Regardless of how big or small your studio is, effective communication with your staff can make or break you. Your instructors or trainers in particular are the communication hub and heartbeat of your studio. Although all clients may pass through the front desk (if you have one) and have plenty of opportunities to read strategically placed flyers, interactions with those leading the workouts are the best places to deliver critical messages to a captive (and engaged) audience. Therefore, it’s essential that your team hears you, understands your message, stores your information and acts on what you have to say.
Although communication is the cornerstone of your position, it may also prove to be the bane of your existence. Your ability to communicate quickly and effectively is hampered by the unique way fitness professionals are set up:
- You lack equal and concentrated face time with each team member.
- Your team comes and goes at different times and days of the week with varying levels of engagement.
- You have competing communication interests and expectations with your team, customers, potential customers and vendors.
You most likely struggle with:
- The amount of information you need to get through to your team and distinguishing whether it’s good to know, need to understand or must apply.
- The number of ways your team expects communication. Some prefer phone, others prefer text, many still prefer email, and every so often you run into one that swears by Facebook messenger.
- Archiving, retrieving and reviewing past information as your team grows. It becomes more challenging to bring new team members up to speed if your communication is all via a messaging system (e.g. text, email).
Collaborating via cyberspace leaves a considerable margin for error. Controlling consumption and confirming receipt without a million reply-alls is painful!
But, your team has its struggles:
- A contact list that’s out of date, which makes it hard to stay in touch or get shifts covered.
- Multiple sources for obtaining information, which makes it hard to know where to look when.
- Information overload. Sure, everything we send is important (or should be), but without the global context of running the business, sometimes it just feels like too much. Not to mention, most of our team members aren’t full time, so they’re managing our communication alongside the different hats they wear.
You must filter, create and relay messages in different directions with the outcome ultimately influencing the all-important bottom line. This leaves us little room for error. A tall order for sure.
Here are three rules for effective communication:
1. Contact should be consistent, frequent, and specific. Choosing a frequency that allows short, specific information with bulleted, bolded or otherwise offset action items with corresponding milestone dates is best. Explaining (and sticking to) the intended schedule (what day) and frequency (how often) of your notices will help. Of course, you’ll need to slide in the niceties and fluff messages as well so that your communication doesn’t become all business. Creating one central location or method of communication versus emails landing in full inboxes is an excellent suggestion. Consider a notebook at the front desk or a digital portal designed to organize and archive messages and information.
2. Communication should be easily tracked, archived, and referenced. Regardless of how part time or full time a team member is, the responsibility is ultimately the same. Ensuring your team members read and retain your messages is essential. Use a communication system that makes it easy to determine who has read messages real time (without the dreaded reply all, "I got it!") for peace of mind. Then, create a method for archiving all information transmitted for easy reference or to quickly bring a new team member up to speed,
3. Communication must be dual purposed: business and community. You must attempt to balance the task-related communications with other helpful resources and shout outs. For every message you send that requires action, attempt to send a relevant message focused on accolades or appreciation (to the entire team or individuals). You can also find a cadence to regularly share valuable resources that will aid in personal or professional development.
Of course, if you are fortunate enough to have weekly staff meetings, you can sidestep a few of the issues that crop up. But when you don’t have cubicles to pop in and out of or random chatting around the water cooler, it’s much harder to ensure understanding, application and camaraderie. Be sure, you are trying to maximize the number of quality interactions that you have with your team, create opportunities for your teams to collaborate even without meeting in person and develop a plan to assess the impact of your communication style on a regular basis to increase your effectiveness as a communicator.
Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn, Power Systems, American Council on Exercise (ACE) and BOSU during the last 20 years. She serves on the Association of Fitness Studios advisory council and on the ACE board of directors. As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid business coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. She is the owner of GroupEx PRO, a cloud-based group fitness management tool, and Balletone. She is also a speaker at SUCCEED! the AFS Business Convention & Expo.