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The WHY of The Eagle Program

As told by Joe Cirulli, Gainesville Health & Fitness owner and Eagle Program founder 

Joe Employees


“In 1996, when GHF Main on Newberry Road opened, there was nothing but problems. Every day it was one complaint after the next. I would go to bed at midnight, wake up at 2:30am and come back to work to figure out how to solve the problems. The members would complain to me the minute I stepped into the gym. One day, a member said to me, “Do you know how hot it is in here? I said, yes ma’am, I do. You’re in here for about an hour and I’m here for 16 of them; I know exactly how hot it is.” That’s when I knew I was losing my patience. 

The breaking point came when member came in the front door complaining about something and I actually pictured myself strangling him. I realized that wasn’t the right way to teach the receptionists exceptional customer service. I decided to leave for the beach to get a good night’s sleep and come up with a plan that would help members look at what we we’re doing right, not everything that was going wrong. The members had developed a habit of thinking so negatively when they would come into the center. I had to come up with a mechanism to change their thinking. 


I remembered listening to Ken Blanchard speak, author of the One Minute Manager, who talked about the difference between eagles and ducks. Eagles were the people in the company who looked for ways to solve problems. The ducks were the people that just quacked all the time “That’s not my problem. That’s not my job.” 


I knew we had a bunch of eagles within the company. I came up with a plan to help our members find eagles inside our company and tell us about eagle moments when an employee went above and beyond. Most companies have an employee of the month, but there are many employees that do exceptional things that management never sees. I asked the members to be our eyes and ears and let us know when they spot an eagle. 


And this is how the Eagle Program began. Each month we hold an Eagle Dinner to recognize and reward Eagle employees in all departments. The Eagle Program is one of the ways we live our culture “Reward and recognition for exceptional performance.”