4 min read

Leadership – CrossFit Style

Apr 24, 2015 6:30:00 AM

CrossFit“CrossFit is a cult,” many say as an accusation to someone they know who is part of the sport. The cult reference has more to do with the community created in the Box, CrossFit lingo for gym. The workouts are designed to forge elite fitness. They are challenging, physically and mentally, pushing you out of your comfort zone and demanding results you think impossible. This is how I start my day, at 5:30am, at least 4 days a week. I love the intensity, irreverence, attitude, and culture.

CrossFit is nothing if not demanding, and those who stick with it long enough will be transformed. Greg Glassman, CrossFit founder said, “CrossFit is a compelling model. Who would suggest low-intensity, non-functional, single joint exercises?”

The coaches are well trained – both physically and technically. One coach in particular is Amy Vandyck, a 6-year CrossFit veteran and Level 1 certified coach. She knows when to push, when to encourage, what time is on the clock, and what it means to get maximum results. She is personally invested in each person’s outcome, like any good coach.

It got me thinking, what if more leaders were like CrossFit coaches? The workplace would be significantly different. If every leader saw himself or herself as a coach, making it their mission to maximize their team, it would have a profound effect. Confidence is often the result of overcoming difficulty. It’s strength beyond what any muscle can lift. The skills developed in the process are translatable to the workplace.

With help and input from Brandon Wilton, an owner of CrossFit South Bend; Amy, the amazing coach mentioned above; and Stephanie Price, a fellow CrossFitter, journalist and ER nurse; here are a few thoughts on how to make it happen, CrossFit style:

Know your people

A CrossFit coach spends time to get to know their athletes and thus knows when to push, when to coddle, when to offer advice, and when to listen. A good leader must know their people. You can’t push someone to do what he or she cannot do. At the same time, expect more from them than they expect from themselves. Build on their strengths by letting them excel and soar where they can. 

Trust is key

It is the foundation of any relationship. Trust is built in many ways: time, expertise, showing you care, and being someone who can be counted on to do the right thing. The more trust, the better the relationship, and the easier it is to push someone’s limits for their own benefit. Notice I said ‘their own benefit’. Not yours. The more someone trusts your motivation, the harder they’ll push for you.

Define success

CrossFit is about excellence and is demonstrative of traits like perseverance, high standards, and not settling for mediocrity. CrossFit coaches know that form, for example, is more important than speed and technique trumps weight. In the workplace, success can mean many things. Having a clear definition of what it means to you and putting in the hard work to achieve it will propel any organization farther and faster.

Culture is king

CrossFit cultivates a culture of teamwork and camaraderie where members love to see others excel. Great cultures are associated with high performing teams and companies. From branding to employee engagement, culture is the glue that holds an organization together. It impacts everything from productivity to profitability.


A coach knows the consistent discipline of hard work will ultimately make an athlete better. Having the discipline to show up regularly, focus on technique – for safety and ability sake, and demanding more each time will make a difference. It doesn’t mean working more hours. It’s about making the most of the time you spend working so when it’s ‘go time’, you’ve got everything you need. 

Be adaptive

Coaches understand every person is different. Different skills. Varied abilities. But working for the same outcome. Get comfortable with the idea there are other methods than the ones you use. Encourage a learning environment. Be willing to encourage people to come up with different methods and be creative. Disconnect yourself emotionally from your methods to foster an environment that supports everyone’s different approach. And if you help your team enjoy the process, that process will get better, bringing about better results. Lather, rinse, repeat.


CrossFit workouts involve many movements where power = intensity. Intensity in a workout brings about a lot of things: pain, hard work, passion, and it helps people find their emotional and physical boundaries. Once you understand the extent of your limitations you can then set specific, measureable, attainable, relevant, and timely goals. It’s important to note that everyone’s comfort zone is relative; what is intense for me may be different than you. Having a relationship with your team, and understanding where that point is within each individual, will help you create the desired level of challenge.

What’s The Risk?

The risk of not joining CrossFit is that you’ll never know how great you really can be…oh wait, wrong blog! Leaders not seeing themselves as coaches, at least some of the time, will not maximize the capabilities of their team. That translates to lost productivity and profit.

Coaching is necessary when you have a team of professionals performing at a reasonably high level. It’s the technical know-how along with the ability to bring it about from each member of the team. And it’s the ability to ask people to do hard things. Because you know — sometimes better than they know themselves — they can do more. Not out of a sadistic desire to see them outside of their comfort zone, but the knowledge that the effort will pay off. For them.

3, 2, 1….GO!


Topics: Executive

Written by Gibson

Gibson is a firm of advisors and consultants that help clients get to the proactive side of insurance. We specialize in working with companies looking to find their edge—where they are growing as an organization, differentiating themselves in the marketplace, and preparing for current and future risk. Together we will find the perfect combination of insurance and consulting.