There is an old Sufi story of a powerful warrior who journeyed into a village. He was hungry and looking for somewhere to refresh himself. But the village seemed deserted. Eventually, he found a group of frightened villagers in a hut.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“There’s a monster in the field on the other side of that mound,” they said pointing, “and each day it grows new heads and keeps getting bigger. We are scared it’s going to devour us.”
The warrior pulled out his sword and marched confidently toward the mound with the villagers meekly following behind.
Looking down into the field he saw a large patch of watermelons. He thought to himself “What a bunch of fools. If I pretend to slay their so-called monster, I can get them to look after my needs for free!”
Scoffing, he strode into the field, hacking into the watermelons. He even sliced off a piece and began to eat it, looking up at them smiling. The villages were horrified and said to each other “God help us. He is just as bad as the monster. Once he has slayed it, he’ll probably kill us all?”
Panicking they picked up stones and pitchforks, and when he started to walk back up toward them, they killed him.
Sometime later, another traveller wandered into the village and found the terrified villagers. He asked why they were so frightened and listened carefully to their description of the monster’s multiplying green round heads. He then suggested they should look at it together.
Carefully peering over the mound, he agreed with them that it did indeed look scary, but that he had seen this type of creature before and he could train them to tame it. After gaining their trust and confidence he spent time teaching them the basic skills which would enable them to cultivate and harvest the melons as a food source.
When people are faced with the unfamiliar, such as changes they feel have been forced onto them, it's natural to react with fear and to catastrophise. Rather than patronising or downplaying their fears, the job of a leader is to understand their concerns, build their trust, and equip them with the confidence and skills to manage their challenges - real and imagined.
Whether we like it or not, we are all going to have to manage increasing levels of change and uncertainty in our businesses. But here’s the rub for leaders. Regardless of how great your strategy may be, if you don’t have the commitment of the people who need to make it work, you will at best achieve a half-baked result, and at worst you will create a toxic culture of anger and resentment.
This is particularly the case in franchise networks where franchisors need their franchisees to invest time and money on important changes to keep their businesses competitive and relevant. Despite the best intentions, I frequently see franchisors making fundamental mistakes in how they roll out important changes.
With this in mind, I have pulled together everything I have learned about the psychology of change and built this into a new workshop for franchisor executives. An integral part of the workshop is the FRANCHISE Change model, which provides the techniques and steps to successfully get franchisee buy-in to new initiatives. Interested to find out more Getting Franchisee Buy-In to Change Workshop - FRI: Franchise Relationships Institute
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