The Immune System of Relationships

The Immune System of Relationships | Dan Tasset

In my previous post, I explained how NueHealth had incorporated declarations to help move the company in the right direction. I’d like to talk a little about the first one: “We care.” Part of what we mean by “We care” is that we value relationships and we build trust through transparency.

Relationships are so important, both in your personal life and to a company’s well-being. As I look back on our companies and I think about where we haven’t made good progress as an organization, where we might have failed, where we haven’t accomplished what we wanted to accomplish, it seems the core issue was that relationships were not as strong as they could have been.

Professional relationships can often be eroded by unnecessary criticism and negativity. If you’re in a meeting and you’re trying to do something and somebody makes a comment that’s not helpful, it can be very disruptive to what you’re doing because it doesn’t really advance the ball. It also makes you question why the person needed to chime in, and you may start to question the trust you placed in them. When I’ve witnessed this behavior, it’s always struck me as something that stems from someone’s insecurities. We all have insecurities, but when we don’t recognize and deal with them appropriately, they come out as harmful cynicism.

I think the antidote to that kind of negativity and cynicism is creating authentic relationships with people you work with. In those relationships, insecurities are not at the forefront because you’ve established trust and therefore feel secure in the relationship. For example, you’re not worried that someone is going to highlight your shortcomings and so in anticipation you build up a defensive posture to anything they say. Authentic relationships provide a stable environment in which you can thrive personally and the organization can thrive. These are the relationships that I value and prioritize.

Building trust through transparency is part of this. For me, the body’s immune system is a good way to illustrate the role of trust in an organization. If your immune system isn’t functional or is compromised, you’re going to get sick. Something that would otherwise be immediately curable could end up killing you. Similarly, if an organization lacks trust, what would otherwise be a throwaway comment or a minor issue can erode your entire organization. Unfortunately, if trust is lacking, a single negative person can do a lot of damage. That old saying, “One bad apple will spoil the whole barrel” is so true. Lack of trust can be seeded or heightened through “water cooler gossip,” backstabbing, and undermining.

How do you ensure that your company isn’t at risk for trust erosion? Transparency. The best way to build trust is to be very transparent about everything that you’re thinking, feeling and doing, and deliver that transparency to the right mailbox. Talk to the right person – don’t get involved in triangulation, but actually deliver the right message to the right person. This means the person delivering the message has to not be afraid and have the courage to say, “This is what I’m thinking, this is what I think we should do.” This builds trust in relationships and if this consistently occurs throughout the company then it equips the whole organization with a strong immune system.