You have to wonder what they’re thinking when directors snap up CEOs with records of spectacular failure.
Robert Nardelli from Home Depot to Chrysler; Don Carty from American Airlines to Virgin Airlines; and George Shaheen from Webvan to Siebel. All went down in flames, yet ejected unharmed.
And the poster child of serially failed CEOs, Carl Yankowski. He had a good run at Sony but later blew it: first Reebok, for 14 months as sales dropped almost 10% in the first nine months of 1999. Then Palm, where things looked good briefly but tanked amid his repeated missteps. Next, gaming company Majesco for less than a year and then Ambient Devices, a small firm wowed by Yankowski’s credentials.
Some executives evidently base their hiring decisions on appearances: fluffed-up résumés, a devil you know, a big name. And any kind of experience at the CEO level apparently trumps any actual success.
“We were all impressed that someone with these qualifications could be wooed,” says one. “You’ve heard of these companies.”
“It seemed like it was a good résumé,” says another. “He was clearly the ‘world-class CEO.’”
Lesson: Don’t bet on it. Hire for demonstrated results, not big names.
— Adapted from “Failure Is an Option,” Carmen Nobel, Portfolio.com.
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