Recently, in a discussion about organizational culture, the exchange was quite robust and included the following statement from a CEO participant who stated, “The challenge becomes determining where and when things might be out of alignment. So, developing the methodology about how to realign must be developed and committed to early on.”
To the CEO’s point, the development and management of organizational culture is much like that of developing and cultivating a brand…
It must be planned.
It must be nurtured.
It must be allowed to grow.
It must be invested in.
It must be protected.
It must be promoted.
It must be cherished.
It must be the center of the universe.
I believe it’s relatively easy to determine when and where things are out of alignment in a franchise organization – disgruntled franchisees, refusal of franchisees to develop additional locations and instead are investing in other brands, frequent franchisor employee turnover… just to name a few that would be very apparent. Obviously, these are the results of, but not the root of the problem that may have caused things to move out of alignment. Mostly the problems occur (and fester) due to poor communications and lack of transparency between franchisor and franchisees. Inconsistent messaging adds fuel to the fire. Basically, similar problems to a marriage or other types of relationships that fail.
As for methodology to realign, that takes full commitment and focus from all parties to the relationship. However, in a franchise relationship it takes the franchisor to take the bull by the horns and lead the charge. The franchisor must spearhead the initiative to create open, honest, transparent communications, and especially through difficult scenarios. Franchisees have made a significant investment in the brand, and they must be kept aware of the good, bad AND ugly. Two precarious points include: How much is too much? Do franchisees need to know everything? Getting back to square one, a benchmark of sorts is critical as emotions running high will dictate more rather than less. Actions must speak louder than words!
At workshops and seminars, as well as within coaching and consulting projects, I talk a great deal about creating and delivering positively memorable experiences at all times. I believe it applies to the franchise relationship as much as it applies to customers & clients. I won’t get too deep here as this past week I shared my thoughts on the topic in this newsletter and in the past in the IFA’s Franchising World magazine. Instead, I will share my thoughts on a guideline that will help monitor the experience factor in any transaction or relationship. This guideline is what I refer to as, “The Emotion Circle”.
There are seven key steps within the circle. Think in terms of a clock with the top being the starting point. This is where the relationship begins. Once something occurs that doesn’t meet expectations the first reaction is surprise. From there, emotions may escalate to the next steps of disappointment and doubt. Or it may not escalate but another “incident” will definitely move the needle along. Sometimes, even an unaddressed issue will move it.
Of course, it is inevitable things happen, and expectations aren’t met or even understood. This is why proactive, open, transparent communications are paramount. If the issues are discussed openly and frankly in a respectful way, the needle can be moved back to the 12 o’clock position with minimal or no chance of fueling a fire. We must keep the emotions within the blue section of the circle. This is key!
However, if issues are not addressed in a timely and respectful manner the fire burns rapidly and on occasion to the point where it flares up and / or quickly burns out of control. And, just like wildfires in the forest, these fires can and will jump across roads from house to house and community to community with devastating results.
If not brought under control in a swift manner, the next emotions are often expressed in rapid order through the pink sections and into the red circle. These include frustration, anger, hostility and yes, remorse (think “buyer’s remorse). Ultimately, the end result is broken trust and as we know, trust is the backbone of ANY relationship. Moving back from the pink section is extremely difficult, but not impossible. However, once emotions escalate into the red section, the possibility of salvaging the relationship is almost impossible. Trust will need to be earned back without any assumption on the part of the offending party that it will.
In order for realignment to occur throughout the emotion circle, issues must be addressed expeditiously. It’s paramount that trust be rebuilt before further escalation of emotions. It’s certainly not easy – but it can and must be done. However, it does take huge, ongoing commitment to be established, to remain in place, and to be built upon.
An important question to ask yourself or of an organization’s leadership – Are we truly committed to our relationships? If the answer is not a resounding yes, rest assured trouble is on the horizon. As such, it’s essential to find out the reason(s) and immediately take action to correct. The foundation of developing and curating the right culture depends on it.
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