Being a great leader to your gym staff is similar to being a great boss or manager in any business where you lead a team. Team management principles are mostly universal regardless of your business, but with some creativity, you can utilize fitness principles you already use every day to hone your management skills and build a strong and cohesive team of employees for your gym.
Maintain a good working relationship with your staff.
Remember that happy people work more efficiently.
It’s a fact that employees with the highest mental and emotional satisfaction work harder and more efficiently than employees struggling with mental health or an unsatisfactory work environment.
How can you keep your staff happy and feeling supported when your instinct is to be a boss instead of a friend? You can utilize great management techniques to empower your gym staff and indirectly help them as they contribute higher-quality work to your business.
Consider how you relate to your customers.
Your gym should be as enjoyable a place for your staff as it is for your members. As a fitness professional, you specialize in fostering healthy goals and making those goals fun and achievable for your clients. Do this for your staff like you would for a paying client!
Recognize good work publicly and consistently.
Even if it’s as simple as "Great job teaching your client proper squat form! He’s really catching on!" said loudly in the break room over lunch, make sure you recognize good work when you see it. Just as clients enjoy being applauded for fitness breakthroughs and accomplishments, gaining recognition is one of the key factors of job motivation for some people. And, it’s an easy, simple habit to form that costs nothing but may make someone’s day.
Be a real person.
It sounds silly, but many people who assume the role of "boss" lose the human connection with their staff when there is an obvious separation of power between them.
Admit when you’re stressed, having a bad day, or made a mistake. Also, share when good things happen in your life. Ask about your employees’ lives and show an interest. Your staff will think of you and treat you like a person if you return the favor.
Manage conflict calmly and quickly. Don’t let things build up or explode.
Maintaining a supportive and safe work environment for everyone should be a foundation of any business, but can be difficult to achieve without the proper conflict management skills. Many business owners learn mediation and other problem-solving techniques through community college classes or other avenues aimed at teaching managers to solve work conflicts before they get messy.
Ask guided questions instead of giving orders.
Even the best employees tire and burn out when information flows only one way in the form of orders from a boss. Open the communication both ways, and you will keep your staff more engaged and interested in contributing ideas and solutions.
When you need something done urgently, it’s fine to let your staff know they need to take care of it on the double. But when you have the option, try coaxing the solution out more gently by asking positive, leading questions like:
- "How do you feel about implementing this new policy? I think it will be a huge benefit to our premium members, but what do you think? You work with premium members every day."
- "What did you do to get the schedule running so smoothly last month? Is it something you can do again this month?"
- "Do you think Mrs. Jones could benefit from switching trainers? She has reached her goal weight, and I overheard her saying she wants to focus on building strength now. Who would you recommend for her to work with?"
Even if, at the end of the day, your goals are to implement the new policy, fix this month’s terrible scheduling blunders, and change Mrs. Jones to another trainer because she’s getting dissatisfied with her current trainer, asking for input from the employee who oversees each of these areas keeps them engaged, looking for solutions, and feeling like you value their opinion.
Plan, prioritize, delegate.
Keep the focus on high-priority tasks
It seems like it should go without saying that the most important projects should come first, but this is an area where many business owners struggle. It can be tempting to put off large projects that would cost a lot of time, money, and effort up front to save even more down the line. But delaying those high-priority projects only wastes time and resources. Resist the urge to assign "band-aid" quick fixes or menial tasks when larger, more important work would provide the better payoff long-term.
Be a part of the planning process with your team.
Show them you understand what they do and that you care about being an active participant in the work.
Check-in on a brief daily or weekly basis to address any news, new developments, or questions and concerns from your team. This doesn’t have to take place in a boring, traditional meeting setting. Simply setting up a room on Slack or a comparable program for your team to hash out plans and ask questions keeps you in the loop without wasting anyone’s time.
Do your best to stay available to communicate with your team so they know they can come to you if they have questions or need help with something.
When face to face meetings are necessary, keep them efficient. Proper meeting software can help, as can following a pre-planned meeting schedule. Efficient planning prevents meetings from dragging on when time could be better spent training clients or working with gym members.
Use efficient management software.
Great management software keeps everyone on the same page with instant, or nearly instant, updates. Schedule changes, important staff meetings, training guidelines, and client information should be available for team members to access in real time to avoid time- or money-wasting miscommunications.
Trust is paramount to employee happiness.
If possible, allow your trainers to schedule their own clients and permit your staff to switch shifts with each other freely. If an employee needs to request time off, have them change their schedule accordingly and then pass the changes to you for approval, not for permission. Simple changes like this help your staff feel like they are in control of their schedules and their lives, rather than living under your thumb.
Micromanagement is the enemy to employee happiness.
You can’t run your business by yourself. Yet, delegating tasks to employees and trusting that the tasks will be completed correctly is a difficult thing for many business owners.
No one feels appreciated and supported when they have their boss lurking around every corner double-checking their work. Delegate the most complex and crucial tasks to employees you trust and know well. Save the less important tasks for newer hires until you see they are able to handle more and more responsibility over time.
When delegating responsibilities, utilize each team member’s individual strengths. Everyone is good at something! As the boss, it’s your job to recognize that "something" from each employee and use it to the company’s advantage – while rewarding that individual for their unique and strong contribution.
People are usually happier when they do things they are good at. Your staff will feel proud of being able to produce quality work. Happier employees doing their best at projects in which they excel is a win for you and your business.