Beth Shaw of YogaFit Worldwide: “Be open to the exchange of ideas”

Be open to the exchange of ideas. Being able to listen to other ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming truly is key to a successful business. The process allows for new fresh ideas while showing that you value each team member and their input. Sometimes it’s imperative to listen more than you talk. We are living in […]

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Be open to the exchange of ideas. Being able to listen to other ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming truly is key to a successful business. The process allows for new fresh ideas while showing that you value each team member and their input. Sometimes it’s imperative to listen more than you talk.

We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools, and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?

In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Shaw.

Beth Shaw is a pioneer in the Wellness, Yoga & Fitness space in North America. Beth is single-handedly responsible for the widespread growth of yoga throughout the US and Canada. In 1994, she founded the international mind-body education school, YogaFit, which has since certified over 200,000 instructors worldwide. Recently, Beth has led trainings in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Japan, and many other international locations, while her team leads trainings throughout North America, Australia, and Europe. She believes in empowering cultures and sharing the gift of yoga beyond borders. Through the continuous development of YogaFit, Beth remains at the forefront as President, creating programs and yoga teacher training courses that are innovative and educational.

Beth is also a best-selling author. Her premier book, YogaFit, has sold over 100,000 units worldwide. YogaLean is a lifestyle program that provides tools for maintaining optimal health. The YogaFit Athlete, released in 2016, has inspired a 100-hour YogaFit for Athletes specialty track for instructors. All books have been translated into multiple languages, providing the universal appeal of YogaFit. Beth’s most recent book, Healing Trauma With Yoga, was released in December of 2019.

Beth is a go-to yoga/mindfulness expert in the media and has been featured in numerous fitness, business, and consumer publications, including SELF, Yoga Journal, Huffington Post, New York Times, Time Magazine, LA Times, Entrepreneur, Washington Post, and USA Today.

Are you seeking a motivating speaker? Beth is a frequent speaker at universities, conferences, and Fortune 500 Corporations. Beth educates others on Health & Mindfulness in the workplace and conscious business. She sits on the CanFitPro Advisory Panel, is a Mentor for New York City High School students, supports Animal Rights non-profit organizations, and is an advisor for the Long Island University Board.

As an E-RYT 500 and C-IAYT, Beth has spent time in India and Asia studying yoga and holds numerous certificates in mind-body disciplines. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Nutrition. She has been a trained Anger Management Specialist and Yoga Therapist since 1994.

Passionate about positive change in the world, Beth is a dedicated animal advocate. She also founded a non-profit organization, Visionary Women in Fitness, which awards scholarships to women worldwide. Shaw has dedicated her life to YogaFit and the transformational growth that the company creates globally through its programs and community service, giving away one million free yoga classes to those in need annually.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

A product of divorced parents in a family with a “scarce mentality” mother and a father who would rather do happy hour than do business meetings left me fending for myself financially from an early age. I started working at 15 years old. Ironically, I have been working out in health clubs since I was 15 as well. The good news is that I developed discipline in those two key areas early in life — things they don’t teach us in school. Fitness & Finance. Business and Health. I worked throughout high school after school, while many of my peers were hanging out in New York City — either getting into trouble or doing their homework while I was at work. After high school, I escaped New York City. While attending a small private four-year College, I worked a multitude of food service jobs. From a major hotel chain to a private country club and a seafood restaurant on the Bay, I got fired from all of them. After earning an honors degree in Business Marketing, I moved back to NYC. In the late eighties, the job market in NY was gloomy. Taking and failing several typing tests left me working as an assistant in a New York Media Firm. I developed great respect and admiration for the women who were in their thirties and had successful careers — I wanted to be just like them. However, I also wanted to excel faster than the company needed, and I soon found myself out of a job. The time for me was what I like to call a significant JUMP moment.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In 1997, the YogaFit Studio opened in downtown Hermosa Beach. Once a haven for 1970’s hippies, Hermosa went through gentrification and boom in the nineties. Recent college graduates flocked to the town along with working professionals who wanted the perks of living at the beach. Our studio was packed from the day we opened. Of course, it did not hurt that classes were by donation only, and we also offered parking validation — a massive plus in beach towns where the cities’ most significant revenue came from parking tickets. One of my greatest advertising campaigns was when I made studio flyers that looked like parking tickets and put them on every car in town. The Chief of Police showed up at our studio a few days later and was very displeased. I was able to spin this into a front-page story in the cities newspaper featuring the Chief and me outside my studio placing a parking ticket on a car. Every challenge can indeed be an opportunity, and there is almost no such thing as bad press.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“A JUMP moment is an opportunity for major growth, change, and transformation.” Beth Shaw If we are lucky, we can count our jump moments on both hands as Jump moments don’t come around very often. While a jump seems like a fall or descent, it actually takes us to the next level as it requires courage and trust. And if we miss them by not jumping, they can lead us into depression, anxiety, and addiction. We regret not jumping off the cliff metaphorically, not taking a chance. Each time I got fired, each time a job didn’t work out, it was a JUMP moment — a new door provided by the Universe. I just needed to open it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My first YogaFit venture was simultaneously a cable TV show, mail order clothing company, and Yoga studio within a health club — the first-ever in the United States. I started writing for fitness industry trades on “yoga as a profit center” for health clubs, and I got some free ad space. I received 250 responses to my first ad on training, hiring, and certifying yoga instructors, and the YogaFit Training division was born. Off we went to Fargo, North Dakota, to do our first training. The year was 1997, and we were operating out of my living room. By this time, I had been selling my logoed clothing out of my trunk for a few years

and had managed to attract the attention of one of my students, who was an investor in the stock market. He saw YogaFit as a worthwhile investment and helped me incorporate it, and he also invested 100,000 dollars of seed money.

Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?

We’re in the business of positive energy at YogaFit, and when our team members are physically together, the energy is amazing. Of course, there’s also the benefit of impromptu meetings to problem solve and brainstorm and the social aspect and connection that occurs when working with others in the same space.

On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?

Humans are wired for connection, so working remotely can be problematic if work is the primary place where people connect with others.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Clear delegation of responsibilities, projects, and related tasks. It’s imperative to know what each team member is working on so that you can offer the most comprehensive support. Holding weekly or even daily check-ins may be necessary.
  2. What motivates each person. Is one staff member motivated by praise, while another is motivated by monetary bonuses?
  3. Be open to the exchange of ideas. Being able to listen to other ideas when problem-solving or brainstorming truly is key to a successful business. The process allows for new fresh ideas while showing that you value each team member and their input. Sometimes it’s imperative to listen more than you talk.
  4. Each person manages their time a bit differently, but time management is still crucial. Some staff are more productive first thing in the morning, while others don’t hit their stride until midday. However, that is not an excuse to “not work.” Instead, help your staff find the schedule in which they are most efficient, which may look different from a traditional 9 to 5 day. Team members should be able to line their daily projects up to match their effectiveness.
  5. Be respectful of time. If a meeting is planned for a particular time, be there on time. Manage your schedule in such a way that when you are meeting as a team, you are fully present, even virtually.

Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work? Can you share any other issues that came up?

We provide cell phones for our customer service people. We pay for Zoom accounts.

Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?

We jumped on the Zoom bandwagon like everyone else. It has been an effective tool for remote working and for delivering our main product — yoga teacher training.

If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?

An all-in-one kit for those teaching fitness virtually, including background, lighting, camera, microphone, etc., that isn’t cost-prohibitive. Staff and customers were asked to turn their homes into offices, but the amount of equipment needed alongside the cost of the items made this incredibly difficult for many.

My particular expertise and interest is in Unified Communications. Has the pandemic changed the need or appeal for unified communications technology requirements? Can you explain?

Our staff has been remote for years, so that piece of the puzzle wasn’t new. However, the pandemic forced businesses of all sizes to find new and better ways to communicate with their staff and customers since in-person meetings were suspended. The need to rely on web-based conferencing was our most significant change, as we shifted our entire in-person model to a virtual one. We quickly found that specific technology was needed for everyone involved. While it took a few weeks to integrate everyone fully, we found the transition to be reasonably smooth.

Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?

The concern lies more in the fact that we do not want virtual meetings to replace in-person meetings forever. While it filled a need and a niche during the pandemic, it’s not the model that we would like to base our business on permanently. We look forward to being in person with people again and keeping the virtual meeting space an option rather than a constant.

So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?

We took our entire operation from in-person trainings to online trainings in a two-week period in March 2020. We use Zoom to deliver these trainings remotely, and this has allowed our customers to save money on travel. It’s a win-win!

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?

At YogaFit, we use PEP feedback, a “praise sandwich” of sorts that means praise-encourage-praise. These PEP guidelines ensure that the person is recognized for their contributions to the team and provided with encouragement for areas that need improvement. That may mean another team member assists with a project, or we arrange for the team member to take a course to enhance skills. Another communication tool we use is called Transformational Language, which ensures that everyone feels included. The communication is delivered in a positive way rather than negative and is process-oriented. We use these tools, whether in person or online.

Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?

We have two team meetings weekly via Zoom and schedule virtual happy hours from time to time. It’s almost as fun as being together.

Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

It’s no surprise that we’re already working on our movement. Yoga provides so many tools to enhance both physical and mental health. YogaFit yoga is for everybody and every body.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.

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