Building Trust in Self and Others

- September 2020 -

Written By: Bill Pierce

The basis for all communication and relationships is Trust. If you review some of your past successes and failures at work or at home you will probably identify trust as one of the key elements of the success or failure of a project, incident or relationship. I have been a member of many review teams on workplace issues, incidents small and large and project teams that wanted an after action review. In almost every instance the top two issues/strengths were communications and trust.

An example is the NPS response to Hurricane Andrew in the South Florida Parks. Rick Gales team was sent by WASO to manage the initial recovery of the South Florida Parks from this powerful storm. I was Operations, Bill Gabbert was Planning, Steve Holder was Logistics and Marcia Blaszak was Finance. We had trained and worked together for a number of years and had built trust in each other and developed formal and informal avenues of communication along the way. We agreed that our top objective was to locate and provide for the basic emergency needs of the employees and their families. It was my job as Operations to implement the tactics to accomplish this and I soon realized it was going to take trained people and supplies in search and rescue, building shelters, providing food, water and electricity, recording and notifying families and coworkers, security and many other basic needs. As I was developing the tactics to accomplish this Steve Holder popped in and told me he had already placed orders for generators, medical supplies, roofing materials, etc. that he knew I would need. This anticipation on his part saved me hours of time and helped me decide what organization and tactics would work best. Our trust in each other had Steve already ordering what he knew I would need and helping me decide how best to accomplish the objective.

Building Trust in Self (first step to success) and Others:
  1. Accept self and others without judgement and trust self and others. This does not mean that you blindly make decisions but that you start with the basic premise that you trust yourself and others that you respect to jointly solve concerns and issues that arise at your work site or at home.
  2. Hold self and others accountable for your actions and results. Just like the Shenandoah paramedics run reviews you must conduct honest, thorough and compassionate reviews so that you can improve and succeed over time.
  3. Maintain your confidence and follow through on your commitments. Keeping a positive attitude or “Leaning Forward” as the USCG likes to say is important as you navigate your way in building trust.
  4. Directly address individuals with whom there is a conflict. There will be conflicts along the way and you will need to tackle them quickly to solve them. As a sidebar, if you get tired of the gossip around your worksite and want to deal with it the next time someone complains about someone else’s behavior try taking the complainer to the complainant and moderate a discussion between the two of them.
  5. Work to solve problems by involving others in the process. The old adage of the chicken and the pig being involved in your breakfast is true (the chicken is involved but the pig is committed). You will get commitment from others by involving them in the issue process as early as possible.
  6. Listen and value input from others, especially ones with different views. Building trust and finding solutions is about listening and learning from the diversity at your worksite.
  7. Request help and admit mistakes without defensiveness. We all make mistakes and the sooner we can recognize them and find a way to correct them the more successful we will be.
  8. Share ALL information with sensitivity and tact. Our motto at Redwoods as we were solving our funding and vacancy problem was “when in doubt send it out” so that everyone was kept informed as soon as possible. But that does not mean that you do not think through your communications before sending them out. You need to be sensitive to others and how they will perceive the information and anticipate their reactions so that you can communicate better to all. We always ran a draft by as many as possible before finalizing it.

Building trust in yourself and others is a journey you will be on throughout your life. It’s up to you to determine how you want to deal with it but just like our discussion of dealing with change if you try to ignore it you will do so at your peril. Please let me know your thoughts on this and past articles.

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