For any manager, whether it is a fitness director, personal training manager, group fitness manager, general manager or owner, it is important to see the individuals in your charge as a team. Using the sports metaphor of football, every player has a specific, individual job to do for the team to reach its clearly defined goal, to get the ball across the opponent’s end zone and ultimately, win the game. All team players know the goal, are excited by it, and will work hard for the team to achieve that win. That’s the same dedication, enthusiasm and ability to work together for a common goal that business managers want from their employees.
In creating and/or managing a fitness team, there are some great opportunities and some potentially serious obstacles that can present themselves. The following is a guide to managing many of these situations.
Start with clarity. In Simon Sinek’s Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, he states that most people know what a company does. Some know how a company does it. But, very few know why a company does it. The why is the company’s values, vision and goals. Managers need to know and be able to communicate that why to future hires and existing team members to ensure that they are on board and excited about being part of that mission.
Clarity is also needed when setting expectations. Newly appointed or hired managers need to make sure that all employees in their charge know what is expected of them in their positions. This is when a detailed operations manual is important. The club may have a general operations manual that covers the basics for all employees in any position, but each department should have their own so that the specific responsibilities and procedures are spelled-out.
In the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink, Pink examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery and purpose. These elements can help the manager draft the department operations manual in a way that can maximize employee motivation, satisfaction, productivity and retention. They can also be an opportunity to create a great team of employees.
By detailing what to do, how to do it and why, the manager can then give employees the autonomy to make decisions on their own. This empowerment will help create a sense of ownership in what they do.
When people love their career, they want to get better at it. Managers should create opportunities for their team members to be able to master the skills needed to do their jobs. These could come from continuing education, mentorships or sharing best practices in team meetings.
Purpose is the why of the company and of his/her individual department. The feeling that what they do has value to the company and maybe, beyond.
When a team is trained effectively, given autonomy, are given a chance to master their skills, and have a strong sense of purpose, they can be the driving force behind the growth of the business. All owners and managers should be striving to create these kinds of teams in their businesses.
Unfortunately, not all team members respond to this approach, in fact, some may be resistant to it, and these team members can create some serious obstacles for the manager. It may be that they don’t believe in the company’s why or they may not agree with the operational procedures outlined within the operations manual. These individuals can be toxic to the department and the company. They may talk badly about the management or the company to members or clients, complain to other employees, or be the naysayer/eye-roller at team meetings. These actions undermine the values, vision and goals of the department and the company. Once identified, the manager should set a meeting up with the individual to explain, in detail, what the manager sees as the issue(s), why it is important that the employee believes in what the company is trying to achieve, and if there is a way to get them excited about the company’s mission. If the answer is no, the manager must dismiss the employee immediately, otherwise the manager will be seen as condoning his/her behavior and attitude and giving the employee more time to do more damage.
If, in the meeting, the employee states that they will try to change and their explanation of previous actions meets the manager’s acceptance level, they could be given another chance. With this chance, the manager should document the meeting and the agreement and have the employee sign the document for its accuracy. If the employee does not perform as agreed, the manager should then dismiss the employee, documenting the incident and action taken for any future questions that may arise.
While the previous obstacle may be a manager’s biggest challenge while managing a team, there are other, lesser ones that can still obstruct the smooth flow of a team.
Some employees may be non-compliant with the tasks required of them, such as being on time, turning in the necessary paperwork, or wearing the proper uniform. Assuming they want to be part of this team and company, these are instances where the employee is lacking in either understanding or in organizational skills. The manager can help this team member by clarifying the task and/or helping them learn better organizational skills.
The manager may find an occasional employee that doesn’t have the necessary “softer” skills, such as interpersonal communication. This may make them a poor fit for that particular manager’s department, but, the employee may be a good fit for another position within the company. In example, if a personal trainer has a difficult time speaking with a client face to face (maybe they are an introvert or shy), they may be wrong for in-person training, but right for online training. If they believe in the company and its mission, you can often find a place for them within the company.
Invariably there will also be an occasional conflict among employees. The manager should get the involved parties into a room to discuss the issue(s). It is important for the employees to feel safe to say what they want in the meeting without repercussions. They should be reassured that the meeting is confidential and that the goal is to come up with a resolution that is good for all. The manager should also instruct the team members that the discussion should be limited to the actions or behaviors and not judgments of the person themselves.
While the obstacles in managing a team do exist, the opportunities can far outweigh them. As with the individuals of a manager’s team who will thrive when provided with the prospect of autonomy, mastery and purpose, so will the manager. Together, manager and team, working with enthusiasm and clarity of purpose, they can attain great things.