First Sergeant's Corner: Trust

  • Published
  • By MSgt Matthew Adelman, First Sergeant, AF Life Cycle Management Center
Having trust in an organization is one of the most foundational principles that can help people feel connected to each other and the mission. Trust plays an enormous part in positively shaping the organization’s culture.  According to a Harvard Business Review study, high-trust organizations experience less stress, have more energy, are more productive, experience fewer absences, cultivate engaged subordinates, and lead people to be more satisfied with their lives in general.  So, how do you cultivate trust? Leaders build trust through applying transparency, authenticity, credibility, and reliability.
Transparency is essential to communicating the organization’s goals and intentions.  It forces leaders to be open and candid with their subordinates and ensures employees are armed with as many resources as possible.  This is key to leveraging the very best in people and processes.  Leaders should offer regular and candid feedback that seeks to refine skills and set standards while being constructive and informative.  However, leaders should be attentive and willing to accept feedback in return. Seeking feedback on how to better train, equip, and organize their force forms long lasting, high performing teams.
Authenticity starts with being aware of yourself. Knowing your own values is essential to valuing and honing qualities in others and the organization. This principle can be cultivated by developing a high level of emotional intelligence. A foundational aspect of authenticity is having a true desire to know and help your subordinates do well leading to organizational and personal successes.  Another important aspect of this is showing vulnerability by owning your mistakes, admitting when you are wrong, and using lessons learned in the past to show your own humanity, especially when employees tend to put leaders on pedestals.
Reliability and credibility mean that you are consistent and follow-through with your commitments. Your actions align with your values and those of your organization and naturally forges paths to success.  It also means making well-informed, timely decisions. When leaders change positions or even their core values, it confuses subordinates and causes the organization to lose its identity. Paralysis by analysis is a real threat to reliability and credibility alike.  Leaders are not expected to know everything.  When they are not the experts, they should appoint and rely on those who are to make decisions.  Additionally, leaders must demonstrate integrity and fairness, especially when it comes to offering opportunities to lead teams and advance within the organization. A final component of reliability is accountability in yourself and your subordinates against well-defined standards.
Trust is a highly dynamic principle, often subjective to our personal biases and perspectives.  It is difficult to gain and even more difficult to regain after it is lost. However, applying these principles can go a long way in building an organization that cultivates trust at its core allowing employees to be truly connected to each other and the mission.