One of the most difficult challenges in our industry is developing our personnel. We do a good job on the technical side, the scientific side of our work. But, we’re a people business; the ability to relate to people, both adults and kids, is as important as our technical knowledge. A lot of industries have long established protocols and educational paths for the non-technical side of jobs - we simply don’t.

The Sports Performance business is a business of relationships and trust; the consumer has to believe in the trainer in order to believe that they will benefit from the training; they have to believe in the organization in order to stay at our facility. That requires more than training on technique, more than scientific knowledge; it requires EQ (emotional quotient) training. When we were a young industry, we had to concentrate on the technical; we’ve grown up enough that we can start training our personnel on the EQ side of the job.

Engaging people is a skill, not a DNA trait. Personnel can learn to be comfortable engaging new clients, introducing potential customers to your facility, involving parents and kids in the learning process. We all have trainers in our facilities who are great technicians, and not so great at transmitting enthusiasm, selling to new customers, and building loyalty. If your trainers truly like people, are good technicians, and want to grow personally, then it is incumbent on management to educate them. Put that technical knowledge together with a learned emotional competency and you have a trainer who is an excellent asset to your customers and your business.

Emotional competency is learned, it is developed, it is not an inborn trait that one either has or doesn’t have. Sports performance personnel have sports backgrounds and therefore have fairly high emotional control – but often they lack high emotional awareness. For example, for those of us in this industry it is very difficult to understand customers who approach sports with significant trepidation, or as a horrendous chore set by their parents. We love what we do - to understand the customer who doesn’t and to re-mold their attitude takes emotional awareness – the ability to understand others emotions. *

It is helpful to have two sets of goals that you and your trainer/coach mutually agreed upon, first numerical KPIs, second personal growth goals. Those growth goals should be specific and manageable. “I’m going to talk to more people in the facility,” isn’t specific enough. “I’m going to talk to 15 new people in the facility each day,” isn’t manageable. “I’m going to talk to 2 clients or prospects I don’t know every day,” is a decent emotional growth goal. It forces the trainer out of their comfort zone but doesn’t expect so much that it is overwhelming.

EQ learning is structured, not random. Being taught is the most effective way of learning; it saves the recipient a lot of time. That means that your personnel need good scripts on their initial ventures into building new relationships with customers. Whether they are working on greeting strangers, selling a potential client or retaining a client, they should have solid scripts.    They need the script, they need to have management go over the script with them and they need to practice. Once the trainer has followed the script numerous times, it becomes second nature and they will be able to naturally develop their own banter. Eventually, the trainer is no longer facing an uncomfortable situation, the situation has become familiar - the familiar is comfortable.   Scripts give the employee confidence that what they are saying is relevant and in keeping with the facilities policy and gives them the format until they have incorporated that skill into their psyche.

EQ should be modeled. One of the most effective methods of teaching is modeling. The way you treat your personnel (who are your clientele) is going to be reflected in the way they treat their clientele. If you don’t demonstrate emotional awareness in your dealings with your trainers, why would they learn to demonstrate that with their customers? Each month, or two, there should be an opportunity for your trainer to sit down with you -  over coffee or  lunch, in a casual setting, and discuss their growth goals, their challenges and their learning curve. Just like anything else, if you are not mutually assessing growth, psychologically it loses importance. And, just as you expect your trainers to concentrate on their client, you need to concentrate on your personnel.

EQ has to be practiced. All ofour employees understand that if you try to do 50 reps of the first set the first day out, you’re either going to dissolve on the floor or never come back into the facility. Just as physical strength has to be built gradually and practiced continually “people skills” also have to be built slowly and practiced continually.I’ve had trainers who have believed that they “got it,” they’re fine with, let’s say speaking to potential customers – therefore they don’t have to keep talking to potentialcustomers. Well, first, they’re not going to be making a living in this business, and second, they’re not going to be very good at the skill.  Just like new sports skills, “new people skills” need to be practiced.

Incorporate emotional competency education into your facility personnel improvement plans- your personnel, your customers, and your bottom line will be happier.

For more information about developing your staff and your business, check out the website or the  program.

*Emotional Quotient is generally broken down into seven component parts:  emotional expression, emotional fortitude, emotional commitment, emotional awareness, emotional conscientiousness, emotional maturity and emotional control.