Episode 317

Are Your Trainers Underperforming? with Pete Dupuis

In this episode, Pete Dupuis joins me to talk about the question – are your trainers underperforming?

[00:00:00] Hello, my friend on today’s episode, I’m speaking with Pete and we are chatting about the importance of managing your trainers performance, but how important is to make sure that your trainers are not just performing to a specific standard, but they’re consistently delivering an excellent experience to your clients.

And what happens when you don’t do that is you, your team suffers. The team gets pissed that someone on the team is not pulling their weight. Your clients notice you start to lose clients, your reputation dips. And so it’s really, really important to have systems in place to manage your trainer performance.

If you stick around until the end of the episode, I also give you a chance to get our free download of our trainer audit template, which is a done for you system for actually auditing your trainer’s performance. So if this sounds valuable to you and you want to raise the bar for your trainer’s performance at your gym, keep on listening, this is a great episode for you.

Welcome to the business for unicorns [00:01:00] podcast, where we help gym owners unleash the full potential of their business. I’m your host, Michael Keeler. Join me each week for actionable advice, expert insights, and the inside scoop on what it really takes to level up your gym, get ready to unlock your potential.

And become a real unicorn in the fitness industry. Let’s begin.

Hello, fitness business nerds. What’s up? Welcome to another episode of the business unicorns podcast. I’m back again with Pete. How are you, my friend? I’m good. Good to be back. I think it’s the first time I’ve recorded from my actual, uh, gym office and literally months. So nice change of scenery. I love it.

Yeah. For those of you watching on video, he’s got some great jerseys in the background looking very Oh yeah. Um, before we dive into for you. Yeah. Before we dive into today’s topic, I just want to give a quick shout out. I haven’t talked about it in a while, but Mark Fisher put out a book about a year ago about all of his secrets from running Mark Fisher Fitness, all [00:02:00] of his lessons learned over the years, great examples of content he’s put out that I think is both full of great stories and really tactical business advice.

So you haven’t gotten that book yet. Get one for you, get one for everyone on your team. Click the link in the show notes down below, or go to businessvetacorns. com slash book and get one for everyone. Everyone that I’ve known that’s read it has walked away with lots of really actionable tips and advice for growing their gym.

And I think you will too. So go get the book, which brings us to today’s conversation. Today, what we’re talking about is how to maintain. Quality control in trainer performance, meaning how do we make sure that all the trainers on the floor are consistently over time, delivering a high quality experience to our clients.

And I think in this conversation, Pete, you and I are going to share like a lot of different ways you can do this, but at the end of the day, we’re both really. Really focused in both of our businesses on making sure that all of those things are true, that is a consistent experience that over time, the quality of the [00:03:00] experience stays the same, that our coaches are constantly getting feedback for how to improve their performance.

So the standard, that bar that we said stays high over time. Pete, maybe just riff a little bit first for us. Like what makes this so important? Why would we, why do we spend so much time and energy making sure that all of that is true in our gyms? I’ve made the mistake of not. Managing everyone the same way over the years and inevitably when you’ve got somebody who goes down the wrong path Let’s say their attitude toward work shifts a little bit.

They’re mentally one foot out the door. Yeah instead of Course correcting and leaning back into it. I have mistakenly taken the, this’ll run its course mentality. And what I did was I didn’t manage, there was no quality control there. And then the rest of my staff resented the hell out of that person. And they were pretty down on my leadership style or just lack thereof.

And so when I have had the [00:04:00] opportunity to take inventory of what went wrong, what went right when employees have moved on, I’ve come to the conclusion When things went wrong, it’s cause I wasn’t doing this. It’s cause I wasn’t keeping my thumb on the performance kind of measurement. And it had consequences that were not immediate, but they were like lagging indicators of my bad habits as a leader.

Yeah, I think that’s such a, I’m so glad you started with that point, Pete, because it’s one of those things I think is underappreciated about managing performance is that when you have what I’ll call a players on the team, people are there to do great work, they care about doing great work, they want to grow, they want to learn, and you force them to work with people Who are not a players, there is nothing that will piss them off and build resentment faster.

When you force a players to work with C, D, E, F players on the same team, and they don’t see you responding differently to them. They see you treating them the same. In fact, [00:05:00] they’re going above and beyond performing at your standard or higher. And they see you being cool with people who are nowhere close to that standard that you’ve set.

They’re going to be pissed every day at work and they probably won’t stay long. So I think a big part of why we manage this performance is to keep some of our best players and to make sure that they know that working above our standard is required for everyone, not just a nice to have, I’ll add to this by saying the same thing is true for our clients, right?

The fastest way to piss off client is get them used to a certain standard of experience. Someone who’s very present with them, really great coaching cues, maybe fun to be around and then put them with someone who’s none of those things or only sporadically those things. Fastest way ever to lose clients, piss clients off, start a rebellion amongst your clients is they don’t go to that 12 noon session anymore because it’s got X, Y, Z trainers who just don’t live up to the CSP standard.

And so I think it goes both ways. This is like the fastest way to piss off other team members [00:06:00] and your clients when you’re not managing the kind of performance that we all want. Yeah, and it’s not always the thing that they speak up about and so they just they let it bubble and a great real time example I had a coaching call today with a member of our community Who said that he had done this, had failed to address some underperformance and he didn’t realize it was rubbing his colleagues the wrong way until they collectively suggested that the underwhelming employee in question move on and so he said, all right, I’m going to do it.

And he moved to that person out of the operation and he came back to work on Monday. And there was this unbelievable volume of output from his colleagues. And he looked at them and he was like, guys, when did you find the time to do this and how? And they said, Oh, we were here till past one in the morning on Saturday into Sunday.

We just got some momentum and we were psyched. And he realized he’s, this is definitely on me. This, like this new infusion of [00:07:00] energy that they’re given is great, but it’s a reflection of something I should have fixed a long time ago. And so they’re not always going to say something, but it doesn’t mean it’s too late to address.

Some bad situations and get wheels in motion toward fixing them. Because for him, it was a huge addition by subtraction scenario that he didn’t even know was coming. 100%. And frankly, we have a kind of a new kind of word in our culture these days for this phenomenon. We call it now quiet quitting.

Everyone’s seen on the news and all the business magazines, this idea that as part of the kind of great resignation during COVID that people in this post COVID world are still unhappy with some of the reasons, some of the things they issues they had before and during COVID. And what they do is they don’t raise the red flag.

Sometimes they just quietly stop performing. They just don’t always, they just stop doing a good job. They stop being collaborative. They start going in and stop going extra mile. They just do the bare minimum to hang on. And they’re [00:08:00] quietly. protesting. And you won’t realize what they’re really capable of until you fix the thing that’s broken.

And often that, in the research, it’s like a toxic person or toxic manager or unclear, unfair working conditions. But as soon as you fix it, you realize all those people who you thought were just mediocre performers are actually capable of being A players. There was just something getting in their way. So clearly there’s a lot at stake here and none of us want a team full of people who are quietly quitting in protest.

And so let’s talk about some solutions. So what are some of the ways Pete, over the years, you all have managed trainer performance in a way that has worked for you? We don’t have anything that I would call a formal trainer audit. I think that managing team performance comes down to good. Cadence of weekly or bi weekly one on ones and an honest assessment of performance in real time.

Not one where you say, it’s really frustrating me how Michael’s been doing this on the training floor, but we have a [00:09:00] six month one on one. Coming up in 90 days. So I’ll just hit it then. And it’s just so easy to wait three months to give this feedback. Exactly. Because we have something already on the books.

And so the best piece of advice I can give is not to address any of these things in front of clients or colleagues. As I said, I think I said to you on a recent podcast, I love the quote, we praise in public gives you leverage behind closed doors. So I will never coach a team member in front of a paying client, but that doesn’t mean we can absolve ourselves of the responsibility of addressing it same day.

And so if it’s top of mind, it should be addressed same day as far as I’m concerned. And it does not mean reprimanding colleagues. It means, Hey, I’m noticing this habit. Can we talk about how we might be able to course correct? And there are a lot of opportunities. In my operation to have conversations outside of the line of [00:10:00] sight of clients or colleagues, we do have enough space here where we can pull someone into an office and have a reasonable conversation and say, before this becomes a pattern, I just want to talk about it.

Let’s put this on the radar right now. It doesn’t require Scheduled meeting to address it. And I find myself giving the advice that I’m not always following. So, so I’ll say this to John frequently, if we’re talking about a team member or an intern, I’ll say, all right, you and I have now talked about this two, three, four times in the last week, yet neither of us have talked to the colleague about it, it’s finally time and we both realize like, Oh, all right, let’s just do this, let’s get this done.

So it never goes more than a week if we’re on top of it. But listen, I think Pete, that’s such a great. trigger to look for. If we’re talking with a person and we’re not talking to the person, something’s fishy. Time to change up our game because all of us talking about it a million times is not going to change their behavior.

They got to be looped into this. And I love that you separated these kind of like [00:11:00] spontaneous, in the moment, same day pieces of feedback, which are necessary. And all of us have to probably do more of it, including more praise. Ideally, lots and lots of praise, so that spontaneous critical feedback is easier to take.

But then also, separately, these structured sit down meetings that happen weekly, bi weekly, monthly, whatever the pulse is. So, can we just talk a little bit more about what do you do in those meetings? Like, how do you structure those sit downs in a way, or what do you say in those meetings that addresses performance?

I don’t know if you appreciate it, but I just stole the coaching playbook that you onboarded me to when I joined Unicorn Society to be an accountability coach. And so I literally stole our coaching notes and I made one for each colleague and I made an all hands one for our weekly all hands meeting.

And I just, I honestly front of playbook that is the opening third of a conversation is a quick check at accountability. Did we do what we said we were going to do? If [00:12:00] not, do we want to carry it forward or do we want to kill it? If so, what did you learn? How can I help? And then I get into a middle third where I say, is there anything in particular you want to address today?

If so, I make note of it, we hit it. And if not, I say, all right, cool. I got a couple of notes. One of the things I’ve been meaning to touch on is this and that’s where I’d hit it. And it might be, I actually really like how we’ve recently been asking clients if they had any wins that they want to put on our radar before we talk about accountability and I’m sad that I never thought to just mix that in on my own.

And I’m going to start doing that in our one on ones because it’s going to earn me the right. To get right into the difficult feedback following our accountability section, because I already opened with a win, like, Oh, anything that you feel like went particularly well this week, the last couple of days.

And they told me, and I say, I wanted to tell you the same thing. I noticed that you killed that. That was a great assessment, or I thought you handled that parent interaction really well, and it was on my list to put that on your radar that I see you and I was great. And [00:13:00] so when we do get to that part later where I’m talking about something, I’d like to see shift.

It’s already that meaty part of the shit sandwich and on the back end, I wrap every one on one the same way I wrap my coaching calls. What do you want to be held accountable to between now and our next conversation? And how can I be a resource for you? And it’s, I don’t want to reinvent something that’s already working for me and other facets of my career.

So. Totally short answer, Michael. I just stole your shit. That’s exactly what it’s for. Right? Listen, I didn’t make up a format like that. That’s like what all coaching conversations sound like. But I think for you, dear listeners who don’t have any structure to your one on one meetings, just go do exactly what Pete said, right?

Which is one have a document where you’re taking notes about what happens in a meeting, have the same agenda each time, which for him slash. Us is what are some wins that are going, what are you accountable for the things you’ve said you would do in our last call? Did you do it or not? We have a discussion about what do you want to talk about?

What do I want to talk about? Anything that’s on our mind, including critical [00:14:00] feedback. And then we end with some accountability. What are your next steps and how can we hold you accountable and be a resource for you? And in four bullet points, it’s a fantastic outline. It’s a fantastic outline for a really great performance management conversation.

And for many of you listening, that will cover a 80 percent of your performance issues is those two things that Pete said, which is regular sit down meetings and spontaneous of the moment, praising critical feedback every day as needed. Those are really like the two biggest tools you need in your performance management toolbox.

I’ll add on two more that I think are nice to have, but I would start with exactly what you said, Pete, with. Getting good at giving regular feedback and getting good at having one on one meetings with that structured agenda. The things I would say that are nice to have if your team is getting a little bit bigger, you’ve been around for a little while, I think the two things I would add on that are maybe like 2.

0 strategies are having a formal audit process. What I mean by that is that there is a document, a one or two page document, that serves like a [00:15:00] checklist for all the things you want to see in someone’s performance on the floor. So at Mark Fisher Fitness, we have one audit that’s for the group class experience, and we have one audit form that’s for small group personal training.

And it’s a one or two page checklist, and the way it works for us is that each trainer historically has needed to do an audit of one other trainer once a month. So once a month, I have to go take someone’s class or watch their small group personal training. They know I’m going to, I’m going to be there.

I tell them in advance, Hey, Pete, I’m going to watch your class today. And afterwards we’ll meet for five minutes and I’ll share my audit with you. And I sit down and I watch and I check off this list at the session. Start on time to Pete, use everyone’s names. And I’m just going through this checklist on this audit and then afterwards I sit down with Pete and hey, here’s a copy of what I saw, I’m gonna, and you get a copy, I’m gonna share it with you and our manager, and it gets recorded as like an official record of how you performed that day.

And what I like about this model is that it encourages other people to learn from each other, right? So it’s like peer to peer feedback, which is so valuable, [00:16:00] so it’s not always your manager. Giving you this message from on high. I love that. I love that it gets them good at giving receiving feedback to each other.

And I love that it’s reminding people what the standards are. It’s a simple one or two page checklist of the most important things we want to see from a trainer in a certain hour, and then it gets recorded. So we have this record of once a month. An audit from every trainer to see how their performance kind of ebbs and flows over time.

And then because the manager is getting it, they can continue the conversation in those one on ones that you just talked about, Pete. So I think that having an audit like that is probably not right for every gym. You probably don’t need one if you’re just in your first year or two and you have one or two employees, but as you grow, I think it becomes a really good system for all the things I just mentioned.

Anything you would add to that idea? I’d add that I’d suggest once or twice annually collecting client feedback on the coaches as well. Yeah, exactly. That stuff is the, to me, no matter how difficult the feedback is to receive, I find it very easy to deliver when it’s [00:17:00] straight from the mallets of our community.

And it is, it’s personal, but in a different way, because I’m not the one who crafted the narrative, but I am the messenger and I find it very easy to discuss that feedback in real time, just because I don’t have any emotional attachment to it. Yeah, 100%. 100%. And listen, maybe I’ll even give out, I’ll even give out this template.

We have a trainer audit template that has a list of, I think, really great questions for what should be in a template. So if you, if you go over to our Instagram and you DM us the word audit, we’ll send you a link to the PDF if y’all want. So y’all go over to our Instagram, DM us just the word audit and we will, we will send over this template.

Template to you. But the other idea I was going to share with you as an audit, the other thing that I think is important is to have more formal sit down check ins annually or biannually, I think once or twice a year, it’s really good to sit down with each employee and kind of zoom out to the big picture of their performance.

So like on a daily or weekly or [00:18:00] biweekly pulse, you’re really talking about stuff they just did. In the last week, but when you zoom out once or twice a year and talk about, let’s talk about your trajectory as a trainer, what are the big picture things? Are you trying to get the next level job at this gym?

Are you hoping to move on in a few years? Are you really hoping to extend your, your knowledge base by getting some new certifications, et cetera, et cetera. But I think that zoom out that larger performance audit can look like a lot of things. It’s maybe a topic for a whole nother podcast episode, but generally speaking, it’s a conversation happens once or twice a year.

Yeah. Often it’s paired with a conversation about performance and pay are both in this conversation and, and it’s scheduled in advance. It’s fully sit down. I like that if there’s more than one or two managers that both managers are there. So it’s a whole kind of team conversation about this person’s growth and performance.

I’ll pull up there cause I have a lot to say about those meetings, but I think that’s another nice to have. I don’t know that if you have one or two employees, you need to really pay attention. Prioritize these formal annual or biannual check ins, but once you’ve [00:19:00] been around for a little while and your team grows, they’re really essential to making sure that you’re shepherding people through a career and not just a job for a year or two.

Yeah. And I think we lean on the term one on one a little bit too consistently without realizing the fact that a lot of these operations, I’d say more often than not, there’s more than one There’s more than one manager, leader, owner. It might’ve been you and Fisher running some of these meetings, but when I use the term one on one, I’ve, for example, I have three of them tomorrow.

I’ve got two of them next Wednesday, which every Wednesday, it’s certain staff members, John and I do them together. So they real, like literally they are two on ones. And so one of the pieces of advice I was going to share is that if you find yourself in that circumstance, which I think is fairly common, what we do is we always meet for five to 15 minutes before and just sit down and say, Hey, is there anything that you plan on hitting them with today?

I don’t want to get blindsided with it at the same time. So if we [00:20:00] know that it’s going to be a beefy, all hands meeting, we might be doing it via telephone call or sending text messages back and forth the night before. But usually it’s 5 to 15 minutes of just getting on the same page before we sit down to be a unified front in delivering this feedback.

I think that’s a great strategy. That’s a great strategy. All right, let’s pull up there. I think we can keep going on this topic, but I think the most important things we covered here are how important it is to make sure that you are actively proactively managing trainer performance on the floor. So you’re not pissing off the rest of the team with under performers or losing clients because of inconsistent service experience.

And we also talked about like the, some basic start with having some, having the ability to give regular praise and spontaneous feedback every day as needed. Having regular meetings, the nice to haves or maybe a formal audit process and maybe a annual or biannual. Big picture performance review. Those are the kind of the toolbox, the four things I think go in your toolbox.

Anything you would say in closing here, Pete? No, it just seems that everything we [00:21:00] talk about always comes back to you need systems, just that’s it doc document your habits. Recreate them, replicate them and just do that in perpetuity and things are going to go smoother. That’s it. Good summary. Awesome. My friends, if you enjoyed this episode, please leave us a five star review everywhere you listen.

And if you want to grab Mark’s book, click the link down the show notes, buy one for all your friends or go to businessunicorns. com slash book to get one, uh, thanks for a great conversation, Pete, see you on the next one. See you soon.