Here at Kaleidoscope, we think a lot about trust. And while we don’t sit around campfires carrying out trust falls (not yet, anyway), it does shape how we work both internally and externally and impacts how we foster collaboration.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be blogging about this somewhat broad and seemingly insurmountable topic, ranging from the definition of trust and the importance of it to how it is built. I'll also be talking about why it isn’t reaching its full potential.
To begin, let’s try to unpick what trust is and why it matters. A quick online search reveals several definitions:
"To believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable.” (Cambridge Dictionary)
"The assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something." (Mirriam-Webster)
"Simply put, trust means confidence. The opposite of trust - distrust - is suspicion. When you trust people, you have confidence in them - in their integrity and their abilities. When you distrust people, you are suspicious of them - of their integrity, their agenda, their capabilities, or their track record. It's that simple." (Daily Om)
The range of definitions shows that trust can be a difficult term to define, which could be due to the personal nature of it. However, despite the variations, each definition comprises similar qualities and attributes. It also suggests that measuring and building trust may not be a one size fits all.
Why is trust important? Research suggests trust is important at every level, from personal lives to the workplace. Interestingly, it also seems to be paramount at times of uncertainty and when there is risk taking.
According to Edelman’s 2017 trust barometer, trust is in crisis across the world, with the general population’s trust in government, business and the media declining over the past five years.
This matters. Trust is the foundation of social order and civil society and we rely on certain levels of trust to function and prosper. For example, it’s clear with relation to Grenfell Tower that residents had lost trust in the council, and think they weren’t acting quickly enough. To rebuild trust and restore faith in such situations can take generations.
Trust in health and care Examining trust in health and care is key as it is characterised by uncertainty and risk. In addition, trust in health spans across the whole landscape, from micro level interactions (the doctor-patient relationship) to macro level (whole organisations or health systems).
"Greater levels of trust have been associated with better care, adherence to treatment, fewer symptoms and higher quality of life."
At the micro level, greater levels of trust have been associated with many benefits, including: better care, adherence to treatment, fewer symptoms and higher quality of life. Patients are also more likely to disclose more information if they trust their healthcare professional, which has been shown to improve patient autonomy and shared decision making.
Trust is essential for teams, as it can provide a sense of safety, encouraging openness and an ability to take (calculated) risks. Trust within teams has also been reported to reduce hospitalisation time and costs, and improve service provision and innovation. Without trust, individuals protect themselves and their interests, and in healthcare this can be detrimental.
If this isn’t enough to convince you, trust also seems to play a role in knowledge exchange which can impact innovation. And lastly, from an organisational perspective, trust is associated with effective decision making, while distrust in staff management has been shown to create organisational ineffectiveness.
This shows the importance of trust at all levels and even though it is talked about a lot, we need to be more active in creating and building it further.
My next blog will discuss how we can build trust and some of Kaleidoscope’s approaches to it.