To run a successful yoga studio, it’s essential to bring together a team of great teachers as well as cultivate the skill set necessary to lead that team. Growing up, I served as captain for many a sports team on which I played. Often, I was the one who insisted we run the extra mile, even when the coach wasn’t looking. Off the field, I spent hours cross-training, finessing my footwork, and getting to know my teammates. While I had a strong presence, I wasn’t the superstar of any team. I just did the work, played my heart out, and loved the learning as much as the competition.
Many of the same leadership qualities I displayed as a teenager are the same ones it takes to manage and uplift a yoga community as an adult. Thanks to the numerous years of research by Sam Walker, his book The Captain Class reveals the attributes most necessary to lead a winning team. This book is a must read for sports-lovers everywhere. But, more importantly, his leadership concepts can be easily integrated into a yoga studio for lasting success.
Photo: Arthur Poulin
WHAT IS LEADERSHIP?
What words come to mind when you think of a leader in the yoga industry? Are they graceful? Powerful? Charismatic? Abundantly skilled, wise, and calm? It’s actually common to hold the view that all leaders must possess these traits, and more, to be effective. However, Sam Walker, discovered that elite sports captains shared seven, less common, attributes that directly led to a team’s high achievements. We’ll look at the first three today, and the rest next week. Plus, we will discuss how you can directly nurture these skills to positively influence your own future (and that of your yoga studio).
The 7 Traits of Elite Captains are as follows:
- A Doggedness in focus and competition
- An Aggressive play that tests the limits of the rules
- A willingness to do thankless jobs
- A Low-key, practical, and democratic style of communication
- An ability to motivate others with passionate, non-verbal actions
- A strong conviction to do what is right
- An ironclad ability to control emotions
While yoga is not a competitive sport, and running a studio need not be a competitive venture, we can learn from leaders who took on such roles.
TRAIT 1: A HIGH LEVEL OF FOCUS
Carlos Puyol was captain of Barcelona’s professional team as they dominated the world, winning two European titles and the 2010 World Cup. He was famous for his all-out style of play, and for his dedication to conditioning. Not only would he play more minutes than his teammates during matches, but he would hit up a yoga or Pilates classes after training. He was also so vicious in competition that he had a gash on his forehead stapled shut, right there on the sidelines, in order to avoid being substituted out of the game.
Thankfully, there is not this level of urgency or physical strain in the dedication needed to run a yoga studio. Instead, what’s required is a consistent drive to achieve mastery. You must prepare and condition for the attainment of your goals. You must commit to the community you are building, view problems as puzzles to be understood, and approach any personal limitations as a chance for improvement. Then, and perhaps most importantly, this tenacity must be demonstrated to your team.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO BUILD FOCUS
Stay true to your own practice
As BKS Iyengar said, “Yoga is the method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels.” When you commit to your own personal practice, you work through your own illusions and raise your vibration. You also create an internal clarity with which you can approach the business tasks of running your studio, as well as stay stoked about your role in ongoing leadership there.
Generate, and stick to, a strong studio strategy
Have you developed a succinct plan for building, marketing, serving, and growing your studio? What elements do you have in place to keep your dream alive? To uplift yourself and others? What methods, or steps, are you following that have been successful for yourself or others in the past? And how are new ideas being shared, and implemented, with your team? Just answering these questions alone is a good way to enhance your focus.
Demonstrate your commitment
While you might putting in long hours to meet deadlines or finish projects by yourself, it can be incredibly important for your team to witness this act of dedication. Stay connected to your team with email, social media or text. Show up to take one of their classes, or show your support by being on site to check in their students. Small, out-of-the-ordinary steps can make a huge impact in the harmony and commitment of the entire group.
Delegate when you feel overwhelmed
It’s true, there are only 24 hours in a day and only so many hours of each day that you can work to build your business. Admit your weaknesses, and get help in areas where you lack the skills or time to meet the needs of your business.
TRAIT 2: PLAY BY THE EDGE OF THE RULES
There is a longstanding tradition in sports known as the code of sportsmanship. This is similar to the foundational component of integrity within yoga. This moral soundness is evident in every aspect of the practice, from how the body gets treated in each asana to the expression of satya (or truth) in every thought, word or action off of the mat.
Yet this trait extends beyond living by an ethical code of conduct.
It’s about the willingness to keep an open mind and embrace the opportunities that come with change. Or, it’s creating a new pathway for those changes within ourselves and our environment. The captains of the sixteen greatest sports teams in history often pushed the rules to a breaking point. We, as business owners and yoga practitioners, want to keep pushing forward to grow and evolve in the best way possible.
Consider how the blend of yoga, travel, and music has created the worldwide phenomenon of Wanderlust? Or, reflect on the fact that senior yoga, adapted yoga, and Broga are now common practices today, reaching a unique audience with each new approach?
Photo Credit: Quino Al
PRACTICAL WAYS TO STAY ON THE EDGE
Question theory, methodology, and practices
Leadership involves asking lots and lots of questions. Contemplate what you believe, what actions you are taking, and the goals that you have for your business. Be willing to look at what is working, and ask, “why?” Be courageous to face what is not working, and ask, “why?” Most of all, be fierce enough to hold the beliefs that are serving you, and welcome in new ways of thinking. This open mind could be just the tool needed to give your community the refreshing and exciting elements needed to fuel ongoing growth.
Contemplate innovative ways to connect to your community
How well do you know your community? This goes beyond the families, careers, and hobbies of your students (although, knowing these can give you a powerful way to address their ongoing list of needs). It extends into the depth to which you understand the broader city, health industry, and yoga environment as a whole. Discover new businesses that are opening up, and how you might form a strategic partnership. Find meaningful opportunities in which your teachers can volunteer. Truly knowing the people around you is one of the best ways to position yourself as an influential citizen. Combine that with your integrity, and your business is sure to blossom.
Consider new events you might host at your studio
Yoga is paired with just about anything these days, including custom wineries and craft breweries. Take inventory of the great peoples, places, and attractions near you and dream up fantastic ways to marry yoga with them. People thrive on new experiences, and you’ll keep students coming back for more when you provide unique ways for them to be happy (both off and on the mat).
TRAIT 3: A WILLINGNESS TO DO THANKLESS JOBS
It can be tempting in the bright, shiny, picture-perfect culture of today to forget the value of service. Tim Duncan, who led the San Antonio Spurs basketball team from 2003-2007, demonstrated his leadership through his traditional form of play. His footwork and body movements weren’t fancy on the court, but they efficiently got the job done over and over again. Actions taken outside of the spotlight are just as important for leaders. Carla Overbeck, who shared the captaincy of the women’s USA soccer team, would carry her teammates bags up to their hotel rooms when traveling.
This service-oriented approach is one that will build the foundation for a lasting business. It’s you, as the owner, who is responsible to promote the goals and values of your organization. It’s your job to have a tactical approach to get things done. And, it’s your creativity that will be able to make the necessary changes to keep your team on track. The question remains, “How are you serving your group in these ways?
Photo Credit: Chang Duong
PRACTICAL WAYS TO LEAD THROUGH SERVICE
Take the spotlight off of you, and highlight your community
Sam Walker describes service as leading from behind. This can be done by highlighting the personality, strengths and talents of your teachers. Highlight a new teacher of the month at your studio and/or in your newsletter. Throw out extra marketing material to share of their greatness. Think of yourself as the rising tide, and as you uplift others, the success of all rises, too.
Include your team in matters of the studio
One of the best ways to ensure teachers will stay part of your team is to have them feel their ideas are of value. When making changes to the studio, encourage feedback from your teachers first. When looking to make the place more efficient, enlist your students and teachers alike for input. The more you include them in studio growth, the more likely they will be to claim the space as their home and fight for it with all they’ve got.
Stay congruent in the small aspects of the business
Is your website continually up to date? Is the yoga studio kept clean? Do you notify teachers and staff of changes in a timely manner? Consider as many of the logistical and communication-based aspects of your business, and make sure you’re nailing them all. Again, if you are overwhelmed, see Trait #1 and delegate what you can’t address. The important thing is to stay on top of your game, and demonstrate your service to your studio and the team through your attention to the details.
PUTTING IT TOGETHER
This week we covered the first three of the seven leadership traits outlined by Sam Walker in his book, The Captain Class. Many of these characteristics may seem obvious. Yet, internalizing them takes repetition and conscious practice. To ensure you get the most out of this material, create a strategy to be a successful leader.
Take Action Now:
- Get on your mat. Decide how many days you want to practice, and for how long. Then, seriously, put it in your planner.
- Schedule time to reflect on your current skill set in these leadership areas. It’s great that you took the time to read this article (and we appreciate it!). Now, it’s time to assess your current condition and set some new goals for areas in which you want to improve. Yep, take out your calendar and pencil in that time now. Set up a reminder on your phone, too, while you’re at it.
- Download the worksheet that accompanies this blog. When you answer the questions outlined in the worksheet, you’ll be able to get a handle on where you currently stand in relation to where you want to go. Consider this an internal-GPS check to ensure you are well on your path to more focus, creativity, service, and fun.
Then, next week, join us as we cover the next four leadership qualities, which include:
4. A Low-key, practical, and democratic style of communication
5. An ability to motivate others with passionate, non-verbal actions
6. A strong conviction to do what is right
7. An ironclad ability to control emotions
See you then!