Lessons Learned from the FleishmanHillard Management Academy

August 21, 2017
Georgina Malloy, Associate Vice President, Client Relations & Stephanie Kundert, Senior Manager, Political Operations & Media Strategy

We were honored to represent DDC Public Affairs in recently attending the FleishmanHillard Management Academy. Established in 2008, the academy is designed to give emerging managers the tools, advice, and training required to navigate our industry’s financial and legal structure, develop business strategies, and most importantly, better manage people.

From studying business cases to interacting in role-playing exercises, hearing from top executives, and networking with our peers within the FleishmanHillard family, we were dazzled by the amount of helpful information and activities afforded to us during the two-day course. We gained so much throughout the academy; but as we reflected in the St. Louis Airport, there were three key themes that emerged from our time at the acaedmy: teamwork, leadership, and stress management.

On Teamwork

“Great leaders help people identify their best selves.” 

– Paula Kendall, Senior Vice President, Talent Development, FleishmanHillard

  • As a leader, learning how to manage up, across, and down will be crucial – not only to your success but to the success of the business, because “personnel issues” are business issues. Be observant, have those courageous conversations you need to have (you’ll thank yourself later!) and become a conduit for information. 
  • When building your team, get the right people on the bus early and adjust as needed. For example, if you have an employee who excels with numbers, lean into it. Give them the opportunity to show their passion, feel challenged, and soar.
  • Manage your team with integrity, with transparency, with kindness, and with authenticity. When you have to have a difficult conversation or performance review, if you can effectively communicate your points and leave that person with the shine on their shoes, you’ve done your job well.

On Leadership

“We are all Servant Leaders.”

– John Saunders, President and CEO, FleishmanHillard

  • There is a stark difference between being a manager and being a leader. A leader is someone who motivates others to work towards an aspirational vision, whereas a manager actually manages people, projects, and tasks. Aim to be a combination of the two – or a “Servant Leader” – working to ensure your team has the tools and resources they need, while inspiring them to do great work.
  • Part of being a Servant Leader is leading by example. The words “that’s not my job” should rarely be uttered, and every day should be positive – because you are always on a stage. Junior employees are looking to you for inspiration and guidance, and leadership is looking to you to ensure you can handle the pressure. Being a team player as well as the coach will take you a long way.
  • Build a culture of trust where success is celebrated, mistakes are improved upon in real time, and conflicts are quickly diffused. Delegate, even when it may be quicker to do the task yourself, and allow your employees to learn and grow. Ensure your team understands the ultimate objective and the unique role of each member in achieving that end goal.

On Stress 

“It’s P.R., not the E.R.” 

– Jonella Donius, Executive Vice President and Senior Partner, COO, FleishmanHillard

  • In every industry, employees face crises; but in our industry, you’re not actually responsible for life and death. Learning how to manage your personal stress, keep a level head, and get comfortable with chaos early in your career will help you infinitely.
  • Even if everything goes awry, being a manager and a leader means you must keep your cool, evaluate your options, have courage in your convictions, and lead your team by example – in both your attitude and your actions.
  • Always remember, keep morale high as your team is looking to you in a crisis.

All of these lessons lean and build on each other in a truly meaningful way, creating the perfect storm for quality management, comradery, and organization-wide personal growth. We found the Management Academy to be an incredibly effective “boot camp” in learning how to overcome a variety of challenges we’ll face as managers and leaders within the industry. Thank you to FleishmanHillard for three incredible days of education, experience, and excellence.


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