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选CEO如何避免雅虎式悲剧

Dennis Carey 2012年05月14日

雅虎刚刚上任不到半年的CEO因为简历注水丑闻闪电离职,雅虎备受诟病的CEO招聘问题再次引起广泛关注。如何在这个事关公司前途和命运的重大问题上避免雅虎式的滑铁卢,这个问题值得深思。

    美国一部分顶级公司未能进行严格的背景调查,确保CEO候选人是带领公司迎接未来挑战的最佳人选,结果在众目睽睽之下遭遇滑铁卢。上周,雅虎(Yahoo)就尝到了这样的苦果,这家公司的CEO斯科特•汤普森被曝简历造假。

    当初主导此次CEO筛选并最终选定汤普森的雅虎董事帕蒂•哈特已计划退出董事会。对于目前服务于财富500强公司董事会的4,000多名高管或考虑加入这些董事会的人,雅虎事件无疑敲响了警钟。

    如果这些问题在CEO任命前没有浮出水面,结果可能导致这家公司以及来自其他公司、但是服务与这家公司董事会的高管在众目睽睽之下陷入窘境,同时会动摇股东和员工对管理层的信心。学历核查并不难。难的是要从市场领域获得实实在在的数据,确保入选的CEO能胜任这份工作。惠普(Hewlett-Packard)就是一个例子,去年在李艾科的领导下这家公司的市值缩水了40%。最近,惠普一位董事告诉我们,李艾科是被“推销给董事会的”,“这种情况不会再发生了”。

    类似的失误不光出现在雅虎,也出现在摩托罗拉(Motorola)、可口可乐(Coke)和宝洁(Procter & Gamble)等公司中。一旦发现选错人,指责之声便会四起,人们首先就会质问:“为什么我们以前不知道这些情况?”优秀的公司会建立体系,确保能够做到这一点。比如,宝洁第二次就取得了极大的成功,它在组织内部深入挖掘,根据更充分的信息进行筛选,最终选定了雷富礼(A.G. Lafley)。

    很多公司CEO招聘看走眼,最后只能一拍两散,皆因信息不足和过于放权,过于依赖第三方的工作。幸运的是,要改善这个流程有很多工作可以做。

    要弄清候选人能为公司带来什么以及他/她与未来的职责和公司文化是否相符,企业不能停留于粗浅的背景调查。不同于其他高管职位,CEO候选人的背景调查比较特殊,因为很多时候候选人都没有做过CEO。

    下面三种措施可以帮助企业避免雅虎式的困境:

确保董事会的参与

    帕蒂•哈特退出雅虎董事会,凸显了很重要的一点:招聘CEO是董事会的重要职责,因此背景调查应该始于董事、终于董事。即使是与第三方、如猎头公司合作时,董事会也不能完全放手不管。董事们应该核查背景调查,如果他们与证明人有私人关系的话就更是如此。如果董事会打算像很多公司那样,完全依赖第三方进行背景调查,董事们需要确保第三方能获得候选人管理经历的“内部一手资料”。我们看到过太多董事会完全放手的结果。结果并不美妙。

    Some of the best companies in the U.S. have failed, very publicly, to rigorously check references on CEO candidates to ensure that they are the right fit for the company's challenges ahead. Yahoo learned this lesson the hard way last week when it was revealed that their CEO, Scott Thompson, padded his resume.

    Now Yahoo (YHOO) board member Patti Hart, who led the executive search that resulted in Thompson's hiring, plans to step down from the board. For the more than 4,000 executives currently serving on Fortune 500 boards, or considering joining one, these events concerning Yahoo should be a wake-up call.

    When these issues are not surfaced before the CEO is hired, the result can be both public embarrassment – for the company and the executives from other companies that serve on its board – and a jolt to shareholder and employee confidence in leadership. And checking academic pedigrees is the easy part. The more difficult challenge is getting the hard data from the market to ensure that your CEO pick is right for the job. Just look at Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), where shareholders were stripped of 40% of their stock value under Leo Apotheker last year. One HP director recently told us that Apotheker had been "sold to the board" and "that won't happen again."

    Similar misfires have happened not only at Yahoo but also at companies like Motorola (MSI), Coke (KO), and Procter & Gamble (PG). When the wrong person is picked, recriminations and questions immediately begin with, "Why didn't we know this before?" The best companies put in place systems to ensure that they do. P&G, for example, was highly successful the next time around because it dug deeper into the organization and based CEO selection on better information, which led to the selection of CEO A.G. Lafley.

    Many companies make a final hiring decision with too little information and too much delegation, and rely too heavily on third parties to get the job done. Fortunately, there is a great deal that can be done to improve the process.

    Companies must go beyond superficial referencing to determine what a candidate can contribute and how he or she aligns with the future imperatives and culture of the company. But unlike referencing for other senior executive positions, referencing for CEO contenders is tricky because in many cases the person up for the job has never been a CEO before.

    Here are three ways in which companies can avoid a Yahoo-like debacle:

Make sure the board is involved

    Patti Hart's departure from Yahoo's board underscores a crucial point: Hiring the CEO goes to the heart of a board's fiduciary duties, so it makes sense that referencing begins and ends with the directors. Even when working with a third party, such as a search firm, boards should never completely hand off the referencing process. Directors should be a check on referencing, especially if they have a personal relationship with a reference. If a board is going to rely on a third party to take care of the referencing process, as many companies do, the directors need to make sure that that group can get the "inside scoop" on how a candidate leads. We've seen the consequences of boards that relinquish control of the referencing process. It's not pretty.

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