Ripple At Yahoo Needed Stat
Leader: “So that’s the way I see it. Any questions?”
People: “Nope. Sounds good boss!”
Leader: “You sure? I really want to hear if anyone has any concerns or feedback on what we’re talking about here.”
People: ” Nope all good. Brilliant go forward strategy boss.” Heads shake in agreement with the one ass kisser in the room.
Queue the crickets chirping.
Leader: “Hmm, great! We all know what to do. Let’s get to work.” Delivers self pat on the back for message delivered and received. Met with high praise and we’ll done from the inner circle as they leave the room together.
Wait for it….
People: “They are gone. Have they lost their fricken minds?” Followed by “We’re screwed. I better update my LinkedIn Profile as soon as I get back to my desk.”
I am sure you’ve worked in an environment where people say one thing when the “leader” is the room and something entirely different when they are not. It really doesn’t matter if you work for a small company or a large company, employee unrest and dissatisfaction can make a good job really bad – real quick. More often than not, the leader doesn’t have a clue that such discourse exists until people start leaving, productivity declines, earnings drop off and customers start complaining. I should say a disengaged leader doesn’t have a clue. An engaged leader surely knows the seas have grown rough and the buzzards are suddenly circling. As well they might not know what steps to take to fix it.
A recent Forbes article on the reported unrest at an Yahoo executive offsite meeting shined the light on some struggles that CEO Marissa Mayer and her executive team find themselves facing. The company isn’t doing what everyone expected it to do. Employees are unhappy. There is mistrust, impatience and a whole lot of finger pointing and arm chair quarterbacking on what Ms. Mayer needs to do to fix it all.
But is it too late?
Some might say it is. At this point there may be too much water under the bridge to change the culture. Shareholders, especially ones who have a significant investment in an organization like Yahoo, love to come out of the woodworks with rally cries for the CEO’s ouster. They beat their chests that new leadership with new ideas, new strategies, new energy is needed to save the company from utter ruination.
Funny how a lot of these bold statements and “conversations” aren’t happening when Ms. Mayer is in the room.
We’ve seen this movie before and it never ends well for the CEO, founder, the head coach, the quarterback, the leader of any organization or team. The wheels on the bus are coming off and people are looking for the emergency exit. The leader whose driving the bus (think Jim Collins Good to Great), suddenly goes from hero to zero in no time at all.
I can’t speak to Yahoo’s issues directly because I don’t work there. However, it’s clear that they have some serious problems that need fixing and fast. Namely open and honest communication which is generally the root cause of most problems in a company regardless of their size.
Here’s what I might suggest as a starting point. Ms. Mayer, if you are listening, you need to to rally the troops. Not some come to Jesus rah rah meeting but real conversation with the actual troops who can effect change. It seems daunting and almost counter-intuitive but it’s necessary and critical if you don’t want the bus to completely crash.
The first advice I would offer to Yahoo employees is this: Everyone needs to stop complaining and start talking. I’m not suggesting they have a kumbaya executive retreat and get everyone on the same page for a weekend – I mean a real change in culture from every crevice of the Yahoo organization top down and sideways. Besides it seems with these recent press leaks, the corporate ukulele is too broken to be repaired anyway so kumbaya wouldn’t work.
What I think Ms. Mayer needs is a Ripple. She needs to create a Ripple with her executive team, their direct reports, their direct reports and on down throughout the food chain to very depths of the organization. She needs to find a way to demonstrate that she’s willing to engage in open and honest dialogue by creating an environment that promotes just that.
If I were a consultant or a Ripple Executive Coach to Ms. Mayer I would suggest starting the conversations with her immediate team and then tipping the org chart on it’s head and start meeting with people in the bowels of the organization. You know, the ones who are in the trenches bleeding the Yahoo purple every single day and probably still believe in the company. Or at least you can hope they do.
I’d suggest she start by asking some very Ripple-esq questions to get the conversation ball rolling.
Some that I would use are:
What brought you to Yahoo in the first place?
What excites you about the company and it’s future?
If you were CEO for the day, what changes would you enact that could impact our bottom line business?
What has disappointed you about your time here at Yahoo?
When people ask you who you work for and what you do? what do you say?
What’s the best part of you that you don’t have a chance to showcase in your present role or position here at Yahoo?
Where would you like Yahoo to go in the future and what role would you like to play in it?
In your opinion, where are we missing the boat?
What am I missing as CEO?
I realize this all sounds fine and good here in a safe and secure BLOG but these questions would be scary to answer if you had the CEO of a major company breathing down your neck right? Maybe that’s the problem. These are questions, if you truly are an engaged leader, that SHOULD NOT make your employees feel anything but excited for their chance to answer them and give their perspective.
I have never met Ms. Mayer (would love to by the way) and doubt seriously she’ll ever read this post. However, if she did, I would want her to know one thing. A small Ripple can bring huge changes. If people are committed to the company now and in the future, you’ll know it when their eyes light up and they excitedly respond to some of these questions. You’ll know in an instant who is staying and wants to be there and who needs to go simply by being an active engaged participant in some real down to Earth conversations.
No judgement. No criticism. Nothing but good dialogue and deep understanding. And in order for that to happen, Ms. Mayer has to know her own answers to those questions herself and be willing to openly share them with whomever she is talking to; regardless of role, job title or pay grade.
I would imagine this sounds way too simplistic for many of you who would think this strategy would not be enough to overcome the huge pressing problems that a company like Yahoo faces today. I don’t blame you; a part of my logical mind screams who has time to have these conversations when immediate action is needed to reverse course of such a behemoth of a ship! But without winning hearts and minds of the people who will play a role in the company’s future or ultimate demise, can real change happen?
I mean anyone, regardless of how great a leader they might be, can not expect the ship (big or small) to change direction without having buy in and commitment from those who want to be there? Whether you’re running a 5 person flower shop or like Ms. Mayer, running an organization with over 10,000 employees, people have to be all in or it won’t work. That requires real engagement on every level of the organization.
In a perfect world, Yahoo needs a little Ripple. So might whatever company you work for right now (just guessing here). That’s not a commercial for me or my services by the way. Though it would be a damn good one if I do say so myself. Hell I just gave you half of my super secret Jedi sauce with those questions. The challenge is whether you as an engaged leader will use them or not to get your people talking, new ideas percolating and big problems solved. Ms. Mayer, feel free to use them just promise to rank my website a little higher on Yahoo search if you will.
Connection creates engagement.
Engagement creates momentum.
Momentum can change an outcome.
Outcome is what changes the world.
Or may just save your job.