At Times, Trust = Connection + Contract

Research has shown that insisting on a written contract reduces trust.  There are times when it’s best to avoid a written contract.  After all, it takes time to work through a written agreement and if you hire a lawyer, it can get expensive.

At other times, however, it’s wise to reduce the terms of an agreement to writing.  A written agreement encourages greater clarity and reduces the risk of misunderstanding.  You would be surprised how often people assume there is a meeting of minds when in fact substantial differences exist.  This is especially true when it comes to more complex agreements and agreements that are executed over longer periods of time.

Another benefit of a written agreement is that it makes it easier for successors to step in to execute the terms of the agreement if one of the parties changes roles in their company, leaves their company or gets hit by a bus.

Personally, I like to get most agreements in writing while taking time to develop a connection with the individuals I’m entering into the agreement with.  I get to know them as people by asking questions about where they grew up and what their interests are outside of work.  I try to find shared interests, values and experiences that develop a connection and trust.

The “Connection + Contract” approach applies to “internal contracts” inside your organization too.  When you send someone an email or memo the summarizes what each of you agreed to do and when you will do it, you are creating a written internal contract.

Connection + Contract has the benefit of building trust that comes from developing a connection while also bringing greater clarity of terms that will maximize a meeting of the minds and expectations.

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