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Be a Standout Employee

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

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

Go Beyond Competence

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

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.”

Be Congruent

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! 

Be a Team Player

Another way to shine as an outstanding
employee is to be an excellent team player. But team
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.”

Support Your Colleagues

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.”

Get Noticed by Managers

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!

Strive for Excellence

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.

SIDEBAR: Move From Good to Great

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.

Good Employee

A good employee


  • is
  • is
    on time
  • is
  • 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


Great Employee

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


SIDEBAR: Get Recognition: A To-Do List

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
  • Stay
    focused on clients.
  • Possess
    a strong work ethic.
  • Become
  • 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.


Alexandra Williams, MA, has students who range in age from 18
to 90, and all of them are happy to let her know when she strays from the path
of excellence. Williams suffers from the joyful illusion that her colleagues
and mentees respect and enjoy her presence among them.

Alexandra Williams, MA

Alexandra Williams has taught fitness for 17 years and has a master’s degree in agency counseling, with an emphasis on marriage and family. Her professional training has forced her to scrutinize her own value system, especially as she attempts to raise ethical children. The author wishes to thank Jack Raglin and Jim Gavin for their helpful insights and suggestions.

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