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Improving culture in the workplace - The Dirty Dozen.

This week’s podcast features an interview with Bruce McFarlane, the CEO of BDC Partners. 

As challenging as improving culture in the workplace can be in regular organisations, Bruce comes from a world where that can be even more challenging – the franchising sector. The approaches Bruce and his team implement to support their clients in the franchising sector contain some great insights for all organisations.

Improving culture in the workplace. The Good, The Bad or The What-The?

Lessons from Donald Trump: Does a toxic CEO ever truly leave? This article explores the impact of a psychopathic leader that can linger well after they are gone.

Words of Authenticity

A reminder that everyone needs something different from a situation and that leaders must focus on leading the way people need to be led, rather the way they like to lead.

Equality is everyone getting a pair of shoes

Diversity is everyone getting a different type of shoe

Equity is everyone getting a pair of shoes that fit

Acceptance if understanding we all wear different shoes

Belonging is wearing the shoes you want without fear of judgement

Worth The Time

Ernest Shackleton led a party to Antarctica in 1914. The story of survival that unfolded is extraordinary, both for the circumstances the party endured and the leadership Shackleton provided.

Margot Morrell and Stephanie Capparell are the authors of a book called Shackleton’s Way, Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer.

The Interview

To provide context for the interview, we (The Real Learning Experience) explored ways to take our product to a broader market about ten years ago. One model we explored and ended up establishing was franchising and that morphed, with the help of our guest, into a licensing model. We still offer that today and it has been fantastic for us. 

The entire process taught us a lot about the challenges of creating a workplace culture which is even more complex when we you are dealing with more complex relationships. A lot of managers are working on improving culture in the workplace with geographically spread team members, (read our blog on how to create cohesive work culture)  who we don’t see as much because of flexible working arrangements. 

Our blog on leadership and trust addresses this topic well.

 A franchise system involves a balance between creating a culture in which we’re asking people to comply with certain principles and processes but also to be driven and show initiative.

COVID confirmed or challenged perceptions

Prior to COVID, some franchisors and some leaders were perceived as ‘having people’s backs’. Others were seen as focused on their own needs and disinterested in providing support.

COVID was a genuine test of those perceptions. Under pressure, we saw people’s true intentions.

Invest in the tough times, thrive in the good times

Some franchisors took the approach of getting their franchisees through the tough times so they could emerge healthy and ready to embrace opportunities when things improved.

Others were more rigid in their approach and adherence to their model.

This had a major flow through to the cultures they emerged with – a sense of being in it together. Or not!

People want a leader they believe in more than they want one they like

As long as a leader is fair and acts with integrity, we would prefer them to be strong and tough, rather than weak and nice. This is accentuated during hard times. Sometimes that means making bold and unpopular decisions.

Matching people against good

It is easier to recruit people who will enhance the workplace culture and success of an organisation if we invest time (and potentially money) in defining what good looks like. BDC uses a suite of psychometric tools to establish what represents ideal and to compare candidates to that benchmark. Gut feel will only take you so far.

The Dirty Dozen

The first dozen franchisees in a system are often very entrepreneurial – and they are what they need to help that system gain momentum. They are also the people more likely to see an opportunity before others and to take a risk on a system that is still being established. As the system grows and compliance with processes becomes more critical, this can lead to cultural issues.

There is a clear correlation here with long-term team members who were once embracing the future but are now bogged down by the way things have been in the past.

A leader should challenge themselves first. What have I done to support their evolution? They shouldn’t be afraid of the exit conversation if the match is no longer there.

Sometimes they need a new challenge

When a franchise system is dealing with the dirty dozen – or an organisation is dealing with those entrenched team members – leaders should look for new ways to stretch and challenge them. For a franchise system, that may be a multi-site opportunity. For a team member, that may be stretch projects or new responsibilities.

Intrinsic motivation is a key influence on success

Given two people – franchisees or employees – with all other things being equal, the one with the higher intrinsic motivation will always outperform the other. They will do what needs doing and figure out what they don’t know. The person with lower intrinsic motivation will sit back and wait for someone else to provide solutions.

Do we really want people with initiative?

We can be hard to please. On the one hand, we have people pushing boundaries and we want them just to follow the processes. On the other, we have someone who wants everything done for them and we want them to show initiative.

People who show no initiative can be easier to manage because they just do what they are told. People who show initiative are harder to manage but easier to lead as long as you embrace the role of a leader in leading people the way they need to be led and aren’t obsessed with keeping people in boxes.

The debrief – Improving culture in the workplace, what we learned

If improving culture in the workplace culture is a priority, take the time to understand what good looks like. Large franchise systems are often good at analysing both their lowest and highest performing franchises and examining the traits that make the difference. If organisations apply the same principle to recruitment, they will know what traits to look for and also be strong at conveying clear expectations.

The dirty dozen has several strong correlations in organisations across the spectrum:

  • Companies that have grown out of a family business and who now need to take a more corporate approach to cope with the issues that come with growth
  • Community-based organisations and NFPs that need to transition to survive and thrive in a competitive world
  • Leaders who have inherited long term team members who are having difficulty letting go of the way they did things in the past
  • Organisations that are working through change in order to remain viable and relevant

Regardless, leaders need to support people to evolve and be prepared to have challenging conversations with those who won’t.

The temptation to fill an empty seat – or avoid creating one by moving on when it is necessary – comes at a cost. If the pool of potential team members is shallow currently, do we really make that better by making our workplace less attractive to work in? That is what we do when we recruit the wrong person – or retain someone who no longer fits – for fear of the empty seat.

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Got a question for the Podcast? You can drop us a voice message via instagram or email us at: authenticity@reallearning.com.au

Thanks to our Podcasting producer, Josh at Deadset Podcasting for all his work behind the scenes.