Whoops Wrong Person!

Recently I was sitting on a tram quickly checking through my emails. I forwarded one particular email to one of my team with a comment at the top. Well I thought I forwarded it. But I actually pushed the Reply button without realising it. The following morning the original sender emailed me back a note on what I’d said, which he assumed was meant for him. Luckily my original comment had been complimentary, which is not always the case!

Twenty years ago the biggest risk of someone mistakenly hearing something not meant for them was talking too loudly or forgetting to hang up the phone properly. In one case a franchisor client faced legal action when a Regional Manager called a rather outspoken franchisee, who he didn’t like, and left a courteous message on her answering machine saying he would call her back. After hanging up the phone he let out a tirade of personal abuse about the person including some rather disgusting language, showing off in front of some colleagues in the office. What he didn’t realise was he hadn’t hung up his phone properly.

To say this was a painful lesson on the consequences of being disrespectful to franchisees would be an understatement. The CEO of the company, who shared this story with me, also said it resulted in a much needed shake up of their franchising culture. Listen to the language and the tone used in your business when the defenses are down and people think no-one is listening. It’s possibly the best indication of your culture. If you don’t like what you hear, or would be embarrassed if it was broadcast, perhaps it’s time to raise this for discussion in a team meeting.

Be careful what you say and what you write. This applies to making notes about franchisees, including prospective franchisees, and what you put into emails. You never know who will later request to read these notes or who your email will be forwarded to. This also applies to business conversations in groups, because these days someone may be recording or filming you. A useful approach is to assume whatever you write in your notes, or say to a group, is on the record. If you wouldn’t be happy for it to appear as a future headline somewhere, don’t write it or say it. While having to apologise may be good for one’s humility, it’s not always good for your business or brand.

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