It’s not money you need, it’s trust.

Business Coaching, Education, leadership, motivation, teaching, team building

People talk about needing ‘capital’ in order to expand and grow a business or improve their school.  What they usually mean by this is money. But there is another kind of capital that is far more significant to growth than money and that’s social capital or trust. The extent to which you have and nurture this social capital is fundamental to your success. Lose the trust of your customers and they won’t buy from you. Remember the horsemeat scandal? Tesco’s value dropped by £300 million almost overnight followed by a massive fall in sales as the consumer lost trust in the supermarket giant.  It has spent the past five years rebuilding that lost trust. That trust was literally worth millions.

Equally if social capital is low in your staff team then productivity will be stunted. Here’s a fascinating example. Margaret Heffernan tells of an experiment conducted by William Muir – an evolutionary biologist. He wanted to measure productivity and decided to use chickens to do so. Easy to measure productivity in chickens – just count the eggs! He selected two groups of chickens – Group One were a group of average chickens and he left them alone for six generations.  However Group Two were comprised of the most individually productive chickens and each year he selected the most productive chickens and only bred those chickens.  Six generations later what do you suppose had happened? Group One were flourishing but in Group Two all but three chickens were dead. The rest had been pecked to death! In other words there was a culture in which the individual success had been achieved by suppressing the productivity of others. Does that sound like any workplace you’ve ever worked in?

A culture of competition or one that lacks transparency breeds distrust and fear. Distrust can sometimes aid the rise of the so-called superstar (or superchicken) but successful, sustainable long term progress occurs when the team as a whole is working together, when there is a ‘culture of helpfulness’, when there is social connectedness which generates synergy.  This is where ideas flow and productivity soars. It’s not just a team of able individuals you need – if they can’t work together then you won’t reach your goal.  Numerous England football teams have demonstrated this!  Gareth Southgate’s more recent approach is instructive: it’s not the individual bricks that build the edifice, it’s the mortar between them that matters. The team, not the prima donna. Trust is the mortar.

Last night I watch the BBC documentary ‘School’. It was heartbreaking to see the palpable stress that the staff were experiencing. The tears in the eyes of the Head of Geography as he said, ‘I don’t feel valued at all.’ This after an announcement from SLT that middle managers’ pay would be cut was made BY EMAIL!! No wonder! When social capital is this low there is exceptionally little prospect of improvement. People simply cannot perform effectively in these circumstances. They end up curling up on the inside and going into self-preservation and survival mode.

Trust means openness, candour and transparency; a culture in which conflict is welcomed because it is safe to question, safe to fail and safe to disagree. Trust means that it’s safe to have low days and tough times because you know there is support and genuine solidarity. This kind of culture is what can turn good ideas into great ideas. What can turn good employees into great ones.

Do you have a strategic plan to increase the social capital within your organisation as well as between your organisation and its stakeholders? This is where your real value lies. This is where your future lies.

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  1. REPLY
    comment Jemima Powell says

    I’m totally on board with this… I completely agree!
    And it is SO sad when people are not valued. We need to change this!

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