Authentic Achievements Episode 8 with Special Guest Mark Walley

Authentic Achievements Episode 8 with Special Guest Mark Walley

Authentic Achievements Episode 8. In this episode, I am delighted to be joined by Mark Walley CEO of STEP – advising families across generations. Prior to joining STEP Mark had a highly successful and varied career working for Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the ifs School of Finance, Cohen Brown Management Group, having started his career where he spent 25 years. I had the privilege of working with Mark at Barclay’s and was always inspired by his calm, inclusive and fair approach. He has an innate ability to build strong relationships with his people and create a culture where they can flourish. Today he shares with us his journey and the lesson’s he has learnt. If you would like to find out more about Mark and Step please go to https://www.step.org/

If you want to find out more check us out at www.kimadelerandall.com or www.authenticachievements.co.uk or see our previous episode here

Full Transcript:

Kim-Adele

Hello and welcome to authentic achievements. And today I have the extreme pleasure of interviewing somebody I worked within the past and became a good friend. The fabulous Mark Walley Welcome.

Mark

Thank you very much, Kim.

Kim-Adele

It’s such a joy to, see you again, it’s been, we were just talking before weren’t we it’s been years, but we worked together at Barclays before you’ve moved on to an even more illustrious career, doing all kinds of things. Haven’t you from working in wealth, moving across and you now work for step. Could you tell us briefly what is Step and what you do there?

Mark

Yeah, Step is the society of trust and estates practitioners. So lawyers, accountants, trust officers and others all around the globe who are basically helping families transfer one across generations. That’s the main thing that they do and, and doing that in a very planful way. I’m chief executive there. Yeah. And I’ve been, been at step about three years. So yeah,my role is to be responsible for the organization strategy it’s culture, it’s performance and governance. And I work really closely with the board to do that.

Kim-Adele

And what an amazing thing to do cause it’s such a complex thing for people, isn’t it and such a complex time often at the same, at the same,

Mark

Yes our members are dealing with clients who are thinking about some of the most vulnerable times in their life when they’ve just lost a loved one. In other circumstances, members might be looking after somebody who’s perhaps got reduced mental capacity for any number of reasons. And they’re trying to put a plan together to help them through their life and, and make sure that their finances are secure to do that. So it’s, it’s a hugely responsible role that our members have. And as the organization that’s set there and set the qualifications and then try and build the confidence of the public around use our members, it’s so important that we get it. Absolutely right.

Kim-Adele

Yeah. that’s absolutely amazing. And providing such a great service for people. And I guess in, in kind of creating that trust and, and getting people to, to work alongside the organization, alongside your members, building authenticity, which is what we’re here to about must be critical, because that’s such a key element, isn’t it in building trust is that people get to know the authentically what you are there to do and what, and what you’re gonna deliver for them. Yeah.

Mark

And for me that that’s something is really important and it’s, I guess I didn’t learn or back to those days, brilliant organization to work for the best education I could hope for in many ways. And I, you know, I was there more than 25 years, so nothing, nothing bad to say about Barclays. Interestingly though, as, as my younger self, I tried to fit in and conform. And so I wasn’t desperately authentic all the time. And it was only really, as I headed into some particular moments in my career that I realized that it was holding me back not being authentic. And it was only when I kind of allowed myself to be authentic rather than trying to fit in that actually for me, I felt that my career really accelerated after that.

Kim-Adele

And I can so get that because you know, for years, so I also tried to conform, you know, worked for great organizations, but they were very corporate and I was like, oh, I need to fit in and be corporate and well, you know, me, I’m more like a hyperactive puppy dog, the corporate being. So it wasn’t gonna be a good fit until I was like, actually I’m just gonna have to be myself and then deliver the job. And by actually focusing on delivering the job and not focusing on trying to be something I’m not actually, that’s when your career doesn’t lock, doesn’t it. And it also becomes so much easier cause you you’re actually just focused on one thing, aren’t you getting the job done rather

Mark

Then you can just do rather than working out what you need to be.

Kim-Adele

Absolutely. And people can, could then connect much more easily with us because actually we know don’t we, if someone’s being inauthentic, we might not know what they’re being inauthentic about, but we spot that there’s a something. And then we waste all of our time trying to work out what it is instead of actually really connecting with the person and, and kind of creating hopefully a good working relation that’s gonna help both prosper.

Mark

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s been a core for me. I mean, in my earlier years in Barclays that there came a point where it was a make a choice. You’re going to go down the corporate route or the personal banking route. And I chose personal banking because for me that was far more per it was far more about people. I’d be leading teams of people much sooner in my career than heading into the corporate room where I really important jobs and lots of relationships to run with the clients, but typically not managing teams of people that don’t get to do in the, in the personal, that was what really attracted me to that. And yeah, I, I’ve tried in every role to build an environment where people can be their best and to, for me to be your best, you’ve gotta be authentic.

Mark

Cause it’s not, as we’ve just said, you’re holding something back and, and yeah, I know that I carried a huge thing around not being as qualified as other people. So I, I was brilliant at school at not passing the exams mostly cuz I didn’t prepare for them. So when I entered the workplace, it was having failed day levels. And I carried without me that with me for a long time, you know, I, I was, didn’t have all the qualifications that other people had. Wasn’t a graduate. I wasn’t, I wasn’t, I wasn’t. And then I eventually I just throw all that away and said, you know what, this is what I am and this is what I’ve got. And big debt of gratitude to, Martin who one day I’ve I got onto a management development program and he was one of the graduates who wandered over to talk to this very small group.

Mark

There were about a hundred graduates and half a dozen of us who were not graduates on this program. And he wandered over and that. So who are you? And we kind of explained, he, I lot over there front to death of you, we’re like what? And he said, well, you’ll know something. We know nothing. We, we just arrived with the qualification. You’ve all got years of experience and suddenly every one of you can see the whole group, the six of us kind of our, just the realization that from a different lens, what we thought was a bit negative was actually massively positive. It’s amazing. Interesting.

Kim-Adele

Yeah. We live in a world of polarity don’t we, you know, for every, there’s a down for every left as a right. You know, it’s, it’s fascinating when you go and ask somebody else and get their perspective and all of a sudden the thing that you thought was the biggest challenge they see is your greatest strength. And I, I think that’s something we kind of unfortunately learned too late in life. Don’t we? So we’ve spent years feeling like pulling ourselves down and go, you know, some, I don’t have the qualifications, I don’t have the degree. You know, I do have an MBQ in addressing as you know, and I’m not sure that that was always what people were looking for, but, but actually once you put that baggage to one side and go, I’m just gonna show up as who I am and let my reputation and my experience speak for me instead of almost holding up everything I haven’t got. So I’ve got any these things it’s we do these awful things to ourselves. Don’t we in our heads because we, kind of pull ourselves down and hold ourselves back and then we project it outwards and assume someone else has done it until great conversations. Like the one you had where somebody tells you their perspective to me like, oh I didn’t realise

Mark

yeah. So I do some volunteer work with the Institute of directors in Surrey and, and we’ve held a couple of events with students at Royal Holloway and at the University of Surrey just recently all about transitioning from yeah. Student life into the workplace. And one of my big messages for them has always been that you degree. And, and I have to apologize to the university in advance. Your degree is your entry ticket. Cause actually people are gonna hire you for you. Not for your degree in most roles. I mean, there are some very specialist roles where clearly the degree is gonna, you know, what you studied is gonna matter. Yeah. But mostly we are hiring for people, their attitude, their attitude, probably mostly. And we use the degree as some sort of benchmarking or filter system to say, yeah, adept, clever, able to learn, able to apply learning on whatever topic was. So we think they’ll be able to do that in the workplace.

Kim-Adele

Yes it’s true. Isn’t it? Because we, and I think it’s, it’s moved quite a lot in the last few years. Isn’t it? Where people are now recruiting for willingness, for who you, for who you are and how you show up because we can train the skill, but you can’t train the willingness. Can you, that’s really hard, really hard. One to shift. If somebody doesn’t want to do it, they’re not gonna want to do it. Whereas if you’ve got somebody who comes in, who’s like, I’m just willing to learn and I’ll do whatever it takes to, to get on they’re the people that you wanna work with on it because you can do something for them. And you know, I know you do as a leader, you can help them to step into that potential and, and really start to shine. And there’s nothing, there’s nothing like it. Is it seeing somebody achieve something that they didn’t think that they were going to achieve and feel like you were a part of that journey is probably one of the greatest gifts.

Mark

Yeah. And also to be able to do that while staying in the background, cause they’ve gotta be in the spotlight. I struggle with a bit where were going, look what I did for X. And it’s like, just let X tell their story. Yeah.

Kim-Adele

And yeah, I completely agree. You know, for me, I, I just am always really grateful when people share their stories with me because I think that’s the, you know, that’s just a moment to be proud cuz that’s so kind of people to, to tell you journey and let you learn from what they’ve learned from. And, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why I love doing what I do now and doing this, which is getting to touch with amazing people like you to share your journey and, and tell us, you know, kind of, what’s the thing you are proudest of so far.

Mark

Yeah. Well, that’s a big question. So, so 18 years old leaving school without a levels. I do know I have a degree.

Kim-Adele

Yeah.

Mark

I’ve also got chartered director qualification. So, you know, I, I always had the ability, I just didn’t have the motivation really at the time. Yeah. And it wasn’t that I went to a bad school. It was a fabulous school and I earned huge amounts there that I still use regularly, but mostly about kind of how you get on with people and how you get on in life. Not, not, not where they, the cold fields in Europe were. Geography was one of my subjects.

Mark

So, so going into the workplace for me. Yeah. And I still hold the, this message from my father that when I was trying to earn pocket money by washing the car and the first time I did that and he came out and kind of inspected the car, you’ve gotta understand he was in the army. Yeah. So inspecting was, you know, when, when you finished was part of the deal and he went, well, let me know when you finished and I’ll come and I’ll come and look again and then maybe you’ll get your money. But the message was, if you can do something, do it well.

Kim-Adele

Yeah.

Mark

And, and that’s something that I carried all the way. And then you can’t, to me, you can’t do well if you’re only half invested in it. Yeah. So gotta get really invested and just do your best. And all we can ask of anybody is that they do their best and my best might be different from somebody else’s best. And that that’s okay.

Kim-Adele

It’s so true. Isn’t it? It’s like, it’s okay that we can be different. And, and that we all have different skills. And actually that’s the beauty of it because then we are stronger together because I might be good at things that you’re not so good at. And you’re good at things. I’m not, it’s a good at so together we become significantly better don’t we, because we can help each other. And I think similarly, you know, my family will always, if you’re doing something, do it to the best of your ability. And if you get it wrong, learn from it and get it wrong again, next time you get something, maybe get something new wrong. It wasn’t about don’t fail, but it was about making sure or that you don’t keep repeating the mistake. Yes, absolutely. And I think what’s, what’s fascinating is I speak to so many people who, when they were at school, didn’t perhaps fulfill their potential.

Kim-Adele

Because maybe they weren’t quite ready yet to know what it was that they wanted to do. And then they go on and, and do it later on in life. I, I know of people who went back and did degrees once they’ve worked out what they wanted to do, but sometimes it’s hard, isn’t it to work out what you want to do, particularly when, when we’re, when we’re that young. So I think it’s, it’s having that confidence to go. I’m just gonna do the things that I think I can do and do well and not assume I can’t go back and make any changes because I think sometimes, we put too much pressure on ourselves. Don’t we on those, on those decisions that go, well, if I don’t make the decision right now, I’m never gonna be able to, to change it. It’s like you can change those.

Mark

So 25 years in a Barclay, I suddenly decided to move and I thought I was gonna be there until I retired. Yeah. Yeah. And I was having a conversation. So you, so you might remember that we, that the time you and I were working together, we were doing a sales and culture program. And I, I got into a role that I wasn’t enjoying. I picked it because of a title rather than something that I would enjoy. And that was a mistake. And so I asked a few people kind of, yeah, what is, what is it you see in me doing when I’m really enjoying myself at work? And one of them, it was one of the, consultants that we were working with and they said, well, you’ve really enjoying this transformation stuff. Why didn’t you come and work for us? And I was like, no, I couldn’t do that. You know, I’m, I’m Barclay, screwing through six months to allow myself to think that I could actually do that and make that transition. And I, yeah, the, I put up a hundred different reasons why I couldn’t, they’re all nonsense.

Kim-Adele

Yeah.

Mark

And I made the move and it was brilliant. And I just enjoyed every day of being at work. And it threw me into a whole different world. And at times, you know, I was basically going out and doing the same type of role as I’ve been doing at bar transformation work. And, but doing that with any number of different bands in any number of different places and, and the number of times that we always used to see it, if there were a pair of us and the consulting team would sit and we’d kind of almost wait for the moment when the customer would say yes, but of course we are different. And you think not, not as much as you think you are. Yeah. Cause the basic issues with the basic issue,

Kim-Adele

They, they usually aren’t there, and actually, you know, one of the things that always makes me smile when I’m working with clients as well is they’ll go, oh, we are either we’re different. Or it’s really complicated. And I’m like, well, it’s kind of not, cuz everything comes down to people because you’ve got customers, but they’re people, you’ve got colleagues, but they’re people and you’ve got suppliers and, and, and partners, but actually you’re dealing with people in all of those. So if you get really good at working with people and, and listening to understand and trying to find a way forward together, the rest of it become, becomes easy. And, and unfortunately that’s usually where it all goes wrong in transformation, isn’t it, we’ve got a great plan. We’ve not thought about the people and the core and how you take them on the journey. And the, so you end with the part that doesn’t quite get embedded because people are fighting against it because they weren’t, it was done to them, not done with them.

Kim-Adele

And I think, you know, one of the things you you’re great at is making sure that you take the people on the journey so that they understand why it’s happening. They understand the part that they need to play in it and they feel they feel safe. Because I guess similarly to you making that massive move, you know, 25 years in, in Barclay’s and then suddenly deciding I I’m gonna go and do a new career, that’s kind of been a massive decision. As you said, it took like six months. But having to go through that mindset piece of telling yourself why you couldn’t versus telling yourself why you could

Mark

Yeah. What

Kim-Adele

Makes that change?

Mark

So it’s me and my lists. So I’m quite planful and, and there was a, for me, there’s a sort of a saying that spontaneity takes a lot of forward planning, you know, when you turn and we used to hold celebration events. Yeah. Annual celebration events in Barclays, in the division we were in and we’d wanna celebrate the best that had happened over the last period and the amount of effort as anybody that knows that’s run an event, the amount of effort that goes into something like that is huge. And when you’re in the middle of it as a delegate, you, it feels spontaneous and in the moment and everything else and you happening months of effort. So I guess it, it was that same sort of thing. It’s like, what am I trying to work out it? So really what I was trying to work out was what did I think I would enjoy doing for in my career? What sorts of things did I really enjoy? And then how did I make that happen?

Mark

And the realization that actually transitioning into the consultancy world was gonna be a really good move for me, cuz I would enjoy every day that every moment I of every day that I was at work was really important. Then all, all the other stuff like what pensions and kind of all the other benefits and, and everything now she, well that, that none of it disappears. Yeah. Just changes. So, so that was what I just need to go through that I suppose. Right. Rational, logical process to help me make the, what something was a rational decision for me was so important because then it opened up the next stage of my career and you know, I’m now doing what I’m doing and it would never have happened. Otherwise

Kim-Adele

I love for that because it’s so true, isn’t it, things can just come out of the blue. They seem to come out of the blue. They’re not, and then they are, they are planned and things, but it’s amazing how one small change can just open up a whole wealth of different opportunities and new people that you get to meet new connections and, and new lessons to learn because we, you know, we learn something going from everybody that we meet. So what would you say has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?

Mark

I’ve got a list of that. That there’s not one single thing. I don’t think so. So, and I, I kind of think about this and yeah, my wife and I actually discussed this on a journey back. And so we’ve got two grown up children and we would taking our youngest to university for his first term at university. And our eldest was going back to start his final year. Wow. And we’re dropping them both off and on the way back, we, my wife and I were sat in the car. What we wish we’d known a way back then there was stuff neither of us had been to university. So this was all new, not there was no family history around it or anything else, but we kind of went well, there’s, there’s a big thing about preparation. So, so yeah, back to my school days, I used to go into exams without having done revision and so price as I failed and you wouldn’t turn up at a, you shouldn’t turn up a new exam like that.

Mark

You wouldn’t turn up at a sports match like that. You practice. Yeah. And Chris, my wife has got a whole stack of sports medals cause she used to practice a lot and got better than everybody else. Yeah. So that, for us, there was a thing about practice was a thing about belief. So believe you can do something. So that, that move for me was quite daunting. But I also remember, I I’d been to work in Greece earlier on in my career in parkades and I, I was about two weeks in and new country, new culture. This was Greece in 1990, very different to, to now central Athens, hardly anything in English was like an alien that’s how, and was really struggling. And somebody just said to me, they grabbed, told me one day and said, look, this is, this is tough because of all those factors, but you’ve been picked because somebody seen something in you.

Mark

And that, that just gave me the confidence to believe that I had the ability and, and then kind of went on a bit and it was about, well, actually stuff happens in your life and there are setbacks. It’s not all a, you know, it’s not all an upward trajectory. And recognizing that we’ve done all the big things. So we, we went through, there’s been redundancy of close families, negative equity. We’ve experienced our fair share of stuff. Yeah. But then so does everybody, but it happens. Most of the stuff happens is relatively small. When you think about it in life terms, kinda accept that and get on with the rest of it.

Kim-Adele

So I was gonna say, that’s a great attitude. And right. You know, life does love to throw us the odd plot twist. But you know, one of the things that I always say is you’ve survived a hundred percent of the challenges life’s thrown at you so far. That’s one heck of a batting average. I will bet on you to survive for the next thing. So that belief piece is, is huge. Isn’t it? Because when we, when we ask people do something for us or we give them a job or we give them an opportunity, we do it because we believe that they can, because if we didn’t believe that they could, we wouldn’t give it to them because we’ll look stupid. But I think we, what we fail to do is tell them that we’re doing it because we believe in them. And yet the power of belief, the power of somebody giving you their belief is amazing.

Kim-Adele

Isn’t it? It, it can totally change your change where you are, as you said, when you were in Greece, it, it gives you the courage. I think almost to, to keep going and go, maybe I can do this. They believe me. I’ll, I’ll borrow, I’ve learned late. And I to borrow people’s belief when I don’t have any of my own go, okay. If you believe that I can help borrow yours and I’ll, and I’ll do my best not to let you down. And it does allow you to, to kind of really find a bit of courage that perhaps I was sadly lacking on my own without having that person in your corner.

Mark

And in some ways it’s that, it’s almost the, the stuff that her parents taught us, but we didn’t really cause, you know, they kept on sharing his belief. Yeah. Cause you know, as a child, how did we know what we could or couldn’t do? What we didn’t have was lots of limiting beliefs as children. And we just, you know, we figured we could walk cause everybody else does.

Kim-Adele

That’s so true. I, I use this one all the time. I thought about my little girl when she’s she five now, but you know, when she was walking and I was like, if I had to wake up tomorrow and learn how to walk or talk or run or jump or skip, I’d be, I’d be overwhelmed. I think we all would. And yet at my most vulnerable at all of our most vulnerable, we learn to do it. So why, why was that? And I think for me, one of the things that that really came out is I’ve yet to see a child who’s learning to walk that doesn’t have at least one adult nearby going, come on, you’re nearly there, you’ve got this. So we quite literally give them our belief. Yeah. And yet we stop doing it when adults don’t, we, we stop overtly giving our belief to people and yet, and wouldn’t it amazing if we started doing it and, and help people to, to kind of really lift themselves up.

Mark

Yeah. And, and for me that, you know, that that’s kind of links into some of the other stuff. There’s a huge amount of teamwork that gets the things done. As you said earlier, if we all came to the table with the same views and set of skills, it would be a pretty pointless table really. Cause we might as well have done it on our own. And, and there’s something I picked up. I’ve done quite a bit of work in and out of Africa over the years in different roles. And they’ve got SS proverb down there about if you wanna go fast, go alone. And if you want to go far, go together.

Kim-Adele

I love

Mark

That. And it’s just, it just, for me, it just summed it up. It’s just brilliant. You know, I think about all the things I’ve done in life and that proverb is true.

Kim-Adele

Yeah. A great way of summing it up. Isn’t it? Because you’re right. We always go further if we go together because we open our eyes to new perspectives and new opportunities that we can’t see if we just do it on our own, can we because we have blinkered views. It’s how we are, how we designed. I could literal fully chat to you all day, but I’m coming to the last question. If you had, could go back and give advice to your younger self, what would it be?

Mark

I think there’s something about embrace new opportunities and experiences. So many things that come our way and come as an opportunity. And, and, and I think back to the idea of Greece I wanted, when I was asked what I wanted to do on this assignment, that before it became Greece, I wanted to go and work in marketing in barley cart. And then they said, oh, well, how about Greece go and work for the general manager? And it would’ve been easy to say, no, I’ve never been to Greece. And so many other times in my life. And you know, that transition of career. Well, no, I’ll stay where I am. Just embrace it. People believe in you to have that belief in yourself, embrace the opportunities. I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have married. The person I’ve been married to for 30 years. I wouldn’t have had all these work experiences is if I hadn’t just done a few things that were right outside my frames of reference. So yeah. Just embrace opportunities and experiences.

Kim-Adele

That is great advice. Isn’t it? Because sometimes we, we are the ones that hold ourselves back. And yet actually, if we, if we take the leap of faith and we trust that, actually what’s the worst that can happen. That is one of the sayings. I, I say to myself all of the time when I’m, when I’m given an opportunity is what’s the worst that can happen and can I live with it? And as long as I can live with it, then, then I’ll take the opportunity. But it took me a lot of years to, to get to, to that almost, you know, like of makes sense only in the rearview mirror, doesn’t it? You have to look back and go, oh yeah. But look at all these times where I did push out of my comfort zone or I did go outside of my frame of reference or I went and did something that felt uncomfortable at the time, but I stayed with it and look what, look what it brought me as a result of that.

Mark

And as you said earlier, Kim, the, yeah. Kind of, what’s the worst that can happen typically that you might learn a few things. You might not have been successful in the task, but you’ll learned some things. So I was going, well, the worst that can happen is I learned you things.

Kim-Adele

Yeah. And that’s not,

Mark

That’s not so bad. Is it?

Kim-Adele

That’s, that’s so true because you know, when we change, how we view something to say, you know, the words that’s gonna happen is I’m gonna learn a way not to do it, which allows me to be one step closer to doing it right next time. Because once we remove all the ways of getting it wrong, we’ll find the way that gets it. Right. That’s just, we allows us to move forward. Doesn’t it?

Mark

Yeah, absolutely.

Kim-Adele

Oh, brilliant. Mark. It’s been an absolute joy. Thank you so much for coming and sharing your journey with us. I will make sure that all the links of how people can get in touch with you and learn more also about step and the great work that they’re doing are in the show notes. And thank you so much. I look forward to catching up again soon.

Mark

Yeah. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you, Kim.

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