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Leading yourself and business through change

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne Axelsson
September 27, 2021
Leading yourself and business through change

Les Mills is a company who is crystal clear on its vision: “50 years ago, we had a dream — to make humans fit for life. We bring the world’s best music, moves and instructors together to create life-changing fitness experiences, powered by science.”

Over the past 18 months, the business has had to adapt its model significantly as a result of ongoing lockdowns; and that journey hasn’t been an easy one for staff or customers. 

We chatted to Ish Cheyne, Head of Fitness at Les Mills New Zealand, about his personal journey into the role as well as this incredibly challenging time which he says has been “...full of surprises and opportunities to look for new ways of doing things.”

Ish shars four powerful stories that taught him four equally powerful lessons about successfully navigating change to see results when it comes to life; customers and business. 

Seeing mistakes as opportunity

The story: Ish started his career with Les Mills by mistake, ending up with a sales role after heading into the wrong door for his first chef’s job. He could have turned around and walked out - yet this serendipitous event introduced Ish to a new, exciting industry and 27 years later, he’s never looked back. “I'd never been to a gym before but went on to retrain as a fitness instructor – it was a big change!”

The lesson:  We need to start reframing ‘mistakes’ as opportunities. When we do that, our greatest successes just might follow. 

Thriving through new normals

The story: “When it feels like you have a handle on life and everything it throws at you… there’s often one more thing you have to learn how to cope with…” For Ish, during lockdown, this was open heart surgery for a loved one in the middle of an epidemic.  “I went into a space where I thought ‘this isn't fair.’ I didn’t see it differently until a friend asked ‘when did you ever think life was fair?’ And isn’t that the same with business? This is the best time to work together – look at the problems and work things out as a team. These are the times that show us how strong we are. Some things will be out of our control, but we can still control how we react.”

The lesson: While we’re looking out for the unexpected and new normals, it’s critical to ask: what can we stay in control of and adapt to?

The power of reinvention

The story: Les Mills prides itself on personal connection, but during Covid, that connection was abruptly taken away. “For us, that meant a re-think of ‘the way we’ve always done it’. We landed on creating a great experience no matter where the customer wants to work out - including in the privacy of their home. The key for us was to make that experience as consistent as possible.”

The lesson: There is always opportunity to rethink; to reangle. Awesome customer experience comes down to exceeding customer expectations - and there isn’t only one way to do that.

Leveraging the human touch 

The story: “Unlike many businesses, our NPS improved through lockdown and it comes down to the connection between clubs and their members. Many of our club’s managers took it upon themselves to ring up each and every club member personally to simply ‘check-in’. Some of the members were older members who told us we were the only ones to have rung them over that time just to ask: ‘Are you ok?’ There’s power in connection.”

The lesson: Customer experience comes down to the teams operating at the frontline - this is where success is created and where customers will quickly suss out whether ‘head office vision’ has made its way down to every member of staff.

As Ish concludes our interview, he tells us that “We can figure things out through life experience, resilience and connection.“ Wise words from a man who has truly lived them. 

Susanne Axelsson

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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