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The Non-Negotiable Path to Building High-Functioning Teams in Your Gym

Thursday, October 05, 2023


The Non-Negotiable Path to Building High-Functioning Teams in Your Gym


In the world of fitness, there's a common misconception that building and running high-performing teams happen by chance, as if by some mysterious stroke of luck. Allow me to debunk that myth right now: exceptional teams are never an accident.

If you're a gym owner striving for excellence, your attention should be focused on the type of team you're nurturing. Low-functioning teams necessitate a Control Centric management style, where every detail requires your oversight. On the other hand, high-performing teams thrive under an Empowerment Centric approach, where you trust and encourage your team members to take initiative and make decisions.

Understanding which management style your team needs is crucial for a gym owner. Here are three examples that will help you identify whether your team requires a Control Centric or an Empowerment Centric style of management:

1. The Level of Expertise and Experience:

If your team is made up of new hires or individuals who lack experience in the fitness industry, you'll likely need to adopt a Control Centric style. For instance, a new personal trainer might need detailed instructions on how to conduct a fitness assessment or design a client-specific workout program. They'll need clear guidance and oversight until they have gained enough confidence and competence to perform tasks independently.

In contrast, if your team consists of seasoned professionals who understand their roles, an Empowerment Centric approach would be more suitable. A veteran group fitness instructor, for example, will not need you to micromanage their class planning or instructing style. They'll benefit more from the freedom to innovate and make decisions within their area of expertise.

2. The Team's Performance and Productivity:

A team's performance can also guide you towards the appropriate management style. If your team consistently misses targets or struggles with tasks, it may signal the need for a more Control Centric approach. For example, if your front desk staff are failing to convert walk-ins into members, they might need a more structured sales script and closer supervision.

On the other hand, if your team consistently meets or exceeds their goals and shows high levels of competence, they would thrive under an Empowerment Centric style. For instance, if your marketing team successfully runs campaigns that boost gym membership, they deserve the autonomy to make strategic decisions and explore creative ideas without constant oversight.

3. The Degree of Initiative and Innovation:

Lastly, observe how your team handles initiative and innovation. If they hesitate to make decisions or lack ideas for improvement, they might need a Control Centric style until they develop confidence in their decision-making abilities. For example, if your cleaning crew sticks to the same cleaning schedule even when it's clearly not working, they might need more specific directions and control.

Conversely, if your team members are proactive, coming up with new ideas, and demonstrating problem-solving skills, they will benefit from an Empowerment Centric style. Suppose your personal trainers are constantly developing new training techniques or your staff are coming up with ideas to improve member retention. In that case, they should be given the freedom and authority to implement these ideas, fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.

Remember, your team's needs might change over time, and your management style should adapt accordingly. The key is to strike a balance between providing enough guidance and allowing enough freedom for your team to grow, innovate, and excel.

But no matter where your team stands on this spectrum, there are five critical elements you MUST incorporate into your management system. These are not suggestions; they are non-negotiables. They are the difference between a mediocre and a high-performing team.

1. Simplify to Basics:

Start with the basics. The best teams understand their roles, responsibilities, and the expectations set upon them. This is about breaking down complex tasks into manageable units and ensuring that your team fully understands them. Take, for example, the customer service process. Instead of viewing it as a vague concept, break it down into concrete steps: greeting the member, addressing their concerns, providing a solution, and following up.

2. Daily Routine:

Consistency breeds excellence. Set a structured daily routine that your team can follow. This might include a morning meeting to discuss the day's objectives, specific time slots for member engagement, and routine equipment checks. A structured daily routine eliminates guesswork and ensures that everyone knows what they should be doing at any given time.

3. Scoreboards:

What gets measured, gets improved. Establish clear, visible scoreboards that track key metrics such as member retention rates, class attendance, or new sign-ups. A physical or digital scoreboard in your staff area not only keeps the team aware of their progress but also fosters a sense of healthy competition and collective effort towards the goals.

4. After Action Review:

Every action, every project, every event should be followed by an After Action Review. This is where you analyze what went well, what didn't, and how you can improve. For instance, after a promotional event, gather your team to discuss its success or lack thereof. Use these insights to make necessary adjustments for future actions.

5. Rapid Feedback Mechanisms:

Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Implement mechanisms that allow for quick and constructive feedback, both from you to your team members and vice versa. This could be as simple as a five-minute debrief at the end of the day, a suggestion box, or a dedicated feedback session every week.

The path to building high-functioning teams is not open for interpretation. There is no shortcut or alternative route. As a gym owner, these five elements are your roadmap to success. Remember, your team is a reflection of your leadership. Lead with purpose, clarity, and consistency, and there's no limit to what you can achieve together.

- John

P.S. Join our community of Gym Owners and Personal Trainers dedicated to this exact belief, The Gym Owners Revolution Facebook Group. Together, working to make our communities and world a better place, one member at a time. Join now at

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