How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business and Client Relationships

Share This:

Wow – do I have a treat for everyone today.

Best selling author and founder & CEO, Joel Ohman, is in the house today with a stellar guest post on “radical candidness,” and how it can make you a better, more successful personal trainer and human.


How Being Radically Candid Can Transform Your Fitness Business & Client Relationships

At, we work with fitness business owners of every type, niche, and specialty. From sports performance gym owners and celebrity fitness trainers to incredibly witty and intelligent cat lovers who can deadlift a Buick one-handed while wielding a lightsaber with the other hand.

Did I say that right, Tony?

Oh, wait, the image you made—um, right:

Anyway, all that is to say we work with all different types of fitness professionals, and it gives us a unique insight into the psyche of personal trainers and, specifically, how they communicate with us, their co-workers, and their clients.

Different trainers have different communication styles.

Like all business owners, and people in general, there are certain communication traps we can all fall into that can sabotage our client relationships and undermine the success we are all working so hard for in our fitness businesses.

Radical Candor is a book by former Google and Apple executive Kim Scott that outlines a framework to be a better boss, colleague, and human being.

The book outlines a quadrant representing four different very common styles of communication.

On the Y-axis is your level of demonstrated personal care for the person you are communicating with. On the X-axis is your level of willingness to challenge directly in your communication with others.

The ideal stated goal in communication with clients, colleagues, and partners is to land in that top right square titled “Radical Candor,” where you are simultaneously demonstrating that you personally care about the person you are talking to while also not being afraid to challenge them directly and give them the hard truths that they may need to hear.

Radical candor is what happens when you both Care Personally and you Challenge Directly at the same time.


What Radical Candor is Not

But first, it’s important to outline what Radical Candor is NOT.

  • It’s not a license to act like a jerk.
  • It’s not an invitation to get creepily personal.
  • It’s not just for managers, personal trainers, bosses, or those in a position of authority—we all want to succeed.

It’s also helpful to look at each of the four different possible communication approaches/attitudes in the grid and see if you can recognize some common trainer/coach personality types, and then, of course, do the introspective work of seeing which one you tend to land in.

It won’t be hard, you should recognize which one fits you right away (or, just ask one of your clients, your colleagues/partners, or even better: your spouse).

Radical Candor

Radical Candor happens at the intersection of Care Personally and Challenge Directly.

Care Personally means that you care about the other person, not about whether you are winning a popularity contest.

Challenge Directly means that you share your perspective and invite the other person to do the same.

This is the gold standard of where we all want to be.

This is the personal trainer who obviously cares about their clients and wants them to succeed, but is also willing to say the hard truth when it comes to encouraging healthy lifestyle choices, following medical advice when it comes to weight management, and other sensitive topics.

Obnoxious Aggression

Obnoxious Aggression is mean but may be helpful.

Obnoxious Aggression is also called “brutal honesty” or “front stabbing.” This is the classic Marine boot camp instructor or the raging high school football coach that breaks his clipboard

This is the personal trainer who screams at clients but is more invested in checking out their own biceps in the gym mirror than they are in seeing their clients succeed.

We recently created a comprehensive guide on how to become a successful online trainer packed with case studies, and surprise, surprise, yelling and screaming at clients, whether in-person or via video, was not a recipe for success.

In a weird way, we have experienced coaches, trainers, or bosses like this and they have actually made us better people though.

This is why this is the second best square in the quadrant.

Even though that screaming football coach might make you want to hang your head and quietly cry in the shower after a game, can you rely on that coach to ALWAYS tell you exactly where you stand with him?

Can you count on him to communicate directly with you, tell it to you like it is, and give you immediate and specific feedback on what you need to do to improve?

Umm, yes.

At least the communication is clear, direct, and immediate. But, as we probably all know, any success is usually short-term as athletes tend to underperform for coaches who motivate solely with fear.

Ruinous Empathy

Ruinous Empathy is “nice” but ultimately unhelpful or even damaging.

It’s seeing somebody with their fly down, but, not wanting to embarrass them, saying nothing, with the result that 15 more people see them with their fly down—more embarrassing for them.

It’s a personal trainer not wanting to tell their client the hard truth, that yes, their doctor is right, they do need to lose those 60 pounds. It’s a fitness business owner not wanting to confront their head personal trainer when they are not meeting expectations.

Manipulative Insincerity

Manipulative Insincerity is a stab in the back.

This is active sabotage, and the worst of what we all think of when we think of interpersonal relationships and communication, whether that’s office politics or gym politics.

What About You?

In our weekly team meetings we like to start off with a 10-15 minute segment we call “Weekly Wisdom” that has one member of the team sharing something they recently learned, whether business, personal, a book they read, etc. and then we discuss as a team.

We recently discussed, you guessed it, Radical Candor, and here are some of the questions we discussed:

  1. Can you provide an example of someone who communicated something to you using Radical Candor? How did that make you feel?
  2. Can you provide an example of someone who communicated something to you using Obnoxious Aggression, Ruinous Empathy, or Manipulative Insincerity? How did that make you feel?
  3. When faced with difficult conversations, which of the four communication approaches do you find yourself gravitating towards? How might you intentionally become Radically Candid instead?
  4. How might we encourage Radical Candor as a team?
  5. How might you utilize Radical Candor in your personal life?

So, what about you? How might becoming Radically Candid transform your fitness business, your client relationships, and maybe even your personal life?

About the Author

Joel Ohman is a serial entrepreneur, author, and angel investor.

He is the founder and CEO of and a number of tech startups. He lives in Tampa, FL with his wife Angela and their three kids.

His writing companion is Caesar, a slightly overweight Bull Mastiff who loves to eat the tops off of strawberries. He lifts weights six days a week and does Krav Maga twice a week to try to ignore the fact he’s still just a washed up ex-college basketball player.

You can connect with Joel and send your own Radically Candid personal communication to him at

SPECIAL DISCOUNT: If you want custom-branded iOS and Android apps for your fitness business, then check out’s fitness business management software to scale your business in-person and online using assessments, clients/class scheduling, gym check-ins, billing, workout software, and more then mention this article to get an extra month free.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

Share This Post:


Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

Leave a Comment