Our Favorite Reads on Behavior ChangeWant to get geeky with us? Here's what we've been reading lately about behavior change.
Every so often, we like to share what the Emerson team is reading and talking about. With the staggering amounts of content created each day, it’s hard to sift through and figure out what’s valuable. We did the work for you. Here are some of our favorite behavior change reads.
Good reads on behavior change
We can all improve our listening skills. The New York Times’ Adam Bryant put it this way, “Listening can feel at times like a lost art, maybe because we are communicating so much more electronically.” Good listening won’t just help you at work. This skill will benefit your personal life, too. Bryant has a host of Do’s and Don’ts to help you be fully present. Learn how to demonstrate you’re listening and hearing what the other party says.
This entry from Chief Learning Officer highlights how corporate learning and development can affect behavior change. Todd Maddox, the founder and CEO of Cognitive Design and Statistical Consulting, urges L&D professionals to better their understanding of behavioral intelligence [BI]. BI is someone’s ability to affect their environment through overt behavior. Maddox talks about the relationship between cognitive, emotional, and behavioral intelligence. This is a great read for anyone in the behavior change field.
“What should I be doing each day to stay healthy, happy, sane, and productive?” is the key question Sebastian Marshall, the founder of Ultraworking, tries to answer in this entry. Don’t be alarmed by the spreadsheet method. That’s how Marshall executed his behavior change and prompted good habits. He used a visual representation to motivate his actions. This is a simple way to engrain consistent behavior. So, if it’s all in the name of happiness, why not give it a shot?
Are you suffering from decision fatigue? If you answered yes, it’s time to acquaint yourself with The Ivy Method. This is an effective strategy to become more productive at work. The premise is simple: at the end of your day, write down the six most important tasks for you to accomplish tomorrow in order of importance. On the next day, you work on the tasks one at a time. Give this strategy a try and let us know what you think!
If you’re looking for more of our favorite reads, check out our learning and development picks. We love sharing big thinking on behavior change. It inspires us in our professional and personal lives.
Managing Change? Manage Your EnvironmentWhen we lead through change, we have a powerful tool in our arsenal: the physical environment.
What if I told you your community justice system could lower adult recidivism by 10%, juvenile recidivism by 20%, and would need to send only 1% of defendants to jail? It might be as simple as changing the courtroom.
Judge Alex Calabrese did just that. He decided to reform the criminal justice system with a new objective: “Improve behavior rather than punish it.” In The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker describes his innovative approach. He thought about the courtroom itself. A defendant encountered a dark, unfamiliar room, where a judge decided his fate from on high – literally. The towering judge’s bench and the layout of the courtroom seemed designed to make the defendant feel small, isolated, and hopeless. Instead, Judge Calabrese set Brooklyn’s Red Hook Community Justice Center in a former high school, with big windows that bathed the space with light and a judge’s bench at eye level. Red Hook made other changes to the process too, but the physical environment played a crucial role in their results.
There are many findings that tell us environment affects our behavior. For example, researchers found that the very presence of a number on a classroom door can influence a student’s choice of a number in an estimating exercise. Williams Sonoma found that placing an expensive bread maker next to mid-range priced bread maker improved sales of the cheaper version. People in theatre know that emotion is contagious, so they choose venues where audiences sit close together.
Scientists call this priming – cues in our environment affect how we perceive or interpret information that follows. Priming changes what things mean to us and how much attention we give them, which changes our behavior.
For example, companies that want their teams to collaborate often use open seating arrangements – removing physical barriers and signaling a lack of emotional barriers. The dotcoms that want their people to stay and work long hours prime the environment with free food, foosball tables, and in-house dry cleaning – they are signaling “home” and “community,” which is where people live. Starbucks used its warm colors and small tables to create their famous “third space,” encouraging people to linger over pricy coffee.
We see the effects of environment often, in our change management work. When we were helping a Chicago hospital implement a new process for approving IT projects, we realized the pagers the IT team carried symbolized an automatic “Yes!” to every request. In order to get people to use the new approval approach, we explored the idea of taking away the pagers. That was too big an interruption to the process, so we came up with Plan B: we changed employees’ pager numbers. This made the requestors stop and pay attention to every request. The new numbers were also a symbol of the new way of working – both for people asking for help and for the service-oriented IT team.
This is a question we should always ask ourselves: How are we using the work environment to frame our change and support the right behaviors? We want people to enable – even embrace — the change and shift behavior. How is their environment defining the change? Is it good? Is it safe? Where is the environment focusing their attention? What are we triggering in those we want to succeed?
Dr. Brian Gunia, of Johns Hopkins University, studied environment-influenced deception during negotiation. He believes it can impact the outcomes of mergers and acquisitions. In summarizing work by Kay, Wheeler, Bargh, and Ross, he writes, “objects …help people make sense of ambiguous situations and determine how to act.”
Dr. Gunia’s findings give us some tips for constructing the work environment to support a business change:
- The science: If you make people think about money, they will put their own interests first. In fact, symbols representing extreme wealth cause some people to justify cheating. They are driven to somehow make things fairer. And cheating is more likely if it costs an organization, as opposed to a person. It’s just business, after all.
- The application: Take money off the table. Don’t use images of cash, wallets, status, or wealth. For example, promising big bonuses for hitting milestones might be a mistake. And don’t brand your initiative with dollar signs or glitzy imagery.
- The science: Certain objects and images remind people of their identities. Mirrors and video or audio content promote self-awareness. They also discourage cheating.
- The application: If you’re remote, insist on video conferencing. Seeing each other’s faces and hearing their voices reminds people they are dealing with human beings. And seeing one’s own face on a video share is like the mirror – a reminder of identity. You’ll promote the best behavior from team members.
- The science: The senses are critical in interpreting our environment.
- Gunia suggests that disgust drives our sense of what’s good or bad. There’s a subconscious moral overlay that comes from religious rituals such as baptism. Our desire to clean can represent making amends. Clean spaces are seen as morally better. Cleaning products can represent taking higher ground.Dark spaces seem threatening. Dark colors feel more hostile and aggressive. People associate bright lighting and white spaces with moral behavior.People who smell fish oil view situations more suspiciously, those “exposed to ‘fart smells’ made harsher moral judgments about others.” Pleasant smells (the researchers used citrus Windex) prompt generosity.People who drank bitter drinks were more judgmental than those who drank sweet drinks
- The application: Prime the project team workspace. Project war rooms are famously windowless and littered. Put your team in a large room with windows. Keep it meticulously clean. Whip out the citrus Windex if you must. Townhall, kick-off or workshop? Treat the senses. Put the group in a light room. Wear light colors and avoid flashy accessories. Splurge on delicious food. Make sure there are sweet drinks. Definitely avoid anything that smells bad. Whatever the research, you probably should keep the coffee!
- The science: Using the concept of time causes people to consider their actions more carefully.
- The application: What’s on the walls? A large clock? Good. You’re conveying that what happens now fits in a longer-term experience. A statement about your values? Excellent. You’re reminding people of a higher calling.
When we lead through change, we have a powerful tool in our arsenal: the physical environment. Science teaches us that spaces, symbols, and materials can work for us or against us. Design the environment to promote your change.
For fun, take a look at this video and count the number of times you see the ball passed. Environmental cues and priming impact all of us, even when we’re aware of and looking for them.
How to Harness the Power of Change InfluencersGet influencers on your team to advocate for change and generate momentum.
There is an increasing number of articles and blogs about influencers: marketing, social media, and Instagram influencers to name a few. Emerson is a company that specializes in behavior change. So we understand the importance of partnering with these individuals, especially ones focused on change.
To make change happen, you must enlist influencers in the organization. Identify individuals who give the right energy for change. Then, use them as change advocates to create momentum and move the organization.
Methods to find change influencers
Brainstorm with key people. Find those who know the organization and understand the change.
Use visuals. Create a map of the organization’s people and departments. Identify potential influencers. Are there any individuals you definitely want on board? Are all impacted groups represented?
Look at previous initiatives. Who was involved? How did it go? Any lessons learned?
After following these methods, you should have insights into who the right people are are within the organization.
How to use change influencers
Once you have identified those individuals in the organization, have them actively participate in developing the change solution. Influencers can help craft a solution that actually works in their setting. They will have great insight into the organization and can provide ideas on how to engage impacted groups.
On a recent large transformation project, the Emerson team built a cadre of change influencers. This group represented all functional areas, at various levels and locations. They participated in a strategy workshop to provide input into the change plan. Afterward, the team had a shared vision and consistent messaging to share with their teams.
Once influencers have a shared understanding of the desired state, they can become change advocates and generate momentum. Simply stated – these individuals make change happen.
If you’re curious about how project sponsors can influence the success of change, we’ve got you covered. Read this.
When Should You Reboot Your Team?Three signs your team might need a refresh.
In Hero of the Empire, Candice Millard writes that the British were so accustomed to world domination that they knew the 1899 Boer war in South Africa would be easy. The generals didn’t prepare. In fact, they planned parties. They saw the war as a no-brainer career move to achieve fame and political power.
They made errors that, in hindsight, are shockingly arrogant and naïve. For example, they moved troops in open-roofed train cars with no doors. To get in and out, the men had to climb over the train car walls carrying heavy armory and equipment. As they traveled, the tops of their pointed hats were visible to the enemy; the Boers saw slow-moving train cars stuffed with British troops who couldn’t easily climb out. The Boers derailed the train, slaughtered the trapped men and captured Winston Churchill.
When you are accustomed to winning, take a look around. Are you waiting for a traumatic loss to reveal your weakness? Don’t wait. Proactively refresh your team.
Here are three signs that it’s time.
1. Your leadership is complacent.
They ride on the company’s reputation. This shows up as arrogance and disrespect. Is there chatter about how your company is the best? Do they make snarky comments about your customers or belittle the competition? Are they cocky during negotiation? Such disrespectful behavior, often disguised as humor, comes from a belief that customers need you more than you need them.
They spend. They take their team, clients and “network” out to expensive restaurants. They stay in fine hotels. They lease fancy cars. I’ve seen several cases where executives have relocated entire companies or divisions to be close to their own homes. Their focus on status shows a disregard for the money’s source and the company’s well-being.
They blame outside forces for missed objectives. Watch how the team responds to weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals. Do they take responsibility for the results or do they play the victim? At one point in my company’s development, my executive team told me they were not responsible for how much our consultants were working on client projects (what we call in the services industry “utilization”). That showed me they were resting on our company’s momentum rather than taking ownership of our future.
2. Your team focuses on internal operations.
Respondents to Workfront’s 2019 State of Work survey reported they spend 60% of the work week on time-wasting tasks. Those tasks become the mission rather than the mission itself. You’ll see it in the following:
- You have complicated administration, reports, and approvals.
- Your executives are working overtime to get work done because they spend their days in meetings. Look for signs of meeting overload: the volume of meetings, the duration, and also large numbers of people attending.
- Allocated costs make it cheaper to work with outside vendors than to use your own employees. And internal costs inflate your pricing.
3. Your team’s strategies openly signal weakness to your competition.
The pointed hats showing over the boxcar walls include:
- Differentiation. If you can slap someone else’s logo over your differentiators and it’s not jarring, you are no longer different.
- Dominance. You don’t have to be a good aim to hit a large target. The more you win, the more your competition will look for ways to exploit your blind spots.
- Innovation. Are your big ideas only small improvements to your main product or service? Competitors will find a way to win doing what you are not.
So how do you refresh your team? Well, when you’re fighting inertia, you have to break glass. You must capture attention, be utterly clear and unequivocal on what you want, and deeply disruptive. This is hard, especially because – if you’re doing this proactively – your company is doing well. People won’t understand why change is essential.
Here’s a game plan for your reboot:
Be direct. What do you want? What is broken and what does the opposite look like? Write down the ideal outcome and keep it under five words. If you can’t state it clearly, people can’t act on it. The turning point in my company was when I began an executive meeting with a slide that said: “Trish Emerson is responsible for utilization.” I had a single slide for each executive, repeating that sentence but using their name. I concluded with “If you are not comfortable with this, I need your resignation.” I received one. The executive team effectively rebooted.
Design from scratch. What if you started the company fresh, today? How would you organize if you had no constraints? Draw that. Then figure out what’s the highest value and easiest to implement; use that to create stages for the transformation. Starting with a blank sheet of paper helps you avoid two traps: designing around people and wasting time fixing small problems.
Separate innovation from daily operations. You need the company to continue to function while you change it. Operations and innovation are so different that Geoffrey Moore advocates separating them. This allows your teams to focus – one team creating the profit you need to fund innovation and another inventing the next idea that will sell and scale. He advises dedicating a third team to scaling the organization. This structure helps you move forward without disrupting your profitable business.
Hire audaciously. Bring in talent based on where you are going, not where you are. If you hire to your current state, you cement a plateau. A few of my advisors told me my recruits were overqualified and worried they’d get bored and turn over. Some of my team told me we didn’t have the work to justify some recruits — that they might get laid off and that would be cruel. These advisors operated from fear. The right hires have the experience to clearly see what you are addressing and create the opportunity for growth.
Reward to keep people focused. You might need to bridge bonuses and guarantee salaries for a short time while you change direction. This helps people to focus on the goal rather than on themselves. Then create a disincentive for staying in the current state. Geoffrey Moore believes half of everyone’s compensation should depend on the success of the company transformation. He says too many people earn their pay by doing work the old way, which sends the wrong signal.
But money isn’t your only tool. Changing a job title can elevate status for those who are creating the future. Your team will assign meaning to your every move during this time, so be intentional about the messages you send.
Millard quotes Churchill, “’Nothing looks more formidable and impressive than an armoured train, but nothing is in fact more vulnerable and helpless.” Are you winning? This might be a good time to reboot.
Books We Love: The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert GalfordWhat makes a successful consultant? Read this book.
In an earlier post, we introduced you to a book that helps us improve both behavior change programs and our personal workdays. Today, we’re talking about The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, Charles Green, and Robert Galford. We love this book because it’s right in line with our values.
Emerson exists to help organizations get business results using the power of their people. We know a lot about how to do that – we have methodology, tools and company best practices. But, as Maister and his co-authors preach, technical mastery is only one part of the solution. We can’t help our clients until we earn their trust.
We do that by following three principles: shift the possible, share the experience, and connect to what matters. Shift the possible means helping clients imagine a future built on solutions they didn’t even think were doable. Share the experience means rolling up our sleeves and working on those solutions, side by side with the client. Connect to what matters means figuring out what our client wants and needs, and making that our focus.
Our third principle reminds us of our favorite quotes from the book, “If you’re going to succeed as a consultant, you have to move from being perceived as a ‘hired gun’ to being viewed as a trusted advisor. In short, that means the client has absolute confidence that you are looking out for their best interest – not yours.”
Here’s why some of our consultants love and recommend this book:
Rory McKenna, Director of Change Management, says, “The Trusted Advisor is an entertaining, quick read with powerful advice on building strong business relationships. I first read the book years ago, but refer back to it as a reminder to stay intentional.”
Client Director Kenny Simon says, “I was pleasantly surprised to see that some of the traits described in The Trusted Advisor come naturally to me. For example: ‘Give before looking to get.’ ‘Give clients options and let them choose.’ ‘Don’t patronize the client – speak to them as if you were speaking to your parents.’ Some of this is fundamental, golden rule stuff that we’ve forgotten over the years, but much of it will enlighten you to things you do well and things you don’t do so well; things to continue, and things you should probably stop. Great book for anyone looking to move into deeper relationships with their clients.”
As we discover more inspiring reads, we’ll share them with you so you can add to your professional library.
Book Review: When by Daniel PinkWe’re using Pink’s methods to work smarter.
From the first few pages of When, Daniel Pink seized my attention and refused to let it go. He opens his book with the suspenseful story of the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner sunk by a German torpedo on its route from New York to Liverpool, England, in the midst of World War One. Pink poses a provocative question: did Captain William Thomas Turner make bad decisions that ultimately contributed to the vessel’s demise because he made those decisions in the afternoon?
And so the book introduces its central theme: timing is everything. Pink and his researchers spent two years analyzing over seven hundred studies to demonstrate the value of when. At Emerson, we’re constantly thinking about behavior change; Pink’s book gives us a new way to approach behavior, backed by scientific evidence.
Pink divides his book into three parts: The Day; Beginnings, Endings, and In Between; and Syncing and Thinking. Each chapter gives readers research-based advice on “how to best live, work, and succeed.” Each chapter has a “Time Hacker’s Handbook” with actionable steps to improve your life, from work to home.
For me, some of the most impactful advice came in the first chapter, “The Hidden Pattern of Everyday Life.” Pink introduced me to my “chronotype.” Most of us have heard about circadian rhythm, but Pink explains that every individual has his or her own pattern. In other words, the circadian rhythm is not one-size-fits-all. There are quizzes in the book to help you figure out your personal pattern. Once you determine your chronotype, you can optimize your day. If you’re like me, a “third bird,” you should schedule analytic tasks in the morning and insightful ones in the late afternoon. And, because most of us don’t control our schedules all the time, Pink tells us how to prepare for events that don’t fit our natural circadian rhythms.
I work remotely from home, but I used to work in an office setting. Every afternoon, sometime between two and three, my energy would wane. My eyes would droop and I’d lose motivation. Around that time, a coworker would send me an IM, “CVS?” I’d readily agree. A ten-minute trip to the convenience store was all it took to revive my energy. That’s probably why the second chapter of When resonated. “Afternoons and Coffee Spoons” describes the scientifically proven value of a break. What is a “vigilance break” and how can it enhance team performance? What is the most effective way to take a nap? (During work? Absolutely!) Believe it or not, a pause from work or studying will help you focus. While Pink encourages leaving your work space, there are other ways to give your brain a rest to reenergize.
What I found the most engaging were the real-life examples that transcend culture and nation. For example, Pink connects the experiences of a Washington, DC-based choir to the dabbawala deliverymen in India and explains how their experiences can improve your life. There are also insights from successful individuals like Jerry Seinfeld to Warren Buffett.
My biggest takeaway? Small changes in behavior and timing can make big positive impacts on my everyday life.
Our 2019 ResolutionsThese are a few of our 2019 resolutions.
A few weeks ago I gave you some scientific tips to help you achieve your New Year’s resolution. Consider using those five social science tricks and stay out of the 40 percent of Americans who don’t fulfill their goals.
Typically we use this space to share our favorite lessons learned in behavior change, learning and development, and digital transformation. But this time we’re sharing our 2019 resolutions. This is how we’re trying to change things; maybe it will inspire you.
Randi: Schedule and commit daily time with dogs and books. (I find I’m missing them.)
Kenny: My “resolution” is to embrace more of what is going well instead of what I don’t have or what isn’t going well. Focus is a choice…and I plan to be intentional with it next year!
Garrett: Become more of a minimalist.
Lisa: Read more. And walk my dogs more because nothing makes me happier than seeing their excitement to go on a walk.
Ryan: My NY resolution centers around reducing my carbon footprint. I call it my “2019 Less List” – using the dishwasher less, using less electricity in my home, less vehicle dependency (more biking or public transportation), buying less plastic, and reusing/repurposing plastic packaging (like takeout cartons and produce bags). Let’s save the Earth while we still can! 🙂
Samantha: I’m planning on two resolutions next year. First, I’m going to eat less dairy. My second goal is to participate in at least one community service event per month.
The Science Behind Your New Year’s ResolutionFive ways to make your new year’s resolution stick
It’s that magical time of year. Holiday decorations illuminate yards. Businesses, television shows, and radio stations play seasonal music on repeat. A new year looms, and we’re starting to think about ways to better ourselves. Well, I’ve decided 2019 is my chance for a successful New Year’s resolution.
I know what you’re thinking. About 40 percent of Americans make resolutions and don’t fulfill them. In the past, I’ve been one of those people who promise to hit the gym or save a little more each month. But it doesn’t work out. Research on human behavior finds that the allure of self-improvement entices us to pursue these resolutions. But we all know, it’s not easy to keep them.
How do we maintain our New Year’s resolutions? There are social science tricks to keep us on track.
Make the beginning meaningful.
The name suggests that a resolution should begin on the first day of the new year. Well, you may not be ready to launch a plan to exercise more often or eat less sugar on January 1st. Research suggests you should start on a day that holds significance to you. If the beginning of January is out of reach, pick a notable date or another holiday, like Presidents’ Day, to get things going.
Speaking of the beginning, start strong.
Don’t let your resolution start with a whimper. Some research shows that intensity matters. Plan concrete ways to keep that resolution from the jump. For example, if I want to eat less dairy, I’ll make a grocery list that doesn’t include milk and yogurt. I’ll plan an entire month of homemade dinners and lunches that avoid cheese. When I’m ready to start my resolution, I’ve got a map to guide me.
Set the timer for one month.
Habits don’t form overnight. It can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to change behavior. Give yourself a full 31 days to test the new routine. No cheat days. No hiccups. At the end of the month, it’s time for reflection. How do you feel about the change? Is it sustainable? Is this bettering your life? You’ll need that full month to decide whether you want to continue pursuing the change.
Replace the old with the new.
Back to the dairy example. One way to eat less dairy is to find a replacement for it. Instead of buying cow’s milk for cereal, I might try almond or soy milk. Once you’ve decided on a resolution, find a substitute for the old behavior. Let’s say you want to get rid of nail biting. Research suggests you should find something to put in place of the old habit as you try to break it.
Set little wins.
Plan small, obtainable goals during that first month of resolution-ing. For example, if I make it through the first week of the month without milk, I’ll treat myself to a new book. Think about how to encourage yourself one day or one week at a time. Often, resolutions are large, lofty goals that seem like too far a stretch. If you plan small victories along the way, you’ll have some instant gratification to push you along.
Go into the upcoming year with a plan for your resolution. If you try to wing it, you’ll most likely join the millions of Americans who don’t meet their goals.
We Dig These Productivity TipsThese are the behavior change tips we’re sharing around the company.
We believe behavior change is the key to any important outcome, and we love sharing our favorite reads. Behavior changes some in all sizes – they can transform a company or simply help someone work a little smarter. Recently we’ve been talking about how to be more productive at work. We hope these three productivity tips will make you a little less distracted, a little more focused, and a bit more self-assured.
Step away from the cell phone. Literally.
Texting and driving is dangerous. Walking through a crosswalk while reading a phone can get you hurt. Hearing a cell phone ring in the middle of a task can cause anxiety. These consequences are well known, but there’s another risk to keeping your phone close.
Recent research found that participants who completed math problems while their phones were in another room performed the best, followed by those who left their phones in their pockets. In last place were individuals whose phones were out on their desks. Give it a try right now. Put your phone away for the next 30 minutes and see what happens.
Consolidate your lists.
How many note-taking apps do you have on your phone? Desktop? I can count at least five in my workspace right now. It’s overwhelming! This Wall Street Journal list – ahem, article – asks us to consider merging all those lists onto one single piece of paper. This week I’m giving the one-list approach a shot.
Exude confidence by changing the way you talk.
I just wanted readers of this blog post to consider a new way of communicating. Could you maybe read The Ladders selection of four phrases that make you sound less confident?
Reading the two sentences above might have been a little painful, but I wrote that way to illustrate a point: the words and style you choose can undermine your authority. The Ladders identifies four phrases to eliminate from your business communications. Simple behavior changes like these can help you craft a professional identity. Whether you’re emailing a supervisor or speaking up during a meeting, this is one way to project confidence.
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Emerson’s favorite productivity tips! We’ll be back soon with freshly curated advice.
Three Thoughts on a MergerOur thoughts on how to have a successful merger.
Morgan Stanley and E*Trade. Bristol-Myers Squibb and Celgen. United Technologies and Raytheon. Regardless of investor reaction, mergers and acquisitions this big undoubtedly strike fear in the hearts of employees. And people have only so much focus and energy—when they’re in survival mode, they aren’t that great at their jobs. So what are responsible industry titans to do? We have some tips.
Start talking now.
It’s natural to want to delay messaging until there is perfect alignment and all facts are in order. But if you don’t communicate, you create a vacuum, and you know how nature feels about that. The space where your message should be will be overrun by rumors and falsehoods. So before the deal is done, start getting leadership aligned on a message. Start cascading it through both organizations as soon as possible. Research shows that during uncertain times, employees crave trust, stability, confidence, and empathy in their leaders. A consistent, compelling message is what they need.
Address the culture clash.
Too often leaders ignore company culture, both before the deal is signed and throughout the integration. We know that a single culture is difficult to shift. Combining the cultures of two organizations is double trouble.
The first step is to know you have a culture. We suggest using the PRIDE method. Assessments will create detailed pictures of both company cultures. Then, take a look at all plans through the culture goggles of each company’s employees. What works for one might not work for the other.
For example, let’s say the company you’re acquiring is has an “everyman” culture. Maybe they are used to all-hands meetings to socialize every change. So do that. Find out which big changes went well for the company, and liken the acquisition to that experience, creating a feeling of familiarity and safety. And pay attention to words and symbols; for this organization you might do well with high-touch images and talk of family and community.
The bigger the change, the more hecklers you’ll have, and a merger is as big as it gets. So how do you confront the critics? You don’t. Focus your energy on the “sweet spot”—those employees who are open to change and who can influence your outcomes. Enlist them as project advocates. These grass-roots change agents can create momentum toward a successful merger.
In the very best of Ms and As, there are rough seas to navigate. You can ride the waves more easily by mastering communication, culture, and resistance.