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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- What is the Purpose of this new entity?
- Why do we exist?
- What is our product or service?
- Who are our customers?
- For what reason do we exist?
- What steps are required to build a high performing organization quickly?
- How are we communicating this Purpose to each and every employee at every level?
- Do we have a refreshed, joint Strategic Plan that outlines goals by:
- Growth & Strategic Goals
- Operational Goals
- How are decisions being communicated in a clear, concise and consistent manner?
- How will we get the right people in the right roles, focused on the right projects right away?
- How will we prioritize?
- What method will we use to make decisions, especially around allocating resources?
- What data will be important to monitor daily, weekly and monthly?
- Can we obtain an executive dashboard affordably, quickly and easily?
- How will we fund this growth?
- Who will own our project plans?
- What is everyone’s new role?
- Are these roles delineated by direct accountability as well as oversight accountability?
- 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?
Since 1995 we at The Halpin Companies have been able to facilitate business growth strategies for a variety of companies in a variety or industries. Our clients historically brought us in to facilitate a CEO or key leader transition or to help the founders be strategic about making their exit. Regardless of the original purpose of the engagement, across the board, we’ve been able to help our clients accelerate the growth of their companies by using our proprietary business growth strategies.
Our proprietary methods are based on simple, practical, but not always easy approaches. Business growth strategies are not complicated. However, they do require leaders to be open to using new and different approaches. What got you hear won’t get you there” according to Marshall Goldsmith, the noted leadership guru.
In order to be strategic about growing a business, a few key things must occur.
First and foremost, we must have a clear assessment of the current reality. What are the motivations of the shareholders? What roles are people currently playing? What expectations do the shareholders have about the continuation of the company beyond their own leadership? Who aspires to assume more leadership within the company and are they positioned properly? What is the current level of leadership and management effectiveness of each key executive and manager? What specific strengths does each key player possess? Do these key players demonstrate behaviors on a daily basis that indicate they are ‘walking their talk’ with the purpose and mission of the organization and their own strengths and values?
Once this information can be gathered, leaders can start to formulate next steps. These next steps must include developing a Vision for any transition or transaction. Do the shareholders want to focus intentionally on the growth? How much growth? How will this growth be measured? Revenues, Profits, Shareholder Value? Business growth strategies require clarity. Without clarity of vision, you have chaos.
‘One stunning example of this kind of farsightedness is how Steve Jobs operated at the start of Apple. When Jobs and Wozniak founded Apple Computers in 1976, the personal computer was still new and untested. Moreover, the idea that almost everyone would one day have a computer and that computers would be as accessible and easy-to-use as televisions or telephones seemed like craziness.
But then along came these two young men with exactly these ideas. And Jobs, especially, continued to articulate this possible future in a way that brought together capital, a workforce, and a marketing plan that ultimately led to the achievement of the future he envisioned thirty-five years ago.
The essence of farsightedness is not only envisioning a possible successful future but also articulate it in a way that’s both compelling and inclusive. Compelling means that it’s meaningful to those who hear it, that it’s attractive to them. Inclusive means they want to help make it happen and feel they can have an important part to play in moving toward it.
Clearly Steve Jobs was able to express his vision for the future in this way. In January 1984, when Jobs introduced the first Macintosh computer at Apple’s annual shareholders’ meeting, an attendee described the level of enthusiasm as “pandemonium.” As the first commercially successful small computer with a graphical user interface, the Macintosh represented, and still represents, the realization of a vision that was both compelling and inclusive.
Will this shareholder value occur through acquisitions, mergers or organically within the company? Often, we recommend initially experimenting with two approaches simultaneously to ‘test the waters’. Different leaders will be inclined to be successful within different models and it’s important to assess each key leaders ability to move productively through change and even chaos.
According to Nelson Mandela, “Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world. Don’t let your company’s growth potential by stymied by incongruence of your visions, plans and business growth strategies.
For more information about our 100-Day Program and the six components that accelerate growth, using our proprietary business growth strategies, please contact Katharine Halpin at 602-266-1961 or via email at K.Halpin@HalpinCompany.com Follow Katharine on Twitter at KatharineHalpin and LinkedIn. For more information about how to build alignment at all levels of your organization, read Katharine’s book, Alignment for Success: Bringing Out the Best in Yourself, Your Teams and Your Company.
If you are preparing for a merger, acquisition or organic growth, contact us for a complimentary, confidential consultation!
The process of capital formation in the 19th century was markedly different between the British capital market and the American capital market. British industrialists were readily able to satisfy their need for capital by tapping a vast source of international capital through British banks such as Westminster’s, Lloyds and Barclays.
In contrast, the dramatic growth of the United States created capital requirements that far outstripped the limited capital resources of American bank after the Civil War.
Investment banking in the United States emerged to serve the expansion of railroads, mining companies, and heavy industry. Unlike commercial banks, investment banks were not authorized to issue notes or accept deposits. I
Instead, they served as brokers or intermediaries, bringing together investors with capital and the firms that needed that capital.
Even now, 150-years later, Investment Banking is a key driver and growth engine for the US economy because Investment Banking experts still serves as brokers and intermediaries.
While investment banking is a critical resource to grow our economy, to drive real innovation and sustainable transformation of business, we must expand the scope of the typical process, driven by investment banking, during a merger or acquisition.
The investment banking role is to facilitate the due diligence process to bring investors and companies together. The glitch occurs when their narrow focus is limited to the legal and financial aspects. Little effort or attention is given by the investment bankers to the people aspects.
For example, now one asks these questions:
- How will we align our senior management team so they can speak with one voice?
- How can we gain the buy-in and trust of all the employees?
- How can we crystalize and communicate our purpose in a way that is meaningful to our employees?
- How can we prioritize and make decisions in a way that is consistent with our purpose and our values yet narrows our focus?
- How can we engage the hearts and the minds of our teams?
- How can we grow this company so that everyone wins;
- Our shareholders?
- Our teams?
- Our customers?
By maintaining a narrow, limited perspective, deals get closed every day. The question for these investors is; “are these deals that will grow a company?”
KPMG has reported since 1999 that 83% of mergers and acquisitions fail. These deals don’t blow up necessarily but they do fail to achieve the forecasted growth in revenue, profit and shareholder value.
If Investment Banking experts could simply expand the scope of their focus, so much more growth could occur in the US economy immediately.
In our e-book, we describe eight important steps to be considered during the standard approach to due diligence by investment banking experts. Here are three of those steps:
- We suggest strongly that newly acquired companies avoid layoffs at all costs. While this may be the ‘quick and dirty’ way to slash and burn overhead and redundant administrative costs, the fallout can last as long as a decade.
Do you want your front line people to feel safe to innovate, to ask questions and to express even their smallest concerns? Or would you prefer they stand around the proverbial water-cooler and gossip about the latest hint that another layoff is pending. Your employees will not be able to bring their best, most focused selves after a lay-off. It is simply too traumatic for those retained.
- Assess the current leadership and management teams of the acquiring company and the company to be acquired or merged. By understanding the strengths, values and motivations of each key player you can build alignment from the earliest discussions.
Without alignment, you will have key executives who put their own self-interest in front of the organization’s interest, simply because they have not aligned with their colleagues around a shared purpose.
- Use strategic approaches. When we allow ourselves to become reactive we turn over control of our destiny and the destiny of this new entity to others. Either:
- Wall Street Analysts,
- Activist shareholders or
- Those we don’t see or share our vision.
When we are in reactive mode, we simply cannot remember to focus on the big picture and the long-term opportunity and possibility. We are too busy putting out fires and reacting to the issues that appear to be urgent but, in the long run, are not going to add value.
If you are racing from meeting to meeting with little time to think strategically or prepare for important decisions, you will not notice the red flags. When a company is losing it’s potential for growth, key indicators are everywhere. The question is this: Can you see the key indicators when they are slight, intuitive hunches or do you have to wait until the company faces a financial crisis to wake up? To you want to blame others are do you want to drive yours and the company’s future growth potential?
Investment Banking is a critical piece to growing our economy. However, investment banking experts and shareholders everywhere must be open to taking a broader perspective.
About the Author:
Katharine Halpin, founder of The Halpin Companies, has been facilitating transitions and transactions since 1995. Her earlier career as a CPA taught her the importance of considering not just the financial and legal aspects of a transaction but also the people and cultural aspects.
If you’d like to receive a complimentary copy of our e-book, 8 Ways to Avoid Becoming a Statistic, email Katharine Halpin at K.Halpin@HalpinCompany.com
If you are interested in a complimentary, confidential discussion about a pending, current or recent merger or acquisition, please call 602-266-1961 or click to schedule.