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Moving beyond the chaos of change in M&A

No two acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, or other collaborations are the same and although seasoned executives will have richer experience to draw from, they will never have faced the exact same circumstances. They can’t ‘know’ all the answers. The volatile and ambiguous nature of M&A can make the challenges of managing and controlling change seem insurmountable.

There are some leaders who simply can’t (or won’t) tolerate going through the incessant chaos and time needed to get to co-existence. Instead of facilitating the process of merging, they inadvertently get in the way of progress. They’re used to being in control and are often unconsciously fearful of the unknown. So what they can’t control they tend to shut down.

I’ve seen leaders go from one merger to the next without ever having worked through a full change cycle. The resulting half-baked attempts at integration leave organisations in an unresolved mess, and a culture of cynicism and inertia takes hold. These leaders then wonder at the underwhelming results from the overwhelming upheaval that M&As create.

Mergers and acquisitions are tough. Senior leaders need to demonstrate courage, discipline, and commitment whilst leading their people through change. They need both change-management skills and change-leadership qualities to go the distance that’s required to successfully integrate disparate organisations.

Equipped for change

During M&A, leaders need to know what is expected of them, be equipped with the skills and the resources to look after themselves, understand and lead through the emotional stages of change, and build emotional resilience. That’s just for starters!

Recent research by Harvard Business Review found that 90% of leaders were psychologically unprepared for the changes in status and organisational structure they would encounter following their mergers. At the same time that leaders are working through their own personal challenges, emotions, and reactions to change, they have to support and positively influence change with their team members.

Just like in the pre-flight safety demonstration when passengers are directed to put their own oxygen mask on first before assisting others, leaders need to be in control and look after their own wellbeing first. That doesn’t mean looking after number one to the detriment of others, it means purposely developing a set of strategies, tools, and resources to help them adapt and manage their own emotions when under the added stress triggered by M&A.

Only then can they be role models and provide the leadership, direction, and support their people and organisation need to not only survive but thrive in challenging, changing times.

Understand the impact of change

Mergers and acquisitions are emotionally charged events that need to be handled with care. By understanding the impact that change has on people’s emotions and behaviours, leaders can identify and consciously endeavour to control their own responses as well as offer the most appropriate guidance and support for their people.

To your success,

Linley Watson Australasia’s Authority on M&A Culture Integration

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