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Leadership in the Fitness Facility During the Return to Normal

Life Fitness, focused on international education and business development. He has developed and managed teams globally and was responsible for the development of several freelance educators, who deliver education and training for the various brands he has represented.

This is the second installment in a two-part blog series is designed to support fitness facilities and their teams as doors open again. It takes into consideration how distant (physically and emotionally) employees and members have become. The aim is to address the key elements that help you re-establish your culture, re-engage your teams and support your members when they return.

Empathy Plays a Key Role in Effective Leadership

A large part of being empathetic is being sensitive to the needs of others and, in a time as turbulent and uncertain as this, leading with sensitivity is absolutely vital. Leaders should seek to create as much stability and certainty as possible, so the fears, concerns and ultimately behavioral responses of members and employees are best catered for. One of the most effective ways to do this is to create a strategy, discuss why the strategy is relevant, why it will work and how it will work. By doing so, we automatically show our sensitivity, through creating stability.

There isn’t one ideal leadership strategy:

  • Some are great teachers, helping you develop both confidence and competence
  • Some encourage autonomy and allow you to develop your own skills, at your own pace
  • Others are more like mentors, really pushing or challenging you to do more, to learn more and grow more
  • Finally, others like to coach believing in you, more than you believe in yourself (although they offer very little support) presenting masses of opportunity and feedback

There’s no one way to be a great leader, but if you apply sensitivity and seek to create stability you are off to a great start as a leader as this enables you to bring together your team.

Leadership Traits

To effectively demonstrate sensitivity, while creating stability, the following should be considered:

  • Lead yourself first, setting an example for others to follow
  • Create an environment and culture for learning and development
  • Create the right team (smarter than you) and develop a strategy together
  • Show your emotional intelligence and remain disciplined
  • Accept failure, while encouraging creativity
  • Be empathetic and listen, facilitating the sharing of ideas
  • Be decisive, making the hard decisions at the right times

To be an effective leader, one who demonstrates empathy and builds trust, you may also consider:

  • Being accountable and consistent in your behavior and creating an environment/culture that is conducive to getting the best out of people. You can do this by being ethical, honest and reliable.
  • Creating a sense of calm and stability so those around you believe everything is going to work out.
  • Listening and then showing your understanding with acknowledgement and paraphrasing.
  • By allowing open, clear communications that encourages people to talk privately (when they’re not in a meeting).
  • By avoiding micro-management and instead being a clear, open communicator, leveraging those around you, which allows for creativity and free choice.
  • Being approachable, while providing guidance and support. Being a coach.
  • Being considered in any responses, while being transparent in your actions and behavior.
  • Being a teacher, who energizes others.
  • Working towards others having autonomy to develop themselves and be creative.
  • Providing a clear vision and goals/outcomes to strive for.

Ultimately, you have to decide the type of leader you want to be. This helps you re-establish your culture for your staff and your members.

Understanding How Your Members Feel

Empathy extends to your membership base as well. Try to understand what they’re going through. We predict that members will fall into one of three camps:

  1. Confident and/or motivated. These members have been waiting for the gym doors to open. They are not particularly concerned about COVID affecting them (they may believe in their immune system, they may have had COVID, or they may be vaccinated). They are desperate to get back to training and feel confident in their ability to do so. With this type of member, you are more likely to have to ask them to adhere to the rules in place or encourage them to train easier, so they don’t injure themselves.
  2. Skeptical and/or seeking support. These members want to get back to the gym, however, they may well be focused on making sure everyone is following the COVID guidelines. They may also need additional support as it has been a while since they last exercised in the gym. When dealing with this type of member, increasing their confidence around the COVID rules and their own exercise sessions will be paramount to supporting them.
  3. Unmotivated and/or unsure. These members may not return right away and they may monitor data regarding the safety of gyms. Encouraging these members back with reserved time slots and ensuring them COVID measures and cleaning protocols are in place may be necessary to get them back to the gym. Once back it is vital that they are supported every step of the way.

Regardless of the type of member, if we can demonstrate these four principles, we can re-engage them, build their confidence and help them develop.

  • Sensitivity - Showing compassion and demonstrating empathy builds lasting connections and allows members to feel supported.
  • Stability and Strategy – Creating stability, through a clear and transparent strategy, makes members feel safe, which in turn raises their confidence.
  • Strength – We can build trust by showing not only that we know what we are doing, we actually demonstrate it by being role models and adhering to the rules.

This is where leadership matters, not leadership defined by a certain rank or title, but the kind of leadership that enables people to trust you, to believe what you say and to know that your actions and behaviors are for the/ their greater good.

Regardless of your position in your organization you can be a leader and by following the principles and executing on the behaviors discussed in these blogs you can truly support your members on the journey that you are on with them.

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