Remember, Employers: Trust Is Cheaper than Control

Building trust is good for employer-employee relations, and it doesn't hurt the bottom line either.

Watching your employees’ every move isn’t a good way to build trust.

Building trust is good for employer-employee relations, and it doesn’t hurt the bottom line either.

Today I heard Lane Becker – who co-founded such kick-ass companies as Adaptive Path and Get Satisfaction – share his thoughts on what lies at the heart of entrepreneurship. It was an hour well spent, and he devoted much of that time to talking about how to build your team. I can relate to his focus on hiring the right people; that’s been perhaps the most critical part of my entrepreneurial journey and there’s a reason that “get the right people on the bus” is Rule #1 in Jim Collins’s book Good to Great.

The sentence that stuck with me from Lane’s talk, though, was this:
“Trust is cheaper than control.”

(He lifted it from someone else, and I forgot to write down who. If you know, leave a note in the comments – a Google search didn’t indicate any consensus about the source.)

Trust is cheaper than control! So true. If I need to observe, review and assess every aspect of my employee’s work, that’s incredibly costly. Now we’re spending two people’s time to do one person’s job.

If I need to document every single rule of professional behaviour into my employee handbook, that’s an enormous waste of time (and an insult to the people I’ve hired). Perhaps we should all aspire to a policy handbook that fits on a 3×5″ index card.

If I nickel-and-dime my team members over how they allocate their time and energy, they would be forgiven for nickel-and-diming me right back (hello, clockwatching and goodbye, efficiency).

I’ve always prioritized trust in my relationships with clients, staff and colleagues, because I find life far more pleasant that way. Now I have a financial motive, too.