Mergers and acquisitions (M & A) are inevitably high-stakes activities for any organisation and huge resources often get poured in, to ensure successful, profitable outcomes. I’ve worked in organisations where highly professional, high quality, glossy documents, pave the way for employees and leaders to experience the goals, org structures and project plans, which will carry them to their new and improved organisation.
For the human beings involved, acquisitions are high-energy, exciting times, but can also create fear and cause grief reactions in teams who are being acquired. This is a normal, human response to change and uncertainty. I say it often and I mean it often – humans come with messy emotions attached. If you try to deny that the big problems start to arise!
Emotional reactions to change in senior leaders and their teams, are not a measure of leadership (in)ability, potential or of the valuable contribution these leaders can make in the weeks and months after the acquisition. Grief reactions are commonplace during significant change, which can render even the most competent leaders less rational, and less able to engage. Emotional responses may make leaders more competitive, aggressive, and resistive when collaboration, facilitation and compassion are required.
We often make the mistake of assuming that these people are ‘obstructors’ – they oppose the change and want it to fail. We may think they are weak because they can’t cope with change. Or perhaps the human being in that leader’s shoes, is just having a human reaction to a moment of uncertainty. Whatever your opinion, these reactions cause problems and can derail those expensive, polished plans. This is because humans, and especially those humans in leadership positions, are at the core of successful M & A. We need to put the people firmly at the centre of our M & A plans, because no matter the expenditure on planning and structure, without them wholly on board, those plans will never be enough to assume success.
Leaders are the make or break of a team’s engagement, keeping teams on track and working towards agreed goals and achievement outcomes. We need to build core support and development opportunities for leaders, as central to every other planned responsibility in the M & A project plan.
To optimise the potential and input of leaders and their teams in creating smooth transitions, coaching can provide the platform for senior leaders to work through their barriers and emotional / reactionary obstacles. Investment in the support of individuals and teams through M & A work, can ensure optimal engagement, performance and swift embedding of new cultures and processes.
Acquisition coaching acknowledges the human elements of M & A work. The danger of ignoring this crucial aspect of ensuring successful transitions, are that leaders may unknowingly sabotage or disengage, at a time when their engagement, knowledge and abilities need to be maximised and appropriately directed. Far too often, diligence work and post-M & A support ignores the human and emotional impact of significant change in the organisation. At Glassmoon, we offer Executive and Leadership Coaching as part of the post-M & A support and diligence work, to ensure all aspects of successful acquisition are safeguarded, especially the most crucial human components.