Building a Winning Team
Learn how you can develop and retain a successful team of instructors.
Once you have recruited and hired instructors for your group fitness staff, the next step is to mold them into a cohesive unit. You need to be able to mesh instructors who have a variety of personalities, backgrounds and teaching styles into a successful team. Here are some areas to focus on to keep instructors satisfied and working well together.
To be comfortable members of your team, instructors must feel they are supported. Obviously you as the group fitness program director are a coach and mentor. You must communicate with instructors clearly, and frequently meet with them. Instructors should feel comfortable talking with you and knowing that what they say will not be repeated or cause punishment. Your efforts in building open, sincere relationships with your staff will come back to you 10-fold through instructor loyalty and dependability.
You also need to be a role model and check your own ego at the door. Focus the spotlight on the instructors so they feel recognized and supported. You should treat all staff with honesty and support.
As director, you must also demonstrate integrity and provide security. One key is to create and administer fair, uniform policies and procedures for all staff. (Nothing tears a team apart faster than preferential treatment.) For example, it is crucial to set clear policies regarding salary. Is there a systematic process in place for raises (if you give raises) and do all instructors know about it? Do instructors get an annual evaluation and salary review? Have you created and communicated a clearly defined path for growth, say from instructor to management?
Another factor that makes instructors want to be part of your team is their fellow instructors. Instructors usually gravitate to a facility where there are mentors or instructors they admire and can learn from. If you are lucky enough to employ top talent, your facility will most likely draw other instructors who want to increase their skills or their prestige by association.
Whether instructors are superstars or not, all want to feel they are a valued, integral part of the team. Consider how you treat various types of instructors.
Superstars. Your superstars undoubtedly know they are special. They are motivated by being the best and will need plenty of recognition. Leverage this situation by providing in-club workshops and programs where your top talent can teach the rest of the instructors. Offering superstars a chance to shine in this way will build relationships within the group and offer an opportunity for other instructors to hone their skills. However, no matter how tempted you are to bend a policy for superstars, do not do so.
Regular Instructors. Your “bread-and-butter” instructors are the bulk of your team and also need to feel special. They are dependable, solid performers who want opportunities to improve and gain recognition. You can showcase them by highlighting an individual each month. Secure a space near your group fitness studio(s) for signs, posters and information and use this bulletin board to highlight instructors. If it is economically feasible, offer scholarships or partial reimbursement for your staff to learn new class formats and techniques.
New Instructors. Your rookies also require special treatment. They may need help from you or a seasoned instructor to get to know the other instructors, management or members. They want to feel accepted and to fit in.
Diamonds in the Rough. Diamonds in the rough are instructors who have the potential to be stars in the future, but lack skills now. You will need to invest time and effort in their certification preparation and training and give them extra assistance.
Offer more experienced instructors a chance to help build the team through mentoring. Explain that the strength of the industry—and your facility— depends on new people becoming quality instructors. If possible, find a mentor to work with each new or diamond- in-the-rough instructor. Then make sure you reward the veterans for their assistance. In addition, try to schedule a time when your new talent can teach the veterans and the veterans can offer positive, constructive critiques. When veteran instructors work with newer ones, both usually feel more team loyalty and inclusion.
Ultimately your facility, its management and instructors will draw or repel talented employees. Instructors always want to work in an environment that provides a caring, safe haven. The bottom line is that instructors can tell if you have a deep interest in their well-being and success.
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How do you retain quality instructors? Employees do not work simply for money.
They stay in an environment in which they are heard, nurtured and can grow.
Answer the following questions to see how you are doing in these areas and note any places where you would like to improve.
- How does your facility treat group fitness? Does management treat it like a valued commodity?
- Do you post group fitness information on the club website?
- Do you praise and reward instructors? How often?
- What opportunities do you create for instructors to shine and be recognized? Do you put their photos on the walls?
- Do you encourage open discussion through instructor surveys, interviews and/or evaluations?
- How do you handle instructor grievances?
- Do you foster a cooperative spirit or stress competition among instructors? Instructors also value education. Does your facility value and promote education? Consider these questions.
- What type of educational incentives do you offer?
- Does the facility offer in-house workshops?
- Do you pay a portion of convention registrations or continuing education programs?
- Do you make information available on continuing education opportunities?
It can be difficult to cultivate instructor loyalty. Instructors may work for different clubs because you can’t provide them with enough classes to meet their financial needs or they can earn more money at another club. If your facility pays the most in the area, then you can woo and keep instructors based on money! However, if you can’t compete in the salary arena, see if you can offer other perks as a competitive advantage.
Education. Does your facility provide greater educational opportunities than other facilities? Do you hold the most special events or pay for instructors to attend other events?
Extra Opportunities to Earn Money. Do you have relationships with fitness companies such as Crunch or product companies that sell Body Bars™ or BOSU™ Balance Trainers? If so, you may be able to offer instructors ways to earn money on the side such as appearing in a video or representing products.
Companion Memberships. Can you give free memberships to instructors’ significant others or families? Can you add value to their jobs through other incentives?
Conduct one or more of the following events to help instructors get to know each other and feel more connected.
- Hold quarterly staff meetings. You can review policies, reinforce positive behavior and further good will. These meetings can also serve as a platform to recognize an instructor of the month, announce any exceptional event or behaviors and provide a forum for further education.
- Schedule staff trips to fitness- related or other events. These events let the team interact with and see each other outside of the facility.
- Create department projects that provide opportunities to foster teamwork and self-worth.
- Participate in a charity event where all the instructors conduct portions of a large class. Or set up a challenge between departments in your facility to create teamwork within your staff.
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