Everyday we interact with a multitude of people – colleagues, bosses, our teams, business partners in our ecosystems, other stakeholders – with whom we want to be build business (and often, even, personal) relationships.

Building trust is key to building relationships. Our aim is to build “business intimacy”. Unfortunately, in today’s world, we live fast and often lack the time we need to build quality trust based relationships.

We need to shorten the time it takes to build trust with others and we need to do it quickly. One technique is to quickly engage in “robust conversations” with others that go beyond the usual superficial topics… and to build “business intimacy”.

“Business intimacy” is a term used to describe the deep conversations that connect the underlying dynamics of the business organisation with the underlying dynamics of the person we are interacting with.

Building “Business Intimacy” is based on two basic concepts:

  • We all have agenda. In fact, we all have multiple agenda that are available for us to explore and engage in conversation – we call this “Scope of Relationship”


  • We can move quickly from the surface generic conversation (general conversation, broad topics – “wishes”) to deep structure conversation (significant business and personal issues explored at depth – such as “wants”or “needs”) – we call this “Depth of Relationship”

In an ideal conversation, we move in and out of the other person’s multiple “agenda”.

There are basically five agenda available within a business context conversation, that we can use to build “scope” and “breadth” of relationship: technical agenda, profesional agenda, business agenda, social/community agenda, and personal agenda.

To understand this model, imagine that we have five elevators available to us to travel in. Each elevator represents a different agenda available for us to explore and engage in conversation in. As we move from one elevator (agenda) to the next, we need (and at the same time gain) more “trust”. A robust conversation is built moving in and out of agenda topics… and as we move to the left of the model, we need more trust in order for the other person to open up and share his/her points of view.

The first elevator is the “Technical Agenda”.

This is probably the agenda we are most familiar with, as well as the one we are most comfortable to engage in conversation in. To the other person, this is an obvious area to interact with us; to us, this is a low risk area, since a business environment has always been a technical environment. There is no great requirement for “trust” in this conversation theme since the other person quickly finds his/her level of comfort.

The second elevator is the “Professional Agenda”elevator.

This conversation theme requires some subject matter knowledge. As an example, engaging in a conversation about regulatory requirements with a colleague or discussing questions of leadership or strategy with a partner. A certain level of “trust” is needed in this conversation theme, as the other person shares his/her points of view about his/her role and some of its issues/challenges.

The third elevator is the “Business Agenda”elevator.

“Trust” is a significant element in this conversation theme, since we will not only talk about the market, the business trends, but also the other person’s specific points of view, strategies and future positioning. “Trust” is significant since the other person will be sharing his/her points of view and, in some way, is vulnerable (as are we). Engaging in a productive conversation in this theme elevator requires some work on our part. We need to be interested in our business area and industry/sector, in the issues that affect our collective lives, we need to have opinions and points of view. To a degree, in this elevator “trust” comes with a fair degree of “competence”, “knowledge” and “expertise”.

The fourth elevator is the “Social/Community Agenda”elevator.

This elevator is a potentially powerful conversation theme. We live in the same world and the same communities as those around us, we are affected by the same macro and global issues (ex: global warming, green agenda, terrorism, global financial crisis), as well as, by the local issues around the corner (ex: local corruption, local education issues, security, etc). We have a major opportunity to bring these and other issues into the conversation, thereby creating a space for an exchange of points of view, new perspectives and interesting reflections. It is a good space to demonstrate to others that we are interesting people, connected and committed with the world we live in.

It is also an important area to interact with others, as many of the social/community issues affect us collectively. “Trust” is, once again, a significant element, as both people take risks by offering and sharing points of view and opinions. This theme requires an investment on our part, as we need to be informed, seek out information, and give ourselves an opportunity to think and reflect in order to form opinions and to have points of view.

The fifth elevator is the “Personal Agenda”elevator.

Here “trust” is a crucial element. Everyone has a personal agenda. Issues may relate to the other person’s personal business agenda (ex: promotion, leadership issues, development preoccupations, etc.) and they can even relate to the person’s personal agenda (ex: family issues, personal needs, or others). This is an area that some people may feel more awkward with but I will forever recall the CFO who said to me “… you see, I have been a CFO for three years in this company… but I have been a person for the past 45 years… which do you think carries the biggest weight?” And he was so right. We often forget that those around us are people first, as we are. We all get up in the morning, have good days and bad days, happy and sad moments, wishes, needs and wants.

We have these five elevator themes available to us to strike and maintain rich and engaging conversations with those around us. As we develop “scope of relationship”(in other words, as we move towards the “Personal Agenda” in our model) by travelling these five elevators, we must also develop “depth of relationship“by moving the conversation from the surface level “wishes”(non committing less risky level of engagement) to deeper levels as “wants”and “needs”,where disclosure requires significant higher levels of “trust”.

The opportunity to gain greater breadth and depth of relationship with those around us is available to us. It is, for some of us, outside of our comfort zone. It will require some “courage” but, there is one thing we know — the other person is as uncertain as we are to take the risk. It is our responsibility to take the risk, in order to get the other person to engage and “trust” into building the relationship with us.

We all have “agenda”. Agenda are powerful tools available to all of us to build “trust” into our business relationships by fast tracking our “business intimacy”.


About Luis Soares Costa

From the very beginning, coaching has always been at the core of my passions.

For the past 38 years I have been an Executive and Team Coach working globally with CEOs and their C-Suite Executives, Business Owners and top talent in a significant number of the major global companies (including a significant number of Fortune 500), innovative companies operating in new ecosystems and dynamic family owned businesses.

During the past 28 years, I have also been an Executive and Team Coach and a “consultant to consultants” developing partners and top talent at major consultancies, Big4 Firms and Legal Firms

As an Executive and Team Coach, I partner with you and/or your teams in a “real play” thought-provoking and creative process which inspires you to “connect the dots” and maximize your personal and professional potential. The aim of the partnership is to bring about a sustained behavioral and performance transformation and profoundly shift the quality of your and your team’s working and personal life, whilst maximizing your potential and generating sustainable value.

You can contact me at coach@LuisSoaresCosta.com and visit my Website at www.LuisSoaresCosta.com