Commentary by Lt. Col. W. Scott Angerman
22nd Space Operations Squadron commander
“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships,” said Stephen Covey, author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.”
Everyone knows that trust is important. When you trust someone, you know they have your back like you have theirs. Trust is a necessary ingredient in developing and maintaining personal relationships, interacting professionally and building synergy and energy via interdependent organizations. In short, it allows us to work together effectively to do great things, much more than we’d be able to do by ourselves. But, what makes us trust other people or makes them trust us?
“Integrity First” is our first Air Force core value. According to Air Force Doctrine Document 1-1, “Integrity First is the basis of trust, and trust is the vital bond that unifies leaders with their followers and commanders with their units. Trust makes leaders effective, and integrity underpins trust.” Being a leader or a follower with integrity means being trustworthy. It means being true to yourself, your internal standards and your values. It means being honest at all times even when it’s not popular. It’s walking the walk and doing the right thing even when it is hard. When people know you have integrity, they know they can trust you.
Transparency is about open information flow. Barring professional “need to know”, Operational Security and protection of classified information, being transparent and open is the best policy and enhances trust. Leaders must share information with their people. Equally important is for information to flow freely up the chain. Two-way communications is essential to promote situational awareness, push vision and learn what others are thinking and feeling. Being open to feedback and taking the time to understand others is a way to show you care. It is important to be straightforward and honest, especially when the news is bad. Keep confidences, but don’t have any hidden agendas. Being transparent also means being genuine and authentic. You should share what you are thinking and feeling with those around you, even if it means being vulnerable. If people know they are trusted by you, you are more likely to be trusted.
Let’s be frank. If you aren’t good at what you do, people won’t trust you to do it. Being a professional at any level means being competent. It means you know what you’re doing. If you have problems, you fix them. If you need help, you seek it out. You and your quality work are reliable and can be counted on. You are consistent in keeping your commitments. When you are competent, people trust you to get the job done!
Trust is a two-way street. You should hold others accountable for their actions as they should for you — kind of like the golden rule. Part of this accountability comes from the adherence to standards. We trust those around us to conduct themselves professionally. Performance must be maintained to expected standards. A working environment that inspires trust is one free from discrimination, harassment or fear. Be fair in how you deal with people and make sure to manage expectations about decision-making. Show loyalty to your peers, subordinates and leadership if you want their trust and loyalty in return. If you have people that work for you, stand up for them. Protect those willing to take appropriate risks to innovate or try to improve. Ultimately, people want to work with and for those who they know have their best interests at heart — those they believe in and trust.
To recap, trust is critical to our personal relationships, in our organizations, and to our operations. Being trustworthy is fundamental whether you are dealing with peers, subordinates or supervisors. It’s the bedrock of organizational cooperation and is a powerful force multiplier. Across this base and in worldwide remote tracking stations, men and women of the 50th Space Wing trust each other and are trusted to work together toward mission success. I’m very mindful in the 22nd Space Operations Squadron that many missions trust Air Force Satellite Control Network antennas to get access to space when they need to. Every day, whether they know it or not, the world trusts in space effects provided by the Master of Space: intelligence, situational awareness, GPS, communications, weather data, early warning, among many others. Our contributions backstop our net-centric military, aid commerce, provide international stability, and inform our nation and our allies. They trust that our information is on time, on target, assured and accurate. We work hard together as a team to make sure that it is, all the time. And if we don’t always get the credit for the great things we do, it’s the results that matter. Trust me.