Negative Feedback to Positive Result

Negative Feedback to Positive Result - woman giving a thumbs up and thumbs down

By Jeff Jucha, Certified Two-Brain Fitness Business Mentor

Not all feedback is positive, but all feedback can lead to positive outcomes. Positive feedback simply cannot improve every situation, and sometimes negative feedback is most effective in creating changes for the better.

Let’s say, for example, your job description states coaches should be on site with the doors open 15 minutes before the class start time. But a coach shows up late, and it isn’t the first time. This time, the coach arrives four minutes before the start of class, leaving you to check in attendees as a prospective client sits waiting for a free consultation with you. 

We need the power of negative feedback here. We must identify the standards that are being missed, address the issue candidly and realign the staff person’s behavior. Here’s how to do it. 

Negative Feedback in Three Steps

First, ask to meet away from other staff and clients. No one wants to feel ambushed or publicly shamed. Be yourself and keep it simple: “I’d like to talk with you for a couple of minutes after tonight’s class. Can you meet me in the office after closing duties?” Be sure to meet away from distractions when the team member can fully listen to you.

Next, communicate by following the standards-experience-resolve framework.

1. Standards: Talk about what you want for your clients. If you have this info in a staff agreement or roles-and-tasks sheet for the team member, it’s even simpler: “I’d like to talk about the standard we both feel like our clients deserve. One standard is making sure we respect their time.” The goal is to make sure you’re both clear on the standard and why it matters. 

2. Experience: Next, talk about the experience you or your clients had: “I want to talk about the last two times we’ve missed that standard for our clients. It’s happening more than it should.” 

3. Resolve: Talking about the experience should lead into checking on the person: “… It’s happening more than it should. Are things OK outside here? Are you all right?” While the coach is responsible for being on time, it’s the owner’s responsibility to ask questions and learn how to help. 

At this point, the team member might take responsibility and outline changes he or she will make to honor the standard. Or you might have to provide some clarification.

If the coach says everything is OK, don’t take it as as complete lack of care. Instead, ask another question: “We need to show up for our members, but I want to do my part to make sure I’ve put you in a role where you feel you can do that and be successful. Is there something I can do to help?” 

This question will likely resolve the issue. For example, you and the coach might agree to adjust the schedule to allow him or her to get to the gym on time and meet the standards. 

Follow Up

In this system, support matters. Set a reminder to check in two weeks later with a quick chat or text message: “It looks like you’ve been on the ball with the new class schedule. I wanted to check in. Has it been a better fit for you so far?” 

Follow-up does two things:

1. It lets you know if the change stuck. We want the solution to be permanent.

2. It lets the coach know you care and respect him or her enough to address a real issue, offer to help and follow through. Follow-up shows character and creates strong bonds between professionals. 

If you’re putting off a conversation because you don’t know how to present negative feedback in a positive way, you now have another tool to use with your staff. And if you want help providing feedback or having difficult conversations that create change, email


One more thing!

Did you know gym owners can earn $100,000 a year with no more than 150 clients? We wrote a guide showing you exactly how.