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Recently a client of mine was facing a difficult situation: Over the past few years, his company had acquired several manufacturing plants in the area. As the head of the division, he needed to pull together his team of managers from the different facilities, and bring them all up to speed with the new culture of the acquiring company.
This posed many challenges:
The plant managers were all entrepreneurs who were used to running things their way.
The plant managers had existing relationships with local suppliers, and did not appreciate switching to the acquiring company’s suppliers (necessary for quantity supply chain benefits).
Each plant had unique hiring standards and HR practices, which were proving difficult to meld.
The managers did not understand what was in it for them to change to the new ways.
Seem impossible? It felt that way to my client. Any big change in company leadership is tough on employees and managers, yet if shared interest can be built, they will soon move past the negative view of what they are losing in the deal to see what they are gaining.
It was clear that this business unit executive needed to build shared interest. Every communication he sent out had to convey, “What’s in it for them.” This was a huge opportunity for him to leverage what each plant does and recognize them in front of their new peers. This would foster trust and dependability from the plant managers, who would also start learning from and building relationships with each other. That would be critical for future problem solving and sharing best practices.
He had to take the time to understand each facility’s issues, processes and employees, and appreciate what they have done so far. He needed to genuinely acknowledge their competencies, skills, and best practices, as well as the hard work it would take them to face change. Noticing small steps goes a huge way in building trust with new team members.
He needed to create a shared vision for the team, with a clear positive idea of where the new organization was going. Ideally, he would build that that vision from input from his team so they could see their contribution to that new message. The resulting strategies would be more successful because they were based on the plant managers’ own creative ideas. Buy in would be easier than if the leader had just stated the new vision and plan without their involvement.
The last step in building shared interest with a new team is to clarify roles and responsibilities so that everyone can fall in line and know exactly what to do. It takes time for employees and managers to adjust to new procedures and ways of doing things. Leaders must be clear, and follow up their words with written procedures and documentation. Phone calls, emails and visits are critical for giving immediate feedback as people take on their new roles and responsibilities.
When a team is going through big changes, take time to notice people’s efforts. Tell your team how well things are going, due to their hard work and dedication to the new processes.