The only HR competency that matters is trustworthiness.
But when the chips are down, will you do the right thing? If you make a mistake, will you admit it and contain it? Do you let your neediness and desire for approval get in the way of normal business operations? Are you competitive when you should be collaborative?
I pick trustworthy people over overly confident (and competent) people all the time. And so do other smart people. Amy Cuddy’s newest book talks about the difference between competency and trustworthiness. It’s worth a read.
For me, there are four quadrants of trustworthiness. You must be honest and loyal while demonstrating integrity and sincerity. The whole is bigger than the individual parts.
You can’t be trustworthy without being honest. Do you approach your job with good intent? Or do you have an agenda? And if you have an agenda, does it serve a broader purpose than yourself?
Trustworthy people are loyal. Far too often, HR confuses loyalty with allegiance to a CEO or an executive in the trenches. The most trustworthy human resources professionals are faithful to a mission, vision, or set of values. They do right by the business when they do right by their people.
You cannot be trustworthy without integrity. Some business leaders behave in offensive ways. Many employees will test our patience. Union leaders and politicians challenge our beliefs. Who are you? What do you believe? Do you have an HR philosophy? And when faced with tough choices, what choices do you make?
Finally, trustworthy people are sincere. They say what they mean. They offer honest advice. They expect you to do the same. And if they have questions, they ask. Sincere and trustworthy HR leaders aren’t passive-aggressive. They don’t spy and stalk employees on social media. In the face of unethical behavior, they don’t indirectly ask tough questions.
It’s not about whether or not you can do HR. It’s about how you operate in those moments where there’s no roadmap and HR handbook to help you reach a decision.
Trustworthy people with fewer skills are better HR leaders than people who are loaded with relevant competencies but struggle to build and maintain professional relationships that are rooted in honesty, integrity, loyalty, and sincerity.
So the next time someone asks you to talk about yourself, try shortening your list of skills and qualifications. Instead, expand your interest in the person who’s asking the question. That’s a good first step in demonstrating the best HR competency: trustworthiness.