Effective leadership plays a critical role in integrating companies following an acquisition. Challenges abound, for instance when disagreements arise between the executive team and the rest of the staff. How do you bridge the gap? Communicate painful decisions? Maintain calm during a period of change?
As the leader of an integration process, you should:
- Be aware of the key challenges and opportunities
- Recognize that different management styles can bring new value to the combined organization.
- Be good listeners. Those who aren’t decision-makers need to be heard and to hear from their leaders in response.
Leaders who bulldoze their way through integration breed resistance within the acquired company and are likely to be frustrated by a lack of progress. This can be avoided by adopting a collaborative approach.
That isn’t to suggest that as a leader you should simply acquiesce, but rather that you balance the input of executives and employees and make decisions that best serve the interests of the organization.
Leaders choose which issues may be negotiated, and which are beyond discussion. They must clearly communicate how decisions will be made and how information will be disseminated.
Consider the challenges of integrating Kraft and Heinz following completion of their merger last July. The Wall Street Journal reports Kraft Heinz is closing seven facilities, including Kraft’s former headquarters near Chicago, and cutting 2,600 jobs. In situations like that, leaders must make tough choices, combining two companies with strong cultures and entrenched staff. Cost cutting, innovation and automation may be essential to the success of the integration, but so is the way in which these dramatic changes are implemented.
The quality of leadership can make or break an integration program.