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Sept. 24 2006 12:00 AM

          Wouldn't it be great to always find highly talented and motivated individuals who possess tremendous skills, knowledge and abilities to make your team extremely successful? How is it that some organizations just seem to be born with a service commitment deeply ingrained in their culture, while others have to learn it? How does this seem to happen? What is the process by which the concepts, consistency and commitment find their way into all the nooks and crannies of the facility?

            Like most synergistic, well-oiled machines, maintenance of your staff is required and upkeep is truly essential. In an effort to create a first-rate championship team of employees, numerous factors must consistently be applied, beginning with preach and teach. These principals of motivation need to be regularly implemented by using mild urgency, education, commitment and hands-on caring. It is essential to employ these tactics often and thoroughly for all employees, regardless of anyone's rank and file. Also remember, it can be very beneficial to have everyone tweak, develop and constantly redefine your mission and vision statement, as these statements clearly establish your facility's identity and direction.

            However, in order to maintain this cohesive and efficient team, you must first plan for a unified and systematic employee training program, which ensures that employees, at all levels, will be knowledgeable in the varied aspects of your operation, including policies and procedures, programs and services, the facility and its equipment. This crucial component is important in achieving performance and consistency among your staff. Successfully building the team that you want at the facility requires committing to service excellence and integrating a top-notch strategy with time-dated achievable goals. This formula will truly create a stellar staff, but these elite standards require several steps, including wall-to-wall training, reinforcement and the never-ending follow-up. However, the question remains: Will everyone buy into the philosophy? And if so, who can lead the charge?


Leadership: How Do You Get Your Team to Buy In?

            The greatest leaders are great listeners. In fact, the best leaders are ones that can point people in the right direction and help channel talent and energy in order to accomplish shared objectives. There is no point in having a great vision for the future of your facility if it can't be implemented. Therefore, your primary leadership objectives should be to help your employees develop the necessary skills to be successful on the job as well as teach them about business perspective. Take the time to explain why and how things are done, even if you think it may be unnecessary. Assuming that employees already know or will learn on their own can lead to mistakes, misunderstandings and feelings of desertion. Having a bigger vision implies that everyone on your team is important and is clearly an essential element to you and your facility's success. Thus, when employees see and understand the facility's overall direction, they are much more likely to participate fully, work efficiently and show real commitment. At the very least, your staff will typically have a renewed sense of purpose and a refreshed attitude. By simply taking an interest in staff members and eliciting their cooperation, you may change their attitudes from feeling

powerless and isolated to feeling stable and like an integral part of a unit, all contributing to a stronger and more unified team.

            It is important to notice the positive things employees accomplish, not just the mistakes. Express empathy and appreciation for their work, especially by sharing that you are aware that it's not easy to deal with the challenges of the facility and members that they meet every day. Moreover, everyone in your employment likes to feel that they are an essential part of the facility's success, so positive feedback assures staff that they do matter to the business. Therefore, continuing appreciation of staff efforts can act as an adhesive bond between employees and their commitment. In addition, speaking to your employees on a regular basis is an essential tool to learn about their job satisfaction. They may, in fact, be interested in taking on more responsibilities or changing directions. However, the most important tip in being an effective leader is to constantly assist your staff to grow, develop and mature. Your employees will be more interested in the goals of the facility if they are actively involved in attaining them. Delegate tasks to many individuals, treat everyone with dignity, keep confidences in trust and stick to your commitments, and you might be amazed with the improvement in attitude and enthusiasm you see.


How Do You Keep Consistency Among Employees?

            Your employees will come to trust your judgment if they see you as being fair and equitable. Therefore, consistency should be of the utmost importance when administering policies. Enforcing policies with some and not others will create confusion and resentment among your staff and will also devalue your credibility and respect. So, remember to apply your assertiveness fairly when administering these policies. Your title carries the authority needed to direct employees, but it is how you use your authority that will determine your capability as a leader. Often, too much assertiveness can alienate you from your staff, while too little will render you as ineffective. Finding the right amount of consistency in managing your team can be found through' including your staff members in brainstorming sessions and informal consultations. This approach will develop superior rapport, company loyalty and a front-line perspective that may offer ideas and solutions. As mentioned previously, talking with your employees on a regular basis about how they feel about the organization will increase loyalty. By doing so, it develops an environment where all parties can experience professional fulfillment and reduce frustrations. In conjunction, continually develop updated job descriptions for all positions so that the opportunity for growth for your team is a prevalent goal. Carefully identify the responsibilities and expectations of the varied positions, and discuss each item. It is also important to give everyone adequate time to digest the information and ask questions. In addition, cross-training employees is highly beneficial to the facility and to you. It provides a competent backup, increased skillset and a change of pace for your staff from the regular day-to-day responsibilities.

            In addition, utilizing continuing education and training opportunities for employees is one of the most neglected elements of management. In today's competitive environment, staying on the "cutting edge" of issues, such as equipment usage, customer service, fitness testing, exercise programming, member relations and fiscal management, can be vital in determining the level of your success. A facility can immediately benefit by sending team players to training opportunities such as seminars, workshops and trade shows. Such continuing education exposes your staff to the latest in equipment, professional certifications, programming services and management techniques. By attending these events, your staff can also network with other professionals, creating vast resources, new ideas, programs and services that are readily available to you and your facility. Whether looking at new employee orientations, job descriptions or continuing education opportunities for your team, all these easily accessible training tools, which fuel competence and consistency, are equally vital in managing your team. 


The Team

            Unfortunately, people don't always work well together. In fact, hard work is required to establish a cohesive team to maximize your facility's success. Team-building means developing mutual confidence and trust among your entire staff. For the most part, there are two main team goals to tackle: First, digest the goals of the business (increased sales, expansion of services, etc.) and secondly, the personal goals of employees (promotions, recognition, etc.). With the right focus and some strategic planning, your team can adopt the facility's goals as their own while helping to fulfill their own professional ambitions. To effectively build a successful team, you must be a true leader for a team is only as strong as its weakest link. And great team players do exist out there in the job market and possess tremendous abilities such as loyalty, integrity, honesty and creativity. When selecting your players, first examine their values. What do they stand for? What really matters to them? Do they reflect your values? Secondly, focus on the details. The difference between finding success and failure is often in the small details such as always getting a smile and remembering members' names. Therefore, create an environment where employees know that managers care about the details and are accessible to teach the team these same principles. Thirdly, think ahead, and be ready for alternative methods. In an ever-changing environment, always be ready for a sudden shift in strategy. And fourthly, always and forever be consistent! A huge challenge to your effectiveness as a leader will be your ability to be consistent and sublimate your emotions for the good of the facility. Your professional relationship with your employees cannot be dictated by your feelings. So, be consistent about praising the actions that you want to perpetuate.

            Lastly, is there anything more important than honesty? If your employees are going to look to you as a leader, your relationship must be based on trust. Employees need to be assured that you will do what you say, so be straight-forward with them. Your effectiveness begins with your own self-assessment; therefore, close any open gaps between your values and your behavior. Remember, no matter how well-educated or experienced you might be, every professional still has a lot to learn. Excellent leaders are life-long learners, and your dedication in helping others is a way to share your values and contributions. Your staff is watching, and they do take notice. Although you might not always change someone's behavior, your influence can be powerful both through your actions and by your example.


Scott Josephson is the Director of Fitness and Spa services at Hunters Run, a private property in Boynton Beach, Florida. For more information, email Scott at