The fundamental purposes of building and sustaining trust are to accomplish tasks and achieve goals. This is true for any enterprise, whether for-profit or not-for-profit. In this way, trust is an operational and collaborative imperative. In health care organizations, lack of trust leader to below-average safety, quality, and patient and provider satisfaction.
Influential leaders are acutely aware that trust and collaboration are inseparable. Trust and collaboration share the same purpose, and without trust any collaboration becomes a farce. After all, people-not processes, policies, strategies, tools or methods – make up the collaboration, and trust that is critical in motivating people to do actual work.
Influential leaders also know that trust begins and ends with their own behavior. Technical master, intelligence, personal and professional drive, past accomplishments, and even vision are admirable and necessary leadership qualities, but they alone do not inspire long-term trust and collaboration. These qualities must be complemented by interpersonal and behavioral competencies. A leader’s high degree of credibility is the sum of both behavioral and technical skills, and this credibility is what sustains trust. Trust, in turn, leads followers to support the concept of collaboration at first and then, ultimately, to fully participate in or pursue collaborations.
As mentioned earlier, in the absence of credible leaders, people will still perform their tasks and abide by organizational rules. They only do so, however, because they want to keep their jobs, and they perform at the lowest acceptable level possible. Obviously, this response is a narrow perspective that produces superficial results. A collaboration that is built on trust has a deeper meaning and thus has long lasting power. It energizes, engages and awakens passion and commitment, even in health care, where many workers suffer from compassion fatigue – the stress, isolation, pain and apathy felt by caregivers.
Influential leaders are not just passive recipients of trust; they are also proactive givers of trust. They view trust as a mutual practice: They work hard to earn and keep it, and they expect and demand others to do the same. By displaying trust worthy behavior every day, influential leaders serve as a model to their followers and other partners. For example, influential leaders spend time contemplating the qualities and qualifications of candidates for a senior leadership position. They do not hire quickly to expedite the recruitment and hiring processes, especially when the position has been open for a long time. Their goal is to find the most ideal match for the organization and its culture. This reflective practice accomplishes two goals: 1. It lessens the risk of hiring a selfish, uncooperative leader who could undermine the collective success of the leadership team, and 2. It sends the message to the entire organizations that the influential leader is serious about building and strengthening trust.
I have had experience with organizations that had great potential for creating high potential for creating high levels of organizational performance excellence. Unfortunately, the one key ingredient for excellence, trust among the leadership team, was missing. This reflected in the safety, quality, service, and financial performance indicators of the organization. The impact of the low levels of trust rippled through the entire organization.