BE A LEADER: HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHOUT GIVING OFFENSE OR AROUSING RESENTMENT
1. If You Must Find Fault, This Is the Way to Begin: Begin with Praise and Honest Appreciation
The Wark Company of Philadelphia had a contract to build a large office building from the ground up by a strict deadline. When the building was almost finished and, everything was going according to schedule, the bronze supplier in New York suddenly notified them that they could not make their delivery on time. This would result in the ornamental bronze for the exterior being postponed and the entire project halted with heavy penalties and potential lawsuits. The Wark Company and the bronze subcontractor exchanged heated arguments via long-distance telephone calls. But, they resolved nothing. So, the Wark Company sent W.P. Gaw to personally meet with the bronze subcontractor at his facilities in New York. Carnegie wrote:
“’Do you know that you are the only person in Brooklyn with your name?” Mr. Gaw asked the president of the subcontracting firm, shortly after they were introduced. The president was surprised. ‘No, I didn’t know that.’
“’Well,’ said Mr. Gaw, ‘when I got off the train this morning, I looked in the telephone book to get your address; and, you’re the only person in the Brooklyn phone book with your name.’
“’I never knew that,’ the subcontractor said. He checked the phone book with interest. ‘Well, it’s an unusual name,’ he said proudly. My family came from Holland and settled in New York almost 200 years ago.’ He continued to talk about his family and his ancestors for several minutes. When he finished that, Mr. Gaw complimented him on how large a plant he had and compared it favorably with a number of similar plants he had visited. ‘It is one of the neatest and cleanest bronze factories I ever saw,’ said Gaw.
“’I’ve spent a lifetime building up this business,’ the subcontractor said, ‘and I am rather proud of it. Would you like to take a look around the factory?’
“During this tour of inspection, Mr. Gaw complimented the other man on his system of fabrication and told him how and why it seemed superior to those of some of his competitors. Gaw commented on some unusual machines, and the subcontractor announced that he himself had invented those machines. He spent considerable time showing Gaw how they operated and the superior work they turned out. He insisted on taking his visitor to lunch. So far, mind you, not a word had been said about the real purpose of Gaw’s visit.
“After lunch, the subcontractor said, ‘Now, to get down to business. Naturally, I know why you’re here. I didn’t expect that our meeting would be so enjoyable. You can go back to Philadelphia with my promise that your material will be fabricated and shipped, even if other orders have to be delayed.’
“Mr. Gaw got everything that he wanted without even asking for it. The material arrived on time, and the building was completed on the day the completion contract specified.”
2. How to Criticize and Not Be Hated for It: Call Attention to People’s Mistakes Indirectly
Carnegie wrote: “Charles Schwab was passing through one of his steel mills one day at noon when he came across some of his employees smoking. Immediately above their heads was a sign that said ‘No Smoking.’ Did Schwab point to the sign and say, ‘Can’t you read?’ Oh, no! Not, Schwab. He walked over to the men, handed each one a cigar, and said, ‘I’ll appreciate it, Boys, if you will smoke these on the outside.’ They knew that he knew that they had broken a rule. And, they admired him because he said nothing about it and gave them a little present and made them feel important. Couldn’t keep from loving a man like that, could you?”
John Wanamaker, the founder of the first department store in Philadelphia, used to tour that store daily. Once, when he saw a customer waiting at the counter while the salespeople were huddled at the other end of the counter talking with one another, Wanamaker simply got behind the counter himself and rang up the sale for the customer. Then he handed the purchased item to the salespeople and asked them to wrap it up for the customer before he walked away. He did not criticize them for ignoring the customer. He just showed them what should have been done.
Carl Langford, mayor of Orlando, Florida, had repeatedly requested that his assistants let his constituents in to see him whenever they wanted. However, they either did not believe him, or thought better of it for his own good, because they continued to limit people’s access to his door. Langford decided to make his point in another, more effective way than reminding them with words. He had the door to his office removed! They finally got the message that when he said he wanted an “open door” policy, he meant it.
When trying to change someone’s behavior, people often use praise followed by criticism. If you use this method, replace the word “but” with “and” to avoid creating resentment. For example, if you want a child to improve their study habits, you might say, “We’re proud of you, Johnny. Almost all of your grades improved. But, if you had studied harder in math, you would have improved in all your subjects.” Johnny might feel encouraged until he heard the word “but.” As soon as he heard that word, he might question the sincerity of the first praise, which now feels to him like a trick to get him to listen to the real point of the conversation—to criticize him. If he questions your motives, your comments probably won’t influence him to improve his study habits.
You can avoid this by simply changing the word “but” to “and.” “We’re proud of you, Johnny. Almost all of your grades improved. And, if you study a little harder in math, you will improve in all your subjects next term.” The word “and” naturally changes the focus of the sentence from pointing to any shortcoming in the past to pointing to anticipated desired achievements in the future. Now, Johnny will accept the praise because there was no subsequent implied criticism of his failures. He is more likely to want to please you and not disappoint you because you have been genuinely kind to him, appreciative of his efforts, and encouraging his continued efforts, all without any strings attached. You have succeeded in calling attention to his lack of effort in his math studies indirectly and, thus, without causing any bad feelings or mistrust in your relationship.
Marge Jacob of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, had a problem with construction workers leaving pieces of wood all around her yard each day after working on the addition to her house. She didn’t want to directly bring this to the attention of the builders because they did excellent work, and she feared she might antagonize them. So, after they left one day, she and her children picked up the lumber debris and neatly piled it in one corner of the yard. The next day, she told the foreman how pleased she was with the way the front lawn was left last night, neat and clean, so it won’t offend the neighbors. From that day forward, the men always piled up the debris to one side, and the foreman asked her each morning if the lawn was clean the night before.
3. Talk About Your Own Mistakes First: Talk About Your Own Mistakes before Criticizing the Other Person
It’s much easier to listen to criticisms about our faults if the speaker begins by humbling admitting their own. E.G. Dillistone, an engineer in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, had a new secretary who made a lot of spelling errors. He explained how he used this method to help correct the problem:
“Like many engineers, I have not been noted for my excellent English or spelling. For years, I have kept a little black thumb-index book for words I have trouble spelling. When it became apparent that merely pointing out the errors was not going to cause my secretary to do more proofreading and dictionary work, I resolved to take another approach. When the next letter came to my attention that had errors in it, I sat down with the typist and said: ‘Somehow this word doesn’t look right. It’s one of the words I always have trouble with. That’s the reason I started this spelling book of mine.’ I opened the book to the appropriate page. ‘Yes, here it is. I’m very conscious of my spelling now because people do judge us by our letters, and misspelling make us look less professional.’
“I don’t know whether she copied my system or not. But, since that conversation, her frequency of spelling errors has been significantly reduced.”
4. No One Likes to Take Orders: Ask Questions or Make Suggestions Instead of Giving Orders
Instead of giving orders, ask questions like, “What do you think of this?” or “Do you think that will work?” Or, make suggestions like, “You might consider this,” or “Maybe if we try it this way, it will be better.” This is a technique that makes it easier to correct errors. It saves pride and protects feelings. Most of all, it lets the job get done right with the least amount of friction and internal dissension.
Orders handed out in a harsh manner always result in lingering resentment that could have easily been avoided if a calm, cooperative tone were used instead. Ian MacDonald of Johannesburg, South Africa, was the general manager of a small manufacturing plant of machine parts when he had the opportunity to accept a large order. He wanted to accept it; but, he did not think his workers could meet the delivery deadline required to take the job. They already had too much work to complete in too short time.
Carnegie wrote: “Instead of pushing his people to accelerate their work and rush the order through, he called everybody together, explained the situation to them, and told them how much it would mean to the company and to them if they could make it possible to produce the order on time. Then, he started asking questions:
“’Is there anything we can do to handle this order?’
“’Can anyone think of different ways to process it through the shop that will make it possible to take the order?’
“’Is there any way to adjust our hours or personnel assignments that would help?’
“The employees came up with many ideas and insisted that he take the order. They approached it with a “we can do it” attitude, and the order was accepted, produced, and delivered on time.”
5. Let the Other Person Keep His Pride
When you need to reprimand or even terminate employees, do so without insulting them as much as possible. Let them keep as much of their pride as possible. Marshall Granger, C.P.A., explained how he discharged employees while letting them save face:
“Firing employees is not much fun. Getting fired is even less fun. Our business is mostly seasonal. Therefore, we have to let a lot of people go after the income tax rush is over. It’s a byword in our profession that no one enjoys wielding the ax. Consequently, the custom has developed of getting it over as soon as possible, and, usually, in the following way: ‘Sit down, Mr. Smith. The season’s over; and, we don’t seem to see anymore assignments for you. Of course, you understood you were only employed for the busy season anyhow,’ etc., etc. The effect on these people is one of disappointment and a feeling of being ‘let down.’ Most of them are in the accounting field for life, and they retain no particular love for the firm that drops them so casually.
“I recently decided to let our seasonal personnel go with a little more tact and consideration. So, I call each one in after carefully thinking over his or her work during the winter. And, I’ve said something like this: ‘Mr. Smith, You’ve done a fine job (if he has). That time we sent you to Newark, you had a tough assignment. You were on the spot; but, you came through with flying colors. And, we want you to know the firm is proud of you. You’ve got the stuff. You’re going a long way, wherever you’re working. This firm believes in you and is rooting for you, and we don’t want you to forget it.’
“Effect? The people go away feeling a lot better about being fired. They don’t feel ‘let down.’ They know if we had work for them, we’d keep them on. And, when we need them again, they come to us with a keen personal affection.”
Fred Clark of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, told a story of what can happen if you needlessly insult employees: “At one of our production meetings, a vice president was asking very pointed questions of one of our production supervisors regarding a production process. His tone of voice was aggressive and aimed at pointing out faulty performance on the part of the supervisor. Not wanting to be embarrassed in front of his peers, the supervisor was evasive in his responses. This caused the vice president to lose his temper, berate the supervisor, and accuse him of lying.
“Any working relationship that might have existed prior to this encounter was destroyed in a few brief moments. This supervisor, who was basically a good worker, was useless to our company from that time on. A few months later, he left our firm and went to work for a competitor, where I understand he is doing a fine job.”
Anna Mazzone, a marketing specialist for a food packer, told of a similar incident that happened to her when she did her big market test for a new food product—but with a much different ending: “When the results of the test came in, I was devastated. I had made a serious error in my planning, and the entire test had to be done all over again. To make this worse, I had no time to discuss it with my boss before the meeting in which I was to make my report on the project.
“When I was called on to give the report, I was shaking with fright. I had all I could do to keep from breaking down. But, I resolved I would not cry and have all those men make remarks about women not being able to handle a management job because they are too emotional. I made my report briefly and stated that, due to an error, I would repeat the study before the next meeting. I sat down, expecting my boss to blow up.
“Instead, he thanks me for my work and remarked that it was not unusual for a person to make an error on a new project and that he had confidence that the repeat survey would be accurate and meaningful to the company. He assured me, in front of all my colleagues, that he had faith in me and he knew I had done my best, and that my lack of experience, not my lack of ability, was the reason for the failure.
“I left that meeting with my head in the air and with the determination that I would never let that boss of mine down again.”
You won’t go wrong if you share the following belief of famous French aviation pioneer and author Antoine du Saint-Exupery: “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.”
6. How to Urge People to Succeed: Praise Every Little Improvement; Be “Hearty in Your Approbation and Lavish in Your Praise”
Carnegie shared three excellent examples of how praise influenced poor unknown individuals into becoming incredibly successful and beloved around the world:
“For example, many years ago, a boy of ten was working in a factory in Naples. He longed to be a singer, but his first teacher discouraged him. ‘You can’t sing,’ he said. ‘You haven’t any voice at all. It sounds like the wind in the shutters.’ [¶] But his mother, a poor peasant woman, put her arms about him and praised him and told him she knew he could sing. She could already see an improvement. And, she went barefoot in order to save money to pay for his music lessons. That peasant mother’s praise and encouragement changed that boy’s life. His name was Enrico Caruso; and, he became the greatest and most famous opera singer of his age.”
The second example Carnegie gave of how praise helps create greatness:
“In the early nineteenth century, a young man in London aspired to be a writer. But, everything seemed to be against him. He had never been able to attend school more than four years. His father had been flung in jail because he couldn’t pay his debts. And, this young man often knew the pangs of hunger. Finally, he got a job pasting labels on bottles of blacking [shoe polish] in a rat-infested warehouse; and, he slept at night in a dismal attic room with two other boys—guttersnipes from the slums of London. He had so little confidence in his ability to write that he sneaked out and mailed his first manuscript in the dead of night so nobody would laugh at him. Story after story was refused. Finally, the great day came when one was accepted. True, he wasn’t paid a shilling [about a penny] for it, but one editor had praised him. One editor had given him recognition. He was so thrilled that he wandered aimlessly around the street with tears rolling down his cheeks. [¶] The praise, the recognition, that he received from getting one story in print changed his whole life. For, if it hadn’t been for that encouragement, he might have spent his entire life working in rat-infested factories. You may have heard of that boy. His name was Charles Dickens.”
The third example by Carnegie of the positive effects of praise on fame and fortune:
“Another boy made his living as a clerk in a dry-goods store. He had to get up at five o’clock, sweep out the store, and slave for fourteen hours a day. It was sheer drudgery; and, he despised it. After two years, he could stand it no longer. So, he got up one morning and, without waiting for breakfast, tramped 15 miles to talk to his mother, who was working as a housekeeper. [¶] He was frantic. He pleaded with her. He wept. He swore he would kill himself if he had to remain in the shop any longer. Then, he wrote a long, pathetic letter to his old schoolmaster, declaring that he was heartbroken, that he no longer wanted to live. His old schoolmaster gave him a little praise and assured him that he really was very intelligent and fitted for finer things and offered him a job as a teacher. [¶] That praise changed the future of that boy and made a lasting impression on the history of English literature. For that boy went on to write innumerable best-selling books and made over a million dollars with his pen. You’ve probably heard of him. His name: H. G. Wells.”
John Ringlespaugh of Rocky Mountain, North Carolina, and his wife used praise with their children when they realized yelling at them only made things worse: “We decided to try praise instead of harping on their faults. It wasn’t easy when all we could see were the negative things they were doing. It was really tough to find things to praise. We managed to find something. And, within the first day or two, some of the really upsetting things they were doing quit happening. Then, some of their other faults began to disappear. They began capitalizing on the praise we were giving them. They even began going out of their way to do things right. Neither of us could believe it. Of course, it didn’t last forever. But, the norm reached after things leveled off was so much better. It was no longer necessary to react the way we used to. The children were doing far more right things than wrong ones.” This was the direct result of praising every little thing the children did right, instead of blaming them for everything they did wrong.
When you praise someone, don’t just make a general comment like, “You’re good.” Explain why you find their accomplishment exceptional. Point to specifics. Everyone loves praise; but, when your praise is specific, it sounds more sincere and not just something you’re saying to make the other person feel good. Even though we all crave the feeling of importance, we don’t want insincere flattery.
Note: The advice in this book works, but only if attempted them with a pure heart. This is not a “bag of tricks.” This is a new way for you to live your life!