What Do You Think Of When You Hear "Dale Carnegie"? 

When you hear the name Dale Carnegie what do you automatically think about? More than likely, and especially if you are a member of the Baby Boomer Generation, it is his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Over the years some have mistaken this book as yet another self-help book from the myriad of such books that flood today’s marketplace. However, you might not know that this book was originally written in 1936. It received such attention in the 60’s because it was reprinted and revised then and also again in the early 80’s. How can something that was written so long ago still be so relevant today? The answer is as simple as Dale Carnegie’s writing style; it is relevant because it works!

Dale Carnegie began his career as a motivational speaker to “prepare people to think on their feet and express their ideas with more clarity in both business and social situations.” He outlines in the section, “How This Book was written” that he amassed this knowledge over time in preparation for one of his many speeches. It is a well known fact that one of the biggest problems that businesses face is the problem of how to deal with people. The quality of personal interaction affects everyone and everything in the workplace from office morale, productivity, efficiency, to ultimately profitability. Carnegie quotes John D. Rockefeller,

“the ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability than any other ability under the sun.”

Presuming that Rockefeller was a successful businessman and knew what he was talking about, lets get about the business of improving and perfecting our people skills.

In the last section of his book, Dale Carnegie outlines some simple strategies on leadership in terms of how to get people to change without giving offense. They are so simple that you will find yourself shaking your head thinking why didn’t I think of that. Or perhaps, you might find that you already practice some of these tenets and are having a self-congratulatory moment. Whatever the case, lets review his first few principles that involve getting people to do what you want as successfully, joyfully, and painlessly as possible.

  • Principal 1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.

    This is a no brainer for most of us as we have been taught since infancy the adage that you get more flies with honey. The key here, that is sometimes overlooked, is the word honest. The praise needs to be relevant and reflect that you as a leader have given your valuable time to regard and reflect upon them or their efforts. In other words, the perfunctory good job will not inspire nor assuage the negative feelings that are almost always the attendant result of any type of correction.

  • Principal 2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.

    This is probably one of the hardest things that Carnegie would ask us to do. For the most part we are all very busy and almost always battling deadlines so to take the oblique approach can be tedious and frustrating. However, if you have time, patience, and the temperament then a little finesse can go a long way!

  • Principal 3. Talk about your mistakes first before criticizing another.

    Ok, lets presume that you have tried Principal 2 and it has sadly not achieved your desired result. It is now time to start with some heartfelt praise and a good dose of humility. This is the “we are in this together and I have made the same mistakes too approach.” Carnegie cites several real life and historical examples that show that this practice really does work. It may seem like an oversimplification, but people really do positively respond when they see someone humbling themself enough to admit a mistake or shortcoming. For some of us, Principal 3 is going to be as hard as Principal 2, but improved interactions and ultimately improved profitability is certainly worth a small slice of humble pie every now and again.

  • Principal 4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.

    This falls under the “we are all in this together” category. Studies have shown that people who are allowed to express their own ideas and have direct input in to problem solving take more ownership and feel more successful in their positions. This one also seems so pedestrian, but it is not as easy as you think. Many of us like to lead quickly and think that our way is the only right way. It is a challenge, but sometimes there are multiple right ways and the benefits in the long run are worth the extra time spent on personal communication.

  • Principal 5. Let the other person save face.

    Dale Carnegie highly stresses the value of this skill and it falls in line with Principal Number 3. Humiliation is a hard pill to swallow and can turn a most valued employee into an embittered one with a few poorly considered words. Carnegie aptly says, “even if we are right and the other person is definitely wrong, we only destroy ego by causing someone to lose face” He ends this section with a quote from a famous French aviator:

    “I have no right to say or do anything that diminishes a man in his own eyes. What matters is not what I think of him, but what he thinks of himself. Hurting a man in his dignity is a crime.”

This is just a smattering of the jewels that can be found in this profound and timeless book. There is a reason that it has been in print for almost 90 years and sold millions! It should be required, no that’s not right per Mr. Carnegie...suggested reading for everyone in your workplace!

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