The Black Belt Business Podcast

Good Leadership: Passing Down the Praise

Jan 17, 2024

If you operate a successful martial arts academy, chances are you didn’t get there on your own. 

It may have been your Jiu Jitsu dream and your drive that sparked the fuse, but likely, you also had multiple individuals who believed in you and worked hard to help. They show up personally or professionally, and their contribution plays an integral role in upholding a core aspect of your business – from business consulting and athletic advice to emotional support.

In many ways, these are the people who keep things running smoothly around you so that you can focus on your dream. They include your coaches, your staff, your investors, and even often family and friends. Just as it takes a whole crew to throw a production, it takes a lot of moving parts and an entire team to operate a successful martial arts academy. 

To keep the team healthy and happy, you need to make sure you’re giving credit where credit is due. This means that each and every person who works hard and does their best should know it. Keep them connected to the bigger picture and the positive impact they have on the whole. 

If your classes are consistently popular or your martial arts academy is getting lots of positive feedback online, make sure you share the appreciation with the coaches running the show! While the academy may be your child and you may feel a certain amount of pride at seeing it succeed, without the coaches there would be no classes. A coach’s unique perspective, personality or approach can make all the difference in what brings your students in.

Similarly, if people come away from the academy having positive experiences after just stopping by, thank your front desk for doing a great job as First Impressions Specialists! Having a solid and in-sync administrative team cinches the seams of the operation, creating a certain smooth, unnoticeable sense of security in the background which allows the coaches to do their job. 

Some bosses used to think, you shouldn’t tell someone what a good job they’re doing lest the employee decides they’re too good for you and leaves to find something better. While luckily this mindset is pretty outdated, the seed of fear from which it stems hasn’t gone away. Fear is a basic human emotion, and It’s important you address it within yourself first to nip it in the bud.

Just because somebody knows they’re doing something right doesn’t mean they will stop doing it. Even the sentiment sounds funny! Rather, they will feel seen, appreciated and inspired to continue - like their hard work has paid off. By validating their hard work, your front desk staff will be more likely to stick around and see where it takes them.

Instead of fearing that people won’t be loyal, have confidence in yourself as the owner of a martial arts school which cares about the growth of a thriving, healthy community as much as the art of self defense. Your positive influence will only grow and your staff won’t leave for someone who truly sees their value. 

Highlighting the strengths of others does not make you weaker, and it takes away nothing from your own accomplishment. On the contrary, you will gain respect simply for showing it to others.  

For example, if you have someone on your team that could help coordinate communication between all the Muay Thai coaches, let them do it! Make them the Department Head, and relinquish some of the burden. Let them grow their skills and apply their resources. If you already have people around you willing to help who believe in you, then you likely already do this.

Who is responsible for what’s working? Does your Kids Comp Team have stellar attendance because one of the moms never fails to stay on top of sending out the latest updates, practices and competition schedules? 

Critical feedback has a place, but praise and honest affirmation are just as important. Your coaches, staff and unpaid assistants are much more likely to respond positively if their progress gets recognized alongside their shortcoming.

If someone’s working hard and making a positive impact, make sure they know you recognize it. When people feel their efforts getting validated, it fuels them to keep up the good work, seeing the potential for growth and reward. A small encouragement goes a long way. 

If you notice that one of your First Impressions Specialists has remembered to mention the gloves and gis you carry to each new prospect they sign up, give them a word of praise! This means they’re moving beyond the first steps of enduring chaos, social graces and selling memberships – they’re connecting with intention. Maybe this was a point of struggle before, and as they tweak their own customer-facing groove, noting these adjustments can help these skills grow in the right direction.

As long as you foster a culture that recognizes hard work with opportunities, your coaches and staff will have little reason, beyond routine life changes, to seek employment elsewhere. 

Respect has an inherently reciprocal value exchange – if you show up for your people, they’ll show up for you

Acknowledge their dedication and commitment to the team and the academy. Empower them to grow, and express gratitude for their contributions that make your life easier! The more empowered your academy’s team feels, the more they'll recognize your martial arts academy as the place where they can truly make a difference!

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