I currently work as the Head Coach and General Manager of a CrossFit gym. It is a great opportunity to lead a community, serve others, and practice one of my life’s passions. To be successful in the fitness industry, you must provide a competent technical service that gives people results. While many point to the gimmicks or fads as evidence to the contrary, such products and services simply don’t last. Results are king. The fitness industry is, however, most certainly a service industry. That means that a results oriented program is key, and it must be accompanied by customer service that makes people feel welcome and cared for. As someone said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
I have heard a number of top level strength and conditioning coaches, Eric Cressey and Mike Boyle to name a couple, who say that they would rather hire a coach who connected with people first, but lacked some technical knowledge; as opposed to exercise science wonk who is unable to connect personally with their clients. The thought being that you can teach up the technical knowledge, but engendering personal connection skills can be a more difficult task. I have even heard the recommendation for aspiring coaches and trainers to take an improv or stand up comedy class in order to learn how to lighten up the client’s moods in what is often an uncomfortable environment.
My gym has about one hundred fifty members. I know every member by name. I try to know what they do for work, a bit about their family life, where they grew up, and maybe some of their interests outside of the gym. Though the guidance of “Not everyone is going to like you” seems to be prudent life advice, I do make it my task to try and get every one of those members to like me. Not in a need for personal validation, but out of business necessity in a relationship driven service industry. If the members don’t like the head coach, it’s unlikely they’re going to like the gym enough to keep paying their monthly membership dues.
It is easy with people you like. No problem, these people are like your friends and the fact that you get paid to help them in the gym feels like scam. But then, of course, there are some people who you just don’t like from the jump. They rub you the wrong way for whatever reason a person can rub you the wrong way. I’m not even going to put it on them. If “not everyone you meet is going to like you,” is a statistical truth, so is “you’re not going to like everyone you meet.” What then do you do with the people you don’t like?
You love them.
“You don’t have to like someone to love them.” I’ve seen this sentiment put a few different ways and attributed to a few different sources, but I first heard it from a man speaking at the podium of an twelve step recovery meeting. Twelve step fellowships are an amalgam of disparate people who otherwise would not be associating with one another. It is only a life or death scenario that has brought them together to find some common ground. As you can imagine, some extreme personalities can inhabit those halls and clashes can ensue. Despite this fact, twelve step meetings and groups function fairly harmoniously. There is a common bond and a genuine love for anyone going through the same struggle that will generally override conflicts of personality or the fact that you just simply wouldn’t hang out with this person in any other circumstance. I think of it often like an ornery family member: you may have an uncle, aunt, grandparent, or sibling who really is kind of a jerk or lacks a sense of humor, but you want to have them around at holidays all the same because they’re family and you love them.
I may not like every member of my gym, but I certainly love them. I don’t like that some of them never listen to instruction, are always late, or act like they know it all already, but I love that they are showing up to better themselves, have decided to embark on a difficult undertaking, and have acknowledged, if only tacitly, that they can’t do it alone. Is it hard to love people based solely on abstract principles? At times, yes. However, I’ve also found that when you get to know someone’s family life, work struggles, and where they find joy outside of the daily scrum of life, you can’t help but appreciate them for being a person who is forging their own path as best they can in life. Maybe I don’t like the way they go about everything in life, but I can love that they are doing the best they can with the life they have to live.
Please note: everything in the last two sentences applies outside of the gym or any industry.