Are You Clearly Communicating?


Communication is a pivotal factor in the success of any business, and it starts at the top. Whether it’s communicating criticism, your appreciation for employees or changes around your Box, it needs to be clear.

For Sean Emery, the owner and general manager of Old City CrossFit in Washington D.C., communication and defining roles of employees go hand-in-hand. Both factors are started as early as the hiring process so there is no dispute of what an employee’s expectations are, and it makes communication less intimidating in the long run.

“The more you can communicate what is expected of a person, the more they will be able to do it. If what you want is not being done, then you need to figure out how you let that happen, what communication you missed,” said Emery “The biggest mistake was not defining roles soon enough, and the best advice is clearly defining roles and expectations.”

Communication in the Hiring Process

Their methods of communication start in the hiring process, are redefined through an employee handbook, which they follow to become a qualified coach, and then continue throughout their career at Old City CrossFit with several different methods. Emery said they consistently communicate through weekly Monday emails where he sends out notices of gym happenings. Every other week, they have staff meetings to which all the Coaches are invited. Not all Coaches can make it, however, so they also have a designated staff member type up the minutes which are then sent to everyone via email. Lastly, Emery said he tries to meet with Coaches one-on-one for bi-annual check-ins. He said talking to individuals one-on-one gives them the opportunity to make sure they’re happy with their hours, their position in the gym, their classes and any other employee-related issues. 

 “Communication is so important to make the Coaches feel appreciated and feel like they’re part of the success of the gym, and when the gym isn’t doing so well, make them feel like they’re part of the solution,” said Emery.

Dwight Upshaw, the head coach of CrossFit Sanitas, also stated defining roles within your Box is a great starting point for clear communication. He said at their gym they differentiate roles among staff between two main groups: coaching staff and front desk staff. He mainly deals with the coaching staff, ensuring they know their roles and the expectations that accompany them.

The Biggest Lessons Learned

Upshaw said one of the biggest lessons he has learned is to be more direct with his employees about his expectations. In doing so, he also learned to send follow up emails to Coaches about any important information they talk about in meetings or in passing so nothing “gets lost in the shuffle.” He said being vague or only communicating in passing leaves a big gap between what he wants and what his Coaches might think he wants. 

As far as things he’s learned not to do, he said giving only negative feedback is a “don’t” in his book. Instead, Upshaw said he relies heavily on the “compliment sandwich” that he learned from following Ben Bergeron’s lectures on coaching. Coaches are there to help people, so they’re typically looking for feedback in order to be the best they can be. With this method, point out something positive, something that could be improved and finally, a reminder they’re doing great.

But there is something worse than negative feedback. “Not giving people feedback is actually just as negative as giving people negative feedback, because you allow things to happen you’re not necessarily OK with,” said Upshaw.

Whether its criticism, appreciation, expectations or general procedures, if it’s defined from the start, and consistently followed up on, then it can be easily expressed. 


By Hunter Ellis, an intern at Peake Media.