Archive for February, 2011

Talent loss during a M&A

There can be few business events that have the potential to create chaos, lose key people and adversely affect morale than a merger and acquisition. Last week I became aware of a number of businesses as well as a couple of charities that are merging in order to reduce costs and create a better platform for survival.

Process of an M&A
The process can be viewed as a pre acquisition and post acquisition. Pre acquisition establishes a good business fit. Post acquistion comprises of making it work. The businesses seem to be on the right track whilst the charities, having argued for over twelve months, are likely to find the process depressingly difficult and expensive.

Key People will leave during the second phase

During the pre acquistion phase both organisations will have established where savings can be made and implementation starts post acquisition. Whilst some leavers will have been identified by the new company and be made redundant there will be a significant portion of the top talent that will decide to leave because they don’t like the new culture or management style.

My research shows that acquired companies lose almost 50% of their key people within twelve months. One insurance company that I know of lost 80% of the staff over a two year period. Those staff that leave first tend to be those described as “Key people”

Who’s in charge?
Many M&A’s start by trying to adopt the best practice from both companies in terms of culture and management style. This invariably results in a three humped camel with people being confused as to the “norms” expected of them. It’s better to adopt one set of rules and thus establish clear anticipated results.

To maintain productivity keep people informed
One of the charities I’m observing is telling its people that there will be no change to their work, benefits and prospects. In reality it’s aware that the senior partner in the merger is planning to reduce staffing levels and set different results criteria and because the staff don’t believe what they are being told productivity has all but ground to a halt.

It’s estimated that at least 360,000 hours of productivity can be lost during an acquisition of a company with just 1000 people*. They stop becasue they are establishing the new political agenda and determining influence groups and listening to the rumour factory working overtime.

During 2011 there is likely to be an increase in M&A’s and it’s worth considering that effort and planning has to be made to retain the key people that are needed to make the post M&A a success.

* The complete guide to M&A’s by Timothy Galpin and Mark Hendon 

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Do self-help programmes really work?

I’ve been struck in recent months by the number of products being offered for improving or developing a persons personal “brand” or “image”.

There’s a profusion of courses, books and CD programmes that promise instant impact with those you meet and lead, career success and, of course, instant riches by creating the “right impression”, “instant respect” or being seen in the right places.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these things aren’t important. It’s only an idiot who thinks that dress, image and an ability to communicate aren’t vital to one’s career. Indeed it’s only a few days ago that I spent some time persuading an aspiring manager that having the 007 ringtone on his mobile might not be creating the best corporate image.

I’m also a fan of trainers who train people to describe themselves and what they do in a more succinct statement than some of the sermons we have to suffer at networking meetings. Actually I subscribe to the rule that an “elevator pitch” that’s greater than 35 words is a waste of the listener’s and speaker’s time.

However, I feel sorry for those that buy these programmes simply as Pollyfiller for the chip on their shoulders or who believe that it will produce instant and lasting results. One book isn’t enough to change a person overnight from a boring fart to a sparkling raconteur. What it can do is to make the person aware of the improvements they can make with effort.

I agree with a well known founder of a social media network who recently said to a group of delegates at a conference on the topic of self-wealth programmes, “Remember, no-one’s interested in making YOU rich!”

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Social Intelligence is Essential to Reach The Top

To succeed in today’s business climate it’s not enough to have general intelligence coupled emotional intelligence to be a success! Social Intelligence is also an essential requirement.

Over the past year I’ve been spending increasing amounts of time working with aspiring executives and explaining that their colleagues want the top job as much as they do and that often the only difference between candidates is their social intelligence.

it’s more than a smile, walking around the office thanking people for their work, being at the top of people’s party list or even having a sense of humour. Social intelligence is the ability to set oneself apart and to be identifies as the candidate for leadership because people are attracted to you and will follow.

I so enjoy working with people to develop their social radar and create an understanding of what will create and harm reputation. So the manager who accepted that having the 007 theme tune on his mobile phone was’t  the “coolest corporate image” was in fact demonstrating a distinct lack of social intelligence.

Creating a personal presence so that we can empathise with people’s feelings and, here’s the difference with emotional intelligence, being able to manage how we work with others despite our internal emotional feelings is now an essential tool.

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Winner of Poor Shopping experience medal

Loads of shops say they deliver an “excellent shopping experience” who, in reality, don’t. So I’ve decided to award these businesses my own “Poor Shopping Experience Medal” and the first is awarded to Homebase in Bridgend.

Yesterday I needed some bubble wrap, the stuff that protects fragile objects. Homebase in Bridgend allowed me to buy it by the metre at £1.49 (meter in USA) and some kind assistant walked me to the back of the store and cut a length after measuring it against a ruler.

I took my neatly rolled bubble wrap to the counter to pay. “Three metres of bubblewrap” I helpfully told the young lady behind the till. “I’ll have to measure it” she said as it was unravelled. Then looked at me as if I was trying to steal the crown jewells “It’s five metres”.

Now I’m sure that Homebase suffers from people trying to walk out of their store without paying for some items but I can think of more valuable things that two metres of Bubble Wrap!

“But I only want three” I protested. She turned to the manager and shouted “He says he only wants three, can we call Fred to recut it”. Having originally waited five minutes for Fred to arrive to cut the original amount I could see this taking more valuable minutes and hold up an ever increasing number of annoyed people in the line behind me. “I’ll take it” I said in frustration. The bubble wrap was passed over to me to refold with a look of “I knew you were trying it on” from the lady and probably by others in the line behind me.

Can I suggest that Homebase could save time, misunderstanding and embarrasment when their shop assistants cut lengths of bubble wrap, or anything else for that matter, that the customer is given a note to show at the pay counter as proof of the amount requested. Self cut lengths could then be measured in the usual manner. Then I would suggest Homebase train the cutters in measuring a metre length. Until then my award medal for poor shopping experience goes to Homebase in Bridgend, South Wales.

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Using SI to increase team performance


Much of my time is spent working with executives on increasing their personal impact and team productivity. An important area is social intelligence.

Social intelligence includes the ability to read people and predict behaviour. I’m not talking about body language.  am talking about how one can influence other people’s behaviour through observation and creating appropriate actions as a result.


Let’s take an example: During our career we have used our understanding to predict our boss’s, colleagues and even life partner’s reaction to certain situations or news. The result is that we know, or think we can assess, the right time to deliver bad news.


Another example of when we heighten our use of social intelligence is at the job interview. The candidate tries to identify where the interviewer stands on certain topics by reading the reaction to answers. Generally this involves detecting negative responses to what’s being said and then to modify or alter the answer accordingly. It’s called self-preservation.


However, many executives don’t use their social intelligence most  effectively despite there being many occasions when they want to influence their team to undertake a new project, accept company targets and then looking for buy-in versus compliance.


When this happens the executive will rely on compliance. The problem with compliance, however, is that it’s often destined to fail or achieve only fleeting short-term gains. Using Social Intelligence increases the chance of long term buy-in and project success. TOne of the main keys is understanding normal human traits. 

  • People are natural pleasers: They will try to look good to those that lead them 
  • People like simple solutions: So managers should reduce the number of alternatives when outlining a new project. 
  • People want results “Now”: The Latin term is Myopia Temporal and it’s where poeple will discount future consequences in place of a  result that looks good for them right now. (Supermarkets use this to get people to buy sweets at the checkout, even when they are on a diet)
  • People will follow a crowd: This is useful to a manager to persuade others to buy into a system 

Command and control cultures have a tendency of delivering only short-term results. Alternatively Social intelligence is a process that most managers should find easy to develop with practice. Two keys include: 


1) Identifying with the team the actions and values that generate success. Then support those that are considered valuable and move away from those considered less supportive.


2) Sharing decision making with the team. That is not to say that they share in the decision making just that they understand the route to the decision process. This allows for dissent but in the face of a majority a dissenter will generally align with the majority. This style of consensus management creates creativity and innovation and is used with considerable effect at Google and Apple. 


Creating buy-in with a team used to command  and control systems isn’t always easy. However, using the techniques above eventually creates teams that will begin to operate in a more incluse manner.


As Mahatma Ghandi suggested to one observer “I must hurry, for I’m their leader…and there they go”

This information is taken from the new event: “You’re Here…But How To Get There” that shows Executives how to utilse their personal presence to deliver outstanding team results.


If you would like more information on the event “You’re Here…But How To Get There” or on this article please contact me at or phone 01727 838321. 


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Managing Office Politics and Conflict

Recently I’ve been asked “How do I cope with office politics” from a number of executives who are finding that arguments over strategy are becoming more common during the financial difficulties. They have been asking me for some tactics for managing conflict.

In this video I talk about some of the reasons that conflict occurs between colleagues and sobordinates and look at some of the tactics that cen be used to manage it. It’s a small, but essential, part of my executive mentoring programme and also a topic visited in my new conference keynote “You’re Here…But How To Get There?”

Surviving Office Politics + Conflict

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