What Bothers Field Managers

Over the past couple of weeks I have been delivering a series of workshops to franchisor support teams in several Nordic countries. Some new research I've been sharing with our Nordic cousins includes a study of 970 field consultants from 59 companies. A question we asked in the study was the extent to which certain things bothered them.

I was telling my wife about one of the most bothersome issues for field managers over dinner tonight in a noisy Swedish cafe. She thought I said it was "Not filling out forms" and commented she had often heard franchisees complain they have too much paperwork to fill out. I asked what that had to do with anything. When she told me what she had heard me say I burst out laughing because some people in these Nordic workshops have been struggling to understand my English. It was funny that now my own wife also couldn't understand me.

What I actually said was, one of the most bothersome issues for field managers is "Not feeling informed!" In fact 52% of field managers reported they do not feel informed of what's going on, with 27% saying this seriously bothers them. While this finding doesn't surprise me it should be a concern to anyone who wants their franchise network to perform at a high level. Here is an example of how this issue often plays itself out.

I was sitting at the back of the room in a franchisee conference where a senior franchisor marketing executive was announcing a new initiative. A couple of the field managers who were near me started rolling their eyes and shaking their heads. I leaned over and asked if they thought it was a bad idea. One of them said quietly, it wasn't the initiative they disapproved of, it was that this was the first they had heard about it. When the speaker announced that franchisees with any questions should talk to their field consultant, I could understand their frustration.

You can't lead from behind

Field managers have a tough job as they are, in effect, the face of the franchisor and often have to deal with franchisee resistance. When they are not properly briefed about new initiatives, or not given the opportunity to question the wisdom or timing of them, it can place them in a difficult and embarrassing situation. This particularly becomes a problem if they don't fully agree with the initiative or how it is being executed.

One of the most fundamental principles of change management is you can't lead others from behind. The best strategy in the world will fail if it is poorly executed. And the key to good execution is a high level of commitment from those who have to make it happen.

If you are rolling out an important strategy that needs franchisee commitment, your first step must be to gain the commitment of your own teams, especially your field team. This can be done by taking them through the proposed strategy and providing them with genuine opportunities to question and challenge the strategy. This will not only pressure test your assumptions and highlight any weaknesses in the strategy or its  execution, it will also significantly increase the commitment of the team to the strategy. Nothing happens without commitment and commitment comes from involvement. In summary, because your field team is often out of sight they can also become out of mind, so remember to keep them informed of what's going on and what's coming up.

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