Leadership Principles and Managerial Strategies that Help Turn Your Staff into a Winning Team


Most people would agree that to be successful, a for-profit business must be led by a team focused on customer service and creating a memorable customer experience. However, to reap the benefits of having a customer-centered team, the manager of this team must understand how to take on the leadership role and develop leaders within the team. Doing so requires following these leadership principles and managerial strategies:

Be ready.

No team can hit the field without an understanding of what is written in the playbook. For a fitness business, the playbook is the business’s core values, mission and vision for growth. The three serve as the ground level or foundation of all decisions made.

Be equipped.

An unequipped team will never make it past first base. Provide the team with the tools necessary to carry out the expectations set for them. Design a work environment that equips staff with what they need to succeed. Establish an internal educational department that provides staff with continuing educational opportunities, internships or career development opportunities. Schedule presenters, industry experts or local professionals quarterly to assure staff is confident in delivering the most updated message to customers.

Be supportive.

The real breakfast of champions is the nourishment the team receives from the coach. A great coach never misses a great moment, the best practice or the gold medal performance. Most good leaders create a consistent system of recognition—a scoreboard if you will—in which people are rewarded for performing consistent with the business’s core values. That reward reinforces the facility’s values and allows for team growth. Environments that are designed around blaming, finger-pointing or on negative results decrease the opportunity to develop a customer-centered team.

Be a visionary.

When the going gets tough, raise the stakes, even though increasing the goal and taking a leap often can create pressure or fear in the minds of a new staff member. Great leaders will be able to overcome those fears and empower employees to take on these new goals by communicating how raising the stakes is an opportunity for growth and for positively affecting the customer and the company. True empowerment requires leaders to lay out new expectations clearly and to be open, even to the extent of opening the books so staff can see how the decision affect the company’s vision for future growth.

Be different.

A productive team has self-confidence and pride in the services they deliver. Develop a unique offering, something that only your team can deliver, and watch the team grow from within. When you establish your uniqueness and market what makes your product different with a focused message, it eliminates the challenge many staff have in identifying for prospects and members what sets your company apart from competitors.

Be understanding.

Know your players inside and out. Each staff member is motivated by different reasons. Take time to see what motivates your staff, whether it is appreciation, recognition, respect or a monetary payout. Ask the needed questions during the hiring process and listen intently to the answers that will determine your employee’s drive. Great leaders need to continually assess each staff member’s motivation because that motivation can change, and they must monitor performance to know when a staff member needs a reboot on motivation.

Be aware.

Be aware of the team’s strengths. Get out of the way of those on the staff who have leadership skill sets. Let the leaders in the group lead. Allow them to take ownership of the business at hand. The staff will manage themselves at this point, striving to exceed at all the expectations set by the head leader.

Be a communicator.

The key to communication when developing a team is to be able to reach every member on staff. An open door policy still remains the number one policy for all great leaders because it allows staff and members to approach with concerns. A leader can only make the final decision for the team after allowing all voices to be heard.

Be an educator.

Like a young child, the developing staff will need to know the why behind decisions. Take time to educate staff by declaring, clarifying and repeating the process until all are in the know. Demonstrate processes and lead by example. Get your hands dirty and play each position on the team by working side by side and showing the staff how important you feel each is to the company and to the bottom line.

Be ready to discipline.

At some point, you will have to bench a player. If you try to avoid it, employee growth will be affected. Follow a systematic approach to discipline and be consistent.

Be creative.

Be able to create the road map for staff success. The map to job success is the written job description. Along with the compensation agreement, the document becomes the means by which all expectations will be drafted, all evaluations will be assessed and from where the base of your coaching will come. Start with a job overview, defining expectations. List specifically for what the staff member will be accountable. Spell out to whom the staff member will report. Outline hours of operation, educational expectations and how the review process will work.

Once your team has the road map in hand and has studied the playbook, they will be ready to play for the championship.


About the author:

Ann Gilbert, director of fitness for Shapes Total Fitness for Women, leads a team of more than 350 fitness professionals. She is a well-known presenter and has received the IHRSA/ACE Trainer of the Year award. For the past 10 years, Gilbert has served as a faculty board member for the Fitness Academy, an internal educational resource for continuing education. She can be reached at [email protected].


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