Wednesday, August 11, 2004

About Time 

Fast Company, the new-age business magazine, has a cute but well-targeted story on CEOs' television appearances. In the US, there is a parade of CEOs on business news programs of CNBC, CNNfn, CNN and Fox.

The writer ranked each CEO by appearance and presentation and then appended the rise in the stock price surrounding the appearance. This is unfair, of course, because an appearance is unlikely to be the only factor in boosting stock price. But, the comments about how CEOs handled themselves were interesting and to a degree, painful. They were not always up to the stories they were presenting.

Where are the media trainers? I'll answer that question. Media trainers would love to work with CEOs, but most CEOs don't have time or interest. They make a calculation about where their time is the most valuable, and they place little worth on presentation skills. This problem starts at the beginning of a manager's business education. Business schools spend little or no time on communications. For every hour spent running spreadsheets, there is less than a minute on coaching students how to write and speak well. The feeling is that such things are "soft" stuff and not quantitative "hard" stuff like finance. Finance professors drive the curricula, and schools gain reputations on the number of calculus-laden articles printed in journals no businessperson would read.

Yet, when you interview CEOs who are successful, they will tell you that communications are one of the most important things they do. They cannot place enough emphasis on the need to let everyone know what is going on and what expectations are.

Does that strike you as contradictory? Communications are important but we don't have to know much about communicating? It is and slowly, too slowly, some CEOs and business schools are asking if that position makes sense.

I hope they find an answer before too long.


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