Why Marissa Mayer Will Fail At Yahoo

Why Marissa Mayer Will Fail at Yahoo

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Marissa Mayer is a case study in what NOT to do as a new CEO. While she’s clearly under intense pressure to pull Yahoo out of what many see as a death spiral, making rookie mistakes is not going to help her cause. Being a new CEO of a struggling enterprise is a challenge for any leader, but it’s also not a role every leader is ready for – shame on Yahoo’s board for botching the selection process – again.

I don’t often succumb to the relative ease of playing armchair quarterback, and I’m not typically one for piling on. That said, I see no indication whatsoever that Mayer is the right leader for Yahoo at this critical juncture. No one can doubt her pedigree or intelligence, nor can they dispute she brings a breadth of good experience from her tenure at Google.  But there is nothing in Mayer’s track record to suggest she was ready for this job. She’s in over her head, and perhaps a bigger issue is Yahoo’s board doesn’t seem to have a clue.

The constraints of this medium will keep me from dissecting every faux pas Mayer has made to date, so I’ll focus on the most recent. Marissa Mayer’s decision to end the practice of working remotely at Yahoo makes ZERO sense, and all the rationalizations and justifications on the planet can’t turn a bad decision into a good one. Even if I could make a case for her decision, which I can’t, she still went about it in the wrong way – real leadership isn’t about issuing regressive mandates via memo. Her decision was indicative of someone desperately seeking a solution prior to having understanding. It’s a classic case of treating the symptom and not the problem.

Here’s the thing – it’s not where someone works, but their contribution that matters. Whether working remotely or on-site, good team members should be engaged, productive, and add value to the culture. If any of these components are missing, it’s not an indictment of the platform, but it should be a reflection on the worker and their manager. Any chief executive who needs to have all employees on site in order to create a healthy culture is lacking in leadership skills. Making a bold move is not synonymous with good leadership unless the bold move is effective. Ultimately, this is not a location/logistics issue, it’s a leadership issue.

The debate about flexible working should not center exclusively on whether Yahoo’s workers should be located onsite or remotely.  This is a classic case of unnecessarily using either/or decision-making because it was fast and easy – the problem is, it was also reckless, cavalier and flawed. Clearly, not every Yahoo employee working remotely should be, but many probably should. You don’t create a healthy, productive culture by adopting regressive one size fits all policies; you do it by creating trust and aligning values.

Job number one for a new CEO is to understand the workforce, not impose their will upon them. A new chief executive must engender trust and confidence in the workforce, while going to school on understanding the culture and the business model. The job of a new CEO isn’t to make immediate radical changes; it’s to gain trust and clarity in an attempt to reach the point where the right changes can be made with the biggest impact and the least amount of acrimony.  While her sense of urgency in both understandable and admirable, her lack of finesse and discernment is underwhelming. Change solely for the sake of change usually doesn’t end well.

If you have an unproductive workforce, coach them to productivity or let them go – don’t just relocate them and hope things will change, because they wont. If what you want to do is downsize, don’t draw ridiculous lines in the sand and hope some people quit, take the time and effort to deal with the situation correctly. If you want to improve the culture, don’t pollute it with unrealistic demands. Rather align your vision with the needs of the market, and then ensure the work being created is also aligned.

When people like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and other storied CEOs roll their eyes at Mayer’s decision to eliminate working remotely, perhaps it merits peeling back the layers on her ability to make good decisions. If Google has remote workers who contribute, why can’t Yahoo?

I’m not much of an either/or thinker, as I tend to believe in most instances it’s quite possible to have your cake and eat it too – think “and” instead of “either/or.” The key here is to have standards, and to apply well reasoned business logic. When Best Buy announced it was going to place its flex-work plan under greater scrutiny and require workers to coordinate schedules with management, this seemed to be a prudent, thoughtful approach, and probably what Mayer should have done.

Mayer may generate a lot of buzz, and she’ll likely be able eke out a few positive quarters based on cost cutting. However, if she’s to have any chance of success over the long haul, she’ll need to understand her company, the people who work for her, and most of all, she’ll need to mature as a leader.


10 Things Every Leader Should Challenge

10 Things Every Leader Should Challenge

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

News Flash – innovation, growth and development cannot occur by pretending we live in a world that has long since passed us by. Leading in the 21st Century affords no safe haven for 20th Century thinkers. Old, static, institutionalized thinking will gate the pace of forward progress faster than just about anything. If you want to expose yourself as an out of touch, dated leader, keep trying to address today’s issues and opportunities with yesterday’s thinking.

Next Generation of CEOs

The Next Generation of CEOs: 10 CEO Ready Leaders

Next Generation of CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Disclosure: My company, N2growth has worked with many of the organizations represented on this list.

Lots of executives aspire to become a CEO, but few actually possess the leadership chops to pull it off. As someone who earns their living as a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs, I always keep a sharp eye peeled for up and coming leaders. The 10 leaders profiled below represent different industries, different disciplines, and even a few different countries, but they all share one thing in common – they’re all CEO ready. Meet my predictions (in no particular order) for the next crop of chief executives…

100% Of Companies Have This Problem

100 Percent of Companies Have This Problem

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Process… just the mere use of the word can spread fear and panic in the workplace. This sad reality exists for a reason – 100% of companies unnecessarily suffer from a process problem. They suffer to varying degrees, but they are nonetheless suffering. The good news is bad process is one of the easiest things for leaders to remedy. By simply being willing to stop the madness and reclaim the asylum from the lunatics (inept leaders, lazy managers, and fee happy consultants), huge gains in morale and productivity can be quickly achieved.

With the plethora of conflicting information written about process design, implementation and management, combined with the nightmares we’ve all experienced as a result of bad process, many executives fear the pain associated with flawed process less than they value the benefits created by good process. How sad it that?

Here’s the thing – It’s not what you know, but what you don’t know about process, or perhaps what you’ve allowed process to represent that has left you fatigued and frustrated. I’m going to crawl out on a limb and make a bold claim: by the time you’ve finished reading this piece you’ll find the topic of process no longer creates untold amounts of brain damage, but has transitioned to something you’ll find altogether invigorating – trust me on this one…

One of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage is through creating process advantage. The problem is most companies are buried in process disadvantage.  Good process is sophisticated (not complex), efficient (simple) and effective (usable and value added). Good business processes serve as the central nervous system for your organization providing a framework for every action, decision, activity or innovation to flow from and through. There are many who would say process stifles creativity and slows production, and while I would concur  this statement is usually the case with bad process, nothing could be further from the truth as it relates to good process. Good process serves as a catalyst for innovation, which in turn optimizes and accelerates engagement, collaboration, work-flow, and enhances the overall productivity of business initiatives.

So, here’s where the fun and excitement comes in – I want you to place your business processes under the microscope using the following 7 points as  filters for what processes you create, keep, refine or discard moving forward:

  1. The Right Mindset: If your business processes are perceived as a rigid set of mandates and rules, rather than a set of flexible guidelines – you’re in trouble. Good process should provide a fluid framework to inspire creativity not stifle it. Sound process encourages the use of good judgment, it shouldn’t insinuate people don’t have any judgment. Believe it or not, good process should allow people to take risks not preclude them from doing so. The debate shouldn’t be one of systems vs. talent, but systems and talent.
  2. The 20% Rule: I’ve yet to encounter a business that couldn’t eliminate 20% of their existing business processes and be better for it. You; yes you, are allowing the expenditure of precious time and resources on silly processes that add no value whatsoever – they should be eliminated immediately. Bad process is indicative of an unhealthy mindset that justifies anything currently existing as valuable. The fastest way to inject a breath of fresh air into your business is to give permission space to your workforce to tell you where bad process exists and then to do something about it.
  3. Design Matters: While good process can be inspired from anywhere, it should be designed by those closest to the work. Imposed mandates from above while often well intended, are rarely as effective as organic initiatives created by team members who most frequently interact with said process. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing consultants to “install”  a “best practice” process. Rather, allow your team to create a next practices solution. By choosing the latter over the former you’ll save considerable time, money and frustration.
  4. Simplicity Matters: If your process isn’t simple, it’s going to be very expensive, not very usable, and probably not sustainable – put simply, it will fail. Whether evaluating new processes, or determining which ones to reengineer or discard, make simplicity a key consideration. Remember this – usability drives adoptability, and simplicity is the main determinant of usability.
  5. Don’t Think Product – Think Outcome: I know this will offend some, but process is not a new software program or application. While toolsets can enhance process or can become a by-product of process, they do not in and of themselves constitute process. Don’t get caught in the trap of perpetual spending or development as a solution. Recognize if you’re caught in this trap it’s a symptom of bad process not a reflection of good process.
  6. No Band-Aids: Good process is not reactionary. A series of bubble gum and bailing wire solutions put in place in haste as a knee-jerk reaction to the latest problem is not good process design. Process by default will never provide the benefits of good process engineering by design. Think long-term, and if you must, bridge with a phased solution, but be planful in approach.
  7. No Panacea: While good process will help optimize any business, it will not make up for shortcomings in other disciplines or functional areas. Process is not the main driver in business, but merely a critical support system built for enablement, delivery, accountability and measurement.

Good process comes as a by-product of clarity of purpose. It is the natural extension of values, vision, mission, strategy, goals, objectives and tactics. It is in fact working down through the aforementioned hierarchy that allows process to be engineered by design to support mission critical initiatives. Recognition of the fact that you don’t start with process design, but that process design should be used as a refining framework to enable better execution is critical to the development of good process. Process is the part of the value chain that holds everything together and brings and ordered, programmatic, yet flexible discipline to your business.

Good process results in a highly usable infrastructure being adopted across the enterprise because it is effective for staff, and provides visibility and accountability for management, all of which increase the certainty of execution. Good process across all areas of the enterprise will result in elimination of redundancy and inefficiency, better engagement and collaboration, shortening of cycle times, better knowledge management and business intelligence, increased customer satisfaction, and increased margins.

I encourage you to not let apathy, negative experience based upon results of bad process or flawed implementations, or the fear of the unknown keep you from benefiting from the numerous advantages created by good process engineering. I would also strongly encourage you to evaluate all of your current processes so you can discard or re-engineer (simplify) bad process and improve upon good process, striving for excellence in process design. Now go to work and unleash some goodness of process…


My Thoughts on The Academy Awards

My Thoughts on the Academy Awards

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer,N2growth

I have reached the point where I can’t even bring myself to watch the Academy Awards. The following sums up my thoughts on the subject:  “I’d prefer a TV awards extravaganza to honor our real heroes instead of those who imitate them.” I guess it’s fair to say I’m beginning to grow weary of propping-up social climbers as heroes. While there are always exceptions, for the most part The Oscars represent just another display of the self-indulgent, narcissistic view of the world through the very skewed lens of Hollywood.

My question is simply this: besides act, what did these celebrities do to reach hero status? Clearly there are celebrities who use their platform for the benefit of others, but my observation is they are few and far between. When our culture holds celebrity status in higher esteem than those who place service above self, we all need to take a long look in the mirror. Our nation’s senses have been dulled by an addiction to celebrity worship to the point that those who tend to live the most bizarre, reckless, and self-centered existence seem to be glorified above all others.

If the media wants to help restore the confidence, character and integrity of our nation, as opposed to contribute to its decline, my suggestion would be they spend more time celebrating the true American legends and heroes… soldiers, firefighters, law enforcement officers, principled educators, theologians, medical practitioners, responsible parents, student achievers, volunteers, statesmen (notice I didn’t say politicians), good Samaritans, and the every day hard working American citizen.

I looked-up the definition of “hero” in several of the online dictionaries and cobbled together the most common references and citations which define a hero as: a person of great strength and courage, admired for qualities, achievements and moral character which are regarded as an ideal or model to be honored.” While many celebrities have compelling life stories, in some cases having overcome many obstacles in their pursuit of fame, with rare exception they sought personal fame and fortune above other more laudable pursuits normally associated with heroes – most notably service and sacrifice on the behalf of others without regard for personal recognition.

The sad reality is the lives of celebrities often provide a greater lasting example of sadness and tragedy than greatness. Whether they die of an apparent suicide like Marilyn Monroe, in cloudy circumstances like Whitney Houston, Anna Nicole Smith, Elvis, Bruce Lee, Jim Morrison and Michael Jackson, or in an untimely event like the car crash that took the life of James Dean, there are more examples left behind of how not to live your life than a blueprint you would pass on to your children as an example for greatness. Regrettably there exist many wildly successful people who make very little meaningful impact, and notably fewer examples of celebrities who spend their time and resources making the world a better place.

Real Heroes and legends do exist, but from my perspective, rarely do they appear in the form of pop culture celebrities. I can share with you I find it less than appealing to have the media continue to focus on the latest oh so boring social icons (athletes, recording artists, movie stars, politicians, the super-wealthy, and other pseudo-celebrities) who are all too often forced upon us while being portrayed as heroes when they are clearly not.  The focus should be on the lives of those that are making a positive difference in the world – those whom we would gladly submit to our children as honorable examples of how to live life.

We are fighting wars on multiple fronts, Iran is in chaos and on the brink of revolution, North Korea has taken its saber-rattling to new heights, lives are being given and taken daily in pursuit of honorable endeavors, and yet we stop everything to gawk at actors on a red carpet? Give me a break…


Ubiquitous Leadership

The Case For Ubiquitous Leadership

Ubiquitous Leadership

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Do you work in an environment that fosters leadership at every level, or just at the top of the org chart? You can either chasten people for attempting to lead, or encourage them to take risks, to explore opportunities, and to make decisions.  If you want to create a culture of leadership, you must succeed in creating leadership ubiquity.

Leading In An Avalanche

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

The point I want you to take away from the video above and the text that follows is an avalanche need not always end in disaster. Pushing the envelope is something all leaders must get comfortable with. It’s when leaders push themselves and those they lead past comfort zones that great things happen. Sometimes leaders need to cause an avalanche, and sometimes they’ll need to react to one caused by circumstances beyond their control. Whether the avalanche occurs by design or default, real leaders don’t panic – they lead.

This may sound a bit counterintuitive, even a bit strange, but I like messy leaders. By messy leaders, I mean leaders who are not afraid to shake things up. Good leaders don’t fear ambiguity, aren’t afraid to travel into uncharted territory, and they certainly don’t fear breaking things. The best leaders are more than willing to embrace chaos, and even create it if doing so leads to more fertile ground.

There’s no doubt uncertainty will flummox the timid or the unprepared. However real leaders understand uncertainty creates opportunity for deeper understanding and significant growth. If you lead long enough, crisis will eventually find its way to your doorstep. If you want to assess the quality of a leader, watch them very closely when things don’t go according to plan. I’ve always said the real test of a leader is what happens in the moments following the realization they’ve triggered an avalanche…


The Secret to Making Better Hires

The Secret To Making Better Hires

The Secret to Making Better Hires

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Q: Why do so many companies struggle when it comes to making great hires? A: They overlook the obvious. In other words, the people doing the hiring fail to understand, look for, and qualify the one characteristic that indicates the certainty of a good hire. While companies screen for many things, they often miss the gold standard litmus test – they play a game of chance when it’s simply not necessary.

Leadership and Presidents Day

Leadership & President’s Day

Leadership and Presidents Day

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Since we’re headed into President’s Day weekend, I thought I’d re-post a piece that examines the leadership characteristics of the two Presidents for which the holiday is celebrated; George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln. It’s an astute person who studies history and then applies the lessons learned to their present day life. In the text that follows I’ll look at the unimpeachable character of our first President, and the unparalleled resolve of our sixteenth President.

If I were to take a casual poll asking readers to name our two greatest Presidents it would not shock me at all if Washington and Lincoln would show very well among their peers. However, what I find so interesting in comparing and contrasting these two great men is that while they were both men of staunch character, willing to do the right thing regardless of opposition or public opinion, they were also men who rose to their place in history by traveling very different paths.

Washington was seemingly blessed with success at every turn, while Lincoln failed much more often than he succeeded during his lifetime. Even during Washington’s early years where he was often considered to be brash and impetuous, he was nonetheless considered a bright light and incredibly successful for his age. He consistently sought out positions of leadership & responsibility, and rarely met with any set-backs to speak of.

Born in Westmoreland County, Va., on Feb. 22, 1732, George Washington was a surveyor by trade, joined the Virginia militia just prior to the French and Indian War, served as a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congress, was commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, and was the first President of the United States (1789-97). His rise to success was nothing short of meteoric, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel by the age of 22. His transformation from an ego-centric young man to a polished and savvy leader was nothing short of remarkable.

Even though Washington was both personally and professionally polished, becoming well known for his economic, military, business, and social success, it was his character that he was most admired for. The arrogance of his youth had been transformed into a true and unwavering confidence in his own judgment, underpinned with an implacable foundation of principled moral conviction. George Washington was a man of integrity beyond reproach. This made him a man worthy of respect, and a force to be reckoned with. It is important to realize that he did not just espouse a vision, but that he was willing to put his life at risk to defend his vision, and live his life with the singular pursuit of seeing his vision become a reality.

Washington’s life gives testimony to the fact that great leaders can accomplish great things. It is important to remember that Washington was not merely a man among midgets who garnered his success because of the ineptness of his contemporaries, rather he was someone who rose to the top of a peer group comprised of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and John Hancock among others. Perhaps the greatest testimony to his character was Washington could have been a king, but chose not to. His interest was not in acquiring power, but to serve the best interests of a new nation.

By contrast, for the majority of Lincoln’s life he was largely regarded as a person of little consequence, if he was regarded at all. While he sought positions of leadership and responsibility, he was met with continuous challenges and defeats. Interestingly enough, many of Lincoln’s perceived successes ended in failure.

Simply put, Abraham Lincoln is one of the most inspirational case studies in examining the leadership traits of persistence, commitment, determination, passion, conviction, and overcoming failure. There is perhaps no greater lesson the world can offer in overcoming failures and understanding the value of persistence than what can be learned from looking at the life of Abraham Lincoln. Born into poverty, Mr. Lincoln was faced with defeat throughout most of his life. He twice failed in business, lost eight different elections and suffered a nervous breakdown. The following bullet points summarize Lincoln’s path to the White House:

  • 1816: Lincoln’s family lost their home and he had to quit school to support them.
  • 1818: His mother passed away.
  • 1831: He failed in business.
  • 1832: He ran for state legislature and lost, also lost his job, and while he wanted to go to law school he couldn’t get in.
  • 1833: He borrowed money to start a new business and was bankrupt by the end of the year. He spent the next 17 years paying off the debt.
  • 1834: He ran for state legislature again and this time he won.
  • 1835: He was engaged to be married and his fiancé died.
  • 1836: Mr. Lincoln suffered a total nervous breakdown and spent six months in bed recovering.
  • 1838: He sought to become speaker of the state legislature and was again defeated.
  • 1840: He sought to become elector and was defeated.
  • 1843: Lincoln ran for Congress and lost.
  • 1846: He ran for Congress again and this time he won.
  • 1848: Lincoln lost his re-election race for Congress.
  • 1849: He sought the position of land officer in his home state and was turned down.
  • 1854: Lincoln ran for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1856: He sought the Vice-Presidential nomination and lost receiving less than 100 votes.
  • 1858: He ran yet again for the US Senate and lost.
  • 1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States.

It was in fact Abraham Lincoln who later said: “My great concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure.” Lincoln was obviously someone who was more focused on pursuing his goals than being guided by a fear of public opinion or of failure. Thomas Edison failed more than 1000 times before he successfully invented the light bulb and he was later quoted as saying: “Many of life’s failures are men who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

The bottom line is that great leaders are not easily deterred. While most professionals don’t naturally associate the words “success” and “failure” as having anything to do with one another, under the right circumstances failure is absolutely the best experiential learning tool available. In fact, I would go so far as to say failure is an essential element of becoming successful. You can easily validate this premise by placing any individual under the scrutiny of the following litmus test…if you show me a professional who has never experienced failure I’ll say that person is likely an underachiever who either hasn’t tried hard enough or is very new to the world of business. Great leaders don’t fear failure, rather they fear the loss of what could have been achieved had they not had the courage to press on.

The lessons here are simple…be a person of action, stay passionately convicted to your vision, make sure that your motivations and decisions are based upon a deeply rooted sense of character and integrity in both your personal and professional conduct, and be willing to take great risks in order to insure that your vision becomes a reality. While this brief post cannot even come close to doing justice to the incredible lives of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, I do hope it provides some inspiration and some guidance as you move forward on your own leadership journey.


The Power of What If

The Power Of “What If”

The Power of What If

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

What if? What if you could reinvent your business? What if you could change the perception of your brand? What if you could break from the status quo? What if you could attract better talent? What if you could reenergize your corporate culture? What if you could make the changes you know you need to make? What if? To the one, great leaders aggressively pursue what if – do you?

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