Q&A with Tisha Conoly Schuller, president and CEO, COGA

Question: How would you describe your leadership style? Are you comfortable setting an organization’s agenda and strategic direction, or do you develop them with your team through a consensus process?

I like to think of my leadership style as a balance between visionary and pragmatic. I am motivated by the opportunity to lead an organization in a completely original direction, but I am fundamentally a get-things-done type of person and am always seeking actual, meaningful accomplishment.

I believe in surrounding myself with people different and more talented than I am, and using those unique characteristics, experience, and styles to develop an organizational strategic direction that is better than any of us could have developed alone. In the case of COGA, we have both the board of directors and the staff from which to draw talent and ideas, and I strive to make the most of all the great characteristics with whom I have the great joy to work.

Q: Have you always tended to be a leader? Can you cite some examples from your past of your leadership qualities?

I’ve always been bossy and ambitious, (but) I’ve only recently grown into a leader. My leadership path has not followed a linear path: I was student body president in high school and perhaps peaked as ultimate Frisbee co-captain in college. Since then I have always tried to add value in any job I serve, which is code for wanting to be in charge wherever I am. I’ve managed offices and operations, and I probably enjoy turning around struggling businesses the most.

Q: Who has helped shape your career and your management style? How influential were your parents in this regard? Who were your most important mentors?

I am thankful for many mentors along the way, but I probably have to say that I learn the most from my failures. I am perpetually ruthlessly evaluating what is and isn’t effective in my work life, and continually trying to grow and adapt. This isn’t to say I’m particularly hard on myself. I’m not. I just don’t want to ever stop growing and learning. I see every difficult situation and person as a teacher from whom I better grab every lesson that I can.

Q: What are some of your success stories at COGA?

I’m most proud of COGA’s evolution into a sought-out voice on industry perspectives and information. This has been a slow and systematic effort, from developing an internal culture of finding and relying on facts, to creating information resources, to proactively communicating industry information to business and regulatory leaders.

An instance that shows how I address an issue: Recently when the governor was critiqued for appearing in COGA public service announcements, I spent two sleepless nights critiquing the PSA, the request we made of the governor, and the concerns of the environmental community. I evaluated each step, what I could learn from it, and how I could do it differently next time. In the end, I’m extremely proud of the PSA and the positive, pro-Colorado message it embodies. But I am always eager to learn and improve.

Q: What do you consider the greatest challenges that you face today at COGA?

Public misinformation. It tortures me that families living in areas that are or may experience oil and gas development are scared based on distorted half-truths. There are plenty of real-world issues to discuss about oil and gas development in a community, and I embrace those. But the quantity of terrifying misinformation is truly awful. It’s so easy to state an untruth in 15 seconds. It takes so much more to correct it.