Fourth installment in our series on leadership development for fitness professionals.
This article will explore why disconnecting is an essential part of career success. You will also learn the steps required to make sure your business doesn’t suffer while you’re away.
Recharge Before You Crash
You nurture your team members to help them grow in their careers. You support your clients as they strive to reach their goals. You provide proper instruction and motivation for your students. Hard work is part of our culture, but how hard can you push yourself before you hit a wall? Sometimes it’s obvious that we need a break. Planning for downtime and vacations can help you stay motivated and avoid crashing.
You may feel you can’t take a vacation because your clients need you, or your workload is too great, or no one is able to do your job as well as you. However, research shows that working more hours does not lead to higher productivity.
The truth is, taking a vacation can recharge both your personal life and your professional life. Instead of looking at vacation as a loss in revenue with a huge price tag, look at a few of the positives: increased motivation; renewed energy and decreased stress; fewer sick days and lower healthcare costs. Taking a vacation is not a luxury—it’s a necessity.
Evaluate and Plan
Just like your personal goals and your goals for growing your business, vacation won’t happen unless you plan for it. First you need to determine what you would like to do, where you would like to go and what your budget is. With those answers in hand, you can select your vacation dates and begin the process of making your vacation a reality.
Take a close look at the nature of your business. When is it a bad time for you to be away? Consider conference dates and your busy season. Once your best away-dates and your destination are determined, inform your staff and clients of your plans. Aim to give up to 6 months' advance notice, followed by a reminder in 3 months and another reminder 4–6 weeks prior to your departure. Commit to your vacation plans by booking your hotel, purchasing your plane tickets and ensuring that nothing will derail your holiday.
Prepare for Departure
How can you hit the road with confidence and feel secure that your professional life will be in the same good condition when you return as it was when you left? According to Nicki Anderson, health and fitness columnist, 2008 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and past owner of Reality Fitness, “Initial training of staff is essential.”
That’s why we suggested above that you begin your vacation planning process 3–6 months in advance. Follow the five steps below, and you’ll be on the road to some much needed rest and relaxation.
1. Outline. List your responsibilities for each week, ranging from classes to staff meetings, and determine what coverage you’ll need.
If you teach specialty classes, ensure that your sub has the appropriate certifications and that they’re current. Invite your sub to participate in two to four classes per month to get a feel for your teaching style. Becoming familiar with your regular students will help your sub feel more comfortable covering your classes. Introduce the sub at the beginning of each class, so that your students get to know who will be covering your classes while you are away. Taking these steps will help to reinforce the fact that you care about your students’ well-being even when you are away.
Determine who would be a good fit to stand in for you during staff meetings. This depends on your position and the meeting. But another team member who regularly attends staff meetings may be able to contribute on your behalf or be available to take notes for you.
2. Delegate. Coach one or more trusted and qualified individuals to work with your clients and handle most of your responsibilities while you are away.
Your clients will not appreciate being bounced around from one trainer to another in your absence. It is essential to place your clients in qualified hands so that they are well supported in working toward their goals. Identify a qualified trainer to work with your clients in your absence. Let your clients know that you have an exceptional trainer who is excited to work with them while you are on vacation, so that they will not have any downtime from their normal exercise routine. Ask your clients if they are comfortable with the trainer shadowing a few sessions prior to your departure. Request that the trainer sit in on three to six sessions, take notes and fully prepare to meet the needs of each client. If a trainer is not willing to take the time to preview at least one session with one of your clients, look for someone else. The trainer will also need to follow your client tracking requirements, in order to be paid appropriately and also to avoid discrepancies with your clients regarding the number of sessions completed.
3. Schedule. If you will be on vacation for more than 2 weeks, arrange in advance to have a weekly meeting while you’re away, so you can check in with your clients and your staff.
Take advantage of voice-over Internet Protocol or Internet-based services, such as Skype or FaceTime, to call from your computer or mobile device and save on long-distance charges. A weekly phone call can help you address any issues your staff may need input on. Aim to connect on a specific day each week. If a phone meeting is not an option, a weekly email update is another way to stay connected. Inform your team in advance of the day you will log in to your email, so they can submit updates and questions in time for your review and response. After a couple of hours of focused work, you’ll be able to rest easy for the remainder of your vacation.
4. Back up. Have a plan in case something goes wrong. Know who is in charge in your absence and who will be making decisions.
What if your server crashed or your fitness studio was vandalized? Delegate responsibility to a trusted team member to make the decision to contact the necessary persons and resolve issues in your absence. Don’t hope for the best. Plan for the worst.
5. Relax. Regardless of the length of your trip, if it’s well planned there are very few issues that cannot wait until your return.
Portable technology is wonderful for busy professionals on the go. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that staying connected on your vacation will enable you to return to your job feeling rested, refreshed and ready to tackle new projects. Plan to fully disconnect for at least 50% of your vacation, or you run the risk of not feeling refreshed when you return. “[At Reality Fitness, I had] a list of responsibilities for everyone when I was gone so they all felt they contributed in some way to keeping the business afloat,” says Anderson. “Because I had trained them as a team, they worked together to keep the boat afloat while the captain was away. I never worred when I was gone.”
Just as you plan your workday and your client’s sessions, taking time off requires planning. Creating a business that can run on its own is very rewarding, especially when you reach a point where you can step away for a period of time and not worry about whether you’ll still have a business when you return. While your role in the health and fitness industry is valuable, it is important to remember that taking a vacation—regardless of the length or destination—is part of being a better professional and leader in your community.