Leadership fatigue: Who do you trust?

Published on June 3, 2020 | LinkedIn

Resetting, earning & spending the currency of trust is a critical skill for leaders to weather this storm and lead effectively through the new currents ahead.

By Jonscott Turco and Andrew Martschenko, Deep Learning Labs

Authenticity and trust are so closely tied to consistency and expectations. Trust is built through experiences which require a routine and time to condition human beings. And in an era where decisions are made by a swipe or a voice command, our patience seems to have a very limited lifespan. Layer a pandemic and it seems our universal understanding of trust is upside down.

In business, the concept of trust in and of itself is often one that warrants great skepticism and curiosity. It takes a long time to build trust and a mishap or two to eviscerate it. It’s quite normal to walk around and question, maybe even obsess: Do I trust my employees? Do I trust my customers? Do I trust everyone in my supply chain? Do I trust each of my core departments? Do I trust the agencies or partners I work with?Do I trust anyone and ultimately do I trust myself?

As we look at trust as a currency, it’s important to consider how it’s earned, accrued and spent. In this time of upheaval and change relating to Covid-19, and the economic and racial inequality gripping leaders around the country and the world, it's a vital topic in many respects.


Often times, organizations and leaders presume incorrectly that the mere act of hiring someone, whether they be permanent or temporary, should install that person a level of trust in the organization and leadership.

After all, we just hired you.

This is very often times false. The currency of a trust balance is one that starts very low and must be nurtured over time. It’s an investment requiring reinforcement throughout the recruitment, onboarding and development processes. In addition, it’s important to understand how have the organization and its agents:

  • conducted themselves during the recruitment process
  • displayed trust in respecting the individuals time and commitments
  • demonstrated the value of trust in consideration of an offer and hiring agreement

More specifically, employers should be asking “How have I developed the currency of trust and how may it be spent?” While it’s been more common for employers to offer some flexibility to work from home, often leadership falls back on its commitment to top and bottom line KPIs and ultimately on making sure each employees’ contribution is maximized. While time allocation and performance management should be based on meeting job requirements and defined expectations, the pressure to hit a monthly number or aggressive projection places an immediate strain on the relationship.

For successful organizations, a regular communication cadence that cascades through the layers of a business is critical. As we work remotely and connect through email and video calls, staying engaged, redefining effective/essential communication, and building trust is even more critical. As human beings we’re naturally used to “feeling” the chemistry or vibrancy of team members.


Many times that act of listening and contextualizing can be interpreted as a sign of weakness. There is a school of thought, albeit archaic, surfacing a problem with employees means that you have acknowledged there is a problem. The solution is to not let it surface and ultimately not deal with it. This approach is detrimental to any organization.

For employees with families, they have become part-time teachers in Goggle Classroom with the concurrent requirement of still having their full attention on work responsibilities. Many have actually become more efficient as there is an acceptance every minute counts and spending those minutes with the greatest efficiency and impact is the goal of the day. Successful leadership and management understands as long as ethical and appropriate business practices are followed, it’s more about the result and less about how you got there.

To succeed, there has to be a defined and agreed upon set of expectations. And there also must be a fair amount of flexibility to let employees shape their schedules. The most committed employees will be driven by the end goal and the fear of letting their team down.


Social distancing has forced employers to rethink how they conduct business. As businesses wind up then roar back to life, they need to rethink the role of the “office.” Good luck to any leader or manager that believes all employees should return to a desk and a computer, Monday through Friday. For the operations folks, there is an opportunity to gain efficiencies from lowering fixed capital expenses in terms of real estate and associated expenditures. The traditional role of the office and employee expectations cannot go back to pre-pandemic understandings. Investment in virtual collaboration tools and a significant effort in rebuilding teams in terms of composition and how they work together is a necessary step to future-proof the business. Leaders that embrace this change and make the necessary investments will build sustainable businesses – based on mutual trust and collective commitments to succeed.

We have turned the corner on the role a communal, physical structure plays in getting work done. From our children and students to employees to seniors, a wall has been breached in terms of video communication and collaboration. In fact, just dialing into a call without video may feel like a participant isn’t fully engaged. It’s time for leadership to take this opportunity and build and even stronger culture which includes both remote participation and when necessary, in-person participation.

Five steps that will help future-proof your business and strengthen your culture:

  • Know the faces, not just the numbers – leaders need to take the time to know each employee and the value of their contributions. Get in the trenches and engage
  • Have a vision – uncertainty creates an opportunity. Leaders have to embrace a world where measured risk is necessary and incentivize, rather than punish
  • Don’t just say it, live it – success breeds success and a thoughtful cadence of communications should be inspiring and also supportive in achieving your organization’s vision
  • Define what you stand for – build a brand that’s meaningful in the 21st century and make sure it is relevant and authentic
  • Get comfortable with imperfection – fail fast and fail early.Build a culture of innovation and learning from mistakes because this approach will get you to the winning solution

Deep Learning Labs helps clients focus, plan and activate their strategies. We run lean work streams through a series of structured sprints and engage with individual business leaders as well as larger, global working teams.

Jonscott Turco is an international management consultant & behavioral change agent skilled at diagnosing and repairing cultural and organizational inefficiencies resulting in more effective & agile leadership, decision-making, innovation, and cross-cultural collaboration.

Andrew Martschenko is global strategy consultant helping clients become better understood and focused on creating stronger brands through better experiences with deep expertise in audience segmentation, insights, brand development, and change management.