Legend Of Wisdom: Mark Babbitt — From Transactional to Relational Leadership

I know that if I treat the employees well, if I treat the stakeholders well, the profits will follow.” ~ Mark Babbitt

I’ll say it again: Through the arc of our career, It’s our professional value that becomes significant, NOT our so-called transferable skills. 

As we move along that arc, we become more valued for the wisdom we bring to situations and challenges. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve been offering profiles of folks I’m calling  Legends of Wisdom (a mashup term taken from Chip Conley’s Wisdom at Work and Mike Tyson’s Legends Only League of retired elite athletes). 

This week: Mark Babbitt, an entrepreneur, founder, and author who focuses on helping organizations, leaders, and employees understand that current workplace dynamics are an opportunity to lead, work, think – and compete – differently.

Mark Babbitt: Conscious Pivot From Technical Expert to Strategic Entrepreneur

Mark’s career began in the U.S. Air Force where he was trained in avionics. After the Air Force, he worked for engineering firms and he became frustrated with the bureaucracy and transactional nature of his work. “We weren’t doing anything because it was the right thing to do, we were doing it because it generated revenue.” He realized that those dynamics clashed with his values. So he quit. 

He worked for a couple of online job boards in sales and business development, which fit better with his desire to use his creative problem-solving to assist people to enhance their lives through better jobs. He eventually founded YouTern, a career-focused community that helps young talent find internships and jobs with the right organizational culture for them. Mark is also president of WorkIQ, a community and change management consultancy that helps organizations understand leadership’s impact on culture and the company’s collective level of Workplace Intelligence.

Mark is the recent co-author, with S. Chris Edmonds, of Good Comes First: How Today’s Leaders Create An Uncompromising Company Culture That Doesn’t Suck (Amazon Kindle link).

What Mastery Do You Offer? How Do You Add Value To Your Work and Colleagues?

Mark describes himself as very analytical. He still uses his engineering and problem-solving skills every day. He relies on data to drive his decision-making in his business leadership as well as his youth sports coaching. 

However, Mark notes that his number one skill, that has served him well throughout his career, has been all about building relationships. His prime focus is on mutually beneficial projects that serve all participants well. 

What Are The Durable Traits or Qualities That Define Your Professional Reputation?

Mark immediately mentioned character issues and values — doing something that he knew was making a difference. He noted that his biggest career mistakes came from decisions that were not based on making people’s lives better. When he veered from his values, it just never worked out.

As You’ve Evolved Into A Legend Of Wisdom, What Traits And Qualities Have You Had To Give Up?

Again, Mark had a quick response — the need to be busy and in control. ALL. THE. TIME. In his 20s, 30s, and 40s, Mark took great pride in being a workaholic. However, when he became a single dad of four kids, he realized that he had to put their needs first and organize his work around them. 

He knows that he has a good team who does good work and believes in the mission as much as he does. He has the confidence to let his team take the reins on many of the projects they take on. 

While this has been very liberating for Mark, the compulsion to step in and take over still surfaces. But he doesn’t crave it anymore. Instead, he focuses on being a “damn good grandpa to five grandkids.”

What Traits and Qualities Have You Repurposed To Be More Meaningful As A Legend Of Wisdom?

“Delegation, pure and simple,” noted Mark; “There’s so much less stress and work is so much more fulfilling.”

What Would You Like Your Professional Legacy To Be? How Do You Want To Be Remembered At The End Of Your Career?

Mark actually thinks about this question all the time. One of the things about delegation is if it’s done right, one evolves from a delegator to a mentor; and that’s how he wants to be remembered. 

“I want to be known as somebody who was the opposite of transactional in my leadership, in my management style; and that I helped people live better lives.”

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