What Makes a good Marriage?


Someone recently asked me to think of all the couples I know who really bring the best out in each other. Why don’t you try it?

What % do you get to? 100%? I think probably not? 50% may be for some of you. But for the majority of people I have asked since, the number is typically shy of 20%! This is sad really but I guess we all get into habits in our relationships and often forget why we fell in love in the first place and celebrate that in each other.  In the last 12 months the Office of National Statistics (ONS) published data to suggest that in the UK 42% of marriages now end in divorce.  If we assume that there are many other relationships which although not heading to a split, are not exactly bringing out the best, then it’s a reasonable bet to say that over 50% of relationships are not ideal. Now, let me ask you another question. How many organisational mergers or acquisitions do you know which have brought out the best in the constituent parts? Wow…… think about that! Now what is the %? If you are typical of most of my network then this figure will be substantially less! Most don’t even feel 10% of M&A’s produced “a good marriage.”  An article from McKinsey in 2001 looked at 160 M&A’s and suggests that only 36% maintained revenue growth in the first quarter together, and this fell to just 11% by the 3rd quarter!  Further, they showed that 42% of acquirers actually lost ground, compared to their peers, following transaction (Why Mergers Fail, The McKinsey Quarterly, 2001).  These are the statistics based purely on the commercial results.  I wonder what an analysis on the “smile index” of the personnel would show?  This is sad for the people who work there, the customers they serve and ultimately the shareholders who will pay the price.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast” ~ Peter Drucker


I know this statement is true! Culture really does eat strategy for breakfast. It is rare that a merger or acquisition does not make sense in a commercial space. There are products or services which sit well together. Shared customer segments or maybe even complementary markets that could be exploited. Commercial due diligence is extensive and tells the owners and investors what the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. The future is bright and everyone is confident. Then we reach closure and the reality bites. Did anyone do any cultural due diligence? Sometimes from day one it is clear that the way the two businesses operated were so different that 50% of the combined business will now feel desperately uncomfortable. Other times it’s more subtle than this and what could work well swiftly becomes a missed opportunity. Why? Because the leaders think they (are meant to) have all the answers, tell don’t ask, and miss out on engaging teams from both organisations to create the new culture, the new business by… wait for it….. bringing out the best in each other!!!!!! Fostering a culture of true engagement, looking for good in others, listening and learning, seeking not judging is not difficult but is sadly so rare. Often it’s the rapid timetable to “local launch” that throws people off track. Leaders fearful of their job, desperate to prove themselves seek to please their bosses and ignore their natural instinct to spend time to listen carefully to their people. Profit & Smiles Those that are brave and courageous, show less haste, gather more speed and reap the rewards for years to come. Commercial and cultural well-being; the best marriage; both profit AND Smiles.

Guinea Pigs: Pets or Prisoners?

Pets or Prisoners

Pet or Prisoner

A couple of years ago, my youngest son was approaching his 9th birthday and was insistent that he wished to have a guinea pig or two to look after.  After many, many discussions about the need to look after them and promises that indeed this would be the case, the said animals were purchased, along with all their paraphernalia and Garfield and Toffee became a part of the family.

For a good few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, our son was diligent in his duties and loved holding and playing with the little ones and enjoying being out in the summer sunshine in the back garden.  Even our cat took quite a liking!

Then as winter began to take its hold and the nights grew dark and cold and as the novelty of these two squeaking balls of fluff wore off, the monotony of looking after G and T fell (mostly) to mum and dad.

Two years on, sadly, not much has changed.  Over Christmas, as the frost came down we decided to move them into the garage for a bit of shelter.  Then one morning last week, as I went in to feed them first thing, I couldn’t help but liken their existence to that of a prisoner!

  • They live behind bars
  • Have the lights switched off at night
  • Get their meal(s) given to them
  • Get mucked out
    …and sadly very little else…

This experience got me wondering……how many of us leaders treat our team members more like prisoners than pets?

They say in life the more you put in, the more you get out.  I know from experience this is true with people (and pets!) more than anything else.

If we simply treat them like prisoners, clock them in and out and let them have a meal for their pleasure, we’re not going to be tapping into the true amazing potential which exists in our teams members and we’re certainly not going to ignite the collective consciousness which can manifest when all members are buzzing.

Rather, treat them like pets!  Find out what “strokes” they like, ask them about their story, what makes them tick? What do they love about work? What do they love about working here? What are their ambitions and dreams?  Such focused and genuine attention shows our team members how much they are valued, how much we appreciate their efforts and also opens our own eyes to the massive potential and opportunities which often, if not always, lay right in front of our noses.  This early time of the year is most often the time for appraisals, the annual review.  This can be a time that people dread, both conductor and receiver!  So if this is true of you, think about it as time with the pet rather than time with the prisoner!  Why not try some of the questions above?

One of the things I love about working with people is asking them what we could do better and how could they make this happen.  The ideas and solutions which I hear can be both simple and amazing, and when implemented (by them) have more impact than simply the solution itself.  Maybe we are all suckers for genuine attention and feeling valued and trusted?

Profit & Smiles

My challenge to you in 2015 is to make this the year to fully understand your people and then release and realise the collective potential within them.  You wont regret it!  Simply ask them to tell you their story…have you ever heard it?  Don’t interrupt…simply listen.  Then probe for their dreams….you may be pleasantly astonished.  With this knowledge tap into their potential and watch the results unfold….more profit and many, many more smiles.

Good luck and have fun, always.