REPORT. CARD. DAY. Does the mere mention bring you undue stress and anxiety? Does it bring back school day memories of fear and dread? Would you rather stick a fork in your eye than go through a fitness professional evaluation process -- whether it comes from management, participants or your peers? Let’s take a look at WHY we tend to associate evaluations as a negative process, and HOW you can take honest feedback and turn it into something positive you can use to elevate your career and classes!
Traditionally, as children, most of us probably looked at report card day with a little dread. “Oh no! My parents are going to be upset! I am a failure!” And later in life, as we no longer answer to parents, but to employers -- and in the case of fitness professionals, sometimes our members and our peers -- it can still cause quite a bit of stress and anxiety. No one likes to be told they aren’t doing a great job, or could be doing better. And you can disagree with me on this next statement but let’s face it, in the fitness profession egos can sometimes run a bit high.
But not everyone hates being evaluated. And why is that? Why do some folks run from it, and others embrace it? Christine Dweck, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist has done years of research on the difference between a “fixed mindset” versus a “growth mindset.” She speaks often of the power of believing you CAN improve; but you may need to adjust your mindset and your attitude towards the feedback you have been given. And let’s take a look at the feedback process itself. Has it come from a place of authenticity? In other words, does the person doing the evaluating have the credentials to do so? Do they hold themselves to same standards? Is this feedback coming from a mentor in your field that you trust and has as much or more experience in the area of expertise? More importantly, is there a specific plan for GROWTH? No one likes to hear negative things about their performance, but with a plan for improvement, these things are easier to swallow. Good management should be offering suggestions with confidence that you are on the right path -- you may just not be there “yet.” This is an example of a growth mindset. Yes, it is probably going to take you out of your comfort zone, but isn’t that part of what we do as fitness professionals with our clients and classes in a physical manner? This is the difference between GOOD instructors and GREAT instructors! Embrace the feedback. Make positive changes in your professional development.
Many well-known fitness professionals will tell you that watching yourself, and being your best critic, is crucial to growth. Video tape yourself teaching for 5 - 10 minutes. The first time you watch it, turn down the volume. Observe how you appear visually. The second time, close your eyes and pay attention to your auditory cueing. Do you detect any nuances that participants may find annoying or negative? And the third time you watch it, take notes and give yourself honest feedback. What could or would you improve on? Do this on a regular basis and note your improvements!
I have had the opportunity to have wonderful mentors who encouraged the use of client evaluations regularly in class. Asking participants to offer feedback from “what makes my class unique,” to “what would they like to see changed,” to favorite music selections, keeps my teaching sharp and on point in terms of client satisfaction. On a personal note, it was a mentor that gave me my first intro into a growth mindset. After having bombed presenting at my first conference, it was she that said, “It is not the negative that is important, it is how you RISE UP from it. This is what makes good instructors and presenters GREAT”. These were wise words from a wise woman that I have carried with me for years. I could have quit that day. I bombed and I knew it. But I came back, figured out what did me in that day (nerves and not being adequately prepared!) and how to deal with it. Had I not used this as a growth opportunity, I may have missed out on what has been an amazing journey of traveling and presenting various fitness programs to the most wonderful people!
Remember to have the humility and courage to take on the tough things, and the hunger to learn from those experiences. I leave you with this thought, from my heart to yours: “Be so good you already know what your evaluations are going to say.”
Pam Benchley is a Hedstrom Fitness National Master Trainer for BOSU®, Kamagon® and Surge®, and a provider of many other workshops including Stages® Indoor Cycling, balance training, and functional/active aging training. Pam currently serves on the faculty at the State University of New York at Fredonia and is a competitive triathlete.