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Theodore Roosevelt’s legendary character traits left an indelible mark on his legacy. His metaphorical quotes such as, “The buck stops here,” and “Speak softly and carry a big stick,” are intertwined in many management and leadership discussions. Teddy Roosevelt is famous for identifying and completing impossible initiatives, from organizing the Rough Riders to completing the Panama Canal and creating the Navy’s Great White Fleet. Roosevelt’s traits are a model for selecting the right executive to lead a complex change initiative in an organization. The most complex is the merger or acquisition integration process.

The selection of the right acquisition integration executive could make or break the integration. Trenegy’s research has revealed four core traits an integration executive must have for merger integration success.

1. Authority

Roosevelt accepted accountability by announcing, “The buck stops here.” The chosen integration executive should have the authority to make the final call on any and all decisions regarding the integration, regardless of popularity with the other executives. This may include overriding other officers in the organization. It is not unusual for the target company to hold on to legacy processes, and a strong executive leader will immediately force the acquired company to adopt new processes. A strong leader needs the ability to carry a big stick. It should not be an interim or contract executive—it’s difficult for outsiders to have the authority needed for success.

2. Infectious optimism

Roosevelt’s optimism can be encapsulated in his quote, “Believe you can and you are halfway there.” Integration efforts are tough. Inevitable bumps in the road and seemingly never-ending issues can cause project teams to fall into a trap of negativity and hopelessness. The leader of a successful merger integration celebrates successes while encouraging optimistic problem solving. Moreover, the leader’s optimism should be reflected when providing integration team updates to the executive team and board of directors. When the integration team has encountered multiple failures and work seems endless, leaders should take heed. Scheduling an unexpected outing, such as bowling or paintball, can reinvigorate the team and enable fresh thinking.

3. Compassion

Although an avid hunter, the legendary story of Roosevelt’s compassion for a black bear led to “Teddy” bear becoming a household name. During a merger, people can easily get burned out or quit when the going gets tough. The integration executive should be willing to listen when work-life balance issues arise and be willing to budget for supplemental resources. Good leaders will budget an extra 10% in the integration G&A budget for potential resource needs. This budget line item should be above and beyond any contingency in the integration budget.

 4. Respect

Theodore Roosevelt’s respect from foreign leadership enabled the United States to be elevated and highly respected. Likewise, the integration leader should be well respected within the organization. Respect helps in diplomatically negotiating and resolving challenges among executives. Further, the respect of the integration executive should translate to respect for the integration team. Requests from integration team members should garner immediate attention throughout the organization. This ensures accelerated decision-making and a more thorough transition process.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the Acquisition Integration Executive traits needed for success. However, an executive’s traits are more important than their title or role. Many organizations automatically slot their CAO or CIO for the role. However, we have seen many clients fill the integration executive role successfully with internal audit and operating vice presidents.

Even with solid leadership, an integration will require change—new processes, new organizational structure, consolidation, and more. Read on for guidance in managing these changes.

Trenegy helps companies successfully realign for growth by simplifying the organizational structure, developing standardized processes, and implementing new systems. We help our clients prepare for growth and change quickly and relatively painlessly.

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