Mark Koulianos

Mark Koulianos

Mark is the Director of the USF Office of Corporate Training and Professional Education and a 20-plus-year veteran of the corporate world. His passions are workforce development and leadership.

More from Mark Koulianos

Anticipate, Prepare, and Decide

The best leaders constantly strive for peak performance and efficiency. But those ideals are usually held under the premise of “normal” circumstances. What happens when things go sideways? I’m reminded of this gem from Maj. Richard Winters: Anticipate problems and prepare to overcome obstacles. Don’t wait until you get to the top of the ridge and then make up your mind. In the last six months, this principle became particularly meaningful for USF Corporate Training and Professional Education. A new way to conduct business was in order.

Leaders Earn the Respect of Their Teams, Part II

The key to a successful leader is to earn respect—not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character. I used this precept from U.S. Army Major Richard Winters’ memoirs as a jumping-off point to write last month on the importance of leaders earning the respect of their people. In summary, I noted three particular behaviors leaders should either avoid or exhibit. First, leaders do not seek credit when their teams succeed. Second, leaders are accountable for their team’s function. Lastly, leaders should be able to deliver difficult news.

Leaders Earn the Respect of Their Teams

Respect. Aretha Franklin famously asked for it in song. Rodney Dangerfield went to hilarious lengths to claim he got none. Actually, respect is a big deal. If you’re a manager in any workplace, respect from your team signifies its trust in you. As one of my aforementioned role models, U.S Army Major Richard Winters, wrote in his memoirs, “The key to a successful leader is to earn respect—not because of rank or position, but because you are a leader of character.” Here are some of my thoughts on earning your team’s respect through leadership.

Teamwork: Contribute Together, Win Together

As a country, we continue to navigate the effects of the pandemic and, in more-recent events, listen to voices calling for civil justice. Both are topics of immense, historic importance and deserving of our attention. I would also remind my audience that this month marked the 76th anniversary of D-Day, when the Allies landed on the beaches of Normandy, France to undertake one of the most pivotal military campaigns of World War II. That massive operation required teamwork—thousands of personnel carrying out roles to help save the world.

Connecting With Your People Outside of Work Roles

Not long after our office began working exclusively from home 11 weeks ago, we initiated a weekly “coffee” video chat for the purpose of connecting socially with one another. The only hard-and-fast rule of the meeting is no one is allowed to talk shop. For example, we’ve described our first cars, named favorite vacation spots, and exchanged Netflix suggestions. It’s also been an opportunity to share our experiences, both positive and negative, of spending so much time cloistered in our homes.

Leadership During Crisis

Growing up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, I would hear stories about the sponge boat crews working the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. Out on the water—sometimes for weeks at a time—the best crews were able to navigate daunting challenges: equipment failures, illness, and stormy weather, to name but a few. Skilled leadership was necessary. “A good captain is not made from calm seas,” one veteran sponger liked to say. And with the “rough seas” we’re having as of late, that old sailing adage has been on my mind.

Letter From the Director: Thoughts on the Covid-19 Outbreak

The current Covid-19 pandemic has forcefully come to the forefront of the nation’s psyche in relatively little time, rapidly—and radically—altering the rhythm of our lives. In less than two weeks, our work, school, and social schedules have been turned upside-down. Terms that were unheard of such as “social distancing” and “shelter in place” are now on everyone’s lips. Many of us are now living with the reality of remote work and school. My office’s function has now moved entirely to an online format. Everyone is making significant adjustments.  

Take Control of Your Career

Part One: Learning When to Pivot

Playing organized basketball as a young boy, I discovered the importance of pivoting. When defensive pressure forces the player dribbling the ball to stop the advance up the court, that player can ‘pivot’ by keeping one foot stationary while the other can move. This allows the ball-handler an opportunity to reposition, to determine whether a pass to a teammate or taking a shot is the best option. Sometimes, a well-executed pivot can be the catalyst for a great, but unexpected, play.

Resolve to Learn, Grow, and Improve

What’s your take on New Year’s resolutions? Do you find them a) helpful, b) useless, or c) a harmless annual ritual? Wherever you fall on the question, millions of people determine that some life aspect requires improvement and the time for action will take place when the calendar flips to January. You’re familiar with some of the popular ones: to exercise regularly, pay off debt, get organized, and to make more time for family and friends. New year, new you—right? 

2019 Retrospective: Learning to Be Grateful

With Thanksgiving approaching, I’d like to share how grateful I am for the 2019 journey of USF Corporate Training and Professional Education. If you’ve previously read this blog, you know I sometimes draw from the well of sports for inspiration. (Spoiler alert: I’m about to do it again!) What follows is how our office borrowed a storied basketball team’s 36-year-old rallying cry to help us press on when faced with extraordinary circumstances.

Creating a Culture of Excellence (Part 2)

Last month I began an installment of the Essentials of Modern Leadership series by speaking about the importance of culture in the workplace. It was predicated upon how lasting success comes through leadership’s pursuit of excellence by adherence to guiding principles and the critical element of buy-in from the team. I’ll now elaborate further with three concluding strategies that, as I’ve found from experience, play key roles in creating a culture of excellence.     

Creating a Culture of Excellence (Part 1)

My family and friends know me to be an avid student of military history. Over the years, I’ve read countless works on the world’s major battles—from periods of antiquity through the modern era. Mind you, my interest in the subject isn’t to romanticize war. Rather, it’s spurred by a desire to better understand the prevailing conditions leading to a conflict and the geopolitical ramifications of its aftermath. A collateral benefit of my reading is I’ve learned the stories of exceptional figures that emerged from that realm.    

Keeping Good Employees Takes Thought and Effort

Think of the excitement you felt when you made that perfect hire. There was the outstanding résumé, the impressive interview. You felt, almost immediately, that this individual is a perfect fit for the position, and you were right. The first few years proved the decision was a good one. Now there’s another important matter to be addressed: You want this employee for the long haul. As a hiring manager or a business owner, don’t just assume they’ll stay. Keeping good employees takes thought and effort.

The Best Negotiators Don’t Trade Integrity for a Good Deal

Throughout life, there are countless scenarios where good negotiating skills are useful. Maybe it’s time to renew a valued customer’s contract with your corporation. Perhaps you’d like to speak to the boss about that well-deserved raise. Or maybe the cable company has hiked its fee and you’ll be giving them a call to see whether you have any recourse. It really doesn’t matter who you are or what you do for a living, there will be times that call for negotiation. Embrace the challenge and try for a win, but never forget that the best negotiators don’t trade integrity for a good deal.

Job Security in an Automated Age

One of my all-time favorite television commercials is the Monster “When I Grow Up” spot that debuted during Super Bowl XXXIII. The ad was effective because it depicted the very opposite of what we aspire to during our formative years. Children in the ad speak as jaded adults with less-than-optimistic expectations for their work futures. Toward its end, the ad poignantly asks, “What did you want to be?” It offers hope, though, in its final frame: “There’s a better job out there.” The ad ran in 1999, but it’s even more relevant now because of the growing challenges of job security in an automated age.

Building the Perfect Team

Part 5 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

The previous installment in this series on the essentials of modern leadership, “Playing the Cards You’re Dealt,” is based on a manager’s ability to keenly assess inherited personnel and procedures while moving toward maximum productivity. Let’s now envision a situation where you’re assembling a staff from scratch. You “hold all the cards” and can recruit employees who will best fulfill your workplace objectives. How do you go about building the perfect team?

Playing the Cards You’re Dealt

Part 4 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

I’m not the world’s most avid card player, but I enjoy a few games every now and then. Because of the limitless variability, card games give my noggin a good workout, and I like that. Though luck plays a role, winning consistently requires an aptitude for assessing randomly distributed sets of cards and strategizing accordingly. Do it right, and even when the cards you receive aren’t ideal, a win is possible. It’s up to you, though, to determine the best possible actions when playing the cards you’re dealt.

Trust Is the Foundation of Leadership

Part 3 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

The late motivational speaker Stephen Covey once said, “When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” For those of us in positions of leadership, gaining the trust of our people is a fundamental component of a healthy workplace environment. When managers establish this type of confidence, emotional security and job satisfaction can increase exponentially. Trust is the foundation of effective leadership, and it isn’t developed overnight. It comes through conscious behavior consistently exhibited.

Knowing Your People Enables Leadership

Part 2 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

Shortly after his New York Giants defeated the heavily favored Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, NFL coaching legend Bill Parcells was asked, “How did you do that?” Indeed, not many people had given the Giants a chance. “I have to be a master motivator,” he responded. “I treat everyone fairly; I don’t treat them the same.” Parcells understood that a team is made up of individuals of differing personalities and talents and that a one-size-fits-all management style isn’t the way to build a championship team. The coach’s secret: Knowing your people is the heart of leadership.

Self-Awareness Drives Good Leadership

Part 1 in a Series on Essentials of Modern Leadership

Benjamin Franklin, one of the more extraordinarily versatile and prolific figures of our great country, wrote this for the 1750 publication of his Poor Richard’s Almanack: “There are three Things extreamly hard: Steel, a Diamond, and to know one’s self.”