Be a Standout Employee
Career Path: Discover strategies for becoming a five-star worker—while supporting your co-workers.
Maybe it’s the coffee bar employee who always has a smile and knows your favorite drink. Maybe it’s the hotel clerk who follows through to ensure you have all the amenities you need. Or perhaps it’s one of your co-workers who seems to consistently anticipate the needs of managers and clients. Excellent service is easy to notice, yet is it easy to provide?
Would you like to be known as someone who offers phenomenal service? Learn techniques that will get you noticed by your boss but won’t require you to step on or over your co-workers. As a matter of fact, by employing these ideas suggested by top managers, instructors and personal trainers, you can stand out among your co-workers as an inspiration and a role model.
What qualities does an exceptional employee possess? You’ll find that there are no surprises. The only surprise is that not everyone remembers to incorporate these qualities into his or her work on a consistent basis! “I look for several key elements when hiring a trainer or instructor, and they are the same elements I look for when considering someone for a promotion,” says Tom Terwilliger, owner and chief executive officer of Terwilliger Fitness in Denver. “You must have honesty, integrity, passion, punctuality, pride in your work and appearance, and a desire to help others.”
Heather Simpson, a group fitness instructor, trainer and wellness supervisor in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, emphasizes the importance of helping people. “When you take the extra time to help a participant ‘get’ a certain move or teach your training clients everything they need to know to continue the workout and not be dependent [upon you], then you are taking the extra step,” she explains.
Desi Bartlett, MS, a trainer and instructor in Venice, California, agrees that devoting extra time to clients goes hand in hand with excellence. “People who are generous with their time do well in this industry,” she says. “Spend an extra 5 minutes with a client or member who needs it. This doesn’t always have to be in person; you can call or e-mail them at the end of your day. A little goes a long way.”
Another characteristic that first-rate employees demonstrate is “congruence,” or “walking your talk,” according to Terwilliger. “We have a saying that you need to ‘earn the right’ before teaching or sharing.” He notes that the fitness pro “who looks and lives the part of someone who has earned the right to show, teach and inspire will always stand out from those who have not.”
Nghia Pham, a personal trainer at Keystone Athletic Club in Poway, California, explains congruence in another way. “You need to lead by example,” he says. “My duty is to motivate others to live an active and healthy lifestyle. Therefore, I present myself with a highly positive attitude.” Spoken as a true former Marine!
Another way to shine as an outstanding employee is to be an excellent team player. But team player can be an elusive term, so let’s try and nail down what it means. Shyla Strain, regional fitness director of Northwest Personal Training & Fitness Education, which is based in Vancouver, Washington, is quite specific in her definition. “We spell TEAM in all capitals, as it stands for ‘Together Everyone Achieves More,’” she explains. “We don’t have ‘my’ clients; we have ‘our’ clients.”
What attributes make someone an outstanding team player, according to Strain? “People who thrive in a team environment, are willing to share clients, cover each other’s shifts, are creative and share new ideas with the other members of the team. Also, people who are self-managing, who participate in company events that foster relationships, who attend meetings and forums and who practice what they preach.”
Kris Thomas, group exercise coordinator at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, adds to this description. “I hire people who work well with others and don’t need to be the center of attention,” she says. “Team players promote each other’s strengths and promote the entire fitness program, not just their own classes.”
How do you provide outstanding service to clients, while staying on good terms with your co-workers? First, you need to be sincere in your desire to shine through service. When you are sincere, it shows, and people want to come along on your journey. However, if you are perceived as trying to get ahead just for your own needs, you’ll be looked at as an insincere “climber.”
When asked about ways to stand out while supporting the team, Bartlett sees this topic from several angles, having been a manager herself. “Create new, innovative classes and teach the format to your fellow instructors,” she says. “Promote a sense of camaraderie—if you are excited, motivated and generous with your energy, they will respond accordingly. Also, when you do your job well, you make everyone else’s job easier.”
Personal trainer Susan Newman of Downers Grove, Illinois, says that being a team player is about respect. “Form a team based on mutual admiration and skills, which fosters a noncompetitive atmosphere,” she says. “Share clients and work to keep your relationships fresh.”
Simpson adds an idea that makes good sense. “Give credit where it is due,” she advises. “Never take credit for something someone else created. This concept is very important, as it will earn you trust and respect.”
So you know you are a stellar employee who is also a supportive team player. How do you make sure your boss pays attention? “Offer more than what the job description is on paper,” shares Farel Hruska, Stroller Strides® national fitness director, in San Diego. “Be innovative in marketing your classes, and offer insight and education about fitness while representing your company in the community.”
Rob Cloke, a personal trainer recognized as the Trainer of the Year at Northwest Personal Training and Fitness Education, warns against acting solely to impress your employer. “I do not do what I do to get noticed by my boss,” he says. “I care about all of my clients, and that is how I shine. I do things around the studio that need to be done”—including cleaning the toilet, according to one source!
Whether you have a good or not-so-good boss, whether there is or isn’t a written policy that explains what it takes to be top-notch, and whether you work together with or independently from your colleagues, in the end you must rely on your personality, values, ethics and knowledge to stand out within, not above, the team. As Don Bahneman, MS, the fitness director at John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida, states, “All of the guests in our home are welcome to the very best.” Be the best and your guest list at your business will always be full. n
As fitness director at the upscale John’s Island Club in Vero Beach, Florida, Don Bahneman, MS, is highly attuned to the attributes that separate good employees from great ones. Here is his list of distinctions.
A good employee
- is credentialed
- is on time
- is articulate
- is in uniform and presentable
- turns payroll in on time
- attends all relevant meetings
- looks to err on the side of caution when making decisions
A great employee displays all attributes of a good employee plus
- looks to build outside the box
- sees potential ways to prevent problems from occurring
- assists other staff in their quest to become great
- brings a creative presence to the team and guests/clients
- can see the bigger picture and works toward it
- appreciates feedback and uses it to continue developing
Here is a handy list of the attributes that will make you stand out among your colleagues in a way that lifts everyone. Stick this list in your workout bag.
- Have a positive attitude.
- Be self-motivated.
- Stay focused on clients.
- Possess a strong work ethic.
- Become educated.
- Strive to improve yourself.
- Make work fun.
- Offer assistance to and share knowledge with new colleagues.
- Look for solutions to problems.
- Be resourceful and innovative.
- Continue to grow—take classes, read, interact with fellow trainers and instructors.
- Use common sense.
- Fill in for your colleagues.
- Pay attention to details.
- Take ownership—treat the facility with a sense of pride.
- Listen with the intention of learning, and communicate clearly.
- Follow through on promises and commitments.
- Take the time to challenge and support each client.
- Start and end sessions on time.
- Be ambitious and passionate about the fitness lifestyle.
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