After earning a place at Oxford and working for McKinsey & Company, Mark Hughes embarked on an unforgettable project in Australia. Mark tells The Industry Leaders about facing his biggest challenge on day 1 and how his current coaching and training business lights him up every day.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Firstly, through enormous privilege. I had a loving family and got a good state school education which allowed me to get a place at Oxford University.
Secondly, naïve enthusiasm!
My career path reflects my desire to learn and explore new things. I started off as a research scientist, earning a PhD in organic chemistry. I was then a trainee diplomat before deciding to work within the charitable sector. Working for the management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company gave me the skills to be of use in industry, and I was privileged to become Chief Executive of the Australian Indigenous sporting and community development organisation, Rumbalara.
I bring all this experience to my current role as Director of the staff development company, mch: positive impact.
What kind of work does your role involve?
I increase the positive impact of individuals, teams and organisations. I do this by delivering training, mentoring, coaching and facilitation, so people and teams (and thus their organisations) develop to their full potential.
At a more fundamental level, I help individuals answer important questions, such as 'Do I really want to be a leader?' and if yes, 'What type of leadership is authentic for me?'
What gets you excited about your industry?
I work primarily in the charitable sector and assist organisations in other sectors that genuinely want to increase the positive impact they have on the world. I am excited about balance. I am excited about helping improve performance on the one hand and helping individuals, teams, and organisations consider what is enough, on the other.
I am excited about organisations that balance great work with treating their staff well and showing a genuine commitment to the environment and broader society.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Given to me when I was 17:
'Going to university is likely to have implications for the next 30/40 years of your life, not just the next 3/4 years. While you are there, you can choose to focus on three things: your subject, extracurricular activities, or socialising. You can only do two of these three things well, so choose wisely. Work hard and enjoy yourself.'
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
By giving them the time and space to ask fundamental questions, such as 'Do I really want to be a leader?'. Then building a level of trust and rapport to challenge their answers, to ensure their motivations will withstand inevitable challenges.
My leadership programmes also equip aspiring leaders with the skills that all consistently successful leaders possess. Through guest speakers, aspiring leaders also gain insights from successful leaders willing to candidly share their leadership journeys. I run programmes with small cohorts to enable genuine relationships to form. Consequently, a powerful legacy is that participants often continue to support each other long after the programme formally ends.
How do you keep up to speed with what's happening in your industry?
By committing over 100 hours per year to my own professional development.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
My first meeting, on my first day of becoming Chief Executive of Rumbalara, was with the organisation's accountant. Their first words to me were:
"You've got six-eight weeks to sort this out; otherwise, the organisation will be insolvent."
That was a challenge that took a little more than a smile to work through!
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
Spend the rest of my life giving it away to good causes. A dream job!
How do you switch off after a day at work?
I'm not inclined to switch off entirely, as great work ideas often come to me outside of work. However, I enjoy a range of non-work activities: walking, running, playing with my kids, socialising, a good book and a kiss and cuddle with my girlfriend!
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
That all stakeholders realised that investing in recruiting, inducting, retaining and developing great staff (and dealing with their departures well) is one of the best investments you can ever make.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
It's painful to narrow it down to just one book, as so many have had a profound impact on my life. However, in my view, consistently successful management and leadership begins with emotional intelligence. Consequently, the laurels go to Daniel Goleman's 'Working with Emotional Intelligence.
How should people connect with you?
*Ever wondered what kind of leader you are? Take our free quiz to find out.
**Looking to level-up your leadership skills? Check out our article on the best self-help books for business leaders and entrepreneurs.