There are so many things that go into running a successful fitness studio but among the most important is having an ace management team. As a business owner, you need to be able to delegate the day-to-day so you can focus on big picture growth. But finding managers you can trust who are great at what they do and have a passion for their work is hard. Really hard.

For starters, you need to know where and how to find primo management material. If you’re lucky, you won’t need to search far and wide since one of the best places to discover your next manager is from within—as in right in your studio. After all, is there a better way to test-drive an employee’s management potential than by looking at how he or she handles challenges and conflict?

We asked fitness studio owners to share how they unearth employees with management potential and what they look for. Here’s what they had to say:

Seek out problem solvers who show initiative.

Problem solving is an essential skill for employees of any successful business but it’s especially important for managers. As leaders of a business, managers need to be able to spot problems quickly. They also need to be able to make educated decisions about how to solve those problems in a way that preserves business and keeps clients and employees happy.

As a studio owner, what’s the best way to seek out the problem solvers among your employees? Nadia Walker Arnold, co-owner of Barre Forte in Denver, CO, suggests asking employees to tell you about an unexpected problem they recently encountered at the studio, how they handled it and what the outcome was.

“You can learn about their problem solving philosophy and ability to generate results in line with your own values,” Walker says. “Or, watch how current staff solves problems when you’re unavailable. This is important because a studio’s success is based on the customer’s experience. You have to be responsive to people to keep them happy and coming back.”

Look for someone with a can-do attitude.

Sarah Lux, co-founder and CEO of Uforia Studios with locations in Palo Alto and Nob Hill, CA, suggests looking for someone who is willing to go the extra mile. She shared an anecdote that’s a quick and easy way to tell whether a prospect would do just that on the job.

“I read a long time ago about an interview strategy that the interviewer would set the room up so when the candidate came in they had to move some chairs around,” Lux says. “If the candidate doesn’t jump up to help, then they aren’t considered for the position.”

An employee who goes above and beyond usually has a passion for fitness. And passion usually equates to developing strong bonds with clients. One of the best ways to determine whether an employee is connecting with clients is to see if he or she is aware of the progress they’re making on their fitness journey.

The more committed employees are to your studio members and you, the more likely they are to stick around and view their role as a long-term opportunity with management growth potential and not just a temporary job.

It’s those personal relationships that will also help you determine if your employees are invested in your studio and its members. The more committed employees are to your studio members and you, the more likely they are to stick around and view their role as a long-term opportunity with management growth potential and not just a temporary job.

Consider employees who really care.

Todd Vogt, co-owner of Yoga Union Community Wellness Center in Portland, OR., prides himself on the capable and compassionate management team that runs the center. “They are genuine, kind, caring, swift on their feet, and they always leave people feeling better than how they found them,” he says.

How do you figure out if someone has what it takes to be a compassionate manager that employees will love? Open, honest communication along with respect for how others feel and what they bring to the table are all key attributes to look for. Strong interpersonal skills are also a must. Does the employee get along well with clients, both newbies and long-time regulars? “Can they connect with people and be interested in them and creating meaningful connection?” asks Walker. “If someone comes across like you are burdening them with questions or conversation, that won’t work in a service industry type position.”

Vogt says the ability to connect with people on a personal level can’t be faked. “From a business perspective, nowhere is this primordial currency exchange (of nurturing relationships) more important than with our managers because managers don’t just manage tasks, they manage people. You’ve got to have managers who can open doors and keep the air clear.” 

Identify employees who know how to nurture relationships.

As a business owner, you expect your managers to excel in relationship building. You hope they can maintain healthy, harmonious connections. How can you tell they have the emotional intelligence it takes to foster strong relationships? The answer is to watch how they relate to others in every aspect of their work.

“These relationships become the web that holds the whole operation together,” says Vogt. “An inability to cultivate a relationship is the loss of a potential customer. Our management staff displays the greatest capacity to honor, support, and connect with others in real, authentic ways.”

Find someone who is a great communicator.

Another critical skill a future manager should have is the ability to communicate clearly and convincingly. Communication is at the heart of every manager’s job. In fact, many management experts believe good communication holds the key to leadership success.

Good communication is so much more than keeping colleagues and members in the loop on what’s happening. A two way street, it’s half communication and half actively listening so you understand member needs. A good communicator doesn’t talk over others, listens with an open mind and takes the time to share clear feedback with management, co-workers and studio members. 

Make sure the person you’re thinking of promoting actually wants to be a manager.

Not everyone is qualified or even interested in management so look for employees who show initiative outside of their typical duties, advises Debbie Wolff, owner and director of Fusion Fitness and O2 Yoga in Coral Springs, FL.

Employees who have proven to be responsible, honest and hard working are usually the best candidates for management positions, she adds. They also should be willing and able to delegate when necessary. How can you figure this out? Ask an employee to take on a new responsibility. Someone who is prepared to lead will be able to delegate. Someone who isn’t ready may tell you they’re too busy to delegate or that it would be easier to just do the task themselves.

Don’t confuse leadership potential with someone who works hard and does a good job.

Going the extra mile to do a great job doesn’t always equate to being management material. When it comes to your employees, you need to ask yourself: “Once the responsibility falls on their heads can they handle the heat,” asks Wolff.  “Can they rise to any occasion and step into their role seamlessly?”

 

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