The previous three installments of this column have given you a bit to think about regarding your current communication situation. As the group fitness manager (GFM), you must balance multiple streams of input and output. You face daily communication challenges with instructors, club members and upper management. There’s no doubt you could be more productive if you spent time revamping protocols. However, it’s hard to find the time to set up those spiffy protocols when you have the weighty administrative tasks associated with being a manager.
Before we bring this series to a close (in the next issue), it’s important to reflect on the positive impact that streamlined communication can have. Restructuring your communication strategy from the ground up will offer you, your team and the facility measurable improvements. The enhancements can be narrowed down to five key areas, explored below.
1. One Port of Entry and Exit
As we’ve discussed in previous installments, having multiple modes of communication is far from ideal. Often you choose—or are asked—to communicate via e-mail, but then you also use phone calls, texting, notes in the sign-in book, signs on the stereo and words in passing to deliver your messages to a diverse pool of employees. This tactic can waste time and result in low-impact messages. It also leads to bad karma as your employees mimic your methods and you receive 10 e-mail responses to your one message—in addition to five voicemails, a few comments on the sign-in sheet and perhaps a note or two on your Facebook wall. It’s hard to manage the replies when you are constantly scanning several ports of entry.
A good strategy is to use one primary mode of communication with your employees. For example, send all your outgoing messages via e-mail, and let recipients know that via e-mail is how you expect to receive responses as well. Of course, there will always be exceptions, but using one method will save time and enhance comprehension.
2. Digestible and Downloadable
When you eliminate some communication modes and minimize others, you cut down on superfluous information—whether your inbox is electronic or paper. Once everything is funneled, simply scan that inbox from most-timely to least-timely, and decide what needs to be tackled first. Information becomes easier to digest because it’s all in one place. To further focus this concept, create just one calendar to cover both personal and business appointments. If you can’t see everything that’s going on in one place, it’s easy to duplicate appointments, double-book or miss meetings completely.
Once you apply a method that keeps your communication short, sweet and to the point, end users’ comprehension increases substantially. One mistake GFMs make is to hold on to announcements and send them all together at a future date. Don’t hoard information; waiting makes the note too long and full of extraneous information. Instead, target your communication so that what you send—no matter how long or short—is immediately valuable to the recipient. When information is targeted, action is more likely, and you set the precedent that the information is worthy of attention.
3. Tracking and Retrieving
From your perspective, outgoing information is usually much more than a passing thought; it’s something that requires action and, perhaps, reference or retransmission in the future. Unfortunately, the recipient may or may not agree, depending on the message’s timeliness and how it’s crafted. When you communicate by using shorter, targeted sound bites and you strategically control input and output channels, it’s easier to create an archive. Electronic messages are best for tracking and retrieving. For most efficient reuse, file these tidbits with proper subject lines, titles and bulleted information.
4. Understanding and Accountability
When communication is streamlined, all parties are better able to understand the information. Controlled, predictable communication channels enable both the sender and the receiver to trust the message. Then, because you’ve limited the number of entry points, it’s easier to hold each receiver accountable. When you are certain of timeliness, it’s also easier to test recall. For example, 2 days after sending out an e-mail blast on how to use the new music library, you run into one of your instructors. The call to action in that e-mail required verbal acknowledgment of the new guidelines within 72 hours. You ask if the instructor got the note, and you get the response you need because your message was clear and held your staff accountable. When information is delivered in small chunks, is targeted and is easy to reference, employees can process it effectively. This also increases the likelihood that they will retain and organize the information for future use.
5. Team-Building and Connection
Last, streamlined communication and thoughtful strategies lead to improved community. Centralizing your communication system provides more opportunities for your group to build ties. It’s challenging to create this type of environment “live” in the fitness facility, as schedules are so diverse. You might have an instructor who teaches on weekends and never sees the 6:00 AM Wednesday cycling instructor, making it tough for these two staff members to interact. If communication is structured to create frequent points of connection, the sense of community will blossom.
As part of your communication overhaul, organize a community space—a Facebook page, intranet, white board, listserv or other type of group—where your instructors can contribute, discuss, object and offer their own ideas. Part of being successful is bringing these individuals together as a team. This team atmosphere makes arranging for subs, taking on new classes and complying with new policies and procedures easier. When compliance is commonplace, you remove yourself from the paper-pushing baby-sitter mode and get back to work mentoring, educating and creating an environment where instructors are thriving, members are satisfied and you’re happy too.
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