Confidant - being the trusted advisor
HR has to be a trusted advisor to the CEO and within the management team. To be a valued strategic business partner, regarded as relevant in the decision making in the organisation – delivering business driven HR which contributes to the company's strategic objectives.
However, trust is only earned. A CEO only turns to advisors who are considered as relevant. Hence, HR professionals have to invite themselves to the table and demonstrate external perspective, commercial acumen, strategic capability and provide relevant advice. Only then will HR be regarded as relevant. Likewise, a strategic HR professional is expected to contribute to the company's strategy development process, as well as derive an HR strategy.
There is no formula for building trust as this pertains to interpersonal relations. Personally, I try to live up to:
Perceiving the main stakeholder(s) as the main focus
Saying 'I don't know' and revert with facts
Check the facts prior to giving advice – check again and again
Asking questions rather than having answers to everything
Propose solutions as well as providing options
Putting my money where my mouth is
Knowing there are many other bright advisors 'out there'...
Building trust is an infinite process while tearing it down may only take a second!
(it goes without saying HR has to be trusted across the organisation)