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I just took on the role of a nurse mentor. How do I build a trusting relationship between myself and the nurse I am mentoring?

Building trust takes planning, effort, time, and quality raw materials. If you are a newcomer to an organization or role, take some time to reflect and plan how you will build a foundation of trust with those around you. Identify the people with whom an “Empire State Building” type of foundation will need to be created. Then think about which of the following tactics you should employ with each and how you will do it:

  • Be trustworthy.
  • Achieve competence in the skills needed for success in your role. You’ll have a hard time getting people to trust you if you have not developed competency in your job. If you are new in your position, be honest about what kills you bring to the job, what skills you still are developing, and what your plan for development includes.
  • Create a climate of open communication. Share as much as you can (as appropriate) with others, including:                                                                                                                                                - How you will support the organization’s values
    - Your vision for your organization
    - Your ideas, thoughts, opinions; also ask for theirs
    - Asking for feedback and offering to give feedback
    - Listening to others with an open mind and expressing appreciation
  • Treat others with respect.
  • Keep your commitments and confidences.
  • Support the development of others (give them the chance to grow and give them the net).
  • Show value for diversity and divergent ideas.
  • Recognize accomplishments and contributions; also express appreciation.
  • Make your expectations explicit. You’ve heard Robert Frost’s line “good fences make good neighbors.” Your staff needs to know their boundaries and what you expect of them. Likewise, you should know their expectations of you. Agreement on expectations builds trust.
  • Verify your assumptions. We make assumptions all the time about people, about events. If you feel that trust has possibly been breached by someone whom you trust, instead of making as assumption about what happened and letting a crack in the trust foundation form, check it out with him or her.
  • Confront issues, not people.
  • Avoid micromanagement; watching every detail of someone’s work demonstrates distrust.
  • Walk your talk; if what you do differs from what you say, people will always  believe your actions. Keep them in sync.

Patty Kubus, RN, MBA, PhD

(March 2011)