Raise your hand if you’ve heard this: “It’s a great place to work, but the leaders there communicate too much relevant information. They tell us about growth plans, and marketing challenges, and changes that are coming, and how it affects us. It’s too much. I wish they would stop.”
It rarely happens, if ever.
Ten years ago, when we integrated a leadership practice into our public relations firm, we did so on the premise that an organization’s communication strategy is typically a reflection with its leadership and its values.
But we’ve found a more practical, day-to-day connection between the two disciplines: Most leadership problems are rooted in poor communication. This can be particularly true – and especially pronounced – during periods of rapid change or growth. For many, change causes anxiety. Add “the great unknown” on top of change, and you’ve got a recipe for major discontent.
Internal communication is one of the biggest blind spots for leaders, according to two professors at Duke University, whose class I was privileged to take. Usually, it’s unintentional.
Many leaders are so focused on strategy and execution, they overlook their closest allies; they don’t incorporate it into their blueprint. Some assume that if their inner circle knows something, then “everyone knows.” Some believe their employees don’t want to be bothered with information.
But the most common thinking among leaders is, “Didn’t we already tell them in a memo three months ago? What more do they want?”
That may have worked at your grandfather’s workplace, when employees didn’t feel it was their place to ask questions; or when change came at a slower pace; or when people weren’t distracted and inundated with information.
But it doesn’t work today. Internal communication – especially about change – isn’t a one-and-done activity. It’s an ongoing activity. Ideally, it reaches across multiple channels – online, in person, video, print – and through multiple messengers. It shouldn’t be one-way. Effective leaders offer information, but they also open themselves for questions and feedback, whether it’s during town halls, brown-bag lunches, online, or some other forum. Strong communication is a continuous loop.
Recently during a training session for organizations that are undergoing major change, I asked about the biggest challenges they faced: culture, processes, scale, finances, focus, et cetera. Internal communication won by a landslide.
Obviously, this isn’t a revelation. So why don’t we start? More to the point, why would we ever stop?
Some people complain that baseball is slow. But if you contemplate every possible scenario between every play, it’s a miracle we ever finish a game.
With each pitch, hundreds of data points come together to form a plan for everyone on the field – pitcher, fielders, batter, runners. The successful anticipation of those scenarios and the response to the execution forms the basis for Situational Leadership.
Years ago, management gurus Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey formed their hypothesis for Situational Leadership. Their theory was that leadership is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different. It’s the leader’s responsibility to understand these differences, and lead accordingly.
What the study did not consider, however, was the situation. (Ironic, considering its name.) It’s not enough to understand the tendencies of your team members. You must take a 360-degree view of the situation.
Earlier this month in the Major League playoffs, Atlanta Braves pitcher Darren O’Day walked the first two St. Louis Cardinal batters. Conventional wisdom is for the Cardinals to bunt, thus moving both runners into scoring position. There was a problem. The next batter, Paul DeJong, had not bunted all year. He did, however, have 30 home runs. And he had an exceptionally high walk-rate against left-handed pitchers. O’Day is a leftie.
The Cardinals also had to factor in the speed of the base runners, Harrison Bader and Tommy Edman. They could advance easily on a sacrifice bunt. And in theory, isn’t that one of the easiest plays to execute?
Here, in one at-bat, Situational Leadership comes into play. Leaders must fully understand the strengths of each player. They must also consider the situation. Every game brings new scenarios. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t always work. Situational Leadership requires:
• Flexibility. Leaders and team members must be able to adapt to the moment.
• Courage. Most leaders stick to one way of doing things – whatever has worked in the past. The situational leader is not afraid to take chances if the situation demands it.
• Vision. It’s not just the play at hand. It’s how it affects the game three plays from now.
• Humility. The situational leader doesn’t know it all. They must accept limitations and responsibility.
A single would score one, a double would score two. After bunting one foul, DeJong took two, then swung. He flew out to left. The runners retreated and no one advanced.
Situational Leadership requires courage and risk-taking. It also takes humility.
The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) – Tulsa Chapter honored our very own Steve Turnbo with the first —The Steve Turnbo Lifetime Achievement Award this month during the annual Silver Link Awards.
The chapter recognized Steve for his 40-year career as a public relations professional in Tulsa, as well as his work mentoring the next generation of PRSA members. PRSA Tulsa plans to take nominations for the Steve Turnbo Lifetime Achievement Award, but they will only bestow the award upon someone who has invested in public relations and Tulsa with the same dedication as Steve.
A die-hard University of Tulsa fan, Steve began his career as the sports information director at The University of Tulsa. Three years later, he joined one of Oklahoma’s largest advertising firms where he worked his way up to vice president of the public relations division. In 1981, Steve started his own PR firm and later merged with Schnake and Associates, Inc. to create Schnake, Turnbo and Associates.
Throughout his career, Steve has given so much of his time to his community. His civic involvements include The University of Tulsa board of trustees, the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation, Domestic Violence Intervention Service, Tulsa Regional Chamber and more.
Many professionals at this year’s Silver Link Awards spoke on Steve’s contributions to Tulsa, his steady mentorship and his kind friendship. The awards also recognized campaigns and tactics on a wide variety of subjects from sustainability to Medicaid to higher education. Michelle Brooks with the City of Tulsa received the Young Professional of the Year Award, and STF alum Kari Shults received the Public Relations Professional of the Year Award for her work at Tulsa Community College.
Since 1952, the Public Relations Society of America Tulsa Chapter has provided more than 100 members in the public relations, journalism, communications, advertising and marketing industries a sense of community and strategic professional development. The PRSA Tulsa Chapter hosts monthly luncheon networking opportunities and supports members as they seek accreditation in public relations (APR).
The Silver Link Awards is a way for Tulsa’s public relations community to gather for dinner and good company as we recognize the best in our field across a variety of categories. And this year it was all about Steve Turnbo.
If it seems listening has become a hot topic among leadership experts, there’s good reason: We’re not very good at it.
We’re living in an age of noise, disagreement and distraction. Everyone, it seems – political pundits, sports commentators, social media users – is talking over one another. We’re so eager to make our point that we don’t allow others to make theirs.
If we do extend them the courtesy, oftentimes we’re not present. We’re busy thinking about what we’ll say next. Sometimes, we can’t even wait until they finish their point – the one we’re not hearing – because we’ve thought of another point, and we interrupt them to make it.
Our firm’s founder, Chuck Schnake, was a stickler for listening. And by listening, I don’t mean simply being quiet. Chuck was a proponent for understanding.
In reviewing his writings, I’m struck by the recurring themes. First is one of deeds – doing what’s right. Second is listening. Interesting that a communication firm established itself on deeds and listening. There’s very little in Chuck’s notes about talking and writing.
In a document he titled “The Care and Feeding of Clients,” Chuck wrote, “Ask questions. Learn the language of the business. Learn the business itself. Listen to answers. Study the persona – likes, dislikes, political leaning, family, food, religion.”
In another, called “The Heart of Public Relations Counseling,” he advises, “Listen. You can’t begin to help a client until you know where he or she is coming from, and the only way to find out is to ask questions and listen.”
Even for a man of his generation – born in 1931 – he was an advocate for technology. Early in the advent of social media, Chuck implored us to pay attention. He studied up on blogs and digital media breakthroughs. Chuck was one of the first in our firm to have a Twitter account. He understood the potential impact of a social media-driven world.
But I’m certain today, Chuck would admonish anyone who kept checking text messages, news alerts and Facebook status updates during a one-on-one conversation.
Last month our firm hosted the second Inclusion and Diversity Summit in Oklahoma City. On a day filled with wisdom, the words of one speaker, LaTricia Hill-Chandler of Arvest Bank, stand out:
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”
WHAT: Our Inclusion & Diversity Summit is a full-day conference featuring experts from around the city, state and region focused on integrating inclusion and diversity initiatives into organizations. The Summit will feature two keynote speakers, along with breakout sessions and interactive discussions. These experts will share their knowledge, best practices and insights on issues ranging from corporate culture to supplier diversity, to ROI. Learn how to design effective programs using the industry’s best practices, discover new strategies that have been successful at corporations across the country, and examine the business case for corporate I&D programs. from an economical and cultural standpoint.
“Developing a Culture of Inclusion” – Eran Harrill (Small Business/Organization Track)
3 p.m. Afternoon Keynote
“The Power of Inclusion!” – LaTricia Hill-Chandler, Arvest Bank
4 p.m. Wrap Up
MORE QUESTIONS? email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT STF: Schnake Turnbo Frank is an Oklahoma-based organization that delivers strategic communication and management consulting services. Since 1970, STF has consistently provided direction and the necessary tools to ensure their client’s success in the office, community and online. The firm has offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
When I was named partner, I recall a conversation with our firm’s founder, the late Chuck Schnake.
“I sense that I need to rise up a step,” I said. “But I’m not sure what that means. Or what it looks like. Or how to get there.” (If you’re now wondering how I made partner, I don’t blame you.)
Those of us who knew Chuck recall his “side of the hill” analogy.
“You spend much of your day digging a ditch,” he said. “Head down, working hard. But occasionally, you need to go up on the side of the hill. Take a look at the bigger picture, get some perspective.”
Chuck’s metaphor was spot-on for a many scenarios, from athletics, to creativity, to personal growth. It’s especially true for organizational leadership.
Making the transition from “management” to “leadership” isn’t always easy. It’s a gradual shift. You don’t flip a switch into a new role. And it’s rarely one or the other – most people in leadership still work in management.
While there’s some overlap, there are ways to differentiate between the two disciplines.
Management typically means dealing with what’s in front of you – projects, budgets, staffing, deliverables. Leadership means looking ahead. A hallmark of great leadership is to look over the horizon, anticipate what’s coming and develop a strategy.
Management is concrete. Leadership is abstract.
Management is more task-oriented. Leadership is people-oriented.
Management has a narrower focus, but deeper in details. Leadership means a broader focus, not as deep.
Some leaders struggle to let go of previous day-to-day tasks. This is the expertise that’s fueled your career; you’ve built your reputation around it. Now you’re being asked to back off.
Leaders owe it to themselves and others to stay out of the weeds. Doing so empowers your team and entrusts confidence.
Not letting go is often symptomatic of other things. It could mean you don’t have the right people in place. If so, develop them or make a change.
It could mean you don’t believe they can do it as well as you. You may be right. But show some grace; allow them to succeed on their own merits.
Or it could mean you’re clinging to your old duties as a security blanket. If so, make a clean break. Recommit yourself to your new role.
It’s the only way you’ll get the headspace needed to prosper in your new role.
We’re super excited to welcome two interns to our Tulsa office this semester! Stephanie Wimberly (left, from Oral Roberts University) and Madeline Roper (right, The University of Oklahoma).
Stephenie Wimberly, a Tulsa native, is a graduate of Union High School and Tulsa Community College. She graduated from TCC with an Associate’s Degree in Marketing, and, currently, Stephenie attends Oral Roberts University. She will graduate in December of 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in Advertising and Public Relations.
For the past two years, she has spent her summers traveling by boat along the Amazon River in Brazil. She has a passion for helping people and loves to learn about different cultures. Plus, she really loves Brazilian food! Some of her favorite memories include making new friends despite a language barrier, playing with cute Brazilian children, speedboating through the Amazon River, and going alligator hunting at night.
A native Tulsan, Madeline Roper graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2019 and returned home to pursue a career in strategic communications. She joined the firm as an intern for Fall 2019.
Throughout her time at OU, Madeline honed her communications skills both inside and outside of the classroom. She served as Vice-Chair of Publicity for OU’s High School Leadership Conference. HSLC brings 300 high school juniors to OU’s campus for leadership development and college preparation. She also served as Chair of Crimson Club, OU’s official student ambassadors and historians. In these roles, she wrote and edited copy, managed social media, and planned events.
Help us welcome Madeline and Stephanie to our STF Family. If you’re interested in learning more about our internship program, visit the careers tab of our website.
A few weeks ago, one of my business partners and I spent time with four executives who argued relentlessly and disagreed about everything.
Positions were staked. Sides were taken. Everyone dug in.
It was awesome. In fact, it was one of the healthiest, most productive groups we’ve facilitated in months.
Many people think conflict management is synonymous with conflict avoidance. To the contrary, conflict in an organization – when it’s healthy, productive, and professional – should be welcome and, in fact, pursued.
Far too often, conflict and disagreements remain unspoken. Some people choose not to verbalize their disagreement; they keep it to themselves. Worse yet, some people take their beefs to someone else, a co-worker whom they hope to win over as an ally.
These actions may prevent the initial awkwardness of open disagreements. But they can result in resentment, spite, or an undercurrent of mistrust. On a larger scale, a conflict-averse culture means that good ideas – that could ultimately improve revenue or organizational health – are not voiced. And that’s not fair to your colleagues or organization.
When it’s done right, healthy conflict opens the lines of honest communication. It removes hidden agendas and challenges the status quo. It ensures that the best ideas are presented, debated, and fully considered.
The operative word here is “healthy.” What does healthy conflict look like?
First, it’s not personal. Challenge the behavior or the idea, but don’t hit below the belt. Keep it professional and be honest, even if it stings a bit.
Second, healthy conflict doesn’t give you a license to steamroll over the people with whom you disagree. You have to listen. Keep an open mind. Consider others’ viewpoints. Good conflict isn’t just a one-way ticket for you to “give them a piece of my mind.”
Third, pay attention to how you respond when someone disagrees with or challenges you. The surest way to kill an environment of open dialogue is to instinctively dismiss or disrespect the person who brings it to you. They’re showing trust that you’ll receive the feedback as you had intended. When you receive it like a pro, and you’re reciprocating that trust and respect.
And finally, even if you can’t agree, find some sort of resolution. Don’t let it damage your relationship or impede progress of the organization. Figure out how to coexist with your disagreements.
Organizations thrive when people learn how to disagree openly, passionately, and respectfully.
Russ Florence is a partner at Schnake Turnbo Frank and shares a monthly column with the Journal Record.
Hannah Jackson recently chatted with Mike Averill with the Tulsa World about PR life and the impact of working with non-profits.
You were recently promoted to vice president of the Tulsa office. What is your role in that new position?
My first priority was to find a new balance. I’ve spent more than five years solely focused on clients, and I am now officially leading the Tulsa team. Ensuring I didn’t fail either of them during the transition was a top priority. Now that I’m six months in, the rhythm is right.
In the long term, I hope to engage more clients in our spectrum of services. One of the best parts of working in both PR (public relations) and leadership consulting is the level of impact we can have with a client. We can help with organizational change and the LinkedIn strategy to promote it. We can conduct an inclusion audit and provide leadership coaching to correct it.
When did you realize you wanted a career in public relations, and what led you in that direction?
My first introduction to public relations was my dad telling me that a “chatterbox” should go into the communications field. His parental guidance led me to UCO and later OSU-Tulsa, where I studied journalism and strategic communications.
Early on in my career, I enjoyed the variety in what I did every day, but I had not fully comprehended the impact.
I didn’t truly fall in love with PR until about 10 years ago, when I started to see the true impact of community relations, solid messaging and a good communications strategy.
With a motivating message, you can help a nonprofit raise more money; with the right television media placement, you can help feed more kids at free summer meal sites; with effective presentation skills, an entrepreneur can successfully communicate a big idea to his funders; and with good research on a target audience, you can get a school bond passed.
What is the most rewarding project you’ve worked on over the years?
I named a building once. I am inappropriately delighted every time I pass it.
But building-naming aside, I’ve had some amazing opportunities to help organizations. I have helped nonprofits hire CEOs and ensure the continued success of their mission; I have helped banks communicate brand changes in a way that both millennials and retirees can comprehend; I have helped energy companies launch social media and connect with their global employees in a way they haven’t in decades.
The PR field requires lifelong learning. I’ve learned about a range of topics thanks to this profession: manufacturing, fundraising, chemistry, education, Medicaid expansion, apartment management, employee recruitment and nutrition policy. And I combine it with our unique skill set to develop relationships with the right people, build understanding among stakeholders and, ultimately, create incremental positive changes.
All that to say — It’s hard to pick one rewarding project. But it’s somewhere between helping bring Trader Joe’s to Tulsa, helping connect homeless Tulsans to housing, protecting a grieving family, announcing Tulsa’s Mental Health Plan, giving someone the skills to speak on camera and … yes, also naming a building.
You have worked a lot with area nonprofits in your professional life. Are there any groups you are involved with outside of work?
I am thrilled that Tulsa now has an Advisory Council for Planned Parenthood of the Great Plains (which is the affiliate serving four states, including the Tulsa area). Health care access is a huge priority for me. Whether you’re homeless, without insurance or in need of birth control, access to care is a basic human right.
I also serve on the board for Global Gardens, an amazing Tulsa-based program that teaches kids about science and peace through inquiry-based learning. Students learn to grow and cook beets while also learning to communicate sadness or frustration. Their educators and student outcomes are incomparable, and I wish every child in Tulsa could participate.
On a lighter note: Last spring, my friend Terah and I also partnered with the Equality Center to launch a monthly meetup called the LGBT Women’s Network. There’s no formal programming, just an easy way to meet queer women in a safe space while highlighting LGBT-friendly Tulsa bars and restaurants.
What is something about you that people would be surprised to find out?
I was the kicker and wide receiver for a semi-pro women’s football team during college.
One summer day when I was a kid, I walked into my grandparents’ house to get a drink of water, only to hear what sounded like a fire-and-brimstone sermon from the back bedroom. If clouds were to part; if lightning were to strike; if thunder were to rattle the house – now would be the time.
Who was delivering this spirited, divine message? And just as importantly (at least to my 7-year-old ears), who was on the receiving end?
The answer to the first question was my Uncle Keith. He was a teenager, but already had determined he would be a minister. He had been invited to preach at the Free Will Baptist Church in Poteau that Sunday.
So, on that day, he was practicing. All by himself, in an empty room.
Some leadership and communication skills can be learned by reading, or observing, or thinking. Public speaking isn’t one of them. You have to practice.
Our firm’s founder, Chuck Schnake, was a disciple of leadership guru Marshall Goldsmith, whose best-known book is What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. The premise is that what gets you hired out of college – and what gets you promoted through the first half of your career – bears little resemblance to what gets you to the C-suite.
The higher you advance, the more important the soft skills, like interpersonal communication, emotional IQ, performance management, vision, conflict management – and presentation skills.
According to a study by Forbes, 86% of executives say good presentation skills helped advance their careers. That’s an astounding number.
If, for example, you’re a young petroleum geologist at an oil and gas company, you’ll earn your stripes by being an excellent geologist. But that alone doesn’t punch your ticket to the top. It requires communication and “people” skills.
Indeed, “what got you here won’t get you there.”
Our firm routinely works with executives who wish to sharpen their communication skills, whether it’s talking to the media, holding employee town halls, or preparing a shareholder presentation. The only way to learn, in our view, is to prepare, get on your feet, deliver your message, get constructive feedback, and then practice again.
Baseball players don’t become great hitters only by reading books and watching videos. To be the best they can be, they spend hours in the batting cage. Swing, after swing, after swing.