• Published
  • By Lt. Col. Rolf Mammen
  • 127th Maintenance Group
Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.

A good friend of mine from the Iowa ANG was the deployed commander of his unit in Kirkuk, Iraq. He told me of his first meeting with his higher level commander, an active-duty brigadier general. The conversation went something like this: "As your boss, I expect and demand your obedience, but I hope to earn your trust and respect."

Trust is extremely important not only at the leadership / management level of an organization, but down to the lowest level as well. The Webster's dictionary defines trust as "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something." It also stipulates "one in which confidence is placed." This really boils down to trust being a bond of reliance. In fact, a bond without trust is no bond at all. Trust is a cornerstone to every effective organization. Without trust, the organization will surely become ineffective and fail.

A 2012 Gallup poll rated the confidence level of institutions in American society. 75% of the people polled had a "great deal" or "quite a lot" of confidence and trust in the military as opposed to only 21% for big business, banks and newspapers. In fact, the military was the highest rated institution by far as compared to 15 others, including organized religion. That does not mean that we can sit back and not be resolute - daily - on ensuring and earning the trust of every member in our wing. This is the obligation of every member of each organization and it is earned by delivering every day what you promise.

The principals of trust are no different regardless of your position or rank in your organization. It has many facets including transparency, collaboration and teamwork. Trust is built on one's character and competence. Stephen Covey's 2006 book, The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything," has some great thoughts. Here are a few "do's and don'ts" gleaned from this book on earning and retaining trust within your organization.

Talk Straight - Don't Lie, spin, tell half-truths, double-talk or flatter.
Do Demonstrate Respect - Don't Fail to care or show you care, show disrespect or show respect only to those who can do something for you.
Do Create Transparency - Don't Withhold information, keep secrets, create illusions or pretend.
Do Right Wrongs - Don't Fail to admit or repair mistakes or cover up mistakes.
Do Show Loyalty - Don't Sell others out; take the credit yourself; sweet-talk people to their faces and bad-mouth them behind their backs.

Deliver Results - Don't Fail to deliver or deliver on activities, not results.
Do Get Better - Don't Fail to invest in improvement or force every problem into your one solution.
Do Confront Reality - Don't Bury your head in the sand; focus on busywork while skirting the real issues.
Do Clarify Expectations - Don't Assume expectations or create vague and shifting expectations.
Do Practice Accountability - Don't Fail to take responsibility or hold others accountable for your mistakes.

Listen First - Don't fail to listen or pretend to listen or listen without understanding.
Do Keep Commitments -Don't Break commitments, violate promises, make vague and elusive commitments or don't make any commitments at all.
Do Extend Trust - Don't Withhold trust, fake trust and then snoopervise, and give responsibility without authority.

Trust has both an emotional and rational side. Most literature I have read about team effectiveness center around the fact that trust is the most important element. In the military, we have metrics to measure just about everything, but trust is difficult to gauge. I do know this, however: the lack of trust can be very costly to an organization and lead to mission failure. Trust is fragile - as it should be. Every day, every Airman must strive to ensure their trustworthiness in both words and deeds or find themselves ineffective.