Dr. Tricia Groff: How Franchise Leaders Can Create Work Environments to Build Higher Team Cohesion
You have your processes optimized and your service or product is tight. But the people? How do you get them running together instead of in different directions? How do you harness the power of unified effort?
There is good news and bad news: you have a lot of power over the team cohesion in your franchise. On the one hand, you have the authority to implement good changes; on the other hand, you can’t blame team problems on the team. Here are some ideas to help you obtain the environments and the people who will help your franchise run smoothly.
Hiring – You can’t have cohesive teams if you hire the wrong people.
- You must have someone on the hiring team who is good at ‘reading’ people.
- You want experience-based questions that allow you to see how a candidate has interacted with others. It’s not good enough for them to say that they get along with everyone. For new graduates without work experience, ask questions about how they handled frustrating teachers or peers.
- Consider involving your current employees in the hiring process. You can scale this up or down to account for time constraints. Employees may rotate through contributing to candidate interviews or you might have a group of them assess potential managers. Engagement in decision-making creates buy-in for a candidate. This buy-in empowers and motivates existing employees to help the newcomer mesh with the team.
Firing – You can’t have cohesive teams if you keep the wrong people.
- You will never have good team cohesion if you allow the squeaky wheels, entitled individuals, and drama queens to have the loudest voice. Just one of these individuals can disrupt all other team-building efforts. Either fire them or ensure that your managers have the skills to shut them down. If you don’t, you will lose the great team members whom you want to retain.
Before we move on, all other suggestions in this article are worthless if you don’t know how to get the right people in and the wrong people out of your franchise. On the surface, it looks like an HR issue of making sure that you have the right processes in place. The reality is that you, as the owner, need to set the stage and support your managers in making difficult people decisions.
Turning Great People into a Cohesive Team
Okay, so you have great people in place. They don’t have to be perfect; however, they must want to work and get along well with others. What can you do to help them move in unison instead of as individual contributors?
- Create a format such that each team member is aware of the others’ roles and stressors. For some franchises, this might be accomplished by having them rotate through workstations. For others, it may be creating a weekly group huddle to note goals, challenges, and how they can help each other.
- Monitor stressors on the team. Stressed-out team members will automatically lash out more quickly or simply withdraw into survival mode. One of the primary stressors in the workplace is a lack of resources to get the job done. If you are short-staffed or have other resource limitations, double down in supporting the team and letting them know what you are doing to fix the problem. Employees get stressed if they feel like they will be reprimanded for performance that is outside of their control. When people feel understood and supported by management, they are better able to focus on how they can help their team members.
- Create low-cost, easy opportunities for fun. Again, I understand that time and resources may be limited. Consistent and cheap fun will provide a much better environment than a one-day per year team-building retreat. For example, yesterday I needed to have a deep conversation with a team, but I first asked them to bet on the amount of money each person would need to take on a multi-colored mohawk. It took only 10 minutes, but they began laughing and interacting with each other as humans. You don’t have to be creative. Someone in your franchise is creative and would probably love to bring their ideas to work. Better yet, get the group to brainstorm fun options.
- Ask team members (or have your managers ask them), what ideas they have for creating a better environment. Ensure that you implement some of these ideas.
- Reward or promote the individuals who exemplify the behavior you want to see replicated. A handwritten note, personal phone call, or small gift card can do wonders in validating and encouraging the teamwork you want to see.
- Ensure, as much as possible, that the physical environment promotes interaction. A few years ago, I was in a setting that had the lowest team cohesion I’ve ever experienced. They weren’t even fighting—simply siloed and separated. I asked one of the employees what had happened. “We used to have a little area for coffee and snacks, and we would take a few minutes to catch up with each other on work and personal lives. The leaders thought that we were wasting time and took it away.”
- Set fair and clear expectations. Ensure that managers consistently follow through. Team cohesion happens when individuals feel psychologically safe. Individuals feel psychologically safe when they know where they stand and what to expect.
- Bring “personal” into the workplace. The outdated standard of trying to separate personal lives from business has never promoted team cohesion. It’s fine if you are running a churn and burn operation, and you don’t care about turnover. However, I’m guessing that if you are reading this, that’s not you. People trust each other at a personal level. It doesn’t have to be awkward. Something as simple as an employee pet bulletin board or a monthly birthday party helps the team bond over common human experience. From that basis of trust, they will work better as a team.
Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive advisor and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations. She is also a licensed psychologist who brings 20 years of behind-the-scenes conversations to her recommendations for workplace wellness and profitability. She is the author of Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life.