HOW TO BE THE INSTRUCTOR EVERY GFM WANTS ON THEIR TEAM
by Sarah Shortt
Group Fitness Managers (GFM) are our leaders in club. They’re the ones who make decisions around the group fitness timetable: which classes are on when, who gets to teach what timeslot, and which new Instructors are given opportunities.
As Instructors, of course we all want the “best” timeslots. Who doesn’t want the 6pm Monday night BODYPUMP® with the biggest attendance of the week? Let’s face it: not getting the classes or opportunities we feel we deserve can be a big dent to our egos. If you’ve ever found yourself thinking, “that’s not fair” when it comes to a decision made by your GFM, here are 12 insights that might help you improve your relationship with them in the future:
1. Get admin done on time
“Chances are your GFM has a lot to do and a lot of Instructors to manage,” says Les Mills Takapuna GFM, Sophia Collins. “One of the best ways to help them is to get your admin done on time so they don't have to keep chasing you up. Trust me, they hate chasing you up just as much as you hate doing admin, so get it done and everyone is a winner!”
2. Think about how you’re showing up in club (i.e., leave your baggage at the door)
Chris Richardson, former GFM for Les Mills Auckland City, advises: “Be consistent and current – turn up every week, do it for your members and the benefit is that your GFM will love you for it. Why? Because it’s one of the best ways to build community. In addition, bring the best of the best: lead with current material and an occasional throw back as a nod to where you’ve come from.”
“Of course, it’s OK to have a bad day (or a bad month),” says Collins. “However, GFMs are relying on you to create an amazing group fitness experience in every class. If you’re having trouble leaving things at the door, speak with your GFM or delve into some exercises that can help you decompress before each class.”
3. Don't take it personally
Not getting the class you wanted OR being removed from a timeslot can be upsetting. If you can look at the situation dispassionately, you might find solace in understanding the reasoning.
“A GFM’s prime concern is both the wellbeing of their group fitness team, and the member experience,” says Collins. “This can be a little tricky to manage when it comes to timetable changes. More often than not, changes are instigated by member feedback and observation of class performance by the GFM. It's their job to get the very best out of the timetable and this sometimes means taking Instructors off classes or swapping things around. Very rarely is this a reflection of the Instructor's ability, so do your best not to take it personally!”
“The worst part of my job is when I get reminded that the club is a business, and that means there are a lot of eyes on the class numbers and the timetable,” adds Tash Vincent, GFM for Les Mills Auckland City (LES MILLS GRIT®, CEREMONY and CONQUER). “Sometimes I have to make tough calls to take people off classes because that timeslot is underperforming. There’s a lot of pressure because Les Mills Auckland City is our flagship club and there are high expectations as a result.”
4. Be a team player
How often do you evaluate not just how you’re performing in class, but how you’re contributing to the wider Instructor team?
When it comes to covering classes, Collins says: “What you give is what you get, so if you're asking for covers every month but never covering in return this is going to become frustrating for your peers and your GFM.”
"Sub if you’re able, and don’t be that guy who calls off with super short notice," says US GFM Krynn Paluga. "I end up having to cover things myself or worse, cancel the time slot if I can’t find anyone to cover."
“As I tell my guys, ‘Don't be an egg,’” adds Les Mills Newmarket GFM Sarah Robinson. “Don't gossip, bad mouth or trash your team-mates. Be part of a team who supports, celebrates successes and opportunities of others, especially if those opportunities are something you're working towards yourself.”
5. Own your goals
Do you have ambitions to progress to a peak slot, teach a different class or apply for the Trainer and Presenter (TAP) team? Talk to your GFM about your goals.
“Don’t assume your GFM knows what you want,” says Richardson. “If you have a desire to teach a new program, change time slots, get feedback, or just chat about where you’re at – take the initiative and reach out.”
Robinson agrees: “Be proactive! I hear ‘I never get feedback...’ too many times. Get off your butt, video your class, self-assess and say to your GFM ‘Can you have a look at this. This is where I think I'm at, what do you think?’"
6. Have honest conversations with your GFM
“Have truthful and open conversations with your GFM,” says Kristian Turner, GFM for Nuffield Health Cambridge. “How are things going? How do you feel today? What’s going well? What could be improved? Be as proactive as possible in starting discussions and bring your own thoughts, ideas and experiences with you to the club.”
Richardson adds: “If you don’t agree with a choice or decision, ensure you have developed a relationship where you can express your thoughts or ideas even if they conflict with your GFM. It may not always go your way, but often it will open up discussion where everyone understands why a decision has been made.”
7. Be organised
Without exception, all GFMs want you to be on time and know your choreography!
"Be ready by the time you hit the floor," says Paluga. "Have your choreography memorised, know the moves and modifications, and have your music ready. I hate when Instructors use their phones for class or tell the members that they don’t know the choreography."
"Start and end class on time, being courteous to the schedule, especially with tight transitions," adds US GFM Melissa Miles. "And yes, that might mean skipping a track to make it happen!"
"I want my instructors to arrive early enough to chat with members," says US GFM Angie Austin. "We are community builders. Many members love sharing stories and sometimes need a hug or a pat on the back. My biggest pet peeve is when Instructors consistently show up late."
Luana Felix, country GFM of California Fitness & Yoga in Viet Nam adds, “Your commitment starts before the class and preparation is the key to your success. Being well prepared for your classes goes beyond learning the sound tracks well. This will give you an advantage, but being at the club ahead of the time and interacting with members before class, not only creates excitement but also gives newcomers the opportunity to get to know you. This can enhance your popularity and help you set a high standard of commitment before, during and after the classes.”
8. You don’t always have to say “yes”
Ever agreed to cover a whole load of classes and then felt like crying when you saw your teaching schedule for the week?!
There can be a temptation to agree to say “yes” to every class you’re offered, but this can lead to burnout, increasing your risk of injury. Try to do your fair share of covers, but if you know you’re running on empty, it’s okay to turn them down.
“You don’t always have to say ‘yes’,” says Richardson. “If you’re smashed and you know the cover you’re being asked to do will tip you over the edge, say 'no' and explain why.”
9. Handle equipment with care
Ever received an exasperated message from a GFM concerning the microphone missing, wires tangled or headset breaking? Yeah, that stuff is pricey…
“Imagine everything you use is yours,” says Richardson. “Stereo, microphones, equipment, etc is precious and expensive and you don’t want to be shelling out your hard-earned cash to purchase a replacement!”
"If there is a problem with the mic, air con, equipment, etc then let the GFM know so that it can be sorted quickly," says US GFM Mikey Stevens. "I think sometimes Instructors worry that GFMs get annoyed by having faults/problems reported to them, but we really don’t."
10. Be a club promoter, not a self-promoter
While the rise of the selfie and "me" culture may have promoted the focus on the individual, it's important to remember that you are a representative of the facility you teach at.
"We’re a team, not in competition with one another," says Paluga. "Don’t promote yourself as better than the club/rest of staff. At my previous club, I found out that a trainer was telling his clients that instead of our programs, they should cancel here and sign up for his online training program. We let him go as soon as we found a new Instructor."
"Promote other classes/formats and show support," adds US GFM Crystal Lynn. "Sub if you’re able, and lastly: acknowledge and communicate to our members updates and announcements versus living in a vacuum."
"Speak only kindly of your fitness centre, its employees and its members," says US GFM Amy Sutherlin. "Members are always listening and paying attention to your actions."
11. Align yourself with the club’s mission and values
Do you know the mission statement and values of your club? Are you actively contributing to that purpose?
For Les Mills New Zealand, the mission is to “make humans fit for life”, and Instructors in those clubs are encouraged to consider how they are realising that mission through their classes.
“Make sure your values are aligned with the values of your club/facility/team and understand the purpose of what you and your team are collectively trying to achieve,” says Les Mills Britomart GFM Dave Kyle. “This will allow you to add value, feel valued and be invaluable.”
12. Imagine the club as YOUR business
How often do you imagine yourself as the owner of the club? If you had “skin in the game” so to speak, and the club was your investment, would you behave any differently?
“For the duration of class, YOU are the owner of the business,” says Austin. “Treat it as such. How do you expect to be treated when you step into a shop? Attentive sales person? Are you engaged with my needs? Is the space clean and organised?
“If the studio is out of order – let me know. If something is broken – let me know. Complaints of any kind from your participants... let me know! We must work together as a team to make this the BEST experience for every member.”
Thanks to Dave Kyle, Sophia Collins, Sarah Robinson, Tash Vincent, Chris Richardson, Kristian Turner, Angie Austin, Krynn Paluga, Mikey Stevens, Crystal Lynn, Amy Sutherlin and all of the Instructors who contributed their thoughts to this article.