Focus on Your Staff — Instead of Managing, Lead

In the past few months I have read multiple articles that discussed the importance of creating a tribe-like, cult-like or fraternity-like community within your health club. Many of the articles explained the importance of the relationships between members and your staff, and the necessity to foster those relationships.

There is no doubt that a successful health club needs to focus on the member experience, and do everything it can to create a community where all members feel they belong. However, before your employees can forge a positive relationship with your members, or before they can coordinate a program that bonds members, your staff needs to be passionate about their jobs and inspired to go above and beyond for the club and its members. Health clubs typically have a customer base that grows to know its staff personally. Some employees understand what special needs certain members have and what they like and dislike. A motivated, loyal and passionate employee is one of your most powerful retention tools you have at your disposal.

Research shows that less people leave jobs because of pay issues as opposed to bad work environment, or lack of opportunities. Get to know your staff as people, not just employees. Asking Sally how her son’s sixth-grade play was might just start a pay-it-forward chain of events that benefits your members. At the very least, you show that you see her as a person, not just an employee. Understand that good ideas can come from anyone, and that you need to create an atmosphere where your employees feel empowered to share their thoughts.

Sometimes as managers or owners, we are so consumed with the big items that we overlook the specific issues that actually impact our members on a day-to-day basis. Who is better at understanding the day-to-day needs of your club or your members than the employees that are on the front lines? If you neglect or ignore their insight, then you are missing an important voice and overlooking a strong resource.

So how do you inspire passion and foster loyalty with your employees without increasing your payroll? Show you care. Get to know your people as people. Write thank you notes when they do something above and beyond. Of course it is important to let them know when they make a mistake, but it is inspiring to notice when they make your club look good in a member’s eyes.

Empower employees to be part of your success. Encourage ideas and identify the good ones. Recognition is much more valuable than offering prizes and definitely less expensive. Employees are more creative and innovative when they are asked their opinions and their efforts are recognized.

Show respect. All people want to be respected for who they are, not just what they do. When employees feel respected as people they will want to increase their contribution to the company.
Lead, don’t manage. Ross Perot said it best, “Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.”

Your club is only as good as the employee that is dealing with a member at that very moment. Inspire your people to do more, dream more and become more. That is what a leader does.

Eric Claman owned two clubs in Torrington, CT, Pinewoods Health and Racquet Club for 23 years and Energy Fitness for four years before selling both and accepting a consulting job at Twin Oaks Software Development in 2011. He can be reached at (866) 278-6750 or at eclaman@tosd.com, or visit www.healthclubsoftware.com.

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