Mergers and Acquisitions: 3 Powerful Ways to Prepare Your Team for Change

In my blog about Mergers and Acquisitions and the Transitions that Can Cause Conflict I talked about the challenges that management typically faces in the post-merger implementation process – which, in fact, applies to any change management effort big or small.

What we know is that the ‘human factor’ is a key to successful change. And that conflict is the underpinning of any type of change.  As much as we try to avoid conflict or brush it under the rug…it happens, especially in response to the unsettling nature of change. We at Resologics have found that conflict can help or hurt your team, that unaddressed conflict can actually cost you in real dollars (find out how here).

So when you are able to create a higher level of engagement out of conflict, you greatly increase your chances of success.  The place to start is to build teams that have these elements:  Trust, Constructive Interaction, and Alignment.  

I’m going to share with you 3 powerful exercises you can use with your own team, whether you are in an M&A transition or want to improve your team dynamic to create an environment that addresses conflict constructively. You may want to bring in a facilitator, or lead it yourself.

Before we dive in, I want to tell you that this is not “touchy-feely” stuff we’re about to get into. It’s measurable and studied, and it’s the foundation of what makes a team function, accomplish goals, and navigate through change.

1)        Trust – Build trust as quickly as possible to create a space for open, honest interaction.

Our team uses conversation and coaching to help people build trust with one another – simple but powerful.  These two exercises begin to lay the foundation of trust for a team.

“What do you need?” exercise. Simply go around the room and ask this question to each person: “What do you need everyone in this group to do for you to feel safe?” Each one gets to describe what they personally need to feel safe and comfortable within a group to allow open discussions.

What you get from a conversation like this can be pretty remarkable.  I did this exercise with a team a little while ago. At the end they came up with a list of 6-8 things, all very important to each one in the room. One member then said, “I‘ve been with this company for 16 years and we’ve never had any kind of agreement together on this stuff. This is the most wonderful thing we’ve ever done!” 


·       Builds trust.

·       Helps each member understand more about the others as well as themselves – many people have never been asked this question before.

·       Sets ground rules for a team environment that feels comfortable for everybody.

“Best Teams” exercise.  This is great for new teams. Ask each one: “What’s the best team you were ever on?” It can be any kind of team - business, family, volunteer, baseball. Follow that question with:  “What made it so good?” Try to draw out quality answers so everyone understands the person’s point. 


·       Gets the group thinking about the positive.

·       Builds a list of things each one wants to see happen on this team, to use going forward.

·       Solidifies that everyone wants to be on a great, functioning, trusting team.

·       Starts the conversation about what each one deeply cares about.

2)        Constructive interaction – seeing disagreement and conflict as normal conditions that provide an opportunity for discovery, growth and creativity.

“The Metric” exercise. This approach is about focusing on a team goal, or something the team is working on. It helps to get everyone clear and comfortable about what they’re contributing.

Ask: “What is the most important thing you’re doing as your part in moving the team’s goals forward?” Follow up by asking them to put a number on it – revenue number, number of new customers, whatever is relevant.

Then have a conversation with them on how will they will get to their goal and the team goals; how they will interact and communicate around it; how the system is working, how the interactions are happening. 

Particularly when two new teams are coming together, you’ll be able to determine whether the interactions that are set up are going to be constructive or not, if the team is gelling; and you then can address any issues as quickly as possible. 

When everyone has responded, you address the team, pointing out how they’re interacting with each other, mirroring back the dynamic, and helping them refocus on constructive action.  Always with respect and positivity, making sure everyone is comfortable with the outcome.


·       Engaging individuals – oftentimes this is the first time they’ve had an opportunity to be heard.

·       Assessment tool for you to identify what’s working and what needs to adjust.

·       Awareness for the team about how everyone interacts, what’s working, how we’re going to interact going forward. 

3)        Alignment – bringing the leadership together in common mission and purpose

This is an exercise for the leadership level. It is a key piece of the merger transition process because if the leadership is still functioning from their former company’s mission and are not aligned in the new situation, then no one else will be. The purpose is to make it a focus to have an open, intentional conversation that starts with a very simple question:  “What are we aligned around?”  Get the mission out front, perhaps making a new mission statement or setting new goals.  Then transfer the results back to the smaller teams for everyone to get on the same page and become aligned around the same goals and direction.


·       Recognizing the reality of a merger situation in terms of coming from different cultures, mission, ways of working, how their groups are organized and function.

·       Pre-empting rumors, empowering all levels of the organization with the same information, to reduce uncertainty and help bond the group.

·       Smoother transition; manageable, healthy conflict; sustained productivity and engagement.  

If you would like to know more about getting teams together on the same page, check out our Team Diagnostics and Assessments page.

Leave us a comment below about what your takeaways from this article.