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High Trust Leadership

This is the fourth article in a four-part series highlighting the fundamental importance of trust in effective leadership and teamwork.

George Dom   |   12th October 2014
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George Dom George Dom

Captain George Dom, USN(Ret) is president and founder of NFS Advisors, an aviation consultancy...
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In this final installment, we’ll focus on communication – the oil of the high-trust engine - and conclude with some final thoughts on why trust matters.

COMMUNICATION – Are you understood?

The biggest problem with communication for leaders is the presumption it has occurred. Too many managers aspiring to be leaders think they have successfully communicated their thoughts, ideas, priorities and decisions by simply sending an e-mail, writing a letter, calling everyone together for an announcement, having a conversation, sending a text, or leaving a voicemail. One and done – “they got the message.” Most likely they didn’t…

In aviation, we have protocols to enhance communication. The FAA publishes terminology that must be used verbatim on the radios by aircrew and controllers with specific responses to acknowledge receipt of the message and avoid misunderstanding. Similar communication strategies are followed in the cockpit to achieve effective crew coordination.

During our Blue Angel post-flight debriefs, we spent considerable time dissecting and analyzing our communications. We continually asked ourselves how we could communicate more clearly, concisely and directly:

• Clear: Were our transmissions understandable? Was there any static and noise interference? Did the words we used convey our intended meaning?

• Concise: Were we able to communicate efficiently and avoid long transmissions that blocked the frequency?

• Direct: Did the person we were speaking to know the information was for him?
These three characteristics for effective communication – and a method for confirming receipt of the message - apply just as much on the ground as in the air. They also apply to written communication. Consider the effect if messages are not clear, concise or direct.

• Lack of clarity: Unfamiliar words, references, and acronyms, and/or mumbling or distracting delivery are communication killers. If the listener doesn’t understand the transmission, who is at fault? The speaker or writer must communicate in terms the listener can digest.

• Verbose and tedious: Speakers and writers who are repetitive, redundant and lack organization in their communication cause listeners and readers to tune them out. Being concise requires effort. As Blaise Pascal famously said, “I would have written a shorter letter but I didn’t have time”.

• Unfocused: If the intended receivers don’t know the message is for them, they won’t pay attention. This is often the problem when leaders face a difficult conversation, must deliver bad news, or are in a hurry. They shotgun the message and unrealistically expect the blast to find its target with the precision of a sniper’s bullet.

Training tip: Ask a teammate and your boss, “In what ways can I communicate with you better? Are my communications clear? Are they concise? Are they direct?”

Non-verbal communication

Research tells us only 7% of the messages we receive result from the verbal content of the transmission. Most (93%) of what is communicated is based on non-verbal voice inflection, context, gestures, facial expressions, mannerisms, etc.

Effective communicators pay as much attention to how they communicate as they do to content.

Remember, Business Aviation in general - and your flight department in particular - are in the trust business. Building and sustaining a high level of trust requires continual effort and attention to investing in relationships at all levels. Trust can’t be expected, demanded, bought or coerced. Trust is a gift—indeed a reward—that must be earned every day. The return on investment is high—autonomy, productivity, collaboration, innovation, camaraderie and resilience. In order to be trusted, you and your team must be viewed as trustworthy based on five simple questions…

• Character – “Do I walk my talk?”

• Commitment – “Can I be counted on during good times and bad?”

• Competence – “Am I skilled and relevant?”

• Connection – “Do they believe I understand them?”

• Communication – “Do they understand me?”

Read more about: Leadership | Teamwork

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