#SHRM18 – Q & A Session with Rusty Lindquist


I’ve been in HR for just over a decade now, but one of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my short time in the industry is the emergence, and evolution of the “Business Partner” aspect that comes along with being called an Human Resources Business Partner.  With the continued evolution of the HR profession, more automation, and organizations embracing more technology to streamline some of the repetitive HR tasks; now, more than ever it’s important to truly align and understand the business so we could better partner with our leadership teams and provide strategic value.

I’ve had the pleasure to catch up with Rusty Lindquist, VP of Strategic Insights for Bamboo HR, and speaker at #SHRM18.  I’m looking forward to sitting in on his Mega Session “Think Like a Business. Act Like a Business. Win Like a Business” scheduled for Tuesday June 19th.  

Enjoy this little behind the scenes on Rusty and his upcoming talk; and tune in to my “Unraveling HR – How Success Happens” podcast as Rusty will be a guest soon!


Rusty is the Vice President of Thought Leadership at BambooHR where he where he speaks, writes, and teaches about high-impact people practices, and how to help HR deliver the value their organizations most need.

Rusty has spent 18 years as head of product and strategy in technology companies in the learning and development, and technology industries. He is a husband, a father of seven, and someone who loves life and loves sharing knowledge.

BambooHR is a leading HR technology company whose innovations are designed to accelerate the evolution of HR in small and medium businesses by setting them free to do great work.


Would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself; your background and how you got into your current field?

This is an interesting story. Growing up I was homeless… literally ate squirrels, worms, and crawdads. My mom and I spent those years on the run from my biological father, who was trying to kill me (he had schizophrenia, and believed he had to sacrifice me in order to prove his faith). After living through several abusive fathers and lots of… undesirable circumstances, my mother abandoned me when I was 11. I went through an incredibly dark period where I thought something must be wrong with me. It was a time filled with anger, sadness, self-pity, and self-loathing. But over time I realized that life is about choice, perspective, and attitude, and I could control all of these. I decided to stop looking back, and chose to look forward. You can see my TEDx talk on this (it’s a really brief version). You can read a more complete version on my website here

In any event, the short version of it is that I decided to devote my life to helping other people move forward with theirs. And by so doing, that was the way I could move forward with mine. 

I’m writing a book “Escape Velocity”, which outlines how people can escape the gravitational pull of what’s holding them back to create a future of their own design. Many of the things from that book will be in my speech.

I was attracted (eventually) to HR Thought Leadership, because I found incredible alignment with the content I’ve spent two decades developing and HR’s higher value promise. 

Of the work you do; what’s the part that you enjoy the most?

What I value most is in helping HR catch a vision of their highest value promise, engaging employees and putting the force of work back into the workforce. I love helping them see the difference they can make in the lives of their employees and the inevitable business outcomes that flow from doing that well.

What’s your biggest struggle; and how would you advise someone looking to break into your field?

I would say that the biggest struggle I face is in helping HR get the permission, autonomy, budget, and authority to go do the work their organizations really need them to do. There’s this pervasively toxic sentiment toward HR, and an epidemic of skepticism and blindness about the value they have to offer. Because of this, even when HR does successfully escape the operational minutia in an attempt to really begin to meaningfully impact their organization, their hamstrung by their executives. Helping them learn how to gain that permission, autonomy, and trust is one of the things I spend a lot of time talking about. In my session “How to think, act, and win like a business” that I’ll be delivering, I teach them the language of their executives, and how to restructure their approach to HR by treating it as a business unit. I’ve found this goes a long way to breaking the functional fixedness that executives usually suffer from that HR is only operational.

Is this your first time attending and/or speaking at the SHRM Conference?

I usually speak about 16-20 times a year at various SHRM and HR conferences. I spoke two years ago at SHRM national in a super-session on escaping operational HR. I’m delighted to be coming back this year, and hope to come back as a keynote at some point in the future.

Why should someone dedicate time to attend your presentation?

HR too often operates independent from (or out of sync with) the organization. There’s a reason why executives (and employees alike) suffer from the functional fixedness of seeing HR as only operational and casting them in such a negative light. We need to learn to operate like the rest of the business. In my session I’ll walk HR through the business model canvas. I’ll help them understand how to reinvent their approach to HR using this common framework. How to identify target (internal) customers of the HR product. How to architect value propositions against that newly identified target customer. How to deliver that value through healthy channels, measure and manage internal customer relationships, partner to get that work done, and use the business model to create a business case for the initiatives and resources they need to create that value for those internal customers, etc. 

Once HR begins to think and act like a real business unit, they gain the permission to function more deeply within the business, and begin to win as a business. It’s a virtuous cycle.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d have for a first timer at the conference?

I’d say three things. The first is to go to the conference with specific learning objectives, and then target those sessions that align. It’s easy to be overwhelmed once you get there, so “start with why”… why are you there? Next, I’d say that while that learning framework can help you prioritize sessions to attend, take advantage of stand-out session opportunities that you might not have planned for. In other words, have a structure, but don’t be too rigid. Finally, walk out of a session if it isn’t good. You paid good money to be there, and there is incredible learning to be had. So if you aren’t getting what you need from a session, just leave and go find something else. Others may think it’s rude, but this is your conference… make the most of it!


Originally posted on TonyZamora.com blog.



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