I have a small “Circle of Trust” – it’s probably an outcome of being in HR for 20 years. Too many times I’ve shared things with people I thought would ‘know’ better, only to later find out some stuff was shared, that shouldn’t have been shared. Ultimately, I blame myself – and the circle grows smaller. Circles of trust work professionally and personally – some of us will have overlaps – or you might have two completely different circles. Your circles will change as you change organizations and positions – your lunch pal Ted was in the circle of trust, then he got promoted to a new position – alas, Ted is now out of the circle.
The cool thing about a Circle of Trust is that you don’t have actually tell someone you’re in the circle, or that they are out of the circle. You can – but it isn’t necessary. When someone’s in the circle the thing that is important is that ‘you’ can trust them with information. Others might not find them trustworthy, but you do, so they make your circle. The individuals within your circle don’t even have to know each other, or know each of them are in the circle. It’s yours – you decide, you undecide – keep it to yourself.
A question I like to ask Leaders and Executives is who is in your Circle of Trust? Not names – but give me function and level – I.E., a VP in Finance, Operations Director, etc. I’m looking for one ingredient in the answer – do they have someone in HR in their circle? You would be shocked at how often a non-HR leader does not have someone from HR in their circle. I like to think of myself and my peers in HR is being the ‘ultimate’ circle of trust partners! If there was a Circle of Trust draft – HR should always have first round selections. Simple – we are the keepers of the secrets. So, why don’t leaders have HR in their circle?
Let’s answer that by looking at our own Circle membership. Most of us come into contact with the same folks on a daily basis. Most of those folks are within our direct functional area, and those closest to us in proximity. If I’m in Marketing – my circle will probably have marketing folks in it, maybe a finance person, maybe even a marketing vendor that is critical to our business, etc. Unless HR is sitting next to me, or across the hall, and I don’t have daily dealings with them – why would they make my circle? The reason HR isn’t in enough leaders Circles of Trust in your organization is because HR isn’t making this happen.
That being said, I tell leaders constantly, you ‘Must Have HR In Your Circle of Trust“. Leaders hate being told this. “Oh, Tim, they just muck everything up and tell me ‘No’!” Yep – that’s what they do – because you don’t have a relationship with them – so they go all CYA. Leaders need to reach out and create a strong relationship with HR – so strong that when the Circle of Trust gets pulled together – someone from HR is there closing the circle with them. Don’t get me wrong – if you’re an HR pro and you can’t count a number of Circles you are a part of with Leaders outside of HR – you’re probably thought of us worthless. Sorry, but it’s true. Get out and build relationships – and when given a chance to join a Circle of Trust – don’t blow it – don’t break the trust – the eventual success of your HR career demands this.