Episode 57 | The Art of the Possible

with Talmetrix CEO Chris Powell

David Hassell interview David Hassell interview
AWE Episode graphic Chris Powell

The beautiful thing about innovation is that it almost always starts the same, humble way – with a person and an idea.

Our most impactful technological achievements – the printing press, the internal combustion engine, the iPhone – all started with someone who saw a problem and dared to envision a solution.

It’s what Chris Powell calls “the art of the possible,” and it’s what has sustained his passion for the HR space for the last two decades.

Chris Powell is the CEO of Talmetrix (formerly BlackbookHR), a software company that equips organizations to leverage workforce insights that impact productivity, performance, retention and culture.

Chris also represents a bit of a rarity in the world of HR tech – a founder who actually spent most of his career in HR.

Because while most founders in the space come from a software development background, Chris has spent 20 years in the trenches as an HR exec with companies like Marriott, Scripps, and Deloitte.

This means Chris has tackled people issues from every side of the equation, and for all types of companies, from major corporations with thousands of employees in offices around the globe, to nascent startups experiencing growing pains for the first time.

As you’ll hear in the episode, Chris took some time from a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard to share some of his veteran insight with us. We talked to him about why companies tend to know their customers and vendors better than their own employees (and why this is a problem), why human behavior doesn’t allow for stasis, and how to foster the art of the possible with your employees.  

Of course, two decades in HR means that Chris has seen and heard it all, and he also shares his most outrageous story from the front lines of the HR desk. (Trust us, it’s a good one.)

Key Takeaways

  • Chris explains why he got into the HR space, and what inspired him to stay in the field for more than two decades. 5:09
  • Chris describes the “holy grail” that he’s been chasing in his career. 6:39
  • Chris breaks down why human behavior doesn’t allow for stasis, and why it’s therefore the wrong state to strive for in business. 7:39
  • Chris shares the #1 lesson he learned from his days selling cars to Ford dealerships that he still applies as a CEO and business leader. 9:07
  • Chris relates a story from his days as an HR exec at Scripps, and tells us why relationships are more important than competency. 11:34
  • Chris tells us about his childhood growing up in Memphis, TN, in a family with 7 siblings, and how that experience taught him how to deal with people. 12:45
  • Chris also shares a story about a family trip to Nashville that taught him a valuable leadership lesson that he carries with him to this day. 14:43
  • Chris explains why companies tend to know their customers and vendors better than their own employees, and what leaders can do to change that. 18:04
  • Chris explains the genesis of Talmetrix, and the ways they surface insights for the companies they serve. 28:43
  • Chris tells us his craziest story after 20 years on the frontlines on the HR side of the house. 33:42


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