Lessons In Leadership: One On One With Chuck Runyon, CEO Of Anytime Fitness

I spoke to Chuck Runyon, the CEO of Anytime Fitness, about his thoughts on leadership and his best advice

Adam: Thanks again for taking the time to share your thoughts on leadership. First things first, though, I am sure readers would love to learn more about you. What is something about you that would surprise people?

Chuck: My lack of a formal education. I was a below-average high school student who merely “dabbled” at a local community college. If my English teacher knew that I had written two books, she would faint.

Adam: How did you get here? What failures, setbacks or challenges have been most instrumental to your growth?

Chuck: During the first several years of Anytime Fitness, we found ourselves needing to lobby state and city lawmakers to revise pre-existing legislation that did not foresee our business model – and could have prevented a key differentiating feature: 24/7 access to our facilities for members, via RFID (radio-frequency identification) key cards, during non-staffed hours. If we hadn’t successfully convinced lawmakers in California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and elsewhere that access to high-quality fitness options should be as convenient and accessible as possible, then Anytime Fitness might not exist today.

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Chuck: Ultimately, the most important measurement of effective leadership is results. No one remembers a leader who didn’t accomplish anything. To get results, a leader must have a long telescope to spot trends and the communication skills to mobilize a team.

Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have been around and what did you learn from them?

Chuck: In her own way, my mom was a great leader. With no formal training or education, she started as a shift worker at McDonalds and worked her way up to store manager, ultimately opening two stores in the Twin City area. She was able to motivate younger workers and her best attribute was her steady work ethic. She simply showed up every day to work hard, serve her employer, help other workers do their jobs, and do her best. She led by example and never had any emotional drama in the workplace.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Chuck: Build your self-awareness muscles. How do you “show up” with others? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Maximize your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses. Also, it’s very important to be vulnerable with others. People appreciate honesty and they’re turned off by pretentiousness.

Adam: What is the best advice you have on building, managing and leading teams?

Chuck: We use a system that we call C.A.T.T. — Communication. Alignment. Trust. Talent.

This should be a primary focus for all leaders. Each of the C.A.T.T. components are essential to building and leading an engaged, purpose-driven workforce. Think about it. Most problems can be traced back to one of the following:

1) Breakdown in communication

2) Misaligned on strategy

3) Team doesn’t trust each other

4) Team doesn’t have the talent to execute

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they impacted your development as a leader?

Chuck: My favorite hobby is coaching my kids’ sports teams. It brings me back to individualized teaching, based on the physical maturity and the skills of each player. As a coach and as a leader in the office, I work hard to make sure I’m more positive than negative (very important in youth sports) and I try to infuse fun into our practices.

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