I’m going to be a little self-serving today, but it’s based on a comment someone made to me the other day. You’ll probably be able to figure out what the comment was as you read on.
Imagine that on your way to an appointment a drop of something – coffee from someone’s cup, condensation from an air conditioner – spills onto your shirt. You’d see it and deal with it immediately if it was on the front of your shirt. If it spills onto the back, you’d probably not even notice it until some kind-hearted soul mentions it. That, dear readers, is why you need people like me.
When I grew up in the business world, I had a lot of people coaching me. My immediate boss and his boss were always ready to encourage me (and not always in the nicest of tones) and help me to grow. They let me know where the less-visible (to me) stains were. That situation is less common today in a world where there are a million corporations of one as opposed to a large company. Today’s smaller companies have much less institutional memory from which they can draw as well as less personal experience on the part of the founders and employees.
Part of what I do is to coach. I’ve run into some potential clients who tell me that they don’t need coaching, just more hands to do the work. While the latter half of that statement is assuredly true, they also need someone to point out the stains on their backs. Most consultants I know don’t have a political agenda. We’re not after your job nor are we burdened with your past or present. We are charged with helping you and your business to grow. No, you can’t do the latter without doing the former. A business is only as good as the people managing it. My peers and I are there to look at your situation and to help you reach your goals.
I’ve been doing “business” for almost 40 years (yikes!). In that time I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve seen a lot of others do the same. I’ve seen great managers and horrible managers. Part of what clients pay me for is an insurance policy of sorts. My experience ensures them that they won’t have to make the same mistakes I did. They get the benefit of the learning without the pain of the experience. What I and my peers bring is why football teams have coaches up high in the stadium – to get a broader perspective.
Most professional golfers have swing coaches. All sports teams do too. The coaches aren’t caught up in the second to second physical involvement that sport requires. They can see and protect your back. I can do that too, by seeing the parts of you and your business that you can’t or won’t see and by letting you know what’s going on in those blind spots. Call me?
I see that American Airlines and USAir announced their long-rumored merger this morning. I’ve flown over a million miles on American so I know it quite well. Over the years I’ve flown USAir from time to time but it I’m certainly not as familiar with it. Why do I bring this up?
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I’ve been through several corporate mergers. I was with ABC when CapCities bought it and then again when Disney bought CapCities. I was at CBS when Viacom bought it. From those experiences I learned a couple of things that I think have broader implications even if your company isn’t getting bought.
Mergers fail. A lot. In fact, studies indicate that somewhere between 50% and 85% of mergers come up short. I suppose that part of it has to do with the reason for the merger in the first place. If a company is buying another to eliminate a competitor the mission is accomplished no matter what happens to the acquired company. Part of it may be the enthusiasm for the merger blinding those involved to the potential pitfalls or wacky financing. But I think it’s primarily for another reason.
Simply put, culture. Think for a second about new immigrants to this country. They may not speak the language. They are unaware of our customs. They might not even know our laws. All of those things create resentment – look at the news and you can find many examples of it. It’s not that they’re bad people – their culture is different.
It’s no different when corporate cultures meet. There are almost always differences in management styles. How employees feel about the companies vary as much as do their benefits. Lost in the shuffle is the fact that one company is not buying another – you’re acquiring people! Those people may have been trained to have a different focus and how they measure success might not align exactly with your expectations. As with the immigrant example, helping them to learn the culture and to speak the language is an imperative.
I’ll be watching this merger with interest. I’m wondering if and how the cultural changes will manifest themselves to the flying public. If the managers are smart , the next year will be spent making sure everyone is on the same page and understands the cross-cultural changes. If they aren’t, like the vast majority of mergers, this one will fail.
That’s a horrible title for SEO purposes, I know, since I’ve misspelled “Culture” which is today’s topic. Not high-brow entertainment or the ones found in yogurt. Nope. Today we talk about the culture that surrounds us at work. That term – corporate culture – and what it represents is not an object of focus often enough, in my opinion. It’s often an after-thought; something that evolves on its own because no one is really paying attention. Sort of like mold. And that’s a big mistake. Continue reading