Episode 262

A Surprising Tip for Being a Better Leader with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about a surprising tip for being a better leader.

[00:00:00] Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of The Business of Unicorns podcast. I’m back with Mr. Depu. What’s up, Pete? Hello there, Mr. Keeler. Good to have you as always my friend. Before we jump into today’s topic, I wanted to do a quick little shout out for all of our listeners that we open enrollment for our Unicorn Society Business Mentorship Group only twice a year.

But if you’re interested during those in-between times, we keep a wait list on our website. That you can go put your name on and if we have openings between those enrollments, we will let you in. We just a one person in, one person out model at this point. So I just wanted to say that if you wanna work more with me and Pete and Mark and Ben and the rest of our business Unicorns team, and you think Unicorn Society could be a great fit.

Go put your name on that wait list. It’s not a commitment to do anything, it’s just letting us know you’re interested. So if a space opens up, we’ll let you know. And then when enrollment does come around twice a year, you’re first in line to [00:01:00] know whether or not we have any spots for you. And so I would say, click the link down below in the show notes or go to business unicorns.com and click on the business on the Unicorn Society button.

And we’ll you can put your name on that wait list and it doesn’t obligate you to anything at all. Anything you would add to that tip, Pete? Oh we just hit a kind of a big target number for unicorn society enrollment. Yeah. So this isn’t false scarcity. This really is a one in one out deal because we chased a goal, we hit the number, and now it’s we designed capacity for this number.

Yeah. And so this is a real wait list. Doesn’t mean you’ll wait forever. Totally. But it’s not, I don’t know, you, I, one of my biggest pet peeves in this industry is the, I just opened up a spot in my coaching program move, and I can’t emphasize this enough. This is not that. If you’ve go on the wait list, you gotta wait a little.

100%. Yeah. We’re not calling you tomorrow and opening, offering you a spot almost ever. But it might mean, you get in much faster than you would’ve otherwise. Yeah. Great addition there, Pete. Awesome. Let’s dive into today’s topic and you wanna tee up [00:02:00] today’s topic, Pete? Yeah, let me run it for our dear listeners.

Michael is fresh off Covid and he is not a hundred percent yet. Yes, and he got the tough version of it, so I did. I’m gonna run this one a little bit for us and I will tell you that this one was driven by conversation familiar today. I say this often, coaching calls tend to spawn ideas and I had the benefit of talking to a gym owner who’s been in the game longer than me, and I don’t run into a lot of gym owners who have been doing this since before 2007.

And this one is a killer. And she’s been, she’s now pushing 20 years of doing this. And she told me that her objective with working with us is to tighten our up, our SOPs and make sure the systems are really clean. And I said to her, look, your team’s big, like twice as big as my team.

She’s approaching 18, 19 years of doing this. And the thing is running. What I wanted her to do is less. Yeah, I said, I want you to just get out of the way. I want [00:03:00] you to let the systems that exist run so you can actually evaluate how they perform as opposed to being in it, fingers in everything, micromanaging every meeting, doing all of it.

My action item for this coaching call was less, yeah, step away. See what you got. ’cause you don’t really know what you have until you give it a sink or swim type dynamic and you step away and just see where the problems are or see where the strengths are. And the other thing that I have found continuously in my time away from the operation is that my team’s better at a lot of things than I am, and they won’t step up and do those things if I’m here.

Unintentionally capturing those responsibilities. Yeah. Yeah. Said. I think you know, one, it’s just a great example of how valuable coaching can be, right? To have someone like you sit in front of this very seasoned gym owner and say, Hey, I see this a little differently. I see this an opportunity for you to do fucking less.

I see this an opportunity for you to leave your team alone, get out of their way, see what happens [00:04:00] when you’re not there, and what a valuable invitation. Like what a great suggestion for just helping this person just. React, interact with their business in a whole new way, whether they take you up on the offer or not.

I think the fact that just goes to show how valuable kind of a coaching conversation like that can be, or a mentoring conversation. And I think it’s so spot on. I think too often I see so much micromanaging in the gym space because people’s personalities and identities are so tied to their businesses that they own.

And it’s very true for all small business owners or most and I think it’s so hard to let go. So hard to step away. It’s so hard to let people make mistakes and be okay with that as part of the learning process. I think it’s really tough and it’s really essential. Analogy I’ll use here is I often say that, managing teams, running a business is like, it’s like managing a garden.

It’s like growing a garden, right? Your job is to create the conditions for all the plants and the vegetables and things to grow, but the garden doesn’t do better when you stand in your backyard and stare at it.[00:05:00] You’re not helping your peppers grow bigger or more tomatoes on the vine by you standing over, hovering over them and watching them every fucking day.

In fact, you need to step away and say, okay, what happens? Oh, actually, I got some bugs, or the deer fence is not high enough, or it doesn’t seem like they’re getting enough water, right? But you have to leave and come back and see what’s changed, but you need to give them a chance. To thrive on their own and then come back and learn lessons from that, hopefully.

And too often Jim OTs, including myself, and I’m sure you’ve been in that position to be, we just we’re so attached to our identity of being needed and being hours that we just never walk away long enough to learn those lessons. Totally true. When the best example of my learning this lesson was in the spring of 2020 when we shut our business down, but Eric and I decided not to stop the payroll faucet.

And we were gonna keep people going. We weren’t gonna furlough people. Obviously, in hindsight, who knows? We could make a [00:06:00] lot of different decisions, but in that moment, we said, we’ve got a rainy day fund that’ll allow us to do this. But, Neither of us are gonna take paychecks during that time.

Yeah. And so I said to the whole team, Hey, good news, your direct deposit’s gonna come in biweekly, indefinitely. The bad news, I’m not doing any work anymore. You’re gonna do all my job. And so some of you’re gonna manage the email account, some of you’re gonna return phone calls, some of you’re gonna do invoicing.

I am literally going to delegate 100% of my role with the exception of running payroll. Yep. And I abdicated a lot of responsibilities. And I found out two things. One, it’s not, none of the things on my to-do list were things that I was singularly capable of doing. Yeah. And two, they were dying to be given more meaningful responsibility.

So when we came out of our bubble a hundred days later and we reopened the space, I had multiple employee employees ask me if they could hold onto responsibilities they’d inherited during that [00:07:00] time. And so the ultimate takeaway was, Pete, you’re not that good at a lot of this stuff and we’re eager to do it.

Why don’t you do less? Yeah, totally. So it was a learning experience. Yeah, that’s a perfect example. And here’s the thing is I think so often as leaders, we, when we think about delegating, we think about handing over responsibilities that are on our plate to someone else. We think of, we only think about the possible downsides.

We only think about the possible negatives, about how much someone could screw it up, about how much they’re gonna wanna make more money for taking on those things. How much they, no one’s ever gonna do it as good as us, et cetera, et cetera. And as some of those things are gonna happen, some of those things might be true in some cases.

But we never, or almost never think as easily about the potential upside that I’m gonna find people who are way better at this than I will ever be. I’m gonna find people to take this task who are actually really interested in doing it, more interested than I’ll ever be. I’m gonna find people to do this task.

I can pay way less per hour or two than what I should [00:08:00] be paying myself. There’s so much potential upside that if we thought about that more, I think we delegate more. A hundred percent agree. Yeah. Yeah. And I think I, I feel like I’ve, I can I have a hard time going back and counting all the times I’ve had to learn this lesson.

I think the most, the biggest one I can remember at M F was for years and years, I was like the facilities person at M F person who just, made sure all the light bulbs were changed and the walls were painted, and the materials were purchased. And in part because I wanted to make sure I had my hand on the.

On the purse, on the big expenses that it took to run, and if for anyone who’s been to Mark Fisher Fitness in Hell’s Kitchen, it’s a weird combination of buildings. They’re all old and decaying and full of, old brick for that, literally hundreds of years old.

And I, and it took great pride in I’m the uniquely the person who can figure out how to corral and manage this just. Bizarre space. And there’s no possible way I could teach someone to do it and have them be responsible for spending that kind of money, making those choices.

And, and it took [00:09:00] me kicking and screaming, handing that off to people. And this was, many years ago at this point. And then once I did I really kicked myself in the ass for not doing it way sooner. Once, once I found someone who was like, yeah, I love writing this space. I love making sure the cleaners are doing their jobs.

I love making sure it looks good. I love the aesthetics. I love the order of it all, and I wanna do it on the cheap. In fact, the person I found got a thrill outta finding out how to take care of the space as cheaply as possible. Sometimes they even more frugal than I ever would’ve been. And I never would’ve taken that leap if I wasn’t nudged and pushed to do and it freed me up to do all kinds of, better, more high leverage tasks. So killer if I were the gym owner. Yeah. On the other end of this feedback. And you were advising that I take a step away from this metaphorical garden?

Yeah. Do you see there as being a sweet spot for duration on this hiatus from micromanagement? Is there a too little, not enough time to let it run its course? Yeah. Or too much where it’s irresponsible to step away? Yeah, I think it’s a great [00:10:00] question. And I think it depends on the task.

It depends on how important and how important the task is, how time sensitive the task is. But I’d say in general, if you’re really handing something off to someone, I would really give it at least a week or two before once they’re fully trained. Once they, they have the keys and they know how to, they know how to run the engine or they know how to take care of the tomatoes, whatever the analogy is, I would give it a week or two of them just really giving the best shot.

How, we run gyms, not emergency rooms. How bad can things go in a week or two? And I would check in, make myself available if they have questions, but I would give them a week or two to really try and run with it before I have my next official kind of check in to see how it’s going.

And I think that week or two is, a week or two longer than some managers tend to leave for people to try things on their own, but long term, You want someone to take on a task that you’re delegating to have it really be theirs and only really come to you when they need help. You shouldn’t need to be really managing them with any sort of regular consistency beyond their ability to meet with a manager on a regular basis, which may or may [00:11:00] not be you.

So I would say when you’re first starting, if you’re gonna delegate something, you’re nervous about, Make sure they have all the right instructions, they know how to do it, and then give it a week or two of them without your touching base. Without you reaching out. And if they reach out to you, that’s something else.

They might need your help. But give them that week or two space as a starting point and see how it feels. Yeah. Would you say anything different? I’d reiterate that, and I would say that the only thing that is more detrimental in my mind than micromanaging is declaring that you’re not going to do so anymore.

Telling someone you’re putting your trust in them and then pulling the plug on that initiative incredibly quickly. Yep. Before they’ve had an opportunity to course correct even if they struggle. Yeah. Diving back into micromanaging instantaneously hurts your reputation so badly. Yeah. As a leader and manager of people, don’t delegate if you’re not prepared for it to fail in the short term. Yes. And learn from it because it’s just, it’s [00:12:00] such a terrible blow to someone’s psyche to be given freedom and then have it taken away almost instantaneously. ’cause you second guessed your decision. Yeah. So don’t do this half way.

Yeah. Because delegating like that says I trust you. You’re the right person for this. I’m gonna give you the freedom, the autonomy to run with this. You’re gonna make great choices. You’re even better than this, than me. And then, a day later, a few days later be like, Oh, nope. You jumped back in because you got nervous.

It sends the opposite message. Oh no, I don’t actually trust you. I was just making you feel good. And I think that’s so smart. They’re gonna, they’re gonna make mistakes in many cases. They’re gonna maybe stink at it in many cases. They might stumble and get gold, cold feet in many cases. You need to give them space to learn, just like you had space to learn when you first took on this, these tasks.

When I first started at M F, I didn’t know anything about taking care of a gym. At all. I had to figure it out on my own. I made a ton of mistakes, expensive mistakes, and I need to give them room to at least make some of those. Hopefully not as bad as mine, but, I think that’s the space.

I think you’re describing Pete and [00:13:00] I’ll plus one that all day. I. Sure. Do we wanna make this a super tidy quick one? I think this is, I think we covered this topic. I think, listeners, the takeaway here is if you got a team and you want them to take on more ownership of the business, have more autonomy, leave them the fuck alone, get out of their way, hire great people, give them great instructions and guidance and support, and then get out of their way and maybe even disappear for a little while.

Come back and see what happens. But, what is it the analogy, like a watch. Pot never boils, right? People are never gonna perform the way you want them to with autonomy and purpose if you’re just constantly staring down their damn necks. Exactly. The point of the systems is so that you don’t have to micromanage.

Yeah. Step away. Yeah. Fantastic. Let’s leave it there my friend. I think this is a great little hopefully inspiring. Get the hell outta your People’s way short podcast. But listeners, if you found this kind of podcast valuable, please leave us a five star review. Anywhere you listen to podcasts, it really does help us spread the word and get this podcast to [00:14:00] other gym owners just like you, and share it with your peers and friends in the industry.

Let ’em know that this is the best fucking podcast out there for gym owners and your employee are gonna love this one. Yeah, totally. Employees are gonna love this. They’re gonna share with all other employees of gyms. And email us, pete@bigrams.com, michael bigrams.com. Know, let us know what you, what topic you want us to cover.

Ask us questions in those emails, we really do use them to decide what we’re gonna talk about next. So thanks for a great Pete. Great Pete. Thanks for your conversation, Pete. I’m gonna go take some more cold medicine and I’ll see y’all on the next one. Take care, Michael.