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If you have ever done any kind of guided exercise you have probably heard a coach or a teacher talk about the importance of form.  In the world of physical fitness, proper form is essential for avoiding injury and strengthening your body.  During every single workout that I have, my personal trainer is constantly reminding me to watch my form.  That’s because as I work hard and get tired, my form tends to break down.   He can tell this is happening when either I speed up my cadence or when I transfer the exercise to a less tired muscle. In either case, my trainer calmly reminds me that I am “cheating” and doing an injustice to my body’s transformation. The more I heard this persistent focus on form, the more I thought about its relevance to leadership.

In order to achieve effective results in any endeavor, using proper form is essential to the outcome.  In fact, it is the foundation of any decision or action for which you desire to sustain long term results.  People leaders guide their team members to use proper form just like my personal trainer does with my workouts.   There are three important actions required to lead people to achieve proper form:

#1 Demonstrate

Please don’t mistake this action for micromanagement.  Demonstrating proper form is about showing the preferred way.  Any time we are doing a new exercise my personal trainer will show me the basics of how it is performed most effectively.  He can do this because he has studied the anatomy of the body and knows how the muscles need to be worked in order to build the most strength.  However, he also understands that good form is different for every person based on their physical stature, experience level and fitness level.  His demonstration serves as the example and then he allows me to discover my form.  As a leader, it is important for you to demonstrate how you want your team to perform. This does not mean that you tell them exactly how to do a job step by step, but it does mean you provide a framework for them to operate within.  Demonstration also means that whatever you ask your team to do, you also model on a day in and day out basis.  Using good form is not just a concept, it is a practice.

#2 Adjust

No matter how good I am or how good my trainer is at describing and demonstrating form, sometimes my technique needs adjusting.  He knows this because he is watching me as I work out to ensure that I am performing the exercise in a way that will deliver the most effective results for my body.  Leaders pay attention to how their team members perform their day to day activities.  Not like a spy or watch dog waiting to chastise them for a mistake, but rather as an interested party in their success like my trainer or a coach.  When you are watching someone’s actions to ensure their best results are achieved, you watch with a helpful eye.  If you see an individual struggling or heading in a direction that may not be successful, you offer guidance to adjust their course.  You can offer your thoughts on why they are out of alignment and suggest recommendations that will allow them to get back on track.  Just like adjustments are key in fitness training, they are also key in leading your team to deliver outstanding results.

#3  Encourage

When my trainer reminds me to adjust my form, it isn’t a nagging but rather a gesture of encouragement, especially when he notices that I am starting to tire.  “Gina, watch your form.  You are always really good about it, but as you get tired we all have a tendency to slack on proper form,” he’ll say. As a leader, you are responsible to keep your team members motivated and focused on achieving the end result.  Encourage your team members to keep doing a great job.  The harder the task is the more encouragement they will need.  All too often I have seen leaders start to push their teams hard and chastise them for not doing enough when things get tough.  This would be like my trainer barking orders at me saying “Gina you better correct your form right or else.”  If he pushed me too hard, I would most likely ignore his directive and potentially hurt myself or just quit the exercise.  Your team members would have the same reaction.  Encouragement is key to achieving sustained and effective results.

Just as my body requires me to understand and be mindful about proper form in order to reach my overall fitness goals, your team requires your leadership to remind them to use good form in order to achieve outstanding results.  Demonstrate, adjust and encourage your teams to apply proper form and techniques then you all can celebrate the great things you achieve.

Reflection Question: What are your thoughts around the topic of good form?  When have you or your team used poor form and what were your results?  What were the results of using good form?

Call for input: If you have a question about leading, supervising or managing people, please send an email to and the answer to your question may be featured in one of my weekly blog posts or weekly People Leadership Insights.

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