Trust: The Key Ingredient in Approaching Change

In our increasingly fast-paced work lives, change happens rapidly. In academic medicine specifically, we’re adapting to shifting payment models, diminished federal funding for research, and an increased need to deliver better, more compassionate care to our patients at a lower cost. We’re evolving our communications and developing new tools to better understand our patients’ personal needs. And that’s just the beginning.

Lately, as I’ve observed the health care climate, I’ve given a lot of thought to what allows us to not only adapt to change but to positively create it. I’ve wondered what the barriers are to successfully navigating the necessities at hand and, frankly, the many unknowns. We are, after all, at an unprecedented time of evolution in health care in the United States.

Rather than arriving at a truth that’s unique to medicine, however, I’ve landed on a more universal human principle: that positive change and adaptation can only happen in an environment of trust.

This is true in any meaningful exchange between people. When we get married or commit to a relationship, for example, there are many risks and unknowns, many factors that could alter the future for better or worse. But we trust in our partners and in our instincts. We trust that—despite the challenges, ambiguities, and potential beauty and pain of change—we will carefully forge scenarios that will benefit not only us as individuals and as couples, but also the greater good.

It is exactly the same at work.

Nearly every decision that we encounter in our professional lives involves this dynamic. How will we accomplish what’s necessary now to realize the missions of our organizations down the road? How can we respond to and create change that will get us where we need to be? The reality is that once a direction forward on any issue is determined, we can only be responsible for our own behaviors, and the rest is up to our colleagues. This is why I feel so fortunate to work with people who I not only trust as the highest-level experts in their respective areas, but as friends and fellow human beings.

It isn’t always perfect, of course, but I trust them to tell me when something doesn’t feel right, to speak up when they see trouble ahead—even if it’s against my way of thinking. We encourage each other to be compassionate, courageous and constructively critical. We implicitly trust each other to put the greater good before our own personal aspirations, and this yields a tremendous peace of mind when we face challenge, change and unexplored territories. For this, I am profoundly grateful.

It is from this earned trust that everything authentic starts, and it ensures that we not only survive change but flourish in and create it.

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