Bevan James Eyles shares his own experience of how to get the most out of our favorite topic, feedback.

As a group fitness Instructor, how good are you at taking feedback?

The reason I ask this is because I’ve discovered that this was something I may not have been so good at and it was an interesting revelation for me, let me explain.

Recently, I was preparing to present RPM™ at a quarterly Auckland Les Mills workshop - the “mothership” of all things Les Mills - and as part of the preparation process I had to submit a video of me teaching the latest release to Chris Richardson, from which he would give me feedback.

Chris has been a successful RPM instructor for a very long time, achieving video presenter level and has had a lot to do with the ‘behind the scenes’ work for the program; if anyone knows RPM, it’s Chris.

When I found out that Chris was going to give me feedback I felt a sudden resistance and if I’m 100% honest I didn’t really want to go through the process. The reason I felt this way is because Chris and I have totally different strengths as Instructors. Chris is the most amazing coach who’s detail to instruction helps his participants gain a deeper understanding of the how’s and why’s of the workout and while I have my strengths, my self-perceived biggest weakness is where Chris is strongest.

Chris and I scheduled a time to talk through the feedback and this is where my resistance really started to overtake me - actually it didn’t just start, it built into an overwhelming tidal wave that ended up consuming me. I found myself having defensive inner dialogue where I was unfairly focusing on where I felt Chris could improve so I didn’t have to confront myself, and I looked for all the good things that I do that Chris may not understand.

This place consumed me for three days leading up to our feedback session.

The morning of the session I sat down and confronted myself. Deep down I knew that if I stayed in this defensive place there would be no point in having the feedback session because I wouldn’t have the ability to take on board what Chris was saying. I knew I had to make a shift.

After giving myself time to think, I determined that I was going to go into our conversation with 3 focuses:

  1. Aim to be 100% open in the whole experience. I would try to quash my defensiveness and respect Chris’ knowledge and experience so he can help me improve in areas where I know I can improve.
  2. I would truly aim to understand what Chris was teaching me. This was about focusing during our session in a way that helped me gain the most from what Chris had to offer.
  3. Have an action plan from the conversation. If I wanted to grow and shift as an RPM Instructor, I needed to have an action plan that I could work on up until the presentation class.

With these focuses in place I called Chris for our feedback session. It was a total success. Chris gave me the feedback that I needed for me to progress and I left it knowing and understanding what I needed to do to achieve this.

That night Chris sent me a text thanking me for being so open, if only he knew what I had to go through to get to this place!

I can proudly say that my RPM presentation in Auckland was my best ever. I did ‘my thing’ but with Chris’ help I went to places I had never been and felt amazing at the end of it. This could have never happened had I not worked through what I needed to around the feedback process.

Feedback can be tough, especially when it’s coming from someone who’s strong in your self-perceived areas of weakness, but if you want to grow as an Instructor it’s one of the most important things you need to go through to improve.

So, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, aim to focus on being 100% open to the whole experience, understand what the person giving you the feedback is teaching you, and create an action plan from the conversation. I guarantee that if you can do this you’ll make massive steps forward on your Instructor journey.

BEVAN JAMES EYLES is from Christchurch, NZ, where he still lives. He began teaching in 1999, and has raced in eight Ironman competitions as well as marathons. Listen to Bevan’s podcast.