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The Hierarchy of Responsibility

By Sean Greeley

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This is probably the most important message I’ll share with you this year.

It’s not about business strategy or tactics.

It’s about YOU and taking care of yourself.

I talk to a lot of fitness business owners from all over the world on a weekly basis.

And in most cases they are all in pain.

That’s how they get to us in the first place.

They want the best for themselves, their family, their staff, and their clients.

They want to grow.

They want to do, have, and become MORE than what they are today.

But somewhere along the journey, things got a bit blurry, confusing, and twisted.

And they need help with how to get back on the right track.

And that’s where we come in… to help and support them in fixing all that.

Most of our conversations revolve around business.

Teaching systems. Sharing tools & technology. And discussions around strategy, tactics, and operations.

But there is ALWAYS work to do on the most important foundation of everything… YOU!

YOUR belief system, thought process, and actions.

When this work is glossed over or missed… everything built on top of it usually ends up crumbling.

Or what is more often the case… it creates a huge roadblock that limits how high and fast you can climb the ladder of success.

One of the most frequent problems our clients bring to us lack of profitability in their business.

Which means they are not keeping much of what they make.

Their margins are slim.

And to change this, we have to look at both sides of the equation- cutting expenses where it makes sense and increasing rates.

Which means we take time to review how services are currently being packaged and priced.


Some clients are being charged X, while others are being charged Y.

And when we ask the client, “why is this so?”

We always here responses like:

1. I want to reward the clients who’ve been with me a long time

2. I told those clients I would never raise their rate

3. I don’t want to raise rates on the old clients, because that’s not how I would want to be treated as a customer.

Now, I understand how people get in these thought patterns.

But when I listen “between the lines and spoken words” as coach, I hear other reasons why people are not charging consistent rates… and killing themselves in their business working their asses off not making any money.

These are some of the things I “hear”…

1. I am afraid to raise my rates. I don’t want my clients to leave me. And I don’t have the confidence in my ability to market my business and go get new clients if these ones were to leave. So I am a slave to my business and submit myself to just serving the clients we work with, regardless of the fact that I’m broke and miserable. I hope that if I just focus on serving them, then maybe somehow things will change on their own or get better for me here.

2. I don’t want people to think I’m a money-hungry greedy person. And I’m afraid that by asking people to pay more they’ll think less of me. And I base my self-esteem on what my clients think of me (crazy, but true), because my ego and personal identity are all wrapped up in me being a great coach. Which is also one of the big reasons why I’m struggling jumping into the role of a “business owner”. And my inability to make that shift and evolution to the greater role I must step up and play… is also killing my ability to take care of myself, be the provider I need to be for those who depend on me, and be a good husband/father/friend. But let’s not go there yet because this is scary shit to talk about. Let’s just stick with this whole rate conversation.

3. I don’t believe in my value. I have some hangups about how much value I’m delivering and how much I should be compensated. I don’t believe I’m “worth any more than I’m already getting”.

4. I don’t believe I’m worthy of success. I think I need to suffer and be a matyr. Because I feel better about myself when I just focus on taking care of others and ignore taking care of myself  (this ties in and gets twisted with #1, 2, 3). And I think I need to just continue working harder. If I can just find a way to keep on doing THAT, then maybe I’ll be worthy of success.

Now, I could probably keep adding about 4 or 5 more things I “hear” going on in these conversations. But they are all variations on the themes of these 4. And I think you get the idea.

To Be Fair

In many cases, a LOT of people we work with move quickly through the adjustments required here.

We tell them “Hey, this isn’t working. You’re not making any money and killing yourself. So let’s fix this. And here are the mechanics of how we roll out a ‘raise the rates’ campaign.”

And even though they have a little bit of fear in their belly (which is always the case when ‘big leaps are about to happen’), they proceed to execute the plan we lay out, make the changes required, and everything gets immediately better.

But this is not always the case.

Some clients fight us tooth and nail to “hang onto” their old thought patterns and belief systems.

So as a coach, I’m always thinking about what I can do to continue helping these “hard cases”.

How can I help them become aware of what’s going on, and “re-program” themselves better for success?

NOTE: As a coach I used to really beat myself up when a client would fail here. But part of my evolution as a coach involved me coming to an understanding and acceptance of the fact that I can’t do this work for the client. THEY have to do it for themselves. And it is THEIR responsibility to make these changes required for their success, not mine.

I believe that improving my ability to emotionally ‘detach’ myself in the work I do with clients has also made me a much better coach over the last few years. And it’s certainly helped me become a whole lot happier and healthier in my own life. See parts of #2 above.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t get sucked in every now and then. But I’ve learned how to ‘disconnect’ pretty cleanly now, which I believe is absolutely critical to staying healthy and sane.

So let’s talk about how to do that and start addressing the “inner” work required to fix that which is you holding you back.

I think we need to start by bringing the conversation back to your FOUNDATION.

And how you prioritize the various responsibilities you have in all the relationships you have in your life.

So let’s begin that now…

Hierarchy of Responsibility

I want to introduce you to what I’m going to call the Hierarchy of Responsibility.

YOU are the foundation of everything. And therefore you must put YOURSELF first and then the rest of the people in your life in the following order. When you get this right everything works. When something is off, I believe you can almost always trace it back to this hierarchy being “out of whack”.

I believe that understanding this hierarchy, and learning to better structure and operate your life by it is absolutely critical to your health, happiness, and success.

Get this right and your potential is truly unlimited.

And if you’re struggling or in pain, I think you can just about always trace things back to something being off here.

The good news is the more you become aware of it, and understand it, the quicker you can make course corrections to get yourself “back on track” and in balance when necessary.

So next time you’re in pain, come back and check in with this chart OK?

Look at it and ask yourself if you’re putting things in the proper order here.

Because my guess is you’re probably not.

Now… let’s break this down and talk about it.

1. YOU. The FIRST responsibility you have in life is to take care of yourself. You are the foundation of everything. So when YOU are off, everything you do will be off. You must take care of yourself with the fundamentals like breathing, eating, sleeping, and exercise. Give yourself regular time off for rest and relaxation. And do what you can to keep your stress levels low.

Frankly, we could talk about this one for a long time. And we’d both benefit from the discussion. Because #1 is #1.

And many would say they already KNOW this to be true. But knowing and doing are 2 very different things.

And until you really start DOING with consistency, I submit to you that you really don’t KNOW very much of anything at all.

I’d also like to submit to you that many talk about the concept of integrity.

But I think integrity goes beyond being congruent in our words and actions. I think it means being consistent in living by your values.

So how the heck can you VALUE health and fitness, when you are living a life that is unhealthy?

To me that demonstates a major LACK of integrity.

If this discussion makes you uncomfortable, good. It’s supposed to.

Recognize it’s not ME that’s making this uncomfortable for you, it’s simply my calling your attention to the inconsistencies that may be going on for you here.

2. YOUR FAMILY & FRIENDS. There are people in your life who depend on you. You play many roles in your life from spouse, to parent, to friend. And don’t forget son/daughter, brother/sister, cousin, etc. Each of them are important. We play these roles for others and they play these roles for us. Each of us making up critical components of the support systems we all need in order to be at our best.

I am reminded of Shakespeare’s All the World’s a Stage when I think of this.

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,

If you’re unfamiliar with the full passage, it’s here.

3. YOUR TEAM. In the beginning as a solo entrepreneur YOU are your business. You do it all. And if you’re any good, you will quickly become a prisoner of your own success. But if you ever want to have a life and any freedom, then you must build and develop a team. And if you’re willing to allow yourself to evolve beyond your identity and self-esteem wrapped up in being “the best” coach/sales person/marketer/admin/bookkeeper/etc. and the believing you are the “only one who can do it right”, then you want to look for/grow/develop people who CAN DO IT BETTER THAN YOU EVER DID.

Support them, invest in them, and back them up. Because you can’t get very far without them. And how far your reach can go, the amount of value you can deliver to the world, and the number of people your company serves will ultimately be determined by THEM not YOU.

There are real limits to what YOU can do. But with THEM you can do more. Much, much more.

Be sure to re-read this passage several times until it really sinks in for you.

4. YOUR CLIENTS. Your are in the business of serving clients. Helping them solve their problems and achieve their goals. The easy clients are easy. Truth be told anybody who knows a little bit about what they’re doing could have worked with them and they would have gotten great results. Because their success is more about THEM, and much less about YOU.

But the more you can find new and better ways to help the ones who really need you the most, the ones that others have left behind, the more of a difference and impact you can make on the world.

And if you become really good at asking the right questions, and listening to the answers… you can continue to serve all of them for a lifetime.


Lots of discussion points in this article.

And many “deep thoughts” to ponder on here.

I’ve spent many months and years in my own ‘learning’.

And I’m certainly not done yet.

But I’ve come a long way, achieved a good bit of success, and what I have to share now I share with you here.

I encourage you to print this post out and spend time with it.

And when you’re listening to the conversation going on inside your own mind, give some real thought to these points.

Challenge yourself to do some digging and discover what ‘lies beneath’ that is guiding you now.

Then let go of that which is no longer serving you and embrace that which will help you grow.

We’re all rooting for you over here.

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