Ep 344 – Knowing Expectations in the Work Environment with Nate Nordstrom and Carrie Wiedemann

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In this episode of The ABMP Podcast, Nate and Carrie from Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa join Kristin and Darren to discuss knowing your expectations in the work environment, why peer mentors are beneficial to a practice, and how open communication during an interview can help set the tone during your tenure.



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Author Bio: 

Nate, a massage therapist since 2001, is licensed in several states and is board-certified. He has taught massage therapists since 2004 and is a nationally recognized continuing education provider. As a massage therapist, he has worked in many settings. He teaches the application of ethics in daily life and advanced anatomy for massage therapists. He is the senior director of training and massage therapy industry relations for Hand and Stone Massage and Facial Spa. 


Darren Buford is senior director of communications and editor-in-chief for ABMP. He is editor of Massage & Bodywork magazine and has worked for ABMP for 22 years, and been involved in journalism at the association, trade, and consumer levels for 24 years. He has served as board member and president of the Western Publishing Association, as well as board member for Association Media & Publishing. Contact him at editor@abmp.com.

Kristin Coverly, LMT is a massage therapist, educator, and the director of professional education at ABMP. She loves creating continuing education courses, events, and resources to support massage therapists and bodyworkers as they enhance their lives and practices. Contact her at ce@abmp.com.




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Full Transcript: 

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0:00:47.6 Speaker 1: I'm Darren Buford. 


0:00:48.0 Speaker 2: And I'm Kristin Coverly. 


0:00:49.7 S1: And welcome to the ABMP podcast, a podcast where we speak with the massage and bodywork profession. Our guest today is Nathan Nordstrom. Nate became a massage therapist in 2001. He is licensed in several states and is board certified. He has taught massage therapists since 2004 and is a nationally recognized continuing education provider. As a massage therapist, he has worked in many settings over the years. He teaches classes in the application of ethics in daily life and advanced anatomy classes for massage therapists. He has served as a leader in many ways in the massage profession and he is now the director of massage therapy for Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. And he's a repeat guest on this podcast and he's in person. Oh my gosh. Hello Nate and hello Kristin. 


0:01:32.9 Speaker 3: Hey, how are you? Thank you so much for having me once again. We are so excited to be here and to be able to really be face to face. When I say we, it's because we actually have a special special guest. With me is Ms. Carrie Wiedemann, who is also our senior director of massage training as well and we work together and really work so much in the massage profession and building policies and protocols and procedures and best practices. And Carrie, thank you for joining me here. 


0:02:00.1 Speaker 4: Wow, what a great opportunity. It's wonderful to be here. Colorado is beautiful. What a fantastic time we've had today. 


0:02:08.3 S2: Let's start by talking about that. What brings you to ABMP today? What's Hand & Stone up to here in the building?  


0:02:15.5 S3: Well, we're excited that we have a massage therapy showcase for Hand & Stone. And this is a wonderful opportunity for us to do what I consider a mini conference. We usually get 5-6 vendors that work with Hand & Stone and we get the massage therapist in the local city to come together and we do three hours of continued education on just best practices on helping people become successful massage therapists and really what that next stage is. And so we really had a class full of great massage therapists here and it was more of a discussion and engagement, and we started with Ms. Carrie Wiedemann doing a really great class on centering and Zenning and being in our center. Carrie, was there something that stood out today for you?  


0:03:01.4 S4: Well, every chance that we have an opportunity to get together with MTs is always the best. Nathan and I are so busy with all of the things that the corporate office asks us to do that when we can get on the road and we can get to see all of the MTs one and one and just be with them, it's delightful. We find out all of the things that they need to ask us questions that maybe they don't feel comfortable emailing us or asking their owners or their managers, and we get to just get a good conversation going with them. Plus, we have a lot of experienced MTs that happened to be with us today. I think maybe the smallest amount of time that someone had been an MT was maybe three or four years and they were up to nine and 12 years. So it was wonderful having these expert massage therapists who are part of the Hand & Stone environment. It was wonderful having the vendors with us, they get to talk about all of their wonderful services and MTs then get that opportunity to really hear from the horse's mouth just what is that service all about, especially when it comes to the product knowledge. 


0:04:09.5 S3: Yeah. And we've got such a interesting piece that we can bring together as Carrie and I are both for the corporate side of things. So we're on the Hand & Stone franchise corporation side where the franchisee are local and they're the ones that employ the massage therapist. And so we always want to work for best practices all the way throughout. And that's what such some of the best discussions came from was when they said, "Oh, hey, this is what's going on in my spa." And we could say, "Oh, here's what the Hand & Stone standards are and why we have these Hand & Stone standards." And so adding that communication really opens it up. And these I think we just figured this out, this is number seven over the last year and a half that we've done. And it's just opened up in different regions, different uniqueness that some spas have, some communication skills that are great and some that are more challenging. And it's great to be able to see and change that and open those doors for the next stage of success for that person. 


0:05:09.4 S2: I'm curious, what are some of the common questions that the practitioners ask you?  


0:05:14.1 S3: Carrie, I'll let you start. 


0:05:15.2 S4: Okay. 


0:05:16.0 S3: You got one?  


0:05:16.7 S4: Well, I think probably the first one is always the protocol. They want to understand the protocol of a service maybe just a little bit better. And a lot of times that can be part of just giving the service or possibly intake forms, that kind of thing. So they always just want to make sure they get the right answer and make sure that they feel validated, that they're doing things correctly. 


0:05:39.6 S3: See, and I go the other direction where they want clarification. Like they know the policy and they're like, "But why?" or "Hey, could we do this instead?" And a lot of times they're already on it and they're doing it, they're doing a great job. And then you give them that little tweak and they go, "Oh, of course. That's so much easier." And it's something that I think we all do this. Someone shows you how to do something on the computer and you're like, "Oh, you have to hit those two buttons and you get all of that result." Same thing with the massage world. We're all in there and we think, Carrie Wiedemann and I have 50 years of experience together and we've experienced some of these odd things that may have come out and we can then give those best practices and have them go, "Oh yeah. Okay, I'm a better massage therapist because I spoke with one other massage therapist." 


0:06:29.1 S3: And that's what I love about the franchise world is that you've got a spa full of massage therapists who can help each other, who can communicate, who can get past that loneliness of being a sole practitioner and get the engagement that needs to be there to make you strive and want to improve constantly. 


0:06:47.6 S2: Nate, you mentioned earlier that one of the things you talked about in your showcase today with the practitioners from the local area was setting themselves up for success and giving them tips on how to do that. So can you share a couple of those with our listeners as well?  


0:07:02.0 S3: It is really a simple piece that I want everyone to be conscious of. When it comes down to you seeing your client and your client coming in, they have expectations for you from the very beginning, when you're looking at you want to do an assessment. You want be looking at what is considered successful and what do I want to get to and what challenges do I have. At the very beginning all you're simply doing is taking your challenges, ideally, putting them in order for things that you want to do now and things that you may want to do later and that's going to be your pre-assessment. And then you have to create a roadmap and you have to say, "Okay, if I'm going to become the lead massage therapist at my spa, if I'm going to run my own business, if I'm going to own a franchise myself, if I'm going to do any of these things, I have to think, 'Okay, from right here to right here, I need to A, do my research, figure out what it takes to get there, B, put together those step plans that are going to get you there.'" 


0:08:01.8 S3: And that's the piece that in the treatment room, you've got them on the massage table and you want to definitely do things like checking in on pressure, checking in on the temperature, checking in on all those things. And so, in the treatment room, it reflects the real world so much. I also remind people that you want to check in on pressure within the first five minutes of a session instead of the last five minutes of a session because the first five minutes of the session, you can do something about it. You can change it. 


0:08:29.1 S3: Very similar, in your life, if you really want to get someplace, you want to do the research upfront because if you can get as much research done ahead of time, then you can build out what the rest of your life is. If you don't do the research upfront and you work really hard, you may go in many different directions that you weren't expecting because you didn't have that roadmap that you were planning. And then the important one is the follow-up. At the end of a massage session, how are you feeling today? How are you feeling now after the session? You want them to go, "Ah, I feel great. That was a great massage. Thank you." You want to hear that not just as a pat on the back because that's a great thing, but you also want that other aspect of confirmation that what you did created a result. 


0:09:14.7 S3: In your own world, you may not find yourself the place that you planned on going, but you will be that many more steps ahead, and then you can reassess that final stage, whatever it is, wherever you want to go. In my life, many eight years ago, something of that nature, I ran the Boston Marathon. I went from not... Okay, from hating running. 




0:09:37.1 S3: From not liking, no, just to hating running and not running at all to a point where I could get 26.2 miles done. And that was a huge accomplishment. But I didn't do it just by saying, "Okay, well, I think I'll just start walking down the street." I actually had to do that step to get me there and success breeds success. So once you recognize you've completed a goal, you now can look at the next goal and see that it's not much longer than the previous goal. 


0:10:07.2 S1: So Carrie, how do you find your Zen and find your center? I'm so curious. And is that before a session, between sessions, after a session, before you're coming in to the day, you're starting your day, you're leaving, going home, what are you teaching there?  


0:10:22.4 S4: Well, mine has been with me for a very, very long time. I've been a yoga instructor for years. I went to Swami school and meditation is a very big part of my life. So I wake up early in the morning, about 4:30 every morning, and I set aside at least an hour and a half time for meditation and contemplation so that I can start my day out in a positive way. Because I know that once we open the door and go out of the door and get in our car and drive down the road, sometimes things change, and then when you go in for a session, if you're not present and aware of who you are at that particular moment, it can reflect on the service that you're going to give. So it's very important that we stay grounded and find what it is. 


0:11:14.5 S4: Whenever we go out on the road and teach our showcases, I always tell everybody I am a early bird. But some people are night owls. And that's fine too. But what's important is that you find out who you are and how that works for you. How are you going to stay grounded? How are you going to be prepared for not only that day, not only that session, but you also have a full life ahead of you? And how are you going to live your life?  


0:11:38.9 S1: Tell me a little bit about the difference of what you did today of best practices versus onboarding versus orientation?  


0:11:46.8 S3: Breaking it apart, the first one that comes on in my mind is the onboarding concept because when you look at if you had the perfect employee, what would you want them to know when they see their first client? And so many times the answer that gets defaulted is "Well, how to sign in, how to sign out, how to get paid and how to do paperwork." And in my mind, that's not a qualified person to do all the work that we expect. Even that just a standard orientation day is going to include how to sign in and sign out and where the sheets are and where you put dirty laundry and that kind of stuff. But that isn't the process that will get someone to be successful. And so knowing that we want them to be in best practices, even in orientation, that's gonna include things like for Hand & Stone, because it's Hand & Stone, it's gonna be hot stones. And being able to have them understand our signature services, being able to communicate not only with each other, but also with the client and meet a specific standard. If there's some special greeting that a spa has, we want them to be able to use that. And that's one of those tools that we regularly use. 


0:13:11.3 S3: When it comes to what we've done today, yes, we have other trainings that we do, especially our lead training webinars and things of that nature. Carrie does that once a month with the lead massage therapists and it's great when they're able to ask questions, get a refining process, and then we have a quarterly webinar that we do on about being a peer mentor and clinical supervision and being able to understand what those steps are so that they realize that it's not just you've got a title, but you've got responsibilities with those titles and that goes to those best practices. Here we expected everyone who came in to have done that orientation. 


0:13:52.9 S3: One of the massage therapists, yesterday was her first day at Hand & Stone. She had 10 years of practice under her belt, but she had been working for one full day at Hand & Stone. She had her orientation, she had her checking in, she had all her benefits figured out but she had a lot of conversational pieces that other people because she had just gone through her orientation she knew the answers. She knew more about like our attention buttons that are in our spas and being able to say "Oh yeah, so this is how I say it." And other people were like, "Oh, that seems so simple." Well, she was already in her lack of comfort zone because she was brand new and so she had engaged that and created a best practice for her, including how she addresses wording in minor ways. 


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0:16:03.8 S2: Let's get back to our conversation. Nate, tell us a little bit more about the value and impact that peers and practitioners can have to help support each other. 


0:16:14.2 S3: So you've got two answers to that from me, and I always answer with two answers, I'm sorry guys. But the first one is the clinical supervision and peer mentoring is a training specifically focused towards those massage therapists who are in a leadership position. Reminding a lead massage therapist that they're not just there to make sure they're following the rules, which is the clinical supervision, but you're also there to help lift them to their best potential. And so when it really comes down to peer mentoring, it is asking questions, it's watching them to see if there's potential of burnout, watching them to make sure that they're doing the best practices that they can. 


0:16:57.7 S3: For us, when you look at if you're doing the same massage back to back to back to back, you're gonna burn yourself out. And so being able to look at enhancement numbers, what tools a massage therapist is using, and being able to mentor them through "You know what? It looks like you're not using hot stones, is there a reason why?" And giving them some insight so that they can do that. 


0:17:18.9 S3: Well, we also have another form of mentoring that we do on a monthly basis. We have a live course and we literally call it peer mentoring and it is an opportunity for our massage therapists to anonymously come together. We don't use any names, we use their initials and we simply talk about best practices that can be done, maybe someplace where things fell down and give people an opportunity to tell us about stuff that's going on in their life, stuff that's going on in their practice, things that they want to see, things that they're not seeing and giving them tools to communicate more effectively in the local spa so that they can go back to their manager. They can go back to their owner and say, "Hey, you know what? I noticed this and I'm concerned about that." And simply being able to coach them through those mentoring times can make more massage therapists more excited about what they do because we don't want to have that burnout of emotional well-being other than the burnout of the physical well-being. The body is the one that can break down but our hearts can break down as well if we don't put them in the right place. And so that's another form of mentoring that we love seeing and love doing. 


0:18:35.0 S2: Yeah, that's really well said. And I like too that it's not only about supporting them as a massage practitioner, but also as a human and dealing with what's going on in their lives as well. 


0:18:44.0 S3: Right. And one of the challenges that we have is that we have that as a weekly or a monthly Zoom. And so we're coming from a distance. We're not in their spa, we're not... So it's a individual who's out in the ethos where when we're doing the mentor training for the lead massage therapist, that is someone in that spa who then can do the things that we can't do. We can't watch them and confirm what they're doing and how they're doing. We're wanting to make sure that mentoring is being done from top down and from side to side. So I know I've had mentors in my life who have been great massage therapists or great business owners or great leaders in the industry, and being able to ask them questions or have them literally just put their hand on your back and say, "You did a great job today." That opened up not just my practice, but it opened up my mind to "Hey, I'm a good person and I'm excited about what that next stage in life has for me." No matter what that is. If that's in practice or out of practice, you've gotta find that next success for mentoring. 


0:19:53.1 S1: So I have a question for both of you. How does... How many lead practitioners are at a location and how does one become that?  


0:20:03.9 S4: Normally they'll have at least one lead. Sometimes they haven't even found somebody who's qualified for a lead at a spa yet. They might think they have somebody, but they wanna see how well they work. So they might have what's called a trainer. But as a spa grows, they'll find that they're going to need more than one lead. So normally, they'll have two. Now we have multi-unit owners, so theirs is a whole different look. And so they might have what they would call a regional trainer, a regional lead that would go to their different spas. So one of the wonderful things here is there's growth, right? So we can start out as a massage therapist that just got out of school and really understand that there's a lot of potential, a lot of growth if they stay with us. 


0:20:52.2 S3: I remember talking to one owner and her statement was she never wants to have less than 10% leadership. So one in ten. If she has 10 massage therapists, she wants one of them to be a lead. If she has 20, then she'd have two leads. And the reason it wasn't about, "Okay, you're the lead of that person and this person and this person," it was about shifts, that you have someone who's on during the day and someone that's on in the evening to give some support there. It could be weekend, weekdays, it could be... By the time you have 10 people, anywhere from 5-10, there has to be someone who is helping people get to the next stages. And because you can get the emotional turmoil of having multiple people together, some people are not gonna like how other people work or talk or act, and so being able to have a leader who can refine it and can be a source of support for the relationship building, that needs to happen in any communal setting, that's one of the best practices that we look at for making sure that leads are effectively working with multiple people. 


0:22:01.6 S1: One of the things I'm interested in following up on is just talking about those newly graduating practitioners that are showing up to your doorstep. And one of the things I'm really interested in, and you alluded to it earlier, Nate, was this is really a fertile learning place personally and professionally. So for some people, this may be their first supervisor, their first manager, their first co-worker or colleague, their first clients. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience and how that might be different than a tenured practitioner showing up at Hand & Stone?  


0:22:35.3 S3: I love it. Actually, it's funny, the term, knowing your expectations. I know when I went to massage school, I got my license and they said, "Go work." And I said, "Okay." And I looked around and I went, "I have no clue what I'm doing." And I flailed and I reached out to people and there was a lot of just misunderstanding that came out of that first probably couple of months. And finally when I found my first place and got my feet on the ground, I was in Jackson, Wyoming, in a resort spa and I loved it. And part of that came from the ability to communicate with the owner and manager about what they expected of me. And I felt that light bulb go on and going, "Oh, I can complete that." But for so long, if you have someone who graduates from a massage school and they don't know what their expectations are, then they're going to be doing anything. 


0:23:34.9 S3: One of the expectations in a massage therapist interview that I regularly remind massage therapists they need to do is they need to ask what they're getting paid. I'm gonna use myself as a bad example here. I've taken jobs not knowing what I'm gonna make, and that's not a great way to look forward at your practice as a business person, but is also not healthy, especially if there's a miscommunication. If they're expecting to pay you this much and you expect twice as much, then after you get done with that first week, you're gonna be angry because they didn't meet your expectations. And so being able to know and build that expectation at the beginning, being able to have a great, easy conversation with someone, I think every interview should be that. It should be a two-sided conversation not a "I'm asking you all these questions and you have to answer them right or else you're not gonna get the job." 


0:24:30.3 S3: That's what so many people feel like that interview process is where a massage therapist being able to say, "You know what? I can't work Sundays because I've got family church stuff." That opens up a world of conversation. If you don't have that conversation, it gets lost and missed out. 


0:24:46.0 S4: I do think it is important for a new therapist to really sit back and to see what they want in their mind, visualize what they want so that when they do go out for an interview, they can, like you had said, Nathan, ask the correct questions that'll answer their questions that they have in their mind. And I think it's so important that they feel confident to ask those questions and not be afraid to say, "Okay, what is the pay structure here so I understand it?" How many hours do you feel is part-time or how many hours do you feel is full-time so that you understand what that is. And those kinds of things aren't always taught in school settings because the school settings, they wanna make sure you understand how to give good massages. So when you go out for your job, you need to think of it as any job that you're going to interview for. 


0:25:40.2 S4: You wanna understand clearly what those expectations because the expectation isn't just giving the massage either. There's back bar things that need to be done. Maybe it's laundry that has to be done or maybe you have to fill up products that are being used in the room, whatever it is, I think it's so important that we understand clearly. You might even find that when you are on a interview that the owner or manager, whoever you are talking to, they're not very good at setting expectations so they don't even know what they are. So it's very important that you, as the person that is being interviewed for the job, feel confident enough to ask the right questions that are gonna meet your needs. 


0:26:23.5 S3: One of the things that really goes along with knowing the expectations, which I think more massage therapists need more help with, is managing expectations because just because you know them doesn't mean it's gonna be achievable. Oh, okay, I want to run the world. Oh, well, how do you get there? Oh, I don't know. Well, okay, hold on, let's go back. And when you're in an interview with a massage, a spa owner, with the massage therapist who's the lead, whatever it is, and you're doing this interview and you're talking to them and they're saying, "Okay, well, we expect you to be here this day, this day, this day." And you say yes, but then you're like, "Well, but I can't really do that." Now you're actually finding a incongruity of what you're saying and what you're able to do. So being able to manage that and say, "Oh, you know what, I would love to do that. However, I'm having this concern with this" or "I would love to... " 


0:27:19.0 S3: I think of another great example. I had a massage therapist who has a high heat sensitivity. And so she would break out into a rash if she uses hot stones. Well, guess what? That massage therapist is not gonna be using hot stones. But that expectation needs to be presented in that interview to say, "Hey, you know what? I can't do this." And the owner and manager goes, "Oh, thank you so much for letting me know. We're not gonna expect you to have a whatever percent enhancement rate with hot stones because that's not gonna be healthy for you." Or "Hey, I have diabetes and I need to eat this often." These are all expectations that they can be managed through quality communication. 


0:27:55.3 S2: Okay guys, as we bring this podcast to a close, I'm curious, while I've got you here, I wanna ask, what advice do you have for practitioners who are listening? What do you wanna leave them with today?  


0:28:05.7 S4: I think what I would like to leave with them is, first of all, a really big thank you for being a practitioner and going out in the world with this field because it is a unique field, and it's not for everybody, but they're needed and it's wonderful. But I also want them to know that they can continue in their practice. Massage is not just a narrow road. There are so many avenues that are open for a massage therapist. You can certainly have your own individual practice or work for somebody, but maybe you wanna be a continuing ed instructor or maybe you wanna teach at a school or maybe you want to grow with maybe a company such as Hand & Stone and understand that there's lots of opportunities there. Maybe you used to just work with the general population and now you wanna work with seniors. There's just so much there. So I just ask everybody to stay open-minded, find where they wanna go next, know that they're appreciated for everything that they do, and just always be a massage therapist. Once a massage therapist, always one. 


0:29:13.7 S3: Oh, so I've got two. Once again, my duality. It's my brain. That's how it works. The first one is share the love that you have with your profession with your friends and neighbors. I was talking about this today with other people. The massage profession could double the number of massage therapists that we have and still meet demand. And so we're looking at, what? 320,000 330,000 massage therapists currently in the nation. And really at 600,000, we still need that. And that's how we're going to build equality is by having a massage therapist say, "You know what? I am proud to be a massage therapist. I do such a job that is needed and so many people's lives are changed by me." When your friends and neighbors look at you that way, they're gonna go, "Dang, I want that." Because too many people in this world don't have that. 


0:30:09.9 S3: So that's the first one. And then the second one is, be brave. Because there are so many things that are going to scare you in life. And if you can keep yourself upright and focused towards that potential success and be willing to use your ability to communicate, and when you're doing an interview, have that conversation and make sure that they know that you're interested in their better good as well as your better good. Be able to have that communal mind to be brave enough to make the profession better. And we need to continue to push for a healthy and happy profession. 


0:30:49.4 S1: I wanna thank our guests today, Nate and Carrie, for joining us. To find out more information about the great work that Nate and Carrie are doing at Hand & Stone, visit handandstone.com. Thanks Nate and Carrie and Kristin. 


0:31:04.6 S4: Thank you for the opportunity. It was a lot of fun. 


0:31:05.3 S3: Thanks guys. It's great seeing you. 


0:31:06.5 S2: Thank you for a great conversation and for being with us today. We appreciate you both. 




0:31:18.0 S?: Members are loving ABMP Five-Minute Muscles and ABMP Pocket Pathology, two quick reference web apps included with ABMP membership. ABMP Five-Minute Muscles delivers muscle specific palpation and technique videos plus origins, insertions and actions for the 83 muscles, most commonly addressed by body workers. ABMP Pocket Pathology created in conjunction with Ruth Werner puts key information for nearly 200 common pathologies at your fingertips and provides the knowledge you need to help you make informed treatment decisions. Start learning today. ABMP members, log in at abmp.com and look for the links in the featured benefits section of your member homepage. Not a member? Learn about these exciting member benefits at abmp.com/more.


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