In Art Of Coaching Podcast, Podcasts

We’ve heard the leadership cliches, read the business books and tried the various morning routines but something’s still not clicking…

We can try to work harder and hope our efforts don’t go unnoticed… or we can flip the script, become a unicorn and work with ninjas. 

No seriously, just ask Mark Fisher. 

Mark is an international speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. He and his “non-sexual life partner” Michael Keeler founded Business for Unicorns in 2016 and have since worked with many of the leading fitness studios across the US, the UK, and Australia. Past non-fitness clients include Sony Music, Sylvan Learning, Novus Surgical, and Security Scorecard. He is also a proud alumni speaker of TEDxBroadway.

 In addition to consulting through BFU, Mark is the co-founder of Mark Fisher Fitness, one of the most unusual gyms in the fitness industry. MFF operates a physical location in midtown Manhattan and a fast-growing online “virtual” location. MFF was recognized as #312 on the 2015 Inc. 500 fastest growing companies in America, as well as one of Men’s Health’s “Top 20 Gyms in America.”

Obviously, Mark has made it his mission to approach both business and fitness in a unique way meaning this episode is anything but ordinary. Today we cover: 

  • Why you should welcome and foster healthy conflict in your organization
  • When and why you should give away power as a leader
  • Managing by metrics when the important things aren’t easily measured
  • How to effectively bring emotion into the workplace

Connect with Mark:

Via his various websites:

Mark Fisher Fitness: 

Business for Unicorns:

Personal Page:

Or Via Instagram: 

Mark Fisher Fitness @mffclubhouse

Mark Fisher (Personal) @markfisherhumanbeing 

Today’s episode is brought to you by: a hard truth. 

No matter how good you are at what you do, how hard you work or much you want to help others, none of it will make an impact if you don’t know how to reach your audience or communicate your message in a way that resonates with the people that need you and the work you provide the most. 

The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of making a mistake or hearing someone grumble. We all have skills and value we can provide and though I know it doesn’t feel that way to those of you who are perfectionists- there are people out there who need what you do. 

That’s why we created our online course, Blindspot. It will help you build your brand and business the right way by turning what you know into what you do. It will help you identify your core strengths and how you can provide the most value to others, then systematize that in a way that allows you to get it to your audience so you can stand out without selling out. 

Go to Returning soon 👀


Brett Bartholomew  0:09  

Today’s episode is brought to you by a little bit of a hard truth. And here’s the hard truth of the day. No matter how good you are at what you do, no matter how hard you work, no matter how much you want to help others, none of it will make an impact. If you don’t know how to reach your audience, you’re hearing me right, your work will not make the difference, it could, if you do not know how to communicate your message in a way that resonates with the people who need you. And the work you provide most, none of it will matter if you don’t take the leap, and give yourself permission to find your voice and build your own platform. And yes, that means you’re going to face some of the inherent self doubt, and criticism from peers that comes with the process of self improvement and learning. But here’s the case, guys, the cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of making a mistake or hearing somebody grumble under their voice. We all have skills, we all have value that we can provide. And though I know it doesn’t feel that way, to those of you that are perfectionist, there are people out there who need what you do. And that’s exactly why we created our online course Blindspot. It is made to help you build your brand and business the right way, by turning what you know into what you do. It’s going to help you identify your core strengths, how you can provide the most value to others, and then systematize that in a way that helps you get it to your audience. So you can stand out without selling out. So if you’re somebody that’s felt like, you know, I love learning, and I’m always looking for ways to improve myself so I can help others. But I feel like that lacks the confidence, experience and knowledge of what to do next, go to If you are somebody that says yeah, I know I have knowledge to share, and I definitely have a desire to help others. But I often feel like an impostor who’s gonna care what I have to say, Finally, if you’re somebody that knows you need to take the next step in your career for a while now. But you have people that rely on you and you can’t afford to take a silly risk only for it to fail. And you’re not sure if you can pull off what you want to do. Go to, it is going to reopen soon, you can get sample information and details about this resource. You have lifetime access. So it doesn’t matter if you’re in 30 courses right now or you’re traveling to Timbuktu or you got your Aunt Mary’s Sisters Brothers reunion down the road. You can literally do this whenever you want. It’s easy to follow along


Brett Bartholomew  3:09  

Welcome to the Art of coaching podcast, a show aimed at getting to the core of what it takes to change attitudes, behaviors and outcomes in the weight room, boardroom classroom and everywhere in between. I’m your host, Brett Bartholomew, I’m a performance coach, keynote speaker and the author of the book conscious coaching. But most importantly, I’m a lifelong student interested in all aspects of human behavior and communication. I want to thank you for joining me and now let’s dive into today’s episode.


Brett Bartholomew  3:49  

Very excited for you guys to hear this interview. My guest today Mark Fisher is a social savant. And aside from being an international speaker, consultant and entrepreneur, he is somebody that just understands the nuances of human dynamics and psychology better than just about anybody I know. And through his keynotes and courses coaching, Mark helps training gym owners achieve financial success and personal freedom. Some of his most popular topics that he speaks on includes building cult like cultures and yes, you heard me correctly on that time management and sales and marketing for good human beings. He’s also excellent and he put this one in here but it rightfully so. Playing with puppies, though to date, he admits that he has not been paid for that skill set. Mark and his non sexual life partner Michael Keeler founded business for unicorns in 2016. And I’ve since worked with many of the leading fitness studios across the US, the UK and Australia. Now, that’s not the only field that he’s been in past non fitness clients includes Sony Music, Sylvan Learning, novice surgical and security scorecard. He’s also a pro out alumni speaker of TED X Broadway, in addition to consulting, Mark is the co founder of Mark Fisher fitness, one of the most unusual gyms in the fitness industry. So if you’re somebody that really feels like you’re struggling to find your niche, this is an individual that you should absolutely take inspiration from. 


Brett Bartholomew  5:19  

Mark Fisher fitness operates a physical location in midtown Manhattan, and a fast growing online virtual location. They were recognized as number 312, on the 2015, Inc, 500, fastest growing companies in America, as well as one of Men’s Health, top 20 gyms in America. Guys, I don’t know what more you could want. This is a fast paced conversation, I am going to urge you to make sure like oh is get notes ready to go. Or make sure that you at least screenshot something, if you’re driving in the car, and you want to come back to it that way. You don’t miss it. Because the amount of tactical takeaways that he throws right away, are immense. And also say this, give people like Mark some credit. We don’t use the we don’t do the usual podcast thing where we start with their whole life story and what have you, I throw them right into the deep end, sometimes with questions that catch them off guard. But Mark took it all in stride, he crushed it, make sure to turn the volume up. And let’s get started. 


Mark Fisher, thanks for sitting down with me, man.


Mark Fisher  6:28  

Thanks so much for having me. Great to be here. 


Brett Bartholomew  6:30  

Yeah. Likewise, hey, the reason that I think this conversation is gonna be so valuable, especially for not just me, and hopefully you but our listeners is you have an affinity for running away from leadership bullshit, right? We talked about this a little bit off air, you have such a unique background that we talked about before in the bio, but talk to me because you use very particular language and our audience likes jumping right into conversations, where you said, Yeah, you know, I think a lot of this perfectionistic base, look at me, everything’s great. And I turned my mess into my message based idealized leadership can be toxic, elaborate,


Mark Fisher  7:09  

yeah, it can be toxic. It really I’ll share specifically that just a little bit about my own experience as a leader and an entrepreneur and someone trying to find my way in the world. So I am a avid reader and consumer professional education, I read tons of business books, I go to lots of conferences, I’m always looking to learn. And when I was a younger fellow, what happened was when I now look back in retrospect, because so much of the business books out there, and so much of like the speaking circuit in the keynote circuit, which I want to call it, but there’s a lot of great stuff. And so I’m not saying it’s not much of it’s not worthwhile. But in retrospect, I got into a really bad place of just feeling like I was an idiot. And I was the only person that like, was so bad at my business, because much of many of the books are either written by a consultant, who is speaking about their clients are amazing, or like those customer service at Ritz Carlton. And then the flight attendant ran them to the thing, and that’s what service is like. And oftentimes, of course, and I don’t judge this, this is a consultant looking to sell their service. Oftentimes, there’s been there’s a whole series of business books that are literally written by a consultant, that is just to kiss the butt of one particular business, and tell their stories of how amazing this business is. Or if you do have someone tell a massive story to your point, it’s always through the lens of Oh, things used to be really messed up. But now it’s really great and amazing, buy my thing. And I think the challenge for me with that was I felt for a long time. And this is a very human thing to feel Oh, everybody really seems know what they’re doing around here. And all these other businesses, Zappos, they’ve got it all figured out all the time. And everybody at Starbucks is emotionally and spiritually fulfilled every minute all day long. And meanwhile, Mark Fisher fitness is having a lot of success. People keep telling me how amazing my businesses and every time I want to die inside because I’m like, Well, you don’t, this feels I don’t deserve any of this praise. Sometimes my team gets frustrated with each other. Sometimes people get in arguments, or they even gossip about each other behind their back. This place is super messed up. You know, now, thank goodness, I’m a little bit older. I’m like, Oh, actually, in the grand scheme of things we do, actually pretty good. But I think that type of approach is toxic because I think it can help create this endemic imposter syndrome that is probably going to be there no matter what you do. But I know for me that when my life really started to open up when I started to find the mentors, I think the sliver of people that are 100% candid, not only about the challenges they’ve had, but they’re still figuring out as they go along. And that gave me a lot of permission to feel like I’m okay just the way I am, at the very least to enjoy my work a little bit more and to understand that business does is a quote I know us as well. You know, like all good crafts. It is a craft in which we are all forever apprentices. Right. None of us will ever be masters.


Brett Bartholomew  10:07  

Yeah. And at first, I want to applaud you for jumping right in with a question like that. That is usually not how we lead off a podcast. But with you. And I did it in particular, because of this. You mentioned imposter phenomenon. You mentioned a lot of things there. And now I’m going to invite the audience to get some context of how we know each other. You know, if you recall, I met you through our friend Chad landers, right? And this is out in California during one of the most chaotic moments of my life. I just accepted a new role jumping more into the business side of things, and now splitting between being a coach and a business owner. And here you come meeting us at this eclectic cafe. And I’m listening to you talk like you’re fucking Tony Stark, you’re you know, and you’re very humble. So that’s the antithesis of Tony Stark in that right. But what I mean is, it’s immediate from the moment I met you that you’re just wired differently. I’m hearing about the books that you’ve read and your business and Chad’s explaining your business model a little bit surreptitiously. I’m looking you up online. When I like went to the ballot. I’m like, This dude’s got all this laid out. And what was great about it is, you know, I came up with these very kind of hard wired, and I’ve talked about it on the show a lot, these mantras of what a good coach is, and what it in there, and they’re humble, and they don’t sell, promote. And I saw what you did with your business, where it clearly wasn’t about you, but you weren’t scared to put your face in front of it. And then you could talk about complex topics. And then I saw you again, in Seattle. And this is at the time that we were building art of coaching and taking a lot of lessons from performance into different cultures, right? corporate cultures, Wells Fargo, what have you. And I read your bio, my good lord, this guy’s spoken for Sony. He’s he’s worked with businesses in the UK and what have you. And at one point, I you know, I even called you and I asked you the most basic business question around pricing imaginable. And it gave me this sense of like, wow, is there a lot to learn? Wow, do I have a long way to grow? Wow. And so what became fascinating about this is, the more I got to know you, the more that I valued and respected you because you admitted, yeah, man, listen, we have a good thing going at MFF. But we don’t have all of our shit figured out. And here’s some of my mess, too. Right? And here’s where things are going cataclysmically wrong. And I remember hanging up the phone probably a year and a half later, when we talked again, I told my wife, I’m like, that’s a real one. That’s somebody that wasn’t scared even though that they’ve done all these things to not in a fake or foe humility type of way. Be like, Hey, man, there’s plenty of times my world crumbles. Why do you think that’s so hard? For people in professions? Whether it is fitness, or strength and conditioning are things where we’re supposed to be strong and upfront and outright? Obviously, vulnerability plays a role but what else goes into this idea that keeps people from just admitting that she gets crazy sometimes? 


Mark Fisher  12:54  

Yeah, it’s a great question. I think it’s interesting because I for better for worse, I’m so just wired the other way to be so transparent that if anything, I have had to learn to modulate myself just I don’t want to make people feel like wildly uncomfortable, cuz I’m so I’m personally so comfortable. Like, yeah, here’s a disclosure of a challenge that I’m going through. I think, you know, the base level, certainly I imagine some of it is, frankly, just protection of ego and not wanting to admit to other people, even to ourselves that we’re not in a good place. I think certainly that is part of it. I think it’s interesting I was doing, I was having a conversation before this, my business partner, Michael, and we were talking about this when it comes to leaders, where I think it gets a little more challenging, even there, because I think, oftentimes, when someone is any kind of leader, whether you are looked to as like a thought leader and a role model, or you’re an organization where you are looked to by your team, and hopefully trusted to make decisions that are going to be good ones that will do good things for everyone’s career desire to serve the mission of the organization. I understand there is a balance to be struck between having confidence and strength and casting a vision. And I personally don’t think that’s mutually exclusive with also being transparent and a real person, and totally honest about where you’re not sure about a thing or were you thinking maybe could have done something better. And unfortunately, I think a lot of people misinterpret that. And they do think they reached exclusive and they think that to concede that they’ve either made a mistake or that they don’t have this one thing figured out or unwilling to say I’m not good at this, I need your help. I don’t think I do this as good as you can you help me? For some I think a lot of people think that means they’re losing the strength of leadership and that the leader needs to be strong and tough and get that you know, writing I’m at the My hand is on the tail and I have the sociopathic will to win. And I think that’s not correct. And frankly everybody, particularly in your organization, kind of knows what’s going on anyway. Right. human emotion is so porous. That I think it’s better just to acknowledge that and, the reality like I do think there is a place for strength, there is a place for vision casting, there is a place for will, all that stuff can still be useful. But frankly, I think it lands a lot better and is a lot more human and accessible if we marry that with like, candor and vulnerability, and frankly, naming the reality that is apparent to everybody anyway.


Brett Bartholomew  15:22  

Well, and that’s a great point. I’m glad you finished with that of naming the reality. Because within this, and you mentioned your staff and setting expectations, and also balancing that with vision and this healthy blend of optimism, and hey, here’s the reality. There was no script, no playbook. No, anything any of us could have ever read. That would have helped us deal better with COVID. Right, threw everybody off. That said, like you have to have some difficult conversations with your staff around that. I mean, you guys, and I’ll allow you to elaborate on it. You have a brick and mortar business, you had to transition. But before all that, like how did you even address the Oh, yeah, I don’t know the exact answer of how to do this factor with your staff when these things were outsourced? Because also for anybody listening, like you’re in New York City, right? Yeah, you guys were massively impacted? Could you talk about how you have those discussions? Or even what the process of thinking, How do I frame this so that we don’t create panic? But there’s intense pragmatism and transparency here? 


Mark Fisher  16:24  

Yeah, I think, you know, it’s it’s hard maybe to come up with a precise framework that works in all scenarios, I think the contacts will probably lend itself to different.


Brett Bartholomew  16:36  

Sure. I mean, it works. But yeah, sorry, if I didn’t say that, clearly that in your case. 


Mark Fisher  16:40  

Yeah, I think that, you know, because even in a place like MFF, like, you know, depending on because ideally, your dream is a leader is sometimes this can be seasoned differently, depending on the individual and the way they receive and hear things. But I think broadly, there is still value in getting clear on what reality is what we know, I think there’s value on probably identifying, here’s the thing that we don’t know yet. And then yes, there’s always place as the leader to go first to cast the vision and get clear on here’s where I think we need to go, here’s why we need to go there. Here’s what’s in it for you. Here’s what’s in it for the mission. Here’s what’s in it for all of us. And I think that that framework has probably served us pretty well. And I think, frankly, at MFF. Internally, you know, this is an interesting thing I don’t think we’ve talked about and maybe we should talk about more. We’ve, I think clearly benefited from 10 years of social capital with our community of clients. And that has really been helpful, because they have really showed up for us, they’ve been willing to try out new services with us, they’ve stuck with us during a very, very strange time. I think we’ve also taken advantage of 10 years of social capital with our team, which is not say, it’s Disneyland is not a utopia. That’s not to say that people’s feelings don’t get bruised. There’s not like major personal tension or disagreement from time to time. But the reality is, because people we’ve invested so much time in each other’s relationships, and people do, I think know each other, first and foremost, as humans, I think that has been a lubricant over the past year. And you know, for what it’s worth, and maybe this is me telling myself a useful story. I also think we’ve got pretty reasonable people that just get it this was, in some ways, I’m not saying this is I don’t want to sound like COVID was easy, but it was such an extreme situation, that for the most part, I don’t know about you, I have been finding people have been pretty flexible here on the apocalypse, right people on the team clients in the Apocalypse, people are pretty flexible. So that I think, you know, I think is both because people don’t just understand this is a weird and challenging time everyone’s doing the best they can. But I do think like those years of really developing the relationships, I do think, again, not that I’m perfect leader or not that there’s many things I’ve done over the years that people have disagreed with or even disliked. But I do will say this, I’m very confident that people on our team, trust me and Michael, as humans, that we’re generally doing the very best we can we generally have their best interests at heart. And, I think that allowed this past year to be as easy as it could knowing it was still, you know, not fun in certain moments.


Brett Bartholomew  19:19  

Yeah. And with that, and I want to give you a little encouragement on this. And because I know a lot of we live in an interesting time and every podcast approach is different. But you never have to worry about our audience interpreting you as saying you got to figure it out, or you’re the perfect leader. And if anybody is a new listener, you know, that’s not what we do here. And that’s so Mark never needs to say that again. One thing one thing to build off that and there’s a question wrapped in here somewhere, but this is also a real discussion, is you know, you’re right about people giving a little bit more grace and I liken it to and this is a situation where I usually need to qualify this statement, but I think you get it because you think in a very A wonderful, abstract interconnected way. You know, my wife and I had a baby during COVID. And it’s very much the kind of grace that you get when you have a child that people understand life becomes chaos. Right? And we found there are certain situations where I really, you know, just happened recently, you know, we had to cancel on a friend, lat long standing commitment and plan. Our child had gotten sick and slept all day. I’m like, dude, like, We’re three hours. Yeah, we’re not going to do any point. And we saw similar things with COVID, even with our staff. And it’s interesting, because I think the and I maybe want to push here in a different space, even if the easy answer is going here. I think it’s easy to say, alright, well, let’s look at this with staff and staff that is understanding and gives you grace. What all just comes down to how we hire and the culture and yeah, for sure, there’s that I mean, if somebody looks you up, and we see Mark Fisher half naked with unicorns, which I want you to explain. But it’s more than that. Right? It is the way that we wield the words, it is helping people understand a shareable context. And by the way, hiring or maintaining tranquillity just based on culture and all these things. It’s not really that easy, right? This is a semi ambiguous term. Some of it, just comes down to saying, Hey, we live in the most fast paced, chaotic time in human history. We need adapters, I can give you strategy as simple rules, we can have our 10 principles on the wall. But at the end of the day, are you just an adapter? And are you somebody that’s going to listen, you know, and people will show you who they are over time, especially like this, it kind of weeds out the bad apples and the people that weren’t loyal?


Mark Fisher  21:36  

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah. 100%,


Brett Bartholomew  21:39  

anything you want to extrapolate on there? It’s not necessarily a question as much as one. Does that make sense in conjunction with what you’re saying? This whole idea of, grace, given the nature of the situation? Or do you think you can’t know Brett, I think you can hire people. You can kind of scan for personality traits, or what have you that should shit hit the fan, you know, they’re 100% going to be able to be relied upon, and that culture is everything. I mean, it’s a tricky word. How do you even feel about that term, as it applies to dealing with chaos and managing a business?


Mark Fisher  22:12  

Yeah, it’s, so ineffable. Right? It is, because culture is something as you know, I talk a lot about and it’s this ineffable soup that you’re swimming in that Olson, I think, like any bottle you’re inside of, it’s hard to read nutrition facts, stuff. So of course, I’m not probably the most reliable narrator about MFF. But I do think it’s certainly we have made good hires along the way. And I think this is an interesting point. I don’t know this, for sure. But I posit the part of what has led to the level of communication level trust we have at MFF. Is we have lots of difficult conversations with each other, like not 100% of the time, but have you by chance, I’m sure I’ve read this book before the Crucial Conversations. Okay, so that is a Bible. For me, that is a book that we all read. And then we all read crucial accountability. And I don’t mean to pretend that those conversations happen every single time. But it is like funny, not funny. And MFF, let’s just say, you know, you’re gonna have a serious conversation, when someone sits you down, and they pull out a paper and read something on paper, because I’m so mad at you. I wrote this down, because I want to make sure I say all the things that I go through the framework, and I’ll start with, here’s the mutual purpose, here’s the articles, here’s the behaviors I’ve seen, here’s the story, I’m telling about them when I’m making them mean, here’s how I feel about that. Here’s what I don’t know what is true for you. And that I think is counter intuitively, the willingness I think to have those difficult conversations and more often not less, let things fester, has been a big piece to the health of the culture, right? Because what we don’t want, what we almost probably never want is a plastic culture, Everything’s going great all the time. How are things boss, things are great, everything’s great. And admittedly, we’ve had periods of MFF, where, listen, they’re just things were good. There just wasn’t a lot going on. There wasn’t a lot of challenges. But over the course of you know, 10 years of business, if there are not challenges, that would be unusual, and you want conflict, you want healthy conflict, you want people to first of all in meetings, air disagreements and really fight for what they think about to get the best thinking right, as the saying goes, if two executives agree on everything, one of them is unnecessary. But even beyond that, the reality isn’t Listen, I’m not saying this is everyone’s approach to business, but this is my jam, right?


If I’m working close with people on a thing that matters to me, we’re gonna get stressed. We’re going to get passionate. And if we have some diversity, personality styles, we’re going to upset each other. Sometimes we’re going to inadvertently, at times really rub up against each other in negative ways, and I am committed particularly this point my life and career to only working with people that are able and willing to say the thing to my face, we can have that conversation. And I will say, I will give a little bit of leeway because I understand the power dynamics of the leader is invariably I’m never getting things 100 straight all the time for everybody. So I understand that I and I do again, I do allow, I give some allowance for that. But the older I’ve gotten the the less frankly, tolerant, I’ve gotten of my ability to work with anybody that can’t tell me what’s going on. Because I know that that I believe is the key to having real meaningful relationships, it doesn’t even mean you need to be friends with everybody you work with. But just the we have the really the ability to be honest and to be human with each other, and not fall into in the political backfire that can happen. Even smaller organizations where people split into their little fiefdoms, I just have no patience for that stuff. And what I love about having a business is to some extent, I always say it’s like I get to make a city I want to live in this is I am testing a hypothesis, a philosophy of life. In this business, I’m testing a hypothesis, this is what I think how people should show up behave with each other. And for me, one of those things is again, I will, I can say this very clearly there is not a situation, if you’re on the Mark Fisher fitness team, if I hire you, dear listener, if I have some feelings about you, you will know you never have to worry about me having feelings about you. You certainly don’t have to worry about me talking to your colleagues about it. I will let you know how I feel. And I will do my best to do in a way that is kind that doesn’t rob you of your dignity, that aware I don’t know all the things but his candid and is very direct about what’s going on. So we can have a conversation. Because also on the other side of that, I know that we get closer. And I think that is a thing that is often I wish more people understood because I understand some people have barriers with conflict. And again, strangely, for whatever reason.


I wouldn’t say like I love conflict, I don’t get up and like today is the day to get into conflict. But I don’t mind I have trained myself that if I have a beef with somebody, it’s always better. I want to have that conversation. If anything, I have to slow myself down. Because otherwise I’ll happen sometimes happen too quickly when I’m heated. Because I know on the other side of that is relief, I know the other side of that will know each other better, we’ll be closer. And all the things we can’t say in life hold our power, right, which is so cliche, but it happens to be factually true. And I just know, my ability to function at work and as a human in the world is directly correlated to are there things and conversations I haven’t had yet or I’m afraid to say they’re bothering me. And the older I get, the faster I move to that cycle. And the frankly, the easier it gets where it’s not even, it doesn’t even feel this big thing. And you’re like, oh, after this conversation, you know, and sometimes I’ll write it down to clarify my thoughts. But I think that if anybody’s listening, and if this is resonating, and they know that perhaps their work environment where they have conflict and things they haven’t said, and they’re feeling daunted by that, I want to say that’s okay, that makes perfect sense. That’s normal probably means you care about this person. And I promise this is a learnable skill. And on the other side of it is not only more professional performance, but a better life.


Brett Bartholomew  28:09  

Yeah, I think deep appreciation for what you said a couple moments ago. I love conflict. And I want to have those conversations. Those two pieces are huge, right? Because we have people that love conflict, or appreciate it. And I think you did a great job of qualifying Why


Mark Fisher  28:24  

I appreciate Yeah, that’s great. Well said, 


Brett Bartholomew  28:26  

we’ll go into that in a moment. But when you say you appreciate conflict, there are certain people that love it just for the sake of conflict, right. And we see this because social media is a mirror to the world and allows people and this will go into a later order theme of accountability. We’ve talked about this before, I think you’ve ever had to have a verified account, you’d see a lot less of chasing conflict for conflict sake on social media, because you can tie it to somebody Oh, hey, yeah, Rod, I know you live on 98th Avenue, I’m coming to talk to you. But when you say having that conversation, that’s huge. Because here’s the cognitive dissonance that I see with a lot of leadership BS out there. And something that I learned about you that actually in just listening to you makes me feel closer to you is people will say they value time, right times the non renewable resource time, this time, that time that they’re not willing to embrace conflict. And so my wife and I had this discussion at one point in time, you know, we had gotten into an argument like married couples do, I don’t know if anybody else is married, and maybe you don’t? That’s great. You know, and she said, You know, I just think you love conflict. And I said, you know, here’s the thing. I go, I don’t love conflict, but I appreciate conflict more than I do passive aggression. Because if somebody is passive aggressive, that’s rot, that’s foundational rot, toxicity, waiting, it’s gonna it’s the, the closest synonym is resentment and just, I go, if we have conflict, at least we can get it out and say, idea of Yeah, across more wires to create more sparks. 


Now, I have an urgency for that because having nearly lost my life at a young age time is at a premium. So I’m like you Mark, I would rather get it out. Now our audience is also going to be biased and appreciate you listening to that, because this is what we do at our workshops, right, like her. And this is interesting too, because it’s brought about conflict and how we describe these things. Right. So we gave him the title, apprenticeship communication workshops. And then what we found early on, is some of the conflict of people that were like, well, I don’t know, should I? They didn’t know what communication meant. And I was like, oh, okay, so they had conflict of this idea of, well, are you just gonna exist 16 hours of leadership cliches and whatever? And we’re like, no, no, this is actually a chance where we’re doing role playing, to embrace and enhance and contextualized conflict, through conversations and elevated constraints. And I’m speaking to the choir with the idea of role playing and improv, and constraints. And so we love it when people say, Well, this would never happen in real life. Nobody would be that indignant. Nobody would be that blank. And I go, YOU say that. Yeah. First of all, let’s talk about how practice should be harder than the real thing. Right? Like, we want elevated constraints. And then what we find is there’s this heightened once there’s conflict in these workshops, right, they get called to do improv or whatever, it’s, then afterwards, it’s kind of like getting out of a cold tub, they feel a lot better. And it speaks to your point conflict, yes, can be harrowing, and it can be messy, and it can bring out the worst in us. But then it allows for reflection and allows for efficiency and allows for us getting to the core of what this thing is so that it doesn’t rot and infest from the inside out. Does any of that make sense? And am I hearing you correctly? And why you appreciate conflict?


Mark Fisher  31:35  

Yes. 1,000,000%. And I’ll add one more brief lens on, that I think is another interesting addition to this chat is there’s something to be said for the ethics of being willing to have the direct conversation, right, because I very much resonate with I really struggle with people are passive aggressive, I emotion, understand different people have different things, right. And I totally get that. I’m very lucky. In that I married a woman who is actively aggressive.


much prefer, you know, the longer I’ve been doing this, like, Listen, I want kindness. And I want people to like, you know, like, because I can be sensitive, you know, like, I get that. Like, I’m not saying that I want my team loaded all the time. But honestly, I’d rather them yell at me than have an issue that I don’t know. Because number one, that might mean a at the very least I’m missing feedback about how I’m coming across to somebody because it’s not my intention to make somebody upset. Number one, and number two, sometimes their faction Correct. They’re Miss analyzing the data. They’re looking at my behavior. And they’re making leaps that are inaccurate, because they don’t have the whole picture. They’re missing a lot of the data, right. So there is a book which I presume you may have ever heard of a read principles by Ray Dalio, who is a famous hedge fund investor. And they often refer to Bridgewater, his hedge fund as a human behavior experiment. Because they take this so far, where they actually record, I think this is true, they record every meeting that happens. And if your name is mentioned, in that meeting, you will get a transcript of it. Because his belief is that it is unethical, to not bring to somebody any issues you’re having with them. Because you’re being judged jury and executioner, you’re not stress testing your beliefs, you’re looking at a sliver of their data, you’ve made a decision and you’ve written them off, and you’re lacking the courage to share what your hypothesis is, with this individual where they either have the opportunity to grow or in some cases, correct you because you are wrong, you’re actually just missing some of the data. Now, that is probably not to everyone’s cup of tea. Like that’s a very extreme.


Brett Bartholomew  33:51  

doing art in a small business, right? Like many listenings got four people on there’s like how do they act? How do they make that actionable? Right?


Mark Fisher  33:59  

Yeah, you know, and they are obviously this is like one of the most profitable companies in the history of the world. So they you know, their tech, I’m sure it’s like over the top and I could be I’m perhaps remember this, like, slightly wrong, but I think it is that and that’s one of their things in their culture. It’s like you’re a weasel. If you get caught doing that you’re out, you’re fired. You talk about somebody behind their back when you’re on the berm, which is like, wow, but I am frankly, kind of inspire but it’s maybe not everyone’s cup of tea. But there’s something about that level of honesty and rigor, because also the very least you’re now moving into an apparent I’m gonna quote every book ever. You’re now moving the Four Agreements being packed with your word, right? If you’re gonna say it, say it in a way that you would say if they’re there instead of venting to one of your co workers and creating some toxicity around an issue that you’re probably missing some of the data on.


Brett Bartholomew  34:46  

Yeah, why and it brings up a good point to the this idea that it’s not even that we being good enough at communication is not the answer, because there’s context and the fit between the two, right? Like attunement happens between how communicate how somebody else receives that and interprets that. And then the fit of the context, right, the setting circumstances and situation in which this thing occurs. And it was interesting because I had a conversation just the other day was somebody that, again, in a pretty conflict oriented way said, Well, I think I’m good enough at communicating, right? Like I bartended. for X amount of years, I did this I lead a company, I’m good enough at communicating. And let’s, there’s a lot of things that are wrong with that statement. You and I know that. But let’s imagine it was true, right? Let’s give somebody let’s look at the adjacent possible and alternate reality. Let’s say that him or you or I were whatever the definition was of a strong communicator? Well, that’s still doesn’t matter if the other person who’s receiving the message is not a strong communicator, right? That’s, theory of mind. Right? You can be a strong communicator and think that you’re getting something across clearly. And maybe you are right, maybe you’re using  you’re framing things correctly, and you’re using their language, and you’re listening to them, and you’re doing all the hallmarks of it. But we still can’t control all of their personal experiences in perspective with the terms and words we’re using. And so it’s interesting, right? Because it becomes this thing that if we don’t have the context, and we don’t have this idea of what are these persons drives? What’s the environment in which we’re having this discussion? What are their past experiences with it much like a doctor wouldn’t person like, Hey, here’s some medication by the way, I don’t give a shit about what your medical history is. Right, right. Yeah. And then somebody said, Well, this stuff is messy. I don’t get why I should have to think this much about with communication. I’m like, then I don’t know that you want to run a business. I certainly don’t like you have to take accountability over the context in the way that you communicate. Like, that’s the gist of it. Right? 


Mark Fisher  36:38  

It’s the whole game. Yeah. It’s the whole game. 


Brett Bartholomew  36:39  

You know. And when you think about it, you mentioned power dynamics, too. Here’s, something I was curious. Because how many people are on your staff?


Mark Fisher  36:47  

It’s changed so dramatically over the past year, and we’ve been hiring so aggressively. Now. I think we’re at probably around, we’re probably around 17 or 18 ish right now, I think.


Brett Bartholomew  36:55  

Okay, great. And so within that, and then you have a business partner Michael Keeler. Right? 


Mark Fisher  36:59  



Brett Bartholomew  37:00  

right, and a little plug for your guys, podcast business for unicorns. So when we look at that, and here’s what I want to know, within the context of power dynamics. As a leader, or however you want to define yourself within the culture and nomenclature of your organization. There’s this balance, right, where people need to hear you, they need to respect you. and mutual respect, of course, just go with me. And but it’s sometimes you have to give away some of your power, because we want to empower others. And so we know we can’t live in the Mad Men era, where I’m Don Draper, and I’m just ordering people to get me to whatever I want, But then it’s tricky, because and this is my opinion, feel free to disagree. If we went full on like, holacracy, right, those lines can get blurred, because we’re inherently hierarchical animals. How do you balance and feel free to give one example because I know we can’t do one size fits all. But how do you balance like, there’s a time where you need to be Mark Fisher, and somebody needs to hear something, and they need to understand that it just needs to be done. And then also times where you’re like, hey, you’re in charge here, right? I’m going to take a backseat to this talk to me about some of the thought processes at the basic level that go through your head, then when giving away your power.


Mark Fisher  38:09  

Yeah, it’s something I think a lot about, because it’s something that I have learned about myself, I have a I trend towards an unhelpful viene all the way towards a holacracy style approach. Because I personally have such a rage for autonomy, that my impulse, which is not actually I don’t think helpful is everybody should do whatever they want. We’re all liberated. Just as you know, I trend a little bit too much to maybe taking over responsibility time, while I’m not a good enough leader, I didn’t inspire them to set their alarm clock and they were late five days in a row, this is my fault, I need to get to be better leader. And it took me a while I think to realize that I was overcorrecting. And here’s another brief tangent for listeners. For anybody that reads a lot about the stuff. If you read a lot about communication, if you read a lot about business, yet again, our friend contacts can run us into issues, because what I’ve discovered is because I was somebody that prize organizations that read the Cray people that are perfectly autonomous, we shouldn’t even have titles at the end of the year. Everybody just tells me how much money they want. And that’s what they get. I am very inspired by that. And I am so naturally wired that way that a lot of the books I read there was so much about like free people from the villainy of the corporation. I think it was almost like to use like a training metaphor, like it made me like too flex but I was already too wired like that. So I had to learn how to be I don’t want to say more of a hard ass because it’s not the framing, but really be better at holding people accountable and really driving people to hit very specific objective performance metrics with very meaningful consequences if they don’t do it over time. Right


Brett Bartholomew  40:09  

Hey quick break for a moment. Listen, if you’ve gotten any value whatsoever out of this episode or any previous episodes, do me a favor and consider becoming a patron of the show. You can do this by going to, that’s P A T, R O, N. And listen, we get in 2020 was a really tough year for everybody. And many of you are likely rebuilding or building something new. But we’re just like you we are 100% family owned, and we want to bring you high quality episodes, we want to bring you great guests, we want to bring you an enjoyable listening experience. But frankly, we can’t do these things without your support. So we know some of you aren’t maybe able because of the lockdowns to get to some of our workshops, or maybe now’s not the right time for you to get involved, and one of our courses, but you can show your support in many other ways. And by donating whatever you feel is right or comfortable for you just know that we’re deeply appreciative. Never easy for us to ask for help. But we certainly appreciate it. Again, that’s And please tell a friend about the show. All right, back to Mark Fisher.


Mark Fisher  41:26  

I’ve had to learn how to be I don’t want to say more of a hard ass because it’s not the framing, but really be better at holding people accountable, and really driving people to hit very specific objective performance metrics with very meaningful consequences if they don’t do it over time. Right. 


Brett Bartholomew  41:44  

Yeah, and thanks for oh, sorry, keep going. 


Mark Fisher  41:46  

I was gonna say so to answer your question specifically about how I think about balancing. On the one hand, you got to make the donuts, here’s how we make the donuts. This is the system reverse, can we collaborate together, I’d like you to make the decision at a place like MFF. For the most part, a lot of that decision is made by I think the context of what the decision is and what that person’s role is. So at MFF, for instance, I have an amazing fitness director that I work with very collaboratively. And oftentimes, we will work collaboratively on things. And I will explicitly say when I would like her to make the final call on things I’ll be very candid about here’s what I think here’s what I think we should consider, here’s maybe the way that I would do it if I were going to do it. But ultimately, for instance, we’re about to hire two new trainers, this is your call, you should make this decision. I’d like to be part of that. But you get to make this call. These are the people you work with. So it’s interesting now, and this is everything I’ll say, I’ve made me thrive more recently. Because most of my the people that I work with are at the manager level where we can have a more collaborative partnership type of relationship. Where is my fitness director, for instance, wheels? Again, by no means am I saying she’s a hard ask, if anything, frankly, the team, I think would tell you, she’s undoubtedly a better manager than I am. But she’s the one that’s really making people cook the pies in the same way, and really enforcing the systems and the standards in a way that I don’t think I ever got really, really great at, in part because I don’t think it’s so kind of outside of I think my natural tendencies. And because I think I would have gotten better over time if I needed the reps to it. But the way the organization has evolved over time, most of the people I work with I work with in some more collaborative way. And what is awesome is I have people that are going to run the train tracks. And I to be clear, it’s not saying that I don’t ever have to come in and provide accountability to the management team. But for the most part, a lot of the people that I work with also this point in my career. Pro tip is just finding people don’t have to hold accountable. I don’t want to have a to do list and have to follow up next week. Yes, I’m perfectly capable of doing that. And maybe if you have some unbelievable contribution where you’re adding value in this very specific way, and you’re some sort of artsy person, I kind of do that. But it is generally my preference with people I work with very closely for me not to also have to follow up for the things you said you’re going to do. That’s your job, you do the things you said you’re going to do, because I promise you, I’m going to do mine, they will be done. 


Brett Bartholomew  44:13  

Well, I’m thank you for such specific examples on that because and I’m going to ask you to excuse me for like rambling a little bit here because there’s some jump off points that I want to touch and then I’ll allow you to take it wherever you want. But this in the spirit of mutual sharing, those kinds of power dynamics within an organization can be things I struggle with as well, right? Because I realized quickly okay, I know how I can be perceived. I’m a bearded guy a little bit bigger than average. I have a boxing background and a deep voice. If people are judging me superficially, I can come across as very aggressive. And if I’m honest, right, that’s my archetypical way that I lean is this kind of Wolverine somebody that is a little bit irascible, right there experiences in my life that kind of made me realize, hey, you got to look inward and trust yourself because there’s a lot of shady people out there and what have you And you know, but then I have to pull the reins on that sometimes because I have to make sure that nobody feels dominated or not valued or trampled on or whatever, right, that idea of like a locomotive or a bulldozer. But then on the other hand, there have been times where I pulled back too much. And then I had staff kind of saying, hey, actually, and these weren’t their words, this is meant to be a little bit tongue in cheek, where they wanted me to play daddy a little bit, you know, they wanted me to kind of come in and not be heavy handed, but be very clear and very directed and say, Hey, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. And it’s an interesting dichotomy as a speaker to right. Because when you speak, and you speak all over the world, when COVID is not happening, you want to come in, and it’s this catch 22, where in some audiences, you have to establish credibility and authority. Now, hopefully, just the way you present and provide value does that right? You don’t need to prove value, provide value. But there are certain instances, like we’re doing a workshop this weekend, where there’s going to be a lot of folks in an alternate kind of field that maybe haven’t followed my background, right? Or maybe they and so you do have to kind of, again, lazy word choice, but just in the sense of cognitive ease, flex a little bit and say, Hey, here’s my background. Here’s why I’m here. Here’s why I’m here. And so this constant tug of when do I elevate power, which is obviously a situational resource, and it’s a relational. And then when do I decrease it? And then man, when I think I’m being fair to everybody, or when I think I’m being empowering to somebody, I’m actually not helpful. And we had a staff member, we have a great relationship. So they wouldn’t mind sharing this, even though they’re not a part of the team anymore, that they were more like that they wanted me to wake up every day and kind of say, Hey, these are the core objectives. And no matter how much I laid this out within principles, and a deck, and, you know, all these mediums of communication, they needed me to Up Up, up, up up, and I just said, Hey, it’s not that kind of environment. One, even if it was a brick and mortar. It’s definitely not that kind of environment, given that it’s a remote situation now, we’re across time zones. And I don’t hire smart people. So I can constantly tell them what to do. I hire smart, adaptable people so that they can actually maybe even suggest or tell me what to do sometimes, you know, and so that, I wonder than the build off of that, how you manage that accountability when you had to go remote? How do you manage that, especially with your mind working as quickly as it does? And knowing that there’s not a great interactive tool? Yes, there’s Miro, and yes, there’s virtual, you know, zoom, and there’s so many different ways, but I know your mind, and you have a million ideas spilling out, I have the same problem. How do you keep people informed at the pace in which your mind works or even accountable when it’s all remote?


Mark Fisher  47:33  

Yeah, so we have, I think, at MFF. One thing we have gotten very Dialed In is what meeting pulses work for us. And I think a lot of it is, at least for me, both with our weekly leadership meeting, and with my one on ones with each of the managers that report to me directly. The weekly meeting pulse, I think is the heart of that where every week we come in and we each are curating issues less than things we need to discuss. And then each meeting ends with a list of to do items that are going to be done by the next meeting. So again, with my managers, the dynamic is a little bit different, though, I can share that there have been some conversations and some moments where things weren’t happening the way that I thought we had agreed to. And in those situations, what I have found to be useful over the years this took me a long time, I think to understand this dynamic is the importance of again, as candid as I’m willing to be one thing I’ve realized is accountability conversations need to be escalated. So I always talked about this when I’m teaching management stuff is what you don’t want to do is have accountability, Groundhog’s Day, where you have the same conversation over and over. Because not only is that frustrating for you, but sometimes the person you’re working with, and this will be wild understand sometimes just doesn’t get it. So another thing that’s different, because people are very different is some people I think are a little more sensitive to stop. And you don’t need to put a lot of spin on the ball because they’re going to be so hard on themselves, that there’s a suggestion that you’ve displeased them as the leader, it makes it a meaningful emotional hit and they do not want to feel it again, and they are on it. Other people and I’m speaking very gently, of course, but other people are a little bit more laid back. So if I mess it up, oh yea I’ll get that next time. And then they do it again. Because it just it doesn’t really register for them. And what I have come to understand is part of what is helpful for me with them. It’s really escalate that conversation. And of course, when you’re doing online is a little bit different because in the real world, the paradigm that I used was related to the Crucial Conversations follow up crucial accountability where the first conversation is about the content. The second time it’s about the pattern, and last time it’s about the relationship. And that I think is a good framework to understand there. are actually different conversations you don’t keep talking about the late email response. The second time, it’s about the pattern that you’ve been having talked about, it hasn’t changed. And the next time it’s about this is the impact it’s having on us. This is the cost on our relationship. Now the middle of this is harder to do in the virtual world, because an in person world, I would also add to each of those, the first one about the content is like kind of a no big deal. It’s like, Hey, I noticed this thing on and be crystal clear. I’m curious what was going on there. I thought this was going to happen. Okay, cool. Because oftentimes, and anybody listening this that manages understands it, people mess up a thing here and there, that’s normal, it’s not a big deal, you address that it’s fine, you move on, if it happens a second time. Now, this has to be escalated, because now you’re talking about the pattern. But if we’re gonna get hyper specific, now, this isn’t just a casual comment after the meeting, it’s like, Hey, bro, you come here with me for a minute, kind of talk to you. And you will actually look to ideally change the physical space, maybe even go sit down there for a second, you want to land different, like your body language wants to be different. And then for the third one, now, it’s gonna be like a formal meeting. Now it’s gonna be like, Hey, Brian, I’d like to meet you next time, we’re going to have a conversation about this thing. Can you meet me next o’clock, now you’re in an office, that door is shut, you’re both sitting down. And I think that nuance of escalating it, I’m not sure. Right now that I have as obvious of ones to do for a virtual life because you lose some of that. But I think the thread that people can take, if they do any managing is just understanding that there you have to meaningfully escalate the conversation in every way, because for a lot of people, and it’s not even they don’t want to do a good job, but just a certain type person, it just doesn’t register. And I didn’t I struggle with that for a long time. Because for me, it registers I want to do a very good job. And you know, and I have people I’ve worked with that, frankly, they’re easy to manage, I think I’m easy to manage, I happen to mention it once. And I can tell it’s so heavy for them that I don’t have to mention that again. Whereas the individual that may be needs, that extra delineation over time might still be very effective, and frankly, have skill sets that I do not have, because maybe they don’t tend to neurosis quite the same way. And they really benefit from that system. Having said that, the times I’ve had to do that in the virtual world, I feel like we have been successful with it. Admit that I lose those other tools of physicality. But I think a lot of that can still play, I think sort of making sure as a follow up email communication about it, making sure you’re writing things down. And, again, just being candid about where you’re at within what it is that you’re actually talking about what kind of impacts can have on their future professional opportunities. What sort of impact is having on you emotionally, which again, I’m a big believer of bringing emotion to workplace like it’s there, I’m gonna feel it. Let’s talk about that. That’s part of the process. So those are some thoughts I have on that.


Brett Bartholomew  52:48  

Yeah, I think, you know, you mentioning, first of all, I’m glad you talked about how there has to be some escalation, right, because we’ve gotten to this period within management leadership for a while where it was all this idealized, very influenced by Silicon Valley, right. Where’s yours? Now, we’re disrupting the disruptors and we don’t have formal meetings. Bullshit. There’s a time for a formal meeting. You right, like, and I love that you you know, that was your tier three, right? This idea of like, there is a time where you just need to shut the door and get down to brass tacks. And have eye-to-eye conversation, right, and, and it can’t be filled with disclaimers. And all this, of course, you need to use respectful language and what have you. But I think we’re losing that we’re losing that we we say we want to get into the the messy realities of leadership, and that we want things that are visceral and real, and we’re tired of all the idealized crap. But people are still scared do this. And I think if they looked at it in the frame, especially those are that are strength coaches or trainers, you have progressions and regressions for your actions. That’s right, you have ascension models for business, you need to do the same for your conversations. We do something similar. And if this helps you in any way right now that there’s going to be much I can tell you where we had to have a conversation early, when we went remote of creating kind of this pyramid of hey, when we have certain conversations, what medium are we using? Right? Like so we know that if there’s customer service complaints or billing issues, IE as for evidence, it’s going to be on email, right? If there’s something within the staff where maybe somebody misunderstood something or misinterpreted or there’s something more nuanced that yes, we still want to record of that, but maybe we’re gonna use Marco Polo or zoom or WhatsApp and what have you, because then that does bridge the gap a little bit not of the proxy mix, but the physicality of now, you can see how I’m gesturing, right? You and I are talking over zoom, the audience may not see that they will if they go to YouTube, but like, there’s physicality and there’s there’s emotive things happening here. And so, but I Yeah, I’m just glad that you did mention that because I do think that it’s very easy especially because the primary educational resource for many aspiring leaders is books and you can start reading these books that issue these these formal meetings and try to give you I think of it as shared workspaces mark right like when we did that at a previous job, love the idea love the concept, but for me, it was more of a distraction. I needed sometimes to get the hell I’m very seclude, I do my best thinking when I am a little bit secluded, after being around people, I do not want to go coach out on the floor or go speak at an event, and then come back and be surrounded by people when I’m trying to synthesize what’s going on. How do you feel about those kinds of things?


Mark Fisher  55:15  

Oh, yeah, it’s interesting. I personally, and this is the thing that if the odd chance is somebody here is familiar with Mark fitness, and my personal brand, which is known for being a little bit out there, and eccentric, and I am out there and eccentric. And I understand that I think that’s true. But I’m also very much an introvert. So it’s been interesting for me, because I, in a given day discovered, I like to have about three hours of meetings at most, which I know is, some people depending on your work situation is maybe quite jealous. But like, I don’t like to, I’ll do four or four is kind of my max, anything more than that I just can’t get anything else done. And a lot of my job is project work. And a lot of my job is particularly these days, with so much change his thinking is literally just thinking about stuff and coming up with ideas and trying to solve issues. To your point about moving away from meetings all together. Yeah, I think it’s not the best way to go. It’s interesting. I heard a podcast recently that I thought was so interesting was Cal Newport, who I’m sure has an author I’m sure you’re familiar with prepping for listeners is, I think, a very smart guy. He’s written a number of books, deep work, digital minimalism. And I guess his most recent book is essentially making a point that so much of his digital asynchronous communication, is actually robbing people of their creativity and their peace of mind, because we’re just getting banged and buzzed all the time. And it was an potentially another example of a question, because the point he made very much resonated with me for the reasons I’ve discussed earlier in this conversation, is that it was if people took Peter Drucker’s, this famous management thinker, his admission that we need to, again, free people from the business, let the workers be totally autonomous. So in theory, by giving people, emails and phones and all these things, in theory will now we can do work whenever we want, right? This is amazing, we’re free. Well, the problem is now we can do work whenever we want. And what’s happened is for many people, and this time, I talk a lot about my time management work, their work time bleeds in their non work time, their non work time, weeds in their work times are not kind of working kind of the same way. And as much as even MFF. It’s interesting. We also have been experimented with like how little means we can get away with, but I don’t think no meetings is the way to go. I think the pulse of the meeting and middle is gonna depend on the relationship, depending on what the project is. But I’ve even been thinking about recently we might explore this at some point. And this is fascinating to me, because you’re like two years ago, I never would have considered this knowing for instance, right now our trainers like live their whole life on Marco Polo, which blessedly I’m not on because a lot on there. And I’m a little wondering if this is actually the best move. And this is the kind of conversation happened my fitness director because I’m wondering, and I wonder if you have perspective on this abusers with your team. My concern is I’m afraid they’re gonna feel burnt out because they’re, like, always kind of working. And then it’s also they’re great friends. So they’re also being like, oh, yeah, notice this thing with this ninja keep an eye out for oh, by the way, everybody Hot Tip, check out this new show on Netflix. So it seems to be working amazingly for them. So right now I’m letting wheels make that decision. But I am somebody that is very delineate about what I’m working and not working. So my phone is always on Do Not Disturb. I joke, I call it the Sheena machine, because my wife’s name is Sheena. And my phone is for the Sheena machine, right. And I’ll do calls and things. It’s not they won’t get text messages. But I that constant busying the constant buzzing and binging of tech, I don’t think is probably great for people’s budget constraint number one. And number two, purely from an efficiency standpoint, just sometimes like faster to have conversations and have some form of standing meaning again, I’m not offering this prescriptive because I don’t know your business, dear listener, but I don’t think it’s no meetings that I feel strongly about.


Brett Bartholomew  59:03  

Yeah. Do you just make sure I heard you correctly. Do you want me to sound off on the Marco Polo thing first, or 


Mark Fisher  59:08  

I’m curious to hear your two cents on it? Because, again, I’m not in it. So for me, it’s theoretical. Again, my finance director I trust says no, no, it’s great. We love it. It’s good for us. Yeah. What do you think? Are my concerns warranted? Is that a potential issue?


Brett Bartholomew  59:22  

Well, let me say this first. Okay. So my status is not as big as yours. We’ve had to do some restructuring. And we’re building some new things as well. And so but we did manage a one point time, let’s see, what was it? Three full time staff. And then when we looked at contractors, what have you as many as 15 at any point in time, right spread throughout the US, and also internationally whether we are developing a course or what have you. Now, I’ll talk to it as it is today, right? So we use Marco Polo mainly and we have a specific art of coaching group. And I definitely agree with you that if there was no kind of principles binding it of saying, hey, like understand that this probably isn’t the place like casual like, check out this show. 


Mark Fisher  1:00:02  

Right Right, right. Right,


Brett Bartholomew  1:00:03  

right. So we typically say within and again, we give them this visual of where does this fit within our communication based hierarchy or tool set, we know that this is for something that because like you said, face to face communication is the most effective. Medium there is for picking up on all sub texts and nuances of communication, right. So if something fairly complex needs to be discussed, that’s why we like a zoom, but zoom, you know, you have to be in your office and whatever. So let’s say somebody is not in that situation, then we’ll use Marcopolo. Now, we also say we because you can write a note, we try to say, Hey, no need to respond, you know, within this timeframe, or maybe this is urgent or what have you. But we just try to respect some of those boundaries. Now, what boundaries, I love that you said, Hey, dear listener, I don’t know your business, right? Nothing we say as prescriptive because right now we might as well be in the startup phase, again, because we’re my wife joined the company, our longtime executive assistant had another baby, she had to step away. So then my wife went from real estate and other things. So learning what we do, not the easiest, because we have live events, online courses. A lot of we do online communication training, we have somebody running for mayor with their political campaign. And there’s a lot of sometimes we’re getting things from out of the blue we’ve never dealt with before. Right. And that’s why systems don’t always work because we like roadmaps, right, a map. If I want to get to Dubuque, Iowa, for whatever reason, and I don’t like the road I’m on I’m taking another road. And you have the legend that at least gives you the guiding principles. This system shit is over done. I get that there’s a place for it. But you know, systems fail when apathy prevails. And you see that with airlines and all these other highly systematized things, when you bring in the human element, and humans don’t give a shit, then all that system falls to pieces. So we found benefit of it. We’re not using it right now, as much as we used to. We’ve never used slack. We do use whatsapp quite a bit because WhatsApp allows for the voice messages. It can be fast forwarded rewound. And again, nuances. But yeah, I think that if people don’t have these constraints of like, Hey, here’s this tool, be aware of how it should be used. And when it should be used it for sure. Like anything could get out of control. Did that answer your question enough? Or can I get more time? 


Mark Fisher  1:00:03  

Yeah, no, I think that makes sense. It sounds like you’ve just really fought through the frameworks for how you use and how you don’t use it. And, again, I this is, you know, this is an example right of me being like you make the decision fitness director. This doesn’t make sense to me, but you’re on the ground, you should be the one that make this call the trainer’s are liking it, go for it. I think I might bring back that little nugget and just offer one thing, Hey, what did what would you think about if we offered this premium, maybe we get specific about only talk and admittedly, for probably for that term knows about? We’re already doing that mark. But I think providing those guardrails around it, and I’m really for any communication medium, but that makes


Brett Bartholomew  1:02:54  

email did that to me, I’m really interested in this is the trouble and I respect the guy immensely, right. So this isn’t, as you know, we can disagree with ideas, and still appreciate the person. Right? I think that it can even be problematic when we look at digital minimalism, or things like Cal Newport talks about what in some situations, right? If, let’s say I say, Hey, I value, high context mediums of communicating well, in lieu of being able to be face to face or on video, or what have you voice or a phone call is is up there, right? It’s up there more than a text we can agree, right? It’s up there more than an email generally. And there’s some people that don’t need to use devices and things like that. But then they also have a publicist, and they have a vehicle. Like I had somebody tell me the other day, well, we don’t use this guy doesn’t use social media, this guy doesn’t. And I go great. But that person’s got a literary agent, a publicist, and a speaking agent, right? And he’s got people around the clock that do that. Whereas the average person trying to build a speaking career or what have you may need to leverage other mediums. And so I think that’s tricky. But for sure any of these tools can get messy. You know, I want to be mindful of your time. And I have a million other questions to ask you. So I have to prioritize here. So I’m gonna go one that I know that you’re especially passionate about. And if we touched on it, you can just say next, and then I’m going to ask you some kind of fire round questions. And don’t worry, I’m not gonna say what’s your favorite, you know, Mortal Kombat character or anything like that? 


When we talked about managing staff, and we talked about metrics, you’re obviously extremely adept at the human element, you’re extremely likeable. And whether you like hearing these things about you or not, you’re very likeable. You’re very charismatic. You’re charming, you’re interested in the other person. You actually listen, I would imagine that by the end of this, what I’m saying, you could at least paraphrase three key points I’ve made because you actually care. Right now, given that you still have to manage by some metrics, you still have to look at your staff and say at the end of the day, what’s critical here and what is the data show, and you talk to us a little bit and no amount is too basic, right? So there’s a wide range of listeners, but What does that mean within your organization managing by the metrics, what metrics even matter to you? And what tools are you using to do that? 


Mark Fisher  1:05:07  

Yeah, so at MFF, we keep all we track weekly metrics. In a Google spreadsheet, it’s very, very simple. We run a system called EOS, which is the braced on a famous book called traction, which is yet another business book that is very good. And essentially what EOS is, which stands for entrepreneur operating system is It is essentially a done for you commercial platform for your business, that just makes sure you’re doing all the things that any business needs to do. And there are a number of elements of the tracking system, a lot of which we adopted, we discovered, oh, we’re pretty good at this thing, we’re pretty clear on the avatar pretty clear on our marketing are pretty clear on our values, where we need a lot of help was starting to just do a better job of collecting data. So we have a top level scorecard, I think it’s about 11 or 12 numbers that correlated very high level with the health of the business. And that is a number of different things, everything from obvious things like number of active ninjas in our virtual homebody workouts to conversion percentages in our sales sessions to the on a scale of one to 10 What was our average ninja survey score from the previous week of sessions 


Brett Bartholomew  1:06:25  

 Sorry to interrupt butjust  for the audience ninja, can you elaborate on that?


Mark Fisher  1:06:28  

So Mr. Fisher fitness we call our clients ninjas. So it’s for those of you who’ve never been to You may go it is safe ish for work, but I will warn you, you will not be able to unsee what you see there. And very quickly Mark Fisher fitness is a gym. For people that don’t like gyms I came from the broader community myself. So our though we are as you might be able to tell nerds and pride ourselves in being pretty serious about the fitness from not only a physiology, but a psychology standpoint, we really pride ourselves on making it very accessible to artists and other people that for whatever reason, feel uncomfortable in the gym. So we call them ninjas as we find that a bit more aspirational than clients. 


Brett Bartholomew  1:07:07  

Thank you. 


Mark Fisher  1:07:07  

Thank you. So those are the main top level scorecards, and we’ve been doing that for a few years. But it really wasn’t until this past year, we really finally got rigorous about saying everybody on the team must have numbers must have at least one to three numbers that track in a very direct way with their performance. Now, it took us a long time to do this, because that’s much easier to say than to do. Because the challenge is not everything is easily measured. And a lot of things that really, really mattered can’t be directly measured. So I would caution you if you are to start doing this, if you’re not doing this yet, you should. And my qualification is we also want to be mindful of the tyranny of the quantifiers. We want to be careful that we don’t overweight the numbers. And we we don’t want to underweight more subjective elements, because the reality is there’s always going to be subjective element of assessing performance, I don’t think that ever goes away. But if you’re purely subjectively assessing things, now you have to manage and give raises and things based on stories, it opens you up, frankly, to bad actors potentially manipulating the system. Whereas when you create very clear data, very clear weekly metrics that you can track not just to a department, but to an individual, that give you a sense of how they’re performing in light of the particular ways they need to contribute to the organization’s financial objectives and spiritual mission. Because again, they both matter, you got to have both can’t have one and the other. That makes I think the conversation a lot easier and a lot fairer, in some ways, a lot more transparent. And again, is always going to be careful what it is you’re asking for people to do, because incentives are, can be wildly dangerous, right? Like much of life is just about getting the incentives, right. But I think it’s been a real game changer for us as far as having clear sense also for the team and giving them games to wins. They know on a weekly basis, how they’re doing. And again, it’s not the only thing. But it’s been a very important thing. And for us, as I perhaps has been a theme of this conversation, I historically I now see, have by dint of my personal style, probably overweighted the art over I don’t wanna say like I overweighted humanics I don’t think that’s a thing but perhaps I underrated the require for the rigors and the numbers and the system, which is not say that enjoy those things. Clearly I do. But it just took me a long time, I think to really get to the place where they were balanced, because my natural tendencies veer me off a little bit and maybe I’ll give us as a final parting thought. Part of why I think self awareness is so key for humans and for leaders are over time. If you listen to the feedback around you, you will begin to understand the places where you are slightly askew one way or the other, and you can start to overcorrect. So you might discover you’re overly permissive with your management broadly. And while that might work with some people, a certain type of individual you might flourish If you’re managing them, that might mean general you need to become a little bit more prescriptive, perhaps a little bit more of a taskmaster. Conversely, if you know you trend naturally towards wanting to squeeze the life out of people just demand them to comply with what you’re demanding them to do, you might benefit from cracking the other way a little bit and learning to be a little bit more human.


Brett Bartholomew  1:10:19  

Well said, and I appreciate the term self awareness as well. So we’ll make this quick for you. And then we’re going to go into everywhere people can support you find you, you already mentioned it with the website, but we’ll talk about it 12 more times, because we want people to support given this What is your biggest communication barrier or weakness right now, right? You’re obviously very self aware, you take self education very seriously, you’ve been in a wide range of dense and diverse learning experiences, you have strong theory of mind. But inevitably, we all none of us are as good as we think we are. Right. This is the core of my doctorate in our business is communication. And I’m very aware of where I’m a poor communicator, where’s your biggest gap? Right now?


Mark Fisher  1:10:58  

Hmm. I’m sure I have knowledge gaps that I’m not aware of, I still know . And I don’t know how much of this is just perfection is not realistic, I still know that I have the ability to rub certain types of people the wrong way. And I haven’t if I knew exactly what it was that was doing that maybe one day brought, I can hire, you can help me figure this out. Because, and again, this is related, I think to another challenge I have which is related, which is I struggle, a lot of times with perfectionist in my relationships and the way to do not with my work with my work, I will write a piece of crap, and I don’t care and it’s shitty, and it’s dumb, and immoral, make it better, I don’t care. So with my work, I’m pretty good at ready fire aim, I can get overly sensitive about desire to be liked, which I know of course, creates the very circumstances I don’t want, right? And so I’m not sure that I’ll ever be 100% Perfect, never rubbing people the wrong way. But particularly when I’m talking with the team in group settings, I don’t always accurately understand the way I’m coming across to every individual. And like I said, I’m having a real conversation myself, how much of that is? Well, them’s the ropes that are talking to 20 very different people the time some people are going to take different things. But it’s something I would like to get better at. So I haven’t solved yet. So that’s fine.


Brett Bartholomew  1:12:24  

That’s a good answer, I think to just offer any solace, if it is peace of mind, right? I think that it’s important to stay to. And we talked about this at our workshops, which you’re coming to at some point, I’m forcing you and it’s on the house, and we do them all over. But anyway, it’s tricky, right? This is what we learn about communication is there’s no one perfect style. Of course, at our workshop, we certainly don’t try to teach people to speak just one way that would be maladaptive, especially cross culturally. And it’s interesting enough in that you could see two academics speaking about it. And you could see two people in Southie and Boston, speaking with wild tonality and slang and what have you. And you can’t really say ones inherently just across the board a poor communicator because of word choice rate of speech or what have you. Because it depends who they’re talking to, in the shared code of meaning between them, right. And so, like, to your point, when you’re speaking to 20 people and them’s the ropes, inherently, there’s not going to be one way for you to execute perfectly to them all. And but it’s just about an awareness. So that’s a good answer on your part. Now, here’s an interesting one, right? Be it gets into behavior change in perception. How? Because inevitably, many people think they’re better at communication than they are. Right. And it’s many sub points. That said, right, people don’t have any trouble gravitating to technical tangible things. They’ll spend 1000s, if not 10s, or hundreds of 1000s getting better on all that it’s the established norm. How would you and I know I’m putting you on the spot? So just have fun with it be loose? How would you sell somebody on the importance of communication? How would you say, Hey, this is something that you not sell them logically, right? I just mean, like, let’s say they have to go to our workshop, or what have you, what are you doing to get their attention and draw their attention to something they think they’re already good enough at? And don’t need help with? 


Mark Fisher  1:14:05  

Oh, gosh, I probably start with this because to me, it seems so obvious, right? The case that I would make is, there’s the only way you are able to impact the world beyond the constraints and the finite resource you have as individual human if you want to impact other people in any meaningful way. That only happens through communications literally the only other way we can have any impact, any influence, any ability to leverage change outside of yourself. That only happens through communication. So we look at this as the inversion if you’re not able to effectively communicate with other people, then you’re only point of change in the world is yourself and listen, there’s that can be valuable. There’s I think a lot to be said for learning how to affect change in yourself. But I think the reality is virtually anybody that has a mission of any kind definitionally it’s not just like whatever it is you want to do in the world, even if you just want to make a money, that’s always gonna happen to other people, right? None of us are an island. So to that end, there’s nothing more valuable than learning how to be adept at really communicating to other people in a way that allows you to be understood. And of course, the twin of that is allowing the other person to truly learn to understand other people so that you really both know where they’re coming from. Importantly, they feel understood, and you connect in a meaningful way. So yeah, that’s my go at pitching it. Yes. Why would you not do it? People listeners, though, I imagine if you’re listening to podcasts, you probably don’t have to be sold too hard.


Brett Bartholomew  1:15:42  

Yeah, no, it’s interesting to get people’s perspectives on those things. Right. And so I appreciate you riffing on that final one, what would make you right, feel most supported? Right now, obviously, we’re going to direct people to,,, all these things. But just in any level, if somebody meets you on the street someday and COVID is done, and they can shake your hand or whatever, they can buy lunch, what is something that when somebody just does it and they do it? Intuitively? You think that was really nice? I really appreciated that.


Mark Fisher  1:16:13  

Yeah, well, listen, I certainly don’t mind, words of affirmation, I think specific positive feedback. And specifically, when I think like anybody that teaches professionally, when I hear specific examples of something I may be shared, or something that I attempted to teach that in some way, either ease their own suffering, or unlock power within them, or allow them to be more effective at whatever their missions are, when they pass that on, and I get to hear about that impact that I’ve hopefully made a positive impact on this person. That is always like the greatest gift I can get from people.


Brett Bartholomew  1:16:47  

Yeah, well, you definitely did that. For me with a specific example of when I really went out on my own, I was sort of having trouble discerning what some of my time was worth, and correct pricing for some of the increase consulting that I had been doing. And you took a moment and you got on the phone with me. And I was living in LA at the time about to drive cross country to Atlanta. And you know, you gave me an idea. And you could have been protective of your rage, you could have been very context poor. But you didn’t really know me from Adam, other than a third party introduction. And you took the time to do that. And I look at having a 15 month old right now somebody that I’m going to have to contribute to their college fund. I have a wife and a small business to support during a turbulent time. And had I not got that advice for you that might have put me in a different place. Right. I’m sure I would have figured it out at some point. But you expedited it so if I can offer anything, that’s genuine appreciation for you helping me figure out what my time was worth.


Mark Fisher  1:17:39  

Oh, man. Well, this I just I think the world of you and I have such respect for you. And that means so much to hear. And I’m so glad we’re able to connect on this and yeah, I just I truly think the world of you and I’m so impressed and appreciative of the work you’re doing and the way you’re doing it. So thank you so much for sharing me that means a lot coming from you.


Brett Bartholomew  1:17:56  

Yeah, no problem. Anything else? You want to leave people with anywhere where they can follow you anything else other than What else?


Mark Fisher  1:18:02  

Yeah, you can come check out And Michael and I do business consulting. As Brett had mentioned, we mostly focus these days on training gym and micro gyms. So anybody who’s a fitness industry professional I know a lot of you listen, if you check us out at we’ve recently started working with a dear friend Pete depuis who some of you might know who also works with Eric Cressey precious sports performance, so we’ve got kind of a growing bangarang team over there. So anybody looking for help with the business of brick and mortar fitness, come find me we have stories and lessons to share.


Brett Bartholomew  1:18:36  

Perfect. Well we’ll make sure those are all in the show notes as they always are guys, thank you for spending some time with me and Mark please make sure to tell a friend leave a review, spread the word and support our guests until next time, this is the art of coaching podcast, signing off

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