Why do some teams achieve greatness, while others fail miserably? Remember the 1980 men's US Gold medal Olympic ice hockey team? They competed and won with amateur and collegiate players, while some of the "Dream Teams" of professional basketball come up short. Why did, under head basketball coach John Wooden, UCLA win an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships, seven consecutive, and hold one of the most amazing winning streaks in all of sports, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories? It's all about the team.
If you're an entrepreneur in the fitness field looking to succeed with a health facility, product or program, or if you're a program director, manager or someone who aspires to start your own fitness business, it is imperative that you create and foster the spirit of a team. Without the proper foundation, your team is doomed for mediocrity. So, if you're serious about developing a winning team, and a business destined for success, read my list of five topics that I believe are the building blocks for your team's achievement.
Just as Jim Collins coaches us on the importance of the right team in his popular leadership book, Good to Great, it is critical to "first get the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus)."
Next, remember that your decisions about the people on your team are some of your most important decisions you make. Have a clear picture of your ideal team member. What kind of role will each have? How will they look, perform and help you create and sustain your business or team atmosphere?
Understand what kind of energy or environment you're trying to create, and then determine the process by which you'll test their applicability, or fit, to your team. Before becoming a team member at one of our training locations, applicants must complete an extensive hiring process. First they provide a resume, coupled with our orientation package. If they prove competent at that first level, they face a series of interviews from the management team and myself. An interview panel is a must because each member will see details from different perspectives. If an applicant is accepted, they will then join our apprenticeship program. A program like this allows an extended "probation period" and ample time to teach any company polices and expectations.
While selecting team members, it's very important that you find your conversation with them enjoyable. If someone is bugging you or annoying you now, imagine what that will be like a year from now.
Planning and Patience
Next, plan your teaching, coaching and practice patience. Now that you have selected the right members for your team, it's time to start molding them into what it is that you want the team to be. To better create your ideal team atmosphere, try offering one-on-one coaching, facilitating meaningful, small group meetings, and encourage open discussions. Maybe you use a mentoring program, where those who don't quite yet understand your business model mirror trainers or team members who "have it."
As leaders, we also need to offer opportunity for imitation. It's of utmost importance that we lead by example. If you want your team to be punctual, be sure to model this. If you want trainers to be dynamic in their training session, show them what that looks like. Your team will gravitate to that behavior by which they are led. Be a constant beacon of light and positive influence, thus optimizing the notion that we will reap what we sow.
Although the following strategy may be difficult for some of us, it is often effective. Offer opportunity for your staff to give you feedback as well as you giving them frequent feedback. It's said that feedback is the breakfast of champions. If you and your team can get the mindset that the purpose of feedback is growth and not to be used as a form of attack, it will prove invaluable to your team's success.
When giving feedback, a useful method is the sandwich technique. Start with a positive affirmation, and then follow with your specific feedback addressing an area for improvement, followed by another positive statement. An example would be, "Hey John, you're doing a great job with this task, and I know it will be excellent once it's done. You'll need to focus your efforts on timeliness of reporting. Once you get those in, I know your next steps will be thorough as usual."
Research shows personal recognition is one of the highest needs for the working individual. Seek out opportunity to give someone praise. A pat on the back or a "good job" can go a long way. Be sure to use these only when appropriate, sincere and specific, or they will lose their influence. On a larger scale, find weekly or monthly awards that individuals can earn for a job well done. We give away "Superstar" stickers at the end of each week for anybody who did a great job, assisted a teammate or gave it an "And Then Some" effort.
Because anyone on our team can give praise, awards like these help encourage everyone to keep a team mindset. Again, know and communicate the purpose and goals of your team, then reward people for acting appropriately. It's important to reward individuals for showing integrity and what you value most, not just for financial success. If someone gets a referral then finds they have no time to take on a new client and choose to pass the client to another teammate rather than letting the opportunity go, this is modeling the spirit of a team. Team members with a competitive "me first" attitude are doomed for mediocrity. Make the "assist" a fine art, and reward individuals who use it.
Enthusiasm creates momentum, and success loves momentum. Ways you can infuse enthusiasm into your team are by sharing your visions with them. Paint a mental picture for them of what your ideal business model looks like. Get them excited about the future. I use a one-page description that maps out what our business will look like five years from now with all the details down to the smells, sounds, success and energy.
Also, take your team on a tour of your facility. Explain in detail what it is you are all working toward together. Get them excited, and show them they have an important role in what the company is doing. You need all parts of a team to be working in unison to function properly.
To create momentum, it's important that you encourage teammates to feel a sense of importance or ownership. You can do this by allowing them to create a new class, start a newsletter or maybe run a new department. Give them opportunity to be proactive in the growth of your businesses, not just reacting to commands. Share positive mantras, and speak words of victory.
If something's not growing, it's dying. Be a team that strives for greatness. Be interested in finding new ways to make the team better. Many times, people use the phrase, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." This may hold some truth; nonetheless, this doesn't ensure that you're always doing things the best way. As a leader, you must be interested in the right way, and the right way may not always be your way.
There are many great books and seminars that can offer wonderful insights and new approaches. Always look to encourage a team member to be forward-thinking. This is also great for growth and momentum. Use caution by always being strategic in your growth. Study the advantages and disadvantages of every new idea, trend or offer, and then you can go full-speed ahead.
The 1980 men's US Olympic ice hockey team achieved great triumph against seemingly impossible odds by beating the Soviet team, who had a remarkable standing after beating the US all-star team 6-0 and the lightning-quick teams from Finland and Czechoslovakia. During the awards ceremony, it was customary that only the team captain from each respective country would take their place on the podium to receive their medals. But team captain Mike Eruzione called for his team to join him, and the entire US team squeezed their way onto the podium. Then, simultaneously, they all raised an arm with fingers pointed to the sky, showing that the true heartbeat of a team is a singular one.
So what will you do to build the spirit of a team?
Troy Fontana is owner of Fontana Fitness Personal Training Studios (www.fontanafitness.com). He has published over 50 articles on topics for the health-seeking individual. Troy writes a bi-weekly health and fitness newspaper column, "Every Body's Beautiful," publishes a monthly newsletter and has created several courses people access to create more joy and happiness in their lives.