The 10 Habits of Effective Field Managers

A few years ago, on a long haul flight back to Australia, I decided to review what helps field managers to achieve superior performance in their job. This is to help franchisees maximize profits, stay aligned with the brand, and participate constructively in the franchise network. Part of my review involved cross referencing the findings from several FRI studies where we had gathered feedback from senior franchisor executives, franchisees, and field managers. By the time the plane landed, I had also landed on the following 10 habits. I think you’ll find this interesting.

Photo of woman brushing her teeth

Habit #1 — Maintain personal vitality: A field manager’s personal energy makes a big difference to their credibility and whether franchisees decide to engage with them. The nature of the job, especially the travel and uncertainty of working with different franchisees, can also put an additional load on their energy. Effective field managers know how to look after their physical, mental and emotional energy. They pace themselves when necessary and regularly dip into the best of all sources of vitality — a strong sense of conviction that what they do is important.

Habit #2 — Be comfortable in your own skin: Great field managers have a certain relaxed confidence that helps them to function in difficult environments and enables them to defuse tense situations by listening non-defensively. It also creates a positive climate for open and frank discussions. To be comfortable in your own skin you need to be clear on your values and personal philosophy of life. Personal courage is particularly important. Speaking of skin, it also helps if you have a thick one because you will regularly face unfair criticism for things outside your control!

Habit #3 — Deliver constructive feedback on brand alignment: Brand alignment means all elements of a franchisee’s business are aligned with the brand’s desired reputation. It only takes one bad customer experience to produce a social media backlash. Effective field managers are clear on how this translates into practical behaviours and standards. They use this knowledge to bring franchisees back into alignment when necessary, explaining how this protects everyone in the network, including the franchisee in question.

Habit #4 — Keep discussions solutions focused: Financial anxiety and performance pressures can result in franchisees slipping into a pessimistic mindset. While dwelling on details of past frustrations and disappointments may seem to be useful, it seldom is. Research into coaching conversations has consistently found the best results occur when discussions are solution focused rather than problem focused. The best field managers know how to flip negative conversations by drawing on our first two habits, and using solution focused questions that get franchisees thinking about what they want and how they can take action to make this happen.

Habit #5 — Stimulate franchisee commitment to grow: Sales growth is important for a franchisor’s revenue stream and for protecting a franchisee’s profitability. Franchisees also need to grow as leaders, and develop their teams, or they and their businesses will get stale. There are many reasons why franchisees may not want to grow. They may have become a victim of burn-out or rust-out, or they may not have the confidence to manage a larger business. Field managers need to understand these barriers and build the skill and will of their franchisees to maintain a growth mindset.

Habit #6 — Maintain a metrics perspective: Franchisees can become so embroiled solving day-to-day operational problems, they may not be spending enough time on their goals, metrics and systems. At FRI we call this “Mastering What Matters”. Field managers need to especially understand the five Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in your model that ultimately drive a healthy business — one that is profitable, has engaged staff and happy customers. And they need to be able to provide advice on how to improve these KPIs.

Habit #7 — Hold franchisees accountable to their goals: All the successful franchisees I have met over the years can clearly articulate their short and long term goals. Specific and meaningful goals focus the mind and provide a path that unifies the energy of everyone in a business. Often the field manager will be the only person in a franchisee’s life that asks them important questions such as “What do you want?” and “What’s holding you back from doing what you said you’d do?”

Habit #8 — Be organised and reliable: The number of businesses under a field manager’s care can range from 10 to 100. Staying organised is essential. Being reliable in doing what you say and responding to phone calls and emails promptly also establishes trust and credibility. Franchisees want to know their field manager cares about the success of their business and will follow through on commitments. You can’t do this in a consistent manner if you are disorganised and reactive.

Habit #9 — Encourage sharing of useful ideas: Franchisees love their field managers to tell them about ideas that are working well for other franchisees. Field managers can also facilitate discussions between franchisees, for instance at regional meetings through panels, cases studies and round tables. Effective field managers also collect franchisee ideas and concerns, synthesise them and feed them back to support office. This ability to share feedback from the field to the Head Office takes courage and persistence because the feedback is not always welcome.

Habit #10 — Cultivate a professional mind set: I have always believed that field managers are a part of an emerging profession. Professions are usually associated with shared, specialised knowledge that is used to help others. Professionals have an obligation to keep their knowledge and skills up to date and to use their knowledge for the benefit of their clients. Field managers with a professional mindset maintain a certain formality with their franchisees. They understand the difference between being friendly and being friends. They also understand that while they have a dual obligation to their employer (the franchisor), and their client (the franchisee), their most important obligation is to protect the brand.

I hope this Tip stimulates further discussion on how field managers can continue to make a difference through their important work. By the way, I recently updated the Franchisors Guide to Improving Field Visits, which you can purchase from our website ​here.

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