Our Business Manager, Group Fitness Instructor and Business Hottie with international Experience in Management & Business, Astrid Drechsel-Grau, often gets asked why the heck she is working as an Instructor as well. Here comes what incredible good stuff she learns from being an Instructor for her management job day by day.
Ever wondered what certain middle/upper management « leaders » could learn from professional fitness instructors?
Do you think this question sounds crazy? Like, wow, how can she say that? How can she compare a perceived “just jumping and shaking around” group fitness instructor to a perceived “serious and important decision making” role and person?
Well, to come back to my question and to my personal answer. To be honest I did not! But what I know for sure, is that having learnt, in a quite young age (16), to take responsibility for kids and to coach them in tennis or to create fitness programs (besides a lot of other experiences of course) made me the person I’m and formed my character that I have today. And yes, I have to proof myself each and every single day in my “role” as manager in a corporate world, where different stereotypes are still omnipresent and where the upper management positions are yet to be conquered by women. I do believe that being a fitness coach/group fitness instructor in my other “role” (that I still have in parallel) in the non-corporate world prepared me very well for the leadership positions I had so far in the corporate world and for those that are yet to come (oh yes… I promise you it ain’t over 🙂 there is always a next level).
So here is why these two “roles” have much more in common, in my opinion, at a second view than you would have thought at a first glance. Are you ready? So let’s get our analytical heads on.
What do you think a good professional group fitness instructor (and by the way I would like to emphasize that I’m talking about professional group fitness instructors compared to bad examples, as we all know there exist in every industry – but this would be a complete different story for another post) needs to have for qualities and competencies in order to lead (little hint here) a group during an hour?
Be a role model
I would say it is pretty easy and obvious don’t you think? First of all the person needs to be a role model, should be able to communicate, to build an atmosphere of trust, to motivate, to correct, to observe, to listen, to encourage and finally to empower the participants. And yes, in a certain way on a 1:1 level but as well on a group level.
Communication is key
Let’s dig a little deeper when I enumerate all the above words, what do I actually mean? It is pretty simple. Communication – a group fitness instructor needs to be able to clearly communicate the important facts in regard to safety for example and then later on how the exercise could be improved or modified and finally to find the right words to keep the team going (everyone at his/her own personal level).
So a quick question, do you think there are parallels we could see to a leadership/management position? Hey – don’t answer this question yet, leave it in the back of your mind 🙂
Ok so let’s go to the point “being a role model” and “creating an atmosphere of trust”. Let’s be totally honest, shall we? Yes, the group fitness instructor needs to be in a good “shape” but the word shape includes especially the notion of being capable to show a great technique or a great style. Why? Because participants and human beings need to follow and you will only follow someone as long as you recognise that the person is capable of giving you a great, aspirational example. This is where the trust kicks in and this is where “being in a good shape (physically)” isn’t enough for people to trust you in the long run. They need to feel that you know what you are talking about. It is primordial as well to receive the respect when standing in front of a group. They need to respect you as who you are and what you are doing.
Seeing parallels to the leadership/management position yet? – no, no, no wait, don’t answer 🙂
Now the aspects of correcting, listening and observing are basically all coming together and in a specific order. As group fitness instructor, you need to listen (active listening, empathic listening) and observe before you can correct or support the participants. What is the participant telling you about how he/she is feeling, what questions do they have and are these questions maybe interesting for the entire group? But also, what is the group telling you in a non-verbal way? Are they still focused? Are there still with you or already back at work? At home? Doing their shopping? By the way each group and fitness class has a different clientele so the group fitness instructor needs to get to know their people and adapt the communication to the group dynamic and the individuals in the relevant group.
Empower and encourage
And the last point, yes group fitness instructors need to encourage and empower their participants as, yes it might be that people come in their free time but they all have their lives to carry and their role to play outside this moment, this hour and this is where you as an instructor can make a remarkable difference to their lives.
Now what do you think a great leader/manager should be capable of doing? I don’t know about you but I definitely think that leaders/managers and group fitness instructors need the same above-mentioned set of competencies. And do you know why? Because management/leadership is not about perfection, or being the specialist; it is solely being capable of inspiring human beings and bringing the best version out of them.
This is what we (group fitness instructors) and we (leaders/managers) should aim for each day. At least this is what I’m trying to do and it does not matter if I’m in my training gear or in my business dress!