Trust, in business as in life, is essential.

It lies at the core of our relationships and interactions with everyone and everything around us.

On a pure biological level, the human brain is programmed for survival, which drives us to take certain actions that are all affected, one way or another, by trust.

If we trust something, and we feel it’s safe and will be good for us, we’re more likely to be drawn towards it.

Conversely, if we don’t trust something and think it will have a negative impact on us, we usually avoid it or push it away.

When it comes to relationships, trust is built over time but can be destroyed in an instant, often inadvertently.

For businesses, and the people that lead them, building trust among colleagues and teams is a key challenge, and one that’s fraught with difficulty.

As a leader, if you have the trust of your team, if they believe in you and your vision, they will follow you through thick and thin. But if you don’t have their trust, what then?

When you’re leading a team, the spotlight will always be on you. People are going to scrutinise your decisions, judge you by your actions and, in some cases, mimic your behaviours.

While this isn’t normally a problem if you are providing good leadership and behaving in an open, honest and trustworthy way, if you are displaying poor, dishonest or untrustworthy behaviours, it can tank any trust you’ve built up with your people and your team.

So, what are some of the leadership behaviours that undermine trust? And what can you do to avoid them?

I would most certainly recommend Fiona to any organisations. Your approach to relationship building comes across as very genuine and you were always truly interested in understanding my business needs and offering solutions which added value to our employees – Lisa Martin, Training and Development Manager East Midlands Trains

How to Kill Trust

Trust is the foundation upon which successful leadership is built. We’ve written before about how to build trust, but what many leaders don’t realise is that trust is not a permanent state and can be unwittingly undermined, or lost completely, through their behaviours.

Leaders create high levels of trust through behaviours that demonstrate a sincere commitment to their values.

The key word here is ‘behaviours. As a leader, it is usually your actions, not your words, that create trust.

That doesn’t mean that what you say isn’t important, but you will never create trust unless your behaviour reinforces it.

On the flip side, there are many ways that a leader can kill trust, but again, it is almost always through behaviours or actions, not words.

Here are come of the most common leadership behaviours that undermine trust, and what you can do to avoid them …

Not Sharing Problems

Simply delegating tasks to a colleague or team, or worse, telling them exactly how that task should be done, is not only autocratic, but it also denies your people the opportunity to help solve the problem or influence the outcome.

By sharing the problem or telling your teams what you are looking to achieve from the task and then letting them work through it under their own initiative, you are communicating that you trust them to get the job done.

By telling them exactly how to do things, you are communicating the opposite.

Not Asking for Input

Like the above point, if you close yourself off to the opinions of your team, or don’t ask for their opinion in terms of the best way to approach a task, their level of trust in you will dwindle.

Although the ultimate decision will rest with you, as a leader, people like to feel valued enough that their opinion has been heard and considered.

By giving your team a voice, you are not only building trust, but also helping them to take ownership of the outcome.

Essential Leadership Skills

Take a look at our course


Once you’ve given a task to someone, let them get on with it. You should only chase them up when the deadline is due.

By constantly asking for updates, dictating how they should do the task, making their decisions for them and reacting badly to problems or issues, you are again communicating that you don’t trust them to do their job.

By demonstrating your confidence in them to get the job done, and letting them get on with it, you are building trust and developing your relationship.

Setting Up for Failure

Although people like to be challenged, and pressure often results in innovation, delegating a task to someone that’s way outside of their capabilities can kill their trust in you.

To be fair, there is a fine balance to be struck here.

Assignments which challenge or take people out of their comfort zone can signal your confidence in them and communicate that you want them to develop and grow.

Just don’t deliberately set them up to fail.

Being Critical

Pointing out mistakes, identifying problems without providing solutions and criticising individuals in front of others is poor leadership behaviour on two fronts.

Firstly, it belittles the team member in question and makes it harder for them to trust you and secondly, it won’t paint you in a good light to the rest of the team.

Not recognising good performance is closely related to this.

A good rule of thumb here is to praise good performance in public, and constructively review mistakes or issues in private, to help those affected learn and develop.

Having a Hidden Agenda

Lying, withholding information, saying different things to different people or not making clear your true intentions is a sure-fire way to tank any trust you have built with your team.

Although there may be sound commercial reasons for not disclosing all the information about the task in hand, or the business in general, it’s important to be as open, honest and transparent as you can be, and when you do have to keep things back, give clear reasons why.

Keeping secrets is never a good look and if a team feels that their leader is not keeping them in the loop, trust can be eroded.


Trust is built over time, through consistent behaviours and actions, but it can be killed in an instant and once lost, can be difficult to recover.

The key to building and maintaining trust lies in the ability to display good behaviours and spot and eliminate leadership behaviours which undermine trust.

At FP Training, we specialise in developing the behaviours that build trust and make leaders great. We believe that success lies in leadership being not just skin-deep, but fully understood and appreciated by everyone.

To find out more about how we can help you and your business to develop your leadership skills and inspire your people, get in touch today: 01332 527144 or