Vice President of Communications, Framatome Inc.

Bio: Denise Woernle is Vice President of Communications for Framatome Inc., where she has worked for the past 16 years. She has more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications including internal communication, media relations, marketing, community relations, and crisis communication. Having worked primarily for international companies, Denise is well-versed in effective communication and leadership in a multi-cultural environment.

Denise is currently a member of the Lynchburg Regional Business Alliance board. She has served in several leadership positions for the Lynchburg chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators since helping to found the chapter in 2007.

Denise earned a B.S. in journalism with a concentration in public relations from Liberty University. She also received professional accreditation through the International Association of Business Communicators in December 2010.

What does an average day look like for you?
An average day at work is a balance between meetings, email, and focusing on my priorities for that week. I usually check news and social media first for Framatome mentions and then any “quick response” emails. I have a new “habit” in which I sketch out my day on paper and it is color-coded. I feel like I have more control over my day.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Evolving! I continue to learn and develop. I like to get stuff done so I tend to be hands-on but I really love being strategic—setting a direction that others can envision and execute. Developing other strong professional communicators is important to me so I really encourage my team members to take training classes and take on challenging projects and experiences that will build their skills and competencies.

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. How do you handle it?
I try to see things from someone else’s perspective and ask questions. The idea of “leading with questions” has been really useful in that it helps me get more information and perspective rather than “telling myself a story.” Just saying “tell me more about what you’re thinking” gives the other person the opportunity to express more and it helps me to explore the issue rather than react to it.

So far, what would you say is your greatest career accomplishment?
The most recent is leading the strategy to launch the new brand Framatome (January 2018) in North America. (Previous name was AREVA.) We had a great team here in the U.S. that worked with the team in Paris to launch the new name and brand. It took months of planning and it paid off. We successfully reached all of our target stakeholders. It was a project that required a strong team and we had to be “all in.” It was hard work but fun and rewarding.

Likewise, can you share a learning experience with us that changed you for the better?
There have been many along the way. I am grateful to have discovered mindfulness and meditation. The idea of approaching certain activities and conversations with an intention is powerful. Taking a pause before reacting to identify how I feel allows just enough space to be more intentional and less reactive. I’m not saying it’s easy! But if you practice, it works.

As a female leader, what types of challenges, if any, do you think women still face in the workplace today?
Wow! So many! There is a hidden bias that seems to continue even in the younger generations and it means women aren’t seen as having a legitimate, authoritative voice in the business world. We have to work harder to have the credibility and respect that is often given to men as a default. That said, many men and women are working to create a more equal workplace and we’ve come a long way.

Work-life balance is a struggle for many employees. How do you juggle everything?
It’s really about a long-term view—some days and weeks I spend more time working because of a project but I have the flexibility to rebalance once it’s complete. It helps to recognize the cycles in our business and be prepared for the busier times and schedule personal appointments and activities when I know it will be a bit quieter at work. Not that it always works perfectly! I think it’s about doing what works best for you—and that may change over time.

What’s life like for you outside of work?
I started running about seven years ago, not long after my mom passed away, and it seemed to be what I needed. I’ve kept it up and try to run three times a week. I work out with a trainer once a week and really try to eat healthy and clean. I want to be a spry and feisty old lady when I get there! I have a couple of groups of terrific friends that I spend time with, and my husband and I like to travel.