Four Reasons You’re an Epic Failure in Building Trust

Crumbling TrustRyan Braun experienced an epic failure this week. The All Star outfielder for the Milwaukee Brewers, and former American League MVP, was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remaining 65 games of this season, without pay, for violation of the league’s drug policy. Not only did Braun crash and burn in regards to violating the drug policy, his ultimate sin was the violation of trust with his teammates, employer, and fans. #EpicFailure

In this post from February 2012, I wrote about the fragility of trust and the challenges Ryan Braun faced in trying to rebuild his credibility when he escaped penalty from a failed drug test on a procedural technicality. At that time, Braun used a page from Lance Armstrong’s playbook and vehemently denied any involvement with performance enhancing drugs. Now the truth comes to light and Braun is revealed as not only a cheater but a liar too. #EpicFailure

All of us experience failure from time to time when it comes to building trust. Usually it’s because we think trust “just happens” and we don’t intentionally work at building it. It seems the only time we think about trust is when it gets broken, and then we’re shocked, surprised, and at a loss for what to do. #EpicFailure

Here’s four reasons why we…leaders…YOU…tend to experience epic failure in building trust:

1. You aren’t good at what you do. A key element in building trust in a relationship is your competence. Are you good at what you do? Do you keep learning and growing? People show they are competent when they have the expertise needed for their job, role, or position. They consistently achieve results and are effective problem solvers and decision makers. Demonstrating competence inspires others to have confidence and trust in you.

2. You don’t act with integrity. Trustworthy people are honest with others. They behave in a manner consistent with their stated values, treat people fairly, and behave ethically. “Walking the talk” is essential in building trust in relationships. Braun, Armstrong, and many other fallen public figures are excellent examples of talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

3. You don’t connect with others. Being connected means focusing on people, having good communication skills, and recognizing the contributions of others. We, as human beings, are hardwired for connection with others. We want to be treated as individuals at work and not viewed as mindless worker bees whose only value is to get the work done. You can be the most competent leader out there, but if you don’t care for your people they won’t trust you. Remember, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

4. You aren’t dependable. Dependable people follow through on their commitments. They respond timely to requests and hold themselves and others accountable. Not doing what you say you will do is one of the quickest ways to erode trust with others.

No one likes to think of him/herself as untrustworthy, yet it’s important to know that trust is in the eye of the beholder. Trust is based on perceptions and we create those perceptions by our behavior, one interaction at a time. So in a sense, it doesn’t matter if YOU think you are trustworthy, it matters what OTHERS think about you.

Want to be a trustworthy person? Then act trustworthy. Be good at what you do. Act with integrity. Connect with people. Be dependable. Do that and you won’t ever have to worry about being an #EpicFailure in building trust.

Randy Conley is the Trust Practice Leader at The Ken Blanchard Companies and his LeaderChat posts appear the last Thursday of every month. For more insights on trust and leadership, visit Randy at his Leading with Trust blog or follow him on Twitter @RandyConley.

12 thoughts on “Four Reasons You’re an Epic Failure in Building Trust

    • Thanks for your comments Chris. Unfortunately we have too many negative examples in the workplace of leaders breaking trust rather than being effective trust builders. I think the best we can do is to start with ourselves – each one of us focusing on being trustworthy individuals.

      Take care,


    • So true! It’s easy to get focused on our to-do list and forget bigger-picture priorities like building trust.

      Thanks for adding to the discussion.


  1. Good stuff Randy. Another reason you might be untrustworthy is because you try to complicate everything. When you’re speaking over the heads of others, trust can be lost.

  2. Great blog. I was at a meeting yesterday when a colleague shared a quote which I love and actually wrote down…….then I read this and there it was:……”people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”….so true!

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