How Strong Leadership Skills Can Help Manage Emotions After Mergers and Acquisitions

Emotions may get in the way of a smooth merger or acquisition. Strong leadership skills can help you navigate the emotions of change.
May 01, 2017

One of the most significant challenges in mergers and acquisitions may be the emotional impact they can have on all those involved. Even with the best of intentions, a harried business owner or leader may neglect to nurture everyone's emotions to ensure a successful integration. Strong leadership skills can help business owners manage emotions so that the owner, their team or the company are not upset after a merger or acquisition. 

How do you develop the strong leadership skills that can help you manage the aftermath of a merger or acquisition? One way to do this is by paying attention to your emotional intelligence so that you can access your inner wisdom.

A key to emotional intelligence is relationship management. The following tips can help you practice strong leadership skills in this crucial area.

1. Do some emotional handholding.

You may feel that your hands are too full with logistics to also partake in the emotional caretaking of others. But carving some time to care about people's emotions may help.

One way to do this is to show "empathic concern." Empathic concern is a term coined by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his book, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships. It means not only tuning in to understand others' feelings and emotions, but also letting people know that you want to support them. It can take strong leadership skills to actively show others that you value their welfare.

2. Show strong leadership skills by coaching people for resilience.

Acting like a victim when confronted with changes brought about by a merger or acquisition isn't necessarily helpful. You can use your strong leadership skills to help people see this. 

Strong leadership skills in a post-merger environment are about trying to imagine how scared or stressed people might be.

Consider coaching or mentoring them to see that getting along by playing along may be the smartest approach in the long run. It might help them move away from victimhood to feeling more empowered. How can they behave in a way that respects their future rather than being stuck in the culture of the past? What are the possibilities for good? What are the potential opportunities ahead? What can they do to maintain a sense of direction for their role and career path?

3. Use your strong leadership skills to get up close and personal with your team.

Consider grabbing a cup of coffee, walking around and talking to people. The conventional advice in post-merger situations is to over-communicate. This usually implies communicating about the changes, new policies, new directions and other business issues involving the merger. You may also want to communicate with people on a social level.

Talk to people about themselves. Ask about their families and other general issues. Take people to lunch. Let them see you more often. Proximity may increase trust.

Consider ratcheting up on the psychological niceties: genuinely praise people for their efforts. In many cases, employees may have worked harder and longer during the urgency of the merger. You can express gratitude for their loyalty. Give words of encouragement here and there, to keep the morale up. Consider asking people for their suggestions or opinions. These little things can take time, but they may just be the oil that can make relationships run smoothly.

4. Manage your own emotions.

Relationship management can start with self-management. Strong leaders often develop psychological hardiness to help them cope with others' emotional reactions to the merger. First, expect that there may be some people who resist the change. Setting that expectation may help in psychological preparation.

Second, just as you might use scenario analysis for the business side of the merger, consider applying the same tool for your own emotional reactions. Imagine the possible emotional reactions of others and make a plan on how you might behave, or what you might say. 

Changes may trigger a myriad of emotions and feelings in people: anxiety in the face of uncertainty, fear of the unknown, helplessness, anger or sadness at perceived losses to name a few. How might you stay cool under fire? What do you need to do to take care of yourself, to maintain your energy after the long work of the merger? What inspiration can you derive from others who have shown strong leadership skills in times of change? How might you boost your knowledge of how people experience change?

Ultimately, strong leadership skills in a post-merger environment are about trying to imagine how scared or stressed people might be. Try to find the compassion for others that you might want them to have for you.

Read more articles on leadership skills.

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