I recently read an interesting book called the Speed of Trust that outlines the impact of trust in organizations. Coveting trust as the single greatest asset any company can have, the author, Stephen Covey, argues that without trust an organization cannot operate at optimal speed and will therefore lose efficiencies and increase costs. Think about it — trust is critical to almost any relationship we have: in the office or at home, with our doctor or our elected officials. Naturally, certain relationships require more trust than others, however, the absence of trust is disabling. I’m sure most of us have experienced how difficult it can be to lose the trust of someone else. Decisions become fraught with suspicion, simple communication turns complicated and everything slows down. This made me wonder how trust plays a part for military veterans that are taking off the uniform and assimilating into civilian life.
Having conducted thousands of informational calls with veterans and assisted them with various aspects of their transition, I’ve come to realize that building trust is a critical factor for them. Trust acts like glue, and just like in the military, relationships that lack trust can severely hamper your chances of success. I’ve found that veterans are not only perceived as being highly trustworthy, but they are usually very trusting of others as well. Here are a few tips for veterans on how to show (and not just say) to others that you value trust and, in the process, build trust with key stakeholders.
Continuous improvement is not just a buzzword. If an organization is going to stay competitive in today’s environment, constant self-evaluation, market adaptation, and retooling talent are common practices. Resultantly, companies look for employees that take serious their commitment to self-improvement. The military’s commitment to providing its service members with continuous training and education allows veterans the opportunity to invest in getting better. And when you can display to others that you care about learning and growing professionally, you are signaling to them that you acknowledge the challenges of a rapidly changing environment. Taking an online course, working on a technical certification and getting involved with a mentorship program are all ways to actively get better. This shows that you care and that you are aligned with the dynamics that drive the market. Ultimately, it will help build high trust relationships with important stakeholders (and gatekeepers).
Many would agree that the unique experience and, at times, brutal reality that many veterans have endured during their military service makes them easier to trust. One piece of advice I find myself repeatedly giving to veterans is to not rest on your laurels. As someone transitioning away from one ecosystem and into another, the reality is that there will most likely be a lot of gaps in knowledge and experience. People who don’t fully understand the mission and lifestyle of the military may not be able to fully understand where you are coming from. Don’t shy away from this. When developing relationships, it’s important to hit these gaps head-on. Turn areas of concern into trust-building mechanisms. Addressing the elephant in the room signals to others that you 1) are genuine and have the courage to tackle the “undiscussable”, and 2) you are comfortable opening up and see value in receiving input from others to solve problems. When I speak with veterans that are completely honest about their weaknesses and challenges, my stance immediately shifts toward “this person could really use my help” and “they clearly care about my input”. Being able to humbly and appropriately speak to past failures, current deficiencies and future concerns and fears can build immediate trust with others.
When I met my current business partner – who has hired many veterans over his 35-year career as a high- tech executive – I asked him why he felt military veterans made great employees. Now, that’s a tricky question to answer, especially when the question is coming from a veteran and directed toward someone who isn’t. What surprised (and impressed) me most was the simplicity and confidence in his answer: “veterans do what they say they are going to do”. He followed up with a number of other qualities, but it was clear his primary message was that he felt veterans are very good at keeping their commitment.
Several studies have shown that keeping promises is the number one contributing factor in creating an ethical culture. Not surprisingly, breaking promises is the leading contributor to distrust in an organization. If you say you are going to forward your resume to someone by close of business, do it. If you promise to connect a fellow veteran with a professional connection you have, do it. Being a committed person means you can be trusted. Whether you are job hunting, networking or it’s your first day on the job, successful people find a value-added reason to make a commitment – and then keep it.
Justin Ossola is the co-founder of Tech Qualled, a boutique recruiting company dedicated to training and preparing transitioning veterans for success in the high tech space. He is a 13-year Navy veteran, U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard graduate and a former Oracle sales consultant.