How to Engage and Influence Others

By Greg Nathan posted March 12, 2021

Three frogs were sitting on a log. One decided to jump. How many were left? The answer is three. Deciding to do something doesn't always mean there is the commitment to actually doing it.

A common frustration I hear from franchisor executives is their franchisees won't commit to investing in important initiatives. They may have explained the benefits, and pointed out that franchisees are legally obliged to implement the initiative. Franchisees may even acknowledge it is well-intentioned and sensible. Yet there is still no commitment to action.

Franchisees don't like being told what to do

If you want people to fully engage with an initiative, you need to gain their trust and commitment. Trust is having confidence that something is safe and true. Commitment is a willingness to take action. To get the commitment of others, we need to first establish trust. No one is going to act on your request or suggestion if they think it is harmful to their interests, or you are being deceptive.

When trust and commitment come together, we get engagement. And high levels of engagement are essential for success in franchising. Unlike employees, who are paid to do what you say, franchisees do not take kindly to being told what to do. If anything they may well turn around and say, "Hang on, I am paying you, so you need to do what I say!"

So how do we create high levels of franchisee engagement? Over the past two weeks, I have been privileged to work with two teams of talented field managers from reputable brands in North America and Northern Europe. This question of how to get franchisees engaged with new initiatives goes to the heart of a field manager's role, so we workshopped it. Their insights were so useful I have shared some of them below. By the way, these tips apply to any relationship where you need to influence others.

12 tips for creating engagement

#1. Do what you say. Be reliable, stick to your word, and follow through on your promises. Also, keep people informed if you hit a problem.

#2. Be honest and transparent. Most people prefer to hear the truth, even if this is a little unpalatable than being fed sugar-coated fluff.

#3. Be patient. We all need time to process the implications of making important changes in our lives, especially if cost and risk are involved.

#4. Keep confidences. People need to know that, if they are open with you about their problems or concerns, you won't gossip about this to others.

#5. Be fair and consistent. Our brains have an innate need for fairness. Inconsistency between how people are treated will often be interpreted as unfair.

#6. Share examples of success. Use case studies and examples of how others who are similar to them have achieved positive results.

#7. Maintain your values and standards. Making shortcuts or compromises to keep certain individuals happy, is likely to undermine others' trust and respect in you.

#8. Create a safe psychological space. People are more likely to open up and engage with you when they are shown empathy and listened to with respect.

#9. Demonstrate your competence. When asking people to take risks, you need to give them evidence they are in good hands.

#10. Understand their goals. Talk about what is important to them, and show them how the initiative will help them to achieve what they want.

# 11. Involve them. One of the most powerful ways to generate engagement is to ask people for their ideas and feedback, and involve them in the process.

# 12.  Ask how they feel. To gauge someone's commitment, simply ask how they feel about making the jump. Then listen carefully with your eyes as well as your ears.

What President Woodrow Wilson said

A final thought. Generating engagement in others relies on clear, compelling communication. This takes effort. Long, waffling emails or speeches can particularly be a turnoff. I will leave the final word on this topic to President Woodrow Wilson. When asked how long he spent preparing his famous speeches, he said, "A ten-minute speech takes me two weeks; a half-hour speech a week; and if I can talk as long as I want, it requires no preparation at all.” 

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