Everyone loves a bad-ass, right? The no-nonsense savior of the day who doesn't mince words or tip-toe around feelings but instead just comes in, says what needs to be said and does what needs to be done to get the job done. (I envision Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction herebut feel free to let your mind picture your favorite bad-ass character.)
Out here in Silicon Valley, it looks like Carol Bartz, the on-the-job-since-January CEO of Yahoo, may be challenging the likes of Apple's Steve Jobs and Oracle's Larry Ellison for the reputation of having a no-nonsense, somewhat aggressive, slightly maniacal style, mixed in with a touch of ego. And remember, one of the nice little perks of being the boss means never having to worry about the occasional F-bomb or four-letter slip.
Bartz spoke at the kickoff dinner for the Stanford Directors' College last night and Eric Savitz over at Barron's Tech Trader Daily blog did an awesome job of capturing Bartz' speech in a live post. No, she didn't address any deals involving Microsoft or even get into the future of the company. Instead, she addressed the role of the board of directors and how they seem to need a good overhaul.
Example of her tell-it-like-it-is sense of humor: In her opening remarks, she recapped her experiences over the years and noted that she'd been through Sarbanes Oxley and stock option witch hunts and now, of course "I have the distinct pleasure of having Carl Icahn on my board."
Nice jab, huh? Among her thoughts on boards and their directors, excerpted from Savitz' post:
- I think we should have less middle-aged white guys, she says. Not necessarily more women; she says she is actually talking about younger people. Not 20 years olds. People from different locations and industries. Not just CEOs, but the “athletes” coming up in the organization. Everybody in this audience is in band of 10 years. I’m not sure that is as smart as it should be, she says.
- We should have less of people who are not involved, who are not prepared, who are bored. The one-trick pony. I had one of those, who said the answer too everything was get the stock price up. “Well, no shit Sherlock, I’d love to get the price up.” Those who never say anything. Those who talk about things they know nothing about. Those who want favors. “And my all time favorite, the board members who fall asleep.
- Boards do either no succession planning, or constant succession planning. First meeting as CEO of YHOO, the board brought up succession planning. “I said, Jesus, I just got here.” It’s nonsense. Next board meeting, 60 days later, same thing. “What the hell happened in 60 days, did I turn stupid?” Get a grip. Help manage the board relative to good business sense.
- Please remember you are not an operating officer. Please don’t call down in the organization and ask for reports. Employees hear from a board member, they panic. And whole organization gets in a tizzy. Please have the courtesy to go through a process. Also, you owe it to your colleagues to stay involved. Read analyst reports. Visit factories. Come to internal meetings. Stay current with best practices. Be an active governance person. Understand risk management, and D&O insurance.
I hate to come across as kind of rah-rah for Bartz but I all I can say is: Bravo! She is the Valley's newest WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get. She's not afraid to say what needs to be said or do what needs to be done - and I respect her for that.
She may have been talking to a group of directors (and I hope they took to heart what she had to say) but her tone, attitude and approach is exactly the sort of the thing that some companies need at the top to help motivate and elevate it into a position of leadership and power (such as Apple and Oracle.)
It seems that, with Bartz, Yahoo finally may be getting exactly what it needed if it wants to survive: a genuine bad-ass.
Previous coverage: Yahoo confirms Bartz in charge; Can she save Yahoo?