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寻找“非杨致远型”帅才

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Yahoo Seeks Decisive Leader

2008年11月19日

As Yahoo Inc.'s board searches for its next chief executive, directors are in many ways looking for the anti-Jerry.

For 17 months, co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang tried to turn around Yahoo with a simple management mantra: rally senior executives to put aside their differences and do what's best for the company.

But people inside and outside the Sunnyvale, Calif., firm say Mr. Yang's inability to make tough decisions on matters ranging from new products to strategic alliances stymied his effectiveness and failed to get Yahoo out of its hole.

On Tuesday, Yahoo's ailing stock soared more than 9% to close at $11.55 on the Nasdaq Stock Market, a day after the board announced Mr. Yang will surrender his post when a new CEO is found.

As they search for candidates, Yahoo directors are looking at Mr. Yang's track record for lessons about how to find a leader better equipped to navigate the Internet giant through continued tumultuous times.

'This company has shown a failure to execute,' says a person familiar with the situation. Yahoo's next CEO 'can't be just a thinker.'

The board wants to consider executives with strong operational skills who may be veterans of the high-tech and media worlds, rather than simply Internet industry types, this person says.

Another person close to the company cautioned Mr. Yang shouldn't be solely blamed for Yahoo's 'consensus-driven' and at times indecisive culture. But others note that Mr. Yang failed in his promise to break those habits.

Even as Wall Street exulted over Mr. Yang's decision to step down, the mood inside Yahoo, where morale has been low, was more muted. After learning of Mr. Yang's exit, Yahoo employees were hopeful that a new leader might turn the company around while still expressing affection for the co-founder, according to employees who declined to be named.

Yahoo senior vice presidents had discussed the news with Mr. Yang and other executives during a conference call late Monday evening, at which time Mr. Yang stressed that the transition had been in the works for a while, according to people familiar with the matter.

In many ways, Mr. Yang was better suited to building a young company than to steering a more-mature company in a crisis, say current and former employees. When Mr. Yang had the visionary's title of 'Chief Yahoo,' executives turned to him for insights about future trends. He drew fans as a beloved geek and cheerleader, hitting it off with engineers for his penchant for rattling off technical terms in casual conversation, current and former employees say.

Given Mr. Yang's passion for the company, employees were initially excited to see what change he could bring as CEO. Many decided to delay decisions to leave, waiting to see what he could do with the reins. But the mood changed quickly amid the perception that he began punting tough decisions -- such as whether Yahoo should sell its search business.

Mr. Yang's preference for letting employees reach consensus rather than make tough decisions himself sometimes backfired, creating bickering among employees without tangible results.

To prepare for a keynote presentation for the Consumer Electronics Show last year, he asked several senior Yahoo executives across different groups to brainstorm big company-wide projects to show off, according to four people familiar with the matter.

When executives asked for more guidance to help resolve their disputes, he told them to work together without much further detail, these people said. Mr. Yang eventually ended up showing off a number of products that the company still hasn't launched.

'The thing that Yahoo needs most is someone who can make decisions and who is comfortable with the risk of making fast decisions,' says one former executive.

'The mistakes he made were on the operational side by not reducing costs and increasing efficiency' fast enough, suggested Dona E. Roche-Tarry, a London-based technology recruiter for CTPartners, a U.S. search firm.

The board is also looking for a leader more engaged in discussions, say people familiar with the matter. While negotiating a long-simmering merger with Time Warner Inc.'s AOL deal, there was a perception among the board that Mr. Yang appeared reluctant to pull the trigger, according to people familiar with the situation, although there have been numerous other barriers to a deal, including price.

As early as August, Mr. Yang had been privately discussing his willingness to step aside when the timing was right. He began to discuss the idea with Yahoo Chairman Roy Bostock more frequently in recent weeks, as Yahoo's stock price continued to plummet, according to people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Bostock is leading an informal committee of directors in the search for a new chief executive, says one person familiar with the matter. Investor Carl Icahn, who was a vocal opponent of Mr. Yang's while waging a proxy fight he dropped in exchange for a seat on the Yahoo board, is not on the board search committee, according people familiar with the matter. Mr. Icahn could not be reached for comment.

The search is scheduled to conclude in the first quarter of next year. Yahoo's current president, Sue Decker, has raised her hand for the job, according to people familiar with the matter. But there are board and investor concerns that she is also partially to blame for Yahoo's current performance. Whether she will stay if she's passed over remains unclear.

Jessica E. Vascellaro and Joann S. Lublin
寻找“非杨致远型”帅才
雅虎公司(Yahoo Inc.)董事会寻找下任首席执行长的过程中,董事们正在从多方面挖掘“非杨致远型”(anti-Jerry)帅才。

在过去17个月中,雅虎创始人之一、首席执行长杨致远一直在试图用一种简单的管理模式来让公司重振旗鼓,即让各位高管放下分歧,从公司利益最大化的角度协同作战。

然而,公司内外都有人指出,在新品发布以及缔结战略同盟等较为困难的问题上,杨致远欠缺决断能力,这不仅影响了他的工作效率,而且也未能使雅虎摆脱当前困境。

周二,一直倍受打压的雅虎股票在纳斯达克飙升了逾9%,收于11.55美元。就在前一天,雅虎董事会宣布杨致远将在公司物色到合适继任者之后离职。

在寻找候选人的过程中,公司董事试图在杨致远的过往经历中寻找教训,看看如何才能找到一个更好的领导者,引领这家互联网巨头穿越多事之秋。

一位知情者表示,雅虎在执行方面是失败的;它的下任首席执行长不能仅仅是个思想家。

这位知情人透露,雅虎董事会希望候选人能有上佳的运营技巧,他们可以是高科技和传媒领域的资深人士,而非仅仅具有互联网从业背景。

另一位知情者则告诫说,雅虎以共识为导向、时而缺乏决断力的企业文化不能全怪罪到杨致远头上。但是也有人指出正是杨致远没能兑现自己打破旧习的诺言。

当华尔街因杨致远的离职而雀跃时,在一直士气低落的雅虎公司内部,人们的反应则显得更为静默。一些不愿透露姓名的员工表示,在得知杨致远请辞的消息后,虽然大家希望新首席执行长能带领公司走出困境,但他们对这位公司创始人仍存不舍之情。

据知情者表示,周一晚间,雅虎几位高级副总裁和杨致远以及其他高管在电话会议中讨论了后者的离职消息,当时杨致远强调工作的交接已经进行一段时间了。

雅虎现任及从前的雇员都表示,从许多方面来看,杨致远更适合创建一家年轻的公司,而不是在危机时刻掌管一家成熟企业。他们说,当杨致远把自己的职位定为充满幻想色彩的“雅虎酋长”(Chief Yahoo)时,公司高管希望从他那里得到关于未来趋势的真知灼见。他就像一个令人喜爱的明星一样吸引了众多“粉丝”,他总是在稀松平常的对话中连珠炮似地抖落出一大堆技术术语,仅凭这一点就能和公司的工程师们打成了一片。

考虑到杨致远对雅虎公司的一腔热情,员工们在最初得知他将担任首席执行长的消息时都为之一振,都想看看杨致远的上任将给公司带来什么变化。很多员工都推迟了离职计划,决定再等一等,且看执掌帅印的杨致远能采取些什么行动。然而,当杨致远开始在诸如是否该出售搜索业务的艰难决定上踯躅不前时,员工的士气很快发生了变化。

杨致远倾向于让公司员工共同讨论而非独自做出艰难决定,这种做法有时适得其反,只会令员工间徒生争论,又达不成实质决定。

据四位知情人士回忆,为了准备去年消费电子展(CES)的一篇主题陈述,杨致远要求雅虎不同部门的数位高管群策群力,共同敲定雅虎要展示的重大项目。

这些人士表示,管理人士曾要求杨致远提供更多指导意见以帮助他们化解争论,杨致远却要求他们在没有更多细节的情况下进行协作。最终,杨致远在那次展会上展示了一堆雅虎公司至今都没能推出的产品。

雅虎公司一位前管理人士表示,雅虎最需要的就是一个能拍板、敢拍板的人。

美国猎头公司CTPartners驻伦敦的科技行业招聘专员罗奇塔里(Dona E. Roche-Tarry)表示,杨致远在运营方面犯下的错误就是没有尽快削减成本并提高效率。

知情人士透露,雅虎董事会也想找一位更善于谈判的领导者。了解内情的人士称,在雅虎与时代华纳(Time Warner Inc.)旗下美国在线(AOL)开展如文火慢炖般的合并谈判时,雅虎董事会形成了一种印象,认为似乎是杨致远不愿意做出决定,尽管当时交易还存在价格等诸多其他障碍。

早在8月份,杨致远就曾私下谈到想在合适时间退居幕后。知情人士称,近几周来,随着雅虎股价持续重挫,杨致远开始更为频繁地和雅虎董事长博斯托克(Roy Bostock)讨论这个想法。

一位知情人士称,博斯托克目前领导着董事会一个非正式委员会,负责寻找新任首席执行长。知情人士透露,这个遴选委员会中没有投资家伊坎(Carl Icahn);伊坎曾意图发起委托书之争,但最终与雅虎达成和解换得一个董事席位,期间他多次公开批评杨致远。记者无法联系到伊坎对此置评。

遴选工作定于明年第一季度结束。知情人士称,雅虎现任总裁德克(Sue Decker)已表示希望得到这个职位。但董事会和投资者担心,德克也要对雅虎目前的状况负上一定责任。如果升任首席执行长无望,德克是否留任仍然是个未知数。

Jessica E. Vascellaro and Joann S. Lublin

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