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6 Tips to Keep Key Employees from Jumping Ship After a Merger

6 Tips to Keep Key Employees from Jumping Ship After a Merger

with guest author Katie Lipp | March 23, 2021

While a merger is an exciting opportunity for growth of a new company, it can also be a difficult transition for employees. Here are six tips for how to improve employee retention during the post-merger integration:

Create Buy-in with Key Employees.

Before the merger, review the roles of key employees and consider how they may shift post-merger. Then have conversations with the employees to create buy-in for the merger and ensure alignment on any changes to their role. Finally, it is a best practice to have the key employees sign new contracts under the new company and provide them with a retention bonus to stay on post-merger.

Standardize Policies.

It can be easy for companies, and their employees, to struggle with which policies apply post-merger. Audit your company’s employment policies to ensure they are up-to-date, legally compliant, and standardized for all employees.

Get Employees to Acknowledge and Receive Training on New Policies.

Once which policies apply has been determined, there remains the challenge of ensuring all employees are up to date on the applicable policies. Some policies may be new to employees of one of the companies, or language may have been updated in the merger. It is essential to train employees on how the policies work in action and have a signed acknowledgment of each policy in their HR files.

Spread a Clear Branding Message.

Following the merger, it is critical to train employees on the branding message for the new entity and ensure that everyone is aligned on primary goals moving forward. By cultivating a shared brand message and understanding of the new company’s mission, you are encouraging employee buy-in and engagement.

Avoid a One-Size-Fits-All Approach.

Post-merger, employees are trying to see if the new entity is a good fit for them. Flexibility is key to ensure that employees do not get “my way or the highway” messaging.

Be Patient and Give it Time.

Post-merger, don’t expect employees to immediately snap into their new roles. Give transition time, coaching, support, and training on the company’s new goals and objectives. Patience is key.

Special thanks to guest author Katie Lipp

Katie Lipp, Esq., Owner of the Lipp Law Firm, advises companies and executives throughout the DMV area on employment and business law, with a focus on HR consulting and separation of employment. After assisting with hundreds of matters involving employee separations, many times related to a merger, Katie has tips to increase employee retention.

Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

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From Survival to Strategy: Why Culture is Key to the Future of Work

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Avoiding Misalignment and Maximizing ROI in Operator-Led Private Equity

Avoiding Misalignment and Maximizing ROI in Operator-Led Private Equity

Over 70% of private equity investors and their portfolio company (portco) executives agree that company culture is critical to the successful implementation of strategy, yet only 13% formally conduct an evaluation of their portco’s culture.*

What is culture and why does it matter?

Organizational culture — the assumptions, values, and behaviors underlying the statement “this is how we do things here” — influences employee engagement, strategy implementation, and operational efficiency. Leaders who understand their organization’s culture and how to intentionally align it with strategy can shape the culture to engage their employees and more quickly achieve strategic objectives.

Too often, leaders do not fully grasp or account for organizational culture when implementing a new strategy. This lack of understanding is particularly risky for Private Equity firms with an operator-led investment thesis. A mismatch between portco and the operator who will lead it can be a very expensive mistake. The success and strategy of a new leader can quickly be derailed if their leadership behaviors are misaligned or at odds with the existing portco culture.

The Operator / Leadership Misalignment

PE firms taking an operator-led investment approach, including Search Funds, often work with a roster of operators to identify a potential portco with significant opportunity for growth and where the existing ownership is seeking to exit. The firm will acquire the company and place an operator from their own team to lead the company.

The risk with this approach is that even an experienced operator with an excellent strategy may find it challenging to execute if their leadership behaviors are in conflict with the existing portco culture.

How well an operator’s character aligns with the culture of the company they join will largely determine if they gain the trust and followership of the employees. A leader without the trust and backing of their team will struggle to grow the company and execute on strategic priorities. Further, a misalignment between new leadership’s behaviors and the existing company culture can generate tensions between teams, greater leadership turnover, and operational inefficiencies. It can be difficult to grow a company when the leadership is fighting culture-related internal fires. 

A Simple Solution to Mitigate Risk

There is a simple way to mitigate this risk: assess and understand the leadership and culture dynamics at the outset of an investment. Performing a Leadership and Culture Assessment is the first step to understanding organization culture and the implications of that culture. Conscient Strategies’ PE-focused assessment measures the existing organizational culture and leadership dynamics across 10 key dimensions linked to the company’s specific strategic objectives.

This unique approach allows us to draw out and quantify where an organization falls on the spectrum of important values, such as:

  • Status-quo vs. innovation
  • Top-down vs. consensus decision making
  • Results vs. process-driven

As a result, we help investors, and their operators, identify the key leadership capabilities needed to implement changes and drive growth within the portco’s existing cultural context.

In some cases, we find that the existing portco culture does not serve the strategic objectives of the PE firm and operator. In that context, the culture assessment provides valuable insights into what is working and what should be changed to optimize ROI. Identifying the gaps between the existing and the ideal culture is key to mitigating risk and setting the portco up for growth from the outset. The PE firm, and their operator, can leverage that information to set a strategy that includes shifting the culture to better serve the strategic objectives.

Beyond just assessing the portco culture, to truly create alignment between operator and portco requires evaluating the leadership behaviors of the potential operator(s). Culture is shaped by leaders modeling behaviors and values. Leaders who understand the existing culture and recognize which behaviors will most influence growth can proactively shift the culture. Conscient Strategies’ assessments can quantify the operator’s strengths and skill gaps in terms of key leadership behaviors like:

  • Defining a vision
  • Communicating transparently
  • Building alignment
  • Acting decisively
  • Driving results

The PE firm can then ensure the operator has the leadership behaviors and skills necessary to drive forward the company and shift its culture. Culture and leadership are already recognized as key to successful PE investments and many firms are already assessing how a portco’s culture and specific leaders fit with its strategy. But, doing so in a more systematic and data-driven way will improve outcomes. Rather than relying on gut feelings, using a culture and leadership assessment at the outset of an investment enables the PE firm to more effectively align the operator and portco.

Learn more about Conscient Strategies’ Leadership & Culture Due Diligence »

 

* Source: https://www.alixpartners.com/media/14381/ap_annual_pe_leadership_survey_2020.pdf

Katherine Butler-Dines specializes in project management, strategy design, and business development. With a passion for helping companies grow efficiently and effectively, Katherine focuses on helping people and businesses put into place the structures and processes to not simply adapt to change, but embrace it. She has previously supported quantitative and qualitative research projects on entrepreneurship, particularly about women entrepreneurs, across 11 different geographies.

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2 + 4 =

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

The Dirty Little Secret of Change

Large organizations by definition require a certain level of bureaucracy with the intent of generating consistency and predictability for employees and outcomes alike. As an executive coach working with leaders in federal organizations, I have noticed that federal leaders often face challenges specific to the public sector. One of these challenges being how to implement positive change in traditional “command and control” style bureaucracies.

Federal bureaucracies have very prescribed systems for managing people. They also often have unusually burdensome regulatory structures, and heavy regulatory structures often result in a “zero-defect” mentality. What is the result? Leaders have little incentive to – and are afraid to – innovate and try new things. Worse than that, the fear leaders feel permeates down to their teams and stifles creativity. Also, leaders often end up micromanaging several levels down in order to avoid having to answer tough questions from their superiors up the chain.

For example, a leader that I work with in the federal sector tried to empower his team by adopting a coach approach. He asked more questions of his team members in an attempt to get them to take additional responsibility and develop their problem-solving skills. When he attempted to implement this new leadership style, he began to detect strong feelings of discomfort as his direct reports pushed back on this non-standard approach. Even his bosses began asking him questions indicating their skepticism of his leadership style. As a result of the discomfort and the pressure from above, he abandoned the new approach before it ever had a chance to succeed.

What can leaders do to effect positive cultural change in these types of organizations? First, they can start by facing their own vulnerability with open eyes. Researcher Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, defines vulnerability as showing up and taking action even when we can’t control or predict the outcome. Vulnerability is exactly what leaders in the federal sector need to learn. By definition, there is no innovation, creativity, or positive cultural  change possible without the willingness of leaders to be vulnerable.

In the example described above, the leader needed to make himself vulnerable long enough to see positive results. Like this leader, most of us are unwilling to try new things when the outcomes are uncertain and we face resistance. Yet, the dirty little secret of change means that any leader will have to lean into vulnerability, discomfort, and personal development to generate real change.

The next step in shifting cultures in hierarchical organizations is to recognize that we are going to have to tolerate the feeling of discomfort. If we know that the discomfort is coming, we can be ready for it.

We can also communicate, to our teams and to our bosses, our intention to try something new in order to get buy-in. We can set the expectation that there will be discomfort and normalize the discomfort ahead of time. In that way, we have a chance of generating curiosity and reducing resistance.  

A final key to creating change in a system is to realize change must happen on the personal level first. Growing innovation and achieving new outcomes cannot occur if leaders are not also doing their own personal development work. Leaders have to become aware of and attend to their own subconscious coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms, while developed keep us comfortable, tend to in fact keep us stuck in old mindsets and behaviors.

We encourage leaders to explore and uncover the beliefs behind their coping mechanisms. We also work hand in hand to begin the process of replacing these self limiting beliefs with a mindset that supports success through change. We work to move leaders, and thus their organizations, from seeing change as a threat to embracing the constancy of change and opportunities it brings. Once leaders evolve their mindset through greater self-awareness, they are in a position to withstand the discomfort of trying out new actions and behaviors and achieving more impactful organizational outcomes. 

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

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8 + 14 =

Moral Leadership

Moral Leadership

Our organizations can be microcosms of the communities we all hope to live in. They can set a tone for a model of civility and cooperation. As CEOs we have the opportunity to demonstrate what trustworthy leadership looks like and how to build respect in our organizations. We do this by acting as moral leaders with a focus on creating a workplace where everyone feels valued, heard and respected.

One of the most critical aspects of leadership is moral leadership. It is not enough to lead with an eye toward the bottom line, we are charged with creating a culture of cooperation and belonging. This is what ultimately makes our institutions thrive and become the places people feel an affinity toward and want to be a part of. When we lead with the intention of creating a safe, trusting workplace and creating a culture of caring it will come back to us and ultimately be reflected in our bottom line.

As leaders we establish the tone and the culture for our institutions. The decisions we make and priorities we set say a lot about the ethos of our organization. Our own success is intrinsically linked to the team we build around us. What are some of the questions, the gut check we need to be engaging in to assure we are on track in our role as moral leaders? Do we look past the support staff on our way through the door, or do we stop and greet each person in a manner that lets them know that they matter? Do we know the names of each and every person in our organization and do we remember to celebrate their joys and share in their personal sorrows? Have we created personnel guidelines and practices that embrace individuals and assure for an emotionally safe workplace environment? It is important to be able to ask and answer these questions with honesty.

The external benchmarks for success may be about fiscal growth, communal impact, or product innovation, however if we are not running a healthy organization sustaining our goals will prove to be difficult. The entire team is an integral part of our success.

As leaders we are often tasked with making tough decisions, choices that may impact people’s livelihood, may impact our constituents and the services we can offer and may upset financial stakeholders.

The more included our entire team feels, the more support you will have when and if you have to make tough choices. The mark of leadership is making the hard call when no one else wants to, it is the ability to stand up and do what we know is right. However, we do not have to do it in isolation, we have the support of the people around us if we have earned their trust.

When we lead with a focus on moral leadership, we can play a key role in bringing forward a society of respect. Our workplace can be a model of what we hope our communities will become.

Carole Zawatsky believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to work toward their natural talents builds the self-confidence needed to grow as a professional. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

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The Importance of Culture to Post-Deal Integration and ROI

The Importance of Culture to Post-Deal Integration and ROI

Twenty years after the infamous America Online (AOL) – Time Warner Cable (TWC) merger, the failed transaction continues to highlight the importance of culture in successful M&A deals.

In January 2000 AOL announced it would purchase TWC for $165 billion. Billed as transformative merger that would define the future of media, the deal was the largest corporate merger to date. The vision was that the combined corporation — with vast production capabilities, new technology-enabled distribution methods, and millions of subscribers — would be valued at $350 billion. Quickly after the merger was completed in 2001, it became evident that the deal was a failure and, worse, that it had been doomed from the outset.

Culture is the set of assumptions, values, and artifacts that underlie the statement ‘this is how we do things around here.’ AOL and TWC’s company cultures were so inherently different that the post-merger integration (PMI) didn’t stand a chance.

While the deal was supported by substantial financial risk assessment, leadership put little thought into how the cultures and teams might integrate. As the merger progressed, initial optimism gave way to frustration. The AOL employees were put off by the very buttoned-up corporate culture of TWC while the TWC team was appalled by AOL’s aggressive and arrogant style. This clash led to mutual disrespect, a quick disintegration of cooperation, and stalled strategy implementation. When the dot-com bubble burst in 2001, the ensuing industry-wide economic fallout exacerbated the troubled merger and further crippled any prospects for growth.

The culture clash wasn’t merely an old media vs new media conflict: The integration triggered a conflict over values, priorities, authority, decision making, operations and, ultimately, the question of which company drove the most value for the deal. While the transaction was allegedly a merger of equals, AOL had the more valuable stock and position entering the deal.  Some leaders at AOL believed that status should ensure them a superior position in the post-deal company. On the other hand, TWC executives saw their company as driven by strong values and vision while they considered AOL opportunistic and driven by short-term profits.  Like their AOL counterparts, TWC leadership perceived their company as the superior business. As the two companies quickly realized, the best laid strategy can quickly be derailed by cultural issues.

AOL stock tumbled in the way of the 2001 dot-com bubble and cross-company management fights became public. Former TWC Chairman Gerald Levin — who became the CEO of the AOL Time Warner corporation — complained publicly that TWC was being sunk by AOL. He was shortly thereafter replaced, an act that fueled further, costly executive turn-over. The spiral continued until, by the end of 2002, AOL Time Warner announced $98 billion in annual losses.

Today, neither company exists, both having been sold for pieces to other media and tech players in the intervening 20 years. As Stephen Case, former Chairman of AOL Time Warner and the founding CEO of AOL, acknowledges the merged corporation lacked trust and a common vision on which the team was aligned. Without these essential ingredients of a high-performing culture and effective leadership, integration and growth we impossible to achieve.

While the dot-com bubble burst couldn’t have been predicted, the cultural issues which plagued the merger certainly could have. AOL was a new media technology company, TWC was part of the old media vanguard.

As Richard D. Parsons, President of TWC at the time of the merger, shared in a 2015 interview, “I remember saying at a vital board meeting where we approved [the merger], that life was going to be different going forward because they’re very different cultures, but I have to tell you, I underestimated how different.”

Culture continues to plague M&A transactions today. The 2017 Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods is another notable example. The deal was hailed with great fanfare by both companies. CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey called it “love at first sight.” But the deal hardly turned into a storybook romance for the employees of Whole Foods. The cultural differences between the two firms are vast: Amazon value tight rules, order, and strong hierarchical authority to keep the massive entity running. Whole Foods culture was one of collaboration, de-centralized, employee-driven decision making, and emphasizing the higher purpose and vision associated with their work.

During the post-acquisition business integration, conflict ensued as Amazon pressed Whole Foods to standardize the operations and customer experience in every store. Whole Foods suffered significant employee attrition and falling customer satisfaction. In 2017, Whole Foods was left off the “20 Best Places in America to Work” list, a list it had made for the prior 20 years. The promised  significant price reductions failed to result. Post-acquisition, the quality of Whole Foods yelp reviews have fallen with 20% of reviewers relating their dissatisfaction to Amazon directly. The acquisition is a prime example of how a company – Amazon – failed to account for the importance of culture to the success of the acquired company. In trying to change that culture, the value of the deal suffered.

Both the AOL-TWC merger and Amazon-Whole Foods acquisition highlight the importance of culture in successful integrations. It is not enough to evaluate the financial value or risk associated with an M&A deal. Expanding due diligence to include non-financial factors of leadership quality and effectiveness along with cultural values and behaviors can significantly reduce integration risks. This non-financial due diligence will identify gaps and differences between the two companies so executives can craft a definition of what the integrated culture will look like and a value proposition as to why that culture will benefit employees and the company growth.

To achieve outside outcomes and strategic objectives, leaders must assess, acknowledge, and work with – not against – the organizational cultures that both companies bring to the table. For assistance driving fast and actionable insights on the impact of culture on your transaction, reach out to Conscient Strategies to learn more about our non-financial due diligence product.   

Katherine Butler-Dines specializes in project management, strategy design, and business development. With a passion for helping companies grow efficiently and effectively, Katherine focuses on helping people and businesses put into place the structures and processes to not simply adapt to change, but embrace it. She has previously supported quantitative and qualitative research projects on entrepreneurship, particularly about women entrepreneurs, across 11 different geographies.

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11 + 3 =

Leadership in Dark Times

Leadership in Dark Times

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”
– Anne Frank

It is undeniable that we are all in a shared space that none of us have ever visited before. We are new to this space defined by isolation, fear of illness and the unknown. We are all working to find new ways to connect digitally and remain engaged in the world around us. Human beings are by nature social creatures, we thrive by being together.

Our institutions likewise thrive when there is human interaction. Our organizations thrive on collaboration, and the synchronicity of shared ideas that happen when we are in proximity to one another. For the past many months, we were able to approximate this with outdoor dining, picnics, visits to our families, friends and colleagues in parks and backyards. As the winter begins to close in around us and the days have grown shorter, we will need to find new ways to illuminate our shared experiences and bring some light into this dark time.

It is no surprise that so many cultures have traditions that bring light into our lives at the darkest time of the year. It is what we do, we find ways to fill the void through our own actions. A single act of a leader bringing their team together in new and unexpected ways can be that light. Your team is looking toward you to lift them up when the days are short, and the light is dim. As we all live in this new world of the prolonged liminal space between isolation and the hope of a vaccine, we leaders can make the difference between light and darkness. Some of the most successful leaders are those who acknowledge the reality of difficult situations and continue to keep their teams optimistic. They are able to continue to inspire creativity most especially in difficult times.

This is the moment for leaders to act as a catalyst for creativity and change in order to inspire our organizations to do more than survive, but to actually flourish.

Let’s ring in the New Year with lightness and hope.

Carole Zawatsky believes that tapping the greatest strengths of each individual and teaching them to work toward their natural talents builds the self-confidence needed to grow as a professional. She has excelled at supporting professionals in finding their voice, and letting go of the fears that might hold them back. She is particularly passionate about helping senior staff understand and align their budgets with the institutional mission and vision.

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7 + 8 =

Answering the Call

Answering the Call

In the mid-1800s every American business owner knew that if you wanted to send an urgent message to someone you used Western Union. Their telegram service set the bar. They operated more than 7,000 offices in the United States, they had laid more than 185,000 miles of telegraph wire, and in the 1860s they even led an effort to connect American telegraph systems to European lines via the Russian–American Telegraph.

Then Alexander Graham Bell called. On a telephone.

The folks at Western Union must have been shocked when everything changed. Sure there were signs of things to come (they famously had the opportunity to buy Bell’s invention; they turned him down), but they were so totally secure in their position. What could challenge them?

Sounds a lot like 2020.

Clearly, a pandemic is not a technological upheaval—but it has redefined the status quo, and it has certainly upended the expected patterns of everyday life. And it has transformed workplaces.

For the business community, 2020 has forced leaders everywhere to navigate a dense thicket of evolving questions. How do we adapt our services? Does our business model need to be rethought? Which virtual platform should we use? How does Zoom work? Should we use Teams instead? Is Skype still a thing?

While we can’t say solving these quandaries has been fun, if we’re honest, there have been some positives. Dramatic challenges have forced businesses everywhere to examine “The Way We Do Things”—and then get creative. We’ve made discoveries about what we really need, about operational inefficiencies, about communication, and of course, about working remotely. And while many feel satisfied with working from home, others are growing frustrated with the increasingly blurred line between work and home.

And now, after months of working remotely and with more cities moving into new phases, there seems to be one (big) question on everyone’s mind: What’s Next?

What’s clear is that however you want to answer that question, the reality is that change has come. Even if the era of COVID has a magical “finish” date, it doesn’t seem like the established routines of everyday life will completely reset—and more than that: a lot of the workforce doesn’t want them to.

So what’s a team leader to do? In the face of such wholesale change, how do you hold onto what has worked for years and also retain what’s working now? Can you maintain your culture? Or does it evolve? How do you satisfy the team members who crave in-person camaraderie? What does hiring look like moving forward?

However you choose to answer these questions, developing a strategic approach is key. You can’t assume that bringing everyone back to the office will result in “business as usual.” After all, some of your team members may enjoy remote work. New hires may expect flexible structures to be the norm. And your service delivery systems may not benefit from returning to “the way things were.”

Let’s go back to the telegraph days for another moment and consider how Western Union responded to the advent of a dial tone. After trying to maintain a semblance of what they were familiar with, they did what all savvy businesses should do: they read the landscape, and they adapted.

Western Union repurposed its assets and infrastructure. They found a new use for their massive network of cables, and soon became the global leader in a new market: money transfers.

Again, this isn’t meant to be a perfect parable, but if there’s a moral to the story, it’s this: instead of bouncing back to the way things were, let’s bounce forward, and use the tools we’ve discovered to evolve and grow.

While the solutions you implemented during the chaos may still feel like “a fix”, they might also be more than that. They might represent a better workflow process, or a better service model, or a better team structure. The temp arrangements you’ve been working through might be part of your future—perhaps a big part.

For businesses everywhere, it’s time to survey the landscape and think strategically on several fronts:

Operations

How do you incorporate the successes of your current set-up with more traditional structures?

Employees

How do you identify emerging trends and deliver on new employee expectations?

Competition

How do you recruit and stay competitive in the reshaped terrain?

Culture

How do you foster a strong culture without daily, in-person interactions?

And perhaps most importantly: how do you become proactive, and prepare for the next COVID-like crisis?

This isn’t necessarily a square one moment. You’re probably not laying a new cornerstone – you’ve got big pieces of your past and present in front of you, and you have to figure out how they fit together to build a structure that works for the future.

Is it challenging? Sure. But it’s also exciting. And, in some ways, the way forward is clear: you can construct a successful outcome by understanding your organization’s singular identity, by collaborating with your team, and by working with (not against) human behavior.

Start getting strategic now. Reach out to employees, leadership, and external stakeholders to initiate the conversations that will push your organization forward. And if there’s anyone who needs a super special invite to the discussion: send a telegram.

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6 + 2 =

Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

Tales from the M&A Crypt: Why so many transactions go off script

It was a match made in heaven. Research showed a healthy company. Financials checked out. Meetings went great. The courtship was a success. But after the transaction, seemingly out of nowhere, things didn’t go as expected.

From Amazon and Whole Foods to HP and Compaq and Marriott and Starwood — there is no shortage of bumpy integrations. Too often we hear, “We couldn’t have predicted this. We couldn’t have prevented this.” But is that true?

The pivotal mistake.

Watching organizations make investment decisions using traditional due-diligence is like watching the protagonist in a horror movie run upstairs from the murderer. WHY do they keep doing that when there are so many other options? Don’t they know the statistics are not in their favor?

Unfortunately, the odds are just as dismal on Wall Street as they are on Elm Street. Over 70% of mergers and acquisitions fail to meet their objectives. Why?

To be fair, It’s not that traditional due diligence is missing the mark completely, it’s that it brushes over a critical component—the people. At the end of the day, it’s not just dollars, cents, and strategic plans that make a company successful, it’s the people. People control how dollars are spent. People are in charge of carrying out plans. Peoples’ behavior and decisions define workplace dynamics. People will make or break your investment.

Human beings are behind the numbers that we crunch and the strategies that we analyze when we target investments.

It’s critical to success that investors start looking beyond the numbers to leadership readiness and culture compatibility. That they are clear about strategic goals and weigh them against questions such as:

  • Are executives ready to lead through change?
  • Are your cultures compatible?
  • Is the team ready to scale?
  • Which norms and behaviors might prevent synergy?
  • Will existing dynamics obstruct success and growth?

These predictive insights are quantifiably proven to impact ROI after a transaction, so why is it not a mandatory component of the due diligence process? Perhaps because it’s normal to want to run in the opposite direction of things that seem counterproductive to our immediate objective. Analyzing people seems too subjective, too immeasurable to be an accurate and valuable indicator of ROI. But it’s the missing component that experts predict will be a game-changer in post-COVID mergers & acquisitions.

Flipping the script

The good news? After years of working with leaders to scale teams and build resilient companies, we have found that people are predictable (and coachable), patterns do emerge, and gathering quantitative data on leadership and culture is not only possible, but advantageous to transaction outcomes and ROI. A non-financial evaluation adds depth to due diligence by evaluating factors that are proven to impact an organization’s ability to thrive after a transaction. And incorporating these evaluations into a financial due diligence process is quite seamless.

As the M&A plotline continues to thicken in the wake of a tumultuous year, non-financial due diligence could mean the difference between a blockbuster transaction and another mediocre sequel.

Take your due diligence to the next level. 

Contact us to learn more.

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Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

In our latest “Conscient Leaders” interview, we talk with Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care, about how her team responded and evolved in many ways in 2020, and her advice on how leaders in any sector can effectively navigate 2021—and beyond.

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What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What is the “Essential” Contribution of Adaptive Leaders?

What has your journey been like over the past few months? Have you and your organization adapted to the current realities or are you still reeling and in shock? Collectively, we are facing an unprecedented adaptive challenge.

 

What’s an adaptive challenge?

In our current world, leaders must distinguish between technical problems and adaptive challenges (Heifetz, 2009).  Technical problems have technical solutions that can be applied using existing know-how and management best-practices (linear thinking). Adaptive challenges do not have known or obvious solutions. Instead, they require interdisciplinary dialogue to support the emergence of an adaptive approach (non-linear thinking). Most complex challenges have both a technical component and an adaptive one. But simply trying to apply a technical solution alone to an adaptive challenge will result in failure and frustration.

How does it affect your organization?

The current global crisis is reinforcing how difficult it is for organizations and people to pivot quickly and illuminating weaknesses that have been existing within organizations unresolved. Adaptive challenges feel very scary and threatening—they provoke deep fear and anxiety in us. When we feel deep fear and anxiety, we resort to dysfunctional behaviors (such as addictions, distractions, and busyness) to cope with these uncomfortable emotions or numb-out the pain. And in our work and personal relationships we can come across as aggressive, passive, or withdrawn.

Our ability to think creatively and act wisely is greatly diminished when we experience a prolonged threat response.  In such scenarios, we just do what it takes to survive from hour to hour, or even minute to minute. This approach works to a limited extent to help us feel safe in the near-term, but will ultimately keep us stuck in the long-term.

What is your responsibility as a leader?

In order to think clearly and act skillfully, we need to effectively manage our fear and anxiety. This is where true leadership is fundamental to overcoming these behaviors. The essential role of leadership is to support people to regulate their fear and anxiety. In order to do this, the leader must first have the capacity to self-regulate.

Adaptive leadership means dealing with the uncomfortable emotions of self and others in a productive way. Failing to address and respond effectively to fear and anxiety will undermine change efforts and sabotage attempts to successfully adapt to a chaotic business environment and world.

If a leader is not mature enough to regulate their own inner landscape, they will not be able to support others to do so. As a result, such a leader will not be capable of handling the complexity with which they are confronted. To develop the capacity to self-regulate fear and anxiety, leaders can use practices such as meditation and mindfulness at work. The most effective self-regulation practices involve an embodied experience of presence and awake-awareness.

However, due to blind spots, genetic programming, and powerful psychosomatic conditioning, it is nearly impossible to do this work alone. This work is often referred to as emotional intelligence development. Finding the trusted advisor or voice of reason with whom to bounce ideas will be critical to finding the correct path forward.  Whether it be a co-worker, business partner or outside advisor, finding someone to support the regulation of fear and anxiety will lead to creative thinking, skillful action, and adaptive approaches to tackle the extraordinary challenges at hand.

Reference:
Heifetz, Ronald A., Marty Linsky, and Alexander Grashow. The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. Harvard Business Press, 2009.

Elias Ursitti is a leadership development facilitator and credentialed leadership coach.  His professional mission is to help leaders raise their level of consciousness in order to take skilled, wise, and compassionate action. Elias utilizes an adaptive coaching approach in order to best serve leaders and their teams in a range of challenging contexts.

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

You may also be interested in:

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

In our latest “Conscient Leaders” interview, we talk with Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care, about how her team responded and evolved in many ways in 2020, and her advice on how leaders in any sector can effectively navigate 2021—and beyond.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

A Conversation with Leadership Coach Amelia Truett

Because we believe in holistically supporting our clients on their path to success, leadership coaching is an integral part of our approach.

We sat with Amelia Truett, one of our executive coaches, to hear more about what it’s like to coach and be coached.  We spoke about the power of questions, her path to becoming a coach, and the value that coaching generates for clients.

Organizations must change in order to grow, realize their missions, optimize profit… to flourish. And yet humans hate to change. How does coaching connect with that?

As a younger person, I strongly disliked and feared change. Experience changed my perspective. After living through lots of major changes, some of my choosing and others not, I began to see that my relationship with change was definitively not helpful.

Some of those changes were incredibly hard. This is why strength-based coaching resonates with me. I see people as the experts in themselves. Our clients are the experts. They are whole and nuanced individuals. As a coach, I am not here to fix them, but to help them develop and grow towards the goals and intention they have for their work and lives.

Whole doesn’t mean perfect. It doesn’t even mean always performing well. It does mean that clients have the fundamental tools needed to change and develop available to them.

How has coaching changed your perspective on individual and organizational success?

Coaching has broadened my perspective on what success looks like. There are so many paths to success. This comes back to the idea of wholeness. I am not here to fix my clients. One of my clients was the Executive Director of a nonprofit that was merging her organization into another organization. As a part of our engagement, she made a small mental shift around one belief. That small shift opened so many doors and unlocked her perspective in a way that allowed the merger to be successful.

Personally, I’ve changed tremendously through my experience as a coach. Each time a client learns and connects the dots in new ways, I get to learn with them. Coaching is all about a forward-looking mindset. Timing is important. For change to be sustainable, a client needs to move at his or her own pace.

How can coaching shift mental models?

Coaching uncovers hidden gaps and blind spots. Once an organization or an individual sees the gap, they can take action to close the gap. There is a particular kind of empowerment that is created when a person makes a deeply meaningful connection and articulates a gap aloud to another person. 

Coaching provides a structure for expansive thinking. Coaching is the scaffolding that supports the client as they make changes and create new results. Once clients begin to see one thing differently, it changes how she or he interacts with colleagues, the organization, and the world around them. There is a positive ripple effect.

What tends to hold people back?

Limiting beliefs hold people back. These are the stories that we tell ourselves about what is possible or not. We are in control of the stories we tell ourselves. Coaching conversations can shift the mental models that individuals rely on. Individuals in turn have the power to transform organizations and entire systems.

How do clients turn questions into action?

Coaching encourages ownership and personal accountability for action. Taking action on purpose means knowing why you are taking action. After experiencing coaching, clients have a better understanding not only of how they want to lead or manage, but also why that approach will work for them and their organization. 

How did you end up becoming a coach?

My first experience with coaching was as a client. I was stuck and unable to accomplish goals that were very important to me.

The funny thing is that I distinctly remember wondering why I was paying a coach when I was the one doing all the work. This illustrates how coaching differs from other types of interventions such as mentoring or consulting. With coaching, the coach follows the client’s lead and the client does the work. Initially, I didn’t understand that was how coaching works.

Coaching questions are challenging. There is not an easy answer. But the questions are fruitful. 

Six years later when I considered making a career change, another coach offered an exercise to write about two instances when I felt wildly successful. I saw so many patterns regarding strengths used and actions that I enjoyed taking that aligned with coaching. For example, I love encouraging the growth in others. When I ask a coaching question without an attachment to the outcome of the answer, it opens doors in unexpected ways. I delight in witnessing what emerges. Throughout my experience as a coach, I am continually amazed at what is created by the client.

How is a coaching question different from other types of questions?

Coaching questions are open ended. As a society, our culture often interprets silence and pauses negatively. In coaching, it represents thoughtfulness and an opening for new ideas or a fresh perspective. It is  good when someone takes time to think quietly during a coaching session.

Similarly, American culture and many companies reward us for having the answer. This is how we are socialized in school. Being coached is more about thinking about the right questions, not about having the right answers. Coaching has more in common with disciplines like science and research, which are founded on asking why and testing hypotheses.

Where do you see answers being valued more than questions? Can a coaching culture help shift that and provide value?

This shows up everywhere! I studied accounting as an undergrad and grew up in the business world. It was a black and white world where knowing what to say and how to answer a question was important and rewarded. Many organizations, apps, and products are valued because they offer concrete solutions. You don’t go to a financial planner for the purpose of receiving open-ended questions.

Coaching is counter to the culture of organizations that value formulaic thinking with clear inputs and outputs.

I’ve coached in organizations where people were so conditioned to the answer paradigm, that early attempts to introduce a coaching mindset and use coaching questions drew blank stares.

It often seems easier to coach in mission-driven organizations where the focus is on the mission rather than products.

That’s not to say that coaching isn’t results-oriented. Coaching is very intentional and goal-oriented. Effective coaching works towards well-defined goals.

Amelia Truett holds a certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, an MBA from the George Washington University, and a BS in Accounting & Finance from Virginia Tech. 

Conscient Strategies was founded with the idea that every organization is capable of thriving through change. With a focus on strategy development, program implementation, workplace dynamics, and leadership development, Conscient Strategies equips leaders with the tools necessary to continuously navigate the constancy of change in ways that not only benefit their team, but, equally as important, their business outcomes as well. From mergers to c-suite changes to sudden or explosive growth, organizations turn to Conscient Strategies when change is threatening their financial health and cultural wellbeing.

Based in Washington, D.C., Conscient Strategies is comprised of a talented group of consultants, executive coaches, strategists, and account executives. The team has worked with organizations of all sizes in the private, federal, and non-profit sectors across the United States and Internationally.

 

You may also be interested in:

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

Conscient Leaders: Interview with Emily Barson

In our latest “Conscient Leaders” interview, we talk with Emily Barson, Executive Director of United States of Care, about how her team responded and evolved in many ways in 2020, and her advice on how leaders in any sector can effectively navigate 2021—and beyond.

read more

Ready to grow a stronger organization? 

Contact us to get started.

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