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Five Lessons for CEOs from Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer

Maybe it’s too soon to pop the champagne corks for Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, but there are signs. People are spending more time on Yahoo's flagship website. Talented engineers and entrepreneurs are coming to work for the company. Investors are adding its long-languishing stock to their portfolios again. When Yahoo lured Marissa Mayer away from Google to become its CEO last year, people inside and out held their breadth. Her early success offers lessons for other leaders.

There are other signs of renewed hope and optimism. Mayer’s charisma and the company’s $1 billion invested in what was then a little-known Internet company in China, Alibaba, are showing signs of a comeback. Even cynics on Wall Street are making polite noises.

The Sunnnyvale, Calif., company released its second-quarter financial results on the one-year anniversary of Mayer’s surprise hiring from Google. She had been a top executive who played a key role in Google‘s evolution from startup to powerhouse. The results weren’t extraordinary but they may not matter if she can convince people that the company is on the mend, particular after years of wandering aimlessly in the shadow of Google.

Writing in Forbes recently Kathy Gersch identified five lessons that other CEOs would do well to note when it comes to turnarounds:

Communicate your vision widely, be clear, and “over-communicate.”
Many leaders are shocked at the lack of initiative shown by employees. What Mayer has figured out, which those other leaders haven’t, is that in order for employees to participate, they have to understand the vision.

Get employees to re-commit.
The best way to turn a company around is to establish a clear opportunity to do something great, and to make that vision clear to everyone. While most people are eager to be re-invigorated by change, unfortunately, a cynical few become so attached to the negativity of the past they cannot let go

Give permission and ask for participation.
If employees who have innovative ideas have exhausted their attempts to make change, receiving either no support or discouragement from leadership, they will give up innovating.

Provide the support that nurtures innovation.
At the WIRED business conference 2013, Mayer said she had a lot of people with great ideas who haven’t been able to run with them due to the economy and other internal problems. She said “to get my team to play offense [get people to run with their ideas], my job as an executive is to play defense,” or in other words, clear the barriers out of the way.

Celebrate the progress.
When Mayer speaks to the media, no matter what subject she’s interviewed about, she refocuses attention to the accomplishments the company has made most recently, celebrating those wins.




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