Check your ego and let trust flow

Tell the truth in every situation, and you’ll build a culture of trust among physicians, nurses, administration and patients.

By By Brian Jones | Fall 2010 | Remarks


As a business consultant, speaker and trainer to hospitals, physician practices and others, I have been hearing a lot about trust recently.

Some might dismiss trust as a “touchy-feely” concept, but I have spoken to many hospital CEOs, CMOs and physician practice leaders who trace many of their challenges to a lack of trust.

This lack of trust can be between management and staff, between physicians and nurses, between physicians themselves, and even between members of management.

And we are not doing a very good job of hiding our lack of trust from our work forces and colleagues.

In fact, in one recent study by the American Nurses Association (ANA), about half of nurses say that they would not be comfortable having a loved one receive care where they work.

The study concludes that these nurses have lost trust in their employer—so much so that they wouldn’t want their child or parent to be cared for in their facilities. There’s a business case to be made for rebuilding this kind of trust, because word-of-mouth marketing, especially from employees, is the most valuable type of marketing for a healthcare facility.

Before we go any further, let’s define what trust means. Trust is the ability to be vulnerable and fully present and real in all interactions.

Trust is usually better defined by what it is not: politics, meetings after the meeting, defensiveness, and ego-driven decision-making. My experience in health care tells me we have a ways to go when it comes to driving these destructive traits out of our hospitals, practices and offices.

What can be done to retain or restore trust in a healthcare workplace? In our book, Ordinary Greatness, my co-author Pam Bilbrey and I examined this question, and here is what we found.

Tell the truth

Sounds simple, but most employees we interviewed as we researched Ordinary Greatness who had lost trust in their boss could tell some story about a time they felt they were lied to, spun, or were told less than the unvarnished truth.

The boss often has a different perspective when confronted about this disconnect, and blames “the script HR gave me,” the employee’s unrealistic expectations, or the economy.

Physicians who are not aware of some of their blind

spots will not be likely to inspire trust.

But is there ever a reason not to tell the whole truth? Our commitment to protect confidentialities aside, be sure you are telling the truth in every situation.

A friend of ours asks his young children every night when he tucks them in, “Did Daddy tell the truth to you today?” We asked him why he did this. He said, “Because I want to avoid situations where my kids think I lied to them when in reality we just had a misunderstanding. For example, if my kids ask me if I could take them to the park, I might say yes, thinking I will do it this weekend, when they were thinking of today. I want to catch that stuff as it happens.”


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