Developing Exceptional Teams
Build a world-class business by investing in others’ success.
It struck me in the coffee shop.
I was having my weekly mastermind meeting with a fellow business owner. I was sharing a book that I highly recommended, and I told him that I had given a copy to each of my managers. After my friend skimmed it, he asked why I would gift it to my staff. He explained that he didn’t want to encourage his staff to dream bigger. They might get inflated egos. They might demand more. They might leave.
It was an “aha moment” for me as a leader. People who hold others back will never experience the power of a team. Pursuing big dreams requires building powerful teams. Building a world-class business calls for us to take risks and invest in others’ success. It means being bold enough to lead leaders rather than seek followers.
Why does this matter in a fitness business? It matters because your personal trainers and team members are an extension of you. They write your story. They grow your brand. When they lead, your business leads. When they believe in what you’re doing, others believe as well. Your team has the power to help you create a financially thriving business that attracts and retains enthusiastic fans.
Your team may include employees or independent contractors or both. It may be a team of two or 82. Are you up for the job of leader? For a business owner, it’s the biggest job of all. Yet with just a few simple steps, you can grow as a leader and watch your team soar.
For many people, the scariest part of running a business is not serving customers, but managing people. However, committed management is worth the effort. Each team member has the ability to impact your business—exponentially more than any single client does. Here are two simple ways to move past the fear.
Get to Know Your Team Members. Find out what they worry about and what they dream about. Their answers will reveal a lot. Business is more about relationships than it is about any product or service. Look at your team as people. Seek to understand them in order to lead them.
Learn From Other Great Leaders. Gather insights from leaders such as legendary basketball coach John Wooden or best-selling author Robin Sharma. Learning about leadership styles helps you feel more confident about stepping into your own.
The next step to becoming a leader is to invest the time. While your to-do list might already seem too long, it’s important to mentor your team every day. The power of your team isn’t created at an annual holiday party or a quarterly meeting. It is developed through daily habits.
Use the following strategies to nurture and lead a world-class team:
Step #1: Understand
What different personalities are you working with? Personality Plus: How to Understand Others by Understanding Yourself (Revell 1992) by Florence Littauer offers a revealing “personality profile” self-test and insightful advice to help people better understand themselves and others. Ask your team members to take the test and then share their personality profiles. Take it one step further by having each of them share their greatest strength and greatest weakness. This process was eye-opening for my team. Those who were “passionate” were also perceived as “overbearing.” Those who were “caring” were also perceived as “emotional.” Those who were “punctual” were also perceived as “inflexible.” We started to understand how our greatest strengths could become our biggest weaknesses if we didn’t keep them in check. We also found that we were more forgiving of each other’s weaknesses and grateful for each other’s strengths once they were discussed in an open, honest setting.
Step #2: Learn
My leadership team participates in a book club. We switch between reading a best-selling book on leadership and one on personal development, and we share a report on how the book relates to our business. We discuss the topic at our weekly team meetings. A bonus: Casey Stutzman, my head trainer, told me that the reading and book reports introduced him to a world of growth that he would not have tapped on his own. “Before our team started this exercise, I had not read a book since I was in college,” he said. “Now I have a standing goal to read at least 12 books per year. Without a doubt, this reading has opened new opportunities that would not have been there otherwise.”
Step #3: Dream
There is something very powerful about getting away from the business to work on the business. As leaders, we often do this on our own, and we encourage our team members to do the same. But taking your whole team on a planning retreat can yield huge results. My team escapes to a lake cottage for the day a few times each year. The energy is amazing. Everyone feels invested and heard. Does enjoying the blue sky and sitting cross-legged on a couch help us dream and create? Yes, it does—just as not having phone calls, e-mails or appointments does. We leave the retreat with a clear direction for one specific area of the business as well as our defined role in that area.
Step #4: Connect
Every Sunday night, I e-mail a personal message to my team. I share the highlights of my weekend, including activities I did with my kids or my husband or just for myself. (People often perceive leaders as workaholics. It’s good to share some of the nonwork parts of your life.) I also use the e-mail to acknowledge something that each team member did to overdeliver in the previous week. Further, I provide a lesson to focus on for the week to come: I often address difficult topics such as dealing with disappointment, being willing to forgive and stepping outside your comfort zone.
Just as my team members look forward to getting the e-mail, I look forward to their replies. It’s a small investment of time for each of us, but it helps us feel immediately connected for the week and it gives team members much-deserved recognition on a regular basis.
Step #5: Volunteer
Sharing common experiences unites teams. What better experience than to contribute to a local organization? Our team rotates teaching chair fitness at an assisted-living center each week. Giving back makes us feel good, plus it gives us something to talk about besides clients, payments and schedules. We also teach fitness in-services in local schools. It’s fun to watch each other leading kids through an obstacle course or teaching yoga to squirmy preschoolers. I have seen this simple commitment to team-volunteering work wonders.
Step #6: Play
In the business of fitness, every day gives us an opportunity to enjoy ourselves. However, we can also plan special outings with the sole purpose of having fun together entirely outside of business. These outings are worth the investment because the memories last. My team enjoys an annual ski trip at a resort just a few hours away. We laugh and tell stories all day, in between wipeouts. Fair warning: If you haven’t kept up on daily team-building steps, this one won’t work. It’s hard to relax and play with people you don’t feel connected to.
Step #7: Listen
People want to know that their voice matters. You can do much for your team simply by listening. If you have time only to give high-fives on the fitness floor between clients, you must carve out more time to listen. When the club first opened, I started holding weekly meetings with my managers, and I have kept it up for 6 years. We have moved the meeting off-site to a local deli where we gather for 3 hours. That’s a lot of time out of the trenches, I know. But it fuels us to greater heights: we don’t plow through the agenda; we listen, share, brainstorm and delegate. When I queried my leaders about their favorite aspect of being a member of this particular team, the weekly meeting topped the list.
If we look at team-building in the same light as we look at our own fitness, the concept really clicks. To be in optimal health, we need to commit daily to a healthy diet and exercise. Our teams are no different. To perform at optimal levels, they require daily mentoring, connecting and learning.
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