5 Leadership Tips For Yahoo President & CEO Marissa Mayer

Dear Marissa,

I know I am NOT someone you would listen to. How dare am I to even want to talk to you and offer you advice, but after reading so many comments and complaints about the recent Yahoo Mail changes on my blog and on the Internet, I can’t help share a few common sense leadership tips with you, whether you like it or not, read it or not. It has bothered me so much lately, I just need to get it out of my mind.

As the President and CEO of a Fortune 500 company, I am sure you are a great leader. You are a leader with an almost celebrity status. As a woman, I am very proud of you for breaking the glass ceiling and leading one of the most recognized companies in the country and world.

But as you know, even the greatest leaders make mistakes; even the greatest leaders should still learn and grow to be better, or could use a few reminders from time to time. For this reason, I hope you don’t mind that I offer you some leadership advice.

1. Leaders are great communicators – They communicate clearly their visions, goals, objectives and changes that are forthcoming.

Yahoo Mail users were surprised by the recent changes. No clear and advanced communication, no choices to accept and decline the changes. How could you expect that customers would like the changes, especially when they are backwards and unproductive?

2. Leaders are good listeners – They actively listen to what others say and respond accordingly. Comments, feedbacks and constructive criticism are much appreciated and taken into consideration.

Have you listened to the public outcry in response to the Yahoo Mail redesign unveiled in October? Did you read the tens of thousands of users complaining on the Yahoo! Mail forum, comments on Facebook, to the articles and blog posts on the Internet, or the petition at Change.org with over 35,000 supporters to bring back the old format?

Unfortunately, Yahoo has been mostly unresponsive to the customer requests to return functions that Yahoo Mail users are accustomed to and love.

3. Leaders are change agents – Yes, leaders love to change and lead changes, but they don’t make changes just for change’s sake. They don’t change and fix something if it’s not broken. They make changes when something is not working.

So many Yahoo Mail users like me have been with Yahoo for over 10 years and are loyal customers.  They
prefer Yahoo Mail over Google’s Gmail for a reason. Why did you take that reason away and push the customers away? It doesn’t make sense.

4. Leaders have courage – Leaders are risk takers, they have the courage to accept challenges and try new things, but they also have the courage to hold themselves and others accountable when something is wrong. They have the courage to admit mistakes and take responsibilities.

I am sure you had good intention with the new redesign of Yahoo Mail, but it didn’t work out the way you hoped for. Customers hate it and want the old functions back. Why not just say: “Sorry, we screwed up,” and correct the mistakes?

5. Leaders build trust and credibility – Trust and credibility are foundations of leadership and relationship and good customer services. When you lose trust and credibility, you lose customers.

As the result of the Yahoo Mail redesign and the unresponsiveness of Yahoo leadership, flocks of long term and loyal Yahoo Mail users have switched, or will be switching to Google Gmail.

I can’t help but wonder whether you are more loyal to Yahoo, your current employer, or to Google, your formal employer. With your action, you are probably creating more customers for Google than for Yahoo. You are helping Google more than Yahoo and creating more business for your competitor. Yahoo’s loss is Google’s gain.

I sincerely hope that you will really listen to the customer feedback and have the courage to change for the better, not worse.


Qin Tang

(Once a content, but now one of the many frustrated Yahoo Mail users)