It was fascinating to hear Stephen M.R. Covey, the noted motivational speaker and son of the famous Stephen Covey who wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, share his thoughts on trust with attendees on Sunday at the CHIME/HIMSS Forum, being held at the Hilton Riverside New Orleans hotel.
Thoughtfully applying some of the key concepts in his 2012 book The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, to the healthcare industry, Covey noted that, at a time when the U.S. public has lost faith in most institutions, clinicians in healthcare remain relatively trusted compared to other figures in American life; but, he noted, maintaining the public trust is inevitably a dynamic issue, and healthcare has no immunity from the potential erosion of trust over time.
What’s more, as Covey noted, maintaining public trust in a time of rapid change—which healthcare is most certainly going through—is particularly challenging.
Covey outlined his core thesis: that “Trust is a function of two things: credibility and behavior. You must always begin with your personal credibility, then move to the level of your team’s credibility, and then your organization’s credibility, because all trust is based on credibility,” he emphasized.
Credibility, Covey asserted, comes from four elements: integrity, intent, capabilities, and results. And he emphasized that one’s behaviors, especially “walking the walk,” are all-important in that relation. In the context of the meaningful use process, as well as the need to lay the IT foundations for healthcare reform-related activities—including population health, accountable care, readmissions reduction, and the like—CIOs and other IT leaders in healthcare couldn’t possibly facing greater challenges right now, as they try to lead their organizations forward into the new healthcare.
In the context of having to push one’s colleagues forward very aggressively, the temptation to cut corners when it comes to culture and even behaviors can be immense. Yet moving forward with deep integrity, despite all the pressures, is something essential, Covey argued, and there is simply no way to “cut corners” on working forward towards clinical and performance transformation.
The next few years will likely be among the most challenging in recent memory in healthcare. And it’s worth being reminded by someone like Stephen M.R. Covey of how important trust-building is to transformational change. And when such “soft” phenomena as trust are made more concrete by people like Covey, who said that “Trust always has two measurable outcomes, speed and cost,” and who noted that “When the trust [inside an organization] goes down, you will find the speed goes down with it, everything takes longer, and the cost goes up, because of all the steps required to compensate for the loss of trust”—it makes all the more clear how important the “soft” elements like trust really are to making practical change on the ground. As CIOs and other healthcare IT executives plunge into this HIMSS week, messages like Covey’s are worth keeping top-of-mind.