On-boarding in Mergers is about Repeat, Repeat, Repeat - The Vision, The Goal, Each's Role
They had survived three mergers over the last four years, and they were battle worn. When I was called in, the accounting department had been told that the corporate offices were moving to another city. Even knowing that their jobs were going away, most of the employees truly desired to see the company succeed. They were willing to train the new individuals and turn over the responsibilities in such a manner that it would be seamless to the customers and vendors as well as reflect their personal integrity. It was admirable to watch. These employees believed that if you would listen to them that they would make you more money and keep others working with them to thrive.
This true recount, above, is similar to others chronicled in a book, Five Frogs on a Log, written by two gentlemen from one of the Big Four accounting firms, who compiled research from 28 large merger/acquisitions, most of the names you would recognize. The strategies for success developed by both were similar. The only difference was their perspectives: one came from inside personnel and the other came from outside consultants. Interestingly enough, the employees mentioned above had not read a book; they had just lived the reality repeatedly.
In the show, Undercover Boss, CEOs take one week to visit various departments of their businesses and get a firsthand look at how things are done. CEOs were relating to their employees on a personal level. They experienced a short uptick in their stock price, but it was not sustained because the fundamentals of the company did not change. Fundamental change or on-boarding takes buy-in, a clear vision, and energy to focus everyone's behavior toward a monumental goal by helping them to understand their role (Their Role, The Goal, & The Vision).
"Success is embracing change and emerging through the molting process stronger and united in cause." "The fastest way to embrace change, blend cultures, generate additional revenues, discover cost savings, and provide unique solutions is to hire an (on-boarding) ambassador (team), very early in the process, who focuses solely on others while promoting the leaders' vision."
"An (on-boarding) ambassador (team) who serves as an effective advocate for the people is a powerful tool which develops trust, a team in one accord, and a "got your back" attitude with all stakeholders including employees, vendors, and clients."
"An (on-boarding) ambassador (team) can also be considered a troubleshooter. A troubleshooter is a person charged with locating and eliminating the source of trouble in any flow of work."
Bottom line: It is about the power of choice, counsel and control: a company choosing to address the challenges with directness, listening to the counsel and wisdom from all stakeholders, and exercising control by giving some of it away to others whose good ideas might propel the organization further faster. Your Ideal Start Time is NOW! Good luck.
Be Proactive: In the book, "Who Moved My Cheese?", the character, Sniff, sniffed out the "flashpoints" or challenges of the environment while staying focused on the goal of finding the new location of cheese. Seek out the solutions to being in one accord as a company with purpose and determination to succeed.
How Might It Be Accomplished? Hire an (On-boarding) Ambassador (Team).
1. Fastest way to embrace change, blend cultures, generate additional revenues, discover cost savings, and provide unique solutions is to hire an ambassador (equipped with a team), very early in the process, who focuses solely on others' perspectives while promoting the leaders' vision. 2. The Ambassador needs to report directly to the CEO. CEO and leadership must provide unwavering support. 3. The Ambassador needs to have confidentiality. Ability for all parties to speak with no consequences. 4. The Ambassador should be others focused, internally referenced, move toward goals, and see the possibilities.
Success Plan = Being of One Accord
1. Power of One Accord (Giving a Face to the Vision): Develop a rally around the leader and his vision, not the company. Success is developing trust and a "Got Your Back" attitude with all stakeholders including employees, vendors, and customers. What ways can the leader communicate the vision so that it is vivid and real for all? 2. Power of Directness: Shoot straight, be honest. Hide nothing. Speak first before it is presented from someone else's perspective. Back up your words with action, follow-through, and transparency. 3. Power of Yes: Synergy is when everyone can say "Yes" to an action step. The more yeses, the more progress. 4. Power of Difference: Support delivering the product in an extraordinary way. Promote "We Love Our Jobs: Living the Adventure" campaign. The goal is "Brand Envy" and earning the "Top Place to Work" award. 5. Power of Observing/Pro-Active Listening: Enlist all stakeholders and adopt attitude that "All Comments Matter". Generally, asking the right questions gives productive feedback from those who truly care about the success of the venture. Hot-Lines, Suggestion Boxes, and surveys handled with complete confidentiality are the key. 6. Power of Repetition: Tell what you are going to tell them. Tell Them. Tell them what you told them. Believing comes from hearing, truly hearing. True hearing comes when trust and buy-in are established. 7. Power of Honoring: Seek out, acknowledge, and reward anyone going beyond the call of duty to deliver extraordinary solutions. The goal is to energize the team and focus behavior toward winning big.
First, Engage and Understand the Ambassador's Role: It is all about health and relationships. Or more importantly, the health of all relevant relationships.
Empowering the employees, the vendors, and the clients to facilitate the success of the merger, acquisition, or major change and thrust the organization forward is the ultimate goal. An ambassador who serves as an effective advocate for the people is a powerful tool which develops trust, a team in one accord, and a "got your back" attitude.
The ambassador does not need to be a specific gender, race, color or creed. However, the ambassador best suited is secure enough in himself and his position that he can be "others focused", move towards solutions rather than away from challenges and see the possibilities in all ideas, people, and situations.
This powerful tool works best if the ambassador can be independent, working through the Human Resources department, but yet reporting directly to the CEO. The top leadership has to buy and support the ambassador's role and campaign. An ambassador's team is only as effective as the leadership allows and the stakeholders trust and employ them to diligently bring forth their ideas and questions.Quite frankly, the CEO and his leadership team are either your best asset or your worst liability. Do they convey confidence or arrogance? Do they instill trust or skepticism?The CEO who is willing to hire such an ambassador is saying that the ultimate goal is more important than any one person.
An ambassador can also be considered a troubleshooter. A troubleshooter is a person charged with locating and eliminating the source of trouble in any flow of work.
Second, Address the Elephant in the Room
It is said that mergers, acquisitions, and major changes are like having a death in the family and one of the top stressors. It is really like a death and a birth all at same time: double stressors. There are five stages to grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. The stages in birthing are anticipation, uncertainty, intense responsibility, and finally joy and a sense of completeness with this new life. It is a lifecycle reality, embrace it.
When an elephant in the room is ignored, the cost is failure to reach or delay in reaching the ultimate goal. It is this "thing" hanging over everyone's head and permeating all aspects of the business. So, find unique ways to speak directly to the elephant. One company had a funeral. What unique ways could you employ to speak to the elephant in the room and get it to move?
Then, at the Crossroad, Stop, Look Both Ways and Listen Before Taking Action
In a business, it is a crossroad when there is a merger, acquisition, or major change. As children, we were taught to stop at the crossroad, look both ways, and listen before we crossed the street. In business, this technique helps you identify challenging areas, see what resulted from the actions in the past, entertain new ideas, and assimilate the information quickly and then communicate your final decisions to move ahead.
Listen to Ideas: Many grassroots' positions, especially middle management who have done a bulk of the work and have a pulse-beat on the people and the organization, know of some of the best cost saving or revenue generating ideas for their companies. Develop a system to have these ideas heard and given feedback to acknowledge and encourage proactive contributions.
I heard it said that an entire company is driven not by the sales and marketing department or even by management, but rather by the accounting department. The accounting department allows you a unique perspective to all areas of a business. The accounts receivable department interacts with the customers or clients. The accounts payable department interacts with the vendors. Individuals involved with reporting and verifying financial information interact with personnel in all divisions, locations, and departments.Keep accounting personnel on the ambassadors' team.
Bottom Line: It is about embracing change and emerging through the molting process stronger and united in cause.The best plan involves an elephant, a school crossing edict, and an ambassador. Addressing "the elephant in the room" directly is the most effective approach when facing challenges. Stop, look, and listen, which we learned when crossing at school intersections, applied to potential corporate flashpoints is cathartic and restorative. People's Avocate(s), in the form of an on-boarding ambassador or ambassador's team, who focus on others' ideas and suggestions and have the full support of leadership, can produce results of energized and focused behavior where individuals create solutions to seemly impossible situations. Individuals, all together, with the attitude, "Failure is Not an Option", is an impressive sight to watch. It is about the power of choice, counsel and control: choosing to address the challenges with directness, listening to the counsel and wisdom from all stakeholders, and exercising control by giving some of it away to others whose good ideas might propel the organization further faster. The ideal start time, well, you can't start too soon.