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Beyond M&A’s: Building a New Team Culture

Creating a Healthy Climate for Growth 

Leading a Team after a Merger / Acquisition can be  a tough gig. The fallout from the disruption can be challenging. If you’re a Leader who belonged to one of the Organisations, it can be hard not to be caught in your loyalty to the old culture and therefore unwittingly enforcing the division between the two organisations or teams. 

Most organisation’s approach to M&A’s is based on old colonial thinking (take and conquer), which leaves the loyal employees of the less empowered system feeling humiliated and patronised and therefore resistant to the change. 

An M&A is an opportunity for all employees to rethink and reevaluate their position and their loyalties, which can be very healthy and helps them to either re-commit to co-creating the new organisation or look to leave.   

Below is some guidance on how to approach and manage the integration of the cultures and the process to begin the co-creation of the new healthy culture.    

Part One: Research the Perspective of the Employees of Both Companies

General – 

  • The move between old ownership to new ownership – what was it like for them? What’s their personal story? Was it a painful ending? 
  • What’s changed for them?
  • What are they grieving the loss of (what have they lost in the change)?
  • What (if anything) do they feel they have gained?
  • The future – what are their hopes and fears?

Technical – 

  • What are the new systems / processes / relationships they now need to learn?
  • How has their role changed?
  • Do they have all the resources they need to do their (new) role or their role in a new way?
  • How competent do they feel in their role?
  • How do they feel their role has changed?
  • How do they feel the expectations of them has changed?

Political – 

  • Do they feel more / less empowered?
  • Do they feel like they have ‘agency’ to fulfil their role?
  • Who do they feel now holds the power in this Function / Organisation?
  • Where, in their opinion, does the power now lie? (People / Functions)
  • Who do they feel closer to?
  • Where does their deeper loyalty lie (is it with someone who has left or  / and with the previous system)?

Cultural – 

  • On a scale of 1-10, how much do they feel like they BELONG to this newly merged Function / Organisation?
  • What are the rules of belonging here or are they still figuring them out?
  • What three words describe this new culture?
  • What three words describe the old culture?
  • How have they had to adapt to the new culture?

Part Two: Cultural Awareness Raising: Creating a Sacred Space (Site)

  • Sacred Space: Create a Site (Shared Document) for the whole team to access
  • Stories: Ask each employee to share a story of their time in the previous organisation that best symbolises the values and culture of the business they belonged to. Ask them to write it up and create a shared site for the others to access them. Ask them to write down one thing they’ll miss and one thing they’ll bring with them into the new team. 
  • Timelines: Create a timeline / history of the Organisation and add this to the site so everyone can read it.
  • Roles: Ask each person to create a timeline of their own role and who has been in it (as far back as they can recall /access)
  • Order: Create a timeline of who came first in the Function / Team in both organisations and then collectively

Part Three: Building Connection and a Shared Vision (the Container) 

  • Leadership Vision and Values: Share your values as a Leader with the whole team and clarify the vision for the whole Function and your team
  • Boundaries: Lay out the ‘new’ boundaries that the function is working to
  • Communication: Clarify how decisions will be made and your boundaries around what and how to communicate
  • Patterns: Explain that as a result of disruptive events in teams and organisations (mergers, redundancies etc), patterns emerge. These include patterns such as the drama triangle (perpetrators – rescuers – victims) and divisions (us and them behaviour).  
  • Responsibilities: Explain that each person is responsible for these patterns emerging in their own behaviour and also in the behaviour of others and that to build a new, healthy culture everyone needs to take their responsibility in making sure don’t collude or are complicit in going along with them. 
  • Commitment: Talk to the team about what commitment looks like (where every part of you says yes to something – not just your head). To co-create this new cultural climate takes the commitment of every individual. Explain that this commitment will be tested, so its better to be 100% honest with themselves as to how much they feel committed to giving it their best shot to making it work. Ask them to tell you (privately) if there is something they feel they need in order to commit. Its also good to explain that its okay too if they feel that their time here is coming to an end (and they’d like to go) and that they are now exploring the possibility of leaving.    

A Guide on how to step into Eldership


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