How To Become The Best Leader For Your Business

Apr 26, 2021 - 45 min read
Support your peers with the best possible leadership

In this week’s episode of FitNation’s Lunch & Learn webinar we welcomed Lindsey Rainwater: experienced business advisor, executive coach and the founder of the Women in Fitness Association. With her, interviewer Alex von Hagen delved into how you can become the leader your business deserves. Lindsey also shared tips on how to build your personal brand, optimising your behaviour towards responsibility and how to create a culture of success and transformational change in your facility.

Watch the webinar recording by clicking on the play button and read the transcript below.

Alex von Hagen: Welcome, everybody. Thanks for taking the time to join us for another FitNation Lunch and Learn. Joining this week from my home state and I think one of the most beautiful places in America, that would be Colorado is Lindsey Rainwater. She’s the founder and CEO of the Women in Fitness Association or WIFA. She’s an experienced business advisor and executive coach. And today, we’re going to discuss how to be the best leader for your fitness business. So within that topic, we’re going to shine a light on three different areas. First, one is building your personal brand. The second one is optimizing your behavior towards responsibilities, and the third is creating a culture of success and transformational change. So yeah, without further ado, Lindsey, thanks for taking the time to join us on a frosty snowy April, Colorado morning.

Lindsey Rainwater: You’re welcome, Alex. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here with Fit Nation.


Alex: Awesome. Yes. So yeah, always a good spot to kick off. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, and how you first landed in the fitness industry.

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I’ve been in the fitness industry since I was six years old, in my opinion, because I grew up an athlete. So I grew up figure skating and I started contract figure skating when I was six. And so I was on the ice all day every day, and then my mom homeschooled me. And so I was literally at the rink doing homework. I mean, it was a very immersed experience. So I’ve been involved with sports forever. But the discipline that created for me was, it really set apart the way that I behave, you know, from a young age. Fast-forward to my high school years, my first year out of high school**, I worked at an all women’s health club.** It was called The Health Spa at the time, and it was the nineties. And so I checked everybody in with a paper card, and we had our big feature was the new elliptical that Precor had just put out. I’m aging myself a little bit here, but I’m proud of it. And so long story short, I started working in health clubs at 17, 18 years old. I also got my degree in culinary arts and hospitality management because I’ve always had a heart for being in service.

And what ended up happening was I had a brief stint about five years that I worked for Starbucks Coffee Company while I was in college. I was in management with them. I got a lot of experience running stores, with training and development. It was during their big growth years. So I got a lot of opportunities at a really young age and then 2008 happens. And my career kind of came to a halt in the sense of the retail management chain. Our ladder of growth became stunted because of the layoffs that were happening. And so I got back in touch with one of those club operators that I worked for. He said, “You know, the fitness industry is really thriving right now.” And he connected me with a woman that worked in Boulder, Colorado for Peak Pilates, and she hired me on the spot. So I ended up doing commercial sales for Peak Pilates, and then they were bought by Mad Dogg Athletics. And so I ended up consulting and selling for the Spinning brand, Body Blade, Resist-A-Ball, and all the brands that they housed. Transitioned in, I was recruited out of there working for Les Mills and I worked the most successful Les Mills distributor agency in the US. At one time I was managing 10 States and the business development to bring Les Mills to the health clubs in those areas. So I traveled a lot.

Then somewhere in there, I decided to branch out on my own and this is where personal branding really is so important. But the whole time that I was working with Les Mills, I was writing my own content, and I was using the time that I was in health clubs as case studies for blog content and shares. And I was strengthening a voice I discovered as I was doing the work. And so in 2013, I created my own business name. And then in 2015, I started branching out and doing some independent consulting and collaborating with mentors, and in 2017, I formed WIFA. And so now, I feel really fortunate enough that in this last year I’ve gotten the opportunity to focus completely on WIFA. We’ve been blessed to secure funding in such a way where we can scale our operations, which is a really big deal because we’re going to help a lot of women, we already are. And my consulting work and speaking and writing are still always there. And my primary focus right now is WIFA. So that’s kind of a brief overview of the last 15 years.

Alex: Nice. Thank you for that. So that’s a pretty interesting one. And yeah, also I think a lot of people in the fitness industry have their background in athletics from a young age. And so I think a lot of people will resonate with that story where something imprinted in your brain early on, and it just kind of helped shape not only the direction of your career but also just your mindset, like how you approach things every day. So that’s really cool to hear.

Lindsey: Oh yeah. Absolutely.

What is WIFA?

Alex: And could you tell us a little bit more about WIFA?

Lindsey: Absolutely. So WIFA is the four impact global organization supporting women in the fitness industry. And I get asked a lot, well, what qualifies a woman in fitness? And I always throw the question back, you tell me. In the sense of, if you’re standing in the front row of the group fitness class, chomping up the beat to get trained, you’re a woman in fitness. If you are teaching a couple of classes a week, you’re a woman in fitness. You run 60 health clubs globally, you’re a woman in fitness. You sell treadmills, you’re a woman in fitness. You have an app. So there are so many different ways to be a woman in fitness.

And what I realized was that because the industry can be so siloed, and it’s tough to know if you work in a club, what are the professional opportunities in the service industry, on the service side. So I would talk to women all the time, especially when I was consulting with Les Mills that wanted to make that full-time. They wanted to make a full income working in fitness, but they had to teach like 16, 17 classes a week just to pay their rent. And so it was always very enlightening to me to be able to say, “Hey, well, did you know, there are companies like Life Fitness and Matrix that you could go sell equipment for? And then maybe teach a couple of classes a week. But you could make a living selling to clubs just like this one.” And so I have a real heart for connecting those dots and that’s a lot of the work that WIFA does in addition to our advocacy for getting women paid equitably. So right now I mean, it’s a global issue. It’s way outside of the fitness industry, but whether it’s the hourly rate for group fitness instructors, the personal training rates, how are we helping health clubs and individuals set their rates? How are we creating opportunities for women? Historically, you see a lot of health clubs and a lot of companies run by men and led by women. So how do we get that paradigm changed? So to get more women in the C suite, more women in the boardroom.

And the career development and the acumen that happens inside of the WIFA membership have a lot to do with the soft skills. So the skills that I didn’t learn in college, no one taught me in business courses, the emotional intelligence, and the self-confidence that it actually takes to be successful in your career. And the member experience that we create has everything to do with enriching the lives of our members so that they can know why they’re on the planet. Why did they wake up in the morning? What is their purpose for being here? And then you line that up with your career aspirations. Then you go and say, “Okay, where do I need to ask for more money or negotiate for myself?” And so those are all the skills that we teach within WIFA.

And so WIFA is a global membership organization, and when you join, you get access to our network. It’s for all women in fitness and I really started it because I was about to become a new mom. I was pregnant with my first son and I really was craving a place where I could connect with fellow female business owners and talk to them about the dynamics and really scheduling of your career or your day-to-day life managing your business and being a mom. So it was very clear that I wanted to work full-time, but I also didn’t want to just go the daycare route. I wasn’t comfortable with okay, my child’s going to be away from me for the next eight hours. I’m going to do work, and then we’re all going to get together for an hour and then go to bed at night. I didn’t want to have kids just not to raise them. So I wanted to find a hybrid. I wanted to create a new solution. And so that took crowdsourcing a lot of opinions, right? Well, there was nowhere when I really started looking around in our industry where women were in support of other women gathered. We have a lot of groups, a lot of organizations, a lot of networks, and there wasn’t anywhere where women specifically were gathered to help each other. And so I linked arms with a couple of women that have lots of tenure in the industry and ask for their help. And almost four years later here we are.

Alex: Nice. Yeah. Well, as they say, necessity is the mother of all invention, right? So you saw the need there and that’s really the end result. So that’s a super cool trajectory. Thank you for sharing that.

Lindsey: Yeah.

What does personal brand mean to you?

Alex: And as we transition to the topics that we’re going to focus on today. So yeah, the first one that we’ll kick off with personal brand, obviously. It’s very crowded out there. There’s a lot of competition for mind share, for opinion sharing on LinkedIn, so standing out takes a pretty concerted effort. I think the one that’s most important for people it’s going to follow them whether they’re in the fitness industry or not, it’s their personal brand. So yeah, I’d be interested to hear your take on personal brand, what it means to you and what you personally focus on when thinking about yours?

Lindsey: Yeah. You know, this topic is so vital for every single human on the planet to understand, regardless of the industry you’re in, regardless of your role, having a voice that supersedes your circumstances is very important. And I think the tendency is, especially if you work in an organization, and you’re assigned a job title is to start to identify with that job title and let that dictate how you show up. And my wish for everyone is that there would be a voice that would supersede any circumstance that you have, that just articulate who you are, and it spans much further beyond the job that you might hold at that time.

So some examples of that are, you know when I was working with Les Mills, I was in upwards of hundreds of different facilities a week, and it was for-profit, not-for-profit, boutiques you name it. And I was traveling between at the time six different States and then up to 10 towards the end. And so what an opportunity to see so many business models over the course of a given week and month. And so the opportunity for me to start writing about that and sharing about what I saw became a massive asset in my own mind, and then something that I could share back. And so I developed little ways. I would get back in the car after sitting with someone and having a meeting and I would use my voice dictator in my notes app on my phone and just, I would talk out a couple of points of what happens during that meeting. And then I would email it to myself. And later on in my hotel room that night, when I was sitting there eating my Whole Foods hot bar and getting ready for the next day, I would develop a blog out of it. And I started doing that about 10 years ago, and I’ve never stopped.

And what’s happened is whatever my job is at that time, it iterated what I was talking about. And so for a long time, I talked about what’s going on in clubs. What I’m seeing? What’s working? What’s not working? What are some of the common themes? What are some of the trends that are coming? And so it was a way for me to amplify the work I was doing, and I got paid largely on commission at the time. So it made sense for me to make sure that I was saying great things about the clubs I was in because it made a nice follow-on article as well. Hashtag, business development tip if you’ve never done that before, do it at works. And it’s the right thing to do like you’re saying. It’s like you say, nice things about people. You tell them how wonderful they are, and it develops an environment for supporting one another.

So the personal branding aspect of it can be found in whatever you’re doing. And what I’ve discovered is I’m definitely, I’m not a writer. Rewind the clocks to when I was figure skating and this is so embarrassing to admit, but I would cheat on my spelling exams with my mom when she was homeschooling me to get back on the ice. I was so excited about my athleticism that I really let my academics suffer during those formative years. And so I was actually really self-conscious about writing. I was very embarrassed about my spelling and grammar mistakes. And a lot of it came from this place of, you know what? When I learned of that, I wasn’t paying enough attention. So now I take extra time to make sure that there aren’t errors and if they are I’m human, I do my best. But you know, at the end of the day, if I were to let that stop me from hitting publish on the first blog, I would never have 10 years of a backlog of writing either.

Alex: Yup.

Lindsey: And it doesn’t have to be writing. You can do a video. You can do images. There are so many ways now to create content. We’re creating content right now, and this can be transcribed into the written word. It can be a voice. It can be video. There are so many ways that you can produce content, sound bites, whatever, quotes. And so I think that for branding, you’ve got to start. You have to make a plan. And then for me, every year changed. So I would figure out, wow. The things that were coming up for me would create themes. And I’ll never forget, I think it was 2013, I was on a flight home and there wasn’t Wi-Fi on my flight. So I had some dead space to fill, and I busted out a Word document. And I took some of the themes that had come up in my writing over the course of that year. And I created a 52-week topic calendar for the upcoming year based on what I was excited about the most to write about. And that I ended up having one of the most successful publishing years that I’ve ever had because I created this template for myself. And so when I was out in the world, I was always looking for, okay, I knew that’s what I was writing about next week, and so I was looking for examples of conscious listening or whatever the topic was. And then yeah, it just evolved from there. And then ironically, a lot of what we do at WIFA came from the things that I got excited about and wrote about a couple of years ago.

Alex: So it all comes back, sort of. Yeah, it all circles back, right.

Lindsey: Yeah.

How to Start Working on Your Own Brand.

Alex: Awesome. And I think one thing you mentioned there, like getting started is the most important part for anyone who is going to start doing this. I think maybe one thing, and maybe this is me, you know speaking personally, but also knowing from colleagues and friends I’ve spoken with as well, some people hold back a little bit because of the feeling of imposter syndrome. They don’t want to seem like they’re someone they’re not. So how, or where would you suggest for someone to start working on developing their own brand, other than of course just getting started?

Lindsey: Yeah, I think, so a couple of things there. I read a really interesting article and I wish I could remember the source a couple of months ago about how imposter syndrome is completely made up, from the context of we’re kind of programmed to believe that, I can’t remember exactly how it phrased it, but let’s just stick with the point that it’s made up. So imposter syndrome, what is it really? It’s like not quite either growing into the thing that you’re doing, maybe you’re acting as a director, but you’re still in your mind a coordinator because you felt really good at the coordinator job, so you haven’t grown into the director level yet. News flash, most of the time, when you start a personal brand, I would encourage you to think about it as an internal promotion. You’ve just promoted yourself to director level or in my opinion, the CEO of your life. And so there’s going to be a learning curve of teaching yourself how to do it while you do it.

And so I think first understand that most people out there are doing that. They’re trying to figure it out as they go. We all are. Next thought process is no idea at this point is really original. Someone has had it along the way. If you’re thinking something, it probably has to do with something you’ve read over time or all the collection of things that we’ve been taught and marinated on for decades, however old we are. So just cite your sources. Like if you have a really good thought, and you’re curious about it, Google it to see if anyone else has also had that thought, and then give them credit and develop your thoughts around it. So most of the content that I write comes from a lot of the courses that have become part of me that I’ve taken from thought leaders. And so my ideas become original inside of that context. But just point back to the origin. You know Gabrielle Bernstein gave me this idea and here’s what my life looks like today as a result of reading this book. Don’t, not source Gabby. Make sure people, you can point back to that. And I think that eliminates some of the imposter parts of it, is just to realize, like I’m not trying to invent the stapler for the first time. That’s been done.

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: How about instead, I talk about how the staplers changed my life because every one of us was put here for a specific purpose, and we all have a specific reason for being here. Even if you talk about the exact same thing Gabby talked about, you’re not going to be able to reach the people Gabby reaches because those are Gabby’s people. And if you try to do it the way Gabby does, then you’re never going to reach the people you’re meant to reach. I think a great example of this, and I think it’s why I keep saying her name is there’s a book of hers called Spirit Junkie. And the book is actually a rewrite of another person’s book through her perspective. So Marianne Williamson wrote a book, A Gift of Miracles. I think that’s the name. Gabby read it, got inspired, approached her, and said, “Hey, this has changed my life. I’d like to share it with my audience.” And Marianne being the collaborator she is, said, “Great. Write it in the way that it’s going to reach your generation because I’m 20 years older than you. So go reach your generation with the same content.” And with her blessing, she went and did that.

So she wrote a whole book about a book that had already been published. And so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel, just start talking about what’s going on in your life and make sure that you’re pointing to the people that got you there, or that gave you the phrasing or whatever. And pick a couple of topics that you can rotate through. So for myself, I talk about conscious living and how that informs basically your whole life. My family is a huge part of my content. I love sharing inspirational quotes and the empowerment and championing of women. And so I rotate through and then my fitness routines. So I rotate through those four things and that kind of informs the content I share.

Alex: Okay. Got you. I think what I hear a lot from you as well is that there are some really focused efforts and putting a structure behind what you’re doing. It’s not something that just happens overnight. It’s really that collection over time. But as you say, like cite your sources and start pulling it all together and then that’s the brand that you start to build for yourself. Okay. Nice. Thank you.

Lindsey: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be hard. So a really simple way to start it is to open an Excel spreadsheet or a Google sheet, number it down the side, you could start with 52. You could divide 52 in half for the number of weeks in a year. You could start with 12 months, whatever. It’s what feels most comfortable to you. And then start an outline just like you would, if you were writing a term paper in eighth grade. So start an outline. Pick your 12 topics. Pick your 52 topics and then from there and those topics can be informed by a couple of things that you choose to rotate through like I just mentioned. They can be driven by one specific message. And I will say before you actually do the exercise I just said if you’ve never done any soul searching or any why work or purpose work, hard stop, do some of that. And if you’re not ready for that, maybe take some time to publish your content for yourself until you develop a rhythm and then share it publicly. And I say that because it depends on your comfort level of learning in public. If you don’t know why you wake up in the morning, and you don’t feel aligned with your purpose which will change, so if you know something start with that.

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: You might consider pausing and still doing the exercises, but waiting to share them until your confidence can align with what you’re putting out. Because if you don’t, one bad comment is going to crush you, and you’re going to stop.

What Does It Mean to Be a Female Business Leader in the Fitness Industry?

Alex: Yup. I hear you. Thanks. Okay. And then, as we’ve mentioned already, I think a few times today, like the topics we’re going to discuss, it has value for anyone listening to the podcast. But I would be however interested to hear about your experiences and your take so far on what it means to be a female business leader in the fitness industry.

Lindsey: Yeah, I think it means a lot. I take really seriously modeling for other women and what that looks like and how every door that is open for me, that I have a responsibility to hold it open for as many women that can get through the door. And so it’s way less about the opportunities that are being given to me, but how can I scale the opportunities I’ve been given to help as many women as I possibly can? So there’s that aspect of it. And then the reason I talked about purpose work and why work and the confidence piece is because, in my experience, I’ve had years where I’ve felt really magical, and I think I’m in one of those groves right now I feel really confident in my work. And I’ve had other times where I’ve emulated someone I saw as successful and that became how I felt successful, was I could align myself with what another person was measuring in success and see that. And a lot of us do that in our careers, right, until we find our footing.

But I think as women, in particular, we have to be so careful. This is my own experience. You have to be so careful not to let what other people want of you, dictate how you show up. So I had just little examples of that. How I dressed? How I presented myself? Reading the room and showing up in a certain way because I thought it was going to appease the people I worked with. Some of that might make sense if you’re trying to be the chameleon. Some of it gets really clear on you, and then you show up to the party or find your way along the way. But I think the part that can be really hard for women, in particular, is having the self-confidence to be unapologetically yourself and then to walk in that. And I’ll circle back, I’ll tie that into WIFA. I think a lot of the good work we’re doing in mentorships is helping dissolve some of that. Because whether it’s the way you dress at a trade show booth, I mean pre-COVID. But if somebody asks me to stand in heels for eight hours a day, but my colleague gets to wear his Nike’s, I’m going to ask about that now.

Alex: Yup.

Lindsey: I’m going to say, I’m going to call bullshit. Ten years ago, I would have done it. I did do it. So I think that there’s room for an opportunity there and that’s where the gender gap becomes glaringly obvious. When you walk up to a booth and you see women in heels and dresses and men in comfortable polo’s and tennis shoes, that’s bullshit. Like there has to be a different way of approaching that and there should be an open line of communication to talk through it. And it’s just interesting, some of those things that when you really pause and look at it, you’re like, “Why does that happen? Why do I have a story made up about heels looking a certain way?” And it’s a cultural norm. We have to pause and break down.

Steps to Close Gaps Between Male and Female Roles in The Industry.

Alex: Yeah. And this example you’ve presented, I mean, let’s be obvious, for me, it hasn’t really crossed my mind. I’ve been to trade shows and yeah, I wear whatever I really want to wear. And that’s kind of it. Sometimes I fight wearing a cheesy company polo as well, I just want to wear my normal clothes. But that’s really something that I had not considered. So a good one to keep in mind for sure. On that note then, what other steps do you think need to occur in order to close any of these outstanding gaps that exist between the two roles in our industry?

Lindsey: So when you say the two roles, can you just say a little more, so I make sure I’m answering your question?

Alex: Male and female. Yeah.

Lindsey: Okay. I just want to take into effect that we want to recognize the folks that are non-binary as well and don’t claim any gender. So I just wanted to clarify, I was like, what are we talking about here?

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: So for me, the example that I just gave is one. Also, it has to be the organizations themselves and the leaders of the companies, whether it’s the health clubs, the brands, right now, we’re seeing globally a huge focus on DEI efforts, breaking down any anti-racist, it has to become part of your organizational culture. Diversity in the C-suite has to become, and we’re talking race, gender, any biases, they have to be broken down. The world is just closing in on us, in the sense of like, we’re not tolerating it anymore. So when I say closing in, I mean it’s like, you don’t get to not pay attention to this. Historically the kind of old boys club that runs the fitness industry, those boys have to make a decision to start either surrendering their seats and letting new opportunities come in or share their experience and get some people promoted to leadership roles that can change because the same results keep getting generated because the same people are speaking to power.

So if we want to create a new industry and a new experience for women, we have to change the way things are getting done. And I’ll just say it, I mean, I founded and run a non-profit that is in service of breaking this down and in service of getting women in C-suite roles and getting diversity, equity and inclusion pushed in every organization. And I asked a lot of companies to put this on their pillar of HR focuses and I get a lot of lip service and no action from most people. And so I don’t think we’re there yet where organizations see it as a must, because otherwise, I would have a flooded inbox of organizations begging me to give them the BIPAC speakers that I’ve found that can speak on their panels and I get a couple of those emails.

Alex: Okay.

Lindsey: And so there’s a lot of work to be done in the sense that it’s not the issue that it needs to be. We’ve had some really cool movements in the last decade where women have stepped forward and said here’s how I’m being harassed in the workplace. And other women stepped forward and champion the idea that people get called out and cultures get changed. But by and large, there’s still an underbelly of discrimination across the board that has to be broken in order and completely dismantled so that we can breathe life into a new way of doing things. And so I’m excited to see what organizations in the next year get that in order to create change in their organization and get women promoted and have women in leadership roles, they need to have a plan in place and it needs to be an active part of their human resources strategy.

Advice for Women Who Follow Your Footsteps

Alex: Excellent. Yeah. Very much agree, very much agree. What advice would you give to the women who are going to follow in your footsteps whether it be in the next five years, the next 10 years? You’ve touched on it a little bit already, but.

Lindsey: Yeah. Alex, I hope that the world is really different and so the choices that they’re having to make are different. I think that the best advice that I would give is to focus on the development of your self-esteem, purpose, and why you wake up every morning and make for damn sure that it’s lined up with an output that doesn’t depend on other people, places or things to keep you going. So it has to come from inside of you. And if it does, then lining yourself up with any given circumstance becomes a lot easier because you’re not having to rely on the feel-goods from other people to fuel you through your day. You’re fueling yourself through your day because you have a bigger purpose lining you up. Like, I hope you can feel that through the way I talk. WIFA is a vehicle, podcasts are a vehicle, but the reason I woke up today and the reason that I’m excited to be here right now, isn’t because of that one thing. It’s because I want to see a completely different world than the one we’re living in right now, and I believe that it takes solid advocacy every single day to change that.

WIFA’s goals and vision

Alex: Yep. And I think also a good transition to the next one of the key topics that we’re going to talk about is how you can kind of craft your behavior or optimize your behavior towards the responsibilities, not only to yourself but to the organizations that you’re driving forward. So I know we’ve already touched on a few of these already, but thinking about WIFA’s goals and WIFA’s vision and your personal mission, like how do you align those two and how you present that message to those already on your team and those looking to join it?

Lindsey: Yeah. Well, I’m really fortunate in the sense that over the last 10 years, I got really clear that I wanted to be able to let the message that I wanted to have in the world, be the outpour of the organization that I created. And so that, it just so happens that what I believe so strongly about, what we’re talking about right here is the purpose and the vision and the mission for the work we’ve been doing. And so I get to channel all that WIFA why energy every single day. But to get really nitty-gritty, there’s got to be a plan in place to allow your big macro purpose and vision and all that stuff. There has to be a really detailed way to get it micro to inform the daily behaviors that will allow you to produce your jolts. So what do I mean by that?

You have to have a system for calendar blocking and when you get stuff done. So if you know that your value system is to spend time on the work that you love and maybe that’s for another company, right? So that’s a big percentage of your day. You need to work on your own brand. So that’s a percentage of your day that’s outside of this part. You have a family that you love and a spouse that you love, and you have a network of friends and family that you really want to spend time with too. So those are your four buckets. So if you look at a calendar, if you start every single day, let’s say at 6:00 AM, how do you spend your time between 6:00 AM and 10:00 PM, so that you are pouring into each one of those buckets? So personally, the way that I’ve set up my schedule for years is the first two hours of every day are reserved for filling my tank. So for years, the six to seven or seven to eight, before I had kids, it was seven to eight. Now that I have kids at six to seven. I write I read, I pour into myself. So that’s like if you want to call it like my personal branding time.

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: So now from six to seven in the morning, I’m journaling. I’m reading quotes. I’m filling up my cup so that I can be available so that when my sweet little three-year-old is like, “Mommy, what’s for breakfast?” I can come to him with a presence of love and not irritability. I’ve also had coffee by then. So the seven to eight is for family time. So I take my son to preschool. I get to spend some time with my two-year-old. I get to set up my day, have some breakfast. Sometimes I get to do my workout then. Other times it comes later in the day, but that’s another part of it, it’s the movement for me. And then from there at 8:30, I’m fortunate enough that I have a circumstance right now where I have childcare in my home. And so she and I run my home together between 8:30 and 5:00. And those are the hours that I’m committed to being totally present and available for WIFA. And then it switches back to family and then my spouse is in the mix of that. So usually where my workouts come in right now are during the lunch break. So usually I take a pause from WIFA, and I’ll go to my basement, and I’ll hop on my Peloton, or I’ll get on. I’ll do a workout with my TRX straps or something to that effect, at least five days a week, some form of movement. And then I’m back to family time.

So I’m spending time with my husband, and I’m having dinner with my family. It’s a really big priority for Jeremy and I, that we make sure we have dinner with our kids, even though we’re little just to set the precedent, that this is family time. And then whether it’s weekends or whatever, like, I feel fortunate that a lot of my friends I get to interact with all day long because I work with them. My colleagues have become my friends over the years. And then personal relationships outside of that, I’ve used Marco Polo a lot this last year to stay in touch with people or video chat if I can’t see them in person. But the point of it is from the outside, it might look like a really rigid schedule but for me, it’s my opportunity to touch all four of those meaningful things each day.

How has COIVD caused you to rethink your role as a leader?

Alex: Great. Yeah. Thank you. And we don’t want to go back to just discussing COVID because I think people have COVID fatigue just hearing about it, talking about it, thinking about it all day every day.

Lindsey: [Inaudible 38:23] word.

Alex: But the past year now, how has this caused you to rethink your role as a leader?

Lindsey: Yeah. You know, so the initial COVID responses, so working from home, things like that, I’ve been doing that for over 10 years. And so for me, a lot of my day-to-day didn’t change. The things that changed were, oh, I have to wear a mask when I run to Target now, which sounds incredibly like, it’s interesting because so many people were like, “Oh my gosh, I’m trying to figure out how to work from home.” I’m like, “I can give you some tips. I’ve been doing it for like 10 years.” But I think as far as what it has done for me is it’s distilled down any extra noise that was in my life that I wasn’t conscious of. So there were a couple of activities, whether it was like a group study or a book club or whatever that I had just kind of kept doing, but didn’t really have a big why behind, that got cleared up. A couple of relationships that just weren’t serving me anymore from a business standpoint, I got an opportunity to change my whole life.

My husband and I, in order to get WIFA to the point it is now, I worked for WIFA for almost a year with a tiny stipend offset daycare for three days. And so, because I knew that if I gave it my all, I could get us to a place where I could give it my full attention and make it my job for a while. But that took very intense short-term sacrifices from my family to be able to do that. It’s a non-profit, I’m never going to own it. Like that’s not the point. The point is what can we do to scale and change the world for women, period. And so last year was an opportunity for me to get really clear on, am I chasing consulting work or am I growing WIFA? And I’m growing WIFA. So that was a big turning point that came via COVID.

Alex: Nice. And then would you say there was some, I mean, looking around at some of your peers or just other business leaders, either in our industry or outside of the industry, their response to COVID, were there any surprises you had or any interesting reactions, some that stuck out?

Lindsey: I’m trying to think if there’s anything that stuck out. I think the biggest thing that stood out for me was because we had COVID and then in the US, we had a tremendous shakeup around the way that we’ve been handling ourselves as a nation around racist behavior. And literally, just yesterday that the George Floyd case, he was claimed guilty and I’m not trying to be political. This is a human rights thing. So I feel really happy that in 2020 organizations, I think we’re really forced to take this on in a way that they hadn’t before. And so, yeah, COVID was the primary, like big thing all year long, but I think it was also what surprised me was how many organizations did nothing. It was deafening. I was embarrassed for them. I made some really hard decisions, personally, cutting ties with companies that I’d been writing for, for over a decade, because I wasn’t willing to collaborate with anyone that wasn’t making it a priority to do anti-racist work. And it hurt my heart to see the lack of participation from so many fitness industry companies and at the same time, really proud of the work we could do inside of WIFA and the companies we could align ourselves with that was doing good.

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: So yeah, that was an interesting point for me last year.

Alex: Yeah, I would agree with that point too. And a guy like over in the UK, his name’s Jon Nasta, he’s been a marketing executive for big gym chains, and now he does a lot of consulting work as well, but I’ve listened to him on podcasts talk about the reactions or the stances that companies are taking, the perception that that creates not only in their followers but their employers, whether it’s no reaction or a reaction for the positive. No matter what people are going to perceive that in ways that you can just never understand. So it really is about making sure that it is a positive one that people are going to remember. And as you say, not one that is deafening which may speak louder than anything they could have said otherwise, right. Okay. So moving then towards one of the last key topics that we wanted to focus on today is about creating a culture of success and transformational change. We all know change can be super slow especially the bigger the organization, but how would you suggest for a leader in their own organization to start to get those wheels of change moving?

Suggestions for Organizations to Get Their Wheels of Change Moving

Lindsey: To start to get the wheels of change. Well, usually what inspires change is some sort of spotting a problem or an opportunity to evolve. So it’s tough for most people or companies to inspire any type of change, unless there’s a pain point, sadly. People don’t normally change just because they woke up feeling like it. Usually, it is inspired by that. So typically whether it’s an outside organization consulting you or an internal reoccurring problem that keeps coming up, identifying that first and then from there identifying if you’re internally going to be able to handle it, or if you need to bring in outside support . I love working with outside support, especially I’ve been the outside support so many times that I just think it’s such a great way to get outside of your own fishbowl because you’re in it all day long, right? And so you can’t see, what you don’t know, you can’t.

So anyways I think the first step is just identifying what is our problem? What is our reoccurring theme that has an opportunity here and then what resources need to be aligned with it? And if something needs to give, what’s going to be given up in order to get it done. And who’s it in favor with. And what part of your vision and mission is it lining up with? So you make sure that the dollars are being spent because you’re trying to evolve your primary purpose as an organization and not just throwing money at something that doesn’t really need to be fixed.

Alex: Okay. Yeah, I could see that for sure. Yeah. It is about identifying those problems, that is going back to what we said earlier. Like was it necessity is the mother of all invention? Like that’s when you realize why you need to change just because you have a problem that you can’t really focus on anymore.

Lindsey: Right.

Future Challenges or Opportunities in the Fitness Industry as a Result of COVID-19

Alex: Would you say to maybe some downstream challenges or opportunities that you see leaders facing in our industry that…?

Lindsey: Can you say that one more time?

Alex: Yeah. Sorry. So what challenges or maybe like, what opportunities do you think leaders are going to be faced with, in the coming years as a result of COVID in the fitness industry?

Lindsey: Yeah. Gosh, it completely depends on the vertical. It completely depends on what type of organization it is. Do you have four walls? Do you not have four walls? Is the virtual space saturated where you are? What are you doing? What’s your unique value proposition? I think that any notion that we get to stop iterating at any point has got to be smashed because it’s always been true. You always have to iterate and keep evolving, but I think now it’s been proven that you will completely fail if you are not iterating and keeping up because I mean, all the companies that didn’t have any type of a work from home solution felt that the first month of COVID. They had to pull shit out of their ass immediately in order to get their people working safely from home.

Alex: Yup.

Lindsey: So I think that’s part of it. You just have to be relevant to what you’re trying to do, who your end-user is, what you’re trying to and if you’re really clear on those things, then it starts to become somewhat obvious on how you can make changes. But if you don’t have a team that’s super conscious of always evolving, it’s going to be really hard. You know, it’s really involved.

Audience Questions and Answers

Alex: Yeah. It’s going to be a tough go. Yeah. And starting to get just some questions from the audience here. One that we get often, and I think it would be good to get your take on too, talk about some of the mentors or people that you’ve had, who you look to for inspiration. So whether that’s in the fitness industry or outside of it, I know you’ve called out an author already earlier this webinar, but yeah, maybe you could expand on that a little bit.

Lindsey: Yeah. One of my favorite thought leaders that I’m following right now that I really love is Brené Brown. She’s definitely in the personal development space who’s talk like she’s not specific to any one industry, but her book Daring Greatly is such a lovely template for how to show up as a leader in a way that really supports cultural change in a way that can help people feel the most aligned net worth that they possibly can, et cetera. So Brené Brown, Daring Greatly. If you go to her website, you can see just an outpour of free content and courses. You can even become a certified Brené Brown coach. There are so many pathways there. One of my long-time mentors and friends actually is Gay Hendricks and Kathlyn Hendricks, and they’ve written the book, The Big Leap, is a great place to start. I’m actually a Big Leap coach. So I spent two and a half years apprenticing with them on those practices and learning how to integrate those tools into my life and my leadership. And totally transformational, really integrates the entire body into the coaching experience, which really aligns with the fitness and wellness space.

Those two in particular are folks that I always go back to. I’ve been fortunate that with every job that I’ve had, whether it was the Mademoiselle Fitness Spa, when I was 17, the YMCA, when I worked with Les Mills, every organization I’ve worked with, there’s been a key person in that organization that has championed my work and whether it was a male or a female, it was somebody that partnered with me to grow my career. And it was something I was up for. I took the advice and I did it, but I also asked for help, and I was willing to put in the work. And so just like I do today for my employees if you have an environment where you have someone willing to help you, take the help, and grow.

Alex: Yeah. I think that’s super good advice as well, and I follow it myself. Like you shouldn’t be afraid to ask. There is no such thing as a stupid question, no matter how hard you can try, although some people do come close, myself included. But on that note, you’ve mentioned Daring Greatly and The Big Leap. Would you say you have any other book recommendations for people listening in right now that business leadership-oriented style books that you would like to give a call-out to?

Lindsey: Well, in my consulting work and day-to-day, my favorite business books that I always go back to is Jim Collins, Good to Great. It’s such a classic if you’ve never read it. And then Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Those are two really great places to start. And then before that one, my OG favorite is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

Alex: Definitely an all-time classic. Yeah.

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely.

Alex: Awesome. And hey, two more audience questions here. One coming in from Marta she works for Fit Vision. They’re a corporate wellness client or a corporate wellness business in Ireland. So her question is how to really stand out in the industry while being seen as an authority.

Lindsey: Are we talking about a personal brand or a whole company?

Alex: I would say that definitely falls into the personal brand category. Yeah.

Lindsey: Yeah. I think it goes back to your unique voice and worrying less about if it’s been said before, being original and more about what’s your purpose, why are you on the planet? What’s your unique opportunity and speaking from that place of discovery and being willing to seek curious and available, because you’re going to stand out if you’re being original to you. Where it starts to get messy is when you try to be like other people to the tune where it becomes familiar in not a good way.

Alex: Yep. Okay. I see it. I see it. Yup. And last one here from Ingmar based in the Netherlands where I’m calling in from as well, advice on how to scale up your business or your business concept and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Lindsey: Oh my goodness.

Alex: It’s a loaded one.

Lindsey: That’s a loaded question.

Alex: Yeah.

Lindsey: So I’m just going to take it down to probably not the popular answer, but like you have to do the work on what your business is and why you, it’s the same as a personal brand. Why does it exist? What am I here to accomplish? What problem am I solving? What are my values? What other organizations am I aligning myself with? Et cetera, et cetera. If you don’t have those things vetted out, and you can’t see a clear vision statement, value proposition, ideal customer, you don’t have to have the best business plan in the world per se, but you need to know why the heck you’re doing what you’re doing and what your reason for it is. And then once that’s all vetted out, the rest does start to make sense pretty quickly. If you don’t have those foundational skills, good luck. When it gets tough, I don’t know what to tell you. You’re not going to enjoy those days.

Alex: Yeah, I think, yeah, the strong foundation, it can definitely, it is that starting point, but it can also help weather the storms, whether it’s something outside of your control, like a COVID or something that happens that maybe you just didn’t see coming, but it’s something that needs to be addressed. So foundational very good shout.

Lindsey: [Inaudible 52:53].


Alex: Yeah. So, hey, always one of the last roundup aspects of any of these webinars, where do people go to find you if they want to learn more about you and about WIFA?

Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely. So WIFA is Women in Fitness, spelled out, dot O R G. So it’s a nonprofit. So it’s not a dotcom, it’s an org. So if you go to that website, you’re going to see all things WIFA. I think I’m linked on there somewhere, but if you want to read my content specifically, go to Lindsey. Or is it dot or dash? I love when I forget my own website, I changed it a while ago. So it’s Lindsey-Rainwater, all spelled out, dotcom. And that’s where you’ll see my blog and all my content. On Instagram, I’m Lindsey Rainwater. So if you Google me, you’ll see where I’ve been writing or where I’ve been featured as well.

Alex: Great. Yeah. Hopefully, a lot of our listeners want to go check you out and maybe some people who want to join WIFA as well. I think, especially with everyone being remote and being such a global organization, hopefully, you can get some new voices from around the world.

Lindsey: Thank you. I appreciate it.

Alex: Yes. Awesome. And yeah, Lindsey, we really appreciate you coming on today. Thank you for your time and your perspective and your expertise, and hopefully, we’ll catch up with you soon.

Lindsey: Thank you, sir.

Alex: Yes. All right. So it’s been another episode of Fit Nation Lunch and Learn. Thank you for tuning in, and we’ll see you next time.

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Nan de Bruin

Content Marketing Team Lead

Visual storyteller and winter sports enthusiast with 15 years of writing experience in English, Dutch, and Czech. Currently doing reps as the Content Marketing Team Lead at Virtuagym.