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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer hired Henrique de Castro, a former Google colleague as chief operating officer only to let him go 15 months later. What happened and could this have been avoided?

Henrique made $58 million in the 15 months at Yahoo, great for him, he actually made a mess of things for both himself and Yahoo.

According to May 2014 Fortune Magazine, shortly after Henrique’s arrival he reorganized the sales force to operate more like Google’s only to find out that the cultures of the two companies were vastly different. He either rubbed advertisers the wrong way or ignored them completely. Around peers, he acted like he was right all the time. Tensions grew, sales results didn’t improve and Henrique was asked to exit the company. Had Henrique achieved results, would the organization continue to tolerate his disruptive behavior and at what future cost?

Was he the wrong hire? Could this outcome been avoided had Henrique paid more attention to his onboarding and assimilation into the organization? Did Marissa assume a smart guy like Henrique would figure it out?  What can be learned from this mistake?

  1. Cultural Fit – Before getting all excited about the offer, it’s best to assess the cultural fit. Too many executives get lured by the excitement of the opportunity only to join the wrong organization. Look beyond the business and delve into the company values and culture to determine if you can see yourself working at the company.
  2. Set Mutual Expectations –Share transition plans and set joint expectations and goals with the boss. Even if there is a prior working relationship, don’t assume you are in lock step in this new situation. Better to schedule regular check-ins to talk over the business.
  3. Conduct a Business Assessment– Don’t miss this opportunity to get a fresh look at the business before starting to make changes. Assess the business levers and avoid making hasty assumptions based on your own preconceived notions.
  4. Foster Relationships –Knowing the people and how they work makes it much easier to make business changes. Take the time to build meaningful relationships both inside and outside the organization. Understand the needs of others and treat them with respect.
  5. Gel with the Team – High performing teams are critical to an organization’s success. The entry of a new leader changes the dynamics of a team. A Leader Assimilation Workshop is a wonderful way to facilitate dialogue and accelerate the onboarding of a new leader. In a short time, the leader can get to know the team, the current preferences, goals, objectives, purpose and people. Likewise, the entire team builds an understanding of how the new leader will work with the group.
  6. Enhance your Leadership – It can be a mistake for leaders to assume they can lead the same way they did in the last role. Leader transitions are a great time to make enhancements and establish new leadership behaviors.
  7. Balance through Daily Practice – A new role typically means extra hours to get up to speed. Daily workouts, family and personal time can take a back seat. Executives who find ways to follow daily practices stay refreshed and sharp even if it is an abbreviated schedule. Plan to get back to a normal work schedule in four to six months.

When leaders attend to their transition into a new business, they can quickly make meaningful contributions and avoid career missteps.

Please leave me a comment below and let me know what is useful for you in creating leadership transitions.

Speak soon,