Personal Training

Staff Development Tips: Create the Best CrossFit Gym Staff

Hiring is one thing, but developing your staff into an amazing crew is another - this is what you need to know.

Sam Karoll
June 27, 2022
Staff Development Tips: Create the Best CrossFit Gym Staff
Hiring is one thing, but developing your staff into an amazing crew is another - this is what you need to know.

You’ve gone through the hiring process on our last post, but now you’re going to develop an entire team, and that’s no simple task. You have to take your team development extremely seriously and make sure they represent the business you’re trying to build, while you help them make a living from a stable and joyous environment.

Keeping your staff happy while helping to increase their skill set for your gym is important. You’re leading, not bossing them around. You’re developing their skills, not throwing them through training. Make sure you represent your gym’s core values while you’re developing your staff, and be sure to use these tips to help make it a pleasant experience at the same time.

Why is Staff Development Important?

Your gym will evolve. Services will get better, positive changes will be made, and your staff has to reflect this. If you have the nicest gym in the world, it still can’t save you from bad staff. Developing your staff members is imperative to your brand, hospitality, and the community message that CrossFit promotes.

Every staff interaction is an extension of you and how you run your gym, which is what makes it so important. Additionally, you’re trying to create a team that can work well with each other even in your absence. If you take a vacation, you want your staff to be developed enough to handle any problems they encounter without having to dial you.

Let’s go over the top ten tips provided by the CrossFit Affiliate Playbook to help you develop your staff as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Tips for Staff Development

These are the top ten tips that you can put into action to develop your staff as rapidly as possible.

Success and Succession

If your staff isn’t succeeding, you're not succeeding. It’s a simple approach, but it means that you have to make sure everyone around you is also rising at the same time, otherwise it will show negatively on your business in some way or another. Success is shared. You created the business, but don’t forget that your staff are helping you build the business.

Seen as People

Your staff members are people. Not just employees. They’re not bound to you; they can walk out at any point in time, and they owe you absolutely nothing at all. Hopefully, you’ll be able to foster a relationship with your staff members that help them not only enjoy their time working for you, but feel properly rewarded for their efforts in your business. When your employees are seen and heard as people (and paid accordingly), your business practically runs itself.

Vulnerability is a Superpower

It’s good to be vulnerable. A lot of gym owners think that they have to look tough and be an unmovable pillar, but that isn't human. In fact, it puts expectations on people around you, and they begin to think that they can’t show vulnerability. It’s okay, and it’s helpful to be vulnerable.

One-on-One Development is Key

Each team member should get one hour of your undivided time each quarter to go over development. Have a conversation, discuss performance, goals, and the future of the gym and business. Let them know where they fit in, and where you’d like to see them excel.

Direct Feedback in Real-Time

Don’t wait until later to give feedback. If you let three hours pass, the team member in question might not even remember what the specific instance was about. It takes a teachable moment, and throws it away. Give direct, positive feedback in real time without going overboard with details and being too intricate. It could be a simple reminder or a more critical bit of information, but be sure that you don’t put these talks off until later. Master kindness in your approach, and it won’t be a problem.

Create a Team

Until you turn your employees into a team, they’re just that: a bunch of employees. When they become a team, they have direction, focus, and goals to strive for. When you build a team, they each know each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and work together to bring the entire business up.

It’s not easy to curate that team mentality, but it is possible. You have to work at it, and the signs will approach slowly. You’re not going to just have an epiphany one day about how well your team members are engaging with one another.

True Value in Your Business

Some employees show up for a paycheck. Others believe in the values of a business, and want to see it succeed. The values align with their personal goals, aspirations, habits, hobbies, or wants. Your business should meet at a crossroad between what you want, and what your employees/team members want. If they truly value the message in your business, they’ll make it obvious.

Identify Strength, Make it Shine

Everyone has a strength, and everyone has a weakness. We lift others up by making those strengths known and valued, and making sure that they feel appreciated for what they bring to the table. The funny thing is that when someone’s strength is acknowledged and appreciated, they usually double-down and make that strength a core asset without even meaning to. That’s the power of taking pride in your work, and it shows in so many more ways than we could even list here.

Publicly Celebrate Success

When your team members do something amazing, be sure to let everyone know. Praise them publicly, show that you’re not only unashamed of them being on your team, but that you see it as a reason to brag (respectfully, of course). This is morale-boosting, and helps your team members realize their true potential.

Invest Time and Energy

From the top down, you should invest your time and energy into the team members who lead others, and who you could see rising to a manager position in the future. Empower them, build that relationship, and train them to do the same with their own staff (rather, the extension of your staff) if they take on that

Disciplinary Actions

Nobody wants to be the heavy, but not every staff member is going to adhere to your rules properly. Let’s just face that fact right now. Some owners live in a fairytale where they think they can spot good staff from a mile away and encourage them to be their best.

But just like how CrossFit teaches us to have empathy for our customers, we should also have empathy for our employees. We don’t know what they’re going through. At the same time, you can’t let their behavior affect your business. This is what you need to know about approaching disciplinary actions.

  • Damage Control Comes First: Before you can talk about how to resolve the issue, you need to de-escalate it first. Take the problem down a notch, be calm, and provide a solution. Talk to the coach or staff member. Are they okay and stable? Is something in their life stressing them out? Talk about a temporary leave and be sure to help them through what they’re going through. Show compassion, as you would your members, but make it abundantly clear that episodes at work cannot continue. If any altercation included members of your gym, be sure to talk to the coach or staff member and have them right their wrong as soon as possible.
  • Listen Before You Speak: Meet with your staff member as soon as possible. One-on-one meetings are superior to phone conversations. Giving feedback via email or text leaves out all context, and almost always makes situations escalate when they really don’t need to. It’s much easier for an employee to respond negatively or explatively through a text message. Give them the respect and courtesy that you want to receive by talking with them face-to-face, laying out the problems you’re encountering, and talk about a solution.
  • Respond Carefully: Provide an immediate and direct response. Make sure your feedback is clear. Don’t mince your words or trip over yourself just so that you can spare the feelings of the person you’re talking to. Use language that’s careful, but gets to the heart of the problem. Never attack the person’s character. For instance, don’t direct language at the person; direct it at the particular actions that you are calling out. People are much more likely to get defensive when you insult them personally instead of bring up their actions.

Employee Engagement Interviews

Employee engagement interviews are individual team member meetings where you ask open-ended questions. Get them to talk about themselves, their position, what they think about their job, and more. Consider it a cathartic experience

CrossFit has a list of questions that are extremely helpful, insightful, and powerful that you can ask your employees to help better understand their struggles and know where they stand in your business.

  • What do you enjoy most about your position here?
  • What type of feedback would you like to receive about your performance that you currently aren’t receiving?
  • What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role?
  • What talents, skills, or interests do you have that we haven’t made the most of?
  • What have you felt good or proud about accomplishing in your job since you started?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • Do you understand the strategic goals of the broader organization?
  • Do you know what you should do to help the company meet its goals and objectives?
  • Do you have a good understanding of informal structures and processes at the organization?
  • What is something you would do differently if this was your gym?

In the CrossFit Affiliate Playbook, they list a quote by Simon Sinek. It reads: “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

Find out who is and isn’t emotionally invested. At the end of the day, for some people this is just a job. For others, it’s an extension of their passion and their abilities. Hopefully you’ll find plenty of candidates and employees in the latter group.

Team Meetings

Team meetings are important, and face-to-face interaction is much more personal than an email or a series of texts in a group chat. Yes, some people will joke that a team meeting “could have been an email”, but it depends entirely on how you conduct those meetings.

As part of a healthy gym culture, team meetings should have a certain agenda. You want to respect everyone’s time but also get your point across. Use these topics as a way to find out what you should be asking during your team meetings, and how you should be asking it.

  • Community development within the gym
  • Notably positive interactions from staff to members/athletes
  • Announcements such as events, new courses, new equipment, or activities
  • Goals and progress report
  • Schedule changes or additions
  • Asking each team member what they would want to share or improve about the gym

Give your team members the opportunity to put in their two cents. You’ll quickly know if they view you as approachable, or if there’s a communication issue. If you get complete silence when you ask your team members to chime in, that could be extremely telling in and of itself.

Develop the Best CrossFit Gym Staff Ever

Hiring your staff is already tricky enough, but developing them into better employees and health advocates for your members has its own set of unique challenges. You have the power to develop one of the best CrossFit affiliate gym staffs in the world, and now it’s time to put your plan into action.

Make sure you’re training them constantly and consistently. Training is an investment in your business, brand, and reputation—never forget that your member experience is the main thing defining your gym from other CrossFit gyms in the area.

Sam Karoll

Sam is our Community Manager for PushPress. He also owns and operates Xplore Nutrition, a personalized nutrition coaching service designed "for your lifestyle and goals by a Coach who's always available."

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