Triangle PerformanceAT C-LEVEL - May 2008
In this issue
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FROM THE TOP
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STRATEGY & LEADERSHIP
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After the Dust Settles...
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MUSINGS
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The Book of Marlin...
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Printable Version
PRINTABLE VERSION
Click here to download an easily printable, PDF version of this newsletter.
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From the Top

It's nearly the end of May - how are we coming on those objectives? You're a month from mid-year, so judge your results accordingly. If we haven't made headway, progress, or at least some 'movement' toward our goals, we may need to make some immediate course-corrections.

Analyze now, correct where necessary. Don't bury your head in the sand, believing that some unplanned miracle will allow complete success in the upcoming months. Much like the lottery saying, "The lottery is a fun game, but it makes a lousy retirement plan," expecting divine intervention without proper planning and execution is probably a lousy way to run our railroads.

As always, I welcome your perusal and gratis downloads of the new and relevant material (articles, papers, etc.) on the website, including Recession-Proof Leadership and Leadership Shake-up, 4 ways to make things happen.

...and don't forget to check out my blog; several recent entries on airline leadership and how we can be "comfortable with discomfort" (an interesting - and eerily realistic - concept):

Berchelmann's Blog

A Sampling of Current Projects:
** Executive-level compensation plan design,
** Leadership development, in construction and manufacturing environments,
** Succession planning, for multiple levels of management, and
** Search and recruitment for multiple management positions in technology, manufacturing, and construction industries.

As always, I hope this finds you well, both personally and professionally; please give me a call if I can help in any way.

Warm Regards,

D. Kevin Berchelmann

D. Kevin Berchelmann
President
Triangle Performance, LLC
www.triangleperformance.com
kevinb@triangleperformance.com
281.257.4442

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Strategy & Leadership
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After the Dust Settles...
-- it does settle, doesn't it??

I get a lot of inquiries around post-merger integration (euphemism for "play well with new people"), so here are a few things to think about...

The most important part of any post-merger/acquisition effort is communication. If you aren't communicating well, the integration will fail - regardless of anything else I've written below.

Frequent, informative, helpful communications.

The initial merger time - up to 90 days post-closing - is the most critical, since many of the employees in the acquired company will "overthink" the event, and may believe they will be summarily replaced. And they may even be correct.

Or, more important to key performers, they may believe that they'll lose their key performer "status."

If you intend to make cuts, announce them and do them quickly. No "death by a thousand cuts" here. The longer it takes, the worse the retention results. Be sure, if staff cuts will occur that they occur on both "sides" of the merger equation.

Assess acquired company's culture and strengths, and make the determination on what "works" for you, and what doesn't. Once you determine what the "combined" culture will look like, no compromise -- on either "side."

Remember -- and this is ultra-important -- there can only be ONE culture. Anything else will lead to fragmented actions, loyalties, and lack of direction. The "get on the bus, off the bus, or get run over by the bus" concept applies here.

Be frank and open with the process. The worst thing that could happen is that the acquired employees lose trust in your integration process -- they already 'suspect' you may not have their best interests at heart.

Some thoughts on a "plan":

1. Create an employee integration plan immediately. It takes hours, not days, don't dilly-dally, folks. It really isn't rocket-science. Communicate that plan to others (both "sides").

2. Execute to that plan immediately, quickly, and strongly. Patton was correct: "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." Time is not on your side here. The longer it takes, the worse the outcome... guaranteed.

3. Decide where you'll compromise -- and where not -- and hold firm. Unfortunately, "my way or highway," after sufficient thought and planning, is the correct approach in this scenario. See "bus" concept above.

4. Communicate, communicate, and over-communicate. Rinse and repeat. Even "nothing new to report" is better than silence. People fill 'unknowns' with their own 'knowns.' And you can bet their 'knowns' are less than positive.

5. Clearly define roles, accountabilities, reporting relationships, and performance expectations. It's the very core of the employee agreement. Employees - new and old - will use this as a decision-point for continued engagement and effort.

6. "It ain't over 'till it's over." Don't declare integration 'victory' too soon. Prematurely hailing success has killed many an integration, as a couple of key people/groups look around and say "not from where I sit."

Though not necessarily difficult, post-merger integration is a defined process that cannot be avoided. In my experience, those integrations that fail do so because there simply was no defined plan and subsequent action for assimilating the two workforces. It won't "just happen," you can't "wait and see," and it certainly won't "take care of itself."

It takes real, purposeful leadership, a defined plan, and violent execution.

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Musings
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The Book of Marlin...
-- Timeless lessons from a watermelon farmer

I blogged about this some time ago, but wanted to make sure everyone had the opportunity to see it - it's worth repeating.

When I was growing up in Luling, Texas (population ~4,500), my next door neighbor and best friend was Randy Moore. We did everything together -- played baseball together, went swimming together, even worked in his dad's watermelon patch together.

His dad's name was Marlin.

Marlin passed away recently, and at his funeral service, the pastor described his life as chapters in a book. The Book of Marlin.

Now, working in that watermelon patch all those years, I had the opportunity to hear many chapters and pages of that book played out in real time. Things like:

Boy, that's a good 'un.

To make a horse trade, son, both sides gotta get a horse.

...and many more. Most of you will recognize the latter comment as the precursor to modern-day "win-win negotiations," before being named such by some consultant selling a book.

The first comment, however, bears reminding due to its timeless simplicity.

Boy, that's a good 'un.

Now for those who don't know about farming watermelons, here's a lesson: You tell how ripe they are -- whether they are ready to eat at just the perfect time -- by thumping on them and listening to the sound that comes from the melon. Marlin would walk that watermelon patch (earlier lesson continued -- watermelons are raised in 'patches,' not fields or farms), thumping every third or fourth melon, listening for that special sound that would have him say...

Boy, that's a good 'un.

Then, Randy and I would pick it, load it into the bed of the pickup, and move on.

Believe it or not, there's a lesson for senior leadership here.

It was the right time of the year for picking watermelons, since we always picked them at roughly the same time. They all "looked" ready on the outside, and seemed mostly identical to each other, except for slight variations in size or appearance.

Digging deeper, however... really looking inside the watermelon ("thumping"), told us things we couldn't tell through simple appearance and timing. Digging deeper, we could tell if they were truly ready.

The same holds true when evaluating and assessing management talent for your organization. They may have been in the right place, at the right time. They may even have the obvious characteristics that we feel will make them successful. But if we don't dig deeper -- really analyze the person from the inside, determining motivation, propensity for future growth, and ability to manage real accountabilities -- then we may miss the true indicators of readiness.

The thump that tells us, not just with visual and intuitive senses, but with analytical and logical reasoning, that this person is ready. Only then can we say,

Boy, that's a good 'un.

Don't just rely on appearances, tenure, or career sound-bites; assess future leaders by really getting inside them to test their ability to wear the future mantle of leadership for your organization. Plus, maybe we "thump" the heck out of someone and call it a "Leadership Assessment."

Sorry, that's just wishful thinking on my part.

Seems we can still learn things from The Book of Marlin.

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© 2008 Triangle Performance, LLC
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