Why are top executives so prone to screw up in announcing mergers to their people?

You see it all the time—a top-ranking officer takes the microphone to announce a deal, smiles confidently, then pushes the cheerleader needle into the red zone with comments restricted to good news, over-promotion, and merger “happy talk.”

Does it sell?  No, it disgusts people.

Now, sure, the head honchos should legitimately put a positive spin on  the merger story.  Leaders need to be upbeat…they should seek to reassure the work force.  But way too often these initial comments are so one-sided that they mainly trigger cynicism and damage management’s credibility.

If you’re announcing a merger, don’t forget that you’re dealing with adults.  They prefer truth over dubious promises.  They’re irked by an unrealistic positive slant.  You’ll be talking into a headwind of skepticism, and a Pollyanna pitch is just going to stoke the fires of employee distrust.

Here’s the 4-step sequence that works best:

  1. Persuade your people with the logic behind the deal.  (Sell the rationale for the merger, using compelling facts and personal conviction.)
     
  2. Promise change.  (You can deliver on that.  Besides, people won’t buy it if you tell them it will continue to be business as usual.)
     
  3. Predict problems.  (M&A invariably gives rise to some generic “growing pains,” so you should prophesy as much.)
     
  4. Paint a hopeful picture of the future.  (This will be most believable when presented in the context of the preceding reality.)

Bottom line, you need to man up. 

Fight the urge to sugarcoat the story—give people the good, the bad, and the ugly. They want it.  They can handle it.  And instead of coming across like some breezy politician, you’ll position yourself as a real leader.