Halpin leadership conference

Self-Leadership and Self-Management for Discipline and Focus

Leadership is an elusive quality that every company needs. As Ross Perot always said, ‘All any company needs to be successful is focus and discipline.” Which equates to leadership.

Our firm worked with a CEO, Joe, who loved being the charismatic, whose externally focused leadership led his company with charm and presence. Joe was in denial about the high cost of his leadership style to his people and their results. The company was trying to mature and needed a more mature leader with a more balanced style of leadership. They needed more discipline and focus. Joe needed to play a bigger game.

While it was sometimes difficult for Joe to get out of his comfort zone, he trusted his team and The Halpin Companies team. We facilitated a process to help him build this new awareness, focus and discipline.

Joe had always been a hard worker and never failed to roll up his sleeves and solve the most complex or tedious ‘challenge of the day’. What the company needed now was leadership that would eliminate fire drills permanently, not just put the fires out when issues became combustible. Leadership that created environments where everyone would win, their customers, their people and their teams. Leadership that pushed the envelope while supporting everyone’s success.

How did this transformation occur?

The first step for Joe and his colleagues was to put in programs of self-management and self-leadership. This provided much greater self-awareness and the ability to articulate what was working and what was not working for each leader and the company. Leaders became more adept at negotiating expectations more consistently and more completely.

We then facilitated a process to help them to build in greater discipline.  We worked closely with our technology partners to build an executive dashboard so they could stay focused on the facts.  We helped them design and use a more structured approach to decision-making. The leadership team almost completely eliminated the 3-minute hallway decisions and the long email or text message streams that resulted in poor quality decisions that brought about unproductive, unintentional consequences.

As a result of these few tweaks, the entire company began to experience significantly less stress and almost zero chaos, confusion, rework or duplication of effort. Teams were able to be proactive because they were no longer reacting to leadership’s lack of discipline, focus and professional maturity.

Now that Joe and his C-level team consistently bring a structured approach to managing what matters, decision-making and communicating these decisions, results are exponentially greater at every level of the company.

It was as simple as Joe ‘fine-tuning’ his leadership style. When the leader ‘walks his talk’ and models professionalism, the entire company benefits. They have stabilized their financial condition and positioned themselves for extraordinary growth. With the focus on consistency, transparency and discipline, everyone is winning. No longer is the company’s financial condition precarious, the company is not dependent on Joe’s magnanimous personality and charm. The facts are more apparent, decisions are made based on the facts, not emotions or whims. Everyone demonstrates consistency in communication and the ability to self-correct when necessary.

Everyone is playing a bigger game!

Katharine Halpin has been facilitating processes that accelerate the growth of organizations of all sizes and levels of complexity since 1995.  The Halpin Companies’ proven methods close all the growth gaps(tm) quickly, strategically and drive record results.  For a complimentary, confidential, consultation, click here or call Katharine at 602-266-1961.

React or Respond

Effective Meetings = M&A Success

Do you want to free up hours and hours for productive, strategic, proactive work activities? Effective meetings are the key. Your ROI is immediate and the results will be transformative.

Studies show that for every 20-minutes we spend planning and preparing for meetings, we save 60-minutes in rework down the line.

Why don’t we consistently spend this critical 20-minutes preparing for effective meetings?

So many people spend their days reacting to the intensity of their calendars. By rushing from meeting to meeting we tend to show up in meetings with very little clarity. Do we even know the purpose of every meeting scheduled on our calendar this week?

Without clarity about the purpose of a meeting, participants have little clarity about how decisions will evolve and resources will be allocated as a result of a meeting.

Worse, we have little understanding of our individual role in the context of this meeting.

Stephen Covey always said, “Start with the end in mind”.

To make meetings meaningful (and thereby much more productive) take 20-minutes prior to each meeting to get clear on these important issues:

1. What is the purpose of this meeting? Is it a standing committee, a team meeting or an ad hoc meeting for one purpose? Will decisions actually be made in this meeting? Will resources be allocated as a result of this meeting? Do I need additional data in order to be prepared to discuss issues from a strategic perspective.

2. What is my objective for this meeting? How might I move my related priorities forward during this meeting?

3. What is my role in this meeting? Am I the sole decision-maker? Am I there to add context or be briefed? Am I a member of a team that will drive solutions as a result of this meeting?

4. Do we have an official scribe for this meeting? Do we have a track record of documenting action items in a meaningful way that produce effective follow-up and real results?

5. Have I received an agenda for this meeting? Do the agenda items make sense, given the purpose of the meeting?

With only 20-minutes of preparation time, your meetings can be exponentially more effective. More importantly, meetings can be a key structure for building a corporate culture of transparency, alignment and accountability.

If you aren’t strategic and proactive in preparing for meetings, you guarantee frustration and wasted resources in your very next meeting.  Drive effective meetings with just a few minutes of organizing your thoughts, preparing for the meeting and ensuring you have the appropriate resources and tools available.

Your colleagues who have least amount of transparency about themselves will be disruptive by dominating the meeting and will drive the few, off-strategy outcomes.

It’s your choice.

For more information about The Halpin Companies’ methods to exponentially grow shareholder value during transitions and transactions, contact us.

Strategic Management & Leadership

Want to Bring Strategic Leadership and Strategic Management to Your Company?

Many new leaders; whether in their leadership roles for the first time or leading a new venture resulting from a merger or acquisition, want to bring strategic management to their leadership roles. Unfortunately few are successful in bringing a strategic approach or mindset much less strategic leadership and strategic management.

Based on my decades of examining work environments as if I am a Scientist, I’ve developed a proven method that allows leaders to provide strategic leadership and strategic management from Day 1. These methods provide a level of effectiveness and builds a solid foundation for success for the entire organization as well as every single employee, regardless of their role or level of authority.

This method is especially critical in today’s environment. Because of the compensation in certain sectors of the tech industry and because of the ages and levels of maturity of so many technologists who have morphed into leadership roles, we have a lack of strategic leadership and strategic management in so many companies like Uber, Zenefits, and ZocDoc. In my opinion, we are at a critical stage of development as a society. Will we tolerate the 1950s Mad Men approach to business that has now emerged in 2017 thanks to these companies or will we build solid, financially sustainable, mature business models based on transparency, inclusiveness and aligning employees with the Vision/Mission/Purpose as well as the required behavioral standards.

Here’s The Halpin Companies’ approach to strategic leadership and strategic management:

  1. Create a meaningful, purposeful Vision and Mission. We believe there is so much bad behavior in the workplace; self-interested actions, bullies, favoritism, lack of honesty and authenticity, frat-house sexual harassment and worse because leaders have not invested the time to craft truly meaningful Visions for their ventures. If the Vision is big enough and compelling enough, people will put away their childish, immature behavior and buy-in to playing a bigger, more compelling game. It’s that simple.
  2. Establish corporate-wide, well thought out, documented Values for the organization. Without values clarification and development in a thoughtful, inclusive manner, decisions will be inconsistent and appear erratic, leadership will not be held accountable to a principled approach and employees, customers, vendors and suppliers will not have an understanding of that the company stands for.
  3. Ground everyone in the Current Reality. Dr. Martin Luther King, in his I have a Dream Speech, never failed to paint the picture of his vision for the future. However, he never failed to remind his audiences of the high cost of the current reality. When we are not grounded in the current reality, our Vision feels like pie in the sky. More importantly, without the facts and without daily and weekly metrics, leaders can be allowed to languish, to remain in denial and to even become delusional about the high cost of toxic situations. We must gain buy-in for the corporate values while making it fun and energizing to demonstrate those values. Since what gets measured, gets managed, we also must validate and report our adherence to these values and the behaviors that demonstrate that everyone believes in our corporate values and is ‘walking their talk’ on a day-to-day basis within the workplace.
  4. Build in ‘Reserves of Time’ to Think Strategically. If a project or initiative is going to fail or not meet the forecasted expectations, we believe there are red flags and key indicators, years and months in advance. Why do we not pick up on these key indicators? What gets in the way of our ability to connect the dots in advance of a problem or failure? If I am rushing from meeting to meeting all day, with zero time to download my to-do list and commitments or organize and plan my calendar, we simply will not have the time to think strategically. When we do have a moment to catch our breath before a meeting gets started our intuition will often alert us. We’ll start to ask ourselves questions. “I wonder what Bob meant by that comment?” “I’m curious to find out more about what Janet mentioned just as we were finishing working through our Agenda in that last meeting”. “I’m concerned that Betty Sue may be overly optimistic about turning this project around in such a short amount of time”. All of these are red flags but if we don’t have even a moment to ponder, we cannot pick up on these intuitive hunches, much less follow-up with others to delve deeper into these concerns.
  5. Reserves of Time to Act Strategically. If we, again, are over-booked we will be forced to remain in a reactive mindset dealing with one operational fire drill after another. This sets up our actions to be focused on today. In order to build organizations on a solid foundation of strategic leadership and strategic management, we must align our activities with our values, our strategic initiatives and our long-term goals. We simply cannot act strategically without the reserve of time to think strategically. Action follows thoughts. We can’t catch ourselves and coach ourselves if we are frenetic or frazzled.

Give yourself the gift of reflecting on these 5 approaches. Your colleagues will be grateful. More importantly, you will establish a foundation on which to grow your company exponentially.

About Katharine Halpin

Katharine Halpin has been facilitating C-level transitions and corporate transactions since 1995 when she left her CPA career to fill a void she had seen everyday. With a narrow focus on legal and financial aspects only, organizations need leaders who can provide both strategic leadership and strategic management. Katharine founded The Halpin Companies to help fill this void and close, the Growth Gaps™, those things that stand in the way of accelerated corporate growth.

Post-Merger integration

Post-Merger Integration: What Works & What Doesn’t Work?

I follow a company that just experienced a merger of equals. Some would say it was an acquisition but the larger company leaders wanted the transaction to be viewed as a merger in an effort to extend their good faith efforts to the leaders and employees of the acquired company.

Because of the myriad of issues involved in the integration of two companies, the leaders of both companies were thrown into a state of chaos. Of course, their lives had not been a walk in the park prior to the merger with their international travel, intense pace and growth mindsets. But their worlds today make them look back on those days as if they were in a simpler, easier time.

Immediately after the transaction closed, these leaders relied on advice from a large, international management-consulting firm that resulted in tremendous chaos and confusion. On the surface, there was nothing wrong with the advice since it is the standard recommendations made by all large management-consulting firms dealing with complex, post merger integrations. However, in this case their confidence in this consulting firm and their reliance on this advice, in hindsight, proved to beyond problematic.

Not only were they faced with the standard legal, financial, marketing, and sales integration challenges and standard communication issues they were advised to conduct a massive layoff to “remove the redundancy.”

Certainly there was redundancy at every level, starting at the CEO level. However, even at the CEO level these leaders had been able to design a 3-year plan that would provide a smooth transition in the CEO and President roles.

Each of these mature, experienced leaders let themselves be lulled into a false sense of accomplishment at the consummation of the ‘deal’ and were overly- confident their decisions.  They believed the recommendations of their consultants were sound and would drive the results that had been forecasted during due diligence.

Unfortunately, their situation did not evolve as they has hoped and planned.

The integration was disrupted by the chaos and confusion generated by any layoff. Both companies had demonstrated long-term commitments to their employees and built productive cultures of inclusiveness and trust. All of the benefits of that decades of hard work to build these kind of trusting work environments flew out the window the day after the transaction closed with the leaders announced the layoff.

Instead of employees digging in and working on both their regular responsibilities from their ‘day job’ and demonstrating the initiative and effort to solve the problems that arose in this critical integration phase, employees were disheartened and disillusioned.

Instead of working harder they started to languish by the water cooler and compare notes, gossip and spread rumors. Everyone was traumatized by the reduction in force and was waiting for the next announcement of further post-merger integration layoffs.

People one could focus. No one could relax. No one could maintain a balanced perspective. Every employee was obsessing over the rumors and focused on the worst possible scenarios for the company, themselves and their families. This included line staff, management and executives alike.

Instead of replicating their successes building cultures of trust, inclusion and initiative, the new entity descended rapidly into a blaming, dysfunctional culture where no one took ownership. The worst part of this situation is that it will take a decade to rebuild a productive, trusting workplace culture. This will impact the forecasted goals and limit the potential growth of this new entity for a long time.

Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

David A. Fields says, “When we thought the sun revolved around the earth, our vision was limited to a tiny planet. Then, a startling reversal of perspective opened up a universe of possibilities.”

We simply cannot work longer hours and more evenings and weekends and yet expect our perspective to remain balanced. Fatigue causes our judgment to be impaired.

We can’t imagine the possibilitiy of using new and different approaches that are aligned with our personal and corporate values when we are in a state of frenzy from the intense pace.

We cannot bring out best selves nor create an environment for others to bring their best during a slash and burn layoff.

In order to move powerfully through all the challenges during a post-merger integration, we must be open to thinking differently and not repeating long-standing beliefs and approaches. We must have the courage to create new approaches and drive towards greater potential. We must use different thinking than we’ve used before.

Even if leaders have been through post-merger integration a number of times, the world is different today. Millenials, Gen X and Gen Y have expectations in the workplace that are different from baby boomers’ expectations.

Technology has provided everyone with 24/7 communication and social media has given each one of your customers, employees and vendors a voice and a platform to express their thoughts instantaneously and broadly.

We need to answer these questions early and often:

  1. What is the Purpose of this new entity?
  2. Why do we exist?
    1. What is our product or service?
    2. Who are our customers?
    3. For what reason do we exist?
  3. What steps are required to build a high performing organization quickly?
  4. How are we communicating this Purpose to each and every employee at every level?
  5. Do we have a refreshed, joint Strategic Plan that outlines goals by:
    1. Mandates
    2. Growth & Strategic Goals
    3. Operational Goals
  6. How are decisions being communicated in a clear, concise and consistent manner?
  7. How will we get the right people in the right roles, focused on the right projects right away?
  8. How will we prioritize?
  9. What method will we use to make decisions, especially around allocating resources?
  10. What data will be important to monitor daily, weekly and monthly?
  11. Can we obtain an executive dashboard affordably, quickly and easily?
  12. How will we fund this growth?
  13. Who will own our project plans?
  14. What is everyone’s new role?
  15. Are these roles delineated by direct accountability as well as oversight accountability?
  16. Do we have a complete, comprehensive, well-documented set of expectations that specify our desired outcomes, available resources, responsible party, due dates and a reporting mechanism to keep our C-level leaders briefed?

In this brave, new world, leaders must demonstrate courage and innovation, especially in post-merger integration.

To achieve the forecasted goals and leverage the synergies of the former entities, we must adopt a new way of thinking and use new and different approaches to removing redundancy and excess costs. These new approaches must be very different from the slash and burn approach of layoffs. We must expand our perspectives beyond ‘how we’ve always done integration before”. We must bring new thinking, a new mindset, and a commitment to inclusiveness, thoughtfulness and transparency.

Do you have the courage to use these new and different approaches?


Katharine Halpin has been advising Founders and C-level executives about M&A transitions since 1997.  Follow Katharine on Twitter or LinkedIn or at The Halpin Companies