Be heard above the Electronic Din

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From Fast Company, by Christopher Percy Collier, October 2005

Email, instant messaging, Web conferencing, blogs. So many new ways of communicating–and yet they’ve paradoxically made it harder for leaders to get their messages across effectively. As the number of virtual communication methods continues to expand–have you started your video blog yet?–we spoke with Alan L. Nelson, a partner in the communication strategy consultancy CRA Inc., for guidance. He has worked with leaders at companies such as McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and Capital One to help them embrace these tools, understand how and when to use them, and make sure they can get their messages across.

1. Match the Medium To the Message.

You don’t fire 10,000 people in an email. You don’t announce a major restructuring via Webcast. Choose the appropriate tool for each communication event based on the complexity of your message and its strategic importance. As the significance rises, so does the need to meet face-to-face. You may have a full quiver of devices, but not all will hit the bull’s-eye.

2. Be Obsessively On Message.

Ten years ago, there were fewer ways to address a company and few opportunities to do it. Now it’s the inverse. Employees get 500 emails a day. Messages from the CEO don’t register like they used to. In order to be heard, leaders must beat the same drum. “Find a way to tie what you’re saying into the bigger message,” says Nelson. “Or don’t communicate it.””

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Grist: Save the Founder

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From Inc Magazine, by Adam Hanft

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard it, I could start another business: Entrepreneurs are passionate people, great at building companies, but only to a certain level.

As their enterprises reach maturity, these impatient, impetuous founders need to be replaced by ‘professional’ managers. It’s a stereotype that’s become a truism. In VC land they even have a name for the problem: founderitis.

The most recent public eruption of this hypothesis occurred when celebrated its 10th anniversary, and the media openly wondered whether it was time for Jeff Bezos to surrender control. Give me a break. That same logic came close to destroying Apple. You know the story: In 1985, convinced the company had outgrown its founder, the board dismissed Steve Jobs and handed the reins to John Scully – a packaged-goods guy, a branding maven, whom Jobs had wooed from Pepsi two years earlier. Scully, of course, failed either to expand the company in the computer market or to innovate elsewhere, and in 1993 was replaced by Michael Spindler, who in turn was replaced by Gil Amelio – neither of whom did much better. Jobs returned as interim CEO in 1997, dropped the interim in 2000, and the rest is white-earbud history.

The lesson is obvious. The notion that entrepreneurs outlive their usefulness is both stunningly wrong-headed and potentially dangerous — especially now. It’s universally acknowledged that today’s business environment is faster-moving and more unpredictable than ever. And those are precisely the conditions that cry out for more, not less, of the founder’s restless spirit. Indeed, the very skills and qualities that gave rise to a business at the outset are what’s needed when companies find themselves in a constant state of re-creation. No business, however “mature,” needs mere tending. But all businesses require sparking. Entrepreneurship needs to be a chronic condition.”

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