Solving Performance Problems

Recently, The Fitness Company hosted its national meeting of general managers in Miami. This was an exciting gathering of managers from its 70 commercial clubs. These managers possess various levels of experience and tenure with the company, serve very diversified member demographics, come from a whole range of facility sizes and environments, and work with clubs in different stages of development. It was amazing how through our disparate backgrounds there were still common challenges. One of the main topics addressed by many of the meeting's presenters and facilitators was performance: helping staff, members and ourselves achieve the goals that are important to the company, the members and the team.

Unless we are consistently giving great feedback, people won't excel at their jobs. Think of yourself. How do you know how well you're performing? Profitability and financial analysis is one way. Member surveys and focus groups are another. But what does your staff think? Are you giving them the support they need to do their jobs well? How do you know what they need?

Peter Drucker, an international business management guru, has said that in the past, a leader was a person who knew how to tell. The leader of the future is someone who knows how to ask. By asking for feedback, analyzing the results, developing a focused action plan for change and following up (which is really asking again), we will become-and be perceived as-more effective.

People will not change when they do not care. If a person's attitude is hopeless, do not waste your time. Your return on your investment of time with this person will eventually be zero (or less). The first part of many self-help programs is admitting there's a problem. If people can't take the first step, they can't take the second.

When you are surrounded by people who care, you can celebrate and recognize any positive changes. At the Crown Athletic Club in Charlotte, N.C., general manager Rich Eck-strom involves his team in all of the club's planning and successes. The result is a powerful high-performance team with extremely happy members and owners who would do absolutely anything for Eckstrom and the club.

A final thought: A tradition at The Fitness Company meetings is giving "Pats-on-the-Back." These are postcard-sized stickers that are used to write positive feedback to an individual. The sticker is then placed on the recipient's back. Managers have collections of these stickers, so that when the going gets tough, they go back to the positive recognition from peers, members and supervisors. As Zig Ziglar, an internationally known authority on high-level performance, says, "The surest way to knock a chip off a shoulder is a pat on the back."

--Bonnie Patrick is project manager for The Fitness Co., specializing in performance improvement. Recipient of the 1998 CLub Industry Distinguished Business Woman's Award for Industry Enhancement, she can be reached at (732) 548-0970 ext. 111 or at Bpatrick@thefitnesscompany.com.


Change of Attitude

People are most likely to change their behavior when:

* The desired behavior is identified and agreed upon. We need to promote the results that will be produced as the change occurs.

* The people are motivated to change. Focus on the possibilities and results during this defining moment.

* The people are given a fair chance. Is your action plan realistic and specific? Is it effective (i.e., aligned with the company's vision and direction) and efficient (i.e., easily implemented as part of the club's systems and procedures)?


How-To Steps for Encouraging or Giving Critical Feedback

1) QUESTION/ASK/PROBE. Ask people what they can do to improve. Just by this simple act, we send a message that we value their opinion and that we care. However, be calm, open and receptive.

2) BE ALL EARS. Be quiet and patient.

3) STEP BACK. Think about what you heard. Try to be empathetic.

4) RECOGNIZE. It was probably difficult for people to divulge this information to you, or it was tough for them to hear you out. Thank them.

5) ANSWER/RESPOND. Based on their feedback, jointly begin making a commitment to change a few things.

6) HELP. Have them help you, and help to hold you accountable for these changes. Do the same for them.

7) DO IT! Do what you said you were going to do and be sure they're doing the same.

8) GO BACK TO STEP ONE. Follow up with the person periodically and consistently as planned.