Wordmaster Mike Greenly Helps Execs Become Better Communicators & More Effective People by Brad Balfour
Once a top marketing and communications executive for Avon Products — becoming its youngest VP when the company was the world’s largest beauty marketer — Mike Greenly found his purpose when he left corporate life. Greenly had adopted his own version of the 100% Avon Guarantee. “Unless I know I can delight my clients, I never accept an assignment. My goal for every one of them — whether writing a speech, creating PowerPoints or coaching more effective delivery on-stage — is to help each individual sound like themselves… only better.”
Recently, as a New York Irish Business Organization guest speaker, Greenly shared some of the tips he learned in overcoming the stage fright that once brought him close to failure when he was a kid in school. As noted by IBO New York President Nicholas Malito, “Mike’s an outstanding writer and speech coach. We were impressed by his talk about presentation skills and the valuable insights he shared.”
The talk was a success — detailing how he learned to comfortably deliver effective presentations at Avon. The tall, dignified scribe has used his knowledge to develop other speeches and communications workshops for execs at ExxonMobil, Patròn Spirits, Roche Pharmaceuticals and more.
Aside from such appearances, writing work and consulting, Greenly further offered his insights via four chapters in The CHANGE self-empowerment book series (published by Jim Britt and Jim Lutes). The two founders of the CHANGE book series are entrepreneurs and business leadership gurus. Britt, the author of numerous best-selling books and programs, was recently named one of the top 20 living success coaches and is a keynote speaker for diverse audiences. Lutes is known for his branded human performance teaching and for his trainings on personal growth and subconscious programming.
The concept of the CHANGE books is to compile the wisdom of noted experts in their fields. Each volume becomes a source of diverse knowledge with valuable insights to offer readers. In Volume Eight of the series, Greenly described his transformation from having near-crippling stage fright to now being able to speak comfortably to audiences of 5,000 and more. His chapters in Volumes 14, 15 and the newly-released Volume 16 provide guidance on writing a speech, song lyrics and making effective sales calls. The latter co-authored chapter includes breakthrough research on the quadrants of the human brain by revered author/creativity expert Ned Herrmann.
To reach out further, Greenly will host a book signing of CHANGE Volume 16 at Mark De Alwis Salon (228 East 51st St. in Manhattan) on Saturday, March 30, 2019. Proceeds will benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, a favorite charity of the New York Theater community. BC/EFA provides many services, including specific help and grants for women in need. Below is a link to attend the signing at no charge. Personally signed books, with proceeds benefiting the charity, will be sold at $20 each.
Get your tickets on EventBrite here:
When companies hire Greenly to help a team with product launches or sales meetings, he captures each individual’s voice and message, while making the separate presentations fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. His objective is to drive home each client’s intended message in a convincing and memorable way, making a positive difference, leading to their success. Said John McDonnell, Managing Director International, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, “I’ve known Mike and his work for over 15 years. He’s excellent at speeches, scripts, PowerPoints and speech coaching. He gets my highest recommendation.”
Whether helping his clients be more effective in business, or using his talent for words to affect people’s hearts through his lyrics, Greenly keeps his primary goals foremost in mind. That’s true even when he’s writing songs — yes, he’s also a songwriter. His current song is “Common Ground” — written with Gil Polk and English singer Sam Stevens, who recorded the song in several versions. It’s now also available as a Dance Club remix by globally famous DJ Tony Moran.
As a kid, this former Fortune 500 marketing/communications VP was so shy he could barely express himself in a whisper; he sought refuge in reading and writing. Though Greenly admits he “can barely change a light bulb,” he always had an affinity for words. He recalled the first poem he composed at the age of four and even wrote his own Bar Mitzvah speech instead of having the Rabbi write it — unusual in his home town congregation in Beaufort, South Carolina.
“I’m a real Southerner by birth and upbringing. But I’m also Jewish which made me ‘different’ – especially back then. I actually had classmates ask, in all seriousness, if I had been born with a Devil’s tail. Being Jewish in the Deep South, I’ve heard the phrase, ‘Dirty Jew Boy’ more than once and had swastikas carved into my locker. My own family pharmacist once asked a customer, right in front of me, ‘Did you Jew someone down to get a lower price?’ That hurt but… What could I do?”
His Jewish experience in the South helped shape who Greenly became. But as painful as it was, he’s grateful that it made him more compassionate and accepting of diversity in others. Greenly’s youthful isolation went further than just the religion into which he was born. He became even more of an outsider when he was chosen to skip the second grade. Now he was “different” in yet another way by being a year younger than all his classmates. Being “different” motivated him to learn how to fit in — almost too much so. Added Greenly, “When I went to high school, I was determined to become popular and, indeed, I was voted ‘Most Popular’ as a senior. The problem was, my popular persona was not the real me … just the identity I’d invented to hide behind.”
He added, “In college on a scholarship to Duke, I was called into the Dean’s office. I was warned that I would lose that financial support because my grades were only average instead of meeting the Dean’s List requirement. They said, ‘You’re a smart guy, so why aren’t you getting better grades?’ Duke helped me to discover that my lingering anxieties from childhood were getting in the way of my studies, along with the “sexual confusion” that was also uncovered in the personality test they gave me. I was struggling to deny the truth that I’m actually gay. But with the University’s help, I got into psychotherapy, kept my scholarship and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
“That therapy was a life-changing gift, which went on to become years of valuable psychoanalysis in New York. Ultimately, I ended up getting training as a psychotherapist myself. I was going to leave Avon to become a full-time therapist when Avon made me an Officer. I couldn’t turn that down. Even so, the insights I gained from the therapy not only helped me accept my own true, authentic self. All that psychological experience also makes me be more effective when helping clients deal with their own secret ‘stage fright’ or other private anxieties they reveal to me in private consultation.”
During his time as an executive, Greenly developed the knowledge and experience that has led him to the career and creativity he so enjoys now. He admits that it took courage to leave his corporate position and go freelance. But two books changed his life and led him to make his leap.
As he explained, “Alvin Toffler’s ‘The Third Wave’ made me aware of the newly emerging Information Age. My ‘assignment’ was to report back to senior management about what the company needed to do in an increasingly digital time. The resulting presentation about Toffler’s vision to Avon’s senior leadership caused them to buy me one of the first Apple computers. Another book — Gail Sheehy’s ‘Passages’ — made me realize that I was at a potential turning point in my life. Those two books, plus the psychoanalysis, gave me the strength to take the leap and leave corporate life behind, while helping others today who are still within it.
Greenly’s accumulated experience now helps him coach clients to achieve their own greater effectiveness on stage. Here’s how he gets the results he’s known for with the companies and executives who hire him. “I interview my clients the way a journalist interviews a subject. In the process, I help them get in touch with the core of who they are and the message they want to deliver. The result each time is a speech that is personally authentic to the executive and his/her mission… which makes the message more effective and impactful to an audience.”
Said ExxonMobil’s Ann Juranek, “Mike’s a true expert. First in developing presentations that achieve their objectives, and then in coaching delivery that makes his clients the winners they want to be.”