Howdy Fit Folk!

John Macgowan has so graciously invited me to contribute to the vast wealth of knowledge that is the ICI/PRO community--  woohoo!!  Lucky me. 🙂 To those of you that I had the great pleasure of meeting at the 2011 ICI/PRO conference, hello again!  To those of you that I have yet to meet, I look forward to many opportunities to open a dialog, discuss new concepts and create amazing ideas.

Speaking of ideas, I love good ones!  I know it's been a good day if I've had at least --what I consider-- one good idea. Generally speaking, my best ideas come from thought-provoking conversations with others.  With all the wonderful discussions I'm reading on the posts and forums, I'm bound to have a lot of good days moving forward.

So pull up a chair (if you dare!) and enter the head-space of Cam...  I wish you the best of luck!

Happy reading,

Cameron Chinatti

Director of Education for Stages Indoor Cycling

Here's what I've been thinking about today...[wlm_private 'PRO-Platinum|PRO-Monthly|PRO-Gratis|PRO-Seasonal|Platinum-trial|Monthly-trial|PRO-Military|30-Days-of-PRO|90 Day PRO|Stages-Instructor|Schwinn-Instructor|Instructor-Bonus|28 Day Challenge']

Cameron Chinatti Director of Education Stagesâ„¢ Indoor Cycling

Do you ever find yourself spending a disproportionate amount of your mental and perhaps physical energy trying to please or quell the “squeaky wheels”? Typically the squeaky wheels are your most loyal attendees. They sit in the front row, they have "their" special bike, they enjoy filling out lengthy complaint cards, and they dislike any of your substitute instructors. These are the squeaky wheels, always generating a low-level disturbance. More on these folks in a moment!

Recently, a friend of mine shared a link to a blog post titled "Don't Tell Me I'm Wasting My Time!"

Intrigued, I decided to check it out. The author of the post, Marjorie Clayman, is an expert in the field of enhancing the use of Social Media as it applies to the marketing world. Her frustration, as she puts it, " the selfishness that exists in the online world when it comes to covering topics that relate to beginners." As you'll see in her article there is a perfect parallel to the challenges that we all face as teachers of indoor cycling.

Now, back to those squeaky wheels!

We tend to teach specifically to please these individuals because we become acutely aware of their verbal tendencies. This makes it very challenging to recognize the needs of the 29 other individuals in the room. More importantly, we fail to see the hundreds if not thousands of potential participants that have never set foot in our classes.

As Marjorie puts it, "If you approach content on occasion from the perspective of someone who is brand spanking new to this space, you will get to meet people and help people whom you may not have met in any other way. What can be more valuable than that?"

So, are your squeaky wheels unconsciously (hopefully not consciously!) creating a "secret society" that makes the newcomer feel uninvited? How do we please them both? In the words of the great Bob Marley, "You can't please all the people all the time." Quite the conundrum, I know.

When you feel the pressures of oiling the squeaky wheels or as my friend and Schwinn Master Trainer Shannon Fable calls it, "teaching to the front-row frowners," take a personal inventory moment. Are you trying to please them to keep an angry person off your back or are you considering the needs of all?

In my time as a Co-Director of a group exercise schedule consisting of 120 classes per week, I fielded many squeaky wheel complaints.

Here are my Top 5 takeaways from my time spent with the dreaded comment cards box:

1. Never throw your team under the bus! It may be tempting to tell the class to fill out a comment card and cast a vote for you to have more classes on the schedule, but a) that's a bit self-serving and b) there are so many reasons why the schedule is created the way it is. Cost per head per instructor, school schedules, child care schedules, maintenance, special programming, weekly class balance, etc. Likewise, if you have a personal gripe about something at your facility, telling your participants to fill out a comment card in order to achieve your goal accomplishes one thing: The squeaky wheels learn that if they are loud enough, they'll get their way, even if it is not in the best interest of the program. This leads to my 2nd mantra...

2. Think big picture. Contrary to popular belief, the individuals that attend your classes are not actually your members. They belong to the facility and you belong to the program or programs that the facility offers. You represent a piece of a puzzle. The more you think of yourself and your fellow instructors in this manner, the more the participants will view you all as a cohesive unit. Amazingly, participant complaints become positive shout-outs when the instructors have a sense of solidarity amongst the team.

3. Stick to your guns. You and your fellow instructors are the resident experts at your facility and you are there to guide your entire class in a safe and effective workout. The squeaky wheels may think that it's cool when Jane Doe instructor takes their saddles away, but you as the professional have to step up sometimes and say what needs to be said. Of course, you must keep in mind that your position is really that of a customer service specialist. So, how can you easily stick to your guns and provide a top-notch customer-first experience? Enter the Bad News Sandwich.

4. Bad News Sandwich. Here's an example of a bad news sandwich.

"Hey Sally, I totally understand where you're coming from and I hear you. You're right. Riding an entire class without the seat is very challenging and it does make you "feel the burn." However, there are actually more effective ways to achieve the same end result and in an environment that is safe for everyone. Can you imagine how terrible it would be if someone were to fall on the seat post during our class?! I'm sure I would lose my job and I would feel awful. After all, my job is to help people achieve optimal health, not promote injury. I know you understand the predicament I'm in; I have to look after everyone's well being -- including yours. Let's discuss a plan that will work around your fitness goals. I'm sure we can come up with something that will challenge you even more."

Okay, so that was a bit on the cheesy role-play side of things, but I'm sure you've had similar conversations before. Just remember: Bad News Sandwich = Recognition of issue or compliment (Good News) + Addressing the issue (Bad News) + Recognition of issue (Good News). You can't go wrong with the Bad News Sandwich. Or ending emails with a smiley. 🙂

5. Equal attention for all. Some people may disagree with me on this one, but no one at your facility should be valued higher than anyone else. This goes for members and instructors! Even if a member has been paying dues for 20 years, the new person that just joined or just attended class for the first time should get the same kind of attention and treatment. Likewise, an instructor that packs the room and has been teaching for years is as much a part of the team as the newer instructor that supports a different set of participants (and thus increasing the number of unique users). The minute a hierarchy starts to form, problems arise. Suffice it to say, everyone plays an equally important role in developing a top-notch indoor cycling program.

Think about your classes this week whether indoor cycling, group strength, step, etc. Ask yourself: Am I teaching to the person that looks miserable or am I teaching to everyone? Am I dividing my attention equally amongst my attendees?  Don't overdo it when it comes to greasing that squeaky wheel-- you never know when the chain might fall off.[/wlm_private]

Please share with the ICI/Pro community: How have you been addressing the "squeaky wheel" situations? Any good stories or ideas to share?

Originally posted 2011-11-10 13:22:22.

Cameron Chinatti
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