If we were to have a candid conversation, we would admit that for the majority of people, if not all, personal goal setting is tough. Actually, the setting of goals isn’t the hard part, We all know what we want to do differently – more, or better, or less. It’s the follow through where many of us drastically miss the mark.

But it’s even harder to do with your athletes.

It’s hard because you can’t control them. You can’t control what they do and don’t do. You can’t make them get in their car and drive to the gym. You can’t be with them every meal to help them make good choices. You can’t force them to read your blog posts and increase their learning.

I’ve spoken to a large handful of respected gym owners to get their take on setting goals for/with their athletes. Their responses have ranged everywhere from “I have tried having goal setting meetings but it just never picked up traction.” to… “We just have them post on a whiteboard in the gym.” to… “We’re trying something a bit new since we haven’t had success in the past. We’re going to assign a coach to each member….the one they tend to see the most, then we’ll have quarterly 10 min meetings to set goals at the beginning of the year and update them as the year goes on.” to… “We have them complete a 13 week success guide where they have to attend 3 sessions/week and they have to reach a goal; if they complete this, we’ll sit down with them for a longer session.”  The actions and comments varied as much as the weather, but for good reason, what works for one may not always work for another. What everyone agreed to though, is the importance of knowing – and listening to – your athletes.

If you don’t have an established process for setting goals with your members, know that you are not alone. Many in this industry are trying to figure it out just like you.

But here’s the thing you have to let sink in… Your clients aren’t buying your product, they are buying a feeling.

Read that again… Your clients aren’t buying your product, they are buying a feeling. As awesome as you make your gym, that’s NOT what they’re buying. They’re not buying a great coach, or the best programming, or a clean gym, or whatever else you’d fill in the blank. There may be the rare few who are specifically buying good coaching because they want to compete, but even that I would argue is them buying a feeling.

They are buying the feeling they get (or have created in their minds) by utilizing all those things above. So, sure… all those things matter. They matter a great deal. Especially when you’re trying to differentiate yourself from the guy down the street. But, once again… that’s NOT what they’re buying. They want to be known. They want to matter. They want to feel better about themselves. They want individualized attention (which is why they don’t choose the big, inexpensive gym down the street).

What all that means is you have to be able to identify the feeling they are looking to achieve. You have to know how to ask the right questions to get to the root of why they want to come to your gym. Is it to fit better in their jeans? Is it to feel attractive again to their significant other? Is it to have better sex? Is it to be able to keep up with their grandkids? Is it because they suffer from depression and working out is one of the few things that helps? Is it because they want to not follow the same path of unhealthy living that their parents took? Whatever it is, if you get them to name it, you’re 85% there.

Ultimately, you want to help them with a mind shift. If they keep the same attitude, doing the same things the same way, they’ll never change.

So, as we think about 2017 and how to go about helping our athletes be known and make changes in their lives, we encourage you to start small. Push yourself, but start small. Don’t try to create and execute on a totally new system where you meet with every one of your 150 athletes in the next month for individualized goal setting sessions so you can track them throughout the year. That’s too much. You’re going to get overwhelmed, frustrated, and your efforts are most definitely going to fizzle out.

Just take one or two steps forward. What did you do last year? Nothing? This year, do something. And then once you start seeing progress, you’ll find yourself beginning to think bigger and bigger.

So let’s break down a few points of entry where you can start. There are many, many ways you can go about helping people set goals – many apps, templates, etc. –  but let’s just look at three different levels of approach, depending on where you currently are today.

If you have nothing in place, start with Level 1.

Level 1Begin by having a 1-on-1 10-15 minute conversation with your athletes.

We’ve learned that it’s not safe to assume that every gym owner gets out and talks with their athletes beyond the programming. So, if you don’t regularly interact with your members, start talking with them. Break them out into manageable groups (maybe 10/week) and then intentionally determine times to meet/talk with them. Can be a scheduled meeting, or it can be an after class conversation where you focus specifically on asking them questions. Be curious. Enter in. Invest. (Remember, they want to be known by you.) And, when a new member comes in, sit down with them and ask questions like “Why did you decide to come in?’, “What’s something you’d like to get out of being a part of what we’ve got going on here?”, “When was the time that you felt really good/your best?”.

One idea for this is get a notebook that is specifically for jotting down notes about those people you have conversations with, or create an Excel spreadsheet, or make notes in your Hatchbuck CRM software. It doesn’t have to be difficult, just write their name and a few bullet points about what you heard. Then each week or month, review your notebook and remember to ask how they’re doing, or write a note. You can automate it by creating reminders. Just be intentional with this and do it. I promise you, this will produce a significant return on your investment of time.

Realize that some people have no interest in you helping them set goals, they just want to get face time with you.

If you’re already intentional about meeting with your athletes and “hearing” them, then consider Level 2…

Level 2Get a whiteboard (or paint your wall to create a whiteboard) and begin having your athletes write their goals.

Having visuals is always good and helpful. You’ll want to be sure to combine this with Level 1 activity because on the whiteboard they’ll write public goals, but in the 1-on-1 time, if you’re asking good questions, they’ll share their more personal goals. The two combined can be a powerful agent of change.

If you’ve already got some kind of visual representation of tracking people’s progress in place, check out Level 3.

Level 3 – Set 1-on-1 quarterly 10-15 minute meetings with each of your members to track the progress of their goals.

These meetings can be with you or you can assign athletes to coaches for regular, intentional conversations. You have a structure you follow for these meetings. You can set up an automated goal crushing campaign with regular reminders for check-ins and automated emails to keep them on track and motivated.

The benefits of regularly connecting with your athletes are many. To name a few… they feel heard and understood, you keep close to the pulse of what they want and need, you know them better so you notice when they’ve been absent, you differentiate yourself from the gym down the street (because 9x out of 10, they will not be doing this), and you can use these conversations to let them know of all the services you offer that would be helpful to them in a non-salesy way. It is an investment of time, to be sure, but what is a greater deposit into the relational capital of your gym than you being purposeful in helping each member get where they want to go?

Investing your time and energy into your members isn’t only about seeing the rewards you get from it within your business. It’s more about determining the costs you are willing to pay to get those results. What is their success worth to you?

An Opportunity to Implement Change in your Business

We are going to be launching, through our Hub platform, a Set & Crush Your Goals Challenge at the beginning of January. We’ll create a course in Hub where we’ll walk you through Setting & Hitting Goals. It will include templates, tools and resources to help you create and track your goals. The first two weeks, we’re going to be helping you set and develop a routine for your personal goals. The following two weeks, we’re going to be walking you through setting up a system to help your members determine and hit their goals. This Challenge will include the accountability you need through a private FB group and regular emails to make 2017 the best yet. More info on this to come!


This post was written by Julie Weldon – julie@321goproject.com