Increase Trust, Reduce Cost


That’s the annual cost to house, feed and guard a single prison inmate in New York City, according to a recent report published in the New York Times. This whopping price tag equates to a daily cost of $459.54.

In the sharpest of contrasts to the cement-block walls of a cold jail cell, the Ritz Carlton Hotel is the paragon of luxury. World-class service, beautiful design, 600 thread-count sheets. And yet, the average cost for a night at the Ritz — $323, according to its public filings — is 30% less than the cost of a night in city jail.

Before planes struck our buildings on a clear September day, airport security costs were fairly low because officials trusted that passengers would generally behave. As an immediate response to unspeakable terror, the Transportation Security Authority (TSA) was formed to protect travelers and now has an annual budget of $7.39 billion.

In addition to the gigantic monetary burden, anyone who’s been to an airport recently can attest to how this lack of trust slows things down. Snaking security lines, invasive pat-downs, and requirements to practically undress to your skivvies burns time and money while violating our privacy. All because trust has been eroded.

What about in your own business, organization, community, or family? Companies enact rigid polices with layers of bureaucratic enforcement due to a fundamental lack of trust in team members and customers. The Broward County, Fla., jail system eats up 25% of every county tax dollar and represents the single largest expense to its taxpayers. Just imagine how those funds could be better used to elevate that community.

In Steven M.R. Covey’s masterful work, “The Speed of Trust,” he puts it simply: When organizational trust is low, costs go up and speed decreases. On the other hand, if you can build trust with those around you, costs decrease while speed increases.

As a leader (in business, community and family), you build trust in two ways: First, by being trustworthy yourself. Not only by being honest, but also keeping commitments and delivering on expectations. Secondly, trust is earned by trusting. As you extend trust to others, they return the favor and organizational trust begins to climb.

I’m always shocked how managers hire people based on their intelligence and sound judgment, yet rarely allow them to use either. With a foundation of trust, we can get on with the real work of innovating, creating and delivering. Every minute or dollar we spend policing could be redeployed into gaining competitive advantage if we can build teams that foster mutual trust.

The next time I feel like spending $459.54 for an overnight stay, I’m choosing the luxury hotel that can craft an upscale experience with its expenses rather than spending heavily to protect against bad behavior.

Build a trust-based organization, and you’ll be able to afford to better serve customers and drive sustainable growth. With growth and profits on the rise, you’ll certainly enjoy a good night’s sleep.