Photo of Mark Uhlenberg

Mark Uhlenberg, BS, M. Ed.

Mark Uhlenberg is the owner of The Heartwood Group, a strategic development business that offers consulting and professional leadership coaching to variety of individuals and business owners. Family businesses seek out Mark’s perspective because he has roots similar to his clients with a broad exposure to many businesses. Mark has been an innovator in bringing professional coaching to Ag businesses and farm leaders. We all need help reaching our goals at some point in our career. A professional coach challenges you in ways many family members, business partners, and industry providers will not. He has written coaching articles for Progressive Dairyman and posts his thinking on core leadership and coaching concepts on his Heartwood Blog. His writing has been focused on subjects like “Coaching to Core Ideals”; a series focused on self-discovery for leaders in all areas and industries. Mark has been a farmer, sales professional, a people manager, executive leader, and business owner. He says about his business as a coach and consultant, “it’s always a good day when you are helping others be successful. It’s a great day when they are succeeding!” Expertise and Specialties: Strategic Development Consulting; Organization Systems, HRD, Leadership, Management, Sales Professional Coaching; Executives, Individual Business Owners, Teams Training and Development Strategy; Team growth and transformation Education and Certifications: - Dairy Science, B.S. - Human Resource Development, M. Ed. - Master Coach, Hudson Institute of Coaching Sample Clients and Industries: Monsanto Company, MasterCard, Cambria, Crop Production Services, Land O Lakes, Australian Fresh Milk Holdings, Univentures, Mayo Clinic, multiple small business entrepreneurs in Agriculture, Healthcare, Consumer Finance, Financial Advisement and Management, Retail Seed Sales

Articles by Mark Uhlenberg

Energy and LeadershipClick to open Energy and Leadership

We all live in a realm of possibilities. How does this relate to energy? To go after these possibilities requires energy. Leaders depend upon their energy to effectively lead, drive meaningful change, and influence outcomes. Energetic leaders unchain the mind and human spirit of others to seek their greatest potential. For you to do that for others, you need to do it yourself — and do it repeatedly. It’s a big job and you need to be up to the task.

Your Presence Influences OthersClick to open Your Presence Influences Others

You may think you’re not saying anything until you open your mouth. So NOT true! The moment you “present” yourself to others you have already spoken volumes. Do you have any idea what your personal presence is saying? Did you know that what we say or the content of our conversations makes up only about 7% of our communication? The remainder is what people see, sense, and hear. It is your presence.

V.U.C.A. & Business SurvivalClick to open V.U.C.A. & Business Survival

The world is not feeling settled right now (an understatement). Economically, socially, culturally – everything seems to be shifting and re-shifting with no breaks to assess, regroup – or take a deep breath! This blog article looks at business survival in the context of today. First, here’s the definition and a little background on VUCA:

You’re in Charge – So Why Don’t You Delegate More?Click to open You’re in Charge – So Why Don’t You Delegate More?

Are you 100% intentional in how you spend your time at work? For many business owners and leaders, anytime is work time — and their days are typically overstuffed with meetings, appointments, firefighting, problem-solving – you name it. As a leader and influencer, you are constantly flexing roles – at any given time you may function as a leader, manager, coach, mentor, supervisor, and sometimes, a “worker bee.” The problem is, it’s very likely you have worker bees that you’re paying – and chances are they are capable and eager to do some of what you’re not letting go of.

Coaching Strategies in a Family BusinessClick to open Coaching Strategies in a Family Business

To start off my post this month, I want to set the stage by sharing a few famous quotes about families: “A happy family is but an earlier heaven” and  “The other night I ate at a real nice family restaurant. Every table had an argument going.” No matter which quote lands closer to home for you, if you’ve done work with family businesses you know there are additional layers of complexity and challenges that cannot be ignored (at least not for long). All family bussinesses come with their own special set of unique difficulties and possibilities and all require a very deliberate, planned approach.

Creating a Culture of EffectivenessClick to open Creating a Culture of Effectiveness

Is your culture effective — or not so much? My working definition of a company (or team) culture is deceptively simple. So much so that I get a few blank stares when I share it with clients. From my perspective, culture is simply how the work gets done. Analyzing culture is not a complex process. You just need to pay attention to how the work gets done.

Engagement & InvolvementClick to open Engagement & Involvement

Are they the same or different? What about you — are you engaged – or involved? What should you be? “Engaged” and “involved” at first glance may seem quite similar – however, if we delve a bit deeper into how these two words might be less synonymous…maybe we might find more power as a leader. The difference is one of the fundamental tenants of Active Influence.

Communication – Conversation at the Core of LeadershipClick to open Communication – Conversation at the Core of Leadership

Most of us take our ability to communicate for granted. Leaders, in particular, tend to assume since they’re leaders they’re good at it. Not necessarily so… The ability to influence others via words and associated actions is the core skill at the center of all the other core skills. Communication either unites, divides or perhaps worst case, does nothing. Your accurate assessment of your own ability to communicate effectively can make you or break you (and those you lead as well). I’m going to briefly outline three concepts you may have heard in Communications 101, but you may not have fully realized the critical role each play in your success as a leader.

Personal Development: Being a Self-ish LeaderClick to open Personal Development: Being a Self-ish Leader

If you’re someone who views “personal development” as a check-the-box requirement on an annual performance plan I’m going to stop you right there. That attitude is at its best self-limiting. At its worst, it’s a sure road to nowhere. Here’s why: Personal development consists of activities that develop a person’s capabilities and potential, builds human capital, facilitates employability, and enhances quality of life and the realization of dreams and aspirations. Far from being a bothersome or meaningless task – or a luxury you just can’t afford to have, it’s actually the biggest tool you have in your leadership toolkit.

Active Influence: Essential for LeadersClick to open Active Influence: Essential for Leaders

Much has been written “tactically” on how to influence others. Yet little has been explained on how to actively influence outcomes. How can you become more proactive and even predictive in reaching your most preferred future? It’s not by relentlessly executing tactic, after tactic, after tactic. Go to Amazon and you’ll find hundreds of books that offer tactics to “make” you a better influencer, but you won’t find many that provide real fundamental baseline concepts to change your behaviors.

Interpersonal Skills: Your Leadership BrandClick to open Interpersonal Skills: Your Leadership Brand

Your interpersonal (relational) skills influence how people experience you as a leader. The reality is that others’ perception of you is your leadership brand. I like the concept of “brand” with leaders because it is a universal concept. We all know brands we like and dislike. The brands we like give us positive feelings and experiences. The brands we dislike have poor experiences associated with them.

In the world of online reviews, how many 5-star reviews would you get? Or would you cringe at the comments section? Can you consciously influence other’s perceptions or experience of you? Of course, your leadership brand is enhanced by how you consistently AND skillfully relate to others! If I asked your people to use words to describe you; would they use words like great listener, organized, consistent and dependable? 5 stars!

Interpersonal skills are “people” skills. They involve your ability to communicate and build relationships. If yours are sharp, you have an invaluable asset. If they’re not, your brand as a leader will suffer and you won’t influence others in the ways you want. There are several areas to develop, but here are my top three — get good at these and your brand will shine.

Active Listening

Stephen Covey hit the nail on the head when he said that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” You can’t benefit from someone else’s knowledge, experience or perspective if you don’t listen to what they say and how they say it. Listening with intention is a skill many leaders don’t have. If you can master it,  your brand of leadership will stand head and shoulders above others. Listening is leading.

Follow this simple process to improve your active listening exponentially.

  • Be in the moment with whomever is speaking.
    • Set down your phone and look at them. Let them know they are getting your attention.
    • Eliminate distractions by removing yourself from a busy environment if you need to.
    • ALWAYS make your people the main attraction when they communicate with you.
  • Be willing to go “off course” from what you anticipated.
    • Show you’re listening with your body language, nod or acknowledge ideas.
    • Don’t interrupt.
    • Take notes if the conversation warrants it so you can come back to key points.
  • Acknowledge their point of view/thoughts.
    • Don’t shoot the messenger when they tell you something, otherwise they will stop bringing anything to you.
    • Summarize and check for your understanding. Simple and powerful practice.


Next is organization. These skills are about structure and efficiency and are so fundamental that we often don’t give them the time and attention they deserve. Start with your desk or workspace (which could be your vehicle). Keep it clear and orderly. Know where stuff is and have a system for it. Our work environment in a sense organizes us – it can “coach” us to be organized or disorganized.

The next skill is even simpler. KEEP A CALENDAR. And keep it updated. Use whatever tool works for you.

And finally (hopefully you learned this one early on) – show up on time. Be predictably prompt. Start and end meetings on time. Manage time the way you manage money (or better) – it’s even more valuable.

Keep Your Commitments

The word “C-O-M-M-I-T-M-E-N-T” scares many people for various reasons. For your brand as a leader, ground zero is the ability to make and keep commitments repeatedly over time. Leaders make decisions, decisions require commitment and a leader’s commitments are gold. I define commitment as a way of being intellectually and emotionally bound to a purposeful action. Once you say you are committed, that means you will do whatever it takes to deliver. Aristotle really hit the nail on the head when he said — “we are what we repeatedly do — excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”

Make a habit of keeping your commitments – those large and small. Do it repeatedly and see how much power and capacity you begin to create for yourself and those depending on your leadership. And watch your leadership brand grow stronger.