Personal Trainer Career Planning: Management


It should be intuitively obviously, that planning should always come first. However, if you are to become an effective manager, you will often find yourself performing more than one process nearly simultaneously.

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One of the many reasons the IFPA has developed over 70 certification courses over the last 25+ years is to afford all our IFPA Certified Personal Trainers and Fitness Professionals the opportunity to not only become “Life-Long-Leaders,” but to use what they have learned to progress their own careers.

Most of us begin our Fitness Careers as Personal Trainers and slowly begin to take new Advanced and Specialization Courses in order to help more people, increase our Scope of Practice, and of course… to make more money. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you having a desire to make more money… In fact, you, increasing your VALUE by increasing your Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) is a Virtue. You will find your career dull and boring if you only try to do the absolute minimums each day. If your goal is to “just get by,” the minimum amount of effort to prevent you from being fired, you are doing yourself, your clients, your employer and your career a GREAT DISSERVICE!

One of the many opportunities you should seriously consider is Management.

There can be much more joy, financial rewards and satisfaction in leading other Personal Trainers and Fitness Professionals to their own success.

I sincerely hope you have continued to study your IFPA Personal Trainer Manual, applied what you have studied to help every man, woman, and child to lead a longer, healthier and happier life.

If you have, you now have to consider how you can lead other Personal Trainers to do the same.

If you do consider management, please think long and hard about the type of manager you wish to be.

You have a choice to be a manager or to a leader.

You have a choice to be a manager or a teacher.

You have a choice to be a manager or a mentor!

Managers have a tendency to think about systems, resources and profit.

Leaders, teachers, and mentors tend to think in terms of helping the individuals within their responsibilities to achieve their optimum potential. Leaders succeed by helping others succeed. You can succeed by being both Leader and Manager.

You should also consider something that is very obvious to me, but may not yet be very obvious to you. The moment you have your first Personal Training Client, you are a Manager and a Leader. Managing your client’s exercise, personal training and lifestyle needs, wants and goals makes you a manger. Guiding your personal training client to a longer, healthier and happier life, makes you a Leader!

Your Personal Fitness Training Clients are going to be constantly bombarded with distractions that prevent them from achieving the Mission, YOUR mission to lead them to the health and fitness lifestyle to lead and manage them to a longer, healthier, and happier life. You will need to manage them and lead them around many obstacles, objections, and excuses they will have to prevent you and them from fulfilling your Personal Trainer Mission and their Healthy Lifestyle Mission.

The following information is adapted from the IFPA Fitness Facility Manager Certification Course. This is a course I highly recommend for all Personal Trainers to help them maximize their potential and provide greater career opportunities for great personal and professional success.

Consider three approaches to Management Theory:

  1. Scientific Management Approach: This theory was developed by Fredrik Taylor in the early 1900’s and clearly defines the relationship between incentive and performance. This approach advocates rewarding people based on output. Typically, you will see employees pay based on commissions and bonuses, instead of salary or hourly rate.
  2. Human Relations Management approach: This approach was advanced by “Humanist Psychologist,” like: Abraham Maslow, Herzberg, McGregor, and Mayo. You studied “Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs” in your IFPA Personal Training Manual. Mayo hypothesized that when employees felt valued and respected, they had higher levels of productivity. The opposite can be far, FAR worse! When employees feel used and abused, their productivity will not only drop, but negative consequences like sabotage can result.
  3. Process (or Administrative Approach to Management):

According to Pedersen and Thibault in “Contemporary Sport Management,” 2019, five processes revolve around decisions and taking action:

  1. Planning
  2. Organizing
  3. Directing
  4. Staffing
  5. Controlling or Evaluation

These 5 processes are all interrelated. If you change one, you will need to change some aspect of the other four.

It should be intuitively obviously, that planning should always come first. However, if you are to become an effective manager, you will often find yourself performing more than one process nearly simultaneously.

Mintzbery (1973, 1990) defined 10 distinct managerial roles (sets of expected managerial behaviors associated with the manager position), divided by 3 primary categories:

1. Interpersonal Roles

  • {1} Figurehead Role: acting in symbolic and ceremonial ways.
  • {2} Leader Role: Influencing and coordinating the work and production of the followers to achieve the goals of the organization.
  • {3} Liaison Role: Developing and cultivating relationships with people and groups outside the organization.

2. Informational Roles:

  • {4} Monitor Role: Scanning the environment for information about trends and events that can affect the organization
  • {5} Disseminator Role: Transmitting information to stakeholders in the organization.
  • {6} Spokesperson Role: Transmitting information to people or groups outside the organization.

3. Decisional Roles:

  • {7} Entrepreneur Role: Searching for opportunity to improve the organization.
  • {8} Disturbance Handle Role: Responding to unexpected situations that may disrupt normal operations.
  • {9} Resource Allocator Role: Determining how to best allocate resources to achieve the goals of the organization.
  • {10} Negotiator Role: Conferring with people or groups outside the organization to obtain concessions or gain agreement on important issues.

Consider the following theories on leadership. These theories can help you decide about your own personal leadership type and in making that decision, can help you maximize your own leadership effectiveness:

1. Trait Leadership Theory: This is the classic “Leaders are born, not made!” Although this theory was discredited for some time, this school of thought generated renewed interest when Kirkpatrick and Locke demonstrated that core character traits like drive, cognitive ability, desire to lead, honesty, integrity, self-confidence and knowledge of the business are of the ten assured to be good predictors of the potential to lead, although they do not guarantee successful leadership.

2. Behavioral Leadership Theory: Categorizes

    • {1) Job Centered: Concerned with attaining personal or organizational goals.
    • {2} Employee Centered: Concerned with building good relationship with peers and followers.

On the surface these two categories can appear mutually exclusive and opposing each other: Mission First versus People First!

But they are not!

A Great Leader can take their concern for people, maximize their potential, and focus that potential to accomplish the Mission.

3. Situational leadership Theory: This theory states that a variety of leadership styles could be used simultaneously in response to changing situations. There are several models of situational leadership theory, but we will only mention the 4 most well-known here:

  • {1} Fiedler’s Contingency Model (1967): Theorized that a leader’s effectiveness is dependent on the leaders’ personal style, along with the amount of control the leader has over the situation. Fiedler theorized, the environment could be manipulated to match the leaders’ personal style by either assigning followers who are compatible with the leaders’ personal style (which he believed cannot be easily changed), or seeking out situations that match the leaders’ styles, to increase the chance for success.
  • {2} Path-Goal Model: Suggests followers are motivated by their own estimates of the probability, that their behaviors will result in a valued outcome. They are also motivated by the level of personal satisfaction, they will experience based on their work. The leader describes the behaviors that will lead to the reward. Leaders who are aware of the personal characteristics of their followers and of the environment, can modify their behavior to maximize motivation under the given circumstances.
  • {3} Situational Leadership Model: Suggest leader’s behaviors depend on the mix of task (directives) and relationship (supportive) styles that are required to adapted to the situation, as quickly as possible to benefit everyone involved.

There are 4 Behaviors:

  1. Telling: is considered the simplest form of leadership, because the leaders simply informs the group on how and what to do.
  2. Selling: requires the leader needing to convince some of the group to follow their way.
  3. Participation: Participating is about the leader building relationships with group members and sometimes not making all of the decisions, but rather, differing to someone who possesses more knowledge or experience in a specific situation.
  4. Delegating: Refers to the leader assigning responsibilities for project or task to team members. Another aspect of the Delegating Model: How to ready the employees to perform their assignment. This Is called READINESS. The leader needs to determine the employees “Readiness” Level

Full Range of Leadership Model: Includes 3 leaderships styles:

  • (1) Transactional Leadership: Negotiated and agreed upon deal between the leader and employees that outlines rewards and punishments for levels of performance
  • (2) Laissez- Fare Leadership: “Do-Nothing” Approach to leading people. It should be intuitively obvious that this is by FAR the least effective leadership style.
  • (3) Transformational Leadership: focuses on the 4 “I’s”:
    •       {1} Idealized Influence
    •       {2} Inspirational Motivation
    •       {3} Intellectual Stimulation
    •       {4} Individualized Consideration

The Transformational Leader is considerate, trustworthy, encouraging and willing to take risks.

Current research and studies show that the most effective leaders engage in all three styles to various degrees, though seldom: Laissez-Faire as was previously mentioned “Do Nothing” does not work.

Best Regards,

Dr. Jim Bell


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