Based on a Gallup poll as referenced in Strengths Based Leadership, trust is one of the four needs people must have to truly appreciate and thrive in their workplace. In long-term care, like many fields, I believe trust is the foundation for building and keeping a strong team. 

Trust isn’t as simple as, “I trust you will do what you say you will do.” It’s so much more than that. Trust, in my opinion, means you are comfortable being your authentic self at work, and, more importantly, you are comfortable with and encourage others to do the same.   

But building and maintaining trust takes effort. There is no way around it. If it isn’t top of mind, chances are trust may be weakening in your workplace. 

In our field, it is important to trust that someone is here for the right reasons. We know when team members truly love our residents. We also know when employees are here to merely complete tasks rather than do what is really needed to be done. We trust their intentions. There are times when that trust may come too quick, and it is equally as quickly broken. It is when that trust is broken that we often part ways. 

During this time, when workforce continues to be such a hairy monster, when we have team members we trust, it’s important that we continually nourish that trust by being our best selves. When people believe and trust we are all doing what we can, as often as we can to provide the absolute best experience for the residents we serve, cool things happen. Team members are happier, more engaged, more fulfilled, committed and content. 

The slippery slope is the minute team members stop feeling that genuineness. That’s when trust starts to wane. Relationships matter. 

Regardless of title or position, a level of trust, mutual respect and appreciation, said and unsaid, is crucial. We need to share our passions, our hopes, our fears, and our frustrations. As leaders we are flawed; we make mistakes. When we own up to the missteps, as often as we take credit for our success, trust builds.  

Taking the time to really know each other takes effort. This goes beyond learning about the lives, personalities and strengths of teammates; it means taking the time to learn what motivates and inspires them. It’s important to then look for ways, unique to them, to provide that motivation. Trust is complicated. 

So, make time to build trust. Be intentional about it. Learn everything you possibly can about your team and share your life with them. Share with them the good parts and share the parts that are challenging. That, my friends, is an important step in building trust. Even if you feel like you have trusting relationships at work, there is always a little more each of us can do. 

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Julie Thorson was the 2018 recipient of the LeadingAge Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor of the Year award. She currently co-facilitates Leading Age Iowa’s Leadership Academy. She is a Leading Age Academy fellow and former coach. The Head Coach (president and CEO) of Friendship Haven, a life plan community in Fort Dodge, IA, Thorson is a coach’s daughter at heart. A former part-time nursing home social worker, she is a licensed nursing home administrator and completed Leading Age’s Leadership Educator Program in 2019.

The opinions expressed in McKnight’s Long-Term Care News guest submissions are the author’s and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Long-Term Care News or its editors.