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.

Behaviors Build Culture

Pat Barber Culture

When we’re talking about gym culture, we’re talking about how you do things. It’s what you expect from your community, and what they can expect from you. It’s what makes people feel at home or amongst their people. ⁣⠀
Culture is the set of shared attitudes, values and goals that characterize an organization.⁣⠀
To us, it’s what builds and drives community. It’s what attracts the right members and coaches to your facility.⁣⠀

We believe behaviors build culture, and then culture builds community.

To us, “behaviors” include all your systems, processes, words, traditions and actions.
And we think it’s important to reflect on these behaviors to see if they’re in alignment with the type of gym culture you want to steer. ⁣⠀

This is just one way to check-in:

Let’s say that you’ve succeeded in building your ideal, or dream, gym culture. If your members were describing that culture to some friends over dinner, what words would they use? How would they explain it?⁣⠀

If that’s not clicking for you, think about the type of community you’ve always wanted to be a part of. Now think of the culture that defines that community, that gives it shape. Culture is, in many ways, a container. What’s that container filled with?

Are your behaviors today laying the groundwork for your bigger vision for the future? Are your behaviors actively making your dream a reality? Think about all the little details of your facility, from the top down.

If we want our gym to be the home of the best CrossFit coaches around, then we have to ask ourselves these types of questions. And answer them honestly. With genuine self-reflection. And a willingness to face hard truths, without feeding our fragile egos.

We must care more about progress than perfection.


Coaches, We Are in a Relationship Business

Pat Barber Coaching, Culture

At the heart of coaching, there’s connection. It’s what we do.

If a member doesn’t feel connected to you, if they don’t feel seen, heard and valued, they might not go to those places you’re trying to push them. They might pull back and stay safe. Never getting to their physical and mental thresholds or going beyond them.

This keeps members from hitting their goals. Which keeps your gym from growing.

That hurts everyone — members, coaches, staff, owners.

Connection is a two-way street.

So, it’s not just members who suffer from a lack of social connection.

As coaches, connecting to members also gives us a sense of purpose and meaning. When we’re coaching the air squat for the ten thousandth time, if we can find a way to connect with people, we can feel less bored or burnt out. It’s a great strategy for old-timers who’ve been in the game for a bit or anyone who feels like they’re living the same day over and over again.

Coaching is repetitive. Because humans only learn through repetition.

That fact can be sort of maddening sometimes.

We need to find ways to connect with the moment and live in the here and now so that we’re more present with our members.

I’ve found that if I just try to connect with every person who walks through the door, to make eye contact with them, talk with them, coach them, commit to making their goal for the day come true, I feel more energized by what I’m doing. Renewed even.

One final thought before today’s coaching goal: We are in the business of developing and maintaining relationships. Yes, you need to help people get their first pull-up. Yes, you need to help them hit that lift PR they want so badly. But, first and foremost, connect. You are the bridge between who they are today and who they want to be. That is a serious responsibility.

Today your goal is this: Make every person who shows up to class feel seen, heard and valued.⠀

We Need More Family Meal Style Coach Meetings

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Culture, Gym Management

I think we are doing team meetings wrong.

I mean, most facilities have small teams about the size of a friend group at a backyard bbq. But do we sit at a long table and share good conversation, some laughs and decent food? No, 99% of us do not do meetings that way. ⠀

I think that’s a mistake.⠀

Let me explain. With a hypothetical story.⠀

I’m sitting at a table with my team. We’re snacking and going through the agenda. Someone gives me some negative feedback. I’ve just stuffed a nice bite of guacamole in my mouth, so now I’ve got to chew on my food and swallow before I can respond. That gives me a few extra seconds to really think about (or chew on) what they’ve said and how I’ll respond. It also means, that while I’m chewing, I have to listen to someone give their whole story. I cannot interrupt their train of thought. ⠀

Just having food for people to chew on can lead to less defensive, more productive conversations.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that huge business deals are often brokered over dinner. These people know what they’re doing.⠀

Highly successful restaurants also do this, by the way. Before service, the back of the house and the front of the house sit down and share a meal together. It’s called “family meal.” It powers people up for a shift and helps people connect in ways they wouldn’t otherwise have time for.

Coming together at a table is powerful.

Food matters. It’s comforting. It makes us happy. It changes the mood or vibe of the room. It brings us together, no matter our differences. ⠀

So, I think we need more potluck team meetings. More family dinner team meetings.

Meetings that feel less corporate. We all try the more corporate, serious meetings because it makes us feel more grown-up and legit, maybe even more important. But is that really true? And, what are we sacrificing in the process? ⠀

What do you think? Have you experimented with bringing food into meetings?

Try it for a month and take note of how the meetings change.

Is there more openness? More creativity? More honesty? Better communication? Do you have more breakthroughs? Better collaboration? Are people more willing to share?

Know What You’re Selling

Pat Barber Coaching, Culture, Gym Management

Humans are emotional beings. Meaning makers. Storytelling animals. ⠀

Which is something to remember when we’re talking about why we do what we do. And why people should care.⠀

As a coach, what are you really offering?⠀

As a facility owner, what are you selling? Why does your gym really exist? ⠀

How can you reframe it so that people can truly connect with it?

Does your facility feel like a second home to your members?

Pat Barber Culture, Gym Management

Most people spend the majority of their day in 3 places: work, your gym, home. Or two places if they work from home.

Think about that for a second.

Your gym is someone’s second home.

When you think about your facility that way, it kind of changes everything.

You have to reframe the space entirely, and then ask yourself:

  • Am I creating a gym that’s a good second home?
  • Is there space for people to hang out?
  • Am I encouraging people to treat the space that way? Or to feel that comfortable, that at home?

There are a few different ways to do this.

You could create a zone or area for people to lounge in before and after classes, a space where people can hang out and chat without getting in the way of another class.

You could host weekly potlucks with games and fun activities.

You could offer specialty clubs or classes (yoga, mobility, etc.) so that people come around more, not just using your space for 3 workouts a week.

Talk with your team about it.

Kickstart the brainstorm by thinking about the difference between these two questions: “How could I improve my gym?” vs. “What can I do to make this gym a second home for everyone?”

On the surface, they seem very similar. But the first is so vague that your members would probably give you some long wishlist of features that wouldn’t actually lead to a stronger community. Complimentary towels. Showers. Better locker rooms. A bigger space.

The second question, though, is not about features. It’s about providing members with an experience, a feeling, an emotion. It’s collaborative and warm. It’s about community and social connection. “Home” is more than just a place, it’s about relationships.

When you focus on providing your members with a second home, and when you ask them how to do that, what you’re really asking is, “What can we do to make this place yours?” instead of saying, “We’re the owners of the gym you attend. What are some improvements you’d like to see? We’ll review your answers and see if it’s in the budget.”

So, how do you, or can you, make your gym a second home?⠀

Active Life Podcast, Ep. 15

Pat Barber Coaching, Coaching Development, Culture, Gym Management, Podcast Interviews

Heyo! Check out Episode 15 of the Active Life Podcast. We talk about:

  • Gym culture
  • Extreme ownership
  • How to earn and keep the trust of your members
  • “Uncoachable” people
  • Some hard lessons I’ve learned when managing teams
  • Staff communication
  • My thoughts on the resentment some affiliates feel towards HQ
  • Programming vs. session plans
  • … and a whole bunch of other stuff

Please give the episode a listen and let me know what you think!

Additional Resources
How to test-drive friends and irritate people
The ‘uncoachable’ athlete (an Instagram post by Active Life)