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Using Ordinary Greatness Principles to Increase Trust

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What do you need to have at work to be fully engaged?

What do you need to have at work to be fully engaged?
Using Ordinary Greatness Principles to Increase Trust


Trust in the workplace

Now comes news that in a recent study by the American Nurses Association, about half of nurses say that they would not be comfortable having a loved one receive care where they work.  (http://www.modernhealthcare.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090706/REG/307069952/-1&AssignSessionID=273358755675162)  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 these facilities.  There’s a business case to be made for rebuilding this kind of trust, because as healthcare marketers, we know that word of mouth marketing, especially from employees, is the most valuable type of marketing for a health-care facility.

What can be done to retain or restore trust in a workplace?  In our book, “Ordinary Greatness,” we examine this question, and here is what we found:


1.     Tell the truth. 

Sounds simple, but most employees we interviewed 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.  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.”


2.    Stay visible. 

Schedule time each day to go around and visit staff where they work and work alongside them.  In many of these hospitals mentioned above, 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, causing trust on the front lines to erode.  Here are the benefits to you of getting out of your office 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 to 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.


3.     Be vulnerable about your own blinders that inhibit trust. 

In our research for “Ordinary Greatness,” we identified five blinders that keep leaders from spotting greatness in those they lead.  These are:

  • Compartmentalization (The belief that everyone and everything can be put in its own box)
  • Preconceived Notions (Making quick cognitive commitments without getting the whole story)
  • Personal Bias (Your own experiences and judgments that can cloud your vision)
  • External Focus (Falling for the trappings of success or making judgments based on how something looks)
  • Busyness (Over-scheduling to the point that important things are missed such as employee engagement)

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.  To take a free blinders assessment, visit our website: http://www.ordinarygreatnessbook.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23&Itemid=21


4.    Conduct “aspirational conversations” with staff. 

Do you know the aspirations of each of your employees? Do you know where they want their careers to go in the next five years? Aspirational conversations are ongoing dialogue between the individual and their manager focused on personal development actions to support the expansion of responsibilities, upward mobility, or new career paths.  The leader open to spotting and developing ordinary greatness will see the value of conducting aspirational conversations with subordinates.  We have been stunned by how few leaders actually do this simple, free activity that will reap benefits forever.


We believe that if the hospitals with the untrusting nurses had expected the above behaviors from leaders, trust would not be as much of an issue there.  These principles work.  Trust matters.  Are you working hard each day to build trust by spotting ordinary greatness where you work and live?