Lessons from 1936 — 4. Being a leader: How to change people without giving offence or a rousing resentment / by Valerie Poort

This is the final part of my blogging while reading the book How to win friends and influence people, originally written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie.


Principle 1: Begin with praise and honest appreciation

Compliment sandwiches — it's always easier to listen to unpleasant things after we have heard some praise of our good points. Give, then ask.

Saying a genuinely positive thing first about what you've just been presented with, then followed by something to improve on — that's how you will win people over to your way of thinking. A letter like that creates respect for the person writing it (from the reader), and creates a sense of wanting to prove them right, honour their belief in you. It creates a little want to excel. 

This crosses over with principles such as being friendly, making people feel important, and creating competition, to get what you want out of them, to lead them to where you want them to go — and create a win win situation, of course. 


Principle 2: Call attention to people's mistakes indirectly

This is how to criticise, and not be hated for it. 

  • say 'yes, and', rather than 'but' (we love this in the design thinking world — it's not discriminating, rather it's building on each other)
  • saying 'well done, if you keep this up, you'll do so well next time!'
  • imply that the thought/idea is good for something else, but maybe not what the person meant it for (a compliment as well as a critique)

Principle 3: Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person

When chatting with someone and saying 'look, I experienced the same as well, and this is how I fixed it — we're the same, I make mistakes too...'

A good leader follows this principle: talk about your own mistakes before criticising the other person. 


Principle 4: Ask questions instead of giving direct orders

No one likes to take orders. Always give people the opportunity to do things themselves, instead of ordering them to do it. 'You might consider this,' or 'do you think that would work?' encourage competition instead of rebellion. It gives people a feeling of importance. 

Instead of telling someone to move their car, say 'if it were moved, other cards could get in and out.' Asking questions like that not only makes an order more palatable, it also encourages creativity — the person had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.

In the advertising world, we often like to create an 'aha' moment — letting someone figure out the advertisement through visual and text clues, rather than telling them something point blank. This is often very effective, because as Carnegie stated above, the person had a part in the decision that caused the order to be issued.


Principle 5: Let the other person save face

When arguing a point, even if we are right and the other person is definitely wrong, we only destroy someone's pride by causing them to lose face. Criticism will only let a person down and make them resentful, whereas noting why the person did a good job and praising their choices let's them save face and have their head held high.


Principle 6: Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be 'hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.'

Praise creates far more change than criticism.

When praise is specific, it comes across as sincere, rather than something the other person may be saying to make someone else feel good. The principles in this book only work when they come from the heart — it's not a bag of tricks, its a new way of life to praise every improvement in others.


Principle 7: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to

'Give a dog a bad name and you may as well hang him. Give a dog a good name...'

If you want to improve a person in a certain respect, act as though that particular trait were already one of his or her outstanding characteristics... give them a fine reputation to live up to, and they will make prodigious efforts rather than see you disillusioned. 

Tell someone you heard they're fantastic at making cheese scones, and they're likely to want to prove you right.


Principle 8: Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct

Tell someone they are stupid or dumb at a certain thing, they have no gift for it, and they're doing it all wrong, and you have destroyed almost every incentive to try and improve. But use the opposite technique — be liberal with your encouragement, make the thing seem easy to do, let the other person know that you have faith in his ability to do it... and he will practice until he dawn comes in the window in order to excel. 


Principle 9: Making people glad to do what you want

If the other person feels happy about doing the thing you suggest, you'll make them glad to do what you want:

  • tell people they're too important for the job
  • say that they're doing you a favour
  • say that you regret you can't go
  • suggest an alternative — get the other person thinking about another idea rather than being disappointed about the current one
  • give that person a title and authority — 'she tried giving the worst sinner in the gang a title and feeling of authority. She made him her detective and put him in charge of keeping all trespassers off her lawn. She made him feel important and gave him a different purpose.'
  • say 'you'll have done your part for us all'

The effective leader should keep the following guide lines in mind when it is necessary to change attitudes or behaviour:

  1. Be sincere — don't promise anything that you cannot deliver. Concentrate on the benefits to the other person.
  2. Know exactly what it is you want the other person to do 
  3. Be empathetic — ask what it is the other person wants to do 
  4. Consider the benefits the other person will receive from doing what you suggest 
  5. Match those benefits to the other person's wants 
  6. Express the request to convey the idea of how they will benefit

Examine the person, and think, what would make them feel happy that I am doing this and not them? Or that they are doing this and not me? 

When you use these approaches experience shows you are more likely to change attitudes this way than not using these principles. If you increase your chances by just 10%, you'll have become 10% more effective as a leader.


On reflection, these principles make you be creative within your responses or approaches to people. It's good to have the principles, and a few examples of how other people have applied them, but I've got to be creative and pratice different approaches and see what works and what doesn't for myself.

Dale Carnegies suggestion at the beginning of his book was to use it as working guide, rather than a once-off. It's a great idea, which also encouraged me to blog about the principles and learnings — and gives me something to come back to.