Day 83. My eyes betrayed me….


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 83.  Thursday, June 16, 2011
I was working with some associates on a big presentation today. My role was minimal—I was the director / team leader / advisor, of sorts.  I describe my role as minimal because the bulk of the preparation and work for the presentation was technically impossible for me to handle.   Instead the work was the responsibility of one individual—named “Evelyn.”

Evelyn was stressed today.  In fact, she was stressed all day yesterday trying to prepare for today.  Evelyn and I didn’t talk much yesterday.  My perception of things—it wasn’t my role to be involved—there was technically no “work” that I could help her with.  It was her vision that she had to bring to life. 

When Evelyn and I met this morning I did my best to break the ice and begin in a friendly way.  Understand that I am not exactly a perky individual in the morning.  And I could feel tension and stress between us—even though I felt there was no logical reason for it. 

Evelyn began to go through each step in the presentation.  She was nervous and stressed—and as a result she didn’t seem quite as polished or prepared as she would have liked to have been.

My eyes have been betraying me for years....

It was at this point I learned something about myself.  I can intimidate.  For those of you who know me, surely this surprises you!  I think I’m a lovable, soft spoken, kind hearted individual.  But today I realized I inadvertently come off as a bear who is never happy and I can make people feel inadequate. 

Realizing I was causing Evelyn to be stressed and intimidated… I softened my approach.  I listened to her presentation with interest.  I gave encouragement.  I gave gentle guidance and suggestions.  Once I did this—it was as if the weight of the world was lifted from Evelyn.  Instead, this became more of a team effort.  She looked at me for guidance and help and in fact, it was at this point that she became her normal self.  Her words flowed a lot better because she was at ease. 

I guess the best way to describe what happened is that the burden—the yoke of responsibility that was absolutely all hers—now was being shared.  I helped to carry her burden. 

I recognized the value of praising her here and there—with words of encouragement like “that was good”. Or “this was a good choice of colors for this project.”  “Maybe you should also mention the following key points.”

It was an exhausting day for Evelyn but she seemed to really become enthusiastic.  She even suggested doing extra work to make the presentation better.  I encouraged her to go for it—and she did. 

The filming of this project took the entire day and by the time we finished the entire team was ready to go home. 

I said to Evelyn, “while this was a lot of work—I think the extra effort paid off.”

Evelyn:  “I completely agree.  This was one of our best.”

The Dale Carnegie principles that I used today were subtle yet very challenging for me.   From How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 1.  Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Principle 18.  Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
Principle 26. Let the other person save face.

From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Analyze your own mistakes and criticize yourself.

I work very hard and the standards I place on myself are very high.  I think others see this and they get intimidated because they think they don’t measure up in my eyes.  One problem is—I think my eyes were betraying me.  I was criticizing and condemning Evelyn with the look in my eyes.  My eyes were sending the message:  this is not my responsibility so I’m going to let you carry the burden Evelyn.  While technically it was a fact that this wasn’t my burden, Evelyn also needed encouragement.  Encouragement really is a very sweet nectar that absolutely everyone craves more than the finest foods.  Everyone is capable of serving it up in a sincere way.

The method I took to encourage—I listened with interest while being sympathetic to Evelyn’s feelings and ideas.  I helped carry the burden of this task so that it was more of a team effort.  Once I did this—the presentation and workflow went a lot smoother.  There was no longer tension between Evelyn and me.

I learned a humbling lesson today about my eyes and I got to see firsthand the positive effects of softening my approach.  So remember, if there is tension between you and someone else that you cannot explain—stop and consider that your eyes may be criticizing and condemning the other person.  Soften your approach with some encouragement and you’ll discover the positive effect it will have on the other person.

Day 68. Learning how to make lemonade can help you become a better leader.


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 68.  Wednesday, June 1, 2011
I distinctly remember Tuesday September 27, 2010.  Dale Carnegie’s first principle “don’t criticize, condemn or complain” was smashed on my head.

Make lemonade

Fast forward to today.  I had a meeting with an individual named Pablo.  I prepared for this meeting carefully.  Part of me dreaded it.  I didn’t want to put Pablo through the experience I went through in September.  Our circumstances surrounding the meetings are entirely different but if there’s one thing I have learned—criticizing, condemning and complaining does not motivate anyone to work harder.  It creates resentment.  It hurts a person’s pride.  It does not create a positive environment.  Making lemonade from such a sour event is possible—but it doesn’t happen easily or immediately. 

Before walking into the meeting with Pablo I reviewed Dale Carnegie principles from How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.  I even said a prayer before entering the conference room.  I want Pablo to succeed.  I do not want to beat him down.  I do want to encourage, help him grow and reach his potential because he is a good employee.  People are all wired differently and need to be managed accordingly.  I cannot expect Pablo to change—so knowing his work habits I can adapt my management skills to bring out the best in him. 

We went through some plans for the next quarter.  I outlined some new ideas and opportunities where I think his talents will flourish.  I gave him specific directions, deadlines and encouragement.  I invited questions and called attention to some concerns indirectly.  The meeting last a half hour and ended on a good note.

There are multiple principles used in this scenario but the main one I’d like to focus on is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 17.  Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.

Another way of stating Principle 17—practice empathy.  Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Acknowledge a person is human and has feelings.  Once you do that—you can implement the other principles.  Point out mistakes indirectly.  Set reasonable goals and give the person a good reputation to live up to.  The goal is not to beat a person down with a stick especially when he/she has demonstrated in the past that he/she is a good employee.  When you do this—the results are employees/friends/family members/etc that are willing to apply themselves toward achieving a goal because you have indicated you have confidence in their ability.  This is far better than beating a person with a stick and scratching your head wondering why they still aren’t performing well. 

Housekeeping / Notes:
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Day 60. No need to throw the baby out with the bath water. Get all the facts first!


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. Get all the facts first!

Day 60.  Tuesday, May 24, 2011
I was getting ready to launch a campaign to help promote one of our new products today.  I had an associate look it over and he replied that he didn’t want me to proceed.  I would need to come up with a new campaign right away.

In the spirit of living the Dale Carnegie principles, I took a deep breath and said, “no problem.  I’ll whip up Plan B.”

I started considering what Plan B would actually be—and my thought process took a turn.  I crawled into my associate’s head and considered his point of view. 

I then asked my associate some questions about the campaign I had originally proposed.  I was gauging to see if he understood the campaign.  He did not.  In fact, he completely misunderstood what I was doing.  I don’t think he actually read anything I sent him.  When my suspicions were confirmed I clarified my plan—and he completely changed his mind.  He completely loved the idea and wanted me to proceed as originally planned.  He apologized for the confusion.

This scenario only lasted a couple minutes.  But it had great potential to wreak havoc on the entire day.  Aside from almost having to redo all my work… I could have also wasted valuable time chewing on the fact that my associate didn’t take the time to read the campaign.  Instead, I took a DEEP breath and focused on the good.  The good was:  I didn’t have to start my work all over.  I also considered the fact that my associate must be very busy and stressed to have missed the key points to the campaign. 

The Dale Carnegie principles I used today are from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 17.  Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
Principle 23.  Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
Principle 26.  Let the other person save face.

From How to Stop Worrying and Start Living:
Get all the facts.

I demonstrated flexibility to adjust my plans. But I also decided to see things from my associate’s perspective.  When I did this—it became obvious to me that he did not understand the campaign.  With a few polite questions I was able to clarify the details with him and I avoided having to create an entirely new campaign.  I didn’t say he was careless.  I focused on the objective of getting work complete. 

So remember, if someone says they don’t like your work, your project, etc—gather all the facts.  It could be they just don’t understand it and need a few clarifications.  Don’t assume what you have created is completely wrong and that you need to start over!  If you ask a few polite questions you may discover there’s nothing wrong with your work at all or you may need to make a few minor adjustments.  Either way, by gathering all the facts you are in a better position to move forward and achieve your objective.

Day 45: Abraham Lincoln kept me from getting into a fight via email.


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 45.  Monday, May 9, 2011
I sent an email to Bob today:
Hi Bob,
I’m putting together a marketing campaign for the soon to be released product XYZ.  I am hoping you can assist me.  Do you have a promo available for the product?  I’d love to put it on our website.

Thank you!
Smiling Daffodil.

Bob’s response:
Hi Smiling Daffodil,
I have attached a photo showing the CD your office should have received back in March.  Let me know if you are unable to locate the CD—if you can’t, I guess I can send you the very last CD I have.

Sincerely,
Bob

It was at this point I decided to take a break and go get some chocolate.  As you can imagine—my natural instinct was to email Bob a snide remark or two or three.  Instead I remembered Dale Carnegie quoting Abraham Lincoln, “Don’t criticize them; they are just what we would be under similar circumstances.”

After going out to get some fresh air and some chocolate I decided the best approach is to not respond to Bob today.  I have also come up with material I can use for the marketing campaign that doesn’t interrupt Bob’s busy schedule. 

The Dale Carnegie principle I used in this example is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 26.  Let the other person save face.

The background to the story—the CD that Bob sent back in March was lost by an associate.  I didn’t want to throw my associate under the bus.  Before my associate accidentally misplaced the CD, I did review it—and it wasn’t a promo video.  In addition—I didn’t point out to Bob that he could easily copy the CD.  Or even ftp the files to the server.  These were all glaringly obvious options to someone who is moderately tech savvy but I concluded from Bob’s email that he wasn’t too skilled in these areas.  So I have opted to gather marketing materials from other sources.

The lesson I want you to take from this story—it can be difficult dealing with people with skill levels and aptitudes that may not be on par with yours.  There’s no point in making them feel small, incapable or inferior.  Remind yourself that they are probably very skilled and have great abilities in other areas.  In fact, they probably excel in areas that you do not.  When you take this approach you are able to stay focused on getting work done without wasting time on pettiness, negativity or blame.

Day 40. How to get someone to open your email


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 40.  May 4, 2011
Preface:  I considered skipping my own blog post since I had a guest blogger but somehow that seems to break the rules.

It’s Wednesday and I still haven’t received a response about an email I sent LAST week. 

This is why I have to do things myself—I quietly mutter to myself.  On the other hand—this is probably an opportunity to use a Dale Carnegie principle… grumble.

You see, I delegated a task (so hard to do) to an associate last week.  I asked him to follow up with a client about an urgent matter.  I could have done the task myself but I thought why not delegate for a change.

Before stepping on toes today I asked my associate if he had any updates from the client.  He said the client is impossible to reach.  So I delicately mentioned I’d try following up with the client directly. 

 I drafted the following email to the client:
Email Subject line:  Great news about the response to your product XYZ!Body of email:
Dear ABC Company,

We are so excited to report about the positive response to your revolutionary new product.  I’m sure you must also be pleased with the results of the marketing campaign.

We’ve had a few inquiries from prospects interested in your products but they are unable to get the information they need from your company’s website.  I’ve done some research on my own to try to give them the information they need—but not being an expert on your product or website—I’m afraid I’m not the best at assisting them.

I just wanted to make sure you were aware of these inquiries.  Please let me know if I carelessly missed this information on your website.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. 
Sincerely,
The Smiling Daffodil

 As you would guess I got a response within the hour. 

The Dale Carnegie principle I used in this scenario is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 8.  Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
Principle 26.  Let the other person save face.

Let the other person save face

Instead of writing a subject line like “Problem with your website” or “This is the 2nd email request I’ve sent”—I spoke in terms of the client’s interest.  My client is interested in gaining new prospects and making the sale.

Then in the body of the email I continued to speak in my client’s interests.  I politely suggested that product information might be missing from his website—but not being an expert I could be mistaken.  The client was quick to fix the mistake and respond within the hour.

Remember, it’s easy to jump down someone’s throat and tell them they have done something wrong.  But when was the last time you felt motivated to correct your own mistakes under those conditions.  Instead—season your words with respect for the other person.  Don’t tell them they’ve done something wrong or point out they have ignored your 10 million email requests.  Instead, speak in terms of their interests.  This will make them more receptive to your suggestions.  When you take this approach you let the other person save face and you are able to get the results you are seeking.

Day 22. Let the other person save face.


365 Days of Living the Dale Carnegie Principles

Day 22.  April 16, 2011 
I was driving through a neighborhood in Frisco this morning.  I was trying to find a house on ABC Lane.  I found ABC Lane but I could not find the right house number. 

I was baffled.  Am I an idiot?  Am I incapable of following MapQuest directions?  Besides all these concerns… it’s 9:15 am.  I’m late by 15 minutes.  I HATE being late.

I double checked the email my friend Meredith sent with the address details. 

I concluded it was technically impossible for there to be a house that matched the address I had: 502 ABC Lane.  There was1001 ABC Lane, 1002 ABC Lane, etc.  And ABC Lane was a very short street.  I even tried another street ADC Lane—thinking maybe she goofed on the street name.

I decide to call my friend whom I am meeting at this house.  I began with a cheerful voice which is unusual for me so early in the morning.  I said “hi Meredith, I think I’m here—but I can’t seem to find the house.  Is the address 502 ABC Lane?”  

Meredith replies, “yes it is.  Just look for my car.”

I hesitate and ask, “what city?”

Meredith replied, “it’s in Plano.”

(Plano is about a half hour away)

In the past my tone of voice might have changed dramatically at this point.  You see, her email indicated the house was in Frisco. 

Let the other person save face-- dont make them wither.

“Oh!”  I say in a pleasant voice.  “Well, I’m going to be a bit late—I somehow ended up in Frisco.  Please don’t wait on me to eat breakfast—enjoy your meal I will get there when I can.”

When I met up with Meredith I didn’t point out the address being wrong.  I didn’t justify myself for being late.  The morning and day went on quite happily.

The Dale Carnegie Principle I used is from How to Win Friends and Influence People:
Principle 26.  Let the other person save face.

When someone makes a mistake such as giving an incorrect address—take a moment to look at the big picture before you blame, yell or make the person feel small.  Mistakes happen and in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor inconvenience that you can look back upon with humor.  After all, can you imagine what it would have been like if there had been a home on 502 ABC Lane in Frisco? 

Me:  “Hi, I’m here to visit Meredith!” 

Stranger living on 502 ABC Lane in Frisco:  “Who is Meredith and why are you knocking on my door at 9 am?”