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Ask John Dame: Old and new leadership visions must align during business acquisition

Q: Our company made a major acquisition a year ago. The owner of the company we purchased has stayed as president of his company. Additionally, he decided not to sell 100% of his company, and now has some ownership in the larger combined company and serves as a board member. He reports to me directly. The problem is that over a year later he is putting up roadblocks and fighting the integration process we agreed upon at the time of the purchase of his company. This is a big problem, and it is getting more costly by the minute. What can I do?

A: Wow! This can be and is a serious problem. You have two separate organizations instead of one aligned company. From our discussions, you have had several conversations with this leader, and he nods and says he will fall into line, and then goes and does whatever he wants to do, including stonewalling your integration efforts. 

Here is how I view this issue: Your company has paid a handsome price to this gentleman for the right to integrate his company into yours. He is confusing his employment with your company with his board position, and using that board position to bully you and your team. 

You are the CEO. There should be certain boundaries and non-negotiable rules that need to be clear as you purchase a company and merge it into yours. As an employee he needs to be aligned with your overall strategy and execute to his best ability. His performance needs to be measured based on the results of his division, as well as his “fit” into your company and its culture. 

I would enlist the board chair to work with you and put in writing the expectations that you and the company have for him. It will be impossible to produce the results you want to until you resolve this issue.

Q: I just found out that an employee we dismissed a few months ago committed suicide. I feel terrible. What should I do?

A: I can understand how this might make you feel terrible. 

First, I would let everyone in the company know that their former colleague committed suicide.  Let them know that you will make counselors available. You should plan to attend the funeral since this employee had worked for your company for a number of years. You might also want to see a professional if you feel some level of responsibility regarding the death. 

Finally, you talked with me about the process you used to come to the decision to separate them from your company. It’s never easy firing someone, but you spent several years working with this individual in an attempt to help them keep their position. Obviously this individual had serious mental health issues, which you encouraged them to address. It’s OK to grieve, just don’t shoulder the blame.

John Dame – Submitted

John Dame is a CEO coach, executive team consultant and leadership strategist based in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania. Visit his website at: www.johndame.com.

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