“What are you great at?” This is the key question Mark Green uses to set his clients on a path to success. As a business and leadership growth coach, he reshapes the power and potential of CEOs and executive teams worldwide. Beyond his core role, he also excels as speaker, strategic advisor, and author.
Mark Green’s book Activators is the pivotal text for any CEO that wants to achieve clarity, alignment, optimization, and maximum productivity. In his published and in-person client work alike, Mark guides professionals through the most challenging obstacles they face in their career.
On the organization level, Mark works with CEOs to unpack how to optimize operations. His underlying goal is to help business leaders create a culture of accountability, which in turn drives accelerated revenue, profit, and tangible results.
Mark partners with clients to take on real-world challenges that seem impossible to win. He guides them through the process step-by-step with actionable tools, data-driven findings, and replicable techniques they can turn into foundational systems that keep the core foundation of their company unshakably secure.
From Worst Case Scenario to One Away Moment
In this episode, our discussion tackles the “worst-case-scenario” in anyone’s career: losing your job. Even though this can feel like the end of the world, Mark’s depth of wisdom and insight make a strong case for throwing that stigma out the window.
Losing your job is often an unexpected nightmare than throws your life into disarray, and it often happens to the people who least expect it, who excelled at every aspect of their life up to that point without a single fumble:
“Prior to [being laid off], things just kind of happened for me. I progressed in my career and did well in school and got hired right off of campus and went through this management training program and now all of a sudden, 10 years into it, I was face to face with the idea that A) I was underperforming and B) I was now on my own.”
Instead of interpreting this event as a personal failure or seeing it as an impossible hurdle to overcome, which feels so natural when you’re in the middle of it, Mark articulates the silver lining in a universally scary scenario. Speaking to a formative experience of his own, he reframes the idea of layoffs or getting fired as the opportunity for a fresh new start. If this is an experience you have to face, approach it strategically.
Don’t take a layoff personally or let it lurk in the back of your mind indefinitely. This event is inherently about compatibility and need, and it can never define your worth. Instead, take an inventory of weaknesses that impacted your performance.
Even better, think about all your incredible strengths that didn’t apply in that old, poorly fitting job. Think about how your talents don’t have to go to waste anymore. Now, you can strategically consider where you can use these strengths in a new, and better position to accomplish amazing work that really matters.
On the other side of this harrowing and painful process, something incredible awaits you: a blank slate full of limitless opportunity.
Top 5 Takeaways from Mark Green
After working everywhere from small and family businesses to enterprise-level companies, Mark has found his niche and become his own boss. Having worked with such a wise variety of different types of companies, Mark knows firsthand what’s really important, no matter where you work.
Here are 5 lessons you can take with you from his experiences:
1. Strong Relationships: Never burn bridges, no matter how tempting, even when you get burned
2. Know When to Ask for Help: Stay humble enough to do so when necessary
3. Strike at the Opportune Moment: Be ready to take matters into your own hands
4. Keep a Positive Mindset: Mark looked on the bright side through every adversity
5. Agility & Adaptability: Never be scared to course correct; be patient, you’ll get there!
“You never want to burn bridges. You need to subordinate your ego. You need to subordinate any anger or whatever you’re feeling that’s negative to transition without burning any bridges because you just never know how your path will cross again in the future.”
Renowned is his vertical for his integrity, direct style, and powerful intuition, Mark Green is a core advisor and mentor to gravitas impact premium coaches worldwide.
If you’re a young professional, this episode is a must-listen. Throughout the conversation, you’ll learn excellent advice that will help you set out on a path to success.
A transcript is provided below for your convenience!
BRYAN WISH: What is your One Away moment that was really defining as you’ve navigated your journey?
MARK GREEN: The One Away moment for me came about 10 years into my career. I graduated college, went to work for a technology outsourcing company, and wound up in a position managing an outsourced relationship with a bank in New York City about 10 years out of college. I was laid off from that job. It turned out, now in hindsight, that that was one of the most important things that could have every happened to me. It determined the trajectory of the rest of my professional life.
BRYAN WISH: When you were laid off, what did that feel like? You realized you maybe weren’t well suited for the job. What did you learn from that and how did you respond?
MARK GREEN: It was super painful because up until that point in my career and my academic career before it, everything had come to me pretty easily. I worked hard in college and I did well. I was in a lot of activities. I ended up getting recruited directly off of college campus into this job which was a fairly prestigious management training program. Sever work assignments had followed from that. That was the history to this moment. The reality was I was in over my head in this job that I had managing this relationship.
I knew it, but was very reluctant to admit it. We all have a lot of ego involvement. At least for me, it was very difficult to acknowledge that I was struggling. When the organization needed to identify some people to reduce headcount, I actually became a fairly easy target because I was underperforming in this role.
The layoff was a very rude awakening for me that forced me to acknowledge my own shortcomings in that regard. Again, this is a very different experience than anything I’d experienced prior to that because things just kind of happened for me. I progressed in my career and did well in school and got hired right off of campus and went through this management training program and now all of a sudden, 10 years into it, I was face to face with the idea that A) I was underperforming and B) I was now on my own.
BRYAN WISH: When you were in the role and realized you were underperforming and maybe not the best suited, if you were talking to somebody who had those same feelings today, what would you tell them to do?
MARK GREEN: If they thought they were underperforming; my advice would be to declare that to somebody and ask for help. This was my problem. I had a pride problem. It took me quite a number of years after this layoff, when I was doing my own thing, to be able to ask for help because my mental model prior was that this was a weakness. My friends from high school joke with me to this day that I was always the guy where like, “Everything is fine. Mark is great. Everything is great.” You know when you see people like that, it can’t be. Everything can’t just be great. It took me a long time, even after this event, to learn how to ask for help. The sooner we become comfortable realizing that asking for help is about one of the strongest things you can do as a human being, the better off you are. That’s what I would recommend.
BRYAN WISH: What’s interesting in what you’re saying is if you were asking for feedback and advice early, you can maybe get ahead of some of those things. For you, it was a hard lesson to learn but something, I think, you’re very good at today.
MARK GREEN: Yeah, it is. Tasha Eurich wrote a great book on self-awareness. She highlights that there’s two different aspects to self-awareness. The self-awareness we normally think about, which is my awareness of how I’m feeling right now, my own awareness of myself, but the other aspect of self-awareness is the awareness of how you are being perceived by others. This is something that we don’t spend enough time thinking about and really dovetails with the point you’re making here – this element of asking for help because it really does send a great message to people around you.
I also have been playing a Brené Brown video called The Anatomy of Trust for clients of mine lately. She’s awesome. One of the big lightbulb moments in there is this idea that asking for help from somebody else is actually a trust building activity. It’s another piece of data that goes in the column that asking for help is a strength, not a weakness. People who never ask for help actually have a harder time building trust of other people than those who do ask for help and they build trust more rapidly with others.
BRYAN WISH: How did you respond, what was next, and how did you process the uncertainty of that moment?
MARK GREEN: A little bit more background, I had a young family at the time. Two of my three kids were born and were very young. We owned a house. This was 10 years into my career. My earnings were on the upswing, but I wasn’t exactly in this massively strong financial position.
That’s the backdrop, in addition to the ego hit. In the instant that my boss was telling me that I was being laid off, I made up my mind that this was going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I don’t know why I did it or how it happened, but I recall very specifically that he and I – he was a good guy. He and I had a great conversation. They provided me with some severance and some outplacement which helped from peace of mind.
My parting words to him, as I walked out the door, and I remember it vividly, was something like, “I just want to thank you because there’s a big part of me right now that feels like you just handed me a bouquet of roses and have launched me on the next chapter of whatever it is that I’m going to go do, and that’s really exciting to me.”
It was in the moment that I made the choice to seek what I call a return on luck. At the time, I had no concept of this in this way. This is totally in hindsight, but I did make that choice and I remember the thinking and I remember the words. As I was thinking it and saying the words, there was part of me that wasn’t believing it, for sure. It was like, holy crap, but it was important for me to try to be there mentally and to say the words. I think that’s what really set the stage for me to have some mental and psychological buoyancy in a hard time and be able to then build a foundation to move forward.
BRYAN WISH: It almost felt as well that you were handed a card of freedom to go do something in a way that you had never done and find and discover a part of yourself that you had never tapped into before. What allowed you to turn that into a positive?
MARK GREEN: Something that I spent a lot of time now talking to my clients about in the current world scenario is that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. This is under the return on luck umbrella. I just think I sort of operated that way my whole life. I’ve always been an optimist; although, now I have more balance than I used to.
Back in my high school, college, and the early days of my career, I was an optimist. I think that’s where this came from then is this sort of unbridled sense of optimism and that I’ll make the best of it and figure it out. I was not walking out the door with nothing. I had maybe three months’ worth of severance and I had opportunity to work with an outplacement firm.
I wasn’t completely abandoned and left with nothing. I knew I had a little bit of runway and I was going to have some support to figure out what was next for me. Those things helped a lot because this is my reaction in that context knowing that. It was probably my sense of optimism.
BRYAN WISH: What was next for you?
MARK GREEN: I took advantage of what was available to me. There’s generally two things this kind of thing goes. When you have an event like this in your life, not just a layoff, but a real blow in your life, there’s some tendency to want to go curl up under the bed and just stay there in the fetal position. That was never my MO.
My MO always was, I’ve got to get out. I’ve got to go do something. I had a bias to act. I took advantage of the outplacement and was able to use their office. I continued commuting into New York City and I used the office that was available to me at the outplacement firm and I followed their advice and their process and started my search which led me to be hired by a small company that did marketing work in the technology industry. What was important about this for me was I was pretty bound and determined not to go work for another big company at the time because I figured I had done that for 10 years and I wanted to see what the smaller business world was like. It was getting this job with this small company; that was the immediate next step. Interestingly, I was only there for six months and the business was a complete train wreck because the woman, who owned the business, was crazy. However, return on luck, she was crazy but had an amazing ability to attract really smart people.
I ended up making this network of people who were super smart, super motivated, and everybody ended up going on their own way from this firm, but made some very valuable contacts and also was able to accelerate my learning in the marketing area which was not something that I had really done before and also began kind of flexing my muscle in a selling role which was also new to me at the time. Those were the things that came out of this first gig for me.
BRYAN WISH: Even the next opportunity was maybe not the perfect opportunity, it was a step and it gave you an experience in a small role, at a small company, where you could see things in a completely different perspective. You may have had a crazy boss but a network of people that could help tap into you for the rest of your life. When the company went under and you found another opportunity with marketing and selling skills, where did you? How did that play out for you?
MARK GREEN: That played out through a relationship connection which is how a lot of things play out, which is why it’s very important to know people and to invest time in people and relationships. I became a partner in an executive search firm that was focused in management consulting and the technology space. That was an industry fairly familiar and this was at a time where there was a great run-up in all the .com’s that were occurring.
There was a ton of money flowing to technology leadership and consulting leadership in these areas. The father had built the firm. His son was working in the firm. I was brought in to partner with the son and eventually take over the reigns as a key person there. This was a really good opportunity for me because if you know anything about recruiting, all it is is selling.
You’re either selling to attract a client or you’re selling to attract a candidate to a position. It’s about as pure as it gets in that realm. I had some amazing role models there and the amazing ability to learn. It was a really great experience while I was there.
BRYAN WISH: What were some of those valuable skills and takeaways that you could take from that role to apply to the next?
MARK GREEN: Two things come to mind. One was this idea that it’s okay to fearlessly hit above your weight level. It astounded me how the people that I was working with and the role models I had at the time were able to have these toe-to-toe conversations and negotiations with really senior business people running huge organizations at the time.
That took a lot of guts. That’s how I interpreted it at the time. It was like they were just okay hitting above their weight level and it just didn’t matter. Remarkably, the results were there. Not only were they hitting above their weight level, but they were actually playing the game. They were in the game and they were getting the results.
That was a huge lesson for me that really opened things up in terms of being able to be more confident in having the right conversations with the right people no matter the circumstance or the level or any of that. Of course, later that came to serve me massively as I built my own business and as a coach.
The other key lesson was negotiations as well. The recruiting business is all about sales. It’s all negotiation on both sides. I learned an awful lot about negotiations. Not negotiating against yourself. It’s not like, “They’ll never give us that, so why don’t we just ask for this?” No. Ask for what you want and make the argument for what you want because quite a few times, you’ll get it. My mother was a good role model with negotiations like this as well. These guys, at the recruiting firm, really cemented it for me.
BRYAN WISH: You learned how to play in the big leagues and be confident in yourself. What allowed you to develop a confidence in those moments to really stand in the room with people that you thought you had no business being with?
MARK GREEN: For me, I was able to draw on something that’s a strength of mine which is my ability to think on the fly. I’m very effective at that. You could make the argument it’s one of the reasons I’ve had such success as a coach because I’m asked pretty routinely, “How did you know to ask that? How did you know how to make that suggestion? How did you know to say that right at that moment?”
The answer, of course, is I don’t know. It’s what’s come to me. I’m able to think on the fly which helped a lot. If you’ve got the right mindset for how you want to be positioned and you’re able to be nimble in your responsiveness and have access to resources to not freeze up but to actually draw on resources to think with agility, that’s a pretty powerful combination.
If you’re the type of person who is listening to this right now and says, “That’s completely not me. I can’t do that. I freeze like a deer in the headlights when those moments come,” I would really challenge you to do some reflection around what the self-limiting beliefs are that are active in those moments when you’re a deer in the headlights. What is it that’s giving you the belief that you can’t control that situation? It’s those beliefs that are preventing you from accessing your own resources that are already there.
We all have the same resource and capability to be flexible and agile and think on our feet. It’s just that we put a block in the way with a mental model sometimes that actually prevents our ability to reach into the pantry and grab the resources from within ourselves. That would be my challenge for people that are listening right now kind of thinking, “Yeah, but I freeze.”
BRYAN WISH: Keep going on this path of yours. What was next?
MARK GREEN: I was there for a couple of years and I learned a lot. It was a great run. It became increasingly clear over time that the idea of a partnership with the business owner’s son wasn’t going to play out the way that it had been originally positioned. I was fine there. I was doing well and I was still learning, but I just kind of knew it wasn’t going to be a long thing.
This is my second experience in my career working for a very small business. At the time, my brother Eric and his wife, Lindsay, had a business doing event and marketing work in conjunction with the Conference Board and Fortune magazine and some really high-end name brand stuff. Their business was doing really well.
My background was something that they didn’t have in terms of structurally how I approach things. We began talking about whether it might make sense for me to join then in their business. I decided to do that. What was beautiful about this move is that I was able to exit the recruiting firm with a very professional, clean, manner because I was leaving their family business to go work in my family business.
Even though I knew there wasn’t going to be a future in the partnership and was frustrated with some things there, none of that was in the rationale that I used publicly when I decided to make the transition into the next step.
That’s a lesson. You never want to burn bridges. You need to subordinate your ego. You need to subordinate any anger or whatever you’re feeling that’s negative to transition without burning any bridges because you just never know how your path will cross again in the future.
I went and began working with my brother and his wife in their business. We had a very good run for a couple of years. We came up on 2003 which there was some economic headwind that was blowing at the time. We were working with very large corporations but all the things we were doing at the time was sort of a discretionary spend for them. It wasn’t core marketing dollars. With an economic headwind, they started pulling back.
We ended up in a position where the business was good to support two of the three of us but not all three of us. Of course, it was their business. I took it as a sign that this was now my opportunity. If you think about the transition from large company to small company one to small company two to family business – it was now my time to go do my own thing. I used this as the opportunity to pivot and say, “What is it that I want to do that’s my own thing?” That was how I got to that transition point.
BRYAN WISH: What did you do to dig in and self-reflect to say it’s now time to do your own thing? What happened in the mushy middle to come out to the other side of what you’re doing now?
MARK GREEN: The reflection that I did at the time was around, “What am I great at? What am I actually really good at; that I have evidence that I’m really good at? What do I enjoy doing?” Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you enjoy or love it. I tell the story if there was an intergalactic aware for excellence in vacuuming, I would win it, but I don’t enjoy it. You can be great at something and not enjoy it.
What am I great at, that I enjoy, that has an economic aspect to it that’s going to allow me to create what I want to create?
Those were the three factors I was thinking about. Ironically, years later, I learned from business thinker/author/consultant, Jim Collins, that those three questions are the essential questions to figure out what he calls your hedgehog, which is this idea of what is the focus?
The three questions he asks are:
- What can you be best in the world at?
- What do you have passion for?
- What’s your economic engine?
I was asking those same questions at the time not realizing it.
What I came up with, at the time, is I was really good at listening to and relating to other people and helping other people gain insight and learn. You could literally go all the way back to middle school and I could tell stories of that all the way along. I enjoyed doing it. I loved that.
The question was how do you turn that into something that’s economically viable?
The way I decided to do it was to launch a leadership development training company which was the first iteration of Performance Dynamics Group, which is my business. That is what got me to the point of launching this company and getting into what was the beginning of where I am today.
BRYAN WISH: What did the company look like right when you launched?
MARK GREEN: I wanted to be a great practitioner but I didn’t want to have to invent all of my own process and materials. This is a thing for people who do coaching, consulting, or training and development work. I pretty quickly came to the conclusion that there’s a lot of really good intellectual property out in the world that anybody can use as a practitioner.
I aligned with a business that had really great intellectual property that I was able to license and use in my practice. What I also got out of that was a built-in network of colleagues which is also super valuable if you’re a solo practitioner.
It can be very lonely out there if you’re trying to build a business on your own without a network of people who are engaged in similar work doing similar things independently in their own businesses, but now we had glue that connected us which was this set of tools.
The work I was doing right out of the gate was management and leadership training and development. I was doing some sales development work and a very rudimentary form of business planning. My target market, at the time, was a pretty small company; businesses with probably $5 million and less in revenue; sometimes much, much less.
That’s how I launched. I got my first client the old fashioned way, cold calling. It was the best and worst thing that happened to me because it was literally 30-45 days after I launched my practice. I landed a $32,000 piece of business which is pretty substantial at the time. It was a regional pest control company. It was great because I actually had income and it was awful because I had the thought in my head of, “Oh wow, this isn’t so hard” which is the worst thing because of course, I got this piece of business and promptly went into a bit of a drought for the next 4-6 months of not really having success finding other clients.
Even there, there’s a lesson. You have to be careful with early success, not to pat yourself on the back too hard. I like to think like I’m a sales genius, therefore, I landed this account; therefore, I’m going to land all these other accounts. But sometimes, you get lucky. The problem is, if you don’t know the difference, you can really do some damage.
BRYAN WISH: What was that like for you? Were you scared, nervous, learning on the fly acting like you knew what you were doing?
MARK GREEN: Yes, yes, and yes is the short answer. The beauty of the model I had at the time was that I was facilitating one module per week with this group of people I was working with inside the business. The way I was able to mentally cope with this was essentially, the realization that I just need to be one week ahead of them and I’m in control here.
All I had to focus on was what’s next week’s module and how do I prepare to be there and make it happen next week? By just focusing on that and staying one week ahead of them in the process, I didn’t have to overthink things nor did I have to spend a whole bunch of all-nighters preparing this giant program. It didn’t matter what was going to happen in 10 weeks. What mattered is what’s going to happen next week.
Remember, I had a network of colleagues now that was baked into this process. I was able to call and ask for help and learn best practices, including different add-on tools and techniques and facilitation tips.
BRYAN WISH: You didn’t have to have a six month plan for the client.
MARK GREEN: Yeah, and everybody has to start somewhere. If you look at any expert in any field, there’s a similar pattern. You’re not born an expert. Just because you decide you’re going to enter into this business doesn’t mean you’re an expert practitioner.
If you just focus on what’s right in front of you, you will build that expertise over time through your own experiences. That’s where the expertise comes from is the actual time in the trenches doing the work.
BRYAN WISH: The more experience you’ve gotten over the years, the easier it’s been for you to diagnose and solve problems.
MARK GREEN: It’s funny because there’s a part of me that agrees with Vaynerchuk but there’s also a part of me that thinks the 19 year old life coach only needs to be expert at what they’re talking about with their client next week, which is a very thin slice of life. That focus can be massively helpful in establishing yourself in some sort of a professional practice.
BRYAN WISH: You got your first client, learned a lot, figured out how to navigate the storm. How have you built out the practice over the years?
MARK GREEN: I scaled my training and development practice for about six years. Essentially, I learned, got better at it, got better at landing clients, and also started delivering a one-on-one coaching format that I was working with entrepreneurs on through that practice and became one of the most successful practitioners in this network that I was a part of at the time.
There was a structural problem and the problem was that the way that this business model worked was that my time, my heartbeat was very connected to my ability to earn money. It was all kind of by the clock because I was teaching classes.
If you’re teaching classes, you have to be in class for a period of time. Somebody buys a program, they’re buying 10 classes, and when the 10 classes are over, there’s nothing there. You have to turn around and go find somebody else to buy your classes and sell it to them.
I’m oversimplifying this, but that was the business model. I was realizing that my earnings were capped out because I didn’t want to be working any harder. I didn’t want to build an organization. That was never my aspiration here. I was at this point where I needed something to change but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.
I tell the story in my book Activators about my Grandpa Ben’s real estate advice about when you buy real estate, never buy the most expensive house in the neighborhood because there’s only one way the other property values can affect your property value over time and it will drag it down. I realized somewhere in the 5 or 6 year mark, that I had become one of the most expensive houses in my professional neighborhood.
Grandpa Ben’s advice wasn’t just about real estate. That really caused me to think about who do I need to be surrounded by that can really help me break free of this model that I’m in. Of course, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I had one of those moments. I got an email from a colleague of mine who said, “I’ve been active in this other organization over here for a number of years and it’s really changed my practice, transformed my business. You should check it out.”
I did. In 2009, I affiliated with a different organization. This was actually a very challenging decision for me because the organization I was leaving was the organization that actually set me up in my business and I had really strong emotional ties and gratitude and appreciation for this. The debate I was having was do I keep them both or do I walk away from the old and completely embrace the new?
I wrestled with that for quite a bit of time. I did a clean break. The change that I made in 2009 is really what set the stage for the business model that I have today and for my ability to work the way that I do with CEOs and their teams in the middle mark as a coach with multi-year engagements and client relationships that literally last years.
BRYAN WISH: What did you learn when people bought the 10 programs? What were some of the key takeaways?
MARK GREEN: The biggest thing I learned is that it’s not a lot of fun to work with prisoners. What I mean by that is that a lot of the work I was doing was with people who were being sent to a training program. I worked with some entrepreneurs one-on-one.. I did some work with CEOs and the small business folks, but for the most part, when you’re doing a management development program, you have a room full of maybe 10 or 12 managers in the business who were told, “Hey, you’re going to attend this program.”
I always had people in the room who wanted to be there and wanted to learn, but there were always he prisoners in the room. There was this inextricable aspect of this work that you just really couldn’t avoid to some degree. That was very frustrating to me because I knew I had value to give and it makes me crazy when I see that somebody is not in a position to benefit from it. I know that’s their issue and not mine but it’s frustrating and it’s not fun for me. I don’t feel it’s a good use of my time.
One of the big changes in the model that I moved to was that there were no more prisoners because the CEO was engaging me to work with them and their team as a team. Typically, if there were any prisoners, in that scenario, they wouldn’t last very long because of the work we were doing. They could come on board. They could choose not to be. If they did, they wouldn’t last very long.
My word for that is, “Are you coachable?” It’s this idea of being open to hear brutal, straightforward feedback and the ability to act on it to improve. It can’t be one without the other. Those two things are what come under the umbrella of someone who is coachable. My sniffer is pretty good for that now when I meet somebody new because that’s one of the earliest things that I test in a CEO to assess whether or not I would be interested in working with this person is how coachable are they?
BRYAN WISH: What do these engagements look like to today in terms of the work you’re doing with these teams?
MARK GREEN: My clients, for the most part, are CEOs and their executive teams running businesses with between about $30 million and $400 million in revenue. I have a small portfolio of clients, usually just 9 or 10 at a time. What I’m there to do fundamentally is help the leadership team learn and grow because the business can’t grow at a sustainable rate that’s any greater than the growth rate of the people running it.
What we do is I play in different decision areas like: strategy, people and talent, execution, certainly the financial realm, and what I’m doing is helping them put things in place that allow the business to scale and allow them, as leaders, to elevate to operate at a higher level more often as the business operates, which is the fundamental lever of creating scale.
BRYAN WISH: Something I’ve noticed watching you online and through conversations is you have such keen insight in offering such applicable feedback. If you’re consuming what you’re saying, you can take immediate action steps.
You’ve developed some serious thought leadership. You’ve written two books. Your website is very well orchestrated. Tell us about the books that you’ve written. Tell us about The Culture of Accountability and Activators and the purpose behind those two books.
MARK GREEN: I resisted writing a book for years, despite people urging me to, on the position that I’m not going to write a book until I feel I have something to say that’s additive to the conversation. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2018 where the lightbulb finally went off and the concept of Activators was born.
My first book was published in October 2018, Activators: A CEOs Guide to Clearer Thinking and Getting Things Done. It’s built around this notion, the question, why is it so hard to get things done in leadership even when usually we know what to do and we know how to do it? I’ve never talked to a CEO that doesn’t acknowledge that they need a strategy.
If I gave them time to do some homework to research, how do you build a great strategy, they’d be able to do it based on publicly available resources, super easy. Great, then where is the strategy? That’s just one example.
Another would be, we’ve got somebody in the organization who probably doesn’t belong. You know they don’t belong. You certainly know how to remove them and replace them and yet, you’re not doing it. Why not? These examples go on and on and on. What the reason is because we don’t acknowledge how our own minds get in the way.
I wrote the book Activators to create a simple set of tools. There’s eight activators. A simple set of tools and mental models to stack the deck in favor of being able to act on what you know you should be doing. That’s what that book is about. The workshops that I’ve done on this have been amazing and really well received because people are realizing where their fear is getting in the way or where they’re not doing a good enough job building motivation or inspiration around an idea to create the impetus to act that they need. They’re surrounded by the wrong people.
That’s my Grandpa Ben’s advice about changing your neighborhood. They’re not measuring the right things which is creating the wrong incentives for them in terms of thinking more short-term than long-term. This is where the rubber meets the road that holds us back.
In January 2019, I published Creating a Culture of Accountability which is a monograph. It’s a thinner book on a single topic written in a very practical way because I’ve identified accountability as a universal, global issue in businesses of every shape, size, and level of maturity.
I set out to create a model around these questions:
- How do you build accountability?
- What are accountable behaviors?
- What are non-accountable behaviors?
- What’s a framework within which we can think about building a culture of accountability in an organization?
Here’s the hint. It starts with you, the leader, the head, and your own integrity relative to your own accountability. There’s a whole framework and set of models from there. That book has been really well received as well.
This is a really costly topic for businesses in terms of missing the market or delaying projects or not fully accomplishing their goals or not quite hitting their sales numbers. The examples go on and on which is the price we pay for a lack of clear accountability.
BRYAN WISH: You’ve really used your experience to create literature for other people to really guide them effectively. You have a rich bank of experience and a journey that is admirable for someone looking at themselves and saying, “I don’t have to do this at 20, 25, 30. I can take 10-15 years to really figure our the things I’m best in the world at, the things that I enjoy in my economic engine, and apply that and learn and evolve that model.” Getting to know you and hearing the story live has been really special.
MARK GREEN: There’s a really important open loop in the story. If you remember, we started the conversation talking about what happened to me 10 years into my career. I was laid off. I was working for a technology services provider that outsourced to the banking industry at the time. The bank was a client of mine at the time.
In the beginning of 2018, I received an email from one of my clients introducing me to a friend of his who is the CEO of a bank. When I got the email, I froze and was staring at the email. A chill ran up my spine. I actually got rather emotional because he was referring me to the CEO of the bank that I was supporting at the time I got laid off 10 years into my career. There’s a different CEO than at the time there but it was the same bank.
Long story short, that CEO and that bank is now a client of mine. I’ve been working with them since mid-2018 as a part of my portfolio of clients. That’s the thing I want to leave people with. There’s a reason you never burn bridges.
There’s a reason that you’ve got to follow your passion and your dreams and work hard to make it happen because you just never know how things come around and how things come full circle. For me, the first time I walked into that board room, to meet with that executive team at the bank, it was a really surreal moment, but in that moment, I knew who I was. I knew why I was there and I knew what I needed to do. That’s exactly what I did.
BRYAN WISH: Where can people find you?
MARK GREEN: Please connect with me on LinkedIn. I put out content three times a week. I have a newsletter there and it’s a great place for us to connect. You can learn more about me at my website which is mark-green.com. Those are the two best ways to connect. Both of my books are available on Amazon.