Trust. Only a five letter word, yet it carries so much weight.
When we leave home in our own vehicle for work or travel, we automatically are trusting of the other drivers on the highway. On a two-lane road we trust that the driver coming towards us will stay in his lane. On a larger highway or interstate, we trust that the other drivers that we pass or the ones passing us, will stay in their lane and not pull into our lane. Of course in both instances it certainly is not blind trust. We watch the other guy for signs that he can’t be trusted. But for the most part, other drivers get our OK.
When we take our vehicle in for servicing, we trust that when they bring our vehicle back everything they say they did, they actually did. Sure, I check under the hood just to be sure, not that I know what I’m looking for. But it makes me feel good. For the most part, I trust the guy to do his job.
Yes, we place our trust in strangers’ every day, expecting that others will do what we expect them to, just as we are doing what they expect.
Why then is it so hard for many leaders to trust those that work for us. People that we know far better than the driver that is going the other way, someone we likely will never see again. A division chief told me he trusted those that worked for him. In the next sentence he explained how he had GPS devices installed in all of his divisions’ cars. Trust? It just went out the window. Of course any department head will tell you that these devices help to track mileage and shortest routes, all in the name of saving money. Now don’t laugh. This is what leaders are supposed to tell their personnel to get their buy in. I have found that in many cases, those that work for us know a lot more than we do. They can read too, and reason, and understand and they know when someone doesn’t trust them, just as we do.
So do you as a leader have the trust of your subordinates? It can only happen if you really trust them. How can you tell? I find that when personnel that work for me trust me, either as a Company officer or as a Fire Chief, they will open up to me, share family stories, come to me with problems, share ideas about a better department, and really act like you’re not just a boss, but a friend too.
Trust encompasses other things such as honesty and integrity. Be honest with your personnel, all of them. Show others that you have the integrity that your rank demands.
Be a leader of value, practice what you preach, never make promises you know you can’t keep, and whatever you do, don’t say one thing and do another.
Stay Safe – Everyone Goes Home.
William Jolley has 37 years of experience in the fire service with 20 of those years in a management position. William was the Fire Chief of Haines City, Florida, a city of Approximately 20,000. Prior to that William was the Assistant Chief of Saint Petersburg, Florida, where he worked for 35 years.