Leaders, are we creating or breaking trust?

Trust and Teams

When someone asks us, what makes a great long-lasting relationship? Trust is always mentioned within the first few words that someone will speak.


Trust plays a central role in every relationship that we have. Trust is built on small actions that have big impacts. We are making decisions about trust consciously and subconsciously each day.


Our brains are wired to protect us, and they will seek out who and what we can trust. In our new world, before we walk into a shop, we are looking for all the social distancing signage because we want to feel safe and our primitive survival instincts may kick in. When we walk into a shop now and if there is poor or very little signage, our brains are likely to sense a threat and we will get the feeling of “oh, something is not right here, I don’t trust this shop because they are not looking out for me, their customer", (we release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline and we become more alert to the situation) so trust may be broken before we even enter the shop and we will have made a decision to go to a shop that we can trust and a shop where we will feel safe.


These external wellbeing factors can foster feelings of trust or distrust. Before we even talk to someone in the shop the external wellbeing factors have helped us to decide on how much we can trust this shop. The actions of others impact’s our own behaviour and our behaviour can change depending on how much we trust others.


Trust and Teams

Gallup’s research tells us “Trust is essential. When employees don't trust organisational leadership, their chances of being engaged are one in 12. But when that trust is established, the chances of engagement skyrocket to better than one in two. That's more than a six-fold increase.

Trust in the workplace increases speed and efficiency and, ultimately, performance. When people tell Gallup about the leaders who had a positive effect on them, it's clear that these leaders were trustworthy.


Trust and non verbal communication .

“You are what you do, and not what you say you will do” – Carl Jung

As leaders we seek out business advisors who we can trust, suppliers who we can build relationships with, suppliers that we can trust (we may be making decisions around trust based on their websites, social media platforms or social contribution) employees who we can trust, employees who will help us to feel safe in our business.



Our brain will be picking up on different external well being factors and these factors help us to make decisions on how much we can trust someone. How we show up as leaders each day impacts how much trust our teams have in us and vice versa. Before we have a conversation with a member of our team their brains will be making decisions about how much they can trust us, they may be picking up fear from us.


The part of the brain that picks up on fear is the amygdala, it detects fear responses in others, it is active when we see a fearful face. As leaders our brains will be doing the same and noticing the same external well being factors that may influence how much we trust a member of our team. What might be some of these external well being factors that our teams may be paying attention to consciously and subconsciously?


Body language – Is our body language indicating that we are approachable, calm, in a good mood? Are our faces showing fear? If we are showing up from a place of fear we are activating a fear response in our teams brains and this is going to affect how our teams work.


Emails we send - Have you ever misunderstood an email from someone? If a member of our team received an email saying, can you come to a meeting tomorrow at 10 am with no further information, the person receiving the emails brain is likely to move into a state of fear and they may starting thinking “oh I don’t trust the situation or this person”, they may start overthinking the situation, they may start making up their “own movie” about the event and they may start thinking the worst.


When they are in this state their executive brain may be switched off and they will be working from their emotional brain. Hours of productivity may be lost due to poor communication or lack of information.


No communication or poor communication - Not knowing what is happening triggers the feelings of uncertainty. Uncertainty can move us into a state of fight, flight or freeze.


Not doing what we said we were going to do and no communication as to why we are not doing it. This leads to uncertainty and again activates our amygdala. When our emotional brain is activated it shuts of blood flow to other parts of our brains and this will impact our executive brains function and our teams will not be thinking as best as they could be.


Not replying to a message or email where a question has been asked - This may send a message that we don’t care or that their question is not important, what might not seem important to us could be important to the person who sent the email, if it wasn’t important to this member of our team they would not have asked.


Before we even talk to a member of our team, all of these can affect how focused and productive our teams are, all of the above can affect employee engagement and can create feelings of distrust and unknowingly we may be releasing the stress hormone cortisol in members of our teams and this will impact performance.




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