Integrate to Elevate

Use proven business strategies to identify and cultivate winning team attitudes among your group fitness staff.

One solution is to view your group fitness department as a business. Review your definition of teamwork and develop your team’s belief in the greater good. Learn how to harness talented egos so you can move in a common direction and encourage commitment to a fundamental purpose. The “Integrate to Elevate” success formula is based on The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players by Pat Riley (Berkley Trade 1994). Many consider Riley, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, to be a master of success. Some of his strategies are relevant to the challenges faced by group fitness managers. Riley’s insights provide a framework for unifying a department of individuals with unique ambitions, talents and passions.

Warm-Up: Teamwork Redefined

Do you consider your group fitness department a team merely because staff members show up, classes are always covered and instructors are willing to sub for one another? These factors, in and of themselves, do not amount to teamwork—they’re merely cooperation. Cooperation is good, but it can take you only so far. Once you understand the true essence of teamwork and how it differs from cooperation, you can integrate your instructors.

“When a group fitness department can come together as a team, it represents significant success for the club as a whole,” says Rob Engstrom, general manager of Equinox Fitness Clubs in San Francisco. “The team provides the excitement, energy and emotion that fuel the member experience. It creates a positive environment and . . . above all creates a constant flow of new business from referrals.”

Teamwork involves blending individual talents and coordinating strengths to create a force greater than the sum of its parts. Teamwork is constant and requires hard work from everyone. It does not thrive simply because talent and ambition exist.

Your first task is to understand where your instructors are coming from. This knowledge equips you to focus on developing a team—capitalizing on individuals’ strengths and passions and compensating for psychological and physiological weaknesses. Start by simply asking, “Why are you here?” (See sidebar on page TK for more information.)

“A great fitness program is built on creating an atmosphere that blends the needs and passions of each instructor,” says June Kahn, international fitness presenter and Pilates coordinator for the Lakeshore Athletic Club—Flatiron in Broomfield, Colorado. “This [transfers] to the needs and goals of members. An atmosphere that satisfies the ‘soul’ of each staff member translates to a unified team environment. Determining your staff’s needs and passions is the first responsibility of a group fitness manager.”

Develop Trust in the Greater Good

“The biggest battle on the pro court is the one between style and efficiency,” Riley says in his book. “A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team. Style can juice the player and stir the crowd, but it must never overwhelm the fundamental goal of playing the game and winning.”

Does this statement strike a chord? We value strong class numbers, and instructors strive to obtain them. We assume that the larger a class is, the better the instructor. Those who have bigger numbers are rewarded with raises, additional time slots and greater confidence. Unfortunately, this quest may lead some instructors to choose between style and efficiency—being popular versus being right.

Much like the athletes Riley references, instructors have personal styles that can drive numbers. But style must never stand in the way of the team’s fundamental goals and ability to provide safe and effective programming. Don’t eliminate an instructor’s competitive instinct—its vital to success, as it pushes your staff to learn more and work harder. Harness that instinct instead. Strike a balance between cooperation and competition.

The balance you should seek, Riley explains, is “innocence.” Innocence occurs when you recognize that every team member has a need for personal space and a unique place in the grand scheme and yet he or she sets that need aside for the greater good. When the team works toward a common goal, the individual benefits as well. Trust in the greater good doesn’t come naturally when one’s position is directly related to subjective feedback. Develop tactics to harness your instructors’ egos, talents and specialties. Use these to your advantage. At the same time, ensure that the drive to deliver quality—while active—doesn’t lead to bad choices. You don’t want an instructor to choose exercises or training methods solely to make a class hard, for example. This can be a difficult balance to achieve.

One way to combine efforts and teach trust in the outcome is to form “forte foursomes.” Instead of relying on one person (or yourself) to deliver the latest in specialized programming, develop groups who are responsible for different formats (indoor cycling, mind-body, special populations, etc.). You may not have four for every format, but try to appoint at least two people to stay abreast of current trends, research and happenings in each area. This will help not only by save time but also level the playing field and make everyone feel like a team member.

The forte foursomes idea comes from The Winner Within and stems from a situation that arose in the automotive manufacturing industry during the 1980s. New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) was formed on the heels of General Motors Corporation’s demise. One of the issues NUMMI faced was scaling down the number of specialized job titles. In the past, the union had assumed that job specialization protected workers. Employees thought that if they owned a unique function related to the big picture, they were indispensable. But in reality, specialization sealed their fate. During vacations, illnesses and strikes, production slowed to a crawl while people waited for the “right person” to come along and fix a problem. No one could step in and help the manufacturing line because no one knew another person’s job. Workers had kept their trade secrets to themselves in order to protect their “turf.”

NUMMI solved this by dividing people into small teams of four. Each person was responsible for a specific part of the overall process. Every worker spent equal time on various tasks assigned to the group. Production rose and morale soared. Everyone was important, but no one was indispensable. The turning point came when workers learned to trust in the greater good and believed that working together translated to success for the individual. NUMMI became a force to be reckoned with, and as a result the employees were rewarded.

Use the forte foursomes concept to create a group fitness schedule that is program dependent versus instructor dependent (see sidebar on page TK for more details). As in the automotive world, your whole line won’t go down if one staff member is out. Cooperation and camaraderie ensure success for all.

This same concept works well for internal quality control. Imagine the confusion multiple certifications or schools of thought can create in an indoor cycling class, for example. Suzy Sunday tells the class that pedaling at 120 revolutions per minute (rpm) is the best way to train. However, Tracey Tuesday says pedaling at 120 rpm is strictly off limits. Whom do the participants believe? Who looks uneducated? Use forte foursomes to eliminate contradictions and increase members’ faith in your staff.

Eradicate the “Disease of Me”

Members love your star instructor. However, her main concern is her own popularity, not the team’s; therefore, it is impossible for her “fame” to work for you. Meanwhile, other instructors’ numbers are lagging and only certain time slots work.

When a team member develops an overpowering belief in her own importance, your team can suffer from what Riley calls “the disease of me.” This usually happens when success is evident, and the condition can lead to a quick fall. When the disease of me sneaks in, group fitness managers are usually responsible, albeit unconsciously.

What’s your first reaction when someone is obviously popular and doing well? You offer praise and adoration. You share the great feedback, send an e-mail lauding the numbers and encourage the instructor to keep up the good work. Eventually you award a raise, add another class to her schedule and even let her decide when and what she teaches.

Two things happen simultaneously. The star instructor, on a high from her success, is determined to keep it going. She does whatever it takes to outdo her performance from the previous week. Sometimes this works; other times it leads her down the path of being popular versus being right. Perhaps she makes a class harder without a real reason. The class then becomes about survival of the fittest, and you’re left with only your front row! While you may see success at first, her strategy doesn’t increase participation or member retention in the long run.

At the same time, other instructors begin looking at the star’s numbers, comparing themselves and feeling demoralized. Instead of learning success secrets from her, performance begins to suffer, enthusiasm for being present and consistent dwindles, and solid classes disintegrate before you know it. These examples may seem exaggerated, but they are distinct possibilities unless strategies exist for recognizing and eliminating the disease of me.

Sometimes the “disease” actually infects the group fitness manager. “A program director should spend a disproportionate amount of time carefully building and molding the talent she has versus improving her own craft,” says Jennifer Renfroe, regional group fitness director of Crunch Fitness in Atlanta. “Many managers land their positions because they were the most popular instructors. You have to let that go and know you serve a greater purpose now. Often the process involves working behind the scenes, teaching and guiding instructors to success. The best directors spend more time off stage than on!”

Periodically check yourself and your team for the “disease.” Chronic feelings of underappreciation, paranoia over being cheated out of time slots and pay raises—these are signs that the disease is breeding. Find ways to make all team members (even the subs) feel part of the organization’s success. For example, hold periodic staff surveys asking for ideas on new classes and equipment (and follow up on the results). If an instructor doesn’t have a class on the schedule but subs frequently, offer him a “scholarship” for an upcoming workshop. Eliminate your dependence on your star instructor and keep the disease of me at bay.

Core Values

Core values form a collective covenant that bind people, uniting individual strengths, ambitions and passions toward one common goal. Identify your core values by first pinpointing your team’s individual and collective value propositions, vision statements and mission statements. Clear-cut affirmations provide the framework for cooperation and rid members of the disease of me. Positive peer pressure encourages the team to monitor and uphold the statements.

A value proposition is the unique value an organization offers customers. You must be able to articulate, in compelling terms, the exclusive business values you deliver that differentiate you from competitors. Your value proposition will be the hardest element to define because it must go beyond offering cutting-edge programming and the newest toys!

Here are some questions to get you started:

* What unique attributes do your instructors have?

* Do you hold your instructors to a higher standard than other group fitness programs in the area?

* Are your instructors innovative? Do they attend continuing education more often than other instructors in the area? Do you require this or provide it?

* What would members miss if they left your group fitness program?

Here is an example of a value proposition for a continuing education provider: “Ignite passion for fitness as a lifestyle for all levels of fitness professionals and nonprofessionals. Provide safe and effective programming ideas capped with a personal approach that is supported through open dialog, expedited communication and individual attention, regardless of the situation.”

A vision statement is vivid and resonates with all team members. It should make them feel proud and excited to be part of something bigger than themselves. Think big when determining your vision statement; it gives shape and direction to your team’s future.

“When coaching new instructors to develop vision statements, I explain that the process is similar to setting and reaching a fitness goal; the effort you employ is ultimately directed to one common vision,” says Stacey Lei Krauss, chief operating officer of Sunshine Fitness Resources in Boulder, Colorado. “If there is ever a question regarding how to handle a situation, your value statement will crystallize your thought process. It will always be your guide.”

The following questions help determine a value statement:

* What greater purpose does your team serve beyond the club walls?

* What does your team hope to accomplish on a grand scale?

* In 20 years, what would you hope to accomplish through this united group?

* What makes you excited about being in the fitness industry?

Eduardo Perez, fitness director for Canyon Ranch Spas & Resorts in Tucson, Arizona, is continuously refining his department’s vision statement. Currently it is “We will lead the industry in our ability to apply knowledge and affect everyone to elevate themselves to the highest ideals in personal well-being. We will be recognized as the team that will set the standard for professionalism in our industry. We will genuinely care about our clients and each other.”

Most people understand what the mission statement is. Your club most likely has one already. While you can derive your team’s mission statement from the club’s, the team’s should be specific to the group fitness staff. A mission statement, in a very general sense, is a written declaration of an organization’s purpose, stated in present tense. It is what you are set to accomplish now. Ask the following questions:

* What is your staff’s purpose within the larger context of the club?

* What are your team’s best characteristics, and how do you use these to serve members?

* How will you measure your success against the mission statement?

Here is an example of a mission statement from Canyon Ranch Spas & Resorts: “Through exceptional customer service and professionalism we aim to inspire our guests to achieve a balance of well-being in the mind and body. Through mutual respect and support, the fitness team creates success and continues to carry the torch as leaders in the fitness industry.”

If possible, ask each instructor to develop a personal value proposition, vision statement and mission statement independently, prior to working on the team’s wording. This will help the group come up with a common theme. Personal statements help instructors understand how they contribute to the greater good. Aligning personal missions with the organization’s also helps determine job satisfaction.

Once your team has decided on its statements, determine your core values. These are the traits or qualities an organization considers worthwhile. The list, short and succinct, represents the team’s highest priorities and most deeply held driving forces. Define core values in positive language, so they provide a structure whereby instructors can govern themselves. Holding one another responsible and keeping colleagues aligned with the “greater good” will have a deeper effect than you can have alone.

The Canyon Ranch team developed the following core values:

7 Points of Professionalism

1. teamwork

2. positive attitude

3. honesty and integrity

4. resilience

5. learning and initiative

6. professional image

7. platinum guest service

Cooldown: Commitment

As the group fitness manager, you can develop a clear understanding of teamwork and provide a trusting atmosphere in which instructors excel and collaborate on core values; but if everyone isn’t committed, success will elude you. A fully cohesive group fitness department will lead to increased numbers across the board. Increased numbers will improve how members and management perceive the team. As members take notice, more people will join. More memberships will equal greater revenue, which will catch management’s eye. More money and, who knows, maybe you’ll get those new bikes you’ve been dreaming of or a bigger budget.

You may still wonder, Why take on this project? Many group fitness departments are caught in stalemates with club management. Instructors want higher pay, the latest and greatest equipment, and respect. Management wants a program that is run like a business—an eye on the bottom line and a large return on investment. Who will make the first move? Let it start with you.

Why Are You Here?

One way to build a great team is to find out why each instructor works for you. This will help you pinpoint ways you can motivate instructors, set goals specific to their needs and develop a customized reward system. To find out what purpose the teaching position serves in each instructor’s life, ask leading questions in a nonintimidating, nonthreatening way. A great time to pose the questions is during an annual review. Afterward, compile responses (keep them anonymous) and let the entire staff review the answers. As instructors discover that they are all coming from the same place, rapport will develop, as well as a belief in the greater good.

Here are some examples of questions:

* What made you decide to start teaching group fitness?

* Why did you start teaching at this facility?

* What keeps you teaching class after class?

* What gives you your greatest joy in teaching?

* What would your life be missing if you couldn’t teach group fitness anymore?

Create Forte Foursomes

Divide your staff into teams and make each one responsible for a fitness specialty. Assign the following tasks:

* Stay on top of current research.

* Attend continuing education programs and share knowledge with the group.

* Market and educate members on specialty class formats.

* Deliver updates on how groups can support each other.

Here are some examples of sample tasks for forte foursomes:

* Mind-Body: Create a flyer that explains the differences between yoga and Pilates.

*Sports Conditioning: Keep a running wish list of the market’s newest drill-enhancing tools for sports conditioning.

*Step: Create a choreography notebook so staff can exchange ideas and keep classes fresh. Develop guidelines for beats per minute and a vocabulary list for different moves so everyone is on the same page.

*Group Strength: Create a schedule that shows which muscle groups each instructor plans to focus on during the month, to ensure that workouts are consistent and effective.

*Indoor Cycling: Develop a list of contraindicated moves that are forbidden.

*Special Populations: Develop a list of training guidelines for seniors, or obtain the latest guidelines for each special population your department works with as they become available.

You deliver the most cutting-edge fitness programming in town. You run quality auditions, hire top-notch instructors, promote education and encourage creativity. Why then, do you find yourself spinning your wheels and failing to move forward?

One solution is to view your group fitness department as a business. Review your definition of teamwork and develop your team’s belief in the greater good. Learn how to harness talented egos so you can move in a common direction and encourage commitment to a fundamental purpose. The “Integrate to Elevate” success formula is based on The Winner Within: A Life Plan for Team Players by Pat Riley (Berkley Trade 1994). Many consider Riley, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980s, to be a master of success. Some of his strategies are relevant to the challenges faced by group fitness managers. Riley’s insights provide a framework for unifying a department of individuals with unique ambitions, talents and passions.

Warm-Up: Teamwork Redefined

Do you consider your group fitness department a team merely because staff members show up, classes are always covered and instructors are willing to sub for one another? These factors, in and of themselves, do not amount to teamwork—they’re merely cooperation. Cooperation is good, but it can take you only so far. Once you understand the true essence of teamwork and how it differs from cooperation, you can integrate your instructors.

“When a group fitness department can come together as a team, it represents significant success for the club as a whole,” says Rob Engstrom, general manager of Equinox Fitness Clubs in San Francisco. “The team provides the excitement, energy and emotion that fuel the member experience. It creates a positive environment and . . . above all creates a constant flow of new business from referrals.”

Teamwork involves blending individual talents and coordinating strengths to create a force greater than the sum of its parts. Teamwork is constant and requires hard work from everyone. It does not thrive simply because talent and ambition exist.

Your first task is to understand where your instructors are coming from. This knowledge equips you to focus on developing a team—capitalizing on individuals’ strengths and passions and compensating for psychological and physiological weaknesses. Start by simply asking, “Why are you here?” (See sidebar on page TK for more information.)

“A great fitness program is built on creating an atmosphere that blends the needs and passions of each instructor,” says June Kahn, international fitness presenter and Pilates coordinator for the Lakeshore Athletic Club—Flatiron in Broomfield, Colorado. “This [transfers] to the needs and goals of members. An atmosphere that satisfies the ‘soul’ of each staff member translates to a unified team environment. Determining your staff’s needs and passions is the first responsibility of a group fitness manager.”

Develop Trust in the Greater Good

“The biggest battle on the pro court is the one between style and efficiency,” Riley says in his book. “A particular shot or way of moving the ball can be a player’s personal signature, but efficiency of performance is what wins the game for the team. Style can juice the player and stir the crowd, but it must never overwhelm the fundamental goal of playing the game and winning.”

Does this statement strike a chord? We value strong class numbers, and instructors strive to obtain them. We assume that the larger a class is, the better the instructor. Those who have bigger numbers are rewarded with raises, additional time slots and greater confidence. Unfortunately, this quest may lead some instructors to choose between style and efficiency— being popular versus being right.

Much like the athletes Riley references, instructors have personal styles that can drive numbers. But style must never stand in the way of the team’s fundamental goals and ability to provide safe and effective programming. Don’t eliminate an instructor’s competitive instinct—it’s vital to success, as it pushes your staff to learn more and work harder. Harness that instinct instead. Strike a balance between cooperation and competition.

The balance you should seek, Riley explains, is “innocence.” Innocence occurs when you recognize that every team member has a need for personal space and a unique place in the grand scheme and yet he or she sets that need aside for the greater good. When the team works toward a common goal, the individual benefits as well. Trust in the greater good doesn’t come naturally when one’s position is directly related to subjective feedback. Develop tactics to harness your instructors’ egos, talents and specialties. Use these to your advantage. At the same time, ensure that the drive to deliver quality—while active—doesn’t lead to bad choices. You don’t want an instructor to choose exercises or training methods solely to make a class hard, for example. This can be a difficult balance to achieve.

One way to combine efforts and teach trust in the outcome is to form “forte foursomes.” Instead of relying on one person (or yourself) to deliver the latest in specialized programming, develop groups who are responsible for different formats (indoor cycling, mind-body, special populations, etc.). You may not have four for every format, but try to appoint at least two people to stay abreast of current trends, research and happenings in each area. This will not only save time but also level the playing field and make everyone feel like a team member.

The forte foursomes idea comes from The Winner Within and stems from the automotive manufacturing industry. New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) is a joint venture of the General Motors Corporation and the Toyoa Motor Corporation, which in 1984 introduced a teamwork-based working environment to the auto industry. One of the issues NUMMI faced was scaling down the number of specialized job titles. In the past, the union had assumed that job specialization protected workers. Employees thought that if they owned a unique function related to the big picture, they were indispensable. But in reality, specialization sealed their fate. During vacations, illnesses and strikes, production slowed to a crawl while people waited for the “right person” to come along and fix a problem. No one could step in and help the manufacturing line because no one knew another person’s job. Workers had kept their trade secrets to themselves in order to protect their “turf.”

NUMMI solved this by dividing people into small teams of four. Each person was responsible for a specific part of the overall process. Every worker spent equal time on various tasks assigned to the group. Production rose and morale soared. Everyone was important, but no one was indispensable. The turning point came when workers learned to trust in the greater good and believed that working together translated to success for the individual. NUMMI became a force to be reckoned with, and as a result the employees were rewarded.

Use the forte foursomes concept to create a group fitness schedule that is program dependent versus instructor dependent (see sidebar on page TK for more details). As in the automotive world, your whole line won’t go down if one staff member is out. Cooperation and camaraderie ensure success for all.

This same concept works well for internal quality control. Imagine the confusion multiple certifications or schools of thought can create in an indoor cycling class, for example. Suzy Sunday tells the class that pedaling at 120 revolutions per minute (rpm) is the best way to train. However, Tracey Tuesday says pedaling at 120 rpm is strictly off limits. Whom do the participants believe? Who looks uneducated? Use forte foursomes to eliminate contradictions and increase members’ faith in your staff.

Eradicate the “Disease of Me”

Members love your star instructor. However, her main concern is her own popularity, not the team’s; therefore, it is impossible for her “fame” to work for you. Meanwhile, other instructors’ numbers are lagging and only certain time slots work.

When a team member develops an overpowering belief in her own importance, your team can suffer from what Riley calls “the disease of me.” This usually happens when success is evident, and the condition can lead to a quick fall. When the disease of me sneaks in, group fitness managers are usually responsible, albeit unconsciously.

What’s your first reaction when someone is obviously popular and doing well? You offer praise and adoration. You share the great feedback, send an e-mail lauding the numbers and encourage the instructor to keep up the good work. Eventually you award a raise, add another class to her schedule and even let her decide when and what she teaches.

Two things happen simultaneously. The star instructor, on a high from her success, is determined to keep it going. She does whatever it takes to outdo her performance from the previous week. Sometimes this works; other times it leads her down the path of being popular versus being right. Perhaps she makes a class harder without a real reason. The class then becomes about survival of the fittest, and you’re left with only your front row! While you may see success at first, her strategy doesn’t increase participation or member retention in the long run.

At the same time, other instructors begin looking at the star’s numbers, comparing themselves and feeling demoralized. Instead of learning success secrets from her, performance begins to suffer, enthusiasm for being present and consistent dwindles, and solid classes disintegrate before you know it. These examples may seem exaggerated, but they are distinct possibilities unless strategies exist for recognizing and eliminating the disease of me.

Sometimes the “disease” actually infects the group fitness manager. “A program director should spend a disproportionate amount of time carefully building and molding the talent she has versus improving her own craft,” says Jennifer Renfroe, regional group fitness director of Crunch Fitness in Atlanta. “Many managers land their positions because they were the most popular instructors. You have to let that go and know you serve a greater purpose now. Often the process involves working behind the scenes, teaching and guiding instructors to success. The best directors spend more time off stage than on!”

Periodically check yourself and your team for the “disease.” Chronic feelings of underappreciation, paranoia over being cheated out of time slots and pay raises—these are signs that the disease is breeding. Find ways to make all team members (even the subs) feel part of the organization’s success. For example, hold periodic staff surveys asking for ideas on new classes and equipment (and follow up on the results). If an instructor doesn’t have a class on the schedule but subs frequently, offer him a “scholarship” for an upcoming workshop. Eliminate your dependence on your star instructor and keep the disease of me at bay.

Core Values

Core values form a collective covenant that binds people, uniting individual strengths, ambitions and passions toward one common goal. Identify your core values by first pinpointing your team’s individual and collective value propositions, vision statements and mission statements. Clear-cut affirmations provide the framework for cooperation and rid members of the disease of me. Positive peer pressure encourages the team to monitor and uphold the statements.

A value proposition is the unique value an organization offers customers. You must be able to articulate, in compelling terms, the exclusive business values you deliver that differentiate you from competitors. Your value proposition will be the hardest element to define because it must go beyond offering cutting-edge programming and the newest toys!

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What unique attributes do your instructors have?
  • Do you hold your instructors to a higher standard than other group fitness programs in the area?
  • Are your instructors innovative? Do they attend continuing education more often than other instructors in the area? Do you require this or provide it?
  • What would members miss if they left your group fitness program?

Here is an example of a value proposition for a continuing education provider: “Ignite passion for fitness as a lifestyle for all levels of fitness professionals and nonprofessionals. Provide safe and effective programming ideas capped with a personal approach that is supported through open dialog, expedited communication and individual attention, regardless of the situation.”

A vision statement is vivid and resonates with all team members. It should make them feel proud and excited to be part of something bigger than themselves. Think big when determining your vision statement; it gives shape and direction to your team’s future.

“When coaching new instructors to develop vision statements, I explain that the process is similar to setting and reaching a fitness goal; the effort you employ is ultimately directed to one common vision,” says Stacey Lei Krauss, chief operating officer of Sunshine Fitness Resources in Boulder, Colorado. “If there is ever a question regarding how to handle a situation, your value statement will crystallize your thought process. It will always be your guide.”

The following questions help determine a value statement:

  • What greater purpose does your team serve beyond the club walls?
  • What does your team hope to accomplish on a grand scale?
  • In 20 years, what would you hope to accomplish through this united group?
  • What makes you excited about being in the fitness industry?

Eduardo Perez, fitness director for Canyon Ranch Spas & Resorts in Tucson, Arizona, is continuously refining his department’s vision statement. Currently it is “We will lead the industry in our ability to apply knowledge and affect everyone to elevate themselves to the highest ideals in personal well-being. We will be recognized as the team that will set the standard for professionalism in our industry. We will genuinely care about our clients and each other.”

Most people understand what the mission statement is. Your club most likely has one already. While you can derive your team’s mission statement from the club’s, the team’s should be specific to the group fitness staff. A mission statement, in a very general sense, is a written declaration of an organization’s purpose, stated in present tense. It is what you are set to accomplish now. Ask the following questions:

  • What is your staff’s purpose within the larger context of the club?
  • What are your team’s best characteristics, and how do you use these to serve members?
  • How will you measure your success against the mission statement?

Here is an example of a mission statement from Canyon Ranch Spas & Resorts: “Through exceptional customer service and professionalism we aim to inspire our guests to achieve a balance of well-being in the mind and body. Through mutual respect and support, the fitness team creates success and continues to carry the torch as leaders in the fitness industry.”

If possible, ask each instructor to develop a personal value proposition, vision statement and mission statement independently, prior to working on the team’s wording. This will assist the group in coming up with a common theme. Personal statements help instructors understand how they contribute to the greater good. Aligning personal missions with the organization’s also helps determine job satisfaction.

Once your team has decided on its statements, determine your core values. These are the traits or qualities an organization considers worthwhile. The list, short and succinct, represents the team’s highest priorities and most deeply held driving forces. Define core values in positive language, so they provide a structure whereby instructors can govern themselves. Holding one another responsible and keeping colleagues aligned with the “greater good” will have a deeper effect than you can have alone.

The Canyon Ranch team developed the following core values:

7 Points of Professionalism

1. teamwork

2. positive attitude

3. honesty and integrity

4. resilience

5. learning and initiative

6. professional image

7. platinum guest service

Cooldown: Commitment

As the group fitness manager, you can develop a clear understanding of teamwork and provide a trusting atmosphere in which instructors excel and collaborate on core values; but if everyone isn’t committed, success will elude you. A fully cohesive group fitness department will lead to increased numbers across the board. Increased numbers will improve how members and management perceive the team. As members take notice, more people will join. More memberships will equal greater revenue, which will catch management’s eye. More money and, who knows, maybe you’ll get those new bikes you’ve been dreaming of or a bigger budget.

You may still wonder, Why take on this project? Many group fitness departments are caught in stalemates with club management. Instructors want higher pay, the latest and greatest equipment, and respect. Management wants a program that is run like a business—an eye on the bottom line and a large return on investment. Who will make the first move? Let it start with you.

Strike a balance between cooperation and competition

Create Forte Foursomes

Divide your staff into teams and make each one responsible for a fitness specialty. Assign the following tasks:

  • Stay on top of current research.
  • Attend continuing education programs and share knowledge with the group.
  • Market and educate members on specialty class formats.
  • Deliver updates on how groups can support each other.

Here are some examples of sample tasks for forte foursomes:

  • Mind-Body: Create a flyer that explains the differences between yoga and Pilates.
  • Sports Conditioning: Keep a running wish list of the market’s newest drill-enhancing tools for sports conditioning.
  • Step: Create a choreography notebook so staff can exchange ideas and keep classes fresh. Develop guidelines for beats per minute and a vocabulary list for different moves so everyone is on the same page.
  • Group Strength: Create a schedule that shows which muscle groups each instructor plans to focus on during the month, to ensure that workouts are consistent and effective.
  • Indoor Cycling: Develop a list of contraindicated moves that are forbidden.
  • Special Populations: Develop a list of training guidelines for seniors, or obtain the latest guidelines for each special population your department works with as they become available.
    Why Are You Here?

    One way to build a great team is to find out why each instructor works for you. This will help you pinpoint ways you can motivate instructors, set goals specific to their needs and develop a customized reward system.

    To find out what purpose the teaching position serves in each instructor’s life, ask leading questions in a nonintimidating, nonthreatening way. A great time to pose the questions is during an annual review. Afterward, compile responses (keep them anonymous) and let the entire staff review the answers.

    As instructors discover that they are all coming from the same place, rapport will develop, as well as a belief in the greater good.

    Here are some examples of questions:

    • What made you decide to start teaching group fitness?
    • Why did you start teaching at this facility?
    • What keeps you teaching class after class?
    • What gives you your greatest joy in teaching?
    • What would your life be missing if you couldn’t teach group fitness anymore?

    You must be able to articulate, in compelling terms, the exclusive business values you deliver that differentiate you from competitors.

    Define core values in positive language, so they provide a structure whereby instructors can govern themselves.

    For the latest research, statistics, sample classes, and more, "Like" IDEA on Facebook here.

    Shannon Fable

    IDEA Author/Presenter
    Shannon (Griffiths) Fable is the 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year and a master trainer for Nautilus I... more less
    July 2005

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