Managers’ Roles in The New Normal

David Kalman
Managing Director
Root

Working for a company that’s going through a merger or acquisition can seem like adjusting to
a new blended family. For a while, it’s unclear whose house it is, whose rules need to be followed, and whose names
to adopt. It takes a while before identities are secure and a sense of belonging returns.

Employees once had a relatively consistent corporate identity, and they could mold their point of view, work ethic, and sense of pride around that corporate image. But when things change due to a restructuring or re-engineering, employees may find themselves with a lack of identity, a loss of a network, and a total change in teammates. In the “blended family” of a merged business, employees may have new roles, a new team, a new brand, and new leadership. At this point, they really need some grounding and guidance.

This is when good managers earn their stripes. Delivering results requires a new level of managerial capabilities. Engagement and communication to the front line are now required capabilities of every manager. They must translate the evolving picture of their “new” organizations to people in a way that connects them to the business even though it has changed. Even in the best of situations, managers need to play three new roles almost simultaneously.

The manager needs to get people excited about the company’s vision and convey the possibilities that the business is capable of. With enthusiasm, the cheerleading manager needs to passionately portray how the company is poised for success in the “new normal,” and how every person contributes to that success. If there’s bad news, the manager must tell the team and tell them early. When people lack the real story, they tend to make up their own, and that leads to painful situations. A genuine, up-front approach to brutal facts clears the way for authentic conversations and trust.

Managers once worked to deliver results through their teams by coaching them on what to do. Managers who weren’t great coaches delivered by playing on the field themselves. But now, player-coaching managers also need to lead by example as much as by positional authority. In a traditional game, managers coach according to the rules. But in the new normal, rules evolve continuously, and the manager must be in the game to stay abreast of the changing dynamics.

The counseling manager tends to the intellectual, inspirational side of people. When things change rapidly and constantly, people can become unsure of where the company is going and their place in it. The counseling coach taps into people’s passions and their personal motivators, and aligns their activities to fit the changing environment. The manager needs to “go first,” model behaviors and demonstrate their own vulnerabilities, showing that it’s OK to fail or say, “I don’t know.”

What About Your Managers?
With so much change and complexity, there is enormous pressure for managers to be change agents and still deliver business results. Frankly, most managers don’t have these capabilities.
How are you training managers at your organization to take on these new roles? Let us know what your organization is doing, and we’ll send you a copy of Mitchell Lee Marks’ book, Charging Back Up the Hill: Workplace Recovery after Mergers, Acquisitions, and Alliances.