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It’s fascinating how often leaders bungle the small but crucial details. Think of it as the tiny-mythic paradox.
Case in point is Terry Semel’s recent managerial disaster at Yahoo, a rudderless company lacking passion and velocity that has turned into a poacher’s paradise. Semel’s resignation has been poked over ad nauseuam. What’s been lost in the coverage, though, are two tiny but crucial things that soured the ranks on Semel once and for all.
At the end of last year, Semel’s team put out a notice that performance reviews (read bonuses and raises) would be delayed a quarter because “everyone was working too hard.” The lower-paid ranks saw this for exactly what it was. A $230-million-a-year man trying to delay paying out bonuses and raises for a quarter to allegedly make the year-end look better for Wall Street. Ridiculous. The company eventually had to back pedal after the rank and file balked.
The Semel team also botched it when they announced the company would no longer pay for cell phone bills over $50. Remember when they took away the towels in the Microsoft locker room? Insane.
Perhaps these are small things to titans. But they are mythic to those making 50 grand a year.
The scary thing? The crew involved in making decisions like these in shadow, along with Terry Semel, is now running the show at Yahoo.
To get the mythic right, companies must also execute on the tiny.
Otherwise, expect that famous vacancy sign on the Yahoo billboard to keep on flashing.
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