What Can You Learn From Marissa Mayer’s Struggles At Yahoo?

I think the lessons are more for first-time public company CEOs that worked at one company for a long stretch of their career prior to becoming CEO.

Marissa Mayer spent her whole career at Google prior to accepting the Yahoo CEO position.  Google, by anyone's standards, is a fantastic company with unbelievably strong people.

I worked at a similarly strong company in the 1990's - Maxim Integrated Products.  Maxim, while certainly not as well-known as Google, was extremely successful.  The company had a strong culture and a fantastic team of people.

When you work at a company like this for a long time (Eleven years in my case, Thirteen years in Mayer's case), you believe you can do just about anything.  And you develop a strong belief that no matter what situation you are dropped into, you will come out victorious.

I know I felt that way when I left Maxim to implement a turnaround, and I wonder if Mayer felt that way when she left Google.  I also wonder if she felt she could just implement Google's culture at Yahoo.

These were the lessons I learned:

A.  Team matters! 

Especially the quality of the team.  You may be really good at what you do, but that doesn't matter because you need a strong team to work with.  This leads to lesson number 2:

B.  It's really, really hard to change a company culture. 

And, it's even more difficult to change when the company has been struggling like Yahoo.

You don't fully appreciate how important a strong team and a great culture are until you experience working with a weak team in a shitty culture.  To me, that's the lesson to learn.

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