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Trust: How to build, keep and erode it

Culture & mindset development 12th September 2023

The ability to build and sustain trust is crucial for forging lasting relationships be it with colleagues or healthcare stakeholders.

To help build a mindset and behaviours focused on trust, we often refer to Brené Brown’s ‘Anatomy of Trust’ and her BRAVING acronym (Fig.1). It helps leaders and teams better understand what forges and upholds trust. It also provides a framework to help explore the most important behaviours or actions that build or erode trust within a team whilst creating collective commitment to working on these together.


Boundaries: Setting and respecting clear boundaries is essential for trust. This involves communicating your limits and expectations in a relationship and respecting the boundaries set by others.

Reliability: Being reliable means doing what you say you’ll do. It’s about keeping your commitments and being consistent in your actions, which builds trust over time.

Accountability: This involves taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences. When you make a mistake or cause harm, owning up to it, apologising, and making amends are crucial for trust.

Vault: The “vault” represents confidentiality and trustworthiness with sensitive information. It means keeping confidences and not sharing someone else’s personal information without their consent.

Integrity: Integrity means acting in alignment with your values and principles. People with integrity are honest, truthful, and act ethically, which is fundamental for trust.

Non-Judgment: Being non-judgmental means avoiding judgmental attitudes and assumptions. Trust is fostered when people feel safe and accepted for who they are without fear of harsh judgment.

Generosity: Generosity refers to giving others the benefit of the doubt and assuming good intentions. Trust is enhanced when we approach situations with a mindset of generosity rather than suspicion.

Putting BRAVING into action

1. Ideas to help grow trust with direct reports

Using Brown’s BRAVING acronym as your framework, consider one area where you feel you frequently fall down.

For example:

Reliability – you may say ‘yes’ to a lot of things or commit to getting feedback/ a response to your report by a certain time. Then, you get distracted by something new or get pulled into other things resulting in your initial commitment being missed.

Consider a way you could start improving this behaviour.

For example:

If you can’t fulfil a commitment, rather than wait for the deadline, communicate this early and take responsibility for any consequences. Apologise when necessary and make amends when possible.

2. Ideas to help grow trust with a colleague

Asking for feedback is an acknowledgement that you don’t have all the answers. It also shows you value others’ opinions and are interested in their perspectives – this can deepen connections and build more positive relationships (crucial stuff to build trust).

So, this week:

  • Even though giving constructive feedback is a way to show we care about a colleague, being asked for it can feel uncomfortable. So, if you’re looking for feedback, try swapping that word for ‘advice’.
  • How? You could say to a colleague ‘If you were going to give me one piece of advice about X, what would it be?’
  • By doing this you send a clear signal that you want to hear and act on what they say so you’re much more likely to get a constructive, useful response, with no hard feelings.

3. Ideas to help grow trust with a healthcare stakeholder

When working with HCPs it can be easy to get wrapped up in delivering ‘your’ agenda/ key message.

So, this week:

  • Consider the human element when interacting with a HCP.
  • When opening up the conversation, avoid the question of ‘How are you?’, which encourages the default response of ‘Fine thank you’.
  • Instead, ask something like ‘What has been the toughest thing for you this week?’. Such a question shows empathy and builds the Integrity and Generosity quota in BRAVING to ultimately strengthen the relationship.

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