By Team ICG® Master Trainer Chuck Cali
Lately, lively discussion has surrounded a series of posts by Krista Leopold. She uses hypothetical letters to the instructor to highlight instructor professionalism. In her most recent “letter”, Krista discusses a subset of professionalism — bad-mouthing other instructors or the facility.
Krista has opened the door on professional behavior (ethics) in our workplace. Let”™s walk in.
Webster defines professionalism as “the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well.”
Ethics are “a system of moral principles; the rules of conduct recognized in respect to a particular class of human actions.” In this case, the human action is workplace etiquette. We learn ethics as children. Our parents called it “doing the right thing.”
From that perspective, let”™s examine another behavior in our workplace — self-promotion.
The forums I browse, including ICI/PRO, feature discussions on how to promote ourselves to our riders: social media, web sites, newsletters, email, business cards. It seems like a good idea, but is it ethical?
Unless you own the studio, the riders in your classes are customers of the facility that pays you, not your own. We have no ethical business contacting their customers. Yet it”™s done all the time.
Instructors with regular classes build contact lists of subs, for obvious reasons.
Instructors with regular classes also build contact lists of their riders, for less obvious reasons.
Most instructors are also on sub lists. Sooner or later, an email arrives from a popular instructor, who needs a sub for a prime time class. The sub thinks, “Teaching to a full room is always fun; I”™ll do it!” Seconds later, the sub gets a response from the appreciative peer, “Thank you so much. You”™ll love this class. It”™s always full, and they like a great workout.”
The sub spends considerable time, effort and money preparing. After all, this is prime time, and people arrive 45 minutes early to get a bike.
The sub arrives 20 minutes before the class and opens the door to…an empty room. A bit weird, but there”™s still time. A couple of people walk in. The sub smiles and does the meet-n-greet. At class time, there”™s a roomful of mostly empty bikes.
What happened? The instructor contacted the regulars to inform them that a sub was teaching. That”™s all it took to empty the usually full room. Have you experienced this?
A serious breach of professional etiquette, this behavior has long been standard in big-box gyms and crosses the ethical line. It”™s about self-promotion. Not to participate forces one onto an unleveled playing field. The playing field is Head Count, the gold standard of an instructor”™s worth. Is this an instructor survival tactic? Must one be unethical to protect one”™s turf?
I”™m no stranger to contradictions, but isn”™t discouraging attendance essentially the same as bad-mouthing another instructor? I see this as an ethics issue, rather than a survival tactic. What do you think?
When an instructor contacts riders and influences them not to attend class, many things happen. None of these is good for anyone but the instructor — who needed help in the first place.
At the big-box gyms, where most of us teach, there”™s no real need for self-promotion beyond doing a good job. Why? Well, as stated, our riders are not our customers. And the gym promotes its own programs and, by extension, the instructors teaching them.
Our first priority as employees is to keep the members happy, better known as service after the sale. We do that by implementing many time-tested principles often discussed on ICI/PRO.
As always, there”™s an exception. Soul Cycle. Their business model, largely based on self-promotion both on- and off-stage, pits instructor against instructor, in favor of those who sell out the studio every class. It”™s all about sales. From that point of view, these unethical tactics can at least be understood.
Currently there”™s buzz surrounding a lawsuit alleging that Soul Cycle exploits instructors by not compensating them for all their time. Exploitation? Maybe. I see it as creating an environment of competition in the interest of sales. Let the best at self-promotion win.
But what we do in the big boxes is about service after the sale. That changes everything when it comes to workplace etiquette.
My own subbing experience was invaluable. Unfortunately, I learned that instructors may act professional around their riders but less so with their peers. I also realized how hard this job is, especially building a loyal following of regulars.
I”™m proud that, through continuing education, experience and professionalism, I play to a full room in most of the six classes I teach per week. I still don”™t know the emails or phone numbers of any riders in my classes.
I have no illusion of effecting behavioral change with these words. Management at big boxes made the choice long ago to leave it to the instructors. Empty studios are of no consequence because, in such facilities, the cycle studio is not a profit center. Not so in boutique studios. Let”™s hear from studio owners on this issue and how they deal with such tactics.
If we”™re going to examine professional behavior in a forum for indoor cycle instructors, let”™s look at all of it and ask ourselves if we”™re doing the right thing.