decades of leadership experience. My background. Right out of college was in restaurant management and I would show up to the tables and the guests, if they had a problem or something, they said, I don't want to talk to the hostess.

[00:01:49] I want to talk to the manager and there I was like at 23 years old as the manager. So I have not been out of management since, even in a variety of different industries. I [00:02:00] actually started my business thinking that I could just, you know, work 25, 30 hours a week, set my own schedule, make houses beautiful, make a bucket of money.

[00:02:11] And that just didn't work. I needed to have a team surrounding me. And quite frankly, they're so much better than I am at interior design and managing all of the details and following up with clients and all of the nuances that go into our industry. So. I'm still in a leadership role and I call it leadership and not management because it's key that you, well, actually here, let's just dive into a checklist.

[00:02:40] So if you're driving, I don't recommend writing this down. I would definitely recommend coming back and listening to it, but if you're in a place right now where you can jot down a few notes, these are just, um, some key tenants of being a stellar leader. And they're in no particular order. I do want to [00:03:00] say first is one, be the kind of manager that you wish you would have had the leader that inspires greatness.

[00:03:08] So that's, that's where I would say, start with what you might've experienced that was either faulty and do the opposite of it or emulate a great manager that you've had in the past. You want to strive for perfection with your team, but acknowledge progress and milestones along the way. So just as you're teaching them, you want to set that bar high.

[00:03:34] That's not the end all and the end be all. So setting goals that are aggressive to achieve yet attainable with just the right amount of hustle. So goals that are aggressive to achieve. Yet attainable. And what I mean by that is that everybody likes a challenge, but they like it a lot better when they [00:04:00] can achieve the results they're looking for.

[00:04:03] And speaking of setting goals and striving for perfection, it's your responsibility to provide a roadmap to your team. And what I mean by that is providing a roadmap for success, but you also have to hold people accountable for the follow through. So it's just like raising children. You have to tell them what to do, and then you have to show them how to do it.

[00:04:27] And then you have to follow up to ensure that they do it and hold them accountable. Next would be what gets measured gets managed. So if you are providing them a roadmap for success along that roadmap, you need to have different. Pillars that you can measure an example of that would be is if you're if you are hiring an assistant, then you need to make sure that they understand exactly what your expectations are [00:05:00] from them and provide them with the process of.

[00:05:04] I don't know, creating a floor plan, provide them with the process of sourcing for a project. And keep in mind, another thing is that everybody thinks differently. And that might not seem like a big aha moment to you, but your way might not be the best way. And that's okay. So learning from others while you're teaching them.

[00:05:26] Is a great way to continue to evolve as a person yourself to evolve as a business person and to evolve as a designer because iron sharpens iron. And if you have amazing people surrounding you, then you can go ahead and be a reciprocating environment. And what I mean by that is that admit that you don't know everything and that's okay.

[00:05:53] So, with that, you also want to include frequent, open, and honest [00:06:00] communication. You don't have to know everything, even if your name is on the door. So this is your business and you're hiring people, but it's imperative that you leave an ego at the door and you have open and honest communication.

[00:06:13] And that goes both ways. If you don't know something, it doesn't mean you're less qualified, less capable or less desirable to work for. If anything, I think people really appreciate the fact if you're like, Hmm, I have no idea. Let's see if we can figure this out together. And then one on one communication.

[00:06:30] and meetings. So whether you have one person working for you or 10 people working for you, and actually I say working for you, I, I use the term working with me. Like we work together. They're, they're not my employees. Technically they are, they're on my payroll, but they're my team. We work together.

[00:06:50] So just making an equal Balance for the individuals that, that support you. That's how I like to be treated. So [00:07:00] I kind of assume other people do I'd rather err on the side of what would be the word graciousness. Maybe I'd rather err on the side of graciousness than. You know, ego. So having, and sometimes this is hard, but having clear, direct and consistent messaging and communication.

[00:07:17] Sometimes I don't know what the hell I said yesterday, you know, as we, as we create different processes, as we go along in the business. So it's always important to write these things down or, you know, ask them, Hey, will you email me back? I know we, or will you email me that so that I can remember it and put it into place if it's a new process or something?

[00:07:37] Because there's nothing more frustrating than coming up with a new solution to a problem. And then. Promptly forgetting about it. So I think that's important. [00:08:00] [00:09:00] And then, what else? Believe in your team. Believe in them. Believe in them. Sometimes they just need to know that you have their back. And conveying that confidence and trust in them is invaluable.

[00:09:27] You might think that it's all about the money, but I think that when people feel appreciated and they know that you've got their back and that you believe in their capabilities, even if they don't, sometimes we all have those moments of insecurity, that that goes really, really far. It might go further than a dollar for a lot of people.

[00:09:48] So believing in your team, also giving them a safe place to fail. Here's the deal, y'all. Nobody's perfect. And we're not in, we're not working in the emergency room or in the [00:10:00] operating room. We're not curing, you know, fatal diseases or anything like that. We're in interior design. And your team has to know that they don't have to be perfect all the time.

[00:10:11] Maybe they didn't order enough fabric and you charge the client for it and you feel like you have to pay for it yourself. You don't make your team feel like poop. Okay. It needs to be a safe place to fail. Now, on the other hand. You need to inspect what you expect or you prepare or prepare to be disappointed.

[00:10:30] What I mean by that is that you can't just give your team free reign right out of the gate. You have to set your expectations. Give constructive and specific feedback, and then you can let them go free. A good example of that would be, um, with Debbie and Megan. As they grew into handling clients on their own, because when they were each hired, we would work them together.

[00:10:58] So I was able to share with them [00:11:00] how I like the communication done, how the Proposal presentations should look, et cetera, et cetera. And granted, I learned a lot from them about how the design presentation should look and so forth. But what I mean is that you have to inspect what you expect. So I would go through and I would inspect their proposals.

[00:11:19] So I, we would all be working on the designs and collaborating and so forth, but as the business owner, I needed to ensure that everything that went in front of the client that could potentially impact me financially, I have to inspect it and review it. So I went through every single item in their design and looked at what the, what the margins were, the quantities and so forth.

[00:11:43] So that if they did miss something that I could catch it and it wouldn't actually. Provide any financial loss for us because they were dealing with all of the quotes and the money. So If I expect them to be marking things to a certain margin I have to make sure that not only [00:12:00] do they know what that is by giving them the clear Messaging but also inspecting it so that if they are not hitting the margins that we need to be profitable That it's it's basically my fault because I wasn't reviewing their work now with that when you're creating An environment for others to work within next to you.

[00:12:22] You need to make sure that you have systems and processes in place that are easily that are written down and easily repeated. So in that respect, that's where. As you're, as you're training them, you're giving your team examples and demonstrations of what your expectations are. So even if you have to record something and use that as your training tool, because maybe you're growing so much that you're hiring people regularly and you don't have time to do all of the hands on face to face training or heck now we're in such a virtual reality so often [00:13:00] that.

[00:13:01] You might not even be in the same city. Maybe you're hiring somebody that's working remotely and you don't have time to show them everything, or the time zones are wonky or anything like that. So giving an example and demonstration of what you're looking for can be done in a variety of different ways, depending on what you're teaching. 

[00:13:18] You should be always looking to find ways to make it easier and more simple for your team to work and to succeed. Whether that is finding new software, outsourcing tasks that they don't need to be doing. You know, maybe upgrading their computer systems, there's just anything that you can do to make it easier and more simple for your team to succeed.

[00:13:48] That's your job as the CEO. And then two last things off the top of my head, I think, is do what you say, [00:14:00] do what you say you're going to do. There is no fat. Well. That's that's a very fast way to learn the trust and respect to know what let me rephrase that if you don't do what you say you're going to do, that's one of the fastest ways to lose the respect and trust of your team.

[00:14:20] And that goes back to me sometimes forgetting. About what I said yesterday that we're going to do or whatever. So if it is imperative, make sure you're writing it down so that you do remember or make sure you're asking somebody to take notes or to email you and remind you what you just said. I'm so guilty of that.

[00:14:37] It's funny. I just get lost in so many thoughts that sometimes we forget the conversations that we've had and decisions that we've made. So do what you say you're going to do. And finally, walk the talk. You need to be willing to roll up your sleeves and get involved in any process that you're asking somebody else to do and you don't [00:15:00] have to be the best at it.

[00:15:02] So, you know, going back to my restaurant training right out of college, I had to learn. All of the different stations in the restaurant. And by that, I mean, I had to learn how to be the hostess. I had to learn how to be the server. I had to learn how to be the pizza cook. I learned how to work the grill.

[00:15:18] I learned how to prep. I learned the dishwasher. I learned the sauté line, like all of these things. Granted, I was never the best sauté cook, never, not by a long shot. You hire people that are better than you. Around you. But I had to be willing to jump back there and do the dishes. If we got slammed on a Friday night and my dishwasher, I don't know, was, was busy with something else, or maybe they got hurt or something like that.

[00:15:43] You have to be willing to jump in and do some of the dirty work. Okay. You have to be willing to have those difficult conversations on behalf of your team. If you've got a client that's getting out of line, you have to be willing to put together a detailed proposal. [00:16:00] Or anything that you, or anything, it's your business.

[00:16:05] You might not be the best at it, but you need to be willing to do some of the hard work too. So, you know, for those of you who may not have been in leadership, but you've been a parent, you've been in leadership, whether you got a paycheck for it or not. It's a skill that is developed over time. You just have to step back and take a look and say, how am I speaking to my team?

[00:16:30] How am I speaking to my children? You know, is this who you want to be? You can become a great leader if you're committed to learning and growing. There's books that you can read about it. There's all sorts of things that you can do. A lot of it just comes down to treat others how you want to be treated.

[00:16:47] Don't be a jerk and be condescending. Don't be snarky. Don't be a hypocrite. You know, you can, you can take a lot of what I just said, kind of as a checklist and flip it and don't be [00:17:00] that person. But your job as the CEO is to work daily to inspire greatness in everybody that you interact with, whether they're on your payroll, whether there's somebody that you've outsourced or whether it's a vendor that you're working with, be the leader that you want to be, be more than that.

[00:17:21] You have greatness within you. If you've got the balls to start your own business, I'm telling you, you have greatness within you. Step into that and share it with others. So I hope that helped. I kind of went all over the place. It wasn't really as much of a checklist as a conversation. Technically, I guess it's a one sided conversation since it's a podcast, but I hope you guys found some value in that.

[00:17:43] Um, if you did, I would definitely appreciate if you would drop a review and wherever you're listening to this podcast, I would certainly appreciate that. Share it with your friends, share it with others. And finally, if you haven't heard, I do have a [00:18:00] Facebook group where I hop in and train. Once a week. So you can grab a handful of nuggets for your business.

[00:18:06] That Facebook group is called the interior designers business launchpad. You have to answer the questions though. You have to answer the questions in order to be let in. So take some time and do that. And I hope to see you there. And that's all I got for you today. Have a great one. Hey y'all. If you love the show and find it useful, I would really appreciate it.

[00:18:27] If you would share with your friends and followers, and if you like what you're hearing, want to put a. Face with a name and get even more business advice. Then join me in my Facebook group, the interior designers business launchpad. Yeah, I know it's Facebook, but just come on in for the training and then leave without scrolling your feet.

[00:18:46] It's fun. I promise you'll enjoy it. And finally. I hear it's good for business to get ratings on your podcasts. So please drop yours on whatever platform you use to listen to this. We're all about community over [00:19:00] competition. So let's work on elevating our industry one designer at a time. See you next time.

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