Under suspicion: How trust drives business performance

Fiona Smith Columnist

Under suspicion: How trust drives business performance

Published 21 October 2013 10:22, Updated 21 October 2013 11:08

Plain-speaking former minister in the Howard government, Amanda Vanstone, gives a graphic description of what it feels like to discover you are under suspicion of dishonesty. She recalls, in a column for the Sydney Morning Herald , being phoned by an anxious staff member about a mistake in one of Vanstone’s claims – at a time when Senator Mal Colston had (in her words) been caught taking “rorting to new levels”.“I was horrified. Now I would be judged as a cheat along with Colston, just for one lousy mistake,” Vanstone writes.

“What I remember most clearly was thinking I might throw up, then and there, in the gutter, in a public place. Then I heard the detail. I had underclaimed for one night. At the time, I couldn’t even laugh about it.”

This is the climate of distrust in which Australian politicians have to operate. It is toxic and the result of the pilfering of the public purse by a venal few.

The public perception that our political leaders will do just about anything for a “freebie” is, no doubt, part of the reason that trust in government and politicians is falling dramatically, according to a new report, Mapping Social Cohesion .

Some workplaces labour under similar levels of distrust. Back in the 1990s, call centres were known just as much for their excessive levels of employee suspicion as they were for the rate at which their staff walked out on them.

Keystrokes were counted, toilet breaks were timed and every minute on the phone had to be accounted for – just in case an operator spent a little too much time on “unnecessary” friendly conversation with a customer.

It is worth noting that one of the most successful sales organisations in the world, online shoe retailer Zappos, imposes no time limit on its call-centre employees. Marathon phone calls to lonely customers have been marketing “gold” to the company, which reaps the rewards of word-of-mouth recommendations and social media praise.

It also rarely loses staff.

Trust in organisations is not just about providing a good place to work – although that is important for a number of reasons. It also results in better performance.

According to co-founder of the Great Place To Work Institute, Amy Lyman, companies where employees praise the high levels of trust in their workplace are among the highest performers, beating the average annualised returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.

Workplace expert Nan Russell has written about the seven “misunderstood truths” of workplace trust:

1. Trust is not always a good thing. Childlike trust is not authentic trust and it doesn’t build work relationships.

2. Mistrust is not the opposite of trust. Control is. Notice where there is a lack of authentic trust and you’ll see controlling people.

3. There is always risk when giving trust. Those operating with authentic trust weigh the risks and benefits before giving it.

4. Trust is a process. Authentic trust is a learned emotional skill and involves an ongoing process of relationship building, where the relationship is more important than any one particular outcome.

5. Trust is about people not things. It requires commitments made and commitments honoured.

6. Trust is conditional. There are limits and conditions with authentic trust. I may trust my mechanic to work on my car, but I don’t trust him to do my root canal.

7. To get trust you must give it. Contrary to popular belief, trust is not earned. You start trust by giving trust.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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