Monday, May 21, 2007

Bleeding Talent 

There is nothing more disturbing to a company than to lose talent. This appears to be the case with Yahoo!, which is in decline. There is little PR can do to hold people in place. It is the job of top management to keep key people by showing them a convincing view of the future. When that isn't possible and there are better alternatives, the drain starts. Transparency isn't necessarily the answer. Perhaps the future is dark, and there aren't solutions. The leadership qualities of the CEO are tested to the full. The CEO has to know whom to let go and whom to fight for.

I've been caught in a case like this where I was thrown in at the last moment to save an account as account staffers were leaving. It was dirty work and unrewarding. In the end, the client already had made up his mind to leave. I didn't blame the people who decided to go. They had been abandoned in an untenable situation for too long. The only reward for my pain was learning what not to do in the future -- namely, take assignments like this. On the other hand, I met a good friend who subsequently has gone on to do well at another company.

The lesson for me and for the CEO of Yahoo! is that personal appeals sometimes are not good enough. People have labored too long to accept the challenges they are facing. When that happens, it is time to let them go and to start over -- even with the risks of putting new people in their places at a critical time.


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