Turpin Communication’s Culture – What We Stand For

November 29, 2016 in Author, Barbara Egel, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Posts for Buyers, Sarah Stocker, Turpin’s Culture

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

  1. Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin CommunicationDale (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.
  2. 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 CommunicationDale 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 at Turpin CommunicationSarah 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 at Turpin CommunicationMary 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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, Coach at Turpin CommunicationBarbara 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.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

20-year Milestone for Turpin Communication

August 27, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers

This week marks Turpin Communication’s 20th year in business. Although we’ve had 19 anniversaries leading up to this one, most of which have gone by unnoticed, this one feels different. This one feels like it needs to be acknowledged, even if it is only in this blog. So here it is.

First, I want to say a big thank you to two groups of people. To our clients, thanks for trusting us to deliver what you need. Whether you’re a buyer bringing us in to work with your team or a participant in one of our workshops, you’ve given us your time, invited us into your business life, and believed in us.

To the people who have been part of the Turpin team, thanks for your brains, talent and very hard work. These people are Greg Owen-Boger, Sarah Stocker, Mary Clare Healy, Karen Ross, Milena Palandech, Jeanne Cotter, Anne Linehan, Lora Alejandro, and Seth Kannof. Turpin has been very lucky to have all of you.

I started Turpin in 1992 with some very strong ideas about what presentation and facilitation skills training should be and a whole lot of questions about what makes a business successful. Since then, with the help of others, we’ve answered many of those questions. I can also say that there are a few things we got right from the beginning.

From a business perspective:

  • Stay focused on what you do better than anyone else. The temptation to branch out into other types of training, into areas we know less about and feel less confident delivering, has always been present. We’ve resisted and are better off because of it.
  • It’s okay to turn down work. Especially if success feels uncertain or the potential client feels like a bad fit.

In the training room:

  • The worst thing you can do in the training room is waste time. Respect the learner. Adapt to their individual needs. Keep the goal in mind. Be flexible. Never condescend.
  • Training is not meant to be fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time in class. You will never hear a Turpin trainer say, “Okay everyone, let’s shift gears a little bit and have some fun!” The work is first and foremost. When learners realize that you’re not going to waste their time, you earn their respect. When that happens, they relax, open up, and the process becomes not just fruitful but enjoyable as well.

What’s coming in the next 20 years?

  • We will continue to help business presenters plan and deliver their Orderly Conversations.
  • As new technologies emerge, we will continue to find the best way to successfully blend face-to-face and remote learning.
  • This year we rolled out Find Your Focus Video. This service is built on what we learned developing our own online courses. While this is brand new for us, it doesn’t break the “stay focused” maxim I mentioned above. Our tag line says it best: “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better. (and now on video).” Learn more about it here.

So Happy Anniversary, Turpin Communication, and thanks again to everyone who has made it happen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

When presenting, people ask me to skip to the end. What should I do?

July 5, 2011 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Mary Clare Healy, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Video

greg 200x300A lot of business presenters we work with feel frustrated (and sometimes threatened) when listeners ask them to skip to the end of their presentation.

If you think of your presentation as a one-sided information push that only you control, you would be frustrated by this too.

But… if you know anything about the work we do at Turpin Communication, you’d know that we advocate for flexibility.

Presentations should not be about (a) you the presenter or (b) your information. They should be about (a) the listeners and (b) making sure that they understand the meaning behind your information.

This requires the ability to remain flexible and to shift your focus away from yourself and toward your listeners.

So… keep the end goal in mind, give them what they need and provide back-up information only if they ask for it.

My colleague, Mary Clare Healy, addresses this issue differently in this video blog.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

I have been told I should gesture less. What do you think?

December 14, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Mary Clare Healy, Video

I’ve been told I should gesture less. What do you think?

People often ask us whether they’re gesturing too much when they present. And typically, the answer is no.

Watch Mary Clare Healy from Turpin Communication answer the question in more detail in this video blog entry.

Related posts:

Hands on Hips – OK or Not? by Greg Owen-Boger

Are Hands in Pockets OK? by Greg Owen-Boger

What to do when asked questions about things you have already talked about.

June 8, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Mary Clare Healy, Video

Here’s a Frequently Asked Question about being interrupted during a presentation with something you’ve already addressed.

Mary Clare answers in this video blog entry.

What should you do when you get asked questions about things you already talked about?

Should a Presenter Read from the Slides?

March 31, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, Myths Debunked, Presentation, Video

On our Facebook fan page (www.facebook.com/TurpinCommunication) we recently asked our fans to “name something that a presenter does (or doesn’t do) that distracts you from hearing/understanding the speaker’s message.”

Most of the responses had something to do with presenters reading their slides. While I agree that it’s distracting when someone lifelessly reads a slide full of long sentences or paragraphs, I disagree with the notion that one should never read what’s on the slide.

As I write this, I can almost hear your audible gasp.

Let me explain.

When a slide first comes up, it is second nature for people to look at it to grasp its meaning. At that moment if you start to talk, you would be pulling your listeners’ attention in two different directions. Are they to read the slide or are they to listen to you? Trying to be good audience members they’ll try to do both. And they will not fully succeed at either.

Conversely, as a presenter, you may not succeed because you will have lost control of their focus, which can lead to confusion.

So, as presenter then, you need to help them grasp your topic by directing their focus either to the slide or to what you’re saying. One easy and effective way of doing that is to read the slide when it first appears. Literally turn to it and read what’s there without any comment. (Yes, your back will be to the audience, but who cares? Your listeners are looking at your slide, not your bum.) Then turn from it, move closer to your audience and launch into what you have to say about what’s on the slide.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking that this won’t work. And you’d be right if the slide was full of text. That’s why it’s so important for slides to be pared down to the bare minimum.

Remember that the slides are not your presentation. You (and what you have to say) are the presentation. Use your slides not as a script but as a framework to keep your discussion orderly.

My colleague, Mary Clare Healy, has a video blog saying roughly the same thing.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

When presenting, I feel more comfortable when I hold a pen. Is that OK?

February 15, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Mary Clare Healy, Presentation, Video

QUESTION: When presenting, I feel more comfortable when I hold a pen.  Is that OK?

ANSWER: This is a common question we receive in our Presentation Skills Workshops.  Class participants often remark that holding on to something somehow calms them down and makes them feel less nervous.  In this video blog entry, Mary Clare Healy, provides some advice.

For more video blogs go to Turpin Communication’s YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/TurpinCommunication

Mary Clare Healy, Presentation Skills Trainer at Turpin Communication

Mary Clare Healy, Presentation Skills Trainer at Turpin Communication

What can I do to eliminate “um” from my speech when I present?

November 30, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Mary Clare Healy, Video

QUESTION: I say “um” a lot. What can I do to eliminate them from my speech?

Mary Clare Healy answers this frequently asked question on video:  Click the video to watch her answer.

Learn more at www.turpincommunication.com

Presenting Information Persuasively (PART 2 of 2)

May 27, 2009 in Author, Delivery, Mary Clare Healy, Presentation

Last week, someone asked this question:  I know you said in class that we should think of all presentations as persuasive presentations.  And that makes sense to me most of the time.  But what do you do when you really are just presenting data?  I’m not trying to get my audience to do anything.  They just need to be informed.

In my last post, I talked about some of the things you can do to prepare informative presentations in order to make them a little more persuasive (click here for PART 1 of 2).  This week, I’ll talk about delivery.

  1. Acknowledge your listener’s state of mind.  Be in tune with your listeners when you begin to speak.  Prove to them that you understand what they’re feeling right now.  It’s often a good idea to use phrases like, “I know this is just one of the many project updates you’ll be hearing today, so I’ll keep it short.”  Or, “I know you might be dreading this presentation because you think it’s going to be long and detailed…”  This is just another way to acknowledge your listeners’ Current Situation, one that is based on what’s happening in the moment.  Acknowledging their state of mind will help listeners distinguish between the data and your delivery of it.
  2. When you deliver the data, use tiebacks and applications.  Tiebacks connect the data in the body to the benefits in the introduction.  Applications emphasize the relevance of the information you’re presenting to your listeners’ situation.  It’s up to you to point out why the information you’re delivering is important to your listeners and how they can use it.  Remember, what may seem obvious to you may not be obvious to them.
  3. You are not your data.  Never go into an informative presentation assuming that the data you’re delivering sets the tone for your presentation.  That’s your responsibility.  The data might be complex.  It might be difficult to understand.  But your delivery of it does not need to be.  By communicating your enthusiasm for the presentation process and your concern that listeners care about what you’re saying, you’ll motivate their interest.

One final note about informative presentations: remember that your perspective on the data is important.  Listeners learn a lot when they hear how you think about or prioritize the information you’re delivering.  Don’t be afraid to say things like, “What I find really interesting on this slide is…” or “The results here are unique.  We don’t see this sort of thing very often…”  Opening the door to your way of looking at the information you’re presenting invites your listeners to understand it more fully.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presenting Information Persuasively (PART 1 of 2)

May 19, 2009 in Author, Introduction, Mary Clare Healy, Preparation, Presentation


I know you said in class that we should think of all presentations as persuasive presentations. And that makes sense to me most of the time. But what do you do when you really are just presenting data? I’m not trying to get my audience to do anything. They just need to be informed.

We get asked about this quite often.  The answer has two parts; one focuses on preparation and the other on delivery.  I’ll cover preparation this week.  Next week, I’ll follow up with delivery.

If you deliver a lot of data-heavy presentations, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and approach each of them with the same goal, “I just need to deliver the information.”  Even if you only occasionally deliver informative presentations, you might be tempted to assume that the data speaks for itself and that its usefulness is obvious.  The problem, though, is that when you assume your presentation is solely about the data, you aren’t doing anything to make it relevant or important to your listeners.

The next time you’re putting together an informative presentation, assume that your goal is to motivate your listeners’ interest.  Getting your listeners to want the information you’re presenting will put a persuasive edge on your presentation.  Here are some ways to do that:

  1. When you set the goal for your presentation, focus on what you want your listeners to think or feel about the information when you’re finished.  Let this goal guide you.  It will help you approach the presentation with a specific audience reaction in mind.
  2. Name your audience’s Current Situation to create context for the information you’re presenting.   This can be as simple as referring to why they’re in the room, a quarterly meeting or project review, for example.  Whatever the context for the presentation, articulating it clearly up front helps put everyone on the same page and draws attention to the reason you’re delivering the data and why they should be interested in receiving it.
  3. Clarify the benefit of understanding the data you’re presenting.  How will your listeners be better off when your presentation is over?  This is very much like discussing the benefits usually associated with persuasive presentations.  Only in this situation, it’s the benefit of understanding something, not doing something.

As we recommend with most presentations, it’s usually a good idea to assume a little skepticism from your listeners.  Doing so encourages you to work a little harder to get and keep their interest.

In my next post I’ll offer some ideas about delivering data-heavy presentations.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication