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Personal Training: How to Give Feedback, Not Criticism


We all love to hear praise, and loathe hearing how we can improve. Even constructive criticism can be sometimes hard to take. So, how do you help someone to improve when they do not think they need to improve?

First, change your perspective. Do not look at giving feedback as being critical of what they are doing, but rather, if they change their behavior how that can help them be more successful.

For example, if a trainer is consistently late with clients, let them know first they are violating a work rule, but if they were on time and ready for clients, other members would see that and be more likely to train with them. Don’t dwell on the fact that tardiness is an intolerable quality, but enforce the positives that if they were on time, how that would make their clients feel and how this may turn into more referrals.

Second, always make feedback like a sandwich, as follows:

  • Positive behavior the trainer exhibits (the bottom bread).
  • Incorrect behavior (meat).
  • How to correct the behavior (lettuce and mayo).
  • How this new behavior can play to the strengths they already possess (the top piece of bread).

By using this method, the feedback seems only a positive thing — about how they do good work, but this one improper behavior is holding them back from going to the next level.

Third, always give feedback in the proper environment. For most counseling services I try to isolate the employee so they do not feel embarrassed in front of their peers. I also always try to be at their height. This way not one of us is taller or better than the other. Most times for me this means performing these seated. Always have a quiet environment where you won’t be disturbed or interrupted — this means the conversation is serious. You should take this seriously, and so should the employee.

Lastly, feedback — not criticism — is about how you, the manager, approaches the situation. Do not wait to give feedback. If you see something wrong or not up to standards, say something there and then. Do not wait and look for the positive in making your employee better.

Vic Spatola

Vic Spatola is the director of personal training at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club. He also does personal training business consulting. Contact him at: v4victoryconsult@gmail.com.

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