By Alan Shaw, Co-Founder and Head Coach of Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston, SC

Welcome to Box Building! Follow Rhapsody Fitness Co-Founders Alan Shaw and Trinity Wheeler as they continue to build one of the fastest growing gyms in South Carolina. Answer the hard questions, explore various approaches, dive into strategy and share lessons learned that go far beyond fitness to be universal across entrepreneurship and startups.

Best believe, if your team is looking for truth in hallways and around the water cooler, you have a serious problem. 

I’ve never subscribed to the school of thought that “keeping cards close” is a beneficial business practice, but as we established and built Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston, I was challenged to hone my skills and style around saying the hard things and cultivating a culture of trust and transparency among my team. 

Rhapsody Fitness

Team Rhapsody at Rhapsody Fitness in Charleston, SC.

Creating a culture that thrives off honesty, clarity and trust comes from the top down. For this environment to exist, you need to set the standard from the start and continue health checks as your organization grows. 

5 Speak The Truth Lessons

Here are 5 lessons I learned and continue to practice when it comes to creating a transparent team culture.   

  1. Communicate your way to transparency. Grey areas and unknowns make all involved uncertain and uncomfortable. When in doubt, say it again with feeling. 
  2. Be the (re)source. As the team lead, create and hold a safe space for your team members to ask questions, provide feedback and seek guidance. Work to ensure you are the authority for accurate information across your organization. 
  3. Set clear expectations. Make sure each member of your team knows their role, what you need from them, the rules and guidelines to get it done, and what success looks like. People want to know where they stand, so tell them. 
  4. Draw the line. There is a clear distinction between Co-Founder, Coach and friend inside our four walls. This does not mean I don’t adore and respect each member of my team – it means that there are clear roles, responsibilities and boundaries. Again, grey is no good. 
  5. Turn it around. As your business matures, you may go through phases where that pristine culture gets cloudy. It happens to the best of us, but when you catch it you need to address it. Take ownership (buck stops with you, boss…), investigate and evaluate, understand the motivation, and do 1:1 check-ins with each team member to get back on track. 

The legwork involved in establishing and maintaining this kind of culture is never a one-and-done deal – it’s more like a muscle that needs to be trained and flexed over time. Like anything else we do, the sweat equity invested here is well worth the result. 

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