Derek Gallup, the EVP of Group Fitness, Fitness, Operations, Combat Sports, Education at UFC Gym, shares seven lessons in leadership.
I have been a leader in the fitness industry for 27 years. There has never been a challenge we have faced with our teams that even comes close to rivaling the navigation through the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hardest day of course was in March of 2020 when we had to lay off almost the entire team in the face a national shut down. Within three days, we started online personal training and livestreaming class programs to keep members engaged and as many team members employed as possible. We watched data piling up that revealed how much better people who were active fared against the ravages of COVID-19, with significantly lower rates of hospitalization and lower rates of mortality. The beliefs we had about exercise as medicine were showing as true.
Through the pandemic, we saw an opportunity to bring these lifesaving experiences to more people. We expanded and introduced a new brand, UFC FIT. We also most doubled in size through the 22 months since closure, adding corporate locations in four more states. We were now in Texas, Florida, Nevada, Washington, New York, New Jersey, California and Hawaii. We had to adapt very different programs and strategies from state to state and even county to county. From mandated vaccination cards or negative COVID-19 test results, to masking and states where somehow COVID-19 “did not exist,” we adapted with every unique situation.
Often when situations are challenging, the natural tendency is to focus on our feelings — which are probably not great in tough times. We may “feel” afraid, anxious, confused or even angry from our situation. These feelings lead to actions that are typically not the best for a leader to take from the team member or business standpoint. This leads to self-identities we never intended.
If we flip this model on its head and start by clearly establishing the identities we want, then we typically will achieve the desired outcome. For example, let’s say the identities we want are things such as: business and community leader, engaged spouse, loving parent and competitive athlete. We create and execute action plans to support these identities. Our feelings are now the byproduct and will most likely be items such as: happiness, pride, joy, fulfillment, confidence and empowerment when we successfully plan and execute our actions.
In challenging times, slow down and focus on the identities you want to embody, create your action plan and reap more success. Focus on the lessons in leadership. Good feelings will be the outcome.