Back in 2009 I happened to overlap with Carol Bartz at Yahoo! for a few months. I was a contractor, she was the CEO, so we didn't end exactly end up playing golf together. I did happen to be, however, one of thousands of recipients of this early memo from the new boss, sent to all-worldwide:
Wow, this week has gone fast. I thought I’d give you a quick idea of how things went for me this week. First, a BIG thank you for all the positive comments you’ve sent my way. It has really made me feel welcome. And a special big thanks to all the guys (that’d be Willie, Anthony, Jack, Allen, Daryl, Nathan, Ali, etc.) that worked so quickly to get Judy and I up and running. I know I told you at the all-hands that I was going to be bringing my lunch. That was before I saw the cafeteria–it rocks! Forget that leftover stuff!
My first impression of the Yahoos is that you guys are smart and dedicated, and have a lot of great energy with a can-do attitude (ok, maybe there’s some sucking up because I’m the boss, but it impressed the heck out of me).
I wasn’t too happy to see some “inside sources” quoting my all-hands comments to the outside press–STOP IT! And while we’re on the subject of all-hands, I cancelled the regularly scheduled after-earnings meeting simply because it’s just too close to the one we just had. Don’t take it as something it’s not.
I’m pumped up and proud to be here. I’m going to spend my weekend shopping for something purple (great excuse for a little retail therapy)…
I was impressed, at least on the level of style. I'd been the recipient of all-everyone-in-the-whole-wide-world memos from higher ups for many years, and they all pretty much read like examples from a textbook written by George Orwell. This Bartz missive was something almost unheard of in the annals of corporate communications-speak: a decent read.
So it was no surprise that Bartz went out with this passive-aggressive gem yesterday:
I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board. It has been my pleasure to work with all of you and I wish you only the best going forward.
Which was only a mite more between-the-lines antipathetic than the email sent by Yahoo! co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo, and Chairman of the Board Roy Bostock, to company employees a little later. In that communication, the trio wishes Bartz "all the best in her future endeavors," which I is just about how the math teacher who couldn't remember my first name signed my yearbook in high school.
Interesting emails, of course, do not a successful CEO make. And Bartz' approval rating among Yahoo! employees, according to the employment web site Glassdoor, was a George W. Bush-like 33 percent.
Still, for fans of eccentricity in CEOs, if not eccentric CEOs themselves, it's worth a look at the following Bartz selection:
- 2009 memo (Gawker)
I've noticed that since the reorg, people seem like they're waiting for something. I'm not sure if it's a sugar-low or what, but we need to stop waiting and get moving. Good things do not come to those who wait, they come to those who make things happen.
- 2009 memo (Business Insider)
So get out of the sugar low–we have work to do. Stop staring at our navels, stop arguing with each other. Stop debate, debate, debate, and let’s focus on the competition.
Let’s focus on a great Yahoo! Our average user is just trying to get through the day…looking to find out what’s going on in the big world and their own world. They want their Internet site to be great, and to work. They don’t care about how or about deals. They care that we are a trusted dependable site.
That is our simple mission. Focus on it!!!
My favorite story is when we were on a farm in Wisconsin; I would have probably been 13. There was a snake up in the rafter of the machine shed. And we ran and said, “Grandma, there’s a snake.” And she came out and she knocked it down with a shovel, chopped its head off and said, “You could have done that.” And, you know, that’s the tone she set. Just get it done. Just do it. Pick yourself up. Move on. Laugh.