Turpin Communication's Culture – What We Stand For
Two recent events triggered the Turpin Team to discuss our culture, values, and generally what we, as an organization, stand for. It’s not that we don’t know who we are. We do. We live our values every day, but we never actually wrote them down … until now.
The Two Recent Events
- Dale (Turpin’s Founder) and I attended an ATD regional conference in Chicago. Chris Yates, Chief Learning Officer at Caterpillar and coauthor of Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference, delivered the closing keynote. His message focuses on the notion that in order to achieve sustainable positive growth, leaders need to create a culture of openness, empathy and inclusion – which in turn enables corporate strategy and drives innovation. He also argues that living a culture of inclusion is simply the right thing to do. We agree.
- Dale and I were in a meeting with a new buyer. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with this organization for well over a decade, and this particular person had recently moved into a position to purchase our services. It was a lively get-to-know-you meeting. We’d been talking for about an hour when she asked the question. “What is Turpin’s culture?” As it happened, neither Dale nor I could answer this question very well. In that moment, we couldn’t find the words. All we could do was tell a few stories about how we encourage everyone to bring their most genuine, thoughtful, curious self to the work that we do. The client seemed satisfied, but we should have been able to address the question more directly.
These two events have made it clear to us that we should probably figure this out. It’s important to the company and our growth strategy, it’s important to us as individuals, and it’s also important to our clients.
Culture is More than Brand
In our workshops, we talk about how communication, both internal and external, can have an impact on both the individual’s brand as well as the organization’s. For example, if an organization wants to be perceived as highly professional and inclusive, its employees must communicate in a way that supports that brand promise. Dale and I discussed making our own list to describe how we want Turpin to be perceived, but that didn’t seem right. It seemed too top down and, frankly, that’s not who we are.
Turpin’s Culture as Described by Team Members
I shared our client’s culture question with Sarah Stocker, who is one of our Coaches and our Workshop Coordinator. She was able to answer immediately. That shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, since Sarah has been with us for eleven years.
That conversation with Sarah sparked an idea. Why not ask our team members to answer the question, “What is Turpin’s Culture?” So that’s what we did. After they submitted their thoughts, Dale wrote a piece in response. His take on our culture, which I completely embrace, is below. Sarah’s response is next, followed by submissions from other team members.
We hope you enjoy hearing from our amazing, and fiercely loyal team members.
Dale Ludwig (President of Turpin Communication, Founded in 1992)
After hearing Chris Yates speak at the conference Greg mentioned, I read Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference. He and his coauthor, Pooja Sachdev, have written a great book. They build a strong case for diversity and inclusion without sugarcoating the personal responsibility each of us must take toward it. Here’s how they put it.
We need to purposely create a culture of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a competitive advantage: a quality that can be leveraged to enhance decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and innovation … It starts with a strong set of values.
As I read this book, I found myself tying what the authors said back to the work we do with our clients. We cannot deliver a successful workshop without creating a safe environment for each individual in it. In every class, we ask learners to be vulnerable. We ask them to try, possibly fail, and try again. We understand the commitment—sometimes the courage—that takes, and we do not take it lightly. To borrow from Yates and Sachdev, then:
We need to purposely create a learning environment of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a learning advantage … It starts with a strong set of values.
Based on what we heard from the Turpin team members, here is a list of our values.
We are committed to delivering the highest quality communication skills training and consulting in the industry. Our goal is to help people get business done as efficiently and effectively as possible. We do this by casting aside traditional thinking about business communication, building a new foundation, and focusing on results for each learner.
To reach our quality goal, our work must take place in a training environment that is safe and inclusive. While in the classroom, everyone must be free to be themselves, to ask questions, to fail and try again without judgment. Every learner has the right to be heard and understood. They deserve our respect and empathy.
When we create a safe, inclusive, respectful, and results oriented learning environment, we earn the trust of each learner and the right to ask them to change and grow. Without their trust, we cannot succeed.
Everything we do is fueled by the passion we feel for our work. We care about our clients’ success and the work they do. We are curious and deeply committed to placing what we do within the context of every learner’s work environment.
As you can see from other Turpin team members, below, the culture we create in the training room shapes how we work together every day.
Sarah Stocker (Coach and Workshop Coordinator, team member since 2005)
When Greg told me about the struggle to define Turpin’s culture, my mind went immediately to our tagline: “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” I was part of the brainstorming session that produced this tagline many years ago. I like it because it rings true for two reasons. First, it’s what we try to achieve with our workshop participants and, second, it’s who we are as a company. We help those around us grow and be the best version of themselves when communicating at work. We do the same for each other.
When I talk about Turpin with my friends or family, I always describe it as the healthiest environment I’ve ever worked in. What makes it so healthy?
- We work collaboratively. Everyone’s opinion is heard and respected. We have our own roles and hierarchy, but leadership recognizes the value that comes from mining ideas from the group.
- We love diversity. We recognize that we all have our own perspective and preferred way of doing things. Instead of being threatened by differing opinions, we embrace them. We know that incorporating different perspectives can only make us stronger, as individuals and as a company.
- We are transparent. There are no secrets within the company. There is trust between colleagues and leadership, and we all want what’s best for the company.
- We recognize our strengths and our weaknesses without ego or shame. When any of us makes a mistake, we own it. We freely admit it and focus on how to solve it going forward. And no one shames you for it.
- We are passionate, authentic, and empathetic. We are always striving to do better and to find new ways of serving our clients. At the same time, we stay true to ourselves and to what we do best. We genuinely care about each other and the workshop participants we are trying to help. We insist on keeping our training rooms a safe place where everyone can embrace their strengths and work against their weaknesses without embarrassment. Both internally and in our workshops, we build each other up so we can be our best selves.
What’s really interesting to me is that without consciously making this our goal, our culture is fully entrenched in everything we do as a company. If you were to attend a staff meeting or one of our workshops, you would see all of the values above at work. And that makes me proud to be a part of Turpin Communication.
Dana Peters (Director of Sales, team member since 2013)
I thrive here because the “Turpin way” is an excellent fit for how I work. At this point in my career, I choose to only invest my time and talent in an environment where:
- My contribution is valued and my opinion matters.
- The behavior of the smart people around me matches the words that are spoken.
- Doing things right and delivering a high quality product for clients is important and at the heart of everything.
- Taking the time to understand what the client needs and building relationships is valued.
- Fair and ethical business practices are a given and non-negotiable.
- Everyone on the team is charged with a job and a set of responsibilities and then allowed to do what they need to do to get the work done. Micromanaging isn’t present, trust is.
- I am involved, free to ask questions and communicate thoughts without having to choose my words.
- A little respectful debate is welcome.
- My commitment to my family and other things that are important to me are valued, respected, and never questioned; rather, they are encouraged and celebrated.
All of this adds up to an atmosphere in which I can contribute fully and effectively.
Mary Clare Healy (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 1996)
It has been so fun to think about this! For me, Turpin's culture rests on three pillars, which provide the foundation for Turpin's approach to client engagement and internal decision-making.
- Passion. Turpin facilitators not only enjoy what they do, they enjoy doing it together. And it shows. This is reflected in each encounter and every step of the process. It's clear that for the Turpin team it's not just a job, or about checking a box; rather, it’s about unleashing the best in each individual.
- Respect. The facilitative approach allows Turpin to dig deep to get to know our clients and each of the individuals involved with a particular project. We demonstrate respect and have earnest curiosity, which allows us to learn about what each person does and how they do it so that we can help them improve.
- Commitment to results. Turpin understands that there's a bottom-line reason for clients to seek our services. It is this understanding that results in a pragmatic approach with no fluff or filler. The training programs are all about successfully reaching the goals that have been set.
These three observable behaviors are modeled by leadership as well as everyone within the Turpin organization.
Barbara Egel (Facilitator, Coach, and Account Manager, team member since 2014)
For me, Turpin's central idea is "keep it simple." Every course we teach has this as a cardinal rule.
This approach also extends beyond the training room. Conversations about internal issues often ripple out in several directions, but all of us know the ultimate goal is to arrive at one targeted, even elegant, solution. Externally, I think clients feel this as well. By keeping it simple, we are able to fit in with a variety of corporate cultures, adjust to constraints that may be less than ideal, and fold in whatever is going on in the moment: an acquisition, a firing, a product launch, or just a bad day. We are not a day or two's distraction taking up the conference room; we are a part of the client's team ready to do our part in helping them meet their goals.
We also keep it genuine. The people you see at the front of the training room or in the coaching room are who we are 24/7. There are no wacky personas, no fake enthusiasms. For me, this is a huge aspect of building trust, and trust is key to learning, especially with emotionally-fraught tasks such as a business presentation. Similarly, having known Dale and Greg for decades, I can attest that who they are as my Turpin bosses reflects their real values, beliefs, and hopes, and this is the reason I trust them completely. It's also the reason that if I have an idea to make something better, I offer it, knowing they will listen, consider, and respond appropriately.
In sum, a company built on a foundation of simplicity, effectiveness, and authenticity is one that doesn't have to worry about juggling its image or covering its, um, assets. It's also a philosophy immune to the influence of the latest corporate trends because it is beyond trend. The essence of Turpin today will be the essence of Turpin twenty years from now, and it will still seem revolutionary then.
Milena Palandech (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2011)
Before Turpin Communication was founded, Dale Ludwig was a colleague, a mentor, and a dear friend. I admired Dale greatly (still do) because he cared deeply about the learners that participated in his training programs. Dale was different than most of my former colleagues. Far too many trainers I knew were focused on entertaining their learners and performing for higher class scores. Dale’s sole concern was the learner and helping each of them reach their goals. He didn’t need to shine. He simply wanted the learner to shine.
That selfless determination and focus – doing what is necessary to help Turpin’s clients and their client’s employees shine – has become a foundational principle at Turpin Communication. Dale and Greg have created an organization that is truly committed to helping people “be themselves … only better.” They ensure that the classroom environment for Turpin programs is a safe place where learners will be encouraged and challenged. They consistently draw out the very best in people.
Blaine Rada (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2015)
I find what Turpin values to be unique and refreshing. In the crowded marketplace of communication skills training, Turpin doesn't just provide a template for how to be a better communicator, but rather a personalized approach with the goal of helping people find and leverage their unique strengths. Their approach is challenging yet encouraging, respecting the dignity of each individual while focused on producing results.
Kevin Vogelsang (Operations Manager, team member since October 2016)
I’ve only been a member of Turpin Communication for a brief time. However, the feelings inspired during this time and the interactions I’ve experienced have had quite an impact, and have very much fortified my own beliefs and convictions.
I was a math major, and I have substantial anxiety when it comes to speaking. This made the prospect of an interview with Greg and Dale (two individuals with decades of experience in all manner of communication) more than a little daunting. Meeting them was such a pleasant experience though. The atmosphere during the interview was so welcoming that I felt immediately comfortable despite my previous dread and anxiety. It became immediately clear: I would be lucky to work for this company. To find a job anywhere else with similar openness and warmth would be nearly impossible.
As part of my training, I observed a presentation workshop. It was an excellent experience. I was barely involved in the process, yet I was blown away by everything that occurred. I felt connected to the participants, and I was engrossed as they practiced their presentations, improving from one attempt to the next. Dale and Greg created an environment where everybody cared about each other and their success.
After just two months of actually working for Turpin, it has been made clear that my initial perception of the company was correct. The team is genuinely caring and empathetic of each other and the clients. I am thankful to work in this type of environment, which is essential for my own personal happiness and well-being.
Written by Greg Owen-Boger
Greg Owen-Boger has been with Turpin Communication since 1995, first as a cameraman, then instructor, account manager, and now vice president. Schooled in management and the performing arts, Greg brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to the organization. Greg is one of Turpin’s facilitators and coaches. When he’s not with clients, he manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Greg is an active member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and was the 2015 President of ATD, Chicagoland Chapter. He is a popular speaker, frequent blogger, and the co-author of the book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. His latest book, also co-authored by Dale Ludwig, launched in 2017 and is entitled Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.