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Meet the Team: Interview with Mark Holman, RBLP-T

Photo of Mark Holman

Today we have another enlightening discussion with one of RBLP’s outstanding team of instructors in our ongoing #MeetTheTeam series: Our VP of PMO and Social Responsibility – Mark Holman, RBLP-T!

Hi Mark, thanks for chatting with us! Tell us a little about who you are and where you’re from.

I am originally from Lexington, Kentucky. My family moved around a bit and I have lived in Missouri, West Virginia, Virginia and I now live in Maryland. I am blessed to have had two of the best parents that taught me what “right” looks like. I was able to learn the meaning of hard work, perseverance, family, team work, religion, and was always reminded that, “you must always be part of the solution, and not the problem”. Both of my parents taught me that when you’re done learning, you’re probably done living.

I joined the Marine Corps at 17 as a senior in high school, graduated on a Friday and left on Monday for MCRD Parris Island. The Marine Corps was the best place to learn, grow, mature, lead and be mentored by some of the best individuals that a young American could hope to meet.

After 28 years of service I felt it was time to move on to the next chapter of my life, so I retired. Since my retirement from the Marine Corps (2010), I have worked at a Fortune 200 company as a Project, Program and Operations Manager on some very large government contacts. I also provided input on several business development groups and then after eight years, I resigned to work independently.

What can you tell us about your education and career background before you started working with RBLP? 

I have worked since I was eight years old. Mowed lawns, delivered papers, cut and hung tobacco, bailed hay, worked in restaurants and always had a book in my hand to read about whatever made me curious. I earned many certifications while in the Marine Corps and finished my Bachelor’s Degree.

Who is a role model that you’ve interacted with in your life that inspired you toward this career trajectory?

My parents were my first role models, as I mentioned earlier. When I entered the Marine Corps my first Staff Non-Commissioned Officer In-Charge (SNCOIC), MGySgt Darrel W. Upson, was a major influence on my career and future development. He exemplified the leadership traits that we learned about and didn’t just talk the talk, he walked the walk. He was a genuine leader that lived the leadership traits and principles and was a life-long learner. I had the pleasure of serving with him at various points in my career and gained a wealth of wisdom and knowledge, each time. His influence, along with my parents’, guided me into positions that allowed me to lead, train, educate and assist others in a manner that allowed them to grow, discover and become more effective in their life’s journey. I guess you could say I love helping others and giving back what has been provided to me along life’s journey.

Photo via FacebookWhat drew you to the role that you’re fulfilling with RBLP as a certification instructor?

I have always sought knowledge and once acquired, I have always had a passion to teach others and share that knowledge. Dr. Gene and I have known each other for over 35 years. We reconnected a couple years ago at an event, and as we were catching up he began sharing his idea for building an organization that would provide knowledge on how to build collectively resilient teams.  We discussed it frequently and he asked me if I would like to take the course, that he would coach me through the program and wanted to know what I thought of it. I went through the whole course and when it was done, I knew he had something special. I felt deep inside that RBLP’s mission, purpose, vision, and what it provided to leaders at all levels was what was missing, and it was awesome. After several conversations about the company, he offered me a position as the VP of PMO and Social Responsibility.

In your mind, what is the best definition of “resilience” for those who might be unfamiliar with the program that RBLP offers?

According to Websters, resilience is: 1. the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness. 2. the ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity. When life is hitting you from all sides, it is that voice and determination that tells you to “get up”, “you can do it”, “believe”, “endure”, “succeed.” In the Marine Corps we used to say, “Whatever the mind can conceive, the body will achieve”. This addresses the individual self-resilience that one must possess. There are a lot of folks that have faced some very difficult times and came through the other side, as champions. That self-resilience is critical for anyone, especially leaders.

RBLP focuses on collective resilience that takes the approach to another level. Imagine a leader knowing the formula and process to build collectively resilient teams. No leader that I know has ever accomplished any task or mission on their own. Teams that are collectively resilient will persevere through change and some of the most challenging times and experiences, and leaders that can build collectively resilient teams will be unstoppable.

What are some key practices of the collective form of resilience that you try to impart to your clients to as they progress through their training?

I impart that leadership is a sacred role that we are fortunate enough to earn. It comes with awesome responsibility and commitment.  The leader’s measure of success is how well that team achieves their goals/assignments, succeed, grow, solve problems and adapt to change. But, that will rarely be accomplished if there is not a positive climate, purpose provided and cohesion developed. You may get over a few times, but over time the team will break down, absenteeism will increase, attrition will occur and performance and delivery will fail. 

Creating a positive a climate, providing purpose, and developing cohesion are milestones that all leaders must work to achieve. I let them know it is not always easy, and it will require patience and dedication. But, if it were easy; everyone would be a leader.

What are the three most important components, in your opinion, that you try to convey to every team that you train under the RBLP certification program?

Leadership (the action of leading others) is like building a house: foundation, walls and roof. We have all driven past a new housing community and noticed new homes being built. There are people on the site, surveyors, digging equipment, concrete mixing trucks, etc.; each day we drive by we notice, over time, they have been doing this for quite a while. This process may be occurring for several months. Then one day you drive by and you see people building framing for homes, and within a week all four walls have been constructed. The next week you see drywall; the week after siding and windows. Within three to four weeks you see them landscaping the area around each home. The most important part of building a house is the foundation, and I explain that in order to build that house you must have a stable foundation to weather the storms that will come.

RBLP teaches that creating a positive climate, developing cohesion and providing purpose is that foundation to building collectively resilient teams. Next, we start building our walls to protect us from the outside; that is facilitating team learning. We make sure that we are oriented on team goals, encouraging constructive dialogue, and building shared mental models to be able to solve problems, adapt to change and overcome challenges. Then, we put our roof on the house that protects and prepares coverage for all inside; that is supporting organizational learning. Also that we promote a shared vision, encourage knowledge emergence and ensure knowledge diffusion as a learning organization, so we successfully handle organizational change and maintain our competitive advantage.

What is one of your own best personal experiences in your career that has influenced or inspired you in your certification training?

I would say the experiential learning model. The last contract that I worked as operations manager at my previous job required me to lead change initiatives in operations. This would have a major impact on the deliverables, quality, performance and overall production. We would get the requirements and when we would deploy the change, I would always pull in the critical personnel into a conference room and we would walk through that model to gather feedback, from all works sections involved, about the change process that just occurred. When I first took on that role, people were asking me what they did wrong and why I needed them in the room. That was a wake-up call to note that they had never been asked what went well, or what the can do differently or better.  I requested seasoned clerks who processed tasks, IT, business analysts, quality, supervisors, deputy and site managers. The first couple of times folks were shocked as to “what and why” was going on. As we moved from our concrete experience to our reflective observation (asking and listening to them), to abstract conceptualization (the decision made to carry out suggestions), and active experimentation (let’s try it again with changes) they showed a sense of amazement and pride and became closer as a team. It’s not just words on paper, it is something that I can personally site that works.  It doesn’t happen overnight but when team members feel valued and heard, amazing things can happen.

In your time as an RBLP instructor, what is one of your best memories and why?

This sounds obvious but I would have to say the RBLP certification program. I have been through many college courses, professional development/leadership academies and schools while in the Marine Corps, and attended several leadership and professional development courses including a PM fellows program over six months in the private sector. But RBLP provided me a concrete blueprint that is proven and can be taught from junior leaders beginning their development journey, all the way up to senior leaders of organizations.  

Photo via FacebookPivoting a bit from the program – tell us a little about yourself outside of work! What other activities or hobbies do you love?

I enjoy spending time reading, volunteering, exercising, video games, spending time with my son and obstacle course racing.

You mentioned obstacle course racing; is this what the photo of yourself w/ the medals is from?  How did you take up that hobby, and how long have you been doing it? 

Yes, this from the MD Savage Race (6.3 miles) and Savage Blitz (3.2 miles) and by running these races twice each in the same calendar year, I earned three Savage Syndicate Medals. It is a more prestigious group in that race series for running and completing 19 miles of course and obstacles in the same year.  I retired from the Marine Corps, became comfortable with the commute and hours, and found less time to work-out. I started getting aches and pains and went to my primary care doctor, who was a retired Army Colonel and he read my military medical file, ask some questions and listened. He said, your body is angry with you – you spent 28 years, exercising, being active, and now what do you do? He told me that he read my file and was aware of some limitations I had developed with years of services, but find something you can do and start moving! So, I started walking, then started riding my new mountain bike and then one day I saw an ad for an obstacle course race, Tough Mudder. It sounded fun, exciting and something I could set as a goal to motivate me to keep moving. So I signed-up, ran the race, got muddy as all get-out, fell in love with the sport and have been attending all types of OCRs, ever since.

I love the challenge, being outdoors, fresh air, challenging myself and getting muddy as muddy can get. It reminds of leadership; there are obstacles, challenges, pitfalls and sometimes it can seem impossible to achieve. Also, not all obstacles on course can be achieved solo, quite a few require teamwork. But, if you believe, work together, sharpen your skills and techniques, you will succeed. But as one my favorite sayings goes; “Whatever the mind can conceive, the body will achieve.” Of course, all of my retired Marine friends think I am nuts because the Marine Corps paid me to negotiate obstacles, get dirty and muddy and now I pay someone to subject me to the same!

Can you give us a quotation that you feel really inspires you to continue inspiring others?

“Do the right thing, and do the thing right” and “Treat others like you want to be treated.”

The right thing is to help others become better leaders. Leaders have such a major impact on the lives of the people entrusted to their care. If we can all pause and ask ourselves, “what I am getting ready to do or say to one of my team members… is that what I want done or said to me?”


RBLP leadership certifications are about Building Resilient Teams™ that overcome adversity and then can adapt and grow together! As always, we are #StrongerTogether.

Learn more about the requirements for the RBLP Certification program.

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