What Every Group X Manager Needs to Know

Group X Managers: What Your Instructors Are Thinking But Won’t Tell You

By Amanda Vogel, MA Human Kinetics 

Being a group exercise manager isn’t easy. You’re charged with the difficult task of managing and motivating instructors with a potentially wide range of ages, skills, personalities and interests.

If you aren’t receiving direct feedback from your team, you might be missing key areas for improving your role as a leader and ultimately creating a stronger group exercise department. Here are six things that instructors on your team might wish you did more of, or less of, when leading them to greatness.

You’re Too In Their Face

Staying connected is vital to building a strong team, but too much back and forth messaging can actually cause instructors to begin ignoring your memos. These days, people are bombarded with content everywhere: on social media, in their email inboxes and on mobile. Consider the most important “take home” info for every communication you feel you must send. Streamline your message so it’s unmistakably on point.

There’s Too Much Radio Silence

Think of how an instructor might feel when he or she walks into the group exercise studio to teach an evening class only to discover the mic is broken, and has been all day. Most group X managers do a great job at quickly addressing frustrating tech issues like a broken mic, but they might not think to dispatch a heads up to instructors. This could be especially true for managers who don’t teach group exercise themselves.

Without being too “in your face” (see point #1), update your team asap about any significant changes to their teaching environment (e.g., stereo troubles, broken mic, the need to use a substitute mic, malfunctioning air conditioner or fans in the group exercise studio, broken or missing equipment, etc.).

They Want to Know You’ve Got Their Back

Members have strong opinions about what classes and instructors they like and don’t like. Part of your job is to make members happy. But you’re also there as a leader to, and advocate for, your instructor team.

One of the fastest ways to lose an instructor’s trust, loyalty and confidence in you is to immediately side with members when negative feedback rolls in. Get the facts. Read the situation. Then proceed. It’s smarter to let an instructor know you’ve got his or her back than to legitimize petty, catty comments.

Strong Leaders Appreciate Strong Leadership

As a group exercise manager, you’re the boss to your instructor team. However, “boss” is just a title. Many instructors seek out the influence of a leader and mentor.

The most demotivating thing you can do for your staff—who are strong leaders in their own right—is to demonstrate a “wishy-washy” management style where you make decisions based on the most popular viewpoint and not on what’s best for the department as a whole.

Inspire your instructors! Share your opinions, commit to a philosophy, and lead with a vision for the future of your team.

They Know When You’re Playing Favorites

It’s no secret that some instructors are more popular than others. While the popular ones pack classes and make your job easier (sometimes!), you want to avoid devaluing anyone.

Stress that everyone adds value to the schedule based on individual skill sets, personalities, experience, etc. Communicate how and why you hold performance expectations for each instructor beyond class numbers.

What Motivates Them Most Might Not Be What You Think

You might assume that raising instructors’ per-class wage by a dollar or two every year will be enough to keep motivation up. It’s a nice gesture, of course, and a fair wage is definitely important.

However, you might find that instructors feel most motivated when there are opportunities to grow and improve with teaching fitness. For example, bringing new equipment to the group exercise department—and holding educational events on how to use it—can help instructors feel that they are elevating their craft with something progressive and exciting.

Amanda Vogel, MA human kinetics, is a fitness instructor and former group exercise manager in Vancouver, B.C. In addition to being a blogger at FitnessTestDrive.com and writer for popular fitness magazines, she is a social media consultant for fitness brands and public figures. You can reach her at ActiveVoice.ca, @amandavogel (Twitter), @amandavogelfitness (Instagram) and Facebook.com/FitnessWriter