VanAllen Insights

Trust in the Workplace Part 1: The Secret Sauce

3 min

Lately it feels as if the giant snow globe of society was picked up, shaken hard, then set on the table upside-down.   If you speak to any ten individuals, you will hear significant differences in political, religious, social, and economic values.  Analyzing these conversations may have you wondering…

What has happened?  What has changed… it wasn’t ALWAYS like this?

I have concluded that there is one significant common factor, the absence of trust.  We tend to only trust politicians and social or religious leaders that reflect our values.  We have lost the ability to listen and extend empathy.

I spent some time reviewing nearly 100 projects that I have been involved with over the last two years.  The absence or erosion of trust was the core issue in 69% of them. 

  • The executive to whom Aviation reports not trusting the Aviation Leader
  • The Aviation Leader not trusting the executive to whom they report
  • The Aviation Leader not trusting his team
  • Team members not trusting each other
  • Human Resource professionals not trusting information provided by the Aviation Leader
  • Aviation Leaders not trusting Aviation industry groups (NBAA, IBAC, etc.)
  • FAA not trusting Aviation Professionals

If we could figure out within our own sphere of influence how to increase trust by only 50%, imagine the efficiency we could create.   Less time generating reports, more efficient audits, and quicker project approvals.   Unfortunately, we cannot increase trust by just putting it as an action item on a daily task list; there are specific behaviors that are required.

Understanding Values

Understanding the values of others is different than agreeing on them.   My wife and I have a radically different value of time.   I need to be everywhere early; prepared and ready to engage in the task at hand.   My wife, however, aims to squeeze every last activity into “pre-departure” so that often she is arriving just in time (sometimes ‘just after time’). In the workplace, we expend mountains of energy attempting to change someone else’s values rather than working toward a collaborative integration.  Conflict in values can exist between a management company and an owner because one side is operating for a profit while the other side is interested in minimum expense. 

Within an internal Aviation team, we observe competing values such as maintenance leaders balancing the unpredictability of the flight schedule for technicians that prefer a steady schedule (particularly when they are hourly employees).   When I walk into a situation where I suspect value conflict, I ask one simple question; “What is your bottom line?”   This question must be addressed to understand the value in play.   This is usually where individuals and teams hit the iceberg and revert to attempting to change others’ values to match their own.  If I understand your values, it is probable that I will see a direct link between your actions and your values.   Though I may not agree with them, I can trust your actions to be consistent and predictable.

Aligned Goals

Aligned goals are not the same as aligned values.   If Joe Biden and Donald Trump were stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of ocean, I am confident they would have the aligned goal of survival without having many shared values.   While an Aviation team, particularly its leader, can have differing individual values, it is critical to have goals aligned with corporate leadership.    This is the fundamental issue in most of my projects.  Reporting executives are not used to having business unit leaders whose team goals are not aligned with larger corporate goals.  Helping Aviation leaders broaden their business perspective to develop a non-Aviation specific perspective is the first step in goal alignment, which leads to trust.   If “we” have the same goal, I will trust you more than if we are headed in different directions.   When it is difficult to determine if the goals are aligned, I suggest asking the question; “Does it feel like we are competing or collaborating?”   Feelings of competition usually accompany disconnected goals and lack of trust.


If I told you that I could not afford to take you to dinner, you may wonder if that was accurate.   If I gave you my bank statement and then told you I couldn’t afford to take you to dinner, you would more readily believe me; even if you didn’t actually check my account balance.   Aviation teams are hesitant to let corporate outsiders peer behind their curtain; they enjoy a mystic similar to the medical profession.   In the same way doctors resist managed care, Aviation teams resist non-Aviation professionals “meddling” in their world.  Consequently, executives tend to discredit the importance of sharing their business strategy with the Aviation team.  An increase in transparency from both sides will increase trust.

We’ve discussed key behaviors that will help to build trust… but how do you know if you have a trust issue within your team?  I would offer a diagnostic “Trust Test” to determine where your team falls within our scale.

The absence or erosion of trust was the core issue in 69% of my projects over the last two years. The snow globe of society will remain shaken for the foreseeable future, which will only increase that statistic. It is imperative to know that your team can count on each other.

Take the TRUST TEST here.