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Understand, Embrace Different Paradigms for Fitness Business Success

Understanding that everyone has his or her own unique paradigm and embracing this rather than fighting it or ignoring it is truly the holy grail of human interaction and business success.

Stephen Covey made the word "paradigm" a household term when he authored his famous book, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." He defined the word paradigm as "the way we view the world," which is a result of all of our life experiences leading up to a particular moment and human interaction. He further stressed that every individual is unique and sees every interaction with another person through a unique lens that is based on family upbringing, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, education, friends, jobs, race, gender and many other factors. If you have any doubt about this concept, consider what would happen if you gave 100 people from similar backgrounds $1 million to spend on whatever they wanted. What are the chances that any two of these individuals would spend the money in precisely the same way or even remotely on the same things? No two of us are exactly alike, and no two of us have the exact same view of the world. Therefore, every interaction with another person means that we are listening, observing and interpreting whatever is being said through a different set of lenses. We simply do not see everything the same as the person to whom we are speaking.

Understanding that everyone has his or her own unique paradigm and embracing this rather than fighting it or ignoring it is truly the holy grail of human interaction. You cannot be effective with other people if you only see things through your own paradigm and fail to recognize that they probably see it slightly or entirely differently. Why is this important in the club business? Because all we do is deal with people day in and day out. Customers, members, employees, owners and vendors all bring their own paradigm to every interaction. To be effective with all of these people, we must first understand that they see things differently than we do.

So how does this apply to the club industry? Suppose you have an employee who continually sits through meetings and never speaks his or her mind, but then the moment the meeting has ended, you learn that that employee is grumbling to fellow employees or customers about something that should have been discussed in the meeting. You may have even gone to the extent of pressing everyone at the meeting to speak up. However, this particular employee, through no fault of yours, may have come to this job with a paradigm that taught him or her that it is never safe to speak your mind to management. Instead, this employee's experience has taught him or her that managers are out to catch you doing or saying something wrong so they can get rid of you. As honest and open as you may try to be, this employee will not trust you until having worked with you for many years and personally observing that you provide a safe environment where employees are encouraged to speak up. If you want to get this employee to talk, you will need to work harder to win him or her over.

Suppose you have a member who continually complains about everything imaginable with the attitude that management will never do the right thing. No matter how much you try to win over this nay-sayer, you cannot get him or her on your side. Most likely, this member has experienced other clubs or organizations that patronized their members or clients—or worse yet, simply ignored them. This member will not stop complaining until he or she sees a longtime, consistent pattern of acting on issues in a timely and sensible manner. You have to "kill them with kindness" and make certain to follow through on all promises. Over time, the member may begin to believe what you say.

What if you have an owner whose paradigm is that you can't trust anyone, especially your employees? No matter how much you want to convince the owner that you are trustworthy, he or she will always be suspicious due to prior experiences where he or she has been burned. Only time will convince this skeptic that you and your team can be trusted to protect the owner's interests at every turn.

Understanding the other person's paradigm takes extraordinary listening skills. We need to seek first to understand, which is one of Covey's seven habits. To truly get where the other person is coming from, we must become experts at reading body language and emotional signals that tell us not only what is being said but the deeper meaning behind it. Only after understanding where the other person is coming from can we be effective at finding solutions to the problems we face every day in our clubs.

Yes, this can be harder than simply making knee-jerk decisions based upon our own limited understanding and one-sided view of a problem, but the rewards of learning to understand and embrace the fact that others may see it differently can be almost magical. Instead of working in a world of continual confrontation, you can begin to live and work in a world of solutions and mutual benefit. Less stress, less time wasted on doing battle, less cost and far more harmony.

This may all sound a little too "warm and fuzzy" for some, but you only need to work at this if you want to be more effective in dealing with other people. If this is not important to you or to your success, just ignore the advice and continue to see it your way.


Herb Lipsman is general manager of Golf Club of Houston (formerly Redstone Golf Club), home of the PGA Tour's Shell Houston Open. The club includes two championship 18-hole courses. Lipsman served as chief operating officer of Houston Oaks Country Club from 2010 to 2013. Prior to that, he served for 13 years as a senior vice president with The Redstone Companies, actively involved in the management of properties such as The Houstonian Club, Trellis Spa and the company’s Houston-area golf clubs. He can be reached at

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