The Germans have this saying: "Vertrauen ist gut, Kontrolle ist besser!" ("Trust is good but control is better") which actually comes from Russian leader Lenin. While controlling and having control systems in place is a healthy business practice, I'd say in business relationships I prefer to trust people first and control them later.
In my company everyone works from home. We work like this because it's a lifestyle choice. This way I can travel and work on my iPad from anywhere I want and my team can do the same... and I can hire people from anywhere I want, not depending on their proximity to my office.
In such environment we have two options: either we trust people to do their best and set up systems to enable them to excel... or we set up web cams in their homes, ask them to log hours, work on certain schedule, etc... Well, I chose the first option... but of course, things are not always that easy...
Treat people as adults
I know, this is a very controversial idea :-) In big corporations people are very often treated as "mindless cogs" that need to only do what is being asked of them. They must be controlled, manipulated and must not think.
When we had a new round of hiring in Nozbe and a few new people joined our team, they were not sure if they're supposed to speak up or not. I told them that half of their salary is for their skills, and the other half is for their thinking. If they choose to only use their skills, not their judgement, I'll just pay them 50% of their salary at the end of the month. Of course this never happened. They felt more empowered from this moment on.
Strive for transparency and openness...
It's important to be upfront with each other. When working remotely we can hide not only our feelings but also our actual work. That's why it's important to communicate, not only through chat messages but mostly through tasks, projects and real actions.
... and communicate your expectations
This is key. To build trust and rapport with each other it's so important to clearly communicate expectations. To really say: "I'd like you to be doing this, and by "this" I mean exactly this and that... are you OK with it?" When you leave things unspoken, everyone interprets things their own way, according to their own interests... and what comes out of it is not exactly a harmonious relationship.
Our trust/open framework
That's why we built a trust/open framework: "You in our company":
- You are a part of our team. We trust you, we support you as much as possible (and then some) and strive to create the best and most inspiring (and challenging) work environment for you. We want you to be happy and fulfilled doing your job.
- We trust that in return you'll give your best and be on top of you game when working with us. In this highly competitive world we need to bring our A-game every day to deliver the best product and service to our demanding customers.
- If you want to pursue something which is not in your job description or V2MOM, a side project or something else that excites you, you need to communicate this with us openly. This way we can plan it together and help you make your dreams come true.
- The thing is - we need to be open - our company is open about our plans with you and with the entire team - and we expect the same level of openness from you. The thing is, it's not only about you or about the company's management - it's about the entire team - we treat each other as co-owners of the company and we are all responsible for the perfect work environment among our peers and all of us.
- The same thing applies to your personal life - we need to know things related to your personal life when they affect your work. If your wife is pregnant, your child is sick, your grandma died, whatever happened to you, let us know - we want you to be able to be there for the people you love. We'll be happy to give you free hours/days but in order to do that we need to plan our work accordingly.
- We bring our best to Nozbe and we expect everyone on the team to do the same.
Build trust with gestures... the small and big ones
I'm trying to be thankful to my team every day for the hard work they're putting in to build a fantastic productivity tool we're running. Recently I wasn't as available to them as I would have liked to be because I was swamped with work and email but I think I'm coming back.
We're now in Barcelona on our yearly get-together all-company meeting and it's so great to see everyone face to face. Such a trip is a big deal for our small company (and costs a lot of money) but it's our moment to spend some quality time together, enjoy each other's company and build trusting relationship for the future. This way none of us is just an "avatar" in our system, we're all human beings with hopes and dreams working from home to help hundreds of thousands of people all over the world get things done. It does feel great.
Control is good but trust is really so much better
When you trust people they trust you back. When you don't, your working relationship must come to an end. It's still important to have "control measures" or "accountability indicators" like tasks and projects in Nozbe or GitHub, and keep on motivating and pushing each other but you can only be at your best only if you trust one another. This is especially crucial when people work from remote locations (our case) but I think it's important in any professional environment.
Question: How do you build trust? Share your stories in the comments, if you can :-)