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Operations: Are You a Manager or Are You a Leader?


How many hours a day do you spend behind your desk; answering emails, returning phone calls, reaching out to new community partners, analyzing spreadsheets, evaluating budgets, projections and payroll? When was the last time you walked around your facility, observed your personal trainers in the moment, or had a real conversation with a member? If you answered more than six or “I can’t remember,” you’re doing it all wrong.

In today’s fitness industry, managers are confronted with new and unique challenges every day that require difficult decisions and diplomatic delivery. How managers handle these situations can make or break an employee, department or organization.

While the business administration aspects of managerial roles are vital to the success of any facility, numbers and emails are no substitute for human interaction, relationship building and an understanding of organizational culture, your employees and your members.

Getting out of the office and participating in group or semi-private fitness classes, conversing with members in the lounge before or after a workout or taking the initiative to clean up a water spill (versus delegating the work to an attendant) shows your members and employees that you care about them and their experience. When you truly know your people, you can anticipate their concerns, needs, wants and goals. Things you would never know if you remained glued to the computer screen, barricaded in your cozy office, hiding behind the façade of “manager.”

So, is your management style helping or hurting your facility? Are you “just a manager” or are you a leader?

A manager is someone who is proficient in systems analysis: planning, budgeting, staffing and problem solving. A leader is someone who is proficient in people. Subsequently, an effective leader is someone who understands the systems as well as the people. Someone who can manage, but also inspire, educate and motivate.

Whether you operate a small club or large facility, make it a daily initiative to get out of your office and on the floor. Discover the obstacles faced by your personal trainers and become an active participant in the member experience. The best decisions are only made when you have a complete understanding of your club, employees and members.

Gavin Reath

Gavin Reath is a personal training director for Meridian Fitness & Wellness.

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