Six months without a blog post has prompted some speculation in our tightly networked HR community. Had I finally had enough of the HR market? Was I hatching a new start-up? Did I finally get bored with the sound of my own (written) voice?
The truth was of such dried-paint dullness that externally sourced conjecture seemed infinitely more exciting. After more than six years, it was time to move Inflexion (and hopefully the industry) another step forward. As your reading this will attest, I chose evolution over extinction, a decision requiring an emotionless look at what had worked against the backdrop of what could possibly be. The good news is this – our blogging hiatus has helped our business change is truly unexpected and material ways. I hope it can help yours as well.
Lesson #1: Acknowledge Your Limitations
I’ve heard it hundreds of times over the phone, at client meetings and prior to speaking at industry events – “I’d like to introduce Mark Stelzner of Inflex-ee-on.” Not Inflect-shun (as was intended), but something precariously close to the word “inflexible” – you know, that adjective every Fortune 1000 leader wants attributed to their strategic consulting partner.
Every time this occurred I would cringe and then politely nod as if to acknowledge, “Yes, although symbolically it is relevant, I have obviously chosen a very poor name for my company.” And our name was just the beginning – brand, purpose, focus, access – these were all limiting factors we had to address to attain our aggressive growth targets. So we tackled it all, and I’ll tell you that the best tool for acknowledging your limitations is to simply ask those around you for their honest and candid opinion. It’s pure gold.
Lesson #2: Embrace Change
Although I did at one time fancy myself a rocket scientist, the solution to the problems that ail us are usually readily apparent is we are willing to embrace them. In the case of my phonetically challenged moniker “Inflexion”, the answer is the gradual transition toward the much simpler acronym of “IA”.
With the help of my design team, that’s what we’ve done. For now we will continue to maintain all the fully lettered punch that Inflexion lovers have come to adore, but we also have a pocket-sized version that doesn’t require an advanced degree in mathematics for connective interpretation. Simple solutions win the day yet again.
Lesson #3: Lift Up Your Team
I’m so fortunate to work with the best advisory team in the market. However, with yours truly at the helm, I tend to cast a (slightly balding) shadow over these incredibly bright and valuable resources. It’s funny how asking more questions (and shutting up for five seconds) can allow these wise and melodious voices to finally be heard.
One such voice is the newest member of my leadership team, Chris Connolly. Chris is both affable and thoughtful, bringing over twenty-five years of HR industry experience to our client engagements. He’s an expert in relationship management and governance and has supported some of the largest and most complex employers in the world. Good leaders should surround themselves with those who are smarter than they are and I’m proud to say that I learn something new from Chris every single day. Expect to see and hear more from the likes of Chris (and others) going forward.
Lesson #4: Give Away Your Value
Consulting firms often wrongly believe that their advice and guidance should be sequestered in a vault that is only unlocked when the clock of billability begins to tick. We strongly disagree with this sentiment and our advisors spend hundreds of hours each year chatting with organizations that simply need an unbiased and empathetic ear.
To further encourage these conversations, we’ve launched a new toll-free number (1-866-710-IAHR) to allow those who’d like to chat to schedule a complimentary briefing. That’s right – the telephone, that thing with the ringing noise and the magical voices inside. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media and electronic communications, but I also believe in real-time interaction and the subtle nuances that only a live conversation can offer.
Although our competitors may see this “free consulting nonsense” as a crazy approach to business, we believe a good faith educational effort will continue to come back to us in unexpected and valuable ways.
Lesson #5: Offer Clear And Concise Solutions
I was speaking with a colleague the other day who congratulated me on being one of the best search engine optimized players in our space. She truly meant it as a compliment and was honoring the yeoman’s effort we’ve put into our social media presence and relationship building over the years. However, if you asked the tens of thousands of visitors we received to our prior website what Inflexion did for a living, you’d probably get a blank stare.
If after reviewing our new home and services page you are still left scratching your head, please do let us know. Stated concisely, we guide HR leaders through strategic decisions and are most often retained to assist in the selection of HR service providers for Benefits Administration, Payroll, Talent Management and HRMS/HRIS.
If we hadn’t taken the time to step back and reassess our communication strategy I’m not sure we would have noticed this problem. Sometimes it helps to pop out of the Whac-a-mole hole long enough to look around and gain some healthy perspective.
Lesson #6: Recognize Your Clients
It should be obvious, but none of this would be possible without our wonderful clients. Whether a 130,000-person hospitality firm or a 50-person startup, IA continues to have the pleasure of working with some of the best and brightest employers in the world.
I’ve seen many consultants and HR providers get so distracted by their inner workings or industry fanfare that they forget to acknowledge the basic fact that clients power their existence. I’m not ashamed to say that I owe my livelihood to the men and women we support each and every day.
Let’s Change Together
I’m so excited about the future of our industry and the role that IA will continue to play in the ever-changing and unpredictable world of human resources. Despite the continued popularity of these topics, I no longer want to talk about whether HR adds strategic value, or if social media is important, or the hot new leadership book that tells you how to run your business in ten steps, etc, etc.
Whether you’re an HR practitioner, consultant, service provider, academic, analyst or pundit, I want to encourage you to engage in activities that drive dialogue over divisiveness. I’ve read hundreds of articles and posts over the past six months and I know – truly know – that we can raise the level of discourse and do better. I, for one, hope to produce better content and expect you to hold me to a higher standard. And don’t worry, you won’t have to wait six months to do so.