Bob's Gutsy Leadership Blog

Pursuing Change? Beware of Egos!

Too often in business we see initiatives fail because leaders underestimate the importance of managing egos.  Here is yet another example:

As background, the big rage in the advertising industry is programmatic online ad buying.  That is the use of real-time systems, rules, and algorithms to automate the delivery of ads that are better targeted and thus more relevant because the selection of which ad to place before a consumer is based on extensive data such as websites visited in the past few weeks, search engine inquiries, time of day, geography, weather, etc.   This significantly helps the advertiser make sure they are not wasting their ad dollars on prospects who will have no interest in their brand, products, or services.

On July 29, 2013, the Omnicom CEO and Publicis CEO announced a merger-of-equals of these two large, traditional advertising agencies.   The megamerger would have created the world’s largest ad company by revenue.  As Businessweek pointed out, the core reason for the merger was that neither company was doing a good job competing with the likes of Google and Facebook in mining online and mobile data and taking advantage of programmatic online ad buying.   The hope was the size of the resulting firm would enable adequate resources be placed against these new approaches.

After the excitement of the announcement wore off, and the two CEOs started to realize that in reality, the merger-of-equals idea had some real challenges.  For example, technically one company must acquire the other for accounting reasons, but neither party wanted to be perceived as being bought.  Before long, the two sides were butting heads over issues such as where the combined company would be based and which executives would fill the various top roles.  Wrangling over these kinds of issues lasted for months, and very recently they realized agreements were not going to be possible due to the unwillingness of either party to put their egos aside.  Hence, the two jointly announced the merger plan was being dropped.

Stepping back, what is clear from this example is that human egos need to be reckoned with when contemplating change.  Here is the truth, like it or not:

Most individuals will put their ego and self-image at a higher priority than organization needs.

It is rare to find a person who reverses these priorities, and hence, it is always wise to put these needs out on the table very early when you discuss possible organizational changes.

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