How to Avoid The Dangers of Leadership Ambition with Mark J. Silverman

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In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with author and executive coach Mark J. Silverman on understanding and approaching leadership ambition.

A few reasons why he is awesome  —  he is a best-selling author, speaker, podcaster, executive coach and obvious lead for his consultancy Mark J. Silverman and Associates LLC. He hosts the Rising Leader podcast, where himself and guests help listener the leadership skills they need to advance. Mark’s also the author of various best-selling books, including his latest The Rising Leader Handbook – Turning High Achievers into Effective Leaders.

Connect with, and learn more about Mark on his…

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KEY TAKEAWAYS 

  • The root of true ambition.
  • Reckoning with ambition’s impact at work.
  • Self-awareness and authentic ambition.
  • Generational shifts in ambition.
  • Balancing ambition with authenticity.
  • Organizational support for sustainable ambition.
  • Personalized ambition.

“For me, ambition is, what is it do I want to accomplish? Where am I? Where do I want to be? And then how do I get there? That’s it. I’m the anti hustle and grind, achieve till you die guy. I’ve watched too many people die trying to achieve.”

Mark J. Silverman

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher: And on the show today we have Mark J. Silverman, and here is why he is awesome. He’s a bestselling author, speaker, podcaster, executive coach, and obvious lead for his consultancy named right after the man, Mark J. Silverman Associates, LLC. He hosts the Rising Leader Podcast, where he himself and guests help listeners understand leadership skills they need to advance in their own careers. He’s also the author of various bestselling books, including his latest, The Rising Leader Handbook, Turning High Achievers into Effective Leaders. And he’s here. Hello, Mark.

Mark J Silverman: I’m kind of here because you’re, we’re on the other side of a continent from each other, but we’re virtually together.

Russel Lolacher: Virtually, we have some geography between us, Mark, but we’re closer together in our conversation. How’s that?

Mark J Silverman: That’s, no, it’s amazing. I would love to be where you are.

Russel Lolacher: I, would as well if the weather was a little bit nicer. I have a huge question for you, sir, which is the one I ask all of my guests when I kick off the show, which is what is your best or worst employee experience, Mark?

Mark J Silverman: Way back when I first got into tech sales I’m I’m, I was pretty shy. I was, self conscious cause I my origin story is I was homeless for a while and success wasn’t in my DNA. And I, when the first year in this company that I was in, I made a President’s Club and I crushed it, I went from rags to riches pretty quickly. And the third year, my manager, my sales manager, just destroyed me every single day. This was the dot, this was the time of the dot com bust and just was on my butt like just constantly. And I wasn’t the tough as nails sales guy, like even though I was successful. That stuff hurt and it, I felt it. And so I finally, I walked into his office and I quit. And I said I gotta go. I’m obviously not good at this job. And my integrity says I just shouldn’t be here. So I’m going to leave. And he’s like, why do you think you’re not good at this job? And I said, ‘You every single day, the way you talk to me, you tell me I’m not good at my job.’ He goes, ‘I’m just trying to motivate you.’

Russel Lolacher: Oh…

Mark J Silverman: I said, not happening. So that was one of the worst things. But what happened was, he said, No, you cannot leave. You should stay. I will, talk to you differently. I understand what you need. And he shifted the way he was around me. And, he said, when you crush it this year and you overachieve your goal and we’re at club again, we’re going to share a cigar. And that year, we were at club and we shared a cigar. So it was the best and worst… just the way someone talks to you and this is the Relationships at Work podcast, the way someone talks to you can make or break your entire career.

Russel Lolacher: And thank you for tying it into the podcast. I mean, I just… it drives me nuts how leaders as well intentioned as they might be, have no concept of the impact. He’s thinking he’s motivating you. He was motivating you to leave. He was motivating you to get out of there and remove yourself from an environment that was not positive that was not helping you look for that next opportunity.

I’m glad he switched it around. What’s your relationship with them years… like, how did you end the relationship?

Mark J Silverman: We did, the end, we ended, just kind of, it kind of petered out, like going separate ways. But but he was supportive and he was kind as both of our jobs changed and we moved into different directions. Always supportive. Always, kind. Had had lunch every once in a while.

Russel Lolacher: Last question on that. How do you, how did you see him be different with others? Because you could not have been the only person he approached things like that with.

Mark J Silverman: Other people were okay with, he’s just an asshole. Like, like and, then go out and then go out with, for beers with him. Like other people were a little more thick skinned than I was at the time. So what I teach is… I was talking to a client the other day, whose boss was just the CEO was just hammering him and just awful. And he’s a good guy. He just, when he gets fearful he gets awful. And I I told my, client, I said, normally I would say I need you to set boundaries. Let’s have a conversation about what boundaries you need to set, how this man needs to talk to you, all that kind of stuff.

But I’m not going to say that to you. I don’t think that’ll serve you. I said, I want you to be okay, no matter how your boss comes at you, right? No matter what’s happening around you, I want you to be okay. I don’t want outside circumstances to dictate. So again, it was my it was, his problem as a leader that he was driving someone who was overachieving out of his organization. But it was my problem as for my career that I would let someone dictate where my career went.

Russel Lolacher: Totally.

Mark J Silverman: It’s a both end kind of thing.

Russel Lolacher: It’s funny you bring that up, too. I know we’re gonna get to our topic about ambition in a minute, but that’s where I have a challenge with the word resiliency. And I’m kind of curious about your thoughts on this because we talk about employees being resilient. But then I always question what are we having to be resilient against?

Like I can understand about being resilient when it comes to changing industries, AI coming in, being resilient to org structure change. But having to be resilient against a horrible boss or being a resilient for somebody that treats you lesser than. I always question. I’m like maybe you shouldn’t have to be so resilient after all. What are your thoughts on that?

Mark J Silverman: Yeah, should is doing a lot of work there. Again, I often so I generally coach in the C suite. And I’m usually called in for someone who it lacks leadership skills. They’re really talented. That’s what high achievers into effective leaders. Really, talented, making a big impact.

But they don’t know how to get along with peers or they haven’t let go of certain things to elevate into their executive role. Or they’re driving the CEO crazy. And invariably, I’ll get someone who’s saying ‘He or she, the CEO, like they just shouldn’t drive me. They shouldn’t talk to me this way. They shouldn’t treat me this way.’ And i’m like you’re right. They shouldn’t. But I’m not coaching them.

Russel Lolacher: Yeah.

Mark J Silverman: I’m coaching you. So you have a couple of choices you can go to battle with them every day set boundaries that may or may not work. You could leave, or you could learn to, again, understand, because I have a saying that I teach my people, that if someone’s coming at you at more than a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, with anger or rage or something like that, It’s no longer you. They’re shadowboxing something else that has nothing to do with you, either something that happened that morning, childhood trauma, overwhelm. It’s not you. And if you can unhook yourself from that, nor, a lot of the times you can unhook the beast, right? You can be that one who calms them down.

Whatever their fear is that, that is driving them to lose their shit, you can help them get back to sane and in any relationship if you know whoever gets sane, grounded, and centered first, you know wins.

Russel Lolacher: Thank you for breaking it down like that. I love seeing it more as a mental health exercise than seeing it as a ‘you need to silo yourself and cut yourself off from anything for you to be resilient.’ And I’m like, ah, maybe you shouldn’t be at that organization because you’re being, you’re having to be too resilient.

Mark J Silverman: There’s a difference between there’s a difference between a toxic boss and someone who just doesn’t handle their anger. I know so many CEOs, I know so many people who are, like… their people would follow them anywhere, they’re amazing, they’re wonderful people, and they lose their shit.

Russel Lolacher: Yeah.

Mark J Silverman: There’s so much pressure that they just lose their shit. That’s different than a toxic boss.

Russel Lolacher: Fair. Fair. So let’s get into our topic today, Mark, which is ambition. The good and the bad of ambition in the workplace. Before we get into any topic on the show, what I really love doing is defining things because I don’t think we do a very good job of defining anything in corporate culture. So, from your perspective, how would you define ambition when it comes to the workplace?

Mark J Silverman: For me, ambition is, what is it do I want to accomplish? Where am I? Where do I want to be? And then how do I get there? That’s it. I’m I’m the anti hustle and grind, achieve till you die guy. I just, I’ve watched too many people die trying to achieve. Broken marriages, trying to achieve. So I’ve watched, ambition coming from the wrong place. Destroy people, right? They may get to the goal, but they’ve lost everything on the way, and I’m not okay with that. So for me, ambitious ambition, really I’m ambitious. I’m, my new book’s coming out, I’d like to sell a million books. I’m ambitious,

But I’m not gonna sell my soul. So that I can be on the same shelf as Simon Sinek, right? That’s not, and I’m not bashing him. I’m saying I’m not going to do unnatural acts because I have a whole life that I want to live. And that number one book spot isn’t all consuming.

Russel Lolacher: Now, are we talking about the same thing when we talk about ego or competitiveness or a need to fill some hole because of an insecurity thing? Does that, is that what we’re talking about when we talk about ambition or all of it or none of it?

Mark J Silverman: Again, so where is ambition? This is, I think this is the key, and I think this is why I’m effective with my clients, is because I don’t take things at face value. Oh, you want to be C-suite something or other. You want to make this amount of money. You want to get here. That’s great. I get hired for that, and if I told people I couldn’t help them get there, I wouldn’t make money.

If I told people what I actually did for them, they wouldn’t pay me. Because people don’t value it as much. But what I listen to is behind it. Why do you want that position? Why do you want that money? Why do you want to get there? And then we usually uncover. I’ve never met someone who is wildly successful, that it didn’t come out of some pathology. Every once in a while, like Jack Johnson the singer who sing who surfs and sings and everything, he had a bunch of big records, right? Maybe he just came out or I was just watching a Tracy Chapman interview and Tracy Chapman was like I didn’t think this was all gonna happen to me, right?

But if you like you think about Alan Jackson, laid back country singer, if you really dig down into alan jackson He was driven to a fault to be successful. What that man did to get his first record on the radio was an unnatural act. So again going back to what motivates you to get where you want to go and often those drives and motivations change in your 40s and in your 40s and 50s, right?

I was homeless when I was 27. I was living in my truck. I was an alcoholic. I was a drug addict. What drove me to success, what got me to be a millionaire, was trying not to be that homeless guy. Not letting anybody ever see that I was that complete trash of a loser, right? That was my goal. Guess what?

My marriage fell apart. My, my health fell apart. Because I was running on cotton candy, I wasn’t running on sustainable fuel, which is there’s something I really want and I want to work towards it. I was trying to fill an empty hole, whether it’s something daddy or mommy said to you, whether it’s a societal thing. Trying to fill that hole with ambition is going to lead you to that midlife crisis that that, I climbed the ladder and oh my god, not only am I not on the right building, I’m not on the right planet. Now, what do I do? So if you, can figure out why you want something. I actually talked to one of my clients. I was, hired because he was going to be promoted to CEO. And the current CEO hired me to help him get him ready to become the CEO. And over, over about a month and a half, we came to, this guy shouldn’t be CEO. Not because he’s not competent, not because he’s not amazing, but because he doesn’t want to be CEO. That’s not his skillset. That’s not his happy place, right? He was only becoming to be CEO because he thought he should. He was supposed to, and he was loyal to the company and he was miserable. He loved his job for the first 15 years, right? He loved coming up through the ranks. He just and then, he was miserable, and he realized, I don’t want to be CEO.

I want to support the CEO. Like, his ambition now was right size to where he wanted to be in his life.

Russel Lolacher: You talked about earlier about almost the ends justify the means when it comes to some people when they look at ambition. When they’re this is the goal, I’ll get there anyway. Obviously, that’s a pretty bad negative because the wreckage that happens for a lot of those individuals that are working to get to that spot. Anything else you would feel is negative of an aspect of ambition?

Mark J Silverman: Yeah. So I, there’s actually a section in the book about the wreckage of your ambition. And what I, say what I teach my people is do you want to be the person who climbs the ladder, that everybody grumbles about when they get the promotion. Oh my god, brown noser, or they did this to get there, or they did that to get there. They slept with this person to get there. Or do you want to be the person that everybody cheers and says, you know what? I wanted that job, but I would follow this person anywhere. Do you want to build a bunch of people who are supporting you? And in that section in the book, we talk about how do you clean up the wreckage of your ambition. How how do we go over our past and where did we step on someone? Where did we not support someone? Where did we take credit for something? Where do we have to make some amends so that as our leadership journey continues, we’ve cleaned that up. We’ve created allies. We’ve created supporters. We’ve neutralized enemies. And then as we climb further and as we build coalitions now, we co we clean from a clean slate.

Russel Lolacher: It’s funny because a lot of people will still feel that is the route to success. I remember having a conversation with a friend of mine. I think I’ve told this story before on the podcast where she was talking about this amazing leader and how they helped them unbelievably. And I knew for a fact that leader was horrible.

So I was really curious for my friend. What do you think makes them a great leader? And they’re like, Oh, they deliver everything we ever ask of them. I’m like, do you know the things they do to get you what you want? Do you know the careers they’re crushing? The mental health trauma they’re creating just to get you that report you need by Friday?

They had no idea because to them success was you did the thing we needed you to do. So for the person that is this great leader in their mind, ambition of pleasing my boss, getting to… getting that thing delivered was success for them because it was the next stepping stone to get to the next piece on the hierarchy.

So that self awareness piece seems so so vital. And I love that you brought it up where someone wanted to be a CEO, but realized they shouldn’t be a CEO because they didn’t have enough self awareness to realize, you know what? Maybe this isn’t the job for you. You just feel like you have to do it. So my question is, from a self awareness standpoint, this forced ambition thing, because I’m sure you’ve read enough stories about the whole idea of you won’t make any money unless you quit your job every two years.

You won’t move up because if you stay in your job, the job you love, you’ll never get the extra money, the extra opportunities, unless you quit on a regular occasion and move up the jungle gym or ladder because we know it’s not straight up. What would you say to that almost forced ambition mentality for some organizations?

Mark J Silverman: I’m having a little trouble reconciling…

Russel Lolacher: Sure.

Mark J Silverman: …your call for forced ambitious to jumping jobs. I think there, there are two different things, just in my head. The jumping, from job to job is again, sometimes you’re just seen a certain way because you’ve done a job a certain way and people don’t see you as that next level leader because you’ve been there for so long.

And often that’s, again, that’s why I get called in a lot is because they haven’t developed the bearing. They haven’t changed, they haven’t dressed for the job that they want, right? And they, they haven’t leaned into, oh, I need to be that person to be considered. So they leave so that they can go be a different person at a different organization. It’s very hard to change people’s minds, but you can change people’s minds. You can show up differently in order to move up the ladder. But the forced ambition for me, I know a lot of people who have been promoted and promoted because they’re just incredible. And they find themselves in these really demanding jobs that they didn’t see themselves in. There’s people pleasing involved. There’s self forgetting. There’s a leaving of your values. For people don’t spend… people have values, right? Almost everybody has values. They care about their values. But something, overrides them, usually a fear, usually a should, usually a norm that makes you compromise those values. And I have my people really look at, if they want to make decisions, if they want to make decisions more easily in their life, look at their values. If you know what you value… You know, I value… I was working with one client who was going to move jobs and his value was being there for his children and his wife, right? That was his value. This other job was going to take travel, even though it was the dream job and it was glamorous. Talked it over with his wife and he realized my value says I don’t go, I don’t travel more than this much away from my children. They don’t agree to that, I’m not taking the job. So if you have your values and you, compare and contrast everything that comes your way with those values, it’s much easier to make those decisions.

Russel Lolacher: But isn’t that a career limiting move, Mark? Isn’t that a move…

Mark J Silverman: What’s career limiting again? Again, what’s career limiting? If career is your value, right? If career is your value, and I work with him and I interviewed on my podcast a bunch of past VPs of sales. It was when I did Mastering Midlife, I wanted, I was trying to get regrets out of them, right?

I was trying, I was actually trying to get them to go if I had to do it differently, I probably wouldn’t have traveled as much and I couldn’t get any of them. And I love these people, right? They were road warriors and they, and every single one of them said, I had a conversation with my spouse. If I take this job, I’m on the road 60 percent of the time. Are we both in on this? They loved it. They love the game. They thrived on the game and they’re chill… One of them actually took a sabbatical and was home for a year between jobs. And his kids were like, What are you doing here? And, again, it’s what do you value if you value your career over everything else? I actually believe, that people who have values, very clear values, show up in a way in most organizations that they can’t help but be promoted.

Russel Lolacher: I had to ask the question because there are some cultures that genuinely, at least used to, throw that that’s a career limiting move if you don’t take that job, that is the obvious next job or that obvious next step. So you’ll never get this opportunity again. So I’m glad you jumped on it quickly.

Mark J Silverman: I have a personal, I have a personal experience on this for as in my coaching business. So I’m in this now a decade and I’m fairly successful. I got to the point where all the industry is ‘Okay, Mark, it’s time for you to go big. It’s time for you to go one to many. It’s time for you to start making multiple seven figures.’ . And I was like, okay, yeah, no, it’s time for me to go big. And then I was at a workshop with my former coach, Rich Glitvin. And it was, specifically to scale my business. And he looks at me in the middle of the circle and he goes, ‘Mark, what’s the problem?’ I go, ‘What?’ He says, ‘You just told me you you’re at about a half a million dollars a year run rate. You haven’t had to look for a client for three years. You have a full roster of clients, right? You get to see your kids you paint, you do, you like you write you do all these things. What are you doing?’ And I had fallen into the trap and spent so much money and so much time and how do I scale? And how do I make this thing a thing and all that. And I realized, oh wait, I have the dream that every coach ever who started to coach wanted. And and I get to do what I love every day with people that I love every single day. And I make a pretty penny doing it so that I can do service work when I want to do it, also.

Russel Lolacher: Do you think the perception or understanding of ambition has changed generationally? And I ask this because people that I ask, I’m Gen X and as you are as well, and anyone that I talk to in the Millennial or Gen Z is ‘I don’t want those jobs. I have no interest in getting to the top of the ladder any and I don’t want that lifestyle, I don’t want that lack of work life balance.’ So how they’re defining ambition seems to be quite different. Are you seeing that?

Mark J Silverman: A hundred, percent. I just my, two sons. I have a 27 year old son and a 24 year old son and my 27 year old’s a a genius. Like he is the smartest person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And he, he said to me, dad, I know you’re a coach, but I’m not ambitious. And he says, I just want a job so that I can live. I like to do these things with my life. I want to get married, have children, but I want to do these things in life and I’m not ambitious. So sorry. And I was like dude, you’re so sound and grounded and you live way with, well within your means and you have a good job. I said, how about we compromise? I don’t, you don’t, I don’t need you to be ambitious. I need you to be 10 percent more ambitious. Because if you want to have a wife and kids and all that stuff, you do need to get to a certain level in your career. And he agreed to that, right? I said let’s just have a little stretch rather than drive you into something you don’t want to be.

My other son, completely different story. He is an absolute, he’s an, he’s a Hasidic Orthodox Rabbi. My sons have not gone the corporate ladder road that I live. So, I don’t think I answered your question. I just told, a story about my sons, because I love talking about my sons.

Russel Lolacher: No, all good, I just I see ambition being defined differently, but then that comes back to the question that I always share was What is success to you? Ambition could be, like you say, 10%. It could be all out 100%. But if we don’t understand what the goalpost is, from a personal standpoint, then where are we firing all that energy?

For even to one of your sons, you’re like, okay, 10%, you at least need to understand that success for you needs to be a personal thing, so you need at least to achieve this level to get everything else that you want.

Mark J Silverman: To support the values you’re stating. And the same thing with my other son. My other son’s an Orthodox rabbi, and he wants, you know, our sect of Judaism has ten, twelve kids. I’m like, ‘Dude, you want to have those kids and you want a traditional marriage, there’s certain things you’re going to have to accomplish.’

So like everything takes a little bit of a stretch. But it’s a real I think it’s it’s frustrating for people my age who are in leadership in organizations that I coach a lot in, finance and private equity and those greedy jobs that pay a lot, but. demand everything. And there are a lot of people like, yeah, no this isn’t worth it.

Those 25 to 30, 30 something year olds are like, yeah, I want a life. I really would like a life. And so I’m wondering the balance has to be struck. I think it’s a healthy shift. So now how do we get creative so that we can, feed the greed that we do have as human beings to have better lives.

Russel Lolacher: How do you measure ambition, Mark? Because if we’re talking about it being too much or too little, that is a measuring stick. So if you’re talking to somebody for the first time about their career, how do you know whether their ambition needs to be curbed or it needs to be encouraged?

Mark J Silverman: Me personally, I know within the first five minutes of the conversation. I can hear it in their voice. I can hear it in the words they choose, whether or not their ambition is artificially external or something authentically, in, in, inside. But getting them to see it is a bit of a process.

So I’m, again, I go back to what do you value? What, life do you want to create? If we go on this default path, that you have laid out, that your, parents laid out for you, or society laid out for you, or what you think you’re supposed to have because you can’t have what you say you want. I have one guy who’s a CEO and he’s actually what I really want to be is like an artist in Italy. Artist, but he’s also a CEO. Like, all right, let’s can we incorporate some of that into your world? The values are first, what and, a consciously created life will guide the ambition. Oh, I want, That’s what I want. Let’s start plotting a course to get there. Yeah, but, oh, you know what? No I really wanna, I wanna be healthy, and I wanna see my family, and I wanna do this. Great. Let’s plot that course. I wanna help humanity. I wanna be… I wanna be altruistic and all that stuff. Great, let’s think about how we can, accomplish that and still take care of your needs.

Russel Lolacher: We’re talking a lot of this around the individual. My curiosity is what is the organization’s role when it comes to encouraging or tempering ambition?

Mark J Silverman: Yeah, so again, I work in a lot of organizations That are these greedy jobs they it’s high demand, high reward kind of, kind of jobs. The, I think there’s the ideal that I think you’re that you’re striving for every single one of your podcasts, every conversation you have on this podcast is about creating the ideal in the corporate world. Shifting human nature to me is… takes a lot. It takes you and then an army of yous, right, to do it. An army of me’s to shift it. In the organizations where I work with the leadership team that shifts slowly, but a lot of these companies again in order to be successful in business, there’s got to be a momentum. There’s got to be a trajectory. And you can’t, if you sacrifice, again, that’s the capitalism, socialism thing, right? If you stifle that momentum of the organization, then these people don’t even have jobs, right? If we all just kind of let go to our, to how we feel and all this stuff.

We wouldn’t have these businesses that we actually can get in America. We need a healthcare. You gotta have a fricking job or you die in America. We have to, learn to balance the needs of the organizations. I work for a couple of tech companies back in the late nineties, early two thousands that were every single, almost every single company I’ve ever worked for was the fastest growing company in Silicon Valley history at the time that I worked there.

A couple of the organizations that I worked at said, we’re going to demand a lot from you. And we need to know what you need in order to be able to sustain that. What charities do you support? What is your family life like? And they would, make an effort to make sure they said you need to hit this goal. We don’t care how you hit this goal. You don’t have to be at your desk, you don’t have to, but and what do you need to support that? And I, and they were, the fastest growing companies on the planet at the time. Some of them were just hammers and everybody were nails. And and they did it that way and I left those companies pretty quickly.

Russel Lolacher: Now, I’m speaking from as a white heterosexual male. So as I speak from my seat of privilege, I always need to understand the diversity of things as well, because we talk about these topics, but we don’t always go, you know what, what works for you doesn’t work for everybody. What opportunities might be presented to you are not the same opportunities others will have. So when it comes to diversity and ambition, how have you seen that be different for those that might be neurodivergent, racially different, different cultures, different upbringing, poor versus rich. So…

Mark J Silverman: mm.

Russel Lolacher: Ambition is very different animal when it comes to somebody that doesn’t look like me or has different aspects to themselves. How do you coach or work with people that are ambitious but might have different challenges?

Mark J Silverman: Ooh, that’s a, I, wow can I actually say that some of this out loud? So I am not a diversity expert. Absolutely not a diversity expert. But when I’m coaching someone who is in some group that historically has challenges it’s a balance of assimilation and a balance of keeping your authenticity. There’s a way to show up so that you don’t automatically separate yourself from opportunity. And then there’s a way to show up that you don’t separate yourself from yourself, right? We talked at the beginning of this part I told you that I have I’m married to a man, right?

I talk about my children, but I’m married to a man. I don’t bill myself. I don’t actually talk about being gay publicly. It’s just not a topic I bring up. I don’t hide it. You can go to my Instagram and you can see me and my husband scuba diving, right? And all that kind of stuff. But I don’t, it’s not at the front of what I do, because I don’t want to be known as the gay coach. I was talking to one guy about growing my business and he says, you know what, Mark? He said, you should coach gay executives who used to have substance abuse. And I’m like, no, that’s not my people. My people are generally heterosexual married people with children and I’m gifted at coaching those people because I was one of them.

Russel Lolacher: Great.

Mark J Silverman: Even though I’ve taken a left turn, but so I, but I don’t flush my authenticity in sacrifice of my I, because I want to be known as an executive coach with gravitas who cares about coaching people with families and traditional values as well as non traditional values. So that thread, that needle that I thread is what I teach people who have those challenges the same way, right?

I’ve, yeah I’m trying to not get specific because it, even though if you and I were having a conversation, the specifics would sound reasonable publicly, they sound, yeah not, it’s not a public conversation.

Russel Lolacher: It could be misconstrued as well.

Mark J Silverman: Totally, totally, totally missed it through.

Russel Lolacher: It does come back to the whole thing of ambition is a very personalized thing. It is very much, what is ambition to me versus you versus anybody with a different background will be very different. So how do you set this ambition up for success, Mark?

Because we start off in our careers till the end of our careers. Ambition wanes, it goes up, it goes down throughout our careers. What is a consistent level of ambition look like?

Mark J Silverman: I do it from the inside out, not from the outside in. Consistency and commitment beat motivation, every time when it comes to just showing up. How do you get consistency and and commitment is different than how you get motivation. For me I have ADHD, right? If I waited for my motivation to do anything, I would have a lot of half books written, right? I would have, it would just not be good. So I have to get support. I said I wanted to read a book, write a book. I now have a team. I have a team of people who are like waiting for every step of the way and emailing me to get my newsletter out every week, my assistant WhatsApp me, texts me, emails me, and Slacks me three days in a row to get my… and I get it out, right? But for people that I work with, it’s that internal job. Who are you? What, who are you and what makes you at your best? If I can get someone to be grounded and centered, more time than not, because it’s, nobody can be grounded and centered all the time. If they can get more and more grounded and centered more of the time, more present and clear eyed, those days actually start adding up to the longterm goal more consistently than if I had, if I was an accountability coach and I said, how many calls did you make this week? And how many did you like? I don’t do that. I’m like, who are you? How are you showing up? And are you keeping your word to yourself? I have, I spend a lot of time… my friend Devin Banderson was on my podcast and he’s a leadership coach and he said, ‘Mark, do you know what the most dangerous words in the English language are?’ I’m like, ‘No, dude, I don’t.’ He says, ‘No one will know.’ And I gasped. I’ve been leadership coach for a long time and I know that it’s true. But even when he said it I was like, ‘oh god those handfuls of chocolate chips that I eat right oh, no one will know.’ If you can learn to keep your word to yourself and keep your word to other people, that takes care of so much of what you need to look ambitious.

Russel Lolacher: And it speaks to character as well. It speaks to trust. I love that you brought up that for ambitiono be consistent and healthy, it’s as much about you as the support system you put around yourself. You give a perfect example of yourself having that support system, but also examples that we’ve used is your own family being that support system because you can be fueled or have that ambition taken away the minute you leave the work environment and come home based on your relationship with your spouse, based on the relationship you have with your friends and family. I see the work life environment being actually an unbelievably instrumental in what ambition even looks like for anyone.

Mark J Silverman: Exactly. I have always gotten my fuel. In fact, I’ve every, everything I’ve created, everything I’ve done, every dollar I’ve made is because I’m a dad. I, I have no qualms that I wouldn’t be this guy if I wasn’t a dad. I’d probably still be a bartender somewhere and not looking half as healthy. But being again, my value of being an example for my sons, for providing for my sons and my ex wife, for for being the guy I said I wanted to be, that’s fueled more ambition, more success, more results than anything else.

Russel Lolacher: I think that is a beautiful way to end our conversation about ambition, Mark. So I have the last question I have to ask, which is, what’s one simple action can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Mark J Silverman: Oh, relationships at work. Oh, I was waiting. I was going to go meditation, journaling, and you just took a complete left turn on me. Oh, start being honest. Start having honest, difficult conversations. That, that’s the best thing you can do. Set boundaries, give feedback, give praise, ask for what you want, create agreements instead of having expectations. All of the, have have conversation. I just interviewed Michael Bungay Stanier who wrote How to Get Along with Almost Everyone. And he talks about a keystone conversation with key people in the workplace of this is how I work best. This is how I don’t work best. This is… and just have one of those grounding conversations with people. But honesty is so lacking. Honesty with kindness is so lacking.

Russel Lolacher: That is Mark J. Silverman. He’s an executive coach and the podcaster of an amazing show, if you haven’t checked it out, which is The Rising Leader podcast and a bestselling author, including the recently released Rising Leader Handbook, Turning High Achievers into Effective Leaders. Thank you so much for being here, Mark.

Mark J Silverman: This is a real pleasure. Thank you for having me.

 

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