Regardless of the type of transition you’re leading — a leader entering a new role, (executive onboarding), combining teams post-merger or acquisition (team onboarding), or pivoting and accelerating a new team in a new direction (team restart) — getting a head start before Day One is critical to your success as a leader.

When combining teams post-merger or acquisition, focus on these three key areas:

  • Create clarity through a 100-Day Action Plan
  • Engage leaders by synching the combined Leadership Team’s communication
  • Create followership by personalizing the change

Create clarity through a 100-Day Action Plan

As the leader, your success starts with bringing clarity to the combined team on why the combination, what areas of focus, and how you intend to integrate the team. Build your 100-Day Action Plan as far as possible in advance of Day One. Specifically:

1)     Goals and Priorities

Define the goals of the combined entity. Be definitive where you are able, and highlight where you are willing to be flexible and hold working hypotheses.

Core Questions: Why are we combining these teams? To enhance our competiveness? Lower our combined costs? Increase our market share? Build our talent? How are we better together? What are our expectations and goals?

Define key priorities. What major initiatives will we pursue to realize the benefits of the combination?

2)     Integration Approach and Going-in Organization Structure

Define the optimum approach for the integration.

Based on the stated goals of the combination, assess what change is needed, and how quickly. Next, evaluate the teams’ readiness to lead the change. Finally, determine how you plan to go about defining culture. Is it mine (the Buyer’s), your’s (the Seller’s) or our’s (a new culture combining the best of both?)

Now you’re ready to design the integration approach. You may favor a top-down approach when you are crystal clear on what you want to achieve and how. Or, if the path to benefits is less clear, you might consider more of a bottoms-up approach where members from both the buyer and the seller collaborate to define the integration opportunities.

Last, define your going-in organization structure, acknowledging that it may change. Make decisions on who will run each function, who reports to whom. Make certain to address all team members’ Day One roles and reporting relationships.

3)     Communication Agenda

Third, define a clear communication agenda so that leaders from both organizations have the same “script” to relay goals, priorities, integration approach, and going-in organization structure  to their teams.

Engage leaders by synching the combined Leadership Team’s communication

Oftentimes, the leadership team of the acquired company is not completely in the know regarding plans for the combined entity. Without this knowledge, they are unable to lead proactively and confidently around integration changes and new organizational objectives.

One way to increase engagement is to enroll the leaders from the acquired business in the creation of your shared Communication Agenda before Day One. By welcoming them into the communication process, you leverage their knowledge of internal influencers and specific employee concerns, ensuring the right items will be addressed, in the right way, in the communication cascade.

Finally, enrolling those leaders in early communication and planning will increase their confidence in their own role and their buy-in regarding where the combined entity is heading – their confidence will be infectious and settle their teams into a mindset of growth and integration.

Build followership by personalizing the change

When the change is introduced, people will only care about one question – “what does this mean for me”?

People will not have energy for new relationships nor be able to put themselves in the mindset of being part of a new team until they possess a well-rounded understanding of what it means for them personally.

Answer these core questions for greater clarity:

  • What is my role? Where do I fit in the new picture?
  • Who is my boss?
  • Do I have the same priorities? What is expected of me?
  • How am I supposed to get my job done? Who will I be working with?
  • Is my pay the same?
  • When will I know more about any next round of changes?

Leadership is about inspiring and enabling your teams to deliver superior results against a shared purpose. When combining teams, you need to create clarity by re-setting the purpose, engage your wider cadre of leaders to lead through complexity, and build followership amongst the broader team by making clear the expectations for them.

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