Stay on Top of Your Work With Mark Sanborn! [PODCAST EPISODE #6]

  • January 24, 2018
  • by Kate Kurzawska

Stay On Top of Work With Mark Sanborn!

We’re back with another episode of our podcast on how to stay on top of your work.

Today I talk with Mark Sanborn, an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service, and change.

Listen to what Mark said about leadership. What does it mean to be a good leader and why leader is like a conductor of the symphony.

Enjoy the podcast and let me know in comments what you think about Mark’s tips!

Are you an iTunes user? Listen to the podcast here

Podcast Transcript

Kate: Hello everyone! Welcome back to the series of podcasts “Stay  On Top Of Your Work” and this is Kate. Today my guest is Mark Sanborn. Hi Mark. How are you?

Mark Sanborn: Hi Kate! I’m great.

Kate: Mark is internationally known leadership Keynote Speaker, and an international authority leadership in business, team building and change. You’re also the author of seven best-selling books that have topped The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and many more. And we can also watch your videos featuring you as well as listen to you in numerous audio training programs. So, if you feel like you want to become a leader, then you’re in the right place. Mark, thank you very much for coming here today I’m really happy that you are my guest.

Mark: My pleasure.

Kate: To begin with – you’re a certified speaking professional. I’d like to ask you what topics do usually speak on and how do you motivate your audience to pursue their goals, to become a leader?

Mark: My primary expertise is in leadership development. I work with leaders at every level to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Over the last thirty-one plus years I’ve written on all those areas that you mentioned, leadership, change, teambuilding, customer service, but the two books that I’m most well-known for, the first is called “The Fred Factor: How Passion In Your Work And Life Can Turn The Ordinary Into The Extraordinary” and that’s the book that’s been an international bestseller and kind of established me as, as a customer service expert, but I think you do more importantly as someone who understands how you can add value and grow your value proposition without necessarily spending a lot of money to do it. Then, I wrote a book called “You Don’t Need A Title To Be A Leader,” now most of my clients are titled leaders, however, having a title isn’t what makes them a leader, it’s the skill set that makes them a leader and so I talk to people about how to develop leadership skills, so they can lead and make a positive difference at whatever level they’re at and whether or not they have a title.

Kate: So, when thinking about your speeches, but also your experience, what advice can you give to people entering the harsh world of project management, who want to be leaders?

Mark: I think, as a leader, you’re evaluated the same way as you’re in project management. The first is on the results that you’re able to achieve, sticking to a timeline, under-promising, over-delivering coming in on time, if not early. So, results are important, but as a leader you’ve gotta remember that how you create those results is just as important. If you burn people out, if you destroy relationships, if you alienate vendors, then even though you might have gotten the results you desired, it’s a short-term victory, because the next time you try to do successful project, you’ll find you’re going to be facing resentment and push-back. So I always tell leaders that the toughest part is pronouncing the need to get odds with the need to maintain and build positive relationships.

Kate:  So, what are the main features that a good leader should have, according to you?

Mark:  While I’ve observed leaders, you know, my goal is to report on what I’ve observed in the research that I’ve read and I, I think that, you know what I just spoke to what you might call competence in results and also competence and relationship building, also known as emotional intelligence, I think those are the two. But I think once you get past that, it’s really about the allocation of the only three resources any leader ever has: their time, their expertise, and the time and expertise of their team.

So, if you don’t come from a point of clarity about what you’re trying to achieve, you won’t be able to focus people on the best way to deploy their time and expertise. And so I think leaders are a lot like a conductor of the symphony. You know, a conductor doesn’t play an instrument and, yet, his or hers role is very important because they do two things: they make sure that everyone is playing at the same time, from the right music, and that they’re playing the best their ability. And I think that’s what leaders do: they make sure that the right people are playing the right music at the right time and if they’re doing it to the best of their ability.


Kate: Your speeches are very inspirational! I’d like to ask you if you think that these rules of a leader can be applied to our life, can we be leaders in our life, our personal work? Do you think it works somehow, or not really?

Mark: No, I do. I believe that truth is transferable. You know, that principle is true, the only thing that changes is how you apply it. I think that all leadership in an organization begins with self-leadership, or what I call in one of my books ”self-mastery,” because if you can’t lead yourself, if you can’t take responsibility for yourself, other people are gonna be very resistant to follow you. So, it’s about being competent in the way you live your life and the way that you take responsibility for your own life and, then, it’s about expanding that into the roles that you have as a parent, or spouse, or as a church, or synagogue member, community leader, but the principles are the same: it’s just how we apply the principle, the context that we work it.

Kate: That’s great! You also have a video series called “Teambuilding: How To Motivate And Manage People,” which made it to the number two spot for best-selling educational video CDs in the US. Congratulations on that.

Mark: Thank you.

Kate: How does a good leader motivates and manage people in a team?

Mark: There are a lot of things that a good leader does, but I think, first and foremost, they remember that motivation is not just important for the individual as a unique member of the team but for the team as a whole. For instance, if you motivate an individual, they might be motivated to achieve what they know will get them recognition and success, but they may, or may not, be motivated to cooperate or collaborate with other team members. So, I believe that a good leader motivates both the individual and the team. They reward individuals for their contributions but they also set goals for the team, so that everyone has a reason to work together and not just to pursue their own selfish agenda. The research is pretty clear that the number one reason why IT fails is because an individual or a subgroup of the team puts their needs above what’s best for the team. So, you got to be able to meet individual and team needs at the same time, or also you have is a group of people really working rather independently of each other.

Kate: Do you think maybe it’s important to keep a certain balance in this?

Mark: Oh, certainly. I mean, I think you’ve got to dials on your dashboard that the individuals who are contributing as well as the team’s results and I think that getting people to be part of a group is easy, but I think getting them to work together as a team is a challenge.

Kate: That’s true. I agree. So let’s talk about your books. This is a really interesting topic to me because I’m a bookworm, I love books, and you have few positions which are really interesting. So, you’re the author of many publications. In your newest book The Potential Principle is out, can you tell us, in short, what is the book about and what inspired you to write?

Mark: I’ll start with what inspired me to write it. Most my clients that engage me, that bring me in to speak, or advice, are already very successful at what they do. There’s an old saying that the people that most need to hear the sermon often don’t go to church. All the companies that could most benefit from outside expertise and resources either are willing to invest in it or they don’t have the resources.

So, what I found is that when I worked with successful individuals and successful companies, I found that there was something harder than becoming successful, becoming the best in what you did, and that was becoming the best to what you did and then continuing to get better. Because when you’re number one in your market or your number one in your organization, there’s nobody else to emulate, there’s nobody else to follow. You have to come up with some innovative strategies of your own to keep getting better.

So I wrote the book to give people a template and I based a book on the premise that better always beats best, so no matter how good you are, you can always become better. I don’t think any of us if ever, is to fully maximize our potential. And so the book focuses on four areas where you should be getting better and four very specific ideas you can use to achieve improvement whatever area of your person or professional life that you choose.

Kate: Okay. And what are these four areas in the book? Can you elaborate on that?

Mark: I talk about the potential matrix. I talk about thinking, performing, learning, and reflecting. And those four areas can leverage each other. Very often, in business, we focus mostly on the performance area. But still, very often, if we think and plan better, or we learn or improve our skills, or we’re able to reflect on lessons and insights, then our performance benefits. So, I tell people that we tend to stick in an area that we’re most comfortable with, but what we need to do is continue to get better at all four those areas: thinking, learning, performing, and reflected.

Kate:  So when it comes to publications. Do you have any particular inspiration that helps you in writing and what books do you read?

Mark: Well, I’ve read thousands of books. I try to read fifty books a year and scheme another fifty to a hundred, and what I find is over time you know. you have to dig deep to get beyond basic ideas. When I’m actually writing, I stop reading books that are similar to mine because I don’t want to inadvertently, be overly influenced, or borrow an idea and not realize that I’m doing that. But really what inspires me is that the longer I live, the more successful I become, the more I realize there is to learn. It’s a big world, there are a lot of interesting topics, there is so much new research and so much change the technology is enabling that I don’t ever feel like I fully tapped out what I can write about that will benefit not just others as readers, but that will benefit me as an author.

Kate: The last question I have to you. Our podcast is titled ”Stay On Top Of Your Work.” How do you stand top of work? Do you have any practices or any other rules that you use to stay on top of your work?

Mark: Yeah. There are two really important guidelines I use and the first is to never confuse activity with accomplishment. It’s not about how busy you are each day, it’s about what you’re able to achieve. And I say that activity is often the anesthesia of the ineffective leader. That is to say that some leaders just keep really busy but they don’t realize they either focusing on the wrong thing or they’re not achieving much. So, each day, I think, it’s important to have two or three significant accomplishments that you have outline for the day, so that you have a couple of things, maybe three things, that if you achieve those things, it will demonstrate that you’ve accomplished something significant and it’ll move you closer to whatever your long term goals, or visions, might be. So, I’ll say, be clear not just on your to-do list. To-do lists are fun, but what’s important is that you’re in the day feeling like you’ve accomplished something of significance.

Kate: I am really happy I could talk to you. It was my pleasure and my honor. You can find more information about Mark and the description of this podcast. Make sure to check it out and stay updated with the latest news from Mark. And also you can get in touch with him to schedule a speech. So this podcast is brought to you by TimeCamp. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and if you did, and even if you didn’t, follow the links to our previous podcasts, stay informed, have a productive day and until next time. Thank you all for listening and bye-bye.

Thanks for listening!

To get the latest news from Mark follow him on

Twitter || Facebook || LinkedIn || His official website where you can find more information about him, his work, and his books!

Stay tuned for the next episode in which I’m going to talk with Margaret Meloni!

Kate Kurzawska

Kate is a freelance translator, copywriter, and a content writer specializing in time tracking software, time management, and productivity. When not researching new software, she's reading books, or spending time outdoors.


  1. Helly
    January 25, 2018 at 12:04

    Wow…! Thanks for sharing valuable information, such a great conversation of all. I learned many idea for different though, It’s a amazing articles. Thank one’s again.

    1. Kate Kurzawska
      January 26, 2018 at 19:33

      Glad you learned something new, Helly! Stay tuned for next episodes, there are many great guests coming soon!


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