Monthly Archives: June 2018

9 Things You Need to Know About Surviving an Acquisition

Surprise. Fear. Anxiety. These are just some of the feelings you may experience after learning your company is going through a merger or acquisition. The company culture, processes, and policies that you are accustomed to (and in some cases, you may have built) are about to undergo some major changes.

Images of the “large, inefficient corporate company” stereotype start looming in your mind (remember Office Space and The Office?). Bureaucratic red tape, protocols, “TPS Reports.” Will my colleagues be laid off? Will I? What will it take to keep my job and come out ahead at the new company?

As time goes on, some of those emotions evolve to ambivalence, frustration, and stress. That nebulous cloud lingering over your head may also be accompanied by a drop in motivation and productivity.

How do you cope? First, remember that you’re not alone. Many people have survived these situations, in some cases, numerous times. The good news is that there are things you can do, and mindsets you can adopt, that will help you accept change and start thriving again in your new environment.

The Science of Certainty

Science has proven that the brain actually craves certainty in a similar way to how we crave food, and it avoids uncertainty as if it’s pain or a threat to our lives. A lack of certainty about the future triggers an automatic alert response in the nervous system. Once the brain notices something is awry, the ability to focus is compromised. This explains why we inherently avoid uncertainty and why change and ambiguity are so difficult for us in the first place. 

So that nice map you likely drew of what things were like in the old regime has changed, and as you struggle to create a new map with missing parts, you’re not as comfortable as before. What’s important here is that although there is a physiological reason explaining why we want to remain in our comfort zone, exploring new ways of doing things might actually be better for us.

4 Ways Change Can be Good for Us

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus had it right – The only constant in life is change.

Being acquired involves new behaviors and ways of doing things, which can be difficult and overwhelming. Adjusting your attitude and focusing on the opportunities that change brings about can help alleviate stress and tension.

  1. Breaks the monotony. While we may lobby for things to remain the way they are, the reality is that we would all be bored out of our minds if nothing changed! Going through an acquisition can become like working for an entirely new company – allowing you to switch up routines, gain fresh perspectives, and form new relationships.
  2. You are pushed out of your comfort zone. When you’re stretched beyond your comfort level, your assumptions are challenged and your opinions and mindset are tested. Just like stressing a muscle builds physical strength, overcoming difficult changes builds character, confidence and mental toughness. This helps you deal with the inevitability of future changes you’ll experience throughout your career and life.
  3. Change expands your skills and horizons. Change promotes the development of new skills and expands one’s horizons. Mergers and acquisitions often involve learning and honing of new skills and processes, and the establishment of best practices. Exposure to new people, cultures, places, and things can also change your outlook and perspective in a positive way. In the end, everyone is better off with a more diverse, talented, and well-rounded workforce.
  4. Promotes innovation. Success does not last forever, and what worked yesterday may not be the best strategy for tomorrow. As the quality guru, Edwards Deming put it, “Survival is not mandatory.” In order to stay relevant in the marketplace, organizations need to continuously adapt to change and promote innovation and creative thinking to stay ahead of the curve.

5 Helpful Tips to Thrive in Your New Environment

  1. Stay positive. Be supportive and engaging and avoid criticism. Keep an upbeat attitude and radiate enthusiasm. Build a reputation that inspires people to want to work with you.
  2. Be patient. Integration is a slow process. While you may have a laundry list of unanswered questions, be assured that you, your boss, and your boss’s boss are likely all in the same boat, and that clarity will improve with time.
  3. Perform a skills gap assessment on yourself. Are there any areas in your skill set that could be strengthened? Now is the time to close that gap. Every company has pain points. Demonstrating your value through your unique skill set to alleviate those pain points will put you at an advantage for the opportunities a merger may give rise to.
  4. Be flexible and proactive. Do your research early on to get an idea of the new company’s culture. Stay engaged, pitch in, and offer assistance. Check your emotions at the door, and be receptive to fresh ideas and new ways of doing things. Participate where possible on integration projects to help lay the foundation for how things will be done going forward. Those who can open their minds to change and devise new strategies to tackle challenges are often the most valuable people to an organization.
  5. Focus on what is in your control. While the decision to merge was outside of your control, your attitude and performance are completely within your control and will have the greatest impact on your success in the newly formed company. Focus on putting your best foot forward.

The big takeaways that I’d love to leave you with: The next time you find yourself worrying about an impending change in your career or life, put a positive spin on it. Discover the silver lining and you’ll be happier and more fulfilled. Being patient and optimistic, focusing on what’s in your control, and continuing to do the best work possible will put you in the greatest position for success. Do as Heraclitus would – go with the flow. Enjoy the ride, as wild as it may be.

Drink From This Cup: 6 Proven Nuggets of Advice You Need to Succeed This Year

A friend once told me sometimes it takes the right person in the right context, saying something in just the right way, to adjust the lens through which you view the world and inspire you to change for the better. An acquaintance of this independent, business owner friend of mine visited her office one day and brought her teenage son. While the three of them were talking, the son blatantly engaged with his cell phone. My friend said to him, “Put your damn phone away now! Don’t you realize how F%&$’ing rude it is to play on your phone during a conversation?” All expletives aside, it took this direct and abrupt confrontation, from a complete stranger, to cause a behavior change in this young man while prior efforts from his parents failed.

If you’re a self-improvement aficionado like me, you’ve probably heard your share of the “maxims and truths” below. But let’s be realistic – how much of the content you read, videos you watched, podcasts you listened to, have you actually applied to your life? A lot of it was initially in one ear and out the other for me too. Over the years, I’ve started to internalize some of this material and put it into practice. The summary below is my handpicked advice gleaned from written texts, audios, videos, and conversations of highly influential authors, CEOs, athletes, acquaintances, and friends that are at the top of their game. I am sharing the parts that have most impacted my life and career, so that I can save you time, energy, and needless agony. I will have achieved my goal for this article if at least one of the following tenets leaves a positive imprint on you this year.

1. Connect to Your Mission or Purpose

Become aware of a mission that you are devoted to that is larger than yourself. This awareness will help propel you forward in anything that you do. Some people call this “your sentence.” Entire books have been written on the very subject of defining your life’s mission, and several free online worksheets are available. However, if you can honestly answer the following questions, you’re far along into crafting your sentence.

Who am I? Why am I here? What do I do and why do I do it? Who am I here for? 

Many circumstances in life are entirely outside of your control. Regarding your mission, you are in control of the meaning you give to it, which transcends anything you do.

A purpose is a means to an end. Your mission or purpose serves as the fuel needed to endure life’s challenges and disappointments. Regardless of what happens in your work, always remember that your organization is also a means to an end, that is broader than the bottom line.

2. Bring Your Best Self Daily

Throw yourself into your work wholeheartedly, and in all matters, have unrelenting enthusiasm.

It’s so easy to compare yourself to others. If you get caught up in this, you can lose yourself and start chasing unrealistic ideals. It’s far more achievable to focus on becoming a better version of your current self. You have a unique set of skills, strengths, and experiences that positively define you, and which can be built upon to achieve great things through your mission. What is in your control is the ability to put forth your best effort and infuse energy into every situation that you encounter. Doing so will indeed set you apart, help ensure career success, cause others to gravitate toward you, and help you flourish.

3. Focus on Personal Growth – Learn Daily, Be Patient, Open your Mind, and Surprise Yourself

  • Learn Daily. Be a lifelong student. Having an impressive college degree or set of certifications doesn’t exempt you from continuous learning. Make it a habit to learn something new every day, even if it’s one new word in the language of your choosing, a history lesson, or pondering a classical work of art. On a yearly basis, learn and improve skills that add value to your professional career.
  • Open your Mind. Sometimes, silence really is golden. Educate yourself on both sides of a story or controversy before articulating an opinion. Be willing to listen to someone that is more proficient than you at something, internalize it and don’t take it personally. Try new ways of doing things, even if you don’t initially agree, as long as it won’t negatively affect anyone and it doesn’t conflict with your values.
  • Surprise Yourself. Throw yourself into uncomfortable and awkward situations to stretch yourself, test your limits and confront your fears. You may find that you like those things. Do the job on your to-do list that you dread first. The odds are that this is what you needed to do most, and you’ll thank yourself later.
  • Be Patient. Benjamin Disraeli said, “The secret to success is being ready for an opportunity when it presents itself.” Until then, pay your dues. In your career, if you have the discipline and perseverance to put in the work, you will eventually see an ROI through opportunities that come to you. Realize this may not happen how you expect or according to your timeline.

4. Figure Out How You Reset

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, ask:

Am I presenting my best self?

If not, ask why, and figure out how to reset in a way that works for you.

A 10-minute walk outside for some fresh air can be incredibly helpful. Step away, breathe, and “reboot” to gain clarity. With a clear mind, take a look at your calendar and commitments and figure out what can be changed to improve the situation.

Which one or two balls that I’m juggling can I set down so I can free up my time?

Of course, you want to do this in a way that is respectful of the stakeholders of those tasks or projects (family, coworkers, boss, etc.). If explained sincerely, they will almost always understand and help you re-prioritize in a non-guilt-laden way. The respect that you gave will likely be reciprocated to you later on.

Going forward, leave open a free day each week, to allow for contingencies and for yourself to get caught up in your life. And frequently scan your workload, so that you can prevent this feeling from happening again.

5. Adopt a Positive Mindset

When things don’t go your way, ask:

What’s great about this situation that I do not see right now?

That can be hard to do when overcome with disappointment after you were rejected or betrayed, went bankrupt, failed a class, lost a race, passed over for a promotion, or missed a launch date.

You’ve heard the phrase, “positivity begets positivity.” Well, empowering questions elicit empowering answers. Bring forth a moment from your past when you failed at something that was important to you. How would you have answered the following questions?

(A) How did I screw up this badly? (Negative outlook)

(B) What did I learn from this mess? (Positive outlook)

Question A focuses on the past and what you did wrong, and answering it could trigger negative, self-deprecating statements, and self-doubt, while Question B is more forward thinking and suggests continuous improvement and personal growth. The latter question also encourages the virtue of humility and the chance to share your experience with others.

Optimism is contagious, and it can quickly spread to others. For example, by asking a simple, empowering question, you can instantly transform negative, complaining talk in your office into constructive, solution-oriented discussions, which will then start to positively change the workplace environment.

6. Surround Yourself with Inspiring, Creative, and On-Purpose People

There’s the familiar adage,

“You are the average of the five people you spend time with the most.”

Surround yourself with people who align with your values, lift you up, and accept you for who you are, but who also challenge you, provide a different perspective, and are not afraid to tell you the truth.

Figure out who deserves your energy.

Find a mentor or someone you admire (living or departed), and start to emulate critical behaviors and characteristics and practice their advice or writings. Conversely, find a gentle way to let go of the toxic people that are bringing you down.

Bringing it All Together

In closing, this is what has resonated with me and has worked in my life and career condensed and filtered just for you to digest in under six minutes, sparing you the countless hours and struggles I endured before appreciating these tips.

What helpful principles, maxims or truths would you add to this list?