Dealing with employees — which some pundits have likened to operating an adult day-care center — is both challenging and rewarding. However, if you wish to grow your business beyond the garage-dojo stage, it's inevitable that you'll have employees. After all, there's only so much teaching and administrating one person can do. Sooner or later, you'll need a team to help you take your martial art to

No doubt you are already a good leader. Listed below are six keys that will help you become a great leader and build a winning team at your school.

START WITH WHY: Does everyone in your dojo know why your business exists? Yes, issuing mission statements and conducting retreats are all the rage in corporate America, but when it comes to running a small business like a martial arts school, identifying your purpose is every bit as important. No doubt you already know that martial arts training entails much more than kicking, punching and blocking. It also transcends the teaching of focus and discipline. There must be a burning reason why you exist.In the case of my school, the reason we exist is to serve as child-development and life coaches. Our passion is to help the boy who's bullied at school build self-confidence so he can stand up for himself. It's to help the girl who's too shy to speak to strangers grow into an adult who can say no to an aggressive man and be able to back it up. It's to help the woman who's lived a life of abuse acquire the skills and courage she needs to get out of her relationship.Every member of our team, from the head instructor to the janitor, knows this about our school.



CREATE THE POSITION, THEN HIRE THE BEST PERSON: A common mistake is hiring without purpose. Before we even interview a potential team member, we know exactly what we need and expect from the person. Only in this way can an employer find the best person to fit the position. Only in this way will the employer and the employee know exactly what the expectations are for that position.In addition to the person's skill set, we also look at his or her passion. That's why at the American Martial Arts Academy, we like to hire from within — typically, an existing student or a parent. Then we can rest assured that the person already knows our business and has felt the impact our program has.

BREAK BREAD TOGETHER: TheSocialWorkplace.com reports that "75 percent of people voluntarily leaving their jobs don't quit their jobs; they quit their bosses." What this means is that to build a winning team at your dojo, you must communicate. The more communication, the better. In our studio, the key team meets weekly for 30 minutes to discuss upcoming business issues. In addition, we have a weekly instructor meeting.It's not all business, though. We also get together for team building and family events. They include holiday parties, baseball games, birthdays, weddings and barbeques. We're there for each other, day or night. We all know that we have each other's back.

NEVER STOP LEARNING: Continuing education is essential — for you, as well as for your team. A common mistake that martial arts studio owners make is to assume that because they're a black belt in an art, they're also a black belt in business. Not true. Getting a rudimentary business education and keeping it up to date is as important as keeping your martial arts skill set current.A good way to do this involves finding a mentor with whom you can talk about concerns related to your business, discuss issues related to your employees or just bounce around ideas. Find organizations that offer educational opportunities for your team to grow their business skills. When you invest in your team members' growth, it's good for them and it's good for your business.

ALWAYS TROUBLESHOOT: There are times when a team member just isn't performing. Before you decide to get rid of the person, ask yourself a few questions:• Does he know what he's doing wrong?• Does she have clearly defined expectations in writing?• Does he have access to the tools he needs to succeed?• Does she have the right seat on the bus?That last item warrants explanation. Sometimes a person can be right for your business but not right for a specific position. Maybe she's not so good at marketing but would make an excellent teacher. Maybe he's not so good with people but would make a fine administrator. When it's your school, it's your job to find out and remedy the situation, if possible.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT JUST MIGHT NOT BE THE RIGHT FIT: Even after you've taken the steps mentioned above, you might hit a roadblock. Maybe the person's character outside the dojo doesn't match your organization's values. Maybe apathy has set in.As a school owner, no doubt you're attached to your team. Often, they're like family members. Remember, however, that purpose comes first. The moment someone stops fitting that purpose or has a purpose that doesn't align with your school's vision, he or she is no longer a good fit. Sometimes you have to remove a component to make something stronger. My teacher had to fire his own daughter for a short time — until she matured enough for him to rehire her.Clearly, leading employees — whether it's two or 20 — is challenging, but it also can be rewarding. Building the right team in your school can lead to more freedom, more growth and more opportunity for your students. Remember that no one wants a boss but everyone wants a coach, so be considerate and encouraging in your management approach.As business coach Chris Hogan says, "Good leaders help people get better at their jobs; great leaders help people get better at their lives."

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