Nicole Shokoples has been an IABC member since 2013. Her membership has enabled her to be a part of the advancement of the communications profession. It also gave her access to the IABC resources, the community, and professional development opportunities like the world conference, IABC Gold Quill and Silver Leaf awards.
“Through the global communication certification council and IABC’s continual evolution, IABC is encouraging communicators to reach a higher standard of excellence,” explains Nicole. “It’s also creating a space for communicators to increasingly be seen in organizations as a legitimate and valuable profession.”
Nicole considers the ability to prioritize, negotiate, and influence without authority the most important and helpful skills she has developed in her career. And she mentions Calvin, her previous leader as the most influential person in her career.
“Calvin is a brilliant communicator who mentored me for many years in the communications field,” She says. “I joined his team as a very green communicator, and he taught me the roles of strategic communication. As I grew in my role, he also taught me a lot about leadership and what it takes to create a dedicated and high-performing team. And I’d say most importantly, he has trusted me and given me a lot of stretch opportunities. He’s always believed I could overcome any hardship. He was a natural coach, and he wouldn’t step in and fix challenges, rather he would let you figure it out. I learned a lot that way about resilience, solving problems, and the importance of building strong relationships.”
Nicole has faced “so many” challenges in her career, but she views them as opportunities to learn and grow.
“If it’s a skill I’m challenged with, I will learn about it online–watch videos, read, take a course, and practice. I try–and fail–a lot, but that’s how you learn. If it’s a leadership challenge, I really rely on my peers, people, and culture (HR), and leaders in my network to talk it through and I’ve found it helps to get other perspectives,” She says.
In addition to winning two Gold Quills, developing a return strategy to the workplace, along with hybrid work have been the greatest professional accomplishments for her over the last year.
Nicole believes that her biggest professional mistake was thinking she knew what it took to be a leader.
“My first kick at being a leader was not very good and I only had one employee,” She explains. “I thought it would be easy, but it really wasn’t. I did not set her up for success and we had a tough go. We’re still in touch and honestly, I did apologize to her for being the leader I was. I did a lot of leadership learning after that (reading books, articles, asking for advice and feedback) and took a few courses on coaching and it really helped me. I learned to lean into authentic leadership and not try to be the leaders I had in the past but rather take the parts that worked for me and figure out my own style. Then I led a much larger team, and it came with even more learning. I’d say leadership is a hard thing to get right and you will always have to work on it and learn to adapt to different situations and different people on your team.”
To those new to the communications industry, Nicole advises them to learn to look at the bigger picture.
“Understand what you are trying to achieve, don’t start with tactics. This was my mistake when I was first starting out. For example, working towards a 40% or 80% metric will lead to using different strategic approaches and tactics, so it’s really important to use objectives as a focal point for your communications plans. Also, think about how you are going to measure success and what change you really want to see.” Finally, Nicole invites you to reach out to other communicators. “What you are going through, there’s a good chance someone else is too, and they are so willing to share, help, brainstorm or whatever you need. I think we need to do more sharing and collaborating outside of our organizations – really creative partnerships can be formed and we can all learn something from each other. If you don’t know anyone, feel free to message me on LinkedIn! I will be happy to help or connect you with someone I know. Joining an IABC mentorship program can also be a great opportunity! I was a mentor and I met so many amazing people and I probably learned more from my mentee than she learned from me.”
Nicole likes to read books on design thinking, experience, behavioural economics and organizational cultures. Here is the list of books she recommends in different areas:
- Daring greatly – Brene Brown
- Dare to lead – Brene Brown
- Radical candor – Kim scott
- Difficult conversations – Stone, Patton, Heen
- How to win friends and influence people – Dale Carnegie
- Five dysfunctions of a team – Patrick Lencioni
Design, Experience and Behavior:
- Predictably irrational – Dan Ariely
- User friendly – Cliff Kuang
- Well designed – John Kolko
- The design of everyday things – Don Norman
- Disrupt – Luke Williams
- Thinking fast and slow – Daniel Kahneman
- Sprint – Knapp, Zeratsky, Kowit