Being the Change

Taz Barber Coaching Development, Culture

For us, WUWO has never been about just fitness.

That’s why we give a lot of our time to talking about empathy, emotional intelligence, othering, the power of human connection, and stuff that has nothing to do with functional movements executed at high intensity.

Yes, we want your people to be fit, and to eat and have access to nutrient-dense foods.

But, also, to have the skills needed for navigating conflict or difficult conversations.

To have the tools necessary for nurturing themselves and their relationships.

To have the courage to be the change they want to see.

We want people to live lives that are meaningful and joyful to them. And for the world to be better because they lived.

Fitness is one tool in the kit for this kind of impact. It teaches you about resiliency, makes your body more capable and powerful, and can change your outlook on so many things.

To stop there, as a gym or coach, would mean ignoring all the other ways you could positively impact someone’s life. Coaches are agents of change, and that change shouldn’t only be about pounds or PRs. (Though for us, fitness isn’t about those metrics anyway — it’s about being healthy enough to live fully and do the things you want to do.)

If we want to help our members be more loving partners, parents and people, if we want our friends to witness our pain instead of trying to solve or diminish it, if we want to be in a community where people can live in peace even though they look, think and feel differently, then we have to get serious about the skills that make all that possible.

And for us, that’s communication — how we speak, how we relate, how we connect.

We all need training and practice to strengthen these muscles.

Which is why we’re committing to a year-long course on communication: The Compassion Course.

The name isn’t great. We’re somewhat allergic to new-age-y sounding things. But the resources and materials we’ve studied on the course are legit.

Here’s a sample lesson: What Empathy Is…And Isn’t

You get 50 lessons in total, one lesson every week of the course.

These lessons will cover topics like:

  • What to do when judgment and blame show up in conversations
  • Power-with vs. power-over dynamics
  • How to be more aware of your needs and desires
  • How to have less painful, more effective conflicts
  • The difference between requesting and demanding
  • How to stay connected and empathetic in an anger-fueled conversation

Plus a whole lotta other stuff.

As people intentionally place themselves in echo chambers so they don’t have to interact with people who don’t believe as they believe, as people become more and more obsessed with labeling themselves “right” and others “wrong,” as we feel more threatened by those who are different than us — be it they look differently, worship differently, love differently, parent differently, believe or think differently — we grow more isolated, more alone, more afraid.

If a gym wants to call itself a community, then it needs to function as a community, which means more village-mindedness and less “difference is dangerous, sameness is safe.”

The fact is, people are labeling differences of opinion or belief as a threat to their existence.

We don’t know how to respect someone whose values are not in alignment with ours, so to other them, to put them beneath us, we diminish their humanity.

We take the few breadcrumbs of a story we know, and we fill all that negative space with “facts” and stories that confirm our own biases and prejudices. Because they’re Poor. Middle-Class. Rich. Christian. Muslim. Atheist. Californian. Southern. A mother not breastfeeding her newborn. A mother breastfeeding too long. White. BIPOC. Hetero, cis-gendered. LGBTQ. A Democrat. A Republican. The assumptions never end. And you know what they say about assuming…To assume makes an ass out of u and me.

That’s granny wisdom.

We believe that if we’re responsible for the energy we bring into a room, then we should also be responsible for all the judgments and baggage we bring to conversations.

So, we’re committing the next 50+ weeks of our lives to learning and unlearning.

These lessons build on each other, and there will be video conference calls offered by the course leaders. (We’re not affiliated in any way.)

We’re also going to host a discussion group for WUWO members so that we can explore the material together.

If you’re interested, the course starts June 24, 2020. Regular enrollment closes on June 23rd, extended enrollment closes on July 1st. Pricing is scaled at $36 and $72 for the full year, but they also offer a free option. (Read more about that in their FAQs.)

PS — This isn’t the ONE and only thing you can do right now, as growth comes in many forms. That said, this communication methodology could be a stepping stone we could use as we create a new path through the woods.

How to Evaluate Coaches

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

The biggest trap an evaluator can fall into is: “Are they me?” That is, do they coach exactly as I coach? Instead, you should be evaluating their effectiveness as a coach and whether or not they actually connect with the people in front of them. Ultimately, it’s about how well people respond to them.

This video goes into what I’ve learned after years of evaluating coaches.

I’ve also created a Coach Evaluation Checklist to help you look for specific elements while observing coaches.

How to Establish Coaches as Authorities

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

Are you a gym owner whose in the position where members keep coming to you about things instead of going to your coaches? If you want to redirect those conversations to your team, this video has a few ideas for how to establish coaches as authorities in your facility.

Take Care of Your Coaches

Janet Navarrette Coaching Development, Gym Management


Know Your Product
When you opened your affiliate, surely you did it with the intent of selling CrossFit. You wanted to make people better by using the best strength and conditioning program that is attainable for all walks of life. How quickly after did you learn your product was actually coaching? Oh, spoiler alert: if you haven’t come to that realization already, your product is coaching.

CrossFit is self-sustaining. I can buy a few pieces of equipment, do main-site workouts or subscribe to programming or even create my own, and it would be a lot cheaper than paying a monthly membership. You might argue that there’s no community and the gym space provides that. To which I would ask, who is truly at the forefront of creating that community? Hint: Rhymes with shmoaches.

So, how well do you know your product? Are your coaches fully equipped to execute the vision of your affiliate?

“You Give Before You Get”
Great coaches are constantly giving. With every cue, every modification on the fly, every time they step into the gym, they are instantly in a state of giving (even if they’re not technically on the clock). They spend time thinking of what the perfect class music will be while remembering everyone’s injuries and how they’re going to drill the snatch and be entertaining at the same time.

When a person gives so much, they need to replenish their reservoir. They have to work in time for themselves, but how can they? Because the minute they stop, they’re not making money. This can be a recipe for disaster that then trickles down to the members and the whole community.

As a small business owner, payroll is probably one of your highest expenses. So, it’s understandably hard to justify high salaries and benefits. You might only have one full-time coach and probably a high number of part-time coaches. But, there are other ways you can set your coaches up for success aside from paying them fairly.

Check-In
As a manager/owner, it’s important to continually check in with your coaches to ensure they are not on the verge of burning out. You must get ahead because if you’re not careful, it will happen. Take them out to lunch. Listen to what’s going on in their lives. What are their goals? What are their passions? Let them vent about that member and listen to their suggestions. The important thing here is that they feel heard, so make sure you listen.

Schedule
Some coaches prefer mornings, some prefer two classes in a row, while others prefer to space them out. Take the effort to best accommodate their preferences. It’s difficult to do this all the time, but knowing that there is effort and that you respect their time goes a long way.

Focus Only on Coaching
Coaches should focus on coaching only. Hire someone else to handle sales or handle the gym cleaning. Don’t spread them too thin with other responsibilities. The only exception is if they’ve otherwise expressed interest in those areas.

Constant Communication
Have a group text, newsletter, FB group, carrier pigeon, etc. Do what you have to do to always be in continuous communication with your coaches. Let them know updates about the gym before you announce anything to members. Get their feedback. This builds trust, and being in a trusting environment for a coach is very important.

We are in the business of giving. And it’s a constant cycle that will ensure the success of your business. It starts with how you treat your product. How you value your coaches will flow down to how your coaches value your members, which flows down to how your members value your gym.

Try these tips out and see if you notice a difference!

Would You Rather…

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

When I see new (or new-ish) faces in a class, I love to use icebreakers as a fun way to introduce them to everyone. Using these questions can totally change the vibe of a room. Everyone relaxes. The group feels more connected, more welcoming and open. And the newer people feel more a part of things, less like an outsider.

The best questions to use are ones that are quick and easy to answer — If you had one extra hour of free time every day, how would you use it? What’s the weirdest gift you’ve ever received? If you were a boxer, what entrance or walk-up song would you play? What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day? What’s your favorite vacation spot?

I’ve got a list of 143 icebreakers to pull from if you’re curious.

You could use these for coaches meetings too, as a way to have a little fun together before talking business.

The result is still the same: The feel of the room softens, lightening the mood or tone. A more familial energy settles in, making people feel more comfortable and connected to each other. And you have a bit of a laugh while getting to know everyone a little better.

You could also start with a little game of Would You Rather…

Would you rather go into the past and meet your ancestors or go into the future and meet your descendants?

Would you rather have more time or more money?

Would you rather be able to talk to animals or speak all foreign languages?

Would you rather read an awesome book or watch a good movie?

Would you rather explore space or the ocean?

Would you rather be stuck on an island alone or with someone you strongly dislike?

Would you rather be too busy or be bored?

Would you rather live where it is constantly winter or where it is constantly summer?

Would you rather be a little late or way too early?

Would you rather live in Antarctica or the Sahara Desert?

Would you rather be able to take back anything you say or hear every conversation around you?

Would you rather be a werewolf or a vampire?

Would you rather be fluent in all languages or be a master of every musical instrument?

Would you rather have your own boat or your own plane?

Would you rather sing like an opera star or cook like a gourmet chef?

Would you rather be able to breathe underwater or fly through the air?

Would you rather live without music or T.V.?

Have fun with it. Keep the questions light, easy to answer, and free of triggery stuff.

Find Your People

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

Coaches, find a gym who shares your ‘why’ if you want to be valued for the energy and effort you put into coaching.⠀

If the gym you work for has a different value system, they’re never really going to recognize or value your work.⠀

Even when you go an extra mile.⠀

In this scenario, it can feel like “nothing is ever good enough.” ⠀

You’re a coach for one reason.⠀

And they opened a gym for another.⠀

You want different things. You’re offering different products. You have a different vision, different priorities. You do not share the same mission. They want x, you want y.⠀

Square peg, round hole.⠀

Stop trying to make it work. It ain’t gonna.⠀

Find your people.⠀

And give them your energy.⠀

Otherwise, you’re wasting it. ⠀

A Lazy Coach

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

When we see a coach doing the bare minimum, not cleaning the space, not really connecting with members, not being the best version of themselves, we see a coach who isn’t taking ownership of their role in the community.

That coach doesn’t feel it’s their responsibility.

That coach doesn’t feel at home in the facility.

And that’s a problem.

This exact scenario can often be traced back to 2 separate issues:

  1. The coach doesn’t feel valued.
  2. The coach doesn’t feel like they’re making an impact.

Let’s break that down a little more.

When the Coach Doesn’t Feel Valued

If a coach doesn’t feel valued, acknowledge them more. Show them some friggin love. Let them know why you’re stoked they’re on the team, that you noticed when they did such-and-such.

Check-in to make sure you share the same value system and priorities. If you want to change lives and improve your town, and they’re more into the hustle of building a fitness empire, you’re offering two different products on the floor. If there’s conflict there, let them go so they can find a gym where they can thrive and love their work.

When the Coach Doesn’t Feel Like They’re Making an Impact

Laziness and procrastination have a bad reputation but they can be truly fantastic tools for self-awareness.

Laziness is an active choice. It’s a behavior.

Beneath every behavior is a feeling. And beneath each feeling is a need. And when we meet that need rather than focusing on the behavior, we start to heal the cause, not the symptom.

We believe laziness and procrastination come from a lack of meaningful labor.

So, maybe the coach doesn’t see the value in doing something, they don’t see how it matters. This could mean that they’re unaware of or not connecting with the “why” behind it. An easy solve for this is to give your team the rationale behind certain tasks so they see how things fit together, so they can visualize the bigger picture.

If a coach doesn’t feel like what they’re doing is meaningful, or that they don’t personally have much of an impact, that’s often pretty easy to solve.

Find out what excites them, energizes them, makes them feel curious. When our days are stacked with things that don’t make us feel that way, we feel drained, empty, indifferent. (Burn out is often just boredom, btw.) Give them space and creative control to bring that something into the gym. Let them expand their influence. Let them take ownership. Are they super into obstacle races lately? Great. Let them bring something related to that to the table. Figure out what makes them feel more energized and alive. What makes ’em super chatty? Then get out of the way and let them lead. Who knows, it just might set you apart from the box down the street.

Side note: This doesn’t mean that these projects or experiments have to work forever. They might have a great 18-month run and then the coach gets super psyched about something else. That’s okay. Humans like to grow, to expand. A more playful approach that encourages pleasure over obligation or “have to” is better for the longterm health of your community.

Create a text/email thread and share success stories, before and afters, etc., to remind everyone of what kind of an impact their making in people’s lives. Teams really need this sometimes. We can get bogged down by all the BS.

You might also try planning a few community events so that coaches and members can get to know each other a little better. Never underestimate the power of human connection.

We’ve found that when coaches are acting ‘lazy,’ laziness is rarely the problem. There’s something else going on. Some need that’s not being met. And it’s our job as leaders to figure out what that is.

Good Leadership

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

If your gym culture is about who’s right, then it follows that it’s also about who’s wrong. When the time comes, they’ll be looking for the person to blame and shame.

Quick, who’s fault is this? Who can we scapegoat?

Instead, let’s create a culture built around a solid value system.

This way, everyone is on the same page.

The team moves as one force, a collective of individuals working together to achieve a mission or vision.

They share the same ‘why.’

They want to achieve the same goals.

There’s no time to get distracted by who’s right and who’s wrong.

That doesn’t matter.

The mission, the “why,” is what matters.

Doing the right thing is what matters.

If one person succeeds, everyone succeeds. If one person fails, everyone owns their part in the failure.

One person’s shoulders do not carry the weight. Neither does one carry the glory.

These are the types of teams we all want to build. And we believe it starts with focusing more on the values/priorities/mission of your facility.

Why are you open? What do you want to achieve with your community? What do you want to offer people? More than a workout?

Does your team share your ‘why’?⠀

Coaching Not Fun Anymore?

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development

Fun is contagious.

As coaches, our goal is to make people forget about their lives for an hour and just “be” in our space.

This means we need to give them a good show and deliver a great experience. If we are having fun in our job and community, so shall all who interact with us. The energy we put out, we will get back.

If you’re not having fun coaching because you’re bored with the monotony, then we challenge you to identify your default (or go-to) cues, substitutions and scales, and then ban yourself from using them. Challenge yourself to use new cues, scales and subs.

If that doesn’t work, try harder to personalize your cues, targets, etc.

Also, try to connect more with people. Treat their goals as your goals and invest yourself in their success. We find that when we focus less on ourselves, and more on others, boredom sort of fades away. So focusing on the lives, the goals and the struggles of our members and other coaches can be a great way to renew our interest in what we do and why we do it.

If you’re not having fun because you’re overworked or burnt out, talk with your team about taking a few days to refresh. Or maybe you need to switch it up a little and help with a specialty club, start a new club, or take a few days to shadow someone in a related field (nutritionist, etc.) so that you can deepen your knowledge of a subject and bring what you’ve learned back to your community. Come up with a few solutions and bring them to your team.

Because, ultimately, how much fun you’re having at work is up to you.