Iconic leadership trainer Dale Carnegie’s classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People turns 80 in 2017, but his timeless advice about getting the best out of people by bringing out the best in them is as on target in the digital age as ever before.
And while Carnegie couldn’t have foreseen the transformation of the workplace thanks to the Internet and the rise of remote work, the principles he taught in the four main sections of his book can help you make more meaningful, productive connections with your off-site team members. Read on for our translation of these four points into today’s business context:
Part 1: Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn — and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” ~ Dale Carnegie [Tweet this]
So much of remote communication is done shorthand through quick messages and even one-letter texts. What gets lost in translation is tone and inference, so often something that isn’t meant to come off as dismissive or critical is interpreted that way by the person on the receiving end.
Before you shoot off your next chat message, email or text, take the time to craft thoughtful commentary that includes honest and sincere appreciation and gives credit when it’s due. It doesn’t have to be serious; upbeat emojis or an enthusiastic gif can say it all.
If you have constructive notes to share, consider hopping on a video chat to discuss. Eye contact, nonverbal cues and a back and forth dialog can help eliminate misunderstandings and make it simpler to reach a productive resolution.
Also, be sure to consider the situation from the other person’s perspective – when you understand your team member’s motivations, you’ll actually have a better shot at convincing him/her that your desired outcome is also in his/her best interest.
If the tables are turned, and you receive a note or message that strikes you as “off,” you too can be understanding and give the other person the benefit of the doubt before you react.
Part 2: Ways to Make People Like You
“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie
Without a water cooler to gather around or an easy way to go out for a drink after work, casually bonding with co-workers can be challenging for remote workers. That’s why taking time to virtually get to know your co-workers by asking questions about the things they care about beyond work (family, hobbies, other interests, etc.) is key. You should know who on the team is a dog person, who’s a big traveler, and who likes to chat about current events.
Also, don’t forget to hop on a video chat as often as possible, because nothing can take the place of face-to-face communication. Carnegie was a huge proponent of letting ’em see you smile – it’s a “messenger of your goodwill.”
Part 3: How to Win People to Your Way of Thinking
“You can dramatize your ideas in business or in any other aspect of your life. It’s easy.” ~ Dale Carnegie
In this section, Carnegie focused on finding ways to bring others into your tent by being a good listener, acting respectfully, admitting mistakes and by avoiding disagreements. (“There is only one way under high heaven to get the best of an argument – and that is to avoid it.”)
Utilizing task management software and file sharing to its fullest potential is a great way to reinforce the exchange of ideas and virtual collaboration. And when you’re making a case for your point of view, get creative with your pitch and incorporate video or other eye-catching methods to follow Carnegie’s advice: dramatize your ideas to engage others’ imaginations and appeal to their concerns.
Part 4: How to Get More Out of Your Team (ie: Be a Leader)
“Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.” ~ Dale Carnegie
In all communication, your words have the power to build people up… and tear them down. Carnegie reminds us to appeal to people’s “nobler motives,” and really take the time to be specific with praise, and encouraging when something needs to be corrected. Be sure to note milestones and important accomplishments on group chats and calendars, and celebrate individual and group successes. Aside from positive reinforcement being a cornerstone of Carnegie’s teachings, the benefits of this approach, including greater productivity, higher engagement, lower employee turnover and an overall happier, healthier team, are supported by copious research.
Carnegie was a master of human nature, and his advice for people who interact with others on a daily basis (hullo, all of us!), regardless of medium, holds up. For remote teams, his principles help make proximity less important, and productivity far more accessible.