It sounds cliched, but leadership really does begin at the top. It's the attitudes and behavior of the CEOs, VPs, and other executives who set the tone for how well the franchise brand operates and grows. What's modeled at the top trickles down to all other areas of the brand. Optimism, integrity, teamwork, and recognition are all characteristics of strong leadership.
Amazingly, leadership and a culture of healthy productivity are not that difficult to create. As you review franchise brands - talking to both franchise executives and franchisees - keep an eye out for the following signs.
Strong leaders understand that the franchise's future depends on consistent leadership and proper decision-making at the top. It's up to these individuals to provide the kind of leadership that creates confidence from the board room on down to the single-unit operator. A good leader understands that for the franchise to operate as a team, it needs the dedication of every person throughout the chain. Integrity and competence can foster loyalty, whether it's at the corporate office or at the franchise locations on Main Street.
As you evaluate franchise brands, keep a keen eye on the types of leadership exhibited. One key sign of great leadership is an inclusive approach to problem-solving, planning, and strategy. There will undoubtedly be a wealth of experience and knowledge in the franchise home office, but it should always be tempered with input from the field - most certainly from franchisees. Often this is done through franchise advisory groups or councils, which meet periodically to discuss all types of issues. Nothing inspires a franchisee as much as a franchisor who is willing and interested in hearing what the franchisee has to say - and then actually taking that feedback into consideration. Many times, the experience of being in the field can help with the creation or execution of a new strategic plan.
The open lines of communication should extend into other areas of the franchise-franchisee relationship. This endears franchisees to franchisors. For example, if an initiative is working the franchisees should be the first to know. Likewise, when something is not going so well, good leaders will make sure that franchisees are aware of the issues and that the organization is seeking to resolve any problems. Franchise executives who are strong leaders will be on the phone regularly creating an open forum of discussion. Annual and regional franchise meetings are a great place to openly discuss planning and strategies. And when something is not going as well as planned, strong leaders will encourage and rally troops to stay engaged and work out the problems together.
Smart franchise leaders not only engage their team members, they also recognize a job well done. This can be achieved through award and incentive programs, as well as through face-to-face recognition of team members who have made significant achievements.
Strong leadership creates a healthy working culture almost by default.
Ultimately, the best franchise organizations are characterized by leadership that has realistic goals and objectives, a "team" environment, and a respect for franchisees and customers.
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