How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business and Client Relationships

Wow – do I have a treat for everyone today.

Best selling author and
founder & CEO, Joel Ohman, is in the house today with a stellar
guest post on “radical candidness,” and how it can make you a
better, more successful personal trainer and human.


How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business
& Client Relationships

At, we work with fitness business owners of every
type, niche, and specialty. From sports performance gym owners and
celebrity fitness trainers to incredibly witty and
intelligent cat lovers who can deadlift a Buick one-handed while
wielding a lightsaber with the other hand

Did I say that right, Tony?

Oh, wait, the image you made—um, right:

Anyway, all that is to say we work with all different types of
fitness professionals, and it gives us a unique insight into the
psyche of personal trainers and, specifically, how they communicate
with us, their co-workers, and their clients.

Different trainers have different communication styles.

Like all business owners, and people in general, there are
certain communication traps we can all fall into that can sabotage
our client relationships and undermine the success we are all
working so hard for in our fitness businesses.

is a book by former Google and Apple executive
Kim Scott that outlines a framework to be a better boss, colleague,
and human being.

The book outlines a quadrant representing four different very
common styles of communication.

On the Y-axis is your level of demonstrated personal care for
the person you are communicating with. On the X-axis is your level
of willingness to challenge directly in your communication with

The ideal stated goal in communication with clients, colleagues,
and partners is to land in that top right square titled “Radical
Candor,” where you are simultaneously demonstrating that you
personally care about the person you are talking to while also not
being afraid to challenge them directly and give them the hard
truths that they may need to hear.

Radical candor is what happens when you both Care
and you Challenge Directly at
the same time.

What Radical Candor is Not

But first, it’s important to outline what Radical Candor is

  • It’s not a license to act like a jerk.
  • It’s not an invitation to get creepily personal.
  • It’s not just for managers, personal trainers, bosses, or
    those in a position of authority—we all want to succeed.

It’s also helpful to look at each of the four different
possible communication approaches/attitudes in the grid and see if
you can recognize some common trainer/coach personality types, and
then, of course, do the introspective work of seeing which one you
tend to land in.

It won’t be hard, you should recognize which one fits you
right away (or, just ask one of your clients, your
colleagues/partners, or even better: your spouse).

Radical Candor

Radical Candor happens at the intersection of Care Personally
and Challenge Directly.

Care Personally means that you care about the other person, not
about whether you are winning a popularity contest.

Challenge Directly means that you share your perspective and
invite the other person to do the same.

This is the gold standard of where we all want to be.

This is the personal trainer who obviously cares about their
clients and wants them to succeed, but is also willing to say the
hard truth when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyle choices,
following medical advice when it comes to weight management, and
other sensitive topics.

Obnoxious Aggression

Obnoxious Aggression is mean but may be helpful.

Obnoxious Aggression is also called “brutal honesty” or
“front stabbing.” This is the classic Marine boot camp
instructor or the raging high school football coach that breaks his

This is the personal trainer who screams at clients but is more
invested in checking out their own biceps in the gym mirror than
they are in seeing their clients succeed.

We recently created a comprehensive guide on
how to become a successful online trainer
packed with
case studies, and surprise, surprise, yelling and screaming at
clients, whether in-person or via video, was not a recipe for

In a weird way, we have experienced coaches, trainers, or bosses
like this and they have actually made us better people though.

This is why this is the second best square in the

Even though that screaming football coach might make you want to
hang your head and quietly cry in the shower after a game, can you
rely on that coach to ALWAYS tell you exactly where you stand with

Can you count on him to communicate directly with you, tell it
to you like it is, and give you immediate and specific feedback on
what you need to do to improve?

“Cut right, I said CUT RIGHT! Why did you cut left? What part
of CUT RIGHT don’t you understand! Get this in your thick head:

Umm, yes.

At least the communication is clear, direct, and immediate. But,
as we probably all know, any success is usually short-term as

athletes tend to underperform for coaches who motivate solely with

Ruinous Empathy

Ruinous Empathy is “nice” but ultimately unhelpful or even

It’s seeing somebody with their fly down, but, not wanting to
embarrass them, saying nothing, with the result that 15 more people
see them with their fly down—more embarrassing for them.

It’s a personal trainer not wanting to tell their client the
hard truth, that yes, their doctor is right, they do need to lose
those 60 pounds. It’s a fitness business owner not wanting to
confront their head personal trainer when they are not meeting

Manipulative Insincerity

Manipulative Insincerity is a stab in the back.

This is active sabotage, and the worst of what we all think of
when we think of interpersonal relationships and communication,
whether that’s office politics or gym politics.

What About You?

In our weekly team meetings we like to start off with a 10-15
minute segment we call “Weekly Wisdom” that has one member of
the team sharing something they recently learned, whether business,
personal, a book they read, etc. and then we discuss as a team.

We recently discussed, you guessed it, Radical Candor, and here
are some of the questions we discussed:

  1. Can you provide an example of someone who communicated
    something to you using Radical Candor? How did that make you
  2. Can you provide an example of someone who communicated
    something to you using Obnoxious Aggression, Ruinous Empathy, or
    Manipulative Insincerity? How did that make you feel?
  3. When faced with difficult conversations, which of the four
    communication approaches do you find yourself gravitating towards?
    How might you intentionally become Radically Candid instead?
  4. How might we encourage Radical Candor as a team?
  5. How might you utilize Radical Candor in your personal

So, what about you? How might becoming Radically Candid
transform your fitness business, your client relationships, and
maybe even your personal life?

About the Author

Joel Ohman is a serial
entrepreneur, author, and angel investor.

He is the founder and CEO of
and a number of tech startups. He lives
in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids.

His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull
Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries. He lifts
weights six days a week and does Krav Maga twice a week to try to
ignore the fact he’s still just a washed up ex-college basketball

You can connect with Joel and send your own Radically Candid
personal communication to him at

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The post
How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business and
Client Relationships
appeared first on Tony Gentilcore.

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How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business and Client Relationships