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How to Train Company “Athletes”

Pay attention to four key areas when inspiring your team.

Have you checked your staff’s morale lately?

Fitness facility personnel use a tremendous amount of energy every day to connect with clients, teach the right skills, demonstrate movement patterns and align their values with their services. If they’re not careful, they can burn out, which can affect employee retention and the club’s bottom line.

Help your staff stay engaged by showing them how to recharge throughout the day and reach the highest potential in their thoughts, decisions and actions. Below we’ll explore how to guide your people in optimizing four main sources of energy. Put this guidance to work in your meetings and your one-on-one interactions with staff.

Mental Energy

If one of your instructors is speaking negatively, or one of your personal trainers is not as flexible with scheduling as is needed, some one-on-one coaching might be in order for you to get a feel for whether there’s a deeper problem and to offer solutions. Invite each staff member in for a brief discussion that encourages them to do the following.

Establish both long-term and short-term goals for focus. Suggest that employees write down what they want to accomplish in a day, a week, a month and a year. For example, some instructors might want to learn new formats or get additional training so they can earn a raise. Encourage your staff to think in terms of growth, both personal and professional—and then hold them accountable.

Develop a plan. If you feel you have the right environment for it, consider setting up a 360-degree review system, where staff members review one another’s performance. While this may seem like a can of worms, it actually can be a very enlightening and empowering way to help someone get out of a mental rut. The key is to garner honest feedback on what skills or behaviors people need to shift in order to reach their goals. It’s always constructive criticism. For example, one personal trainer may review a second trainer and share that the second trainer sometimes gets distracted by personal phone calls when working with clients. The second trainer may not be aware of this, but now has an opportunity to make changes that will positively affect everyone involved.

Organize the workspace and beyond. Schedule half a day—or at least a couple of hours—to organize the facility’s workspace. (You may also want to do inventory at this time.) The idea behind organizing is that an uncluttered space leads to an uncluttered mind. This can also be a great team-building exercise. Another good idea is to offer a workshop on time management and organizational skills—which are a must for fitness professionals, who often multitask.

Get enough mental rest. Are your full-time employees taking their designated breaks? Stress how important it is to walk away from the floor for at least 10 minutes (or even longer during lunch) to recharge.

Emotional Energy

Sometimes staff members become defensive, resentful, angry, anxious or fearful. Use these tips to address these feelings sooner rather than later:

Foster self-confidence. Do you sense an underlying stream of insecurity among your instructors? Do your personal trainers hold back their program design and keep clients at a “safe” level even when progression is clearly called for? You may want to budget for workshops and continuing education opportunities. These perks go a long way toward helping staff feel valued, which can boost their confidence. If your employees are interested in learning different skills within the business, consider offering a cross-training program. For example, some of your personal trainers might want to try their hand at membership sales. Learning something new outside the comfort zone boosts confidence.

Maintain self-control. If and when a “situation” develops among your staff, investigate the facts, give everyone a chance to be heard and communicate clearly with all parties involved. When people’s emotions are running high, respond with your intellect instead of reacting with your own emotions.

Be empathetic. Lean in, make eye contact and listen to staff. Develop rapport by taking the time to understand their goals and challenges and to make authentic connections. Listen 90% of the time and talk only 10%. Convey your thoughts clearly and concisely. Strive to understand how individuals differ regarding education, life experiences, expectations, age, gender, abilities and ethnicities. Your staff will learn from you, and they will use the same approach with clients and class participants.

Physical Energy

If you notice staff acting in a weak, tired, moody or extremely impatient way, or if you see low levels of stress tolerance, suggest the following:

Exercise regularly—or take a break. Just because we’re in the fitness industry doesn’t mean we all approach exercise with a healthy attitude. Some of your employees may be so busy with clients that they can’t find time for their own workouts. Others may be exercising too much. Educate your staff about the dangers of overexercising, and have good referrals in place for staff members who may have a problem.

Eat whole foods frequently. Does your front-desk staff eat fast food for lunch? That would explain their mid-afternoon blahs. Again, don’t presume that people know the benefits of good nutrition. If you don’t have a registered dietitian on staff, at least make healthy snacks available in the break room—and offer discounts for your juice bar if you have one.

Get enough sleep. You can’t make your employees get more sleep, but you can educate them about the benefits of getting at least 7 hours of sleep nightly. Adequate sleep improves cognitive function and boosts the immune system.

Spiritual Energy

If you see that staff are struggling to find a purpose within your facility or perhaps are compromising their values in some way, consider offering guidance in the following areas:

Identify personal values. During a staff meeting, take 5 minutes to have staff write down their top personal values. Honesty, respect, kindness and loyalty are examples. Don’t pry or spend too much time on the topic; simply ask them to consider whether or not their actions reflect their values.

Nurture a life purpose. If your employees aren’t passionate about what they do in this service industry, it may be time for them to choose another career. Or they may need to look for continuing education courses, workshops or retreats that will reignite their passion.

Support and encourage strong character. Don’t compromise what you believe in to satisfy someone else, especially if that person’s beliefs are not aligned with your values. Make choices based on your values. For example, follow through with your decisions, even the unpopular ones, and be honest and transparent when you make a mistake.

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