Taking the Pain from Change

Isn't it great when you have one of those light bulb moments and see something familiar in a fresh light? It happened to me last week while facilitating the new FCA Academy course on Franchise Relationships.

We were discussing the major causes of conflict, one of these being the poor implementation of change. The Queensland team from Snap-on Tools, who were doing the course together, then shared how they successfully get a high level of franchisee buy-in to their new products launches. Their secret was in how they give their franchisees opportunities to make small decisions at various steps throughout the launch process. Their process got me reflecting on an important principle we often forget when implementing change.

We all like to feel in control of our life and the changes we undergo. These are the "changes we choose". Of course this is not always so. In the case of a franchisee, much of the change that affects their business "chooses them" in the form of franchisor decisions. But a franchisee's basic need to feel in control of their future never goes away. And it's when our basic needs are threatened that conflict breaks out.

It makes sense then to build in opportunities for franchisees to make decisions about the change, as this will help them retain some sense of control. This doesn’t have to be big. For instance, psychological health research has found that patients experience significantly less pain when they are given a choice of which arm to have an injection in. And they are also more satisfied with their doctor just from being given this simple choice! So even if the options are choosing between a rock and a hard place it can have a positive impact on the way people experience a situation.

What franchisees want most of all

"But", I hear you say, "What do we do when there are no avenues for franchisees to make any decisions about the change?" In this case, we need to respect some of the unwritten rules of belonging to a group. People in a democratic society have a fundamental belief they are entitled to be listened to when a decision is made that will affect them and their group. Failure to do often results in a "How dare they!" reaction as people feel their rights have been ignored.

The point is, when big decisions are being made, you should ensure people believe they have had an opportunity to be listened to. Those of you who have worked with me and my team will know there are some pretty cool group facilitation techniques that can efficiently achieve this.

Unfortunately we often see franchisors brush over the process of listening to franchisees during an important change process. For instance, we recently conducted an analysis of over 3,000 franchisee responses to the open ended question "Do you have a message for the leadership of your franchisor?" The most common response was "Listen and consult more with us"

The challenge for franchisors is, by the time they announce the change, they have already spent countless hours listening and debating with their internal management team and are busting to just take action and get started! Here, the only solution is to simply be patient, take a step back and acknowledge the franchisees' need to feel listened to and consulted.

After all, good listening is the essence of good communication and is the ultimate way to show respect for other people. And when you think about it, respect is what strong relationships are built on.

Until next time…

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