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From Royalty to the End of the Road: How to Get the Most From Your Staff

From Royalty to the End of the Road: How to Get the Most From Your Staff

Leslie Nolen leads The Radial Group, which provides sales, marketing and business planning know-how for health and wellness businesses. Join thousands of health and wellness leaders who get free weekly business tips at

Results matter. But how employees get results—their personality and behavior—matters more.

Here’s our guide to four common types of employees:

1. Royalty. Picture your fitness director. She sees challenge and opportunity where others see obstacles. She is launching programs, handling customer issues flawlessly and recruiting great staff.

Business risk: A good employee may leave. She feels under appreciated, taken advantage of or bored.

Common mistakes: Taking them for granted. Ignoring their interest in career growth and learning new things. Failing to express appreciation for their accomplishments.

The approach: Treat them like royalty. Good performers want positive and specific feedback. They value new challenges and soft rewards, such as public praise and unexpected appreciation in the form of extra paid vacation or a fruit basket delivered to their home with an appreciative note.

2. Ticking Bombs. This is the personal trainer who has good rapport with the clients he likes but rushes the clients he doesn’t enjoy, treats the front desk staff like peasants, ignores club policies and leaves the dirty work for everyone else. He leaves a trail of “broken glass,” such as hurt feelings from other staff, ticked-off clients, and he wastes your time smoothing ruffled feathers.

Business risk: Failure to confront this behavior demoralizes other staff by giving the impression that this person is untouchable and his behavior is acceptable. You’ll lose customers who have bad experiences with him, too.

Common mistakes: Managers often avoid confronting these employees. Perhaps you’re afraid he will leave and take certain clients, or you cringe at how you think he will react. Perhaps you’ve raised these issues with him repeatedly, only to allow the problem to continue without consequences.

The approach: These employees cost the business far more than they contribute. They hurt your personal productivity and upset other employees and customers.

Initiate a performance improvement plan so that the individual either rapidly improves or rapidly exits the business. Don’t let the behavior drag on indefinitely. If you don’t see consistent and prompt progress, move through progressive discipline to termination, generally in no more than 30 days.

If this person is in a key role, start identifying possible replacements before you initiate the performance discussion. You’ll probably end up replacing him or her sooner rather than later.

3. Question marks. Picture your nutritional consultant. He is super-enthusiastic and knowledgeable. But his interpersonal skills are terrible. Clients complain that he acts like the “food police,” and his technical jargon confuses them.

Or perhaps your yoga instructor is empathetic, knowledgeable, and gets along great with staff and members. However, she’s frequently tardy and gets dozens of personal phone calls at work.

Business risk: Always remember that your business needs results from every employee. If they don’t deliver, you or other staff members start doing some of their work. Good employees feel put upon and taken advantage of. The customer experience suffers, and the company pays for results it’s not getting.

Common mistakes: Dawdling on addressing performance issues while you and other employees pick up the shortfall.

The approach: Determine whether this is a knowledge issue, a time management issue or a boundary issue.

If it’s knowledge, identify the missing skills and assess how quickly they can be learned and at what cost to the business. Then, decide whether those trade-offs are acceptable.

If it’s time management, give hands-on help in developing prioritization and planning skills. Hold them accountable for developing the ability to plan their work. Don’t let your teaching role slide into upwards delegation to you.

If personal issues cross the boundary into work performance, make it clear that the employee must address personal matters outside the workplace.

4. End of the road. This is the billing manager who’s rude, error prone and blames everyone else when things go wrong. She’s got a lousy attitude and poor quality of work.

Business risk: These employees don’t deliver, and they don’t play well with others. That’s a toxic combination. You’ll lose both employees and customers.

Common mistakes: While termination seems like the obvious answer, managers often avoid these difficult discussions, resulting in prolonged tolerance of clearly bad performance.

The approach: Take prompt action to protect your business. Identify potential replacements, document the performance problems, meet with the employee, and explain the difference between your expectations and their performance. Have her write a specific performance improvement plan and follow up within a week to monitor progress. If she doesn’t improve quickly, promptly move through progressive discipline to termination.

Remember, when dealing with difficult situations, consult with your company’s employment attorney about applicable state and federal laws, including U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protections, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One size doesn’t fit all. Adapt your management style to your employees for the best business results.

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