It takes two to tango

Why two heads are better than one.

24 February 2010, by Tracey Swanepoel

JOHANNESBURG - Two is the magic number

Do you have a best friend at work? This question, strange as it may sound is part of an internationally renowned study by Gallup, which investigates the correlation between employee attitudes and company profitability. Over the course of nearly ten years they have whittled their findings down to 12 questions, (The Gallup Q12) which have proved to be key indicators of increased business performance.

This question has always intrigued me. Aren't we looking at the corporate world rather than the primary school playground? Did the Gallup people run out of ideas? Does Q12 just sound better than Q11?

Apparently none of the above. The serious souls at Gallup appear to be on to something. In a new book (The Power of 2) (which can be purchased from the Moneyweb Shop) Rodd Wagner and Gale Muller outline why two is the magic number if we really want to make a so-called "dent in the universe" (as Steve Jobs of Apple puts it).

These great start-ups prove the "it takes two to Tango": Apple (the two Steves- Jobs and Wozniak); Microsoft (Bill Gates and Paul Allen); HP (Bill Hewlett and David Packard). Emerging research in the entrepreneurship field indicates that start-ups are much more likely to succeed if driven by a partnership. Based on this, cutting edge entrepreneurship courses are being redesigned as I write this, focusing on the teaching of an entrepreneurship pair as opposed to a lone (albeit talented) individual.

Extending this thinking beyond business, consider Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary, the first to summit Mount Everest. Closer to home, our South African constitution (purportedly one of the best in the world) is a product of the Cyril Ramaphosa /Roelf Meyer partnership.

Flying solo

In fact humans are made for collaborating. It's how we have survived and evolved for centuries. But our work-alone, work-from-home, do-it-all-myself mentality is making us dangerously isolated.

Ironically our pursuit of independence, enabled by technology (e-mail, voice mail, car radios, even TV programmes) has lulled us into a false sense of connectivity. We might well be networked but we are interacting less than ever. We try to do everything on our own and often feel the overwhelming pressure of delivering (especially those bits that we are not good at and don't particularly enjoy). But we plod on and get through. Maybe we even get a bit of praise or acknowledgement for doing it all on our own. Even that's kind of empty and disappointing. We move on to the next task...another solo mission.

It's no wonder everyone is stressed, "hectic" and underneath it all, quite unhappy. It's lonely (especially at the top). It's not surprising that many CEOs and business leaders nostalgically remember the time when they were part of the team as the most satisfying and enjoyable part of their careers.

It doesn't have to be this way!

Research (conducted by Gallup) confirms that great partnerships make us less stressed, they make us feel as though we have learnt something useful, they make us smile and laugh more, and generally have a greater sense of well-being.

So what makes a great partnership? Two things:

So you think you can dance?

All of that said, the most important ingredient is an attitude adjustment from "it's all about number one" to "two is beautiful". Some thoughts to keep in mind before hitting the dance floor:

Get over yourself:
Multiple (business related) partners are ok:
Loosen up:
If you want credit - go to the bank!
Give more than you expect to get:
Listen well and never stop talking:
The result?
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