Now that you have been in your new fitness management position for a while, chances are you have had the time to foster positive relationships with your co-workers and members. Regardless of the level of trust you have established, you can’t rely solely on your popularity to guarantee your success as a fitness manager. The weeks that follow are sure to intensify in terms of job complexity and responsibility. Your employees are waiting to see results and
solutions to the myriad challenges they have presented to you. The pressure to act is mounting, but you are still learning and acquiring an understanding of the business. You need a plan to center your thoughts, orchestrate your efforts and mold your actions in order to get results. One way to accomplish that is
to assess your needs by asking yourself some strategic questions.

Assessing Needs

When members join your club, they are typically given an assessment to determine their individual needs and goals; the results are then used to formulate
a fitness plan to help them reach their goals. Without such a plan in place, clients can easily get frustrated, overwhelmed and confused, all of which contribute to loss of motivation and lack of success. However, when members have a plan to follow and they see results from the program, they tend to keep exercising.

Those same principles apply to a fledgling fitness manager, regardless
of whether you have been promoted within the club or have come from another company. The first thing you need to do is assess your own situation.

A Step-by-Step Guide

Here’s a step-by-step list of questions to ask yourself; the answers will ultimately help you assess the needs of your staff, your department and your members.

1. What Hasn’t Worked in the Past? What didn’t work under the previous leadership, and why wasn’t it successful? At this point in time, you probably have some idea why your predecessor left
the organization. Most likely, you asked this very question during the interview process. Although the answer may not apply to your own situation, more often than not there’s a lesson to be learned from the story. This is not to suggest that you should pry or ask for confidential human resource information. Simply absorb the details you have been given and survey the “state” of the department or club to glean what you can from staff’s experience. If nothing significant can be learned from that example, move on to step two.

2. What Do I Need to Succeed in This Position? Define what is expected of you in this new role. For example, how will you be evaluated? To what standards will you be held on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? Which benchmarks will be used to determine your success or lack thereof? What are the company’s objectives? How do you intend to communicate your own needs to staff and upper management? What tools are required to perform your job well?

3. What Does My Staff Need to Succeed in Their Own Roles? Once you can confidently define what is expected of you, repeat step two for your staff. What do your trainers need in order to be successful in their positions? What standards will you use for them, and what benchmarks will they need to accomplish? How do you plan to communicate these standards? Share these expectations openly and regularly to guide your behaviors and those of your team. This will also help align your personal vision with that of the organization and its employees.

4. What Have I Learned From My Staff’s Feedback? Review the feedback you got from your colleagues and staff (see the March column of this series, in which we discussed the importance of listening to learn and not to act). Compile what you “heard” into notes about the specific areas that your staff, fellow managers and members would like to see improved or changed outright. Use your powers of observation and your own objectivity to filter out any emotional debris so that you can get to the root—not the result—of the problem.

5. Is the Current System Flawed and in Need of Revamping? Trust your own instincts (they’ve gotten you this far!) about what you have observed and where you feel your attention is needed. Is it the system itself that is flawed, or the personnel who are currently operating the system? Your initial observations about the business, the team players and the products or services provided will generally be accurate.

What Mistakes Do I Want to Avoid Making Again? Life is filled with regrets about what could have or should have been. Perhaps you have even made a few mistakes while forging your own career path. If that’s the case, be grateful for
the experience, which can be instructive in the long run. Recognize that an
undesirable outcome from any past conversation, situation or system is an opportunity for future growth. Be honest with yourself about mistakes you have made in your career and what their effects were. This will permit you to move beyond their shadow and not repeat the same errors in judgment. Learn from past experience, and always allow yourself and others to move forward.

Prioritizing Goals

The answers to the questions above will undoubtedly yield many needs and goals. With the help of your supervisor, narrow your list to no more than 10 goals for your first year as a manager. Include goals from each area of your business: the people (meaning staff, management and members), the product and productivity. Goals can include areas in which the team has already seen some success but could be further refined or improved. Be sure to include some goals that are lofty or “big picture stuff,” along with other goals that are specific, measurable and achievable; this way, you will see results throughout the year, not just at the end of the fiscal year. Take your time formulating your final goals; I recommend that you spend a week or two “editing” the list
to remove or elaborate on areas you have identified.

The final list of your top 10 priorities will serve as your business plan and job description for this position. Print it out, and refer to it often. It will guide your daily tasks and annual calendar. It will help you refocus when you get sidetracked on tasks or projects that are consuming too much time. It will motivate and challenge you to learn and grow as
a manager, a leader and a person.

These goals will evolve over time as you learn more about your club and become more seasoned in your role. You may spend more time on some goals than on others. Some goals may be resolved quickly, some may take years to complete, and some may never really be completed. Don’t forget to share your progress with your supervisor and your employees. Most important, be flexible in balancing the club’s needs with your vision.

Our next installment of this column will elaborate on this list of goals, which will form the basis for your initial business plan. We’ll examine where to concentrate your efforts to get the most from your time and to move the business forward in line with your goals.