In business, certain decisions can interrupt the status quo. This can cause resistance and even rebellion within the community.
Here are a few examples of changes or policies that gym owners must navigate:
- COVID regulations
- Class hour changes
- Pre-reqs for movements like kipping pull-ups
- Firing a coach
- Implementing a new management technology
- Implementing a new system like Level Method
Below are 6 strategies to help avoid potentially painful or business threatening conflict.
Strategy 1 - Bring ‘Em In
Involve key people in the decision in the first place (where possible). Step one is to identify key members in your community that would influence the greater perception of a change or decision. Literally list them out on a piece of paper. They could be coaches or long time or “leader” members. If you integrate those people into the decision they will be more likely to understand it, take ownership of the decision, and defend or sell it to others around them. It may even lend you some valuable perspective to integrate into your decision-making process.
Strategy 2 - Be Open
Be open about the reasoning behind a decision. If you have successfully created a community and environment that people highly value, change could seem like a disruption to what people have grown to love. In addition, they could feel taken by surprise or shocked. The more they understand the need for the change or policy and what the intended outcome is, the more likely they are to get behind it and see it as a positive initiative. Explanation in the form of a newsletter, text marketing, video post, or class announcements can effectively serve this objective. Don’t expect people to just trust your decision. It encourages misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
Strategy 3 - Talk It Through
Have the important conversations. If it has become clear that there is dissatisfaction with a policy or change, don’t avoid talking about it. The vast majority of conflict is a result of misunderstanding. Direct communication is an opportunity to better understand each other's perspective and walk away with a positive perspective and more mutual respect.
Strategy 4 - Listen
Be humble. Don’t start that conversation with the defense of your decision. Listen first. Understand and acknowledge the party’s feelings or position and the reasons for it. Apologize if appropriate. This will drop guards and defensiveness and lead to constructive communication. Try to take your own emotion out of the discussion in order to limit their emotion as well.
Strategy 5 - Work Together Find a common goal to build around because if you are speaking to someone you consider an important part of your community, then you share the same goals of building a strong community and maximizing personal benefit for everyone within it. If you can establish that common ground it turns the position more toward working together on that goal then defending each other's position.
Strategy 6 - Decide Make the hard additional decisions if needed because it may become apparent that the parties resisting the decisions made are NOT a good fit for the community you want to build. It that Is the case, make the decision to ask them to leave even if that comes with a penalty of an emotional “break up” or a few other members leaving. Sometimes it's necessary to take one step back to go two steps forward and set your gym on the trajectory to build a culture that you feel appropriate.
Ultimately if you have effective research and solid decision making behind any change you make in your gym, a productive member of your community will get behind it when emotion and misunderstanding are taken OUT of the equation with effective communication.
To level up your communication skills or take some concepts written in this article to the next level we highly recommend the book “Crucial Conversations”. It’s about those high stakes and often high emotion conversations and how to best navigate them.