ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

August 1998 / Special Feature : An Issue Of Trust

An Issue Of Trust

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash

All You Ever Really Need To Know About Trust You Learned In Kindergarten

Furnishing Trust And Empowerment

Eight Organizational Strategies That Build Trust

Trust In Whom

by Peter Block
Trust Columns
John Schuster

Cliff Bolster
Joel Henning
Dan Oestreich
Felicia Seaton-Williams
Trust Interviews
Trapeze Artist
Emergency Room Physician

Air Traffic Controller
Police Officer
Park Ranger


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Book Review


Clear For Landing
An Air Traffic Controller's Takeoff on Trust

Terry Shell has spent years with his head in the clouds. A veteran air traffic controller, Shell’s resume includes years as an air traffic controller for the military and the Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport (ranked #2 in the world for total passenger count). Shell currently works for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and serves as a liaison for developing new technology to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.

What is your definition of trust?
My idea of trust, in general, is when you can share anything with somebody about your life and not worry about being misinterpreted or misunderstood—like a relationship with a family member.

How does trust apply to your profession?
Trust is especially important in air traffic control where you rely on the people next to you day in and day out. It’s an integral part of the team structure that exists in air traffic control. The trust between air traffic controllers and pilots is a different kind of trust, more of a respect and a professional trust. It’s more of an understanding of what to expect from certain pilots and airlines. As you grow with years of experience, you learn how to make adjustments, you learn to expect certain things.

Without trust, describe the consequences/situations you would face?
In air traffic control, for example, you’ve got your feeder and final controller. The feeder sets up the initial pattern utilizing the minimum spacing aloud, setting altitude and speed. The final controller has to rely on the feeder to bring the planes in right. If I trust the feeder I wouldn’t have to worry about scrambling to fix things. As a final controller my job will go easier and smoother if everything is lined up. Without this trust, you’d always be watching the person next to you to see if they’re doing their job properly.

How do you build trust?
Trust builds from the team concept. You have to trust the person next to you. Trust is built over years of working with people day in and day out. You’re ego can’t be too big. In our job, and I was like this when I was younger, people are cocky. It’s just part of the personality of being an air traffic controller – there’s a lot of lives depending on you. To build trust you have to be able to talk to people, to accept criticism.

Can you repair trust? If so, how?
Everything is repairable. When trust gets broken though, it takes time to build it up. You’ve got to be accountable for your actions and recognize that you may be the weak link in the team. You’ve got to be able to solicit advice and to thank people when they help you out.

August '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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