How to Leverage Psychology for Standard Operating Procedure Compliance (SOP Enforcement)

Being a top tier gym means you have many Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Why? Because they are absolutely critical for any business with a staff to be successful. 

Most gyms have part-time coaches or apprentice type coaches that may be volunteer interns, work for membership, or receive minimal pay. 

Their inherent incentive to comply with SOPs is much lower than someone reliant on coaching income and more involved in the day to day operations. This means it’s much easier for them to be forgetful or flat out ignore SOPs. If you’ve owned a gym for any period of time, you know this already. 

The obvious solution is to threaten to fire a non-compliant coach. Not only is that less effective than the alternatives we are about to walk through, it often creates conflict, and (for most people) is not fun. Not to mention, a low to no pay coach can walk pretty easily. Hiring is not fun either. 

At Level Method, we are huge advocates of leveraging psychology to influence positive outcomes amongst a community or team. Here are some psychological strategies that might help you do that with SOPs. 

Set the Standard & Culture– The more it is apparent that you run a tight ship and that follow through with SOPs is a normal thing that everyone does, the easier it will be. You’ll also tend to attract people that appreciate that culture.

This also means you must lead by example, or that culture doesn’t exist. 

Visual reminders that track performance – A checklist placed in an optimal location creates a means for less forgetfulness and more measuring of effectiveness. Measuring compliance is really the starting point (watching security camera footage doesn’t count) and allows the following psychological hacks as well. 

Reward not a penalty – As this study and countless others show, people (and animals) are far more likely to take action due to reward rather than punishment. A simple reward such as a bag of protein for the “highest standards keeper” or even just public recognition can help create incentive ESPECIALLY if you can make it competitive too. CrossFitters are known to like to win.

Social pressure – if there are a public checklist and group review of the SOP follow-through from the staff, not only can you reward the most compliant, you can playfully shame the noncompliant. This is a form of penalty, but is much less confrontational and is more about the coach wanting to fit in than not following the rules.

Consistency – this is part of the culture, but if slacking starts to happen from leadership the ball will roll downhill quickly. Do what you need to in your own calendar schedule or process to keep the system of SOP compliance top of mind and rolling smoothly. 

Mather Wiswall

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