Almost any decision has direct and indirect deciders. Direct deciders officially make the decision. They are often influenced by others. And there are still others that have to implement the decision. If you want decisions to come to fruition, you must enroll all. In a complex merger or acquisition this means enrolling not just those officially signing the agreement, but all, or at least almost all of those influencing them and implementing their decisions. Leave any out at your peril.

Decision Influencers

Just as everything communicates, everything influences. Decision influencers can be professional, personal or societal. They could be the deciders’ bosses, partners, customers, allies, employees or the like. They could be friends or family. They could be members of clubs, other organizations, press, regulators, government, collaborators, competitors, activists, analysts.

The list is endless. While you can’t possibly get to all of them, map the most important. Think through how to get to them. And think through how you can indirectly influence the rest. The basic guidelines of influence apply:

  • One-on-one live, connecting across all five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste) is the most impactful and takes the most investment.
  • One-on-one, but not live can also be impactful whether it’s video, phone, hand-written letter, email, text or the like.
  • Influencing small groups is a more efficient use of time, with an offsetting reduction in impact.
  • Mass communication is generally the most efficient and least impactful.

In generally, if people are emotionally impacted, communicate one-on-one. If people are directly impacted, communicate in small groups, saving mass communication for those indirectly impacted.

Decision Implementers

Decision implementers include employees, customers, allies, communities and competitors.

Employees may choose to leave, stay, comply, contribute or commit to the new organization. The most dangerous group are the ones that choose to stay, but not comply. While those choosing to stay and comply will do the minimum required to survive, those staying and not complying are the passive-aggressive ones waiting for a better offer or for you to push them out or fail so they can pick up the pieces.

Customers and allies have the same choices. Be aware that your new organization may no longer be right for all your previous customers and allies and that all your previous customers and allies may not be right for your new organization. You learn a lot about people in transitions. Your former customers and allies will remember how you treated them during the transition and will tell others about it.

Communities can reject, tolerate or embrace your organization and your people. The more the community embraces you, the easier it will be for you and your people to live and work in the community. That’s worth a meaningful investment of your time and attention.

Competitors can range from co-opetition in which they are competing and cooperating at the same time to tolerating you to irrationally doing everything they can to destroy you, no matter what the cost. The question is not whether you choose to win. The question is how much you need your competitors to lose for you to win – and how much they think you are targeting them. Yes. In some cases you get to choose your allies and your competitors.

Enrollment Steps

The basics of moving people from unaware to aware to understanding to belief to action apply. And as persuasion is rational, emotional and inspirational, often flowing in line with Aristotle’s me/ethos, you/pathos, us/ogos, framework.

  • Me: Establishing my credibility and ethos.
  • You: Getting at how you feel, pathos.
  • Us: Moving together through logic to action.

Connecting those dots puts the belief step of aware – understand – belief – action in a whole new light. It suggests moving people to action in a merger or acquisition requires you to:

  • Establish your own credibility and ethos
  • Change, their pathos – the way they feel about things likely with a burning platform for change that is external, compelling and personal and a picture of a brighter future in which they can see themselves.
  • Enroll them as part of the future with a logical call to action.

One of the critical choices in leading a merger or acquisition is what to invest in influencing which people. Find the most important. Invest in them, staying aware of all the unintended consequences.

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