Have you ever found yourself defending a rule you may no longer need? As instructors rules are important but what about when you need to break a rule? Can you? I have a Yoga teacher who talks about following the rules as much as you can when you are first starting out. Why? Because as you advance you’ll need to break them. That is why when this week’s guest blogger Holly Furgason approached me with this blog I had to share it with all of you! Do you know when to be consistent and when to be innovative?
How much of our teaching or studio practices can be written down formally in syllabus or policy? Beyond that, as a creative teacher and entrepreneur, how much of my business do I even *want* to lock down as a policy? Does commitment to policy come at the price of freedom and evolution?
Let me tell you about something that happened to me recently that got me thinking about this.
A client emailed asking what our studio policy was regarding background music in the facility.
Over the last few years, I’ve found that most clients enjoy quiet background music during group classes and in the waiting area. You know, music that isn’t a definite style, but is a similar sound, melodic, simple instrumentals that offers a cool texture to the Pilates experience.
For some, it helps them disconnect from their day or move with more grace. Some Pilates beginners find it connects them to experiences that may have had with other systems of exercise, and that might help them stay open minded to this new experience.
And competition is fierce in my market. There are places that play such loud music they offer ear plugs (not sure how you hear the teacher, but that’s another story altogether).
But for me to stay relevant, I made this little compromise with music. I felt it offered a benefit without sacrificing the quality of the Pilates method which I hold very dear to my heart.
While we have many policies in place for the most common, recurring issues, I had never put this into a policy that a client could read.
But, her question got me thinking (thank you!).
How much of our teaching should be pre-planned or procedural; and how much should we follow intuition and wing it?
After sitting with these questions for a bit, I realized I was really asking a bigger question:
Where’s the magical space where innovation and consistency come together? Where can I establish a stable, consistent brand and/or teaching style, while continuing to change, grow, and evolve?
As Pilates teachers, we’re always looking for beauty, simplicity, and *the details*. Year after year that we teach, we’re always pushing to improve our skills and technique.
Without fail, every time I work with a new client I feel a buzz of butterflies in my stomach. I’m energized and excited by the unknown.
I get a thrill from thinking on the fly as I adapt to the client’s needs. And let’s face it, clients are the real judge of my teaching. I know that every single day, every single session, I have to do my best to hit and even exceed their expectations. I have to be able to work with any new client that comes through that studio door and deliver the very best experience with the Pilates method.
To be able to tailor Pilates to each unique client is not easy. That’s the consistency part of teaching.
The consistency is the work put into finding the things that work for you and your clients. Maybe there are certain exercises that most clients respond well too, i.e., Hundreds, Footwork on the Reformer. The stuff that they feel, and they like. It’s also a way that you have found, through experience, to simplify information; a way that you’ve found to highlight the juicy stuff that a client can’t leave your session without understanding.
For lack of a better word, it’s this craftsmanship that makes teaching an art as well as a consistent practice.
But finding that “winning formula” might be the Holy Grail that continues to evade us because Pilates is so very personal. Perfect consistency can be robotic. No one wants to be a Pilates-bot. We want to feel free to try something new, to teach in new ways, to redefine our appropriate to the same material.
Year after year, I get closer to understanding how my approach can be shaped and molded into something consistent. And this consistency? No matter how much I strive for it, I must continue to grow, evolve, and innovate.
I’ve always been driven to explore my creativity. Applying this creativity to Pilates has been a huge motivator over the years, keeping me inspired through Pilates to explore new ways of doing everything from teaching an exercise, to hanging stability balls, to managing staff.
In the beginning, my creativity was expressed by finding creative ways to deliver exercise instructions, exploring new props, or experimenting with exercise sequences and class formats. Now, further along in my career, I innovate in my approach to mentorship, helping students understand complex material, writing articles, creating workshops for teachers, and so forth.
Innovative thinking is really keeping eyes and ears open to new ways of doing something, saying something. It’s being adaptive. It’s responding to the client’s needs or market demands without bastardizing quality and integrity.
Want to find the magical place of consistency and innovation for yourself? Well, here’s one highly important question you need to ask yourself: How much time do I want to spend in the land of innovation, and how much in the land of consistency?
Let me ask differently: If your schedule was completely empty and you could shape it any way you wanted, how much time would you spend on creating new experiences versus defining your high-quality service with exacting detail as it currently is?
It’s been my experience that success is finding the balance between both consistency and innovation. The flexibility, agility to be at home in both places is best.
Consistency-innovation are really on a continuum. And you really need both.
Remember my opening story about our studio policies? It’s so important to have those policies in place so that the studio runs like a well-oiled machine. These policies serve two main purposes: the first is to provide consistency and clear information for clients and staff. The second is to ensure the studio always embodies your vision. But, it’s also important that your policies be flexible enough to accommodate the innovation that’s essential to keeping your studio relevant and growing.
A great Pilates teacher strikes a balance between consistency and innovation. This goes for both teaching or studio management.
Now, let’s find this state of mind. Start by realizing it’s a spectrum that needs to be shifted along from one side of it to the other.
As a Pilates instructor working at a studio, some time needs to be spent on presenting a consistent, clear message. There needs to be some time that you’re willing to step away from teaching clients or managing, to innovate — develop teaching skills, create exercise innovations, continue deepening your education, write studio policy, etc.
As you shift and play with different approaches on the consistency-innovation continuum, keep track of what results this brings you (do you get fewer emails asking policy; are clients re-booking you more regularly; do you feel more successful connecting clients to the Pilates method). Keep checking in so that you find the right balance for you to be happy, effective, and successful.
Exploring new ideas and innovative practices may come at the cost of losing a little consistency. But, in the end, it might just take your teaching, clients, and studio where it needs to go for success.
Remember, the vast majority of us who consider ourselves “creatives” have a multitude of strengths, skills, and dreams that we’re working on bringing to life. Don’t be scared to strategically give up some consistency or innovation to see those dreams through.
As you embrace the consistency-innovation mindset, don’t forget to be transparent with your clients and staff. And as you begin to put innovative approaches into action, re-establish consistency as quickly as you can. Even though you may lose a little consistency for the sake of growth, it’s all in the best interest of your clients.
PS I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on consistency-innovation. Send us a line or leave us a comment!
Thank you Holly! And I’ll be back next week with some important Pilates business tips. Thanks to all my guest bloggers for holding down the fort while I traveled to Cambodia and Japan.
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