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GovLoop Member of the Week – Mark Stelzner

Happy 2009! I’m with

Mark Stelzner, the founder of Inflexion Advisors, Washington, D.C. My sincere thanks go to Mark for taking the time for this interview.
Where are you from?

I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but have spent time in California, Texas and Illinois throughout my adult life. I currently reside in Washington, DC.

You are a terrific voice on GovLoop, one of the reasons I’m here. Is GovLoop giving you value? Why?

I view GovLoop at the knife’s edge of a new approach for intra-governmental socialization. Given limitations across agencies, geographies, and local/state/federal government, GovLoop can potentially serve as a collaborative environment for knowledge sharing, problem solving and friendship. The value lies in the hearts and minds of the members, many of whom have yet to reach the tipping point of comfort to actively participate and embrace all that social networks have to offer. I’m thrilled with the diversity of the current membership and the encouragement that will accompany a change in administration.

What are the priorities in your life right now?

Great question. My family comes first for me right now. 2008 was not an easy year for many and caring for the ones you love supersedes any personal or professional goal I might have. That being said, I would like to continue to expand my blog and company while ensuring that I am doing everything I can to help advance the HR profession.

Human Resources can use many of the social networking tools available. Your last December blog briefly addressed HR 2.0. I agree we need to be the shepherds and advocates for change in our organizations. How can we reduce the fear of these new communication tools? For example, fear of flame wars and anonymous comments. What are your thoughts regarding a set of rules/laws for social media (i.e. Twitter, corporate and government blogging?) I see parallels with email and the case law and precedents being set up there.

Another terrific question that may require more time and consideration than this interview will allow. In general though, I think the more progressive organizations are realizing that they cannot control the actions of their employees, clients, partners or constituents. We live in a time where anyone can have an active voice, so as opposed to setting up reactive war rooms and taking a bunker strategy on communications, many are electing to actively participate in those conversations which they fear the most. For example, when Zappos made the difficult decision to proceed with a reduction in force, CEO Tony Hsieh posted the internal RIF memo on his blog, Twitter and other online sites. Why? Because he knew that it would get out one way or another and he wanted to clearly articulate his position, strategy and gratitude. This type of proactive, preemptive and open approach can be viewed as another mechanism for increased brand equity and extend your reach to entirely untapped communities of interest.

I’m still figuring out if Twitter can help me more than distract me. I see good uses there for many disciplines. Thoughts on Twitter?

I see three types of personalities on Twitter – 1) Purely business and promotional with the intent of selling goods, services and ideas; 2) Purely personal covering everything from “what’s for dinner” to ranting about an ad you saw on TV; and 3) A blend of #1 and #2. I subscribe to the blended approach and have met some fascinating people doing interesting things all over the world. This has directly led to increased interest in my firm, my blog and our industry. In short, Twitter can be whatever you want it to be. I’d also refer you to a piece authored by my brother Mike (we’re an entrepreneurial family) on the business value of Twitter at http://www.copyblogger.com/grow-business-twitter/.

What books are you reading now?

Just tore through The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and am in the middle of both The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan and David Sedaris’ hilarious When You Are Engulfed In Flames.

2009 – Lists: Top 5 blogs?

It’s difficult to choose, but the Top 5 Blogs I read include:

Copyblogger (by Brian Clark) – http://www.copyblogger.com
Punk Rock HR (by Laurie Ruettimann) – http://www.punkrockhr.com
Your HR Guy (by Lance Haun) – http://www.yourhrguy.com
Horses for Source (by Phil Fersht) – http://www.horsesforsources.com
HR Bartender (by Sharlyn Lauby) – http://www.hrbartender.com

Of the blogs you wrote in 2008 – Do you have a top 3?

I had my favorites, but according to readership and coverage, my Top 3 in 2008 were:

“Aligning HR With Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”

“Advice From a Moron: Self-Deprecation Matters”

” A Tale of Two Shittys”

Do you have a tip or two for new bloggers?

It takes time and patience to find your true voice (something I’m constantly working on), so don’t be too hard on yourself or have too lofty of expectations. Also, become a consumer of blogs you admire and actively participate in the conversation.

What are you most looking forward to in the future?

In chaos comes tremendous opportunity for innovation and fresh approaches to old problems. I look forward to a resurrection of the entrepreneurial spirit and recognition that change is constant if we expect to improve as individuals, a society and professionals.

You are an inspiration to me every time I read one of your blogs – What inspires you?

So many things Mark…nature and the outdoors, watching someone overcome adversity, making an angry person laugh and the ability to ask (and receive) help. I am absolutely fascinated with people, their stories, motivations, failures and successes. The answer is all around us if you can just figure out the right question.

I wish we had time for more Mark, thank you again – You are a superstar in my book. A real HR superstar.

One of those special people who put that little extra into extraordinary.

Best wishes to you and yours for 2009 -MD.

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Adriel Hampton

Fantastic interview, guys. I’ve had so much fun this year reading and discoursing with both of you Marks. Best to both of you in 2009.

Mark Stelzner

Adriel, Michael and Steve – Thanks for all the kind words guys. I really have to hand it to Mark Danielson for structuring a thoughtful interview structure. He’s a great asset for GovLoop (and of course the city he represents). Happy New Year guys!


Ada (HangFong) O'Donnell


I like you positive outlook when you said,”In chaos comes tremendous opportunity for innovation and fresh approaches to old problems.” Ths spirit of continous improvement helps me celebrate maturity.