Woody Woodyard ’85 on the keys to being a successful communicator

by Jaden Constant

November 1, 2018

The vice president of Sikorsky Aircraft spoke at Newhouse Oct. 25

Woody Woodyard '85
Woody Woodyard '85

Woody Woodyard ’85, a retired Air Force colonel and vice president of Sikorksy Aircraft, delivered a lecture at the Newhouse School as part of the Leaders in Communications speaker series.

Woodyard is responsible for leading and executing global strategic programs in communications for Sikorksy, a Lockheed Martin corporation. His duties include promoting Sikorksy’s innovative rotorcraft flight solutions and driving the company’s business objectives. Woodyard also leads a staff of professional communicators, while maintaining crucial stakeholder relationships with elected public officials and aerospace and industry associations.

Woodyard acknowledged that in today’s society, people often lack the ability to communicate in a constructive manner. He noted that people are sometimes too passionate about certain subjects, making them resistant to differing viewpoints. This in turn leads to unnecessary conflict and stifles progress.

“How do we learn how to agree to disagree without being disagreeable?” said Woodyard. “That’s the key to returning us to civility.” Woodyard said civility is fundamental for a prosperous and dynamic work culture.

Woodyard emphasized that communicators are responsible for fostering a collaborative and healthy environment. He said he is careful about how he gives counsel in both professional and personal settings. Although he may disagree with someone on a particular subject, they can still find common ground.

“It starts with us,” said Woodyard. “Words matter.”

Woodyard urged the students in the room to work for organizations that align with their values, and in jobs that offer personal fulfillment. Self-awareness is key, he said.

“What’s the nonnegotiable part of you?” asked Woodyard. “What do you value?”

“That’s why Sikorksy is a good fit for me,” said Woodyard. “The mission there is to pioneer flight solutions that bring people home. That’s core to me; I want to serve.”

Woodyard said the Newhouse brand is globally known and widely respected, and called it  an investment that will return dividends in the future–but only if students are willing to put in the effort.

“If you’re running a 400-yard race, and you’re a Syracuse grad, you get a hundred meter [head] start. If you’re in Newhouse, you get [another] 200 yards. If you’re taking advantage of an internship or the resources that are here, you got a 300-yard [head] start.”

Woodyard said that for the last 100 yards students may fail, but they should fail fast and come back.

“That’s what makes you successful,” said Woodyard. “That’s what I look for. That’s why I come back [to Newhouse] and look for talent.”

Woodyard noted that the transition from the classroom to the workplace can be a difficult one. Students can expect to be the youngest person in a room full of experienced executives, but they shouldn’t let that intimidate them.

“You’ve got the determination and will and that experience already,” said Woodyard. “Newhouse has built that [into] you.”

But, Woodyard said, success is about more than getting good grades in college; cultivating strong work relationships is crucial to a strong career.

“There’s no GPA once you get out into the real world,” said Woodyard. “[What matters is] how you work with your peers and colleagues.”

Woodyard said that relationships can make the difference between thriving and simply surviving within a company.

“There are folks who talk about you in other venues that you’re not aware of,” said Woodyard. “They’ll say ‘I don’t know that person,’ and that’s how you get left behind.” 

Woodyard said that one of the most valuable qualities leading to success is perseverance, which he sees in Newhouse graduates. “That’s the magic of Syracuse and Newhouse. That’s what makes you special.”

Jaden Constant is a sophomore television, radio, and film major at the Newhouse School.