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Leadership Lessons from Yahoo

Great post from Tony Morgan...


The New York Times reported today on an organizational restructuring at Yahoo. This follows on the heels of lots of criticism about the company's current operations including an internal memo from Brad Garlinghouse, a Yahoo senior vice president, that was published by the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks ago. (Thank Sam at Decker Marketing for the lead.) The memo is enlightening because it gives us a rare glimpse into one of the fastest growing companies. Garlinghouse revealed some startling insights from which every leader in a fast growing organization should learn.

Here are some of the current challenges at Yahoo that Garlinghouse identified:

  • Lack of Focus -- "We lack a focused, cohesive vision for our company. We want to do everything and be everything -- to everyone. We've known this for years, talk about it incessantly, but do nothing to fundamentally address it...I've heard our strategy described as spreading peanut butter across the myriad opportunities that continue to evolve in the online world. The result: a thin layer of investment spread across everything we do and thus we focus on nothing in particular."
  • Misalignment with Vision -- "We are separated into silos that far too frequently don't talk to each other. And when we do talk, it isn't to collaborate on a clearly focused strategy, but rather to argue and fight about ownership, strategies and tactics."
  • Relying on Outside Hires -- "Our inclination and proclivity to repeatedly hire leaders from outside the company results in disparate visions of what winning looks like."
  • No Defined Ownership -- "There are so many people in charge (or believe that they are in charge) that it's not clear if anyone is in charge. This forces decisions to be pushed up -- rather than down."
  • Indecisiveness -- "Without a clear and focused vision, and without complete clarity of ownership, we lack a macro perspective to guide our decisions and visibility into who should make those decisions. We are repeatedly stymied by challenging and hairy decisions. We are held hostage by our analysis paralysis."
  • Poor Accountability for Performance -- "Far too many employees are 'phoning' it in, lacking the passion and commitment to be a part of the solution. We sit idly by while -- at all levels -- employees are enabled to 'hang around'... Weak performers that have been around for years are rewarded. And many of our top performers aren't adequately recognized for their efforts."

Here's what Garlinghouse suggested has happened because of these challenges: "As a result, the employees that we really need to stay (leaders, risk-takers, innovators, passionate) become discouraged and leave. Unfortunately many who opt to stay are not the ones who will lead us through the dramatic change that is needed."

What's astonishing when you read this is that Yahoo is one of the leading Internet companies in the world. The company is only 12 years old. If these types of challenges can rock a company like Yahoo, it makes me wonder how many other organizations on a fast-growth track are facing similar issues. And, can some of these lessons benefit our ministry organizations?

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