We sat down with Bob Blankstein to learn about his career as a talent management professional.
Tell me what you like most about doing HR consulting.
I have always liked variety and challenge. When I was in high school, I took Latin. My Latin teacher did everything he could to make the class fun. And he also knew every line of every text book by heart. Unfortunately, as he put it, there is not a lot of innovation and change in studying Latin. My hope from that point was to find a career that was not the same day after day. HR consulting offers that.
Though there are certainly levels of consistency around best practices, policies and laws, the variation in my profession greatly outweighs the constant for one basic reason: talent management professionals deal with people and no two people are the same.
As a result, the solutions that we provide can never be “off the shelf” and we need to ensure that we are constantly learning and improving.
One of the things you told me is that you don’t go in to a meeting with a client thinking that you have to fix a problem but that you need to develop a relationship with a person. Tell me more about that, why you have that perspective and how it has served you well.
On some level the relationship is more important than the problem. There is a saying that I like: “People do not care what you know until they know that you care.”
I have worked with many small business owners who are looking for a “second in command to help them run their business”. Some are looking for an eventual successor. Some are looking for an administrator to “watch the store.” One client who I am currently working with wants someone to run his business so he is free to work directly with his customers. The need for a “second in command” is unique to each person.
Developing a relationship builds a basis of trust so the client can express their true needs. Knowing their true needs allows me to help my clients.
The same concept applies to managers working with employees. When there is a performance gap, it generally has to do with a gap in knowledge, motivation, or engagement – or some combination of all three. If we as managers assume what the gap is and correct it, we may be working on the wrong issue.
We all have to work with clients we don’t like or don’t click with. How do you handle that?
A very interesting question and something that does not come as naturally to me as I would like. The first step that I take is to stop myself from complaining about the assignment. I simply remind myself that my bad situation could very well be someone else’s dream and that I need to be thankful for the opportunity that I have been given. The second step is to try to find some common ground with the client. This common ground may have nothing to do with the work that needs to be done. Once there is some level of connection, there is a basis for trust and I find that I actually click with the client much more than I had originally thought I would.
So what exciting things are next for you in your career?
Currently, I am working with a startup organization. I look forward to helping the partners at this firm turn their vision into a productive reality.
In general, my goals for the future include:
Combining innovation with integration. New ideas lead to growth but only when they are aligned with strategy and vision.
Continuous improvement. I have had the opportunity to work with thousands of companies. This has given me the gift of insight from thousands of mentors. I would love to share what I have learned. More important, I look forward to learning from the next thousands of people who I meet.
Passion. I am eager to connect with people and organizations that dare to dream.
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