Perfect Isn’t Possible

Pat Barber Coaching, Gym Management

I’ve found that when an employee or coach comes to me to complain about something, I’m much more open to what they’re saying when they bring some solutions to the table. It shows me that they’ve thought through the problem and taken the initiative to come up with a few different ways to resolve it.

I appreciate their potential solutions because sometimes my role as a leader means that I can’t get too bogged down in what isn’t working. I can’t spend time brainstorming on how to fix every little problem. I have to focus my energies on amplifying what IS working so that we play to our strengths. Perfect isn’t possible.⠀

It’s all a balancing act, isn’t it? Is the problem really a problem? If so, tell me how you think we could fix it.⠀

Just something I’m thinking about.

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?⠀

3 Things to Have in Place Before You Worry About Coaching Development

Pat Barber Coaching Development, Gym Management

We believe coaching is the true product of your facility. People may walk through your door to get fit, to be part of a community, or to burn off stress, but good coaching and community (which is driven by good coaches) are why they stay.

To build a better facility, you need to build better coaches. Which means you need to have a plan or system for developing your coaches.

But before you go down that rabbit hole, there are 3 things you should already have in place.

1. Have you shared your core values with your team? And do your coaches share those values?
Your values are what you believe. They are why you get out of bed in the morning. They set the tone for a facility and the priorities of the coaches.

If you’ve never really thought too much about it before, it’s pretty easy to quickly sketch your values out on a napkin or piece of paper. Just ask yourself:

  • Why did I open a gym?
  • What’s the new normal I want to create thru this business?
  • How can running a CrossFit affiliate create a better world? Or, improve my reality?
  • Why do I want this business to succeed?
  • Why do I keep coming here every day? (“I choose to lead a gym because…”)
  • Why should anyone care about this facility?

Be honest with the answers to those questions.

Now ask yourself: Do my coaches know what I stand for, and do they share my motivations?

If your reason for being open is to make money, or to make a living outside the traditional office 9-to-5, make sure that the people who work for you also just want to make money. Because if the people who work for you are there to change lives, those are two conflicting ideologies. Two very different approaches to making decisions. Which means you are offering two different products on the floor: one that is focused on doing what’s good for the bottom line or quarterly statements, and one that is focused on going the extra mile to make the biggest impact in a person’s life. Those are different value systems. There will be a lot of conflict in this sort of situation because every coach wants to be valued for their contribution, but this is impossible when they’re surrounded by people with a different mission.

So give your coaches your value system. Keep the coaches who share your values. Let the rest go.

2. Do your coaches coach the full hour?
Do your coaches coach from start to finish? Is there a coach-led warmup every day? Do they coach skill work, then workout and then (maybe) a cool down?

Coaches need to coach. They need all the practice and exposure they can get for their own improvement and for the engagement of your members.

We’re in the business of building relationships. Our job is to create change in every person in front of us, and that’s hard to do. It means we need to accumulate as many experiences dealing with people as we can so that we’re more prepared and more educated the next time something comes up.

Make sure your coaches are actually providing 60-minutes worth of instruction and value.

3. Are you using session plans or just programming?
Programming is just the workout for that day. Sometimes it includes a cool down, but it’s totally barebones.

What happens is that coaches often default to their go-to warmups, substitutions, and scales. Which can make things feel stale and boring. A rut then becomes a grave, as the coach (or your members) burn out and leave.

Another concern with on-the-fly coaching is that sometimes when coaches make a change to the programming, they don’t preserve the stimulus of the workout, which makes the programming ineffective. This is one of the many reasons why we’ve always said that coaches make or break the programming.

We also have to consider that from a member’s perspective, when all the coaches aren’t on the same page about what to do, classes can seem inconsistent from coach-to-coach.

Session plans solve those problems. They are much more in-depth, giving coaches full warmups, scales, substitutions, a brief, goals for each fitness level, notes on how to coach the workout (and preserve the stimulus), and tips and strategies your athletes can use to crush a workout.

You don’t have to buy our lesson plans but you should seriously consider having these sort of plans for your team. You could sign up for a free 2-week sample (on our home page) to see how we do things and then just get your programmer to start doing it.

The point is:

  • Session plans are a fantastic way to push coaches beyond their comfort zones so they can level up their game.
  • Session Plans are tailored to keep members excited, committed, and pushing their boundaries.
  • And finally, session plans get everyone on the same page, which makes classes more consistent from coach-to-coach. Something your members will appreciate.

So before you worry about how to find learning material for coaches, or how to quiz coaches, or how to build a coaching development program, put these 3 things into place.

We’ve learned this the hard way. We’ve been doing this for 13+ years. We’ve spent countless hours discussing coaching development with other affiliate owners. We’ve managed development over 70 coaches at one time. There has been a lot of trial and error. We’ve made a lot of mistakes. You can skip all that experimentation and time and dive right into the good stuff.

Put these 3 things into place and your coaches will improve, your community will thrive, your facility will grow.