I have a new boss. I don’t yet know exactly how he thinks or what he expects from me. Sound familiar? Even if the organizational structure at your facility has not changed recently, you may have wondered exactly how and what to communicate to your manager or boss.

During the first meeting with my new manager, he presented me with a challenging scenario. “Imagine that you are in an elevator with the CEO of our company for a seven-floor ride,” he said. “What would you tell her about your department?” I left that
meeting with my mind racing in several directions. What does this new manager expect of me? I wondered. And what about that elevator ride scenario? What would I say?

What if you were given this opportunity? What if you stepped into the
elevator and your facility owner asked, “How is everything going?” You would have just seconds to communicate the progress your department has made. Would you be tempted to report, “Everything is great! Members love our classes. But instructors really want a raise. Some of them haven’t had a raise in years!”

To avoid being caught in an unrehearsed dialogue that might not create the most positive picture of my department, I’ve been preparing myself for that elevator ride. How would I be dressed? What would I say? Of course, the truth is, I may never find myself on that fateful ride. But I’ve realized that the lessons I’ve learned from preparing for it will serve me well in any meeting with my boss. Before meeting with your boss or manager, keep the following tips in mind.

Look the Part

In the fitness industry, casual dress is accepted. However, attire should match the occasion. If you were attending a wedding, you would dress in a way that reflected your
respect for the special event. You know that clothing can set a tone.

Wearing fitness attire when meeting with your boss can set the wrong tone and confuse or obstruct your goal. Dress in a way that conveys a sincere, businesslike attitude. Don’t risk losing your boss’s attention by wearing distracting clothing or accessories.

Understand That
Time Is Valuable

Sometimes the less said, the better. Prior to meeting with your boss, list your goals. First, document everything you want to discuss and resolve. Then go over your list and hone it down. As a passionate fitness professional, you may feel you need to solve every problem at the facility. But the fact is, you must learn to accept those challenges you can sanely and competently manage. If your list contains items involving every aspect of the club, such as synchronizing all the clocks or equipping the bathrooms with room fresheners, you might want to rethink your message. Discussing too many concerns will dilute your primary message and leave too little time for any real resolutions. Strengthen your meeting strategy by editing your list to the two or three most critical items.

Streamline to
Create Impact

Once you have decided on the main subjects you wish to cover, present your manager with a one-page copy of your meeting agenda. As you review items on the list, be prepared to offer suggested solutions to any challenges. Senior managers are involved in every aspect of the club; they simply don’t have time to micromanage. They depend on you to be the leader and problem solver for your department. Furthermore, bringing up problems without offering any solutions may be interpreted as complaining.

Make meetings more productive by limiting discussion to those items that cannot be handled in some other way. Don’t run to the boss every time a little problem comes up. First, ask yourself, “Can this challenge be dealt with through e-mail or a quick phone call? Can I discuss it with a middle-level manager?” Calling a top-level meeting to discuss every thing that comes up will make your boss run whenever you are in sight!

Speak the Boss’s Language

Most business meetings revolve around money. Most program director meetings focus on improving programs. At first, these two agendas may appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum, but they are not. Finding the common ground will enhance your ability to talk to your boss and get what you want. Whenever you are requesting additional dollars for salaries, training or equipment, be ready to present documentation that validates your request. Bosses want to know, “How much will it cost? Will it increase member growth or retention?”

No Feelings Allowed

Let’s assume that you “feel” your program satisfies the members and they “love” the group exercise classes. That’s fine, but most employers want numbers. They want graphs and charts that record trends, costs and member attendance. Creating a simple yet informative tracking system like the one below will increase your knowledge of the program and enable you to provide your boss with concrete information. Include the following information in your monthly analysis:

  • How many members utilize the club?
  • What is the total attendance in the group fitness classes?
  • How many classes are on the schedule?
  • How much money is spent on salaries for the group fitness staff?

Tracking and documenting the monthly statistics will enable you to analyze—and communicate—the following facts:

  • The cost of salaries went down
    $500 from January to March.
  • There was a 2 percent increase in overall attendance from January
    to February.
  • Class size grew from 23 to 30
  • The number of classes decreased by 30.
  • The current cost per student is only $1.00 per class.

Armed with the numbers, you will be able to demonstrate your involvement in the bottom line financial challenges for your program. This will make it easier for you to ask for some high-priority items, such as higher instructor salaries (since there are now more students per class, and thus less expense per student).

Message Delivered

Once you have demonstrated your worth to the business, your boss will start seeing you as a trusted resource of innovative ideas for improving policies and implementing new programs.