Actionable Inspiration, with special guest: Mark Babbitt

I would like to preface this next guest with a little history. This blog started out as an assignment in Dr. Bret L. Simmons Personal Branding class (UNR MBA Program) and has since turned into an extraordinary experience. Case in point, getting to sit and have a conversation with Mark Babbitt, the co-author of A World Gone Social and currently CEO at YouTern,  just to name two of the many things he has been, or is currently involved in.  454A4862

At the request of Dr. Bret, Mark recently came and was a guest speaker to the class. It was tremendous to have him there as the class was about to finish A World Gone Social. I had reached out to Mark on LinkedIn prior to the class in an attempt to garner a brief audience with him in the continuation of the interview series currently taking place in this blog. He responded that he’d be happy to oblige and after an in-class introduction we were both able to carve out half an hour a couple days later. On the video conferencing service Zoom.US we had a very “over coffee” style conversation. It was relaxed, open, and I will be honest, a somewhat intimate look into both of our views on social, its place in the world, and how it has impacted both of us.

There was so much great dialog I feel that withholding any part of the conversation would be a disservice to a world gone social and with that in mind, I have broken this blog post up into a two parts, there is just that much quality content. So, that’s more than enough of an introduction, I now give you my conversation with Mark Babbitt.

Elton: “Mark, to fill you in on Dr. Bret’s Class, he has asked us to get on all of these platforms and for me personally, it’s been quite transformative. Because two months ago, I had zero presence on social media, absolutely none. So, it wasn’t ‘hey lets ease into this’, it was dropping me right into the middle of the war zone: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and to start a blog where we asked us to pick a blog topic and that was in-line with our ‘personal brand’. Where we wanted to go with the project and with the class was in-line with where we wanted to go professionally I believe was Dr. Bret’s goal. So, I chose: Project Management.”

Mark: “Okay, yes.”

Elton: “I’m really, for lack of a better term, I’m really drinking the Kool-Aid when it comes to these books, your book, Dr. Bret’s class, and again, it’s been transformative. So, now that you have a background, the blog itself with a broad topic like project management, you can transition that into leadership, you can say things about group dynamics or things about teamwork. So, it’s really given me the ability to cover a wide range of topics. Some of the things I’ve recently hit upon were groupthink and engagement. And I was hitting on engagement before I read your book and afterwards, it just concreted everything into place. So, to start, from the perspective of a leader or an expert, and not necessarily in a flat but more of an agile, nano corp. type of business model, what happens to people in those positions in your mind as we move forward in a social world?”

Mark: “Well, Elton, I tell ya, being a project manager of sorts myself especially in my early engineering days in Silicon Valley that was my first experience in leading without permission. Because project managers really rarely have the title.  They have a lot of responsibility but they vary rarely have the title that will allow them to lead others. And in the industrial age that was a problem. Here we are, we’re responsible for all the resources, all the tools, all the time-sharing and of course the end result. And we didn’t have the position and the chain of command that we could MAKE people do things. A lot of people in our projects didn’t even work in the same departments let alone under us. And so, project managers a long time ago had to learn, for lack of a better word, had to learn to be social.  They had to inspire action rather than demand it.”

“And as you said, there are so many things that go into project management, they are a part of the social aspect. You had to take it and make it even bigger and better than it was on paper and when you started. And so it’s funny that a lot of really really good leaders when they finally get the title, when they finally get “permission” to lead, they have a project management background. And sometimes even an engineering background because of the structure necessary and the social aspect of it necessary needed to do their job well; they already get this. And it might be why you’re drinking the Kool-Aid personally because you, I bet you’ve experienced this in your world especially as you have transitioned between industries. You know our soft skills, our ability to lead, to motivate others towards a common mission, that’s one hell of a skill to have and it’s a very social skill.”

Elton: “I agree with you when you say: ‘sometimes even before you get the title you’ve experienced it firsthand.’ And a lot of times it’s: ‘here, here’s more work, same amount of pay and we really appreciate what you’re doing but let’s just see how this goes.’”

Mark: “Yep, yep. And if you’re an engineer you know how it feels anyway and then throw project management on top of that. But nothing sets you up for success later than being able to call it ‘an all-out experience.’ One of the things that’s really funny, and you made a good point Elton, it’s not always about the compensation, it’s about what we’re learning out of the deal. It’s the reputation we’re building, it’s the personal branding and integrity that we’re building that’s going to be recognized later and as you said, boy once you’re known for that it’s a lot easier to move forward in your career, once you’re known as a social leader and people respect you for that. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

Elton: “It’s very exciting that’s for sure. Moving forward, the next thing I’m really trying to embrace, and not only embrace but incorporate into my leadership with my team interaction is this idea of engagement. And you hit on a couple things in the book:

  • 454A4868Engagement is the cornerstone of the Social Age. Active listening.
  • Engagement isn’t good marketing, its good content.
  • Engagement has purpose and is quantifiable.
  • Engagement is an emotional investment.
  • Engagement is maximum effort in exchange for maximum results, recognition, and respect.

All very relevant from what I find. And some of the things I was hitting on in my blog was first actively engaging and the result is going to be effective engagement. This idea that not only are we involved but we’re getting out of our chair. We’re getting out of maybe a role type or we’re getting to maybe where the action is, literally an active engagement. And then, the results, from what I’m seeing, what I’m hoping for, is this effective engagement where you start to see some of that push back on the other side to where not only is it having effect in your team or in your project, but it leads to things down the road. And so, this idea of active engagement with effective results that follow, could you talk a little bit on your thoughts in how maybe this doesn’t necessarily involve social media, but more, being social?”

Mark: “Well Elton, this is where we say over and over again that social is not about social media, it’s not tools or technology it’s a mindset. It’s how we communicate with others. It’s facilitating and we say this in the book, many times as a leader we become chief facilitating officer regardless of what our real title is because our job is to inspire that engagement. And if we do our job well, even if we’re not in the room we’ve created an environment where the people that are jointly responsible for seeing a project through are now communicating well without us, without our influence. Our job, I think, as leaders, as project managers, as CEO’s is to provide what I call ‘Actionable Inspiration’.

I’ll define that just for a second. You think about a Tony Robin’s style leader or motivator. We listen and we love what we hear and we hear Tony talk and then we leave the room or we leave the auditorium or we turn off the video and damn we feel good. We don’t know why and we don’t know what to do next, but man we feel good. So, actionable inspiration takes that a step further. We not only want to accomplish something that maybe we hadn’t before but we want to take action. We want to get off our butts, we want to join this movement that’s happening around this certain mission right now and we want to take action.

Actionable inspiration is sustainable, it’s tangible, you can eventually quantify your results. Inspiration by itself is frankly, it’s just talk. And that’s where we know we’ve hit the pinnacle of engagement, those two things. One, when the engagement is happening even when we’re not in the room, when stuff gets done, and they come to you, your formal or your informal team comes to you and says ‘here’s what we got, we just made the idea bigger.’ That the biggest compliment a leader can get because you inspired that, you created that environment not only where action is acceptable, it’s expected. And again, you’re idea, this little thing you started with has now gotten so much bigger. And by the way it’s also a great way to avoid that groupthink thing you talked about earlier. Because if you’re really inspiring action, that group is not going to just settle on the first idea that came along. They’re going to expand on that idea, they’re going to make it bigger and better.”


WOW! So the interview is just under half way over, good stuff right? It just builds from here and so think about Mark’s concept of “Actionable Inspiration” because that’s exactly where we’re going to pick up in the next post.

Image credit: Photos by Drew Fodor (Thanks Drew!)


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