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Conducting a Group X Meeting

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Group Fitness departments can be compared to a theater department. The Group Fitness Instructors are the performers, actors and comedians. Instructors add spice, life and excitement to any fitness environment. They are the ambassadors of the facility and play a large role in the pulse and energy within a club. It is the one area in the club where one instructor can communicate, build camaraderie and inspire a lot of people at the same time.

Group exercise is the environment where a culture is built, relationships are developed and member retention is solidified. A great instructor is priceless as they can retain our members for a very long time. The group fitness department and its instructors can also be very challenging to manage. A great director is one who creates an environment of open communication. This is a key factor to our department success. Open communication liberates us to do our jobs better.

Creating a culture of open communication is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and courage. It can be risky, and it sometimes upsets the power structure. Yet open communication is absolutely necessary. Your organization cannot survive in an atmosphere of secrecy, stagnation and the same ongoing ideas. If you want to surge your employees, shake up your competition and excite your customers, you have to invite and expect people to communicate and you, as their leader, must listen carefully to the messages they convey.

Instructor meetings are a critical piece and what is even more critical is that your instructors show up for the meetings. Having meetings either quarterly or twice a year is truly necessary to build employee experience
and employee culture.

The following are valuable tips to ensure successful meeting execution and total involvement from your team. Giving them the opportunity to speak up and share their thoughts and ideas is going to take your department to another level:

First and foremost — be sure to feed your instructors when having a meeting — this will hopefully entice them to attend. Make it a social event.
Have some kind of activity that engages everyone. Make it fun and interesting.
• Ask your employees what information they would like to receive regularly from you. Have them write it down for you, in addition to having an open forum at your meeting.
• Communicate the “what,” the “why” and the “how” of anything that you are incorporating. If you answer these three questions with each of your points it leaves little room for confusion.
• Encourage your team to share information with each other.
• Set up a buddy system, where information is communicated amongst two team players. At each meeting check in with each buddy team and have them share something fun or interesting that may have happened during their time as buddies. Buddies help find subs for each other, and stay connected throughout their time as buddies. Giving fun tests and seeing who answers the questions and gets them in the fastest, etc. is a great way to build buddy teams.
• Make a point of listening attentively when people express differing or contradictory views on an issue.
• Respond non-defensively when people express contrary viewpoints.
• Design your staff meetings so you are not the sole source of information. Ask other people to give updates and share relevant information. Maybe have a teacher discuss “what makes them great” or have them present an excerpt of their class, etc.
• Always do something fun. Some kind of team building exercise is always a good icebreaker.
• Get everyone involved in the meeting. Who is bringing snacks? Who is teaching a portion of a class? Who is discussing something relevant to teaching?
• Make your meetings an event that no one wants to miss.
• Distribute notes outlining action steps and decisions from your meetings.
• At the end of every week, have the group share status reports on any initiatives that were discussed
• Use at least two communication vehicles to send important organization messages.
• Establish an area in the facility and online where your team can find current information regarding your department.
• Be receptive to all input and ideas coming from your team. Focus on them and implement when you can. When someone is responsible for the implementation of a new idea it creates energy and empowerment.
• Make sure everyone knows how to get in touch with you. Have a schedule outlined of when you will be in the facility and abide by it. Ensure that you are easy to get a hold of.
• Actively solicit feedback from your co-workers. What is your reputation? Does your team trust you? Are you intimidating?
• Realize that your nonverbal actions convey your attitudes about open communication. Check you posture, gestures, facial expressions and vocal variety. Make sure they convey your willingness to share and discuss issues.
• Make sure the other managers from other departments attend the meeting as well to ensure that there is acknowledgment of the instructors and that managers care about the department.
• Set up your meeting where you know the instructors will leave saying “wow that was a great meeting and very informative!” Be approachable.

Lori Lowell is the President of Group Fitness Solutions, LLC, and owns 8 Fitness Facilities in Virginia and Wisconsin. Contact her at lori@groupfitnesssolutions.com.

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