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E2: The Inspiration Equation

In Episode 1, we were introduced to "Last to Know Joe" and Coach Pete. Last to Know Joe has been struggling to keep his gym alive, and Pete showed him that a few tweaks here and there can put thousands back into the gym. How many thousands? That's the big question...

This is Episode 2. To start with Episode 1, click here.


Pete stood in his office next to a poster that said, “Get Disturbed.” He drank a cup of coffee as he jotted down notes from a meeting at Joe’s Gym.

Pete did some quick math and concluded that Joe’s Gym had SIGNIFICANTLY more than a $40,000 problem. This was not unusual, even for the solopreneur businesses he worked with.

The phone rang. It was Last to Know Joe. “Pete, I went into my trainers’ schedules and added a meeting with each of them, but I’m not sure what I’ll speak with them about…”

“How am I supposed to motivate and inspire my team?”

Pete believed in keeping his leadership approach as simple as possible when he could… “Vision. Plan. Support,” Pete responded. “Uncover the vision they have for their future with Joe’s Gym and beyond, got that, Joe?”

“Uh, huh,” Joe responded as he scratched notes on paper.

“Be curious like my 5-year-old. Why? Why? Why? Why?”

Joe laughed. “You’ve driven the point home,” he said with a smile.

“I call this ‘peeling back the onion.’ An onion has many layers, just like a person’s story. Asking ‘why’ takes you deeper to the core of the onion.”

“Like an iceberg. There’s a ton of information underneath, but until I ask questions, I’ll never know what’s below.”

“Yes, exactly.” Pete continued, “Then, create the plan. Write down the steps it will take to achieve their vision.”

“Got it.”

“And finally, ask what you can do to support them. Would they like a simple follow up? Can you provide a couple resources? Can you make an introduction that will help them? In some cases, you might just jot down your discussion and check in with them later to see how their progress is going. Some people may prefer to work on ‘it’ on their own.”

Pete was about to hang up, but he had another point to make, “schedule your sales team, front desk staff, technician, and group exercise instructors as well, Joe. Everybody gets a meeting with you.” Pete didn’t wait for a response. He hung up the phone and continued with his work.

Joe looked at his notes… “Vision, plan, support.” With a newfound inspiration and excitement, Joe figured he would practice. Two girls worked at the front desk. Both were looking at their phones. “Cathy, can you come chat with me?”

The team knew her as Quiet Cathy. She rarely used a sentence when one would get the point across.

“Sure,” she responded with pursed eyebrows, wondering if she had made a mistake of some sort. They pulled up chairs at a sales desk and each took a seat.

“Cathy, I’m going to be honest with you. I’m learning some new leadership stuff, and I’m really excited to try and support you as best I can. So, I’d like to have a chat with you and learn more about you.”

Cathy’s eyes were big. Her arms were close to her body. This was the most words she’s heard out of her boss. But, regardless, she agreed to speak with him.

“Cathy, can you tell me about your vision for the future, and how Joe’s Gym plays a role in that?”

Joe immediately realized the power of questions. Cathy immediately opened up. Joe couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

“Well, I’m actually in school right now learning about Kinesiology, so I’d like to graduate in about a year. The steady paycheck here is really helpful, but I would probably apply for Phil’s Fitness once I get my degree so I can get into personal training.”

Joe was shocked that Cathy didn’t mention becoming a trainer at Joe’s gym, but then he realized how sporadic the trainers’ schedules were here, not to mention the fact that they only stuck around for a few months anyway. “Cathy, thank you so much for sharing that with me.” Joe thought of Pete’s recommendation to be curious “like a 5-year-old child.” His curiosity began to perk up. “Do you plan to use your Kinesiology degree for training only? Or is there a bigger picture?”

“Well, I’d like to work at a Physical Therapy studio eventually. There’s good money there, and eventually I could start my own practice.”

“Are you familiar with personal training at this point?”

“Not really. Sometimes I hang out with Tyler, and he tells me a little about how he helps old people improve their movement. I think that’s really cool, and I’d love to do something like that.”

“Cathy, it’s really cool to get to know you a bit more. I’d like to help you out with your dream. Would you like to learn more about personal training while you’re on the job here?”

Cathy’s eyes widened and a smile came across her face. “I would LOVE that!”

“Let’s work on a plan. I’m going to schedule you to shadow Tyler a couple hours a week. He’s a stellar movement and mobility trainer, so I’m going to work with him to develop a learning itinerary for you. Take some notes, and let’s meet again in two weeks to review what you’ve learned.”

Cathy was ecstatic. She had no idea she could learn about her passion on the job. Suddenly, she had hope for the future at Joe’s Gym.

“Cathy, what else can I do to support you for the next couple weeks?”

“Since you asked, I’ve honestly been bored to death working at the front desk lately. Is there any way I could do homework while I’m up there?”

Joe thought about it for a moment. “Is your problem more related to getting your homework done, or is it more about resolving your boredom?”

“I have plenty of time to do homework outside of work,” she laughed. “But if I’m not doing anything else, I may as well kill two birds with one stone.”

“I’ll tell you what, Cathy. We let’s talk again about what hours you can do your homework behind the desk. In the meantime, I’ll come up with some other ways to keep you busy and engaged here at work. Is that fair?”

“That sounds great! Thanks so much, Joe!”

For the rest of the day, all Joe could here from the front desk was, “Hi, welcome to Joe’s Gym,” followed by minutes of conversation amongst customers and Cathy.

“Vision, plan, support,” Joe whispered. “The inspiration equation.”

It turns out, Pete had a great resource for Joe, outlining precisely how to lead his team more effectively, and you can get yours here if you haven't already!

He thought about the lack of direction he was providing to his employees up to this point. How many other employees had he lost simply because he wasn’t having these kind of 5-minute conversations? Here he had an employee who already knew the business, the team, and the community, and he was on the verge of having to find a replacement for her. Now that he knew her situation a little better, he could simply make a department transfer down the road. Considering that the cost of a new hire is about $4,000, he imagined that the 12 people he'd replaced in the last couple of years cost him about $50,000.

He was eager to get the figures from Pete. He pulled out a blank paper from the printing machine, and wrote on it, “lack of direction for employees= $50,000.” He quietly stuffed it into his desk.

Joe took some final notes for the day and said a few goodbyes before heading home for the evening:

Every employee has a story to tell. Every employee has a unique journey and a desire to feel heard. Only by getting curious like a child can I support them on their journey. A short conversation can save a career.

What is their vision for the future? Not everybody is going to be here forever, and that’s okay. I’d like to be remembered as the leader who gave them hope along the way.

A vision without a plan is nothing more than a wish. I’m going to make it a point to start asking what their path looks like and offering to help them get clear on their direction.

Peeling back the onion can lead to a ton of inspiration for my employees. Sometimes we sit with these ideas fogging up our mind, only to lift the fog with a little bit of discussion.

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Do you ever wonder how to motivate and inspire the people around you? It doesn’t even need to be related to work. Maybe it’s your children. Maybe it’s your peers. How do you think the people in your life would feel if you used the “vision, plan, support” equation? This is leadership!

  • Can you think of a few questions to help somebody articulate their vision?

What do you think of the story so far? Can you let me know in the comments? Your words are the fuel to my writing!


Don't forget to pick up your "Dream Team" resource!!!

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