The Value of Trust and Integrity in Negotiating

If you don’t have integrity, you have nothing. You can’t buy it. You can have all the money in the world, but if you are not a moral and ethical person, you really have nothing.

Henry Kravis

I write and speak a lot about negotiation. It’s an integral part of a career as a turnaround authority. Anyone in the turnaround field spends a great deal of time negotiating on a client’s behalf with vendors, lenders, bankers and employees — sometimes even family members.

In a previous post, “A Key Ingredient to a Successful Negotiation,” I wrote about the importance of mutual respect among parties in reaching a beneficial and positive outcome for any negotiation.

While some people admire underhanded business tactics and thrive on dirty negotiating and attempts to smear people’s reputations — anything to score a win — I persist in believing that integrity in business still has a place. And conducting yourself at all times with integrity has the added benefit of actually helping you negotiate better deals.

Yes, engaging in dirty tactics may win you a few deals. But word of your character and the way you negotiate will get out. And soon your reputation as a dirty dealer will affect the way you are perceived. Before you even walk into a negotiation the next time, your opponent’s back will be up. They don’t trust you. And without trust and dealing with integrity, deals are much more difficult to make and can even fall apart.

I recently read an article on, “Success Will Come and Go But Integrity is Forever.” The author, Amy Rees Anderson, addresses the value of trust.

“The value of the trust others have in you is far beyond anything that can be measured. For entrepreneurs it means investors that are willing to trust them with their money. For employees it means a manager or a boss that is willing to trust them with additional responsibility and growth opportunities. For companies it means customers that trust giving them more and more business. For you it means having an army of people that are willing to go the extra mile to help you because they know that recommending you to others will never bring damage to their own reputation of integrity. Yes, the value of the trust others have in you goes beyond anything that can be measured because it brings along with it limitless opportunities and endless possibilities.”

In the book “Essentials of Negotiation” the authors Roy J. Lewicki, David M. Saunders and Bruce Barry write about the role of trust in negotiations. “Trust increases the likelihood that negotiation will proceed on a favorable course over the life of a negotiation.”

And in addition to producing more favorable outcomes for your clients during your career, you’ll enjoy a positive reputation for the rest of your life.

And that good reputation can lead to more business. Some of my best and long-standing referral sources are from professionals who sat across the table and appreciated integrity and my straightforwardness.

Even years later, will people remember that you negotiated a big deal for a client? Or are they more likely to remember the dirty way you did it.

I opened this post with a favorite quote from Henry Kravis. I had the fortune to work with him many years ago, so I know firsthand that his sentiments are sincere. He practices what he believes and is also a generous philanthropist.

As that great philosopher Bob Marley said, “The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.”


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