Tracey Swanepoel’s THINKspiration: Why trust is a must, especially in the workplace

I love Tracey Swanepoel’s writing. She’s a perfectionist. Takes time to consider her argument. Then crafts her pieces like

Tracey Swanepoel – her THINKspiration always an editor’s pleasure

the expert wordsmith she is. No rushing to publication for this MBA graduate. She’d rather take a few extra days to make sure it just right. So her writing will never waste anyone’s time. Or irritate with literals and bad grammar. Ideas are plentiful. Communicating them in the way Tracey manages to do, is rare. We call that “good art”. Something I am determined to encourage on Biznewz. Her contribution emphasises something Alan Knott-Craig wrote about in his blog last week. See if you can spot it.  – AH    

By Tracey Swanepoel*

Do you have a best friend at work? This is one of the more unusual questions, which forms part of Gallup’s famous Q12, a 12-question survey which identifies employee attitudes that correlate with higher profitability. It’s a question that has always struck me as an anomaly, something I am more likely to inquire of my 7 year old than of a work colleague. After all work is serious stuff, focus, performance, deadlines, deliverables. Friends? Wasn’t that a TV series?

In another part of my brain I have been musing about the significance of trust and trust relationships as a value creating competitive advantage. MBA speak I know, but it’s true. A world without trust precipitated the global financial crisis; and the dominoes that followed, Ponzi schemes, Lehman Brothers, the Libor (or should that be Lie-Bor) scandal. Warren Buffett, master of moneymaking as well as the pithy sound bite says: “Trust is like the air we breathe – when its present nobody notices when it’s absent everyone notices.

It all came together for me in a “thinkspirational moment” recently: best friend = trust. Trust = best friend!

Gallup has proved it via the Q12. For those who want more proof that trust is the new value creation currency, I can cite research, which correlates the corruption perceptions index with per capita GDP per country. Guess what? It’s a perfect correlation: the lower the corruption perception the higher the GDP. Then there’s the famous case study of Muhammad Yunis the Banker to the poor.

He demonstrated that even in the most desperate circumstances if you trust – people are trustworthy.

People that trust others are happier. Who would have thought Denmark would be the happiest nation on earth? (According to Gallup they are!). They are also the nation who trust each other the most.

Trust is a mustIs your business oxygenated by trust? Just like oxygen we can’t see it but we can feel its effect: is there energy, purpose,

joy fulfilment? Does it suffer from sporadic coughing fits – which after short bursts of artificial oxygen (usually in the form of incentives and rewards) people amazingly “feel better?” Is it just dying slowly – a sad demoralised and often politicized place where blame and game-playing fester?

Before you bring out the sharp knives, consider the opportunity: how smooth, how fast, how well things go when you work with people you trust. And when you trust the people you work with. Less reworking, no double-checking. Costs come down. Joy, energy and fulfilment go up.

Sounds good. Yet we avoid it because we don’t know how to do it. We feel vulnerable, afraid, and powerless. And until we start to realise that trust is not just a “nice-to-have” but the very oxygen of productivity and value creation – we won’t even have a hope of figuring it out.

* Before her back injury during a tennis scholarship in the US, Tracey Swanepoel dreamt of winning the Women’s Singles final at Wimbledon. She has gone on to bigger and better things as a director To The Point, the mining and resources specialist where she works with her husband, Village Main Reef non-executive chairman Bernard. 


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