Trevor Howard’s 10 Top Tips for Leaders

Following a conversation over lunch with the inspirational Sarah Vogel whilst I was back in the UK on a recent visit, Sarah asked if I could pass on some of the lessons I have learnt over the years on managing staff. My Number 1 Rule of Management

 “You’re only as good as your team and its weakest member”

 2. Passion

This starts with you as leader, if the leader doesn’t have the passion for the job, you can be pretty sure that the team won’t either! If you don’t have the passion for the job, find a job that you do. Work is a whole lot easier when you are passionate about it. Only hire people with passion for the job, it’s easy to train staff how you want the job done but near impossible to train them to have a passion for it.

 3. Staff Come First:

Despite being a very customer service orientated industry, I believe staff come first. Sounds a bit controversial when everyone is telling you that the customer rules?  However for me, if your team is unhappy, how will they ever deliver the kind of customer service that you need to have a successful business?

4. Get Them Onboard:

Over the years I have tried many ways to manage groups and by far the most successful has been by ensuring that your team are involved in as many decision making elements of your business that you can. If they have input they are far more likely to take ownership and work to ensure that it is a success rather than just what they have been told to do. I personally cringe when I see management that still rule by fear!

5. Ownership

Probably the best piece of advice I have ever had, is to pretend the business you work in, is your business! Now I work for local government and there are so many policies to abide by, but I do my best to make sure the whole team try to act as if it was their gym. Our motto is “if you wouldn’t do it in your business, it’s not right for this one either”.

6. Goal Setting and the 1% rule

“You don’t need to reinvent the wheel”  so to encourage the team to make improvements I set them monthly challenges of improving a particular area and to see if they can make at least a 1% improvement. Invariably they achieve a lot more as they brain storm and try new ideas. You need to allow the team to make mistakes otherwise they will stop coming up with new ideas.

By doing this kind of exercise each month, they understand exactly what we are trying to achieve as it is measured and we achieve a lot more overall over the year as a result.

7. Team Strengths

Just like a sporting team, your staff will all bring different strengths to the team. We work hard to use people to their strengths and to get them to help the rest of the team who are weak in this area. Example, I have a staff member who is brilliant with computers. We get her to improve our systems and then organise training sessions with the rest of the team over a period time to bring them all up to speed. Just like a sports team, there is no point playing your team out of position every week! Also just like a team coach, some team members will need more direction or coaching whilst others just need support and encouragement. Your job is to identify this.

8. Lead by Example

I chuckle to myself when I see episodes of Undercover Boss at just how out of touch that some bosses can get. Granted I don’t run a big business but I do my best to make sure that I understand any of the issues that the team are experiencing, whether this is different shift patterns, problem customers or something as simple as cleaning the equipment. If your team know you are willing to do the task, they at least know that you experience the same problems and it’s a great way to stay in touch with your team and customers at the same time.

9. Bigger Picture

You often hear staff complaining that management are all idiots. This is often down to a lack of communication. I try to include the team in as many issues as possible as explained earlier. I also like to give each of them a chance to swap roles for a few days/hours where possible to give them a better insight and to share as much information with the team as possible. This gives them a better understanding of what we are trying to achieve. As mentioned earlier you also need to allow the team to make mistakes as part of the learning curve otherwise they will not want to challenge themselves.

10. Have Fun / Reward

Whenever you talk about rewards, the immediate thought is about monetary rewards. However this is often not possible, I find a good old fashioned Thank You can be just as effective. It’s very demoralising  for staff if all we do is find fault, so I prefer to catch them doing good things and praise them in front of everyone. I also use a selection of thank you, well done cards etc and those going beyond their role often get rewarded by being allowed to leave early or have a longer lunch break where possible. Usually by me doing their job for that period, but most importantly we try to have fun in jobs. A happy team is a productive team.


Trevor Howard is an expat Brit now working in Perth, Western Australia as a Health & Fitness Manager. He worked in the construction industry for 15yrs where he originally trained as a bricklayer before making his way into construction management. With sales and management experience also gained in the retail sector, he finally landed a dream role as Team Manager of Londons only professional Rugby League team in 1994 where he stayed for 10 years.  Following the birth of his daughter he moved to Perth where despite not knowing anyone he quickly rose through the ranks of sales once again to leading a team of over 40 staff in the Health & Fitness industry, winning the award of Best Gym in Western Australia in 2010. He often gives talks to students at Perth TAFE as well as being a member of the Fitness Australia Regional Commitee Team.

You can find out more at