By Karen Gilbert, Special AFS Contributor

As a studio owner or manager, you are probably wearing several hats. You might have some employees working with you. You might have some clients. You might have a business partner. You might even have some investors.

And then on the personal front you probably also have your family, significant other, friends, etc. It can be exhausting having to juggle so many roles on a daily basis and to be expected to be on your “A” game for them all. With a little focus, there are a few key things you can do as a fitness professional on a regular basis to help ensure that you do as good a job as you can, and even keep growing while you are at it!

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate

We’ve all heard it before, Communication is key. It helps prevent so many problems. Whether it is with your team or your client, it can help foster a good working relationship. Clearly communicated expectations can help prevent misunderstandings.

They can also help ensure that goals are met and achieved. When we juggle so many things, we think people can read our minds and know exactly what we want of them. This is often not the case. Be really clear on what you need, what you want and what you expect. 


We all want to be heard. Being heard can also mean paying close attention to body language and nonverbal cues. Take a personal interest in your clients. Do they like their appearance? Do they have kids? Are they excited about something happening at work? Are they hating their job? The more in-tune you are, the more you can tailor their session to give them what they need.

Similarly, with your employees, take a personal interest and recognize their accomplishments with verbal acknowledgments or even a small gift. Recognition can come in the form of body language and nonverbal cues as well as verbal acknowledgments or small incentives.

You can also use that as an opportunity to say you overheard an employee mention a bday and give small gifts. Or one going above and beyond what’s asked in a situation and verbally recognize.


Learn from Others

We can all learn from each other. Every leader needs a coach. Leaders need to constantly learn. This includes reading and listening, Many of us do not have the time to read regularly. Between reading emails and the daily grind who has extra time to read?

That’s where podcasts & audiobooks come into play. I was just listening to an episode of Michael Hyatt’s “Lead To Win” Podcast (during my workout) where he talks about how he listen to audiobooks and podcasts during his morning workouts to maximize his time. Sage advice. Download these in advance so you can even listen on your way to work when you do not have wifi access.

Align Your Vision and Values with Those Around You

Know who YOU are. The more self-aware and in tune with yourself you are, the more you will be able to make sure your team and clients share the same values, vision and belief system as you. You are still the leader and may need to make the difficult decisions that not everyone agrees upon.

Daily decisions can be difficult and everybody may not like what you’re choosing. Someone might not be happy with a particular schedule or position, however, if you can get everyone aligned on the bigger picture, the mission, the vision, it becomes much easier for everyone to see the bigger picture.

Lead by example

Be a role model. Get your hands dirty. If you expect someone to do something, you should be able to also do it yourself. As a trainer telling your client to wake two times a week to do their workout, but showing them that you are too tired to do yours when you are done training your clients, you are likely to lose their trust.

As a leader wanting their team to tidy up after themselves, yet you always leave your desk a mess, you are likely to get less buy-in from your team.  Take responsibility when you make mistakes. Be vulnerable. Show them that you too can be affected negatively when you have a bad day. It might be harder to be positive on one of those bad days but it can be done. Show them what it takes to move through the tough moments.

Be an inclusive leader.

With social media so prevalent today, it is harder to hide things. In fact, most people want to be inspired by someone they respect. They want to know more about you, about your personal life, about your family, etc. The more you are willing to share, the more real you become to your team and your clients. The more likely they are to respect you.

Final thoughts…

Don’t forget where you came from. Chances are if you are reading this you are in a leadership role. Before you became that leader, you were more like your team or your client. Don’t forget how to think like them. Don’t forget what their wants and needs are. This will help keep your team and clients happy. Create a vision board or journal along the way as a tool to reflect back on the change and progress you have made. As Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn says, lead with compassion. As a leader, the ability to see things through someone else's lens is invaluable.


Entrepreneur and personal trainer Karen Gilbert is a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Student Fitness Experts, a nationwide fitness company headquartered in Los Angeles, CA. Student Fitness Experts is a revolutionary fitness company that creates dynamic programs for students, home school fitness and nutrition, and workshops for organizations such as the Girl Scouts. SFE has created its own certification that trains and certifies coaches to most effectively mentor and help students with their fitness goals.

Karen received her MBA in Entrepreneurial Studies from the University of Southern California, and has taught the NASM curriculum to aspiring personal trainers. Karen is a master trainer for NAFC, a BOSU ambassador and teaches pre/post natal fitness to other new moms.

She is the recipient of the first IHRSA Emerging Female Leader Award. In 2007 IHRSA named her one of the 25 most influential young leaders in the fitness industry.

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