Coaching: A Winning Approach

How often have you lived this scenario:

A department head comes in to open the club with the newly hired reception person. Training by doing has always worked before. The new hire works side by side with the department head, for two shifts. With half the staff calling out with the flu, and club renovations taking longer than anticipated, the department head returns to cover other duties, and your new hire is flying solo. Now, he is doing the best he can. But things come up that he isn't sure how to handle.

After a week, complaints have increased from your morning members about various problems with your front desk: A missed racquetball court reservation. Staff not receiving important phone messages. Inaccurate information on the new aerobics programs.

You take a moment to talk with your new hire. He apologizes profusely for the errors, and seems frustrated. After all, he has really been trying. There never seems to be anyone available to answer his questions. So you personally take a few hours to review policies, procedures and systems with your new hire. And hope for the best.

So what's wrong with this picture?

Day-to-day club operations encompass so much of our time that often we forget about the most important aspect of our facilities and of our industry: the people. Taking a proactive approach for new hire training and staff development will save time and money, and is your most cost-efficient way to increase member retention.

How do you start?

Looking at the big picture, decide upon which of these three areas are the most important to your club's success right now:

1) People. Do we have the best? How do we keep our superstars? How can we attract others to join our team?

2) Current staff needs. What are our strengths and weaknesses? Leverage these items with performance improvement plans (see below).

3) Future needs. What are our plans for the future? Who will make that happen? How?

The easiest and typically most important area to a club's success is working with our existing teams to help them be as successful as possible. Let's look at a course of action, from guidelines established by the American Society for Training & Development:

Club or Job Function Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)
1) Set goals and objectives. What do we want to accomplish in this job function? What is the end result we're looking for? What are the desired deliverables from this process? How have we communicated this goal? Is it wholly supported by all who are impacted?

2) Look at what's happening now. Listen. Ask questions. What's working, what's not? What is the process we have for delivering this job function? How are results measured?

3) Set the stage. Determine what factors are needed for improvement. How will they work? Who will coach and follow up? How can we succeed? Does everyone understand what we are trying to accomplish, and why? What are the costs associated with this change? What will our return look like?

4) Try the new process. Observe. Ask questions again. Get opinions from members and staff. Set time limits, with a completion date.

5) Measure results. Ask for feedback. Praise positive results. Look for solutions where there are still questions. What did we accomplish? How have we created positive change for our members? Do we have proof that this new initiative was the real cause for the improvement? Start back at No. 1, resetting goals and objectives.

In our industry, it may be a good use of our time to take a look at improving our staff's performance. Costs are low, and return is high. A few minutes coaching our staff will help our members notice how important they are to our business, and will help our teams know that they are the most important aspect to our club's success.

- Bonnie Patrick is a project manager for The Fitness Co. Recipient of the 1998 Club Industry/Life Fitness Distinguished Business Woman's Award, Bonnie invites your feedback. Call her at (732) 548-0970, ext. 11, or e-mail her at bpatrick@thefitnesscompany.com.