Any great leader recognizes that the greatest skill a leader can have is their ability to exert influence (Fischer, 2017). When I opened my business over seven years ago, I never imagined how hard it would be to become the leader needed to run a successful business. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, said it best: “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” My primary focus when building my coaching staff was to ensure that I found the best personal trainers possible. Ironically, being in the fitness industry, the two issues which I frequently educate my staff about have nothing to do with fitness. Many of my follow-up conversations and quarterly staff training primarily address improving our lines of communication and teaching my employees how to be better problem solvers.

It isn’t possible for me to be present for the entire 15 hours the gym is open each day, which is why it’s crucial for my employees to know how to handle problems as they arise. From knowing how to adjust a client’s training session on the spur of the moment or how to pro-rate their bill for the next month, each employee needs to know how to handle each situation with poise and grace. I teach my employees that each problem has a solution, and each solution requires action. Most of the time, when ones’ work is coupled with empathy, problems are quickly resolved, and excellent customer service is provided. Training my employees how to become better problem solvers has helped them gain a level of independence so that they no longer need me to hold their hands. I admit when I first hire an employ I micro-manage them as much as possible. As they grow in maturity as a professional and not just a coach I let them go on their own. As they grow, they respect and appreciate that I don’t need to supervise everything they do.

What’s harder to teach in an organizational environment is how to improve peer-to-peer communication, as well as communication up the chain of command. Communication can be defined as the exchange of information between sender and receiver, and the inference of meaning between the individuals involved (Kinicki, 2016). As simple as communication sounds, it can be difficult to execute as an organization grows. When I was growing the business on my own, I didn’t report to anybody. As the business grew and I took on more staff, my constant attention was necessary to ensure that the company was running efficiently and at the highest standards possible. As I learned, not everyone is willing to express their viewpoints if they don’t trust that they will not suffer negative consequences for their words or actions (Lee, 2014). It was important to me to build my staff’s confidence from the moment I hired them to work at my facility. My expectations have always been clear, and my door is always open to my employees if they need to discuss an issue with me. My acknowledgment that we aren’t psychic encourages my employees to be proactive in improving the lines of communication. This is as simple as following up with them after class to see how things are going, or more comprehensively when I sit down with each employee one-on-one during quarterly evaluations to discuss how I can help them do their job better.

As Ken Blanchard said, “[e]ffective leaders adapt their style according to the development level of the people they are managing” (2008). Although it would be easy to assume that everyone learns and operates the same way I do, the fact of the matter is that this simply isn’t true. Instead of creating a bunch of rules for my employees to follow, I’m most concerned about developing a culture of values that helps guide my employees in making decisions on their own.


Blanchard, K. (2008) 

Fischer, K., Ph.D. (2017)

Kinicki, A., & Fugate, M. (2016)

Lee, H. (2014)

Related Articles