Strategically Thinking About Your Trust Rating

By Darren Smith | Print This Article

What if, on a scale of 1–50, you knew how much your organization was trusted compared to others?

Would knowing your “trust rating” be more valuable than earning a spot on “Best Places to Work” or “50 Largest Companies in Your Industry?”  My response would be “yes.”

Your “trust rating” is becoming a new form of currency in the collaborative world of today, BECAUSE TRUST IMPACTS YOUR ACCESS TO OPPORTUNITIES AND REVENUE.

Due to your clients’ increased intolerance of waste and uncertainty, trust is now monetized.

Now, let’s consider how you would begin to codify a “trust rating” system and apply it to strategy. How would you begin to codify a “trust rating” system for your industry or field?

You would begin by working through an objective third party and ask individuals in the industry (e.g. CEOs, project-level professionals, building owners) on a scale of 1–50 how much they trust the owners and organizations on a list. Everyone on the list agrees to complete the blind ratings for everyone else.

Similar to a personal 360-degree feedback process used in executive coaching, your organization receives the high-protein feedback needed from peers and clients in order to make internal behavior change. This behavior change translates into a higher “trust-rating” which leads to receiving access to higher-quality project opportunities.

At this point, some people reading this article are thinking, “Forget it. A trust rating system will never work.”

It will work if you use a lot of “carrot” (positive reinforcement) and a little “stick” (consequences).

What does this mean? The carrot is educating your industry, region by region, how a “trust rating” system will help the industry reach two of its goals:

  1. raising the level of professionalism in the industry and
  2. attracting more talent to the industry

The stick is publishing a trustworthy “Top 10” list. If your organization did not make the list, while it may hurt a little, no one knows if you’re No. 11 or No. 111, and you’re more motivated to improve.

Armed with the lowest, highest and average “trust rating” scores, along with support options to improve, what would be the competencies your organization would need to improve?

  • Self-reflection
  • Skilled listening
  • Drawing needed outcomes out of communication messes
  • Intrapreneurism

Let’s go one step further. How would a “trust rating” apply to strategy?

While your business objectives and strategies are probably quantitative (e.g. you want to generate $400 million in revenue in 2012 by expanding geographically), what if, for example, you added a qualitative strategy (e.g. increase your collaborative capability or trust rating)?

Increasingly, competitive advantage in the AEC industry will be created through qualitative strategies. Quantitative strategies alone will not keep you competitive even IF your market is 100% hard bid work.

To illustrate, if trust impacts your access to opportunities and revenue, which is more predictable, satisfying and likely today: achieving your objective of generating $400 million in revenue by expanding geographically or improving your trust rating and then generating $400 million in revenue in your current market(s)?

Looking back, a lot has changed over the last several years and will continue to change at increasing speed. Do you see your “trust rating” changing at increasing speed?


Darren Smith is a management consultant, career coach and public speaker. He has done business in 20 countries across 10 industries and has started and sold two companies. His clients include HKS Architects, Staubach Company, the Texas Society of Association Executives, Mrs. Baird’s Bread and Toyota. His website is

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