How to Know When to Let a Dance Instructor Go

Being the boss is hard. One of the hardest things about being the boss is knowing when it’s time to let a team member go. Even harder, is actually doing it. However, if you don’t, your business is at stake. In your dance studio, the success of your students may be at stake.

I know that when I started my studio, I lacked confidence in my business because it was new. I lacked confidence in myself because I was new at running it. I didn’t go after well established instructors. Instead, I settled for people that approached me wanting to teach for reasons like, they danced through high school and college and thought it would be fun to teach, or they used to dance and would like to teach some classes to pay for their kids to have classes. Ugh. Needless to say, none of those instructors turned out to be stellar professionals that inspired studio parents to truly be raving fans of my studio. As a result, I was usually feeling disappointed and frustrated with these instructors, and was constantly struggling with student retention. Ultimately, I had to change my own perspective before I could change my team. I had to level up my confidence and be brave enough to believe in a vision that included being the best and being surrounded by the best. That meant parting ways with some instructors that I had on staff that I had to admit were not the best.

Before we jump in with the ax. Let’s discuss some steps that we can take to help prevent needing to fire instructors in the first place.

First, take time to find the right people that will represent your studio in alignment with your vision and what you desire for your students. Make sure that they have the level of training, experience and competence that make your studio look good and gives you peace of mind when entrusting them to your classes. Check references, have them come watch a couple of classes at your studio to learn about how you expect them to be conducted, and observe them teaching a few classes before you make it official. Either have your own syllabus in place that they will follow, or have them present a syllabus that you will approve.

Most importantly, have a contract in place. Make sure that your studio vision, policies, and expectations are clear and agreed upon. In addition to simply putting your expectations in writing, take time to discuss your studio’s culture with a new hire. Let them know what you are really looking for in all aspects of the job; how they teach, how they interact with studio parents, how they solve student related problems when they occur, etc.

Even with the best hiring practices and contract in place, it doesn’t always work out. Your instructor’s situation could change, making it harder for them to fulfill their commitment. Your studio’s needs or vision can change. Sometimes, we just hire the wrong person. Know the signs and pay attention to when it’s just not working.

  • Numbers don’t lie. Are your instructors’ students staying enrolled for the whole session and are they signing back up for the next session?
  • When enrollment opens up for a new session, how quickly do the classes for any given instructor fill?
  • Pay attention to how you feel. Are you happy and proud watching them teach, interact with parents and represent your studio?
  • Listen to feedback from students, parents and other faculty members as well.
  • Fall back on your contract. Are they living up to the terms that you both agreed upon?

It is never pleasant when you do have to let a faculty member go, but the reality is that the consequences for keeping the wrong team members will be costly. It will cost you students and, possibly other, more valuable, faculty members that don’t want to be associated with a lower standard.

As you transition into a new year of classes at your studio, take some time to really evaluate the questions above and be clear about whether your instructors are the best for your studio. If you don’t already have a contract and handbook for your instructors that clarifies your expectations and policies, make this the year that you put those in place.

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