When you’ve been "the boss" for a long time, it can be hard to remember what it felt like working for someone else. You get used to making the decisions, holding the power, and choosing the direction in which you want your company to go. When the future of your gym business lies on your shoulders, you feel that weight every single day.
Especially now, with COVID-19 fresh in everyone’s minds and the futures of independent businesses everywhere hanging in the balance, you’re probably feeling the stress of holding everything together. You might feel like you are the glue trying to keep your business from falling apart while the world rides out the aftermath of the most alarming health crisis in recent history. Most gyms have been forced to close temporarily during mandatory lockdowns, leaving gym owners everywhere captaining their ships through extremely uncertain waters.
However, running your gym with an iron grip of control can backfire, especially during a crisis like the COVID-19 closures. While it probably feels natural to step up your leadership role and assume extra responsibility once you reopen (after all, the fate of your business is in your hands), resist the urge to micromanage your employees out of fear.
There is a lost art to managing employees in a way that encourages the leaders to float naturally to the surface. If you know you can rely on your best employees to shoulder some of the burden during tough situations, that can take an immense weight off of your mind.
How do you find these reliable leaders among your current staff? Try the following techniques.
Listen when your employees speak.
Regardless of their style of communication, each of your employees has something to say. They may say it out loud in front of everyone during a staff meeting, or they may huff it as a complaint under their breath after you dole out assignments for the day. They may drop an anonymous suggestion on your desk, or even ask to speak to you privately from time to time.
Try to take your ego out of the equation. Though you may not appreciate a sigh of complaint in response to your directions, for example, remember that that employee may very well have a valid reason they believe your instruction isn’t optimal. Perhaps that employee knows that a certain policy is hated by your gym’s customers, and that’s why he dislikes enforcing that policy. That would be valuable information for you to encourage him to share, even if his means of sharing it isn’t the best.
Encourage your staff to share their thoughts.
The other half of the "listening" coin is that you must provide an environment in which your employees feel free to share their thoughts, opinions, and concerns. You aren’t likely to have many people speak up if they feel they might be reprimanded for doing so.
Encourage your employees to speak up, to come to you with ideas and concerns, to offer solutions they think would work for specific problems. You never know who might have an amazing idea that will bring in tons of new revenue or cut costs effectively without negatively impacting anyone.
Sometimes, it’s easier for your employees to see the solutions to these kinds of problems because they live those problems every day during their jobs, whereas you have more of a bird’s eye view as the boss.
Reassure employees who struggle with confidence.
As a gym owner or manager, your eye probably gravitates naturally to your employees who do speak up and share their ideas. As the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
However, just because a particularly quiet employee never steps forward doesn’t mean that he or she has nothing to contribute. Sometimes, the most valuable thing you can provide as a boss to an employee is your reassurance that they are doing a good job.
Some people struggle with feeling competent at their work, even if they are perfectly competent and capable. New employees, or those who have been recently promoted to a new position, might suffer from impostor syndrome, which can sap confidence and make it much less likely for that employee to speak up.
Providing reassurance to employees who appear to be quiet, shy, or generally struggling with confidence can help them come out of their shells. As they open up, you might be surprised how many great ideas the quietest of your staff members have had all along.
Give constructive feedback.
Another confidence-building technique that encourages your staff members to break out of their shells is to give regular performance reviews. Regular feedback not only calls their attention to areas where you approve and disapprove of their performance, but it also gives each person a firm understanding of their place within your organization and a plan for how to improve on that.
A new, shy employee might struggle to participate in staff meetings until she receives feedback that she always seems to have great ideas, but you wish she’d step forward more without being asked. That might be all she needs to feel bolder and to understand that her ideas will be welcomed.
Take a step back.
Once you’re sure your employees feel confident and capable within the confines of their job positions, you can allow them to take extra initiative. See who volunteers to manage a project that you otherwise would have managed yourself. Watch carefully and make a note of how that person performs those tasks that you normally handle. Are they efficient, effective, and graceful to their coworkers?
If so, that person is likely a great candidate for becoming your "second in command" who can take some of the weight off of your shoulders.
The more you create an environment where your employees feel heard, valued, and confident at their jobs, the more potential leaders will drift to the surface if you choose to look for them. This benefits them, it benefits you, and it certainly benefits your business in the long run.