Larry Lincoln – Reflections from a Seasoned Public Relations and Communications Professional

“The Chief Communications Officer serves as a trusted advisor to the CEO in addition to serving as a brand ambassador and guardian of the organization’s reputation.” -Larry Lincoln

[00:00:00] Larry Lincoln: And I had some good mentors along the way. My very first supervisor in the military, his name was Charles Benton. I’ll never forget him. He told me, he said, look – there are keys to success. You want to be professional. You don’t have to know everything, but if you don’t know it, be willing to find out and always be available, turn situations into not a no, but try to find win situations for people.

[00:00:24] Larry Lincoln: And those are the things that have always stuck with me.


Tommy Thomas: My guest today is Larry Lincoln. Larry and I have been friends for, I don’t know, 15-20 years.  Larry, do you recall our first meeting?

[00:00:35] Larry Lincoln: Yeah, I think it was back when I was still in Colorado Springs at one of the ministries there. So yeah, it’s been about that length of time.

[00:00:44] Tommy Thomas: And I remember when we had dinner, you and I, and your wife, and like my friend Bo Patton, the football player at Vanderbilt told me when he met me and my wife, he said, Tommy, you out kicked your coverage. And so, I’m going to say having had dinner with Dixie, you definitely out kicked your coverage in that merger.

[00:01:03] Larry Lincoln: Amen, brother. So true. So true.

[00:01:06] Tommy Thomas: Larry’s been into the Communications and Public Relations field I guess his entire adult life. And that’s one of the reasons I wanted to get him on the call. We’d say we’ve known each other a long time. I’ve watched his career. He is currently working with Compassion International. He’ll tell us a little bit about his work there, but Larry, take me back to your early days.  What two or three experiences do you remember from childhood that made you into the man you are today?

[00:01:32] Larry Lincoln: Wow. Yeah, my childhood was a little atypical, Tommy, not the standard one. As a kid my parents weren’t together. They split up when I was a young age, and they did one thing other than having us, but what they decided is they knew that things weren’t going to work, and they wanted the kids, there were three of us at the time, to be in more stable homes.

I was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, and my folks sent me up to live with grandparents in Newcastle, Pennsylvania, a little town outside of Pittsburgh. And growing up there, man, it was so special because my grandmother was a God-fearing woman. We called her Mother Mary, but she was the one who just embraced me.

[00:02:14] Larry Lincoln: I’ll never forget as a three-year-old, I remember sitting on the floor learning to read with blocks. She was just so invested in my life. And so, growing up together in that home and having her just pour into me was something I’ll never forget. She was just a godsend. She was ahead of her time.

She was very into trying to shape and mold me into being a godly man. She always used to tell me, I’d ask her as a young kid, Mother Mary, what do you want me to be? And she said, son, love the Lord and be a good man. And that was all that she ever asked of me. So, remembering growing up in that home, growing up in our neighborhood, the church was called St. John’s United Holy Church. And she made sure that as a youngster, I was in that church and that was like an extended family for me, they were so close and so nurturing and loving and then finally entering the military. I think the military was easy compared to growing up in Mother Mary’s house.

[00:03:10] Larry Lincoln: The military that esprit de corps, that structure, that being a part of something bigger than yourself, that really appealed to me. So those are a few experiences, I believe, shaped who I am today.

[00:03:24] Tommy Thomas: How’d you get from high school to the military? Was there a big decision mark there?

[00:03:29] Larry Lincoln: No what it was I went off to college following high school for a brief period of time, about a year, but my grandmother was ill during my college, my high school time. And so, I finished school and was taking care of her. And I wanted to stay nearby.

I was a baseball player for a time, and I really wanted to play baseball in college. I had a brother at that time who was in the Air Force over in Hawaii and he was doing well, but I couldn’t leave her. So, I decided to stay close to home and take care of her and go to a local college there, West Minister College, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

[00:04:05] Larry Lincoln: But then she passed. And then, as a youngster with all that stuff going on, and then of course, college getting expensive and stuff, I said, I wanted to take a break. And my brother was doing well in the military. And I said, oh, let me give that a try. So that’s how I got into the military.

[00:04:21] Tommy Thomas: Is that how you got into public relations and communications in the military?

[00:04:25] Larry Lincoln: Yes, absolutely. I spent 22 years total in the Air Force and for the lion’s share at that time, I was in public affairs, which was public affairs is the military version of public relations, I went to journalism school, and learned to write.

I went all the way up through the ranks and held every job in communications, in media relations, community relations, planning, crisis communication, all that great stuff. And so, they give you a well-rounded education. That’s how I got my start and I’ve been doing it ever since.

[00:04:56] Tommy Thomas: So, what do you remember about the first time you had to manage people?

[00:05:00] Larry Lincoln: Wow. I’ll tell you in the Air Force, one thing about it is they send you, they give you a lot of training. So, you go to leadership school and all these things. I went to all those. They give you the theory of what you should do as a leader and how you should lead people.

But when you step into that role for the first time, and sometimes some of the people around the same age as you. And you’re being called to have responsibility and lead. It was terrifying at first because, wow, can I do this? But then at the same time, knowing that they had prepared you well, they trained you well, it was a matter of just stepping into that role with confidence and learning along the way.

[00:05:40] Larry Lincoln: And I had some good mentors along the way. My very first supervisor in the military, his name was Charles Benton. I’ll never forget him. He told me, he said, look – there are keys to success. He said, you want to be professional. He said, you don’t have to know everything, but if you don’t know it, be willing to find out and always be available, turn situations into not a no, but try to find win situations for people.

And those are the things that’s always stuck with me.

[00:06:08] Tommy Thomas: Of course, I know a lot of the stuff you did in the military might be classified, but are there any crisis management stories you could tell that that turned out well?

[00:06:18] Larry Lincoln: Do we have time? Tell me, one of the things is, yeah, I’ve been involved in enumerable crisis situations in the military and out of the military, and I think that they provided a tremendous platform for understanding what happens and how to respond.

I learned early on that you are either in a crisis, getting ready to go into one, or you’re coming out of one.  So, planning and preparation are key!

[00:06:31] Larry Lincoln: Things like that. I’ve been involved in everything from plane crashes, the bombings, the Khobar Tower bombings, the Payne Stewart plane crash. A lot of different crisis situations, natural disasters, hurricanes, and things don’t just happen. One of the things that I learned in that situation is that you’re either in a crisis, you’re getting ready to go into one, or you’re coming out of one.

[00:06:54] Larry Lincoln: And so, preparation and planning becomes really key.

[00:06:57] Tommy Thomas: I remember the Payne Stewart crash and, knew a little bit about his family. What do you remember about that?

[00:07:05] Larry Lincoln: I remember it was a national media situation where, if you recall, that plane was just drifting out there, and it was all over the television.  It was a very tense situation, and we didn’t have a lot of answers because, at that point in time, we had to wait for some things to happen. But I remember just being captivated just like the rest of the world with that situation and being intimately involved in responding. I was at NORAD Space Command there in Colorado Springs at the time, and NORAD had those jets that were actually tracking and tracking that and were sent up to intercept that and let it play out. So, it was a really interesting situation. It was heartbreaking, but that’s the level of crisis and things that we became used to in the military career.


[00:07:51] Tommy Thomas: Let’s go to the nonprofit sector. Because you’ve spent some time with some good organizations in the nonprofit world. How does a nonprofit preparedness compare with the military level of preparedness for emergencies or crisis?

[00:08:04] Larry Lincoln: Generally speaking, I think that the federal government and the military, of course, it’s very institutionalized and sometimes in the nonprofit community we don’t know what we don’t know. And many times, organizations get caught flat-footed, but I think there’s a lesson to be learned there that, like I said, if you go back to what I said earlier, that cycle, you’re preparing to enter a crisis. You’re in a crisis or you’re coming out of one.  If you look at that, and that as a constant, it allows you to look at situations that you can prepare for.

[00:08:35] Larry Lincoln: You can think about your vulnerabilities, and that’s one of the things senior communications folks have a role, especially in PR being able to look out and forecast for an organization, what the environment looks like, what some of the risks and threats. I think we all have the ability to do that.

[00:08:52] Larry Lincoln: It’s just the consciousness and the intentionality of being able to plan. Nobody likes to be in that situation, but I think during those times when we’re not, we should use those as opportunities to really look and get a good sense of our environment that we’re operating in threats, risks, et cetera.

[00:09:13] Tommy Thomas: In an ideal world, what’s the role of the Chief Communications Officer?

The Chief Communications Officer serves as a trusted advisor to the CEO in addition to serving as a brand ambassador and guardian of the organization’s reputation.

[00:09:18] Larry Lincoln: The Chief Communications Officer serves as a trusted advisor. They’re responsible for key functions, such as advising your CEO, upper leadership on communication, engagement, goals, strategies, and issues. Coaching for top executives, strategic communication, engagement, planning, serving as a brand ambassador and guardian of organizational reputation.

A lot of times I’d like to say that the individual who holds that role is also the conscience of an organization. They also foster visibility, and understanding of the operational objectives. One of the things that I think is really key to anyone in a communication role is understanding the business, and that’s chief communication officer needs to understand the business, how it works, and the objectives in order to effectively communicate to external and internal audiences.

[00:10:07] Larry Lincoln: And so bottom line, you’ll want to serve to ensure organizational messaging, consistency to all of an organization’s audiences, and that can be an umbrella function that covers things like corporate communications, media, relations, issues, crisis, reputation, and reputational, internal communications, things like that.

[00:10:28] Tommy Thomas: What do you mean by the conscience of the organization?

[00:10:32] Larry Lincoln: Many times, communicators, if you’re really looking out at the landscape and understand your stakeholders, your publics, the people that you’re working with. I like to take an attitude of if I’m a community serving in the senior communication function, and a lot of time operational decisions are made, I like to point out to senior leaders, you think about having an empty chair in that boardroom where you are and consider that empty chair being occupied by some of your stakeholders, be it the public, be it a donor.

Be it an advocate. How would they feel? How would they react to what decision you’re making? And many times, organizations think about how they operate, but they don’t think about pulling the curtain back and having other people who are not in the organization understand how they operate.

[00:11:21] Larry Lincoln: They take it for granted sometimes. So, if you use that approach and think about that empty chair and put a key audience there, how would they react? That’s being a conscience and really thinking through the decisions and the postures that we’re going to take because ultimately at the end of the line, those are the people that we’re impacting.

So that’s what I mean by being a conscience and I think I’m a firm believer that organizations pretty much communicate how they operate. It just happens naturally. So, if you don’t really think about those things, you’re going to communicate in a vacuum and then try to play catch up to help key audiences understand what you really mean, what your heart is.

[00:12:00] Tommy Thomas: Here again, in an ideal world, should the Chief Communications Officer sit on the cabinet, be on the same level as a CFO, Chief Information, or Chief Marketing Officer?

[00:12:10] Larry Lincoln: Absolutely. It’s vitally important that the Chief Communication Officer have that same type of relationship, a very close relationship at the top of the business, such as the CFO, the Chief Marketing Officer, and I’ll tell you why.

The CCO has to ensure continuously open and timely communications channels. There are a lot of things that impact an organization these days. A 24/7 news cycle that requires immediate response. The importance of reputational management and organizational branding. The need for alignment and integration of messaging throughout the organization. You talked earlier about crisis situations, the need for proactive and immediate crisis communication response. There are a lot of studies out there about chief communication officers. But there’s one that talks about organizations with CCOs reporting directly to the CEO has the greatest alignment between corporate objectives, communications, and all activities.

[00:13:10] Larry Lincoln: That involves engaging key stakeholders. Yeah, it’s vitally important to have that direct peer relationship with some of those other C-Suite executives.

[00:13:20] Tommy Thomas: You’ve done the communications piece and you’ve been Director of Public Relations. In broad terms, what’s the difference between those two functions?

I’ll give you the definition of what PR is. It’s the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or failure depends.

[00:13:27] Larry Lincoln: In broad terms, there’s a lot of overlap, and think about the Chief Communications function, corporate communications, things like that as the umbrella. Typically, in the world that we live in now, public relations and I’ll give you the definition of what PR is. It’s the management function that establishes and maintains mutually beneficial relationships between an organization and the public on whom its success or failure depends. In our current framework of things, typically PR folks deal mostly with media engagement, and things like that. But they also reach beyond that to work with publics and organizations, publics and develop and maintain those key relationships.

[00:14:08] Larry Lincoln: Think of the Chief Communications Officer who is developing the strategy. About how an organization communicates with all of its stakeholders and the PR function as executing that strategy for some specific audiences.

[00:14:21] Tommy Thomas: Okay. I guess when you started, we didn’t have a 24-hour news cycle or if we did, it was young.  How have you seen that impact communications, in general, and the effectiveness of corporate communications?

[00:14:40] Larry Lincoln: It’s definitely a challenge because there are a couple of challenges related to that. You’re right in the past we did not have that 24/7, but with the proliferation of social media, it becomes an even greater challenge because now you have unvetted unfiltered experts on social media.

One of the challenges of social media is that you now have unvetted, unfiltered experts who, on occasion, are sowing disinformation or misinformation.  That presents a challenge to the audience.

[00:14:57] Larry Lincoln: Who rightfully in some cases maybe get it wrong, but in other cases are sowing disinformation or misinformation and so that becomes a challenge for our audiences because they’re consuming this and some of them are very selective on what they consume. So, we have to really understand our audiences in many cases.

We develop personas of different folks that we want to reach and understand where they get their information so we can tailor communications to get to them in a timely fashion. It’s a huge challenge now because way back when we had three major networks, and they were respected. The news was then broadcast in a certain way, and now today with the proliferation of mass media, and social media, it’s a huge challenge.

[00:15:42] Larry Lincoln: And it makes us be able to want to be able to respond much more rapidly and be prepared. And that’s why preparation and understanding audiences become so much more important.

[00:15:53] Tommy Thomas: What is the biggest trouble a CEO can get into using social media? What are the downsides, maybe?

[00:16:00] Larry Lincoln: Not understanding social media. And I think social media is a ripple. It should not be seen as something to avoid. Not at all. And there are some CEOs who just, I’ve heard of some who just refuse to engage in that. And they have to think of that as another key communication channel.

They, just like you’d use media, just like you use internal, you have to plan for it. And so not having a plan, not understanding who the audience is, not really mapping out and being clear what you want to say and what you want them to do. Ultimately, everything that we do with communication, we want to move people.

I tell people we want to move them along a continuum of awareness. Understanding acceptance and then commitment, and that’s especially true in the nonprofit realm. You want to make people aware of what you do and why you make a difference in this cluttered world with all these different agencies that are doing many the same thing.

And competing for the same audiences. why are we different? What’s unique about us? Maybe we need to help you understand more about what we do and why it matters to you. Then you move them along that continuum to understand how it impacts them. What’s in it for them? And then get them to accept and then commit once you can get them to that stage, then you can move them along and you can get them to do pretty much anything.

But social media, I think you have to look at it as another channel that needs attention. It needs constant feeding of the beast, so to speak. You can’t go dark. You can’t start it and then just go dark and let weeks go by. You have to continue to talk. And it’s like having a conversation at a dinner party.

[00:17:36] Larry Lincoln: How many people would talk to you if you had something boring to say or nothing really meaty to say, and you just stop talking? They’d find somebody else to talk to. So, it’s just another channel that needs to be harvested, invested in really intentionally worked with.


[00:17:54] Tommy Thomas: Oh, what kind of counsel are you giving young people today who think they might want a career in communications?

[00:18:00] Larry Lincoln: I think the traditional liberal arts is always good. English, journalism, things like that, but also supplemented by finance and organizational management courses. The reason being it goes back to what I said earlier.

The Chief Communications Officer must know the business – they must know what keeps the CEO up at night.

[00:18:12] Larry Lincoln: I really think to be truly effective communicators have to know the business. They have to be able to know what keeps the CEO up at night. They need to be able to read the balance sheet. They need to know how we operate, because if you don’t understand those things, how can you effectively communicate to key stakeholders?

And so, I think those are key things, and I think to start out to begin their career, it’s always helpful to start out in some writing capacity, I believe. Writing is the foundation of all communication, to be able to present ideas in a logical manner that’s easy, that’s understood to your audiences.

I believe that to be the foundation. And then just moving through, like I said earlier, getting your experience in a lot of different areas. But I think those are some of the foundational elements for someone who desires to enter this field.

[00:19:02] Tommy Thomas: Let’s move over to team leadership a little bit, because most everything gets done in the context of a team.  Tell me what’s the most ambitious project you’ve ever tackled with a team and how did it come out?

[00:19:14] Larry Lincoln: I think that would be at an organization later in my career, a ministry organization. And this organization was a long-standing one that had a lot of different members for a long period of time.

And over time, the members had started feeling like the organization had fallen behind and wasn’t as relevant. And we had just built a communication and engagement department, and our job was to help communicate the new changes and new strategic direction to really make a difference to those key stakeholders.

And so that was very ambitious because it had never been done before, because they had been so used to doing business the way that they’ve always done it.  It required some rebranding, reinventing the organization, and really modernizing it, and helping to show that it had value to to a newer audience.

And so, rallying the team around that was easy because as a newly formed department, it was our opportunity to show what we could do and the value we could bring to the organization. So, we developed a strategic communication plan, a change communication plan for the organization internally, as well as an external plan that had a lot of different milestones to show people that how we were changing and what value we brought and so it turned out very well.

[00:20:35] Larry Lincoln: We did some surveys after the fact. We had worked with another marketing company that assisted us and we found that the change in positive sentiment over that time from the time we started that campaign had really significantly increased. So, it was really, it turned out well for us.

It proved the value that a strategic communication and engagement approach can have for any organization.

[00:20:58] Tommy Thomas: If I could have sat down with your team, I guess during that or after that, and I asked them two questions, I said, first question. What is the most rewarding thing about working with Larry Lincoln?

What would they say? And then if I said, what’s the toughest thing about working with Larry, what would they say?

[00:21:16] Larry Lincoln: I would hope they’d say the most rewarding thing is giving them the room to grow and to do whatever it is that they’ve been asked to do. I think a key recipe for success is not simply giving people responsibility, but giving them support, the resources, and authority to get done what they need to get done.

And I try to do that. I try to empower folks. I think probably the toughest thing that they’d probably say about me is, and I think I learned this from the military too, is I will ask questions. And if I hear an answer that I don’t think was well thought out. I’ll continue to ask more and more questions and dig and drill down to the root cause.

And I think sometimes that could be a little uncomfortable, but I think it’s necessary so that we can really get to the bottom of what we need to do.

[00:22:04] Tommy Thomas: You’ve served under a lot of good leaders and certainly currently now are serving in a great organization. As you look back over these leaders including the military people, what’s the most defining leadership behavior?

[00:22:18] Larry Lincoln: Oh, being accountable, being open, being transparent. I’ll never forget. I was at one ministry in particular, that focused on senior leaders in the business world, CEOs. And this one CEO in particular told me, he gave me this story about how he was faced with some layoffs at a plant, I believe it was back in the Northeast.

And he was the CEO, and he could have sent his senior HR folks to do that. But first of all, he felt that he needed to own it. So, this guy got on a train and went to that business location and personally met with every individual and thanked them for their service while he was giving them their severance packages, things like that.

Whatever you must do eventually – Do it now!

He owned it. But he also told me, he said, that whatever you’ve got to do eventually, do it now. And so that type of behavior was very much appreciated. He stepped into the problem, he owned it, he didn’t delegate it to somebody else, the tough stuff. I have a tremendous amount of admiration for leaders who own that and realize it, and step up, and don’t shirk or shy away from the moment.

A leader must be willing to lean into the tough times and own them.

[00:23:26] Larry Lincoln: There are a lot of tough calls in leadership, you know that. But I think as leaders, we’ve got to be willing to lean into the tough times and also to own it. And so that’s a really good leadership example that I’ve seen. And then other leaders who give you the opportunity to grow and aren’t afraid to be challenged and ask questions, things like that.

[00:23:50] Tommy Thomas: What is the most dangerous behavior that you’ve seen to derail some leader’s careers?

[00:23:56] Larry Lincoln: Personally, I think I’ve seen some who want to be the smartest person in the room and don’t want to take advice. And I think the perfect example of leadership is servant leadership. We’re humble. We’re placed in positions not because of how special we are, but because that’s where we’ve been assigned at that moment in time.

That’s by the grace of God. And so leadership is something to be held and cherished and to nurture and not to be taken too seriously, in my opinion. And so I think sometimes the traps and leadership can be that we think that we’ve got it, we’ll make the decision and we may tune out some really good advice because we think we may know better, I think being flexible, being adaptable, being open to feedback, and sometimes even criticism is the way to go because you want to surround yourself with wise counsel.

[00:24:45] Larry Lincoln: And maybe not listening to that wise counsel. Having said that, if I may say for a moment, you were talking about communications thing. And that’s 1 of the things I think that in leading communication and having the place of communication in any large organization, sometimes leaders make the mistake.

I’ve seen it in the past of not listening necessarily to their communications folks. Not really involving them early in the process more so like a break-the-glass moment when something goes badly. If you involve the communicators early in the process, they can help develop a really good operating and communications plan.

[00:25:26] Larry Lincoln: And then in the Bible, I think it’s in Matthew, we talk about where a prophet has no honor in his own country. Sometimes the same holds true for folks inside the organization, not listening to them and being more prone to listen to consultants and things who may come in, but when there are people who are close by who know the operation inside and out and are closer to it.

[00:25:51] Tommy Thomas: I was on the phone earlier today with a guy from the Barna organization. And we were talking about generational differences. We have a podcast coming up on that topic. And have you noticed any as it relates to communications, how you communicate with different generations in the workforce?

[00:26:08] Larry Lincoln: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think paying close attention to those differences will help you understand because one size does not fit all just like one size does not fit all for separate audiences that you want to communicate with. You have to understand that the internal force represents an audience as well.

There are different people that are in different stages of their lives. They come in with different opinions, different wants, and desires. And I think it’s helpful to understand how best to motivate and lead them. You have to know those differences and know how people want information presented to them, how they want tasks assigned, how they want opportunities to grow, and it’s going to be different along generational lines.

[00:26:51] Larry Lincoln: Some people will need more instruction and more by the book. Some people just say, give me a problem, and let me figure it out. And you’ve got to be willing and comfortable with that because that’s how you can get the best out of the different generations working together and playing on their strengths.


[00:27:10] Tommy Thomas: I’d like you to respond to a few quotes here. The first one, Ross Hoskins of, I  forget the ministry, he leads some down in South Florida says “Surround yourself with people who know you better than you know yourself and will tell you the truth out of love. This is how we grow.”

[00:27:30] Larry Lincoln: I agree. 100%. I think that goes back to what I said a few moments ago. We all have blind spots. We all have weak spots. And those people that you trust, that know you well, can speak into your life and pull you aside and say, hey, I think you might have got this a little wrong.

[00:27:47] Larry Lincoln: You have to be willing to take that feedback, because they’re speaking in love. People who love you and know you are going to be able to have that open dialogue with you and you benefit you only grow from that. And yes, I would definitely want to surround myself and I try to do that with people who know me well, and I can go to in a tough time and say, hey, what do you think?

And sometimes I don’t like what they say, but I accept what they say, because I know that they’ve got the right spirit, the right heart. And they’re going to tell me exactly what I need to hear at that moment in time. 

[00:28:20] Tommy Thomas: Here’s one back to our topic of communications from Peter Drucker. “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said”.

[00:28:30] Larry Lincoln: Yeah, most communication takes place on the nonverbal plane. I think studies show it’s an alarming percent, probably more so like 67% I think it is, of communication is nonverbal. And so that’s very clear. It’s very true. That’s one thing, for instance, when we’re doing media training that comes out, that’s one of the places that it really comes out.

[00:28:52] Larry Lincoln: If you’re media training someone, there are certain nonverbals that will contradict what you’re saying. And so, you have to be very keen and understand that for instance, if someone’s asking a question that you don’t agree with and you’re nodding your head, yes, but you’re thinking, no, what’s going to be communicated is the action.

[00:29:11] Larry Lincoln: Yeah, that’s very true. And another important thing about communication, I’ll go a little bit further than Drucker’s quote is assuming that it’s actually taking place is a two-way street. And communication doesn’t really take place until someone takes an action based on the information or message that you’ve shared.

[00:29:30] Tommy Thomas: One from Booker T. Washington, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position one is reached in life as by the obstacles he has overcome”.

[00:29:40] Larry Lincoln: Yes, I would agree with that as well. I think when you look back to my own personal story, humbly, like I said, it all comes back to that three-year-old kid who was sent to live with grandparents.

When I look back, my wife and I were talking one day and I said, I felt like I could be doing so much more. This was a time when I was just sitting around and thinking about things that I wish I’d done or wanted to do. And she said, oh no, she said, look at and think about where you’ve come from. Think about where you started and think about some of the things that you’ve had to overcome.

That’s the success. The success comes in the journey, not the position that you end up in, but what you’ve had to overcome. And by the grace of God alone, there are many things that I can look back and call them successful simply by enduring.

[00:30:28] Tommy Thomas: This quote from Dr. King probably parallels that. “The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of convenience, but where they stand in moments of challenge, moments of great crisis and controversy.”

[00:30:42] Larry Lincoln: I think that echoes something that my grandma used to tell me. She would always say that you can tell what’s in a person and how they respond to when things are going badly. Everybody can respond well to good times. But what do you show forth when you’re going through the tough times?

What’s inside of you is going to come out. And so if we have something that shows forth in us it should be the love of Christ. It should be that character that’s imbued within us from having a walk with him. And so, understanding that’s what should come forth in times of crisis and in times of difficulty, it doesn’t mean that we enjoy them, but we know that we can get through the other side.

[00:31:22] Tommy Thomas: Here’s one from General George Patton. “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity”.

[00:31:32] Larry Lincoln: Amen. That goes back to the example of the different generations. I’ve always believed that, and I think that’s something that was echoed and taught to me early on.

That’s one thing that I’ve tried to model is not trying to tell folks what to do or how to do it, rather give them a problem that needs to be solved and they will surprise you with their talent and ingenuity. People don’t want to be micromanaged. People don’t want you looking over their shoulder.

They want to be given the freedom to grow and to express themselves. And so I believe in that as well, giving people an opportunity and encouraging them along the way. Really speaking life into that situation, they will surprise you. They’ll probably come up with a better solution.

And then when, especially in a group setting, all of us are so much better than just one of us. Think about all the different experiences, and the different talents that we bring to a group situation, and think about all the different options. So you have to be willing to encourage that and listen and put the best of us forth.

[00:32:32] Larry Lincoln: So yeah, I think that’s a great quote.

[00:32:35] Tommy Thomas: This is a kind of a funny one, but I think it has a lot of truth. “The only person who likes change is a baby with a wet diaper”.

[00:32:47] Larry Lincoln: That’s a good one. I’ve never heard that one. I think you’re right. I think change is hard. We get comfortable situations. People hate change. And I think sometimes organizations resist change.

[00:32:59] Larry Lincoln: We’ve all seen organizations who will hire consultants to come in and give us their best guess and we’ll get a binder and it’ll sit on that desk somewhere in order to gather dust because nobody really wants to put the energy and into change. But change is necessary. Change happens all the time and every situation is changing around us.

[00:33:19] Larry Lincoln: I find that it’s best to embrace change. It’s best to look for change. Not just change for change’s sake but realizing that the landscape can never be constant. It’s not going to stay the same. So, if we can anticipate change and then use it to our advantage, I think it doesn’t have to be dreaded.

[00:33:37] Tommy Thomas: Yeah, staying with change for a minute and thinking of technology and your profession, what technological advancement has, impacted the field of communications, either for better or for worse?

[00:33:50] Larry Lincoln: It’s happening right now with AI. The advances in AI are staggering. There’s a tremendous opportunity, but there’s also tremendous risk.

One of the things for communicators is developing ethics on how AI is used because there are some downfalls with regards to bias with things like that, because it encompasses a lot of existing knowledge. It’s not necessarily creating knowledge. It’s synthesizing, and then it’s learning.

[00:34:19] Larry Lincoln: And the information that’s come before, there has to be an ethical framework in how we use it. That is probably the largest challenge, the biggest, most significant challenge that communicators have, is the use of AI. You look around us right now, we’re seeing examples of deepfakes, things like that, that are popping up.

And those things, especially when you’re using them in a social media context, it’s hard to tell the difference. And so, it can have the ability to change perceptions of right and wrong. Communicators and corporations must understand AI. They must understand the ethical challenges and must develop frameworks and how we’re going to use the tool.

[00:34:59] Larry Lincoln: It’s like any other tool that can be used correctly, and it can be used incorrectly.

[00:35:04] Tommy Thomas: AI, I guess we referenced a little bit earlier that corporate CEOs shouldn’t be afraid of social media because it’s here to stay. I think the AI piece is already out of the genie’s bottle.

[00:35:18] Larry Lincoln: I will tell you that is correct, but there are those that are doing things about it. For instance, the Public Relations Society of America, an organization that I belonged to for many years, recently came out with an ethical guideline for AI for public relations practitioners, and it closely aligns with their ethics guidelines.

[00:35:38] Larry Lincoln: You can’t put your head in the sand. You do have to realize that it’s here to stay, but you have to, again, we talked earlier in our conversation about the crisis situation. You’re either entering into one, you’re in one, or you’re exiting one. So, if you take that approach and look ahead each company, each organization should be leaning forward into how AI may impact them and how they want to use it.

[00:36:03] Tommy Thomas: Let me ask you a couple of closing questions. And this first one, I take from Alan Alda in his podcast, Clear and Vivid, one of his closing questions is, if you were sitting at a dinner party next to a person that you didn’t know, how would you engage them in a meaningful conversation?

[00:36:22] Larry Lincoln: I think that there are things that everybody resonates with. You talk about their childhood, where they’re from, tell me a little bit about what interests you, what brought you here. But I think there are opportunities in our world to find things that we have in common.

There are so many things out there that are being evidenced as differences to drive people apart, but there are basic things that bring people together, and I think trying to find those conversational topics about what brings people together. Tell me about your kids. Tell me about your family.

[00:36:54] Larry Lincoln: Tell me about your hobbies. What do you enjoy? How do you spend a Saturday? And everybody has a different answer, but those are topics that create a natural flow and conversation. And I think after that you start to realize that we’re much more alike than we understand, and we even realize.

Because we all have things that are so important to us, family things, hobbies, down times, those are the things that I would probably start discussing to try and get a better understanding of that individual next to me.

[00:37:23] Tommy Thomas: If you could tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would it be?

[00:37:27] Larry Lincoln: Oh, wow.  One thing I think I’d have a lot to tell my younger self. I think I would probably tell myself not to take myself too seriously. When you’re much younger, you have goals, and you have things and sometimes you can be laser-focused to your detriment and not really take the time to enjoy life.

It’s a journey. And as you look back over the years, nobody’s really going to remember how many hours you spent at work. They’re going to remember the quality relationships that you built, the time spent with family. So, focus more on those things and the rest will come.

[00:38:03] Tommy Thomas: This has been fun, Larry. I’ve always valued your friendship and I just was so glad when we were able to get together and get this on the calendar. So, thank you so much for taking some time with us today and just wish you the best there at Compassion.

[00:38:19] Larry Lincoln: Thank you so much, Tommy. We appreciate you. I appreciate your friendship and what you do as well. And so again, thank you for the opportunity.

[00:38:28] Tommy Thomas: Thank you for joining us today. If you are a first-time listener, I hope you will subscribe and become a regular. You can find links to all the episodes on our website

[00:38:52] Tommy Thomas: If there are topics you’d like for me to explore, my email address is [email protected]. Word of mouth has been identified as the most valuable form of marketing. Surveys tell us that consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising.

[00:39:16] Tommy Thomas: If you’ve heard something today that’s worth passing on, please share it with others. You’re already helping me make something special for the next generation of nonprofit leaders. I’ll be back next week with a new episode. Until then, stay the course on our journey to help make the nonprofit sector more effective and sustainable.

“One of the challenges of social media is that you now have unvetted, unfiltered experts who, on occasion, are sowing disinformation or misinformation.  That presents a challenge to the audience.” -Larry Lincoln

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters Website

Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas

The Perfect Search – What every board needs to know about hiring their next CEO


[email protected]

Follow Tommy on LinkedIn


Listen to Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas on:

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher | Google Podcasts