Leadership Essentials: Trustworthy Communication in Your Aviation Organization

Author By Steve Brechter

Years ago, a highly experienced corporate communicator once asked me, “Steve, do you know the First Rule of Communication?” I replied that I did not.

“The First Rule of Communication,” he told me, “is once you think you have done all you can . . . start over.”

Truer words were never spoken, and I’ve remembered that advice ever since.

One of the hallmarks of a great leader is the ability to motivate others toward the achievement of the organization’s goals and objectives.

Doing that starts and ends with trustworthy communication.And to be effective, it often takes significant repetition of the message.

The ability to communicate in a trustworthy manner is one of the most important competencies of a leader. That’s why, as a follow-up post to a companion blog, “6 Ways to Think and Act like a Leader,” we’re taking a close look at this essential leadership trait.

5 Ways to Effect Trustworthy Communication

How do you ensure that you are communicating in a trustworthy manner? Here are five proven ways to reach your audience with credibility and impact, each and every time.

1. Speak with Integrity

Integrity is the most important quality you have. But once it’s compromised, it’s difficult to regain. So, when you communicate, always be truthful. Give people no reason to doubt you. The most difficult conversations are always easier when the person on the receiving end trusts you and knows that you are telling them the truth.

In his groundbreaking book, “The Four Agreements,” author Don Miguel Ruiz outlines the four most powerful touchstones by which to live a fulfilling life. He states that the first and most important one is to, “be impeccable with your word.” Abide by this simple rule and relationships built upon trust will always result.


2. Speak with Passion

Nothing is more convincing than to “speak from the heart.” When you speak with conviction, trustworthy communication always results.

Speak like you truly believe in what you’re saying. Speak with excitement in your voice. This doesn’t mean you should wave your arms wildly and raise your voice. Rather, demonstrate to the audience in subtle ways that you mean what you’re saying.

Always try and reach others through clear,compelling and passionate dialogue. Lean in to the conversation. Be excited about what you’re saying. Be engaging in all your interactions. The key is to display genuineness and authenticity.

In doing so, you won’t simply be talking to those with whom you are speaking, you’ll be motivating them.


3. Speak in Understandable Terms

To create the most impact, you need to convey your messages clearly and succinctly. If you’re not speaking in a manner that your audience will understand, you’ll never get through to them.

You must adapt your communication style, content and medium to suit the situation and audience. For instance, think about explaining why the on-board Internet is so slow to the executives in your company who are authorized to use the corporate aircraft.

Should you be speaking strictly in technical terms of “megabits per second”? By itself, that’s probably not the best way to get the message across. Instead, help them to visualize your message by using the analogy of a section of PVC pipe (bandwidth) and the imagery of balloons (data) trying to get through the pipe. To make it through simultaneously (multiple users) the balloons have to stretch out linearly (increasing the response time) to make it to the aircraft.

There are some great videos on YouTube showing this. Check them out.


4. Speak Second, Listen First

This may at first sound counter intuitive, but an essential element of trustworthy communication is to be an effective listener. If you merely “phone in” your communication, your message will never get through and you won’t be trusted.

In many instances, we don’t listen to the points that a person is making to us in a conversation. Instead, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next. The result is a response that’s shallow and does not reflect an understanding of what the person was trying to tell us.

When you are engaged in one-on-one dialogue,be “in the moment.” Don’t worry about your response. It’ll come from the heart.And if it does not, it was probably not worth saying anyway.


5. Speak with Stories

Have you ever thought that someone was a good communicator because they gave a good PowerPoint presentation? Nope,me neither.

If someone hooked me in a personal conversation or even in a speech as a member of a large audience, it was because they made their point through storytelling. People remember things through stories.

I once worked as chief of staff for the president of Pratt & Whitney, the aircraft engine manufacturer. Truthfulness and honesty were touchstones of his. To illustrate the power of honesty, I often use one particularly poignant experience that occurred while I worked for him.

A cleaning service employee had made an appointment to see him. Once in his office, the employee handed her weekly paycheck back to him because she felt guilty that she had sloughed-off and not put in a fair week’s work. Without hesitation, he asked her to take the check back and to promise him that she would work extra hard the next week and to tell all her co-workers to do the same.

I witnessed this exchange so I know the story is true. And I never forgot the underlying message of being honest.


The Challenge

Are you having difficulty building relationships of trust with the people in your flight department? Trustworthy communication is not merely a “means to an end.” It’s actually an end in itself. If you are disingenuous, people will know it right away.

This week, invest the time and use one or more of the techniques above to strengthen the bond of trust with your peers and direct reports.

You’ll be amazed at the results.