Trusted Circles: The Higher You Climb, The More You Need It

Over my years as a management consultant in the MSL industry, I’ve come to realize how important “trusted circles” are to the advancement and well-being of the MSL executive. Or any pharmaceutical executive, for that matter.

What is a trusted circle?

A trusted circle is a small group (maybe as small as 2 or 3) of people whom you count on to tell you the truth, look out for your best interest, and have the courage to catch you before you make a mistake.

It is not easy being a trusted person. You already know this from your personal lives – being a true friend is difficult when you may need to tell someone that he is going down the wrong path. You risk alienating that person and being disliked. But you do it because you know this is what being a true friend and a trusted person is about. Most often, the person will come back and thank you.

A trusted circle takes time to build when you rise up the ranks in an MSL organization. Sometimes people are quick to tell you “yes”, then you find out they only told you “yes” because they lack the skills to say “no”.

Who make up the members of an MSL executive’s trusted circle?

Your trusted circle may make up of people who are also leaders in the MSL profession – your management peers in industry, past mentors who have seen you grow and been there with you when you were starting out. Perhaps past subordinates/direct reports who have become good friends and can give you a different perspective. Your trusted circle may include one or two personal friends who know you outside your professional life.

What is the purpose of an executive’s trusted circle?

You may ask your trusted circle of advisers for different things. Here are some of the ways I have used my trusted circle of advisers:

– Bounce new ideas off them and brainstorming

– Help me sort through difficult choices about my career path

– Hear what I deeply want from myself when I cannot “hear” myself

– Tell me the truth when I am falling into counterproductive cycles

– Give me encouragement when I feel like I am not contributing much to the world

– Tell me a funny joke to lighten up a heavy day

For many of these people, I am a member of their trusted circle, so we reciprocate. I have helped them prioritize, navigate through tough choices, and reminded them of the value they are bringing to their profession and to people's lives.

The higher you climb, or the riskier or more novel the path you are taking, the more you need people to see you – really SEE you. These are people who can even see what you are not ready to see about yourself, and they are not afraid to tell you the truth. These are the people who are your faithful companions in the unpredictable journey of carving out your own road.