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Hidden Gems: Meet Lee Broekman of Organic Communication

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lee Broekman.

Hi Lee, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I started out in political communications – working in local, state and eventually international politics – going from City Hall in Los Angeles to the European Union in Amsterdam. After years of bridging gaps between stakeholders, creating consensus and collaboration among constituents, speaking in public gatherings and press conferences, managing campaigns and producing media segments, I realized that I enjoyed the communication aspect more than the political part of my various positions.

I was presented with an opportunity to go into academia and started teaching college courses in communication and media. I discovered a passion for teaching and for developing curriculum that would be inspiring, interesting, relevant and personal for my students. I put more than 15 courses into rotation, ranging from topics such as ‘News and Public Opinion,’ ‘Children, Adolescents and the Media,’ ‘Popular Culture: L.A. as Laboratory,’ ‘Public Speaking, Public Performance,’ ‘Communication and Society,’ ‘Argumentation and Debate,’ ‘Persuasive Communication,’ ‘Organizational Behavior,’ ‘Leadership Seminar,’ and more. What I learned after year one of teaching is that the more I talked, the less they learned. Recognizing that I wanted to facilitate my students’ learning rather than reinforce my knowledge, I ditched the lecture model and turned every key concept and theoretical model into an experiential learning module – so that students would learn by doing. Students would walk into my classes at the College of Arts & Sciences at American Jewish University and at the Annenberg School for Communication and Marshall School of Business at USC and find quadrants on the floor, posters on the walls, role cards on their desks and projects in bags calling on them to interact and participate. There was a lot of learning, laughing, growing and transformation happening in these classroom experiences that spanned over a decade of my career.

This led to my third and current venture in the field of executive education and professional development. As a university professor, I was invited to present at notable business and legal gatherings. When conference attendees experienced my approach to sharing impactful and meaningful content, they asked for more and more often. There is an appetite in the business world for connecting with colleagues while acquiring knowledge – and my calendar quickly filled up with retreat facilitation, lunch and learns, on-sites and off-sites, one-on-one coaching, and ongoing training programs. I eventually went from teaching a full-time university schedule with keynoting, training and coaching on the side – to working primarily with organizations and corporations and teaching on a part-time basis, currently a public speaking seminar at UCLA School of Law.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
My path and professional progression have definitely not been linear, and I encountered many struggles and challenges along the way. When I started out in public policy after learning about city governance and ethical leadership as a Coro Fellow, I was idealistic about innovating solutions to public problems. Yes – I was able to accomplish a lot, but working on public transportation legislation in a city that has a strong car culture, for example, presented daily uphill battles. A month after I moved to Amsterdam as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place, and my role to create goodwill and international understanding was catapulted into immediate publicized action. In the university world, I worked tirelessly to take the lead of my academic department, only to have the dean change the vision and focus of the college. In my entrepreneurial experience, I had partnerships and collaborations that weren’t always aligned despite the best intentions. And the most recent challenge was having to press pause, cancel and postpone several speaking and training engagements beginning in March of 2020 when the COVID-19 global pandemic made it unsafe to travel and gather. Facing Change and Challenge is one of my company’s signature training programs – and of course, it’s often the toughest to apply what you teach – but having to convert much of my very high-touch/low-tech experiential content to the virtual world has been incredibly rewarding.

As you know, we’re big fans of Organic Communication. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Here’s a little about me. Lee Broekman, professor, coach and trainer, provides communication, leadership and management guidance to professionals and teams. Principal of Organic Communication, Lee is an expert in persuasion, presentation and interpersonal communication. She trains decision-makers in top organizations to communicate, collaborate and innovate effectively. A communication professor for 20 years, Lee has taught courses at USC Annenberg and Marshall Schools, teaches public speaking at UCLA School of Law, and is on the executive leadership faculty of the Four Seasons Hotel. Lee is the author of Stop Blocking, Start Connecting: 8 Key Skills of Successful Communicators.

Here’s a description of my company: Organic Communication, LLC offers expertise to organizations in communication training and leadership development. We provide our services in four main categories: (1) Training & Coaching; (2) Retreats and Facilitation; (3) Keynotes and Presentations; and (4) Assessment Tools. We design and facilitate curriculum that is engaging and relevant, coupled with actionable tools that participants apply to enhance interactions, accomplish goals and overcome challenges. Professionals participating in our programs build the skills they need to lead collaboratively, think strategically, and communicate effectively. Our highly effective approach changes mindsets and habits, deeply and rapidly, to elevate performance, boost productivity and maximize resources across teams and functions. Our qualified team of professors and practitioners actively facilitates programs in high-visibility and high-impact firms and agencies globally. Our facilitators and coaches have a strong academic foundation as instructors and professors, practical field experience as well as degrees, certifications and credentials in executive education.

What makes you happy?
Spending time with my family makes me so happy! I’ve been married to my college sweetheart, Jeremy, for 23 years and we’ve been together for 27 years. We have three kids who are 18, 15 and 11 years old – and our nightly family dinners and Thanksgiving family vacations to explore new destinations make me so happy! Our puppy makes me happy – and reading and painting make me happy! Creating connections among people makes me happy – when I lead trainings professionally or when I’m hosting gatherings personally. I’m happy when I get to create and collaborate – I love the sparks of energy.

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