Mark Hughes

mark hughes

What a privilege it was speaking with Mark Hughes, Managing Director of Evoko, providing consultancy and interim support to the education sector. Following University Mark went into playing rugby and being a personal trainer but after a couple of years got injured so took a change of career and started working with YMCA Fit teaching other personal trainers. Really enjoying it, he progressed to become a PE teacher and later head of department and director of faculty, before spending 4 years as Principal of Hartlepool 6th Form. During Covid his wife started Evoko and 16 months ago Mark joined her. It is clear after speaking with Mark that he has a tremendous positive attitude, energy and commitment to improve the lives of young people. He truly is an inspirational leader.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?

S.U.M.O (Shut Up, Move On): The Straight-Talking Guide to Succeeding in Life, by Paul McGee.   It’s a small visual book. It shapes you to think about things with a positive attitude, even when they are challenging. It’s about having clarity and perspective.

Run Less, Run Faster. by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr. I like to set myself challenges every year and one year, I challenged myself to run a marathon every month. So I started with training five days a week, got a lot of injuries and had to re-think. I read this book and it taught me to achieve more, with less effort and actually it is a lesson that is very applicable in life more widely.


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?)

Height Adjustable Standing Desk – £88.99  I love it. As a teacher, I was always standing, so it feels natural to me. Also, I express myself physically and I like to move about as I talk, and sitting down was holding me back. It was actually you Mark who inspired me to buy it, so, thank you.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

Failures are good, you learn from them and then move forward. Blame creates a vicious circle, so reset, reevaluate and reinvent. Most successful managers in sport reinvent themselves repeatedly, they change and grow. It’s the same in business, you need a positive attitude and energy.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

I have two that I think are really important. So it will need to be a rotating billboard:

  • Treat others, as you wish to be treated.

I learned this from my parents and it’s one of my main principles.


  • Everything in life is a reflection of the decisions and choices you’ve made.

I gave a choice speech when I was a Principal. The truth is, if you want something to change, you need to choose something different. Take responsibility for your own life, for your own choices. 


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.) 

Studying two nights a week for two years for my teaching qualification, at the same time as doing a full-time job. It led me to the career I’ve had since. 

Another is simply to be positive all the time. Small things can make a big difference, especially in other people’s lives. Small kindness or rewards.


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love? 

I had to ask my wife! I didn’t realise this, but sometimes I shout, “Come on!” to myself when I’m under pressure or lost a bit of motivation. I guess it’s from my sporting days. 


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

I do have a thing about being succinct. I try to keep meetings to three or four items, limit the noise and keep them relevant.

I knew I had to work on this, it was identified as something I could improve on years ago. An old CEO told me time is precious, think about what you need to get across? For people to understand, focus on just three or four things. 


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

I had a celebration of achievement speech that I would give to students about to leave the 6th form.  

The school I worked at used to be a former grammar school with a lot of history and is rightly very proud of the ex-pupils who’ve gone on to be very successful from an area where people don’t have high expectations. I wanted the students to understand that those ex-students were in the same situation and went on to do great things and so can they. 

‘You have absorbed not only information but also our culture, values and history. Now take that and make sure you use it to make a difference to the world’.


What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise? 

You have to be careful how you put this across as someone in education, but actually it’s not all about qualifications, it’s also about life experiences. It’s about using what you know, taking the opportunities to learn and grow. 

I went to Luton University, which is now called University of Bedfordshire. At the time, it was considered one of the worst universities, but so many of the people I know from those days have gone on to be very successful.


What frustrates you the most about your industry and the way companies are run in it?

The best people don’t always get to the top. Senior leaders tend to choose their own teams, using their own networks and take people from one place to the next.  It means that some great people who don’t have networks of their own are missing those opportunities (and we are missing out on their brilliance).


In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realisations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?

Since working for myself, I’ve had to create parameters for projects so the objectives are clear. Then I say no to the things that are mission creep and a distraction from the project.


What does a balanced life look like to you? Has a work or a project you have been focused on caused you to neglect other areas of your life? 

Taking a step back and investing in myself.


When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)

If I keep myself physically fit, I’m better mentally. So if I lose focus I go for a run. Some of the best ideas, strategies and solutions have come to me whilst running,


What does leadership mean to you?

Influence and inspiration is what makes the best leaders. It is the individual ability to influence, motivate and enable others towards a collective organisational goal. It’s different from management.


Which people have most inspired you in your life and why?

My values, principles and behaviours start with my parents and also a close friend’s family.

My Dad was a builder, my Mum looked after three boys. For both of them, it must have been really difficult and they put in a lot of hard work. They wanted me to set my sights higher than what they had achieved, but they didn’t know the process for making that happen.

A close friend’s family were also inspirational and complimented my upbringing and made me a more rounded person. I’m very thankful to them.


What do the words principles and values mean to you?

I have been through the process of working out my values. They are my four ‘R’s’: Respecting, Recognising, Reenergizing and Rewarding.

My principles are: to be humble, take responsibility, create energy  and embrace change and challenges. 

I’m a big advocate for what you guys are doing. Understanding my “why?” and my purpose, my values and my principles has been so powerful and valuable. It creates opportunities, and when things are difficult and stressful I always go back to my values and principles as a guide as to how to move forward.


If you had a forum to speak to 50 leaders, what question would you pose to them, to get them thinking about and being better leaders?

Do you know your ”Why?” If you know your ‘why’, you can understand your way.

If you know your why and your life’s purpose, it becomes easier to focus on where you are going and what matters most in your life. I was inspired by the Simon Sinek book. Start With Why


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

I want to be more creative. When I was younger I wanted to be a graphic designer and enjoyed sketching and drawing. I sometimes use this now by rapid prototyping and sketching thoughts on a wipe board to solve wicked problems. However it would be good to get my paint brushes out again!


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

Yes about 5-6 years ago. I was mentored by a successful business leader that made me reevaluate approaches that I was using in the educational world. It certainly was important in shaping my purpose and future leadership strategies and direction.

Topic: 50 in 50