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5 Key Qualities of a Great District Manager

district manager leadership multi-unit franchising people Sep 06, 2022
Qualities of a great district managers

The number of multi-unit franchisees is growing across the global franchising industry. And these business owners require a great district manager as their right hand to help them be successful. 

Why is this position key? Because then franchisees can delegate operations to get the time freedom that the model promises. But beware: to truly enjoy this benefit, the district manager has to be great at their job and meet certain criteria to ensure excellence.

The American Franchise Academy has identified the five most important qualities of district managers. Take them into consideration when hiring your next district manager

A piece of advice before we start: look at candidates within your current workforce of unit managers. See who of them has or shows these qualities and use this information as a radar to detect the next leaders of your organization.


1. A leader that inspires 

You need to hire a leader that inspires people. The district manager's job is not to execute day in and day out the business and brand systems but to motivate others to implement and follow those management and business systems with a high level of excellence. If this leader can not inspire the unit managers, the execution of the operations will be poor.

What does that look like in a unit manager? To detect this you have a look at the people that work for them. Are they doing their job and executing the business and brand systems with high excellence, even when the manager is not there? If the answer is yes, that will be a hint as to whether this manager may become a district manager in the future.

Don’t miss the whole District Manager’s video series to learn about the seven core responsibilities they require to perform better.


2. Be self-driven

The duties of the unit manager are dictated, day in and day out, by whatever happens within the store's four walls, no matter the franchise brand, business model, or industry they are working. But for the district manager, it is entirely different. 

A district manager's job is driven by the opportunities detected in their area. Therefore, being able to identify what those opportunities are and focusing on them to have an impact on the organization is a critical quality for this role. 

Discover when it’s best to add a district manager to your organization.

Unit managers that possess this skill are disciplined and analytic. They not only report the situation of their units but also analyze the available information, prioritize the opportunities for improvement and focus on those to cause change.

Something else that you might observe in potential district managers is their sense of urgency. Urgent things happen all the time in operations and these leaders can focus on that but once they are done, they quickly go back to the important things and the ones that move the business forward.


3. Have excellent communication skills

A district manager must be able to influence change in their area when they are in the units and when they're not present. This leader oversees multiple units so they won’t be in the units daily, only for the programmed visits. That’s why they will depend on their communication skills to cause a positive change in the stores they're not visiting during the week.

How can you identify this skill in your current managers? Notice if the staff is informed, up to date, and up to speed on what's going on in the store and the organization. Ask them if they feel involved and included in the business. If they do, this manager can consistently communicate what’s important to the team, meaning this person might be a good district manager in the future. 

Review these five staffing strategies that make a great impact on your team members and your organization.


4. Teach the systems

District managers require the ability to teach and coach their teams. They also have to properly and effectively train the leaders in their units, so this position can also focus on the store’s areas of opportunity. And, since they cannot spend a lot of time in one particular unit, their teaching skills are critical.

This is why the district manager training is crucial for the success of your organization.

The future district managers of your organization must like to train. Otherwise, you’ll have a challenge down the road. Their team members have to be capable and confident in their jobs, as well as cross-trained. If the unit manager has taken the time to ensure that their people can do more than one position, that’s a plus for your organization. 


5. Have self-awareness

The district managers must understand what are their strengths and weaknesses and consistently and proactively look for ways to improve themselves and maximize their potential to move the district forward and face the challenges ahead. 

You can see this skill in unit managers that always look for ways to perfect themselves. They are constantly asking questions and guidance, and they like to read and learn new things to improve in certain areas.

People that have self-awareness will always be improving themselves to adjust to the changes and disruptions. And that is something very valuable for your organization.


There are a lot more qualities that district managers need to have. Here at The American Franchise Academy, we have a list of 12 qualities that these leaders need to be successful. But these five are key. Use this information to discern who has these qualities among your current unit managers because those are the ones that will help you be successful in the future. 

If you want to learn more about the district manager’s job and get resources to help them thrive, our Multi-Unit Leadership Certification Program is for you. Register for our next free information session to learn what this program can do for your current or future district managers.

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  • Do your current district managers possess these key qualities?
  • Are your district managers training and inspiring the unit staff properly and effectively?
  • Are you providing the resources and opportunities for improvement to your current and future district managers?
  • Have you identified employees with district manager potential? How are you motivating them?