Yahoo and the Merry-Go-Round

So news is just in… in fact, I’m breaking the news on this one that the next CEO to be brought in to the beleaguered, once colossal, tech giant Yahoo is Santa Claus.  Yes, you heard it here.  Ol’ Saint Nick, the rotund, rowdy, and rocous titan of industry has cheerfully accepted his new appointment citing his excitement to be able to bring a little joy to the withering ranks of boys and girls at Yahoo.

 

 

Okay – so that’s a joke.  But…. what is not a joke is the literal merry-go-round of corporate chiefs that are coming in and out of Yahoo.  The latest appointment of former Google Engineering Diva, Marissa Mayer, has got me thinking.

The specifics of my “thinking” centered on:

  1. What criteria and process is the Yahoo Board going through in regards to “fixing” the problem?
  2. Why Marissa Mayer may not be the best fit for this particular task
  3. How the process itself seems completely counter to the entrepreneurial roots that Yahoo comes from
I wish I had more time to ruminate on this but unfortunately with 3 kids and more work calling I’m going to distill my thoughts into the most succinct of terms. (*editor’s note –  too lazy to write a full analysis)
(a) Luck, skill and smarts can’t fix broke:
*Marissa Mayer did awesome things at Google.  I won’t detract from her accomplishments.  Only thing I would say here is that …maybe the root of the Yahoo problem isn’t the CEO – maybe it is more fundamental.
(b) Applying traditional management tactics to un-traditional environments equals #FAIL
*Once again – Google Engineering Diva is awesome, however, I guarantee when she was in the trenches at Google with the engineering team she didn’t try to pull this BS with them > What Marissa Mayer Really Brings to Yahoo  …. (i.e. “you do it or I find another team”… OUCH).  This management tactic is more reminiscent of Chainsaw Dunlap (i.e. Coleman Corp) than it is an inspirational technology exec.
(c) Revolving doors don’t instill trust they create fear
*I think this makes like the 3rd or 4th CEO in a very short time-span for Yahoo.  I have to imagine that if you’re at Yahoo the only thing you’re hearing right now is the abandon ship alarm.  Let’s face it the root of this company and Google are in innovation, having fun and doing what you love.  If that has been lost then the only question and guiding principle is how do you get you’re mojo back.  Recycling execs wouldn’t seem like the first priority to me?
So glad I got that out of my head.  Carry on.

 

 


Leadership Lessons from Dancing?

I came across this video while perusing another friend’s site and had to post this. Watch the whole thing, is really fantastic and has a great message. I suspect we have all played both roles in our lives – the lone crazy guy dancing around and the suspect crowd.

Great stuff. Hope you enjoy this and the message.   A key lesson I learned out of high school and during my “Plebe” year of hell at the US Merchant Marine Academy was you first have to learn how to be a great follower and team member before you can ever attempt to be a great and inspirational leader.

PERSEVERANCE

So each day when I wake up and get the day started I walk out of my bedroom and am greeted by this picture of President Abraham Lincoln.  My wife got it for me several years ago for Christmas after I commented how much I liked the theme of the print and the saying.  I generally am a bit cynical when it comes to these success oriented blurbs with catchy themes like “vision”, “inspiration”, and so on.  In fact, its enough sometimes to make you think you are locked in an old episode of “The Office”, walking into another great day at Dunder Mifflin. 

“Office” comments aside, I really enjoyed this particular piece and its a great saying to wake up to each day.  This past year has been a real meat grinder on several fronts.  Business, life, etc.   Some has been exciting and inspirational, other moments have been stressed and lonely.  I was one of the unfortunate many that got caught flat footed in the real estate bubble.  What started off as a fun hobby with a few rental houses ballooned into quite a business with lots of houses and other side ventures (on top of my regular day gig by the way).  That was all great on the upswing but the new market reality has created quite a “shit” storm to be perfectly blunt. 

That being said, life is there to be lived, experienced, chances taken, rewards and penalties received.  I’m not happy about some of the current economic realities but the alternative to all of this is never trying, never putting yourself out there, never dreaming, achieving or pushing yourself.  I know that I’ll get through this and be stronger, better and more experienced for it… but some days the struggle is taxing to say the least. 

So each day when I wake up I am greeted by this view of Honest Abe and the wonderful saying below.  For all of those out there enduring your own challenges in life, love and business – here is something to brighten your day.   To me, the quote is priceless and so true.  

“Perseverance”

He FAILED in business in ’31.
He was DEFEATED for state legislature in ’32.
He tried another business in ’33. It FAILED.
His fiancee died in ’35.
He had a nervous BREAKDOWN in ’36.
In ’43 he ran for Congress and was DEFEATED.
He tried again in ’48 and was DEFEATED again.
He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He LOST.
The next year he ran for Vice President and LOST.
In ’59 he ran for the Senate again and was DEFEATED.
In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln,
was elected the 16th President of the United States.

“The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments, 
and its most staggering failures is often, simply, 
the diligent will to persevere.”

Posted via email from douglasingram’s posterous

I Run Because…

So at midnight I got one of my every so often urges to hit the pavement.  With an incredulous stare from my wife and the obligatory “wear you’re reflective vest” – I hit the pavement.  Tonight was one of those unique nights where the steam seems to hover ever so slightly above your feet and the moonlight blends with the street lamps and moist air to create a hazy, mysterious glow around otherwise dull objects.  I felt particularly good tonight and could have ran forever it seemed but have to be up and at em’ in, uh… 4.5 hours now for an early morning meeting in Alpharetta.  The vacant streets and the black painted veil of silence conspired to set my mind spinning.  So, I do what I do best when I run, I had a conversation with myself (I love those).  The conversation was centered around a seemingly innocuous question, “why do I run?”.  Here is what I came up with.

I Run Because...
I Run Because...

I Run Because…

I like it

I also like beer

there are those that can’t

it makes me feel alive

you never know when it might be your last

I like to commune with myself

it helps me escape

I like to test my limits

I like to get lost

I fancy myself as a counter-culturalist

I always have

I like to get high 🙂

I want to be better

it makes me better

a man I most admire does

it doesn’t require a membership

its natural

its stretches you

it makes me better for those I care about most (see video)

… I could go on but these were a few that flowed freely on a really cool night for a run.

Also here is a great article from the NY Times on running – enjoy.

The Parallels of Adventure Racing & Business

C4 Adventure Race Pic
C4 Adventure Race Pic

A few weeks ago, I participated in a small adventure race in Woodstock, Georgia (Northeast of Atlanta). It was put on by the YMCA of Cherokee County and was a bunch of fun (many thanks to YMCA and Toby Bramblett for their efforts in pulling the race together).  The format included trail running, mountain biking and kayaking with land navigation and various challenge obstacles mixed in.  The team structure included three person, two person and solo teams.  I participated as a single team (solo) and raced under the banner “Kenzie-Carr”… in tribute to my two little girls! 🙂

Leading up to the race, and especially during the race, I had much opportunity to reflect and be a bit introspective.  In fact, I had a bit too much time to reflect because the race was 18 miles and 4 hours of cold river and lake crossings coupled with copious amounts of mud, sweat and salt.

This reflection lead me to start drawing the parallels between adventure racing and life.  Attached are a listing of just a few of those parallels.  I guess it is these parallels and the mental challenge of laboring through pain, nausea, fatigue, etc. that really draws me to the support of adventure racing.

Parallels of Adventure Racing & Life:
  1. “Competition is always more intense than you believe” > No matter the race, I always have a false notion that somehow the competition is going to be lacking, non-existent, or unprepared.  However, with each race I complete, I am ever more mindful that there is always a tier of well-prepared, intense and driven competition that will not simply roll-over.   Business is very similar to this adventure race parallel.  No matter the business, or challenge, there is always a group, no matter how small, that will pose significant competition to you and is prepared to sweat, sacrifice and bleed on equal levels to your own. Believing that there is no competition or the competition is going to roll-over is a fallacy.
  2. “Don’t always follow the crowd…or at least be conscious that you’re doing it” > During the race I got into a segment of the course where the terrain was unfamiliar and my land navigation became quite lacking.  It was at this time that I started checking for another competitor that was making better progress than I.  I found an experienced team that clearly had a great level of background in this tedious portion of the course.   In effect, I began following the crowd.  In business, we often follow the crowd.  Call it “group think” or a similar derivative but the end-effect is the same, your in the shadow of some one else.  More importantly, when your following some one else, you are intrinsically linked to their fate.  In my case, the group I followed helped me find a key checkpoint that might have otherwise been elusive.  In business & life, we follow the crowd at times.  The key is to be conscious when you are doing it and recognize that eventually you have to step out of the collective shadow and into your own light.
  3. “Stuff happens..deal with it and frame it correctly” > We all know it happens, the real question is how will you deal with it.  In my adventure race all was going wonderfully until the final stage, kayaking.  The day had been filled with some very fast trail running and equally fast mountain biking.  Each of these stages included lots of river passes and mud bogs which resulted in some very frozen feet.  When I reached the transition area for the final leg I looked forward to a change of shoes and a nice dry pair of socks.  Being fully outfitted with dry wear, I grabbed my kayak and headed for the lake and my miles of paddling.  At the lake’s edge I was confronted with the scenario to walk in the lake and get my newly acquired dry feet apparel wet again, or try to do an awkward beach “push-off”.  The allure of dry feet was too much.  I decided the awkward, and in retrospect risky, beach “push-off” was the best bet for me.  With the grace of a sea lion,  I “pushed-off” from the beach and for a good few 3 seconds my feet were dry as the Sahara.  ….BUT… suddenly, unexpectedly, the kayak began to shake and wobble with the vigor of a stuck Sea Lion.  Suddenly, the kayak rolled & SPLASH.  In short, “stuff” had just happened to me.  I had 3 choices, (1) quit; (2) trade in my completely drenched clothes for semi-dry clothes at the transition station and burn 15 minutes; or (3) take a breath and jump in the kayak and paddle on.  I chose option #3.  Let’s face it, I was cold but had already been cold.  I chose to frame the optimistic view point which was I was nearly 70% done with the race and feeling great.  I excitedly pushed on and dried out pretty quickly.  In our daily business interactions we all know “stuff” happens.  I would argue that one of the things that separates an enduring enterprise from a short-lived one is how they view unexpected challenges and overcome them.
  4. “Try new approaches” > It’s easy to get bogged down in the application of the same methodology, or tools, that you have grown accustomed to and comfortable with.  Being able to recognize and appreciate that the “traditional” way may not be the best way is a critical aspect of success in any discipline.  For me, during the mountain biking portion I realized I had a mechanical. In essence, my bike wasn’t shifting right in the lowest of gearings.  I was forced to try a new approach.  Sometimes life and business force you to try a new approach.
  5. “Persevere – its easy to throw in the towel, but much more difficult to finish” > In life and in business, I have seen it all too often that a person or organization’s default response is to run for cover, throw in the towel or generally accept defeat.  Some people, more than others, have this as part of their standard “toolkit’ of life.  Too difficult = I’m going to do something else.  Probably one of the characteristics I like best about the adventure races I have been in is that they challenge you to dedicate, focus and persevere in order to finish.  My moment of this race was when I took an unplanned swim in Lake Allatoona on a very cold day in February (see item #3).
  6. “Challenge yourself” > Once in the race, I had the choice to just be a participant or to really try to push myself to my limits.  I think in business it is easy for organizations, teams and individuals to just participate.   They show up at the office, check some email, cup of coffee and on, and on, and on….  Businesses and team members should challenge themselves.  What is a new innovation that could springboard the company? Is there a new lead, new market opportunity or product enhancement that could be fast tracked?  Challenging yourself (or the business) is key to separating yourself from the pack and leading the charge instead of being just another passenger that is along for the ride.
  7. “Train & prepare for success” > I think the parallels here are pretty obvious.  Whatever the challenge, business or physical, you have to prepare for success through proper training and preparation. Too many times in business we enter into a competitive scenario without fully preparing ourselves or our organizations.  Members of a business organization have a propensity to believe that their competitors and their own organizations are static.  Worse yet, sometimes large organizations rely on their own perceived brand without realizing they need to always be “in training”.
  8. “Got to be in it to win it” > The last one is not only a cliche but also obvious.  However, this may be one of the most important parallels of all.  Too many times in business, as in life, we choose not to participate because the challenge is perceived as too taxing.  There are a thousand other cliche phrases I could use here.  Simply put, in life and business, a large part of your success is deciding to show up.
C4AR kayaking
C4AR kayaking

As for me, I was glad I showed up, challenged myself and got to go through the many emotions and physical challenges that make adventure racing such an awesome high!  I have several others races on the calendar in 2010 and look forward to continuing to get to know myself, my limits and having the opportunity to frame life differently and be truly appreciative for all that I have.