Talking about trust in our big conversation

The Defence Academy has hosted its latest Big Conversation event, about the Value of Trust, featuring talks and presentations by expert speakers and the thoughts and suggestions of staff from across Shrivenham station.

The event, held on Wednesday 9 November, was last held two years ago, just before the global COVID-19 pandemic halted such activities.

Around 200 people took part in the Cormorant Lecture Theatre, with a further 75 joining virtually. The event was opened by Air Marshal Ian Gale, Director General Joint Force Development and Defence Academy, who explained the importance that trust plays at a personal level, and also in the professional setting. He described how trust can help us all become part of high-performing teams and organisations.

RAF officer talking on stage(Director General Joint Force Development and Defence Academy, Air Marshal Ian Gale)

The event featured speakers from the main organisations at Shrivenham Station and included three speakers from external agencies. Highlights from the speaker sessions included:

Dr Ifti Zaidi shared new research around trust and leadership, which is not necessarily about rank or position, but a more personal matter. For trust to be plausible in a relationship, the parties involved must have attitudes that permit trust in one another.

Lieutenant Colonel Felicity Bryson made the powerful point that “trust is discretionary” and not ordered.

Lynne Peet developed this theme in her question “Why should we trust people”, highlighting the importance of how we present ourselves to others and how we respond to build trusting relationships.

Charlotte Porter used the lens of teamworking to show how trust is essential if we want to build high-performing teams.

Shimul Haider concluded an engaging morning session with excellent “lived experiences” across her military and civilian worlds, setting out her own lessons on trust.

A civilian woman talking on stage.(Shimul Haider)

During the buffet lunch attendees networked to continue the conversation and worked with five facilitated ‘opinion boards’, at which they shared their views on trust and how this could be developed across the wider Defence Academy.

An RAF officer taking points from attendees to write on flip charts.

Speakers in the afternoon session were equally inspiring.

Dr Kate Utting’s challenge of how trust can be won and lost illustrated the fragility of this valuable asset.

Jenny Segal’s perspective and work on trust in organisations, how it can improve working cultures was thought provoking. Her key takeaway of trust being the bedrock of great culture and great managers was a valuable insight.

Dr Andy Palmer gave a global perspective, sharing an invaluable insight in how trust works a scale and reach in many cultures across the world with a special reference to Japan.

A group of individuals seated on chairs on stage for a Q&A session.(Q and A Panel session: Dr  Ifti Zaidi,  Dr Andy Palmer,  Jenny Segal, Shimul Haider and Dr Kate Utting)

Closing the event, Major General Andrew Roe, Chief Executive and Commandant Defence Academy, set out his aspirations for the future in this area, noting that there is a big, but exciting, challenge ahead. He added that he was keen the Defence Academy approached future activities in the diversity, inclusivity and wellbeing areas in an integrated and logical manner.

The Commandant’s aspiration is to implement meaningful changes over the coming months that will make a tangible difference to the working environment across the Defence Academy community. He thanked all participants, speakers, attendees and the project staff for delivering the event.

Speaking after the event, attendee Major Jeremy Redford, Chief of Staff of the Defence Leadership and Business Group, said:

“I was so grateful to have the opportunity to listen to some wonderful presentations from a fantastic panel of speakers.

“My main take-aways were that first, it takes time to develop trust, like any human and social relationship, and it is our responsibility to create that time to develop those relationships.

“Secondly, the key means to build and maintain trust have the characteristics that I would count as being a decent human being in society: empathy, listening, fairness, understanding, good communication, authenticity, keeping promises.

“And thirdly, if in doubt, be kind, remembering that everyone is on a journey.”