Operation: Rebuild Trust

By Dana Jacoby
President, Specialty Networks Consulting

One of the tragic victims of the COVID-19 virus has been trust. In a matter of weeks, we began to distrust others on an unprecedented level. Our friends, neighbors and sometimes family members moved from a trusted category to becoming a possible disease vector. People we once embraced now get a casual wave or a possible fist-bump. On a macro-scale, our communities have grown suspicious of experts, news sources and leaders. Employees question the motivations of their supervisors and employers doubt the loyalty of their teams. In the practice of medicine, numerous patients have foregone important medical procedures because they don’t trust the healthcare process to keep them safe.

As we emerge from this jarring pandemic, it is absolutely essential that we rebuild the trust of those around us. From our interpersonal relationships to our society at large, our ability to trust one another is a fundamental building block for what we create next. There are three essential elements to rebuilding trust between one another.

Character. A wise man once told me, “An organization never rises above it’s leadership.” That’s because it is difficult to impart trust if we aren’t first trustworthy ourselves. We can’t give what we don’t have. It’s that simple. The first step in Operation: Rebuild Trust is introspection and reflection. In the crazy days of airplanes, hotels and back-to-back meetings, looking inward beyond the morning mirror was often pushed into the “someday” column. COVID-19 can give us the opportunity to consider our own bedrock and strengthen our personal foundations.

Candor. In a brilliant work called “Fierce Conversations,” Susan Scott outlines the process of creating fundamentally honest, direct conversations. These aren’t a license to be mean or insulting. They are an invitation to speak truth. Truth and trust walk hand-in-hand, and cannot exist one without the other. When people hear truth, they trust more. When people think someone is hiding something, trust flees. Honest, direct conversations are only necessary if we want to build long term, trustworthy relationships.

Consistency. The consistency by which we show up is as important as the words that come across our lips. This is a matter of human survival. We have evolved to watch for patterns in behavior. As with our ancient ancestors, an inconsistent pattern indicates danger. Danger creates fear, and fear destroys trust. As in the scenario of the horrible man who comes home to pet his dog one day only to kick it the next, we too come to distrust people around us who are inconsistent.

The practice of being trustworthy to our patients, our co-workers and the people who matter to us takes discipline, courage and effort. When we provide healthcare in an atmosphere of integrity – both with ourselves and with others – honesty and dependability, we have laid another stone of trust in the foundation of an insecure world. If ever that world needs us to be trustworthy, the time is now.