M&A With a Touch of Gandhi

Last week I spoke with a management team member of an international corporation. We had an impromptu coaching session. It wasn’t enough. There was so much more that could be done, especially if the entire team had access to coaching.

Let me set this story up for you. The founder and CEO died in 2017.

This was a guy who lived according to his values. He kept them alive by instilling those values into each employee, system and process. It isn’t perfect, yet there is a sense of learning together while making corrections in real time.

Those values guided that enterprise in the community wherever there was a company presence. For the most part people enjoy working for this company.

The executive I spoke with believes in the shared mission and works hard to be a team player. The current CEO reported that the company was steady, and assured everyone that nothing would change. It would be business as usual, maintaining that happy family culture.

This manager is calling bull*%! And believes the board is prioritizing secrecy at the expense of transparency. (See my podcast, Catalytic Conversations, interview with Phil Pietrandrea for another take on this approach.)

You see where I’m going here. Change is inevitable. None of us can guarantee that things will stay the same. We live in the VUCA world- volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, with constant change.

As a coach, I see the fervent wish of owner/founders who intend to be true to that message of “no change”, despite the many indicators that the time is right for a merger, acquisition or family succession. If this describes you, call me. Right now. Let me sit across from you and assure you that as powerful as you are, you cannot make this kind of guarantee and maintain your integrity. Your legacy (or that of your family) does not depend on resisting change.

Legacy depends on navigating and leading through change of all kinds. If you are an expert in the running of your business, how can you expect yourself to be an expert on all things transition, too?

Let me, or another M&A coach, work with you to deliver a message of change emphasizing the benefits of change- i.e. growth and opportunity. Those in power, who want to maintain a culture of trust and engagement, have a duty to model best practices for navigating change- especially within mergers, acquisitions, and family succession.

On the other hand, maybe you’ve been told this is the way it’s always been done, (or it’s better to ask for forgiveness…). You may find evidence to support that, but ask yourself, is this my idea of a best practice? Or, why is it that 75% of all mergers are considered a failure 3 years after the close?

With a M&A coach, you can look at gaining new tools and practices that align with your values and the values of your company. Many organizations fail to fully prepare their people and culture to integrate successfully. You could set yours up to do this differently; prepare your people to adopt a culture of deal readiness as well as one of resilience.

You have the power to make that kind of difference. You can start with an authentic narrative that calls out the best in each member of the company- starting with you!

Let’s get back to the story.

Last spring the company sold off an entire division to a local competitor. Made total sense as the competitor wants to grow and gain greater market share in the locale. Not surprisingly, each and every person experienced change in this transaction.

The person I spoke with suspects another sale is in the making. Not surprisingly, this person has gone through this before with another company. Everyone above this person denies it. Yet here is what my contact has noticed:

  • Visitors in suits that shout “east coast”
  • Unusually negative feedback from corporate regarding expenses
  • Corporate representatives visiting local facilities*

*There are others, and so the anxiety builds.

To this person, each incident is a mile marker indicating a sale. Yet the company continues to send emails, newsletters and video with the current CEO vowing to hold back the tide of change. Right. No one buys it as most have lived through a sale before. This approach creates a sense of distrust- an “us” versus “them” ecosystem.

Imagine the difference you and your coach could make to this team. Coaching could create a shift in mindset, an expanded sense of self awareness (each person could prepare to welcome change), building a sense of readiness and resilience.

As Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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