Leslie W. Braksick
If you consider the challenges of integrating any two corporate cultures, it is no surprise that so many mergers fail. The probability that two or more cultures have identical histories or ways of doing things is virtually zero. So, from the time of the merger announcement forward, the importance of leading well and managing behavior begins.
The paper avalanche of a merger discloses legal and business due diligence about both companies. Unfortunately, the documents and the due diligence process don’t disclose the depth of cultural differences.
In other words, merger documents rarely reveal the patterns of behavior that have been shaped over decades by the systems and people within each organization. With a merger, the players abruptly change, leaders and leadership structures are altered, and expectations and behaviors that get rewarded also shift. The result: The old conditions that encouraged important behaviors no longer exist, and resulting behaviors become much less aligned with what made the individual companies so successful prior to the merger.
Under less successful conditions, subcultures can exist where the pockets become identified as the old “XYZ Co. sales guys” or the old “PFG Co. sales guys.” What are people really identifying when they use these labels? They are using “code” for identifying the behaviors those leaders predictably and reliably encourage — the way they “still” get work done. And so it is easy for these subcultures to become embedded, and the development of a new culture to be delayed — while profits suffer and full integration is put off. Leadership is key in preventing this from occurring.
Creating a new culture
Leaders can create a new culture and help encourage new behaviors by aligning expectations (like a new vision statement) with desired behaviors and by ensuring that leadership feedback and coaching actively encourages those behaviors. Taking the time to do this work is where most mergers fall short.
In the frenzy to get FTC approval and names plugged into organizational charts, it is tempting to view “culture” as a distraction and a waste of time. Dedicated leaders, doing everything imaginable to hit pro forma targets, often forget that it is their leadership that most powerfully influences how their organizations perform.
Key leadership actions for successful merger integrations include:
Invest time in clearly articulating to everyone the vision, strategy and means of success for the future. Make the expectations clear and consistent. Encourage new teams at all levels to work together and to review the critical results targets at their levels. Identify key behaviors that need to occur for the targeted results to be met.
Invest time to plan and deliver positive consequences for achieving those results and decide how those who engage in less desirable behaviors will be coached. Don’t leave success to chance. Ensure that every interaction the leaders have with the organization are leveraged as opportunities to show what the company stands for and encourage the desired behaviors needed for success.
Steward business plans with oversight of performance versus plan. Use this opportunity to track progress, reinforce success, remove barriers and take corrective action. Show through words and actions that the performance is the best lagging indicator of how things are working inside the organization.
Ensure that rewards and recognition systems are aligned with the behaviors needed for business success and for behaviors critical to the desired new culture. Maintained or improved business results are especially key in a post-merger situation. Leaders need to actively coach and encourage desired behaviors, and the consequence systems need to reward them.
There is no substitute for leadership’s role during merger integration.
Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., is the co-founder of CLG Inc. and the author of "Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew and Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits." Braksick consults with top executives and their boards on issues of executive leadership succession and effectiveness and strategy execution, including merger integration.
Reach Braksick at email@example.com or visit CLG Inc. at www.clg.com.
Companies worldwide are struggling to find and retain the caliber of leaders their businesses need. The increased market intensity and demand for top-shelf, experienced leaders arrive at a time when our population of potential leaders is declining. Stagnant hiring in the early 1980s has resulted in fewer experienced leaders available. On top of that, U.S. census data indicates that the population of potential leaders is shrinking.
In short, we have a challenging business environment and fewer experienced leaders to navigate it.
These challenges represent opportunities to fundamentally change and measurably improve how talent is managed. We must treat talent management as a business imperative and bring it to the strategic planning table — where it belongs.
Whether starting new companies or preparing the leaders of tomorrow, the most successful companies hire great talent, make sure that talent is aligned with the company’s strategy and culture, develop that talent aggressively and reward that talent well, in alignment with their desired culture and future strategy.
To manage talent strategically, organizations must do three things:
Align business and talent strategies.
Every aspect of the talent strategy should link directly to the business strategy and its execution. Anything not directly linked is probably working against the core strategy by consuming time and resources and confusing managers about what is most important. Once the business plan is formulated, the first question to ask is, “Are the current people processes ready to hire, develop and manage leaders to support this business plan for the next three to five years?” Make sure that the competencies for which you are hiring match the skills that leaders will need to execute the business plan. Ensure that leadership development is based upon values that support where the company is headed.
Look ahead, not behind.
Develop tomorrow’s leaders for tomorrow’s challenges. Talent management should be based on where the company is going, not where it has been. Most performance management effort is oriented toward evaluating past performance. While understanding how a person has just performed against current expectations is important, it is equally important to ensure that leaders are assessed against the future demands of the business — three to five years down the road — not just the challenges being faced today.
Track the talent profile.
Talent metrics should be established, tracked and acted upon as part of the business portfolio. They should garner the same attention as other bottom-line metrics. Talent metrics are not second-class measures — they are a vital part of your business portfolio and the best indicator of your future capacity to execute.
Ignoring or ascribing second-class status to talent metrics is a good way to be caught off-guard in midstream. Decision-makers should have a “talent scorecard” to monitor the quality of available talent and track gaps in key talent pools. These data can be used to adjust hiring and development practices and to drive individual accountability for enabling the business strategy.
No matter how brilliant the strategy, it takes people to execute it. It is too easy to be captivated by plans to secure additional market share or tap new markets but fail to ask, “Do we have the people to get the job done?” and “What will it take to ensure we have the talent we need?” Require each business in the enterprise to provide a talent strategy commensurate with the operating plan for executing their business strategy. Without an equivalent talent plan, the business strategy becomes a false promise. Do not approve business plans that fail to address finding, developing and managing talent to execute the strategy.
Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., is co-founder of CLG Inc. (www.clg.com) and author of “Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew” and “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits.” Braksick consults with top executives and their boards on issues of executive leadership succession and effectiveness and strategy execution, including merger integration. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When was the last time you had more than five uninterrupted minutes to just think? How about 10 minutes to focus on something beyond the next two quarters?
Companies that seize the opportunity to plan, strategize and build wisely for the future are the firms that quickly outpace their competitors when the economy recovers. With the frenzied pace to “just do something” that a down economy creates, even the brightest and best leaders fail to take sufficient time to focus on the long-term strategic opportunities.
They are being swallowed by the urgent, short-term things demanding their attention requests from the boss for details on the current situation, explanations for the board, detailed rearview descriptions on why the numbers are down, etc. They are losing their time to think about the future.
Executives’ days are filled with back-to-back meetings, e-mails, voice mails and answering calls from others with urgent problems. They have no time left to comprehend the information coming in from forecasts, reports, articles or competitor analyses. Having the time to focus on things that are many months or years down the road has become an unaffordable luxury.
Reclaim your time to focus on the future. Decide what not to do. Stop kidding yourself about your capacity to take on more work and give yourself the freedom to say no.
If you cannot readily make the connection between a given task and a key business driver, drop it. A common mistake is scheduling back-to-back meetings with little or no time to process information or focus on the long-term future opportunities.
Stop trying to be a hero. Reject the idea that a successful leader is the “rugged individual” doing all of the work and making all of the decisions. Challenge yourself to delegate things that can be done by others. Engage others to stretch and grow. Seize opportunities to delegate. Others will benefit from knowing you are taking steps to focus on the long-term of the business.
Take care of yourself. Get control of your time by making good decisions about your health and fitness. Your capacity to think clearly and make effective decisions is a function of your physical health. Sleep, nutrition and physical fitness are often the first things sacrificed when time runs short.
Seek feedback. Solicit feedback from those with whom you interact without relying solely on your “inner circle.”
The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself from any information on how things are really going. Feedback is your best leading indicator of future success or failure. Letting patterns of ineffective behavior continue in your organization will guarantee that you are never able to get your time under control.
Track and acknowledge progress. Identify metrics to measure your individual work on longer-term issues and diligently track progress against those measures.
Track personal progress on longer-term goals to ensure that you are moving forward. Celebrate small wins. Executing longer-term plans is about making steady, meaningful progress over time.You cannot afford to be too busy to think about your future. What you say and do sends a message about what is most important. If it is OK for you to forego work on longer-term items, you should expect others to do the same. Don’t leave work on the future to chance. These are tough times and require tough choices. You must manage today and lead for tomorrow.
Leslie W. Braksick, Ph.D., is co-founder of CLG Inc. and author of “Preparing CEOs for Success: What I Wish I Knew” and “Unlock Behavior, Unleash Profits.” Braksick consults with top executives and their boards on issues of executive leadership succession, leadership effectiveness and strategy execution. Reach her at email@example.com or www.clg.com.