Trust is one of the key principles of resilience and stress control. What makes a person trustworthy and how can you build trust within your own relationships and teams? Building trust takes time and commitment and there are no shortcuts. The new year is a great opportunity to make building trust one of your resolutions. The rewards, both personally and professionally, are immense.
Why is Trust so Important and How Do You Build It?
Trust plays a critical role in withstanding hardships and extends beyond individual relationships. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research reported living in a high-trust environment makes people more resilient to adversity. The authors of the paper examined data from three large international surveys, and determined even negative situations like ill-health or unemployment were much less damaging to those living in trustworthy environments. Conversely, a loss of trust can erode stress control efforts and increase risk of psychological difficulties. Trust is built through experience and includes certain expectations. Keep these three simple steps in mind to build and maintain trust when communicating with your shipmates. Strong relationships are imperative to our ability to navigate stress.
- Act with integrity. It may seem simple, but showing integrity is the cornerstone of trust. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Honor your commitments, and if you aren’t able to complete something you said you would do, let your team know as soon as possible.
- Listen with respect and empathy. If you want to be trusted, those around you must feel comfortable sharing their perspectives. Communication can’t thrive in an environment of judgement and criticism. Use active listening to show you understand and can relate.
- Trust others. To be trustworthy, you have to be willing to trust those around you. Trust is never a one-way street, and this goes double for those in leadership positions. Micro-managers aren’t willing to trust, and their teams reciprocate that energy.
Trust Tips for Leaders
Developing trust is critical for people in supervisory and leadership positions. Along with the general tips for building trust, some specific characteristics are helpful to develop the relationship between superiors and subordinates. On the Military Leader website, Phillip Gift, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate and helicopter pilot, describes the components as “the three C’s.”
- Competence. A leader doesn’t have to be the best at the task, but he or she does need to be competent. Being competent means being mentally, physically and emotionally ready to accomplish duties. If others are always having to correct the leader’s work, or to remind the leader of tasks, then there will be a lack of trust. Stay on top of your game in your field and encourage others to do the same.
- Caring. There’s an old saying, “People don’t care how much you know; they want to know how much you care.” This is especially true of leaders and supervisors. Gift cites three levels of caring: Caring for yourself, caring for the organization and caring for others. A leader must authentically care about personal development, as well as about the mission and the team. Take time to learn about yourself and those around you.
- Open communication fosters trust. People must be able to speak freely but with respect for all parties to communicate effectively. A good way to develop communication is to make time to have one-on-one conversations in a relaxed but professional manner.
These tips can be particularly helpful for trust-building with Millennial and Gen Z generations (people born from the early 1980’s to late 1990’s), who make up a big portion of most Navy workplaces. For people in these generations, trust is crucial, valuable and hard to earn. Millennials and those from Gen Z consistently rank as less trusting in general when compared to other generations. In order to bridge the gap, remember that age and experience aren’t automatic keys to authority, but competence, mentorship, authenticity and accountability can be. It’s also important to check in often. Your Sailors may not ask for feedback, but many expect frequent input on their work and their progress. Use texts or other instant communication channels as appropriate and make yourself available for interaction.
Trust is just one of the principles of resilience that can lead to better well-being for you and your teams. For more information on the principles of resilience and stress control, like U.S. Navy Operational Stress Control on Facebook or follow @NavStress on Twitter. For additional resources, messages and materials, download the FY-19 1 Small ACT Toolkit.