#036: The Art of Motivating Your Members

#036: The Art of Motivating Your Members

Some have said that fitness success is 90% motivation and 10% training/nutrition. Do you agree? Motivating your members to come in multiple times during their busy week to sweat and suffer for months and years at a time is an art. This is why understanding the mental game is such an important aspect to keeping your gym full of invigorated and energized athletes.

On this episode of Gymwright LIVE, we welcome special guest Dennis Timpanaro, Founder of Gotivation and Olympian in the making, to discuss his simple and powerful framework for indicating differing motivational preferences in how people are inspired to make proactive and positive fitness decisions.

He’s worked with Psychology PhDs and top fitness professionals to find out to blend proven behavioral science with industry expertise to come up with the Motivational Personalities. This will help you better understand how to inspire each of your members to be their best selves.

Join us every Friday at 10 a.m. PT on The Network where we’ll be airing live. Be sure to stick around for the live Q&A session at the end of the show so we can answer any questions you have.

This show was recorded live in The Network on Friday, June 15, 2018. Click the video to watch. 

In this article:

Image Credit: Gotivation

Why should a gym owner care about motivating their members?

If you have a clean facility, the right staff, great programming – you have the foundational aspects of running a gym pretty much ready to go. Now you can focus on getting new members and keeping them there. You’ll use member experience and marketing tactics to accomplish that which are both inherently about motivation.

Understanding the basic psychology of what motivates people can be a huge upper hand for the gym owner. You need to know if that person who you have on the phone is really motivated to make a change in their life. And if they’re not, how can you work with them and guide them to make a decision that’s ultimately right for them. You need to know if the motivational charge of your athletes is high or low to ensure everyone is happy and loving the state of their fitness HQ. 

Motivation isn’t a bolt of lightening or an on/off switch – it’s more like a battery. You need to make sure that your members’ battery stays charged or risk losing some of your fitness fam long before they should have gone.

Image Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

What are the 5 character strengths/weaknesses that determine motivation?

In Dennis’ research with Gotivation and as an Olympic hopeful, he found that there are different ways to motivate people. And in understanding these differing ways, there are traits that drive people behind the scenes which can be boiled down to 5:

  • Conscientiousness – This trait is found in people who work hard, pay attention to detail, show up on time, and put in the extra effort.
  • Grit – This trait is found in people who don’t give up. They’re met with adversity but they always bounce back. They have a narrow focus.
  • Self-control – This trait is found in people who have the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals.
  • Locus of control – This is a measurement of an individual’s belief system regarding the causes of his or her experiences and the factors to which that person attributes success or failure.
  • Group vs individual preference – Some people are very motivated to do group activities. Some are more interested in being solo.

The key takeaway is to support your members’ strengths. Don’t try to boost up their weaknesses. If you take someone with low self-control and block out all of the bad food in their diet, this person is going to have a really difficult time. For this person, you might instead focus on adding instead of subtracting. i.e. Focus on eating 20g of high-quality protein a breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The addition of protein leads to the natural subtraction of eating other foods because of the sheer sense of satiety.

If you’re working with a highly conscientious person with a group preference, you might try publicly praising them about how hard they’re working.

Image Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

What are Motivational Personalities and why should you as a gym owner know them?

Dennis explains that the Golden Rule (Treat others as you would like to be treated) has a major flaw. We’re all so different from each other so treating someone as if they’re you is too shortsighted. But if you treat others as they would like to be treated – that changes everything. Naturally, the question remains, “how do I know how each person wants to be teated?”

While it would be impossible to know each and every person’s unique preferences (at least for now), there is a method to grouping people into common categories which Dennis calls Motivational Personalities: Also check out Gotivation’s IG for more info on these personalities. 

  1. Discipline doer: Detail oriented, conscientious, type A. You give them a goal and they smash it.
  2. Laid back learner: The most casual of members. They’re looking for enjoyment first and health benefits second. They wait around for the right time to come around and sometimes they wait a little too long.
  3. Partial-perfectionist: If they had one tagline, it’s “work hard, play hard.” During the week they’re perfect and then they go out on the weekend and play hard. They’re in it to win it or they’re off taking a break.
  4. Self-controlled spectator: The discerning type. They believe in the power of choice and they take responsibility for their decisions and choices. If they buy in, it’s great! If they don’t, they’re not going to have any part of it.

In addition to categorizing yourself and your members under these personalities, there is also another spectrum you can measure them on. Are they driven by achievement or fear?

Image Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

How can you effectively motivate/incentivize your staff?

Dennis suggests making a list of 8 incentives your coaches might be interested in: more pay, more hours, more balance, better members to train one-on-one, etc. Give this to each of them to force rank from 1-8 1 being the top priority of importance and 8 being the last) With this, you can see what motivates each of your staff members and can incentivize them as such.  Awesome idea.

Image Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

How to find a member’s “why” using the 5-why’s method

A member might have a concrete goal like losing 20 lbs (which, by the way, Dennis has found that concrete goals like that actually have a negative impact on long term fitness if you haven’t defined their abstract goal. The abstract goal could be something like, “I want to feel more confident at the beach post-baby.” That could also be considered their “why”.

Finding your “why” isn’t a new concept and while I feel it’s been beaten like a dead horse, it’s still easier said than done.

The 5-Whys method is an interactive technique used to get to the root of the issue which will give you what you need to help your members solve it effectively. This is a great method to use during your goal setting sessions. Just remember, the point of goal setting isn’t to get the concrete goal – it’s about getting to why they want to accomplish that in the first place.

Image Credit: CrossFit Active Performance

What’s Dennis’ one piece of advice for gym owners?

Find a way to create relationships with your members and motivate them outside of the gym.


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Jessica Depatie About the author

Jessica is the marketing maven here at Gymwright. She's a business consultant and holistic marketer for fitness businesses. She specializes in the decision-making psychology of what makes everyday people want to optimize themselves. She dives deep into how people seek out growth in the pursuit of living happier and healthier.

  • Thanks for having me on the show, Markus & Jess! Keep up the great work at Gymwright.

    June 20, 2018 at 7:32 pm

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