To some, the thought of developing relationships with co-workers is a daunting idea. But it can lead to valuable partnerships which are mutually beneficial in business. And if that’s not enough, these relationships are sure to come in handy the next time you’re on a tight deadline or need some support.

Here are three quick tips for improving your relationship with co-workers. 

1. Remember the rule of reciprocity. In simple terms, the more you help people, the more they help you. But there are a couple of caveats: First, it must be authentic. If your only motive is one of “you owe me one,” your co-workers will see right through it. Be sincere. Secondly, it must be an ongoing, everyday occurrence. Those who give, receive. Develop a true partnership of reciprocity and you’ll find that others are eager to help when they realize its value. For a deep dive on the subject, I recommend the book Influence by Robert Cialdini.

2. Get together, away. Go for a run with your co-worker. Play golf together. Go to a game, catch some live music, go to lunch. Get away from the work environment – and then, don’t talk about work. You might be surprised at the common ground you’ll find and you’ll discover a whole new way to connect.

3. Don’t shy away from conflict or disagreements. Wait. Conflict can IMPROVE your relationships with co-workers? Yes, IF they are handled properly. Healthy, productive conflicts can be good for a relationship. It demonstrates that you can civilly work through work issues together. This, in turn, builds trust and respect – two of the most vital aspects of a good business relationship.

Russ Florence is the president and chief operating officer of STF  and an expert in all things strategic communications.  He brings a broad range of expertise to clients, including strategic planning, media relations, crisis communications and reputation management. 

Every week I read another article in Forbes, Harvard Business Review or Inc. about the importance of succession planning. Most discuss how vital succession planning is for organizations. Although I couldn’t agree more, we often see clients struggle in one particular area, following through with development. It is fairly easy to outline the ideal structure of an organization—who the top leaders should be, what their profile and competencies will look like, and then identifying potential successors.

The hard part, however, is the development plan for those high-potential leaders. Development can be broken down into three areas and following through on each of these is where we usually see organizations fall short.

1. Technical Skills
If a particular person is being considered for an executive level position, it is important to know they possess the necessary technical skills. Does the potential CFO really have the strategic, financial and decision-making knowledge needed for that role? What about the successor of the CEO—do they fully understand all of the operations and business models in the organization? These are all very important questions to consider.

2. Soft Skills
If your organization is looking to put someone in an externally-facing role, such as the CEO mentioned above, and they’ve always been in an internally-facing role, do they have the soft skills they need to influence, inspire and motivate people? Can they work well and form relationships with the board? When a person is in an executive position, they need to not only have the technical skills, but be likeable and a good cultural fit.

3. Key Relationships
Relationship building is a necessary part of the business, and the successor must be positioned well with not only the rest of the executive team and the board or directors, but also with current peers, clients and key community leaders.

Often times we’ll see organizations focus primarily on only technical skills and neglect soft skills, or only look at the politics of key relationships. Not following through on each of these when formulating the development plan will make the learning curve a lot steeper for the successor and there will be a much higher likelihood of failure.

If you have any thoughts or questions on succession planning and following through, feel free to comment below.

Aaron Fulkerson is the EVP and CAO of STF and an expert in management consulting practices.  He has executed succession plans for a variety of clients nationally, including corporations, universities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.

An executive search may be one of the most rewarding processes an organization can go through. Although the process can be tedious when the search is done right the return on investment is immensely valuable.

When conducting executive searches for clients, we generally see them looking to fill an externally facing role. The organization is looking for a new face and image, and someone who can represent their organization well. A person with an externally facing role will make impressions on people in 15 seconds or less—when it comes to the success of your organization, first impressions absolutely matter.

With that in mind, here are three things to keep in mind for when looking for the right candidate, all stemming from first impressions:

1. Overall Courtesy
When filling an executive role, having someone who is courteous is a must. We consider how the candidate treated our administrative assistants and people waiting in the lobby. Were they outgoing and friendly or did they burrow down and look at their phone? Did they say thank you and engage in a conversation?  This is something we look for as it gives a glimpse into how they will treat others when representing an organization.

2. Follow Up
Follow up is an important factor to consider. Not only does it show us they are serious about the position, but it also keeps them on our radar due to the high volume of applicants during an executive search.  We look for follow-up emails and hand written notes thanking us for our time. These things constantly remind us of their presence.

3. Research
Research seems like a given when a person is in a job search, but that’s not always the case. The most successful applicants we’ve seen thoroughly do their research. During an executive search decisions are generally made by a committee and the research a candidate does in advance not only shows their knowledge of the organization, but makes the committee feel warm and cared about. This is important because if the candidate does this for the committee they will likely do the same in their position when they are building relationships on the organizations behalf.

Aaron Fulkerson is the EVP and CFO of STF and an expert in management consulting practices.  He has completed executive searches for a variety of clients nationally including corporations, universities and nonprofits.

I turned 54 last week.

Each birthday, I’m reminded of how much I love the aging process, odd as that may sound; maybe not so much for the slowing down of the metabolism, but for how much I’ve learned about life and about leadership. I think about the experiences I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made and the successes I’ve enjoyed, and how each opportunity continues to mold who I am and what’s important to me.

No matter our age, as life rolls along, we need to stay mindful of assessing our growth and the direction we’re headed.   We need to regularly assess our destination and push ourselves toward accomplishing new meaningful achievements.

I’ve realized in the executive coaching I do, that some professionals are so focused on the monetary and recognition success path, it can sometimes lead them down a very lonely path and, in turn, they lose their ability to be an inspirational leader because they are unhappy and unfulfilled.

We must stay focused on seeking enriching opportunities.

In coaching, I encourage my clients to read Dr. Seuss’ Oh, the Places You’ll Go! which takes them back to a real simple place where they can dream about where they’re headed and what they want to do.   The book reads:


            Today is your day.
            You’re off to Great Places!
            You’re off and away!

I am about to embark on what I’m certain will be one of the most meaningful experiences and opportunities and something that provides me great purpose as the Tulsa Area United Way 2013 Campaign Chair.  I have such a strong sense of responsibility in providing leadership of a campaign which impacts the lives of more than 630,000 people in our region.  It’s exciting, exhilarating and certainly a little scary.  But I’m motivated and I’m energized to get started.

No matter our age, we need to continue to assess our priorities and get off high center.

            Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
            Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
            you’re off to Great Places!
            Today is your day!
            Your mountain is waiting.
            So…get on your way!

Becky Frank is the Chairman and CEO of STF and an expert in community outreach. She has created and executed wide-sweeping plans for a variety of clients nationally including corporations, universities, nonprofits and faith-based organizations.

Blog also published in the Journal Record

Reputation is essential for any business to thrive and it is especially important for a faith-based organization. A solid reputation is what gives people the confidence to do business with you. Whether your faith-based organization is a church, university, private school or a ministry, having a good reputation in the eyes of the customers, employees, donors and members is vital.

Here are three key rules to follow for building image and reputation in your faith-based organization: 

1. Integrity

Whether it be through advertising, newsletters or face-to-face communication, truthfulness about your organization is key. This may not always be easy. Having integrity may sometimes mean being painfully truthful in a difficult situation. During these times, people typically tend to want to sweep it under the rug or try and minimize its importance to the public. It is especially important that an organization be honest in difficult situations because it is in how you respond to these situations that people will measure the integrity of the rest of your organization. In admitting mistakes you show a human side and demonstrate your diligence in fixing the problem.

2. Transparency

Being open to sharing information with stakeholders, members of the media, donors and city leaders shows you have nothing to hide. It is obvious and understandable that sharing every piece of information is impractical, however, sharing what you can takes down barriers between the organization and those around it.  When it appears someone is trying to hide or cover something, more than likely they are. If that is the case, the truth will come out at some point. It is always best for the organization to tell the story first in the manner in which you want it to be told. Take control of the message and be transparent. It is easier to be open at the beginning and move forward than it is to go back and correct mistakes—this creates a loss in credibility.

3. Engagement

Having conversation and being involved with stakeholders, employees and members of your organization is vital. Engage in dialogue and listen to what people have to say. Listen to people’s concerns and address them. This will help your credibility and trustworthiness. Also, don’t forget your staff—they can be the biggest advocates in both the good times and the bad times. Establish trust through engagement and constant communication. Staff will tend to support an organization through its hard times if they feel that they can trust you and feel knowledgeable on the situation. Staff can also detract from a situation, however, if they find out information elsewhere. Staff proves to be an invaluable asset in building a reputation for your organization.

Learn what it takes to build and maintain a positive reputation now and be prepared for any situation that may arise.

David Wagner is a Partner and an expert in helping clients with organizational development and overall performance. David also leads the firm’s faith-based initiative, helping organizations of all faiths. 

What happens when the phone rings and there’s a crisis? Your initial response is to call your usual crisis response “go to” person. What if they aren’t available? Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and lead. Following these three steps can help you to manage a crisis as effectively and efficiently as the pros do.

  1. Prepare
    The first of the four steps in public relations is research. In a crisis, research is gathering the facts. Sorting the truth from fiction is a necessary step in the research phase and will help to determine and effectively measure the severity of the crisis. Fiction often accompanies truth in a crisis and it is critical that one is separated from the other.
  2. Plan
    Find a place that is private and prepare a plan. Usually the first plan involves the next ninety minutes or so. Alert the media as to when they can expect information from you and/or the client. Thoroughly prepare your client for the media; prepare key points and write a statement for the spokesperson. Also, prepare a set of questions the spokesperson should expect so they are prepared.
  3. Lead
    During the first few hours of the crisis, it is important that you lead. Be calm, composed and confident in carrying out your tasks. Emotions frequently run high in a crisis, so composure is essential. Organize the site for the media briefing and see that the plan is executed as smoothly as possible.

When working in the public relations industry, crises are inevitable.  Being prepared to handle such situations will allow you to gain your clients’ trust and further prove your abilities in their times of need.

Steve Turnbo, is the chairman emeritus and co-founder of Schnake Turnbo Frank. He has worked in the PR industry for over 40 years and has coached multiple clients through crises.

The national headlines are still focusing on unemployment, but things are actually looking pretty good in Tulsa and businesses should take notice. My colleague, Aaron Fulkerson, executive vice president and chief administrative officer, recently wrote an article for the Tulsa World where he highlighted the financial forecast and stated that Tulsa is currently in an employee’s job market. If you live in Tulsa or not, here are three ways to help you retain your best talent while in an employee’s market, which is when the unemployment rate is under 6 percent.

  1. Take the time to reward your top performers for their hard work.
    Whether you’re rewarding them by raising their salary, giving them a bonus or increasing benefits, rewarding your employees in the number one way to retain your top talent.
  2. Develop an employee recognition program to identify the leaders of tomorrow in your organization. Good pay and benefits are important, but employees also want to be valued and appreciated for their work.  They want to be treated impartially, have advancement opportunities and be involved in the company.  It is the day-to-day interactions that make employees feel their contributions are appreciated and that they are recognized for their own unique qualities.
  3. Offer leadership training for your best employees.
    Offering leadership training for your best employees tells them you trust them and see them moving up in the future.  If an employee sees a future with your company, they are more like to stick around.  And, frankly put, your company is in business to make money—this means your leadership team must be effective in order for your business to deliver results.

David Wagner is a Partner and an expert in helping clients with organizational development and overall performance.