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


Physicians in a busy practice or working closely with staff in a hospital setting have many opportunities to build trust through truth-telling. Our hospitals will be more productive and culturally healthier if physicians feel they can tell the truth to one another and to administration. If a physician feels that the current culture of the practice or the hospital does not support truth-telling, fixing this is job one.

Stay visible

Schedule time each day to go around and visit staff where they work, and work alongside them.

In many of the hospitals mentioned in the ANA study, it is a safe guess that administrators and decision-makers have hidden in their offices and made staffing and equipment decisions based on spreadsheets, not on what they saw in the workplace with their own eyes. That causes trust on the front lines to erode.

Often, physicians develop a reputation in a hospital for being unapproachable. This is prevented and cured by constant visibility—not just showing up to criticize when something has gone wrong. Here are the benefits to you of getting out and rounding and being visible today:

  • You will identify and recognize ordinary greatness occurring during the course of the workday.
  • You will let staff know that you care about the work that is being done and appreciate its importance in achieving organizational goals.
  • You will encourage staff to make suggestions and offer opinions to improve the organization, creating a stronger sense of ownership.
  • You will provide the context for identifying opportunities for improvement and understanding the dynamics of decision choices.
  • You will recognize obstacles or barriers that need to be removed to achieve better outcomes.

Be vulnerable about your own blinders

Physicians who are not aware of some of their blind spots will not be likely to inspire trust. In our research for Ordinary Greatness, we identified five blinders that keep leaders from spotting greatness in those they lead and building trusting relationships.

These are:
1. Compartmentalization: The belief that everyone and everything can be put in its own box.
2. Preconceived notions: Making premature cognitive commitments without getting the whole story.
3. Personal bias: Your own experiences and judgments that can cloud your vision.
4. External focus: Falling for the trappings of success or making judgments based on how something looks.
5. Busyness: Over-scheduling to the point that important things, such as employee engagement, are missed.

Which of these blinders might you struggle with? Know your limitations and which blinders might be traps for you. Then discuss these with your staff, administration or fellow physicians.

To take a free blinders assessment, visit

Conduct “aspirational conversations”

Do you know the aspirations of each of the staff you work with, or even fellow physicians? Do you know where they want their careers to go in the next five years?

Aspirational conversations are ongoing dialogue focused on personal development actions to support the expansion of responsibilities, upward mobility or new career paths.

I have been stunned by how few leaders actually do this simple, free activity that will reap benefits forever.


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