Trust is an operational accelerant

  • Published
  • By Col. Robert Hanovich
  • 22nd Operations Group commander
In his book, “The Speed of Trust,” Stephen M. R. Covey talks about trust as one part credibility and one part capability. To me, credibility is doing what you say you will do, and capability is having the necessary skills to do what you say you will do.

I view trust as an operational accelerant that, at its best, enables unparalleled agility, flexibility and adaptability.

This concept was highlighted to me as young lieutenant, when I was selected to organize a dignified closing ceremony for the 16th Airlift Squadron, which marked the end of the C-141 Starlifter era at Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina.

During my first and only meeting with the wing commander regarding this event, he turned to my squadron commander, Lt. Col. J.J. Wendling, and asked if I was the right rank and right person for this job -- an understandable question given the significance this event held for the 437th Air Mobility Wing. Calmly, Wending stated, “Without a doubt, Lt. Hanovich is the right person.”

After that, I would have moved mountains rather than breach the trust my squadron commander had placed in me.

On the other hand, if a commander does not trust his team, this distrust manifests itself in a variety of ways. It includes aggressive behavior, establishing dominance, micromanaging, appearance over substance, and the fear that subordinates are out to get the commander and make him look bad. In this environment, subordinates do not share information, raise concerns or highlight issues for fear of reprisal. There is no incentive to take risk, to innovate, or to collectively move the team into a better position since departures from the status quo are likely to be punished. While individually the team members may work together at the edges to improve things, the lack of organizational trust creates bottlenecks, stifles innovation and prevents the team from being agile, flexible or adaptable.

As I end, I want you to take a few moments and reflect on the following questions.

How is the trust in your organization? Are you credible? Are you capable? What are you doing to grow and develop your capabilities as an individual, as a crew, as an office team, as a squadron, as a group?

What are you doing to cultivate and build trust as an operational accelerant?