Any relationship worth its salt — be it a spouse, a colleague, a customer, a family member or a friend — depends heavily on trust. Without it, there’s no foundation for honesty or respect. With it, interactions have value and meaning. And in the laboratory setting, lives can literally depend on it.
As a lab leader, it’s your responsibility to take a proactive role in building, strengthening and sustaining a circle of trust in your specific work environment. Here are a few ways to go about doing just that.
Quality doesn’t cost; it pays, and you’ll want other departments within your organization to know they can consistently rely on you to deliver solid results. Maintaining a high level of quality in the work your lab performs helps you and your team establish a good reputation in the workplace.
“If your quality isn’t there, you’re repeating tasks,” explains Jason Majorowicz, Quality Management Coordinator at the Mayo Clinic. “If you’re repeating tasks, you’re throwing reagents away. If you’re putting results out there that need to be revised, you’re losing the trust of the people you’re giving the results to.”
Working together toward a common goal gives everyone a united sense of purpose. Generate buy-in to your lab’s mission by letting employees and colleagues have a say in work processes and procedures. Ask for their input, then really listen to what they have to say, especially if there’s any sort of learning curve involved. Be supportive of concerns they might have, and remind them that you’ve got their backs.
“It’s so critical to gain that trust up front and make sure they feel like they have a voice,” says Christina Nickel, Laboratory Quality Manager for Bryan Health in Lincoln, Neb. “We have to get in there and let them find out that we’re here for them. I think the trust piece is the biggest part — just getting them to understand that we’re here for support; we’re not here to work against you.”
Say what you mean, and do what you say. Credibility is key if you want to earn, and keep, your employees’ trust.
Creating a reporting culture is a good start; but how you deal with a problem once it’s been reported is what really makes the difference.
“Once you get it into the event management system, you are accountable as the quality person to actually do something about it,” says Jennifer Dawson, Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs for Sonic Reference Laboratory in Austin, Tex. “If you don’t do anything about it, they’re not going to report anymore.”
Deal with problems by taking a Systems-Thinking approach. Don’t “blame and shame;” focus instead on "the what went wrong in the process," not whose fault it was.
“Just Culture is another tool we can use,” Dawson continues. “It builds on Systems-Thinking and provides a framework, an algorithm, a way that we can work through events and respond in a systemized fashion. Just Culture really balances a blame-free culture and accountability, and accountability is something very important that the staff wants.”
We’re only human. When things go wrong, let your staff know that they can count on you to keep your cool.
“If you manage yourself well, your employees trust you,” says Josephine Foranoce, Laboratory Director of Operations for Florida Hospital Altamonte. “You’re the same person who comes to them under multiple types of situations, and I think that is a huge way to build trust in a group of people.”
If you do feel yourself starting to lose control, it’s absolutely acceptable to take a moment to pull it together emotionally before continuing the conversation.
“You just can’t get upset,” Majorowicz says. “If I’m screaming at you, it makes no difference. It’s not going to help. Punishing people isn’t going to help. Let it go and look at the confines of what the processes are, then involve the people around you and make it better tomorrow.”
If you’re the one at fault, admit it, apologize and move forward. And know that rebuilding trust once it’s lost is probably going to take a little time and effort.
“One of the things that is so important if you’re going to build trust is working on being comfortable with the uncomfortable,” says Patty Eschliman Laboratory Manager at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Lincoln, Neb. “By showing your own vulnerability, it helps allow others to see that it’s okay to take risks. They can then open up and embrace a greater dialogue to be able to understand each other, build from that and reinforce the culture.”
Don’t underestimate the power of positive words and feedback when it comes to building trust. Encouraging your staff empowers them, and sets them up for success.
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