Utilize Your Network as Free Consultants

Ed Baldwin Audacious Ideas, Career Advice, Ed Baldwin, Learning, Networking

Think about the best professional advice you’ve ever received.

Where did it come from?

A how-to YouTube video?  A TED talk?  Your spouse?  An executive coach?  Maybe a lawyer?  A book?  A keynote speech at an HR/talent conference?  Likely not.

Or… from a fellow HR/talent colleague?  Yep, that’s what I thought.

Networking is all the rage.  So are conferences, podcasts, think-tanks and yes, blogs.  All are touting innovation, disruption and creative thinking that can be your GO TO source for improving your professional repertoire and elevating the team/function you are leading.

We are all suckers for how to build a better mousetrap, but often we go looking for the blueprint in the wrong place.  We don’t utilize our professional network the way we could or should, as free consultants to examine what we are doing and what we can do better.

Why?  Three reasons come to mind …

  • We are embarrassed because we think we suck.  Claude over at ABC is doing some really cool things.  Jeff was just asked to keynote at the state HR conference based on how he’s transforming the culture at XYZ.  I’m just trying to convince leadership to dump our shitty annual performance review process.  No way I’m sharing how old-school we are here with anyone, let alone someone who right now thinks I’m doing great things for my company.
  • In order to be an expert you have to live 50 miles away and have written a book.  Why do we over-value advice and opinions from experts?  And why do we consider someone an expert just because they’ve written a book?  C’mon, I’ve read a lot of shitty books.  Shitty books written by authors who just re-shuffled the same deck of HR cards and are proclaiming it as the next big thing.  HR books where the author offered as much proven and professional help as I received last year at Thanksgiving dinner from my Uncle Fred.
  • Free advice can’t be as good as expensive advice.  We’ve all heard the phrase, “you get what you pay for” right?  Well, that’s not always the case.  We should seek out and value advice that comes from colleagues who have walked in our shoes, and delivered.  Not some stuffy, pricey, academic from a big consulting firm who couldn’t pull off a potluck lunch for the office if their life depended on it.

So here’s my challenge.  Begin using your network to obtain free consulting advice.  FREE is within your end of year HR budget constraints right?

Let’s all extend ourselves a bit more over the final months of the year and be more vulnerable at that next HR holiday networking event.  Find that trusted colleague (who doesn’t work for a competitor) and pull them aside.  Tell them you would like to pull the veil off your HR/talent operations and give them the full Monty.  Then humbly ask if they would be willing to come into your shop, take a look under the hood, and make some candid recommendations.  Ask them to give you an honest assessment of your recruitment function, your culture, the perks and rewards you offer your employees, or any area where you just aren’t satisfied.  Find that area you’re most uncomfortable with and ask for their help.

Then offer to do the same for them in return.  Barter a consulting deal.

If you’re willing to accept this challenge, I’m betting you’ll be really happy you did.

First, your colleague will appreciate you asking for their advice.  Second, you’ll enjoy seeing someone else’s world (if you reciprocate) and will appreciate what you have accomplished in your own shop a bit more.  Third, you’ll enjoy being able to help out a colleague, and strengthen your relationship with them in the process.  And finally … you’ll learn, grow and better understand how to improve your operations with someone you know and trust to guide you along the way.

Just like I did.

Special thanks to the colleague who inspired this post.