In my leadership and ethics workshops, I stress the need to establish and maintain trusting relationships. If associates know that they are truly trusted by their bosses, they are likely to find their work fulfilling.
In addition, if the associates respect and trust their bosses and the higher-level executives, the performance of the organization is likely to be at a high standard. Trust in all directions leads to good chemistry that leads to a virtuous circle, which leads to outstanding results.
LET ME GIVE some specific examples of how trust can really pay off.
• When I was the Air Force planner in the Pentagon, I had 250 outstanding officers, noncommissioned officers and Department of Defense civilians working for me. All had sparkling records and high potential. Most of these professionals served as “action officers.” Their job was to work through a very complex bureaucracy in order to get things done.
Early each morning, I faced an “in box” that contained about 30 “decision packages.” Each package contained a cover letter, an executive summary, a coordination sheet, a decision paper and 20 to 40 pages of backup material. My job was to give my approval on the suggested decision. I would sign the cover letter so the package could go up the chain of command to the two top Air Force leaders – the secretary and the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force.
As I examined each package, the action officer would be in my office to answer any questions or concerns I had. Since I knew each action officer well, I often would sign the cover letter without reading any of the backup pages.
The unspoken message that was sent and received was important. The action officer was trusted. The young officer would leave my office knowing that he or she had just made Air Force policy. These officers could tell their friends and family that they personally made something important happen in America’s most complex bureaucracy.
• Another example comes from my experiences as a combat fighter pilot. I was assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron (the “Triple Nickel”) engaged in combat over North Vietnam and Laos. Soon after I arrived at Udorn Air Base in northeast Thailand, I climbed into the front seat of an F-4 aircraft. With an instructor pilot in the back seat, I flew my first combat mission.
AFTER THAT ONE flight, I was authorized to fly combat missions without further supervision. Within a month I was designated as a mission commander. I could lead large numbers of fighters on combat missions. My commanders trusted me – and I was very serious about validating their trust.
Here in Augusta in my work with a number of good causes, I find trust is very important. On many occasions I reach out to folks in Augusta and beyond to ask for financial support. I am blessed that so many trust me. They know that I would not be asking for help if I didn’t believe in the enterprise, make a financial contribution myself and help ensure that the money they contribute will be well-spent.
It is said that people don’t give to causes, they give to people they trust and respect. There is much truth to this.
During the next two months I am helping to raise funds for the Augusta Warrior Project. To remind, the AWP is a local organization. It no longer receives support from Wounded Warrior Project or the American Warrior Partnership. Every dollar given to the AWP stays in the local area. Under the leadership of board president Deke Copenhaver and the president and CEO, Kim Elle, the AWP has become the gold standard as far as community assistance for veterans in America. The Augusta Warrior Project needs your support.
To shift gears, I would like to invite everyone to attend a presentation I will be making this Thursday on Augusta’s famous psychiatrist, Hervey Cleckley. A graduate of the Academy of Richmond County, the University of Georgia and Oxford University in England, Dr. Cleckley was a 1929 graduate and longtime faculty member of the Medical College of Georgia. My research has uncovered many fascinating stories of Dr. Cleckley’s remarkable life.
TO BE HELD 5:30 p.m. Sept. 29 at the J. Harold Harrison, M.D., Education Commons (1301 R.A. Dent Parkway), my presentation of 30 minutes will be followed by a discussion period. Attendance is free and there will be ample parking in front of the building. There will be lots of giveaways, including a first edition of Dr. Cleckley’s best-selling book The Three Faces of Eve, as well as some of my books and DVDs on Cleckley’s brother-in-law, Marine Lt. Col. Jimmie Dyess.
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves of the boards of the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His website is genpsmith.com.)