In the entertainment industry, a person’s X-factor is typically a mystery quality that’s hard to articulate. In business, it is generally much simpler. A business’ X-factor comes down to their unique application of known ideas like skill, innovation…and trust. Our recent Insight Series event was titled Trust – understand it, build it and recognise its value. We were honoured to hear from Keith Dugdale, co‐author of Smarter Selling and founder of The Business of Trust (BoFT); Aubrey Warren, QUT MBA lecturer, author and founder of Influence 3; and Darren Crombie, Deputy Director‐General, Infrastructure, Policy and Planning with the Queensland Government.

How to build trust

Keith cited PwC’s 20th CEO survey which showed that, in 2017, 63 per cent of Australian CEOs are concerned about a lack of trust in business, up from 34 per cent in 2013. So what makes up trust in business? He shared this formula:

Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy


Assuming credibility and reliability, Keith said building greater trust comes down to maximising intimacy and aiming to eliminate self-orientation. Guests at the event asked their neighbour what they expected to be doing in three years’ time. Keith’s challenge was, for how many of our clients do we know that answer? Building intimacy – toward building trust – requires more than comfortable fall-backs like being a subject matter expert. The key, he said, was to move beyond social, technical or ad hoc relationships to instead pursue partner relationships. That’s what moves a relationship away from commodity-based engagement to something with long-term value. How many people are responsible for selling your products and services? It’s not just everyone in your business. It should be those outside it as well – and that best occurs when you build true partnering relationships.

How to build swift trust

Aubrey put trust back in the context of why it matters – particularly because we know the value of working with people. He acknowledged that building trust typically takes a long time, but that we don’t always have that luxury. He offered three keys to building swift trust:

  1. Establish a clear sense of shared purpose and common ground. This is particularly the leader’s role. For leaders in short-term or collaborative project environments, he recommended ensuring everyone knows why everyone else is there, emphasising generous introductions to best set a context.
  2. Encourage common traits of trust. This includes factors such as openness, acceptance, reliability, congruence and competence. His tip was to remember the power of small wins – you don’t have to reach big goals to build a team’s collective spirit.
  3. Extend trust. Whether you have time or need to build trust swiftly, Aubrey said that building trust involves vulnerability and risk. He said you have to be trusting – offering two key demonstrations of being intentionally transparent and delegating effectively.

How to bridge trust

Darren brought an important perspective of trust between the public and private sector. He said that when there’s trust between the two, value is created. With trust, you gain speed and efficiency. You also gain the ability to share information and talk freely, meaning the public sector gains more timely insights with greater relevance from a more balanced perspective. He also shared that trust is what allows frank conversations. Particularly when tackling complex projects or policy, where things won’t always go according to plan, the ability to honestly disclose progress and problem solve together become increasingly critical. This includes the private sector recognising the risk for government in extending relationships of trust. To build trust, Darren recommended building personal rapport; being credible, authentic, open and honest; following through; and spending time learning about the other’s context – principles we can all put into action in any team context.

When looking for the X-factor for your business, look no further that your ability to build trust.