My father was an avid reader and I grew up surrounded by books. He would always share stories and lessons learned from those who he had read about. One day, when I was in high school he came to me and said, " this is a great book, you must read it."
The book was, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie.
I took one quick look at the title and said, "Daddy do you think I have no friends?" He laughed and said of course not and said that it had some great lessons that would help me in life. Still slightly angry I put the book on my bookshelf and there it sat for a number of years.
Three years ago, I led the technology enhanced curriculum initiative at Fairmont Private Schools. Like many of you in a similar role I faced the challenge of bringing colleagues and administrators to understand the necessity in reevaluating teaching and learning to meet the needs of 21st century learners. I was sharing a challenge one day with my sister who said, "Daddy gave me this really good book it might help."
You've probably guessed it the book was, “How to Win Friends and Influence People!”
This time the older and wiser me decided to give it a read. While the book was written well before many of the changes we see around us today, it's lessons ring true till this day and it has successfully transformed my experiences and interactions with others about embracing change.
Carnegie begins by talking about the Carnegie Foundation for Advancement of Teaching that did a research study confirmed by additional studies at the Carnegie Institute for Technology revealing that 15% of your success is due to your technical knowledge and 85% is due to your skill in human engineering, personality and the ability to lead people.
People in leadership positions do not always haven the most technical knowledge however they do have the ability to express ideas. Carnegie says “If you can arouse enthusiasm then you will experience success!”
John D. Rockefeller said, "The ability to deal with people is as purchasable as any other commodity such as sugar or coffee, I would pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun."
As the former president of Princeton University, John G. Hibbing said, "The great aim of education is not knowledge but action."
As we move to educate those around us about the importance of 21st century learning we don't want to just transmit knowledge we want to bring and motivate people to take action - action in their organization, action in their classrooms, and actions at home. The question remains though, how do we bring about this enthusiasm for embracing change as an opportunity and not a threat.
Carnegie promises his answers will work like magic and I encourage you to try them when working with members of your learning community. There are many lessons aka magic tricks in the book, I’m going to share my favorites and we look forward to hearing your experiences.
Lesson One: Don't Criticize
Perhaps the easiest route to take is to criticize others for not sharing your point of view. It is indeed much harder to understand another’s perspective, their fears or their concerns. Carnegie explains how criticism is futile and makes you justify yourself, it wounds your pride and sense of importance and arouses resentment. By criticizing we do not bring about lasting changes, we in fact lead to the opposite.
Carnegie demonstrates this point by using an example from the life of Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, he says, was known for ridiculing people. Even after he had become a lawyer he attacked people openly. He did this once to often and in the autumn of 1842 he ridiculed James Shields. Shields boiled with indignation and challenged him to fight a duel. Lincoln couldn't get out of it. He chose cavalry and took lessons to prepare. However at the last minute the duel was interrupted and in this moment Lincoln learned a valuable lesson in the art of dealing with people. Never again did he ridicule anyone and he was said to have never criticized anyone for anything ever again.
So before your criticism over the tools, or lack thereof, another might be using arises, think about how your criticism might lead to an iPad vs. Chromebook duel! Rather you should encourage constructive conversations that move beyond the use of tools and/or apps. Always begin by talking about learning. Instead of criticizing, lead by example and help ignite the passion that first brought them into the field. In that conversation, ideas are bound to come up, choose one and offer to work together to try it out.
Lesson Two - Feeling of Importance
If you are able to control your criticism this does not mean you stay silent.
Carnegie says instead of criticism find ways to make people feel important. It is important he says, to give people genuine appreciation of their hard work. Just because they aren't using a mobile device doesn't mean they aren't working hard. In fact it could very well be they are working too hard! No one wants to work extra hard and people love to learn how their workflow can become more efficient.
When people do take you up on your offer to collaborate, or when they try something new regardless of whether it works or not you must appreciate their willingness to embrace change. Again conversations are at the heart of a good relationship if it works find ways to share with everyone else. If it doesn't appreciate the efforts and problem solve together to find solutions so it works the next time.
Charles Schwab said, "I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among my people the greatest asset I possess and the way to develop the best that is in a person is through appreciation and encouragement. Nothing else kills the ambition of a person as criticism from superiors. I never criticize anyone, I believe in giving a person incentive to work so I’m anxious to praise, loathe to find fault, if I like anything I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.”
Average people tend to do the exact opposite and as the old saying goes, "Once I did bad and that I heard ever twice I did good and that I heard never!
So there you have it folks, recognize the accomplishments of those around you. Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise. Celebrate the wins, the losses, the good and the bad, and together you'll find success.
Lesson Three – Be Genuinely Interested In Other People
People are not interested in you or me Carnegie explains, but everyone is quite interested in themselves.
If we really want to see change take place in our classrooms and across our learning communities we must begin by understanding the challenges that others are facing, or obstacles they feel are in their way. If you are beginning to create a new vision for your school, are you taking into account the voices of your community – teachers, students, and parents?
If you are ready to begin a new year of professional development, instead of beginning with stories about everything you do and making others feel as if they can never achieve a well-managed, dynamic student-centered classroom, begin by talking about what they need or what they want. People may fear technology but if you are in the field of education chances are you are passionate about teaching and learning. Understand the environment and objectives the educator would like to achieve. Spend some time having a conversation about teaching and learning in general. Questions and conversations like these will give you valuable insights into how people are feeling, what challenges may lie ahead and above all allows you to get to know them, strengthening how you can support them.
Lesson Four – The Secret of Socrates
While many spend countless hours debating devices, why not instead spend time talking about what we do agree upon by appealing to nobler motives. We all want students to be successful, we all want to create the best possible learning environments and we all want to be successful at our craft. When you steer the conversation in this direction, people’s fear of technology and something unknown will begin to dissolve and they’ll come to realize mobile devices are just another tool amongst many to help achieve their goals.
So when talking to people in PD sessions or faculty meetings, don’t begin by discussing the things upon which you don’t agree, begin by talking about and emphasizing what you do agree on. Show respect for other people’s opinions and never say they are wrong. Carnegie explains that if at the outset you have your audience saying YES! You will be much more successful as you will have captivated their attention. Once someone has said no, their pride is now involved and the conversation has now become a battle. It doesn’t pay to argue however it can be quite profitable to understand things from the other person’s perspective and understand how to get them to say, “YES!” to the direction in which you would like to move. Carnegie explains how Socrates mastered this skill, “He didn’t walk around telling people they were wrong, his technique known as the Socratic Method, was based upon getting a yes response. He asked questions which his opponent would have to agree on. He kept on winning one admission after another until he had an armful of yesses. He kept on asking questions until finally his opponents found themselves embracing a conclusion that they would have bitterly denied a few minutes prior.”
Lesson Five – Learning from Our Mistakes
It is always important to model what we wish to see. If you wish to create and see a culture of risk-taking where people are not afraid of failure, begin by sharing your failures. Carnegie reminds us here that we have all made mistakes that we have learned from that allow us to reach where we are today. People are much more comfortable talking about their failures and ways upon which they can improve if they feel safe doing so.
Carnegie says, “There is a certain degree of satisfaction in having the courage to admit one's errors. It not only clears the air of guilt and defensiveness, but often helps solve the problem created by the error.”
Lesson Six - The Value of A Smile
Carnegie shares a beautiful story about a department store in New York who presented an advertisement to its readers with the following:
The Value of a Smile
It costs nothing, but creates much. It enriches those who receive, without impoverishing those who give. It happens in a flash and the memory of it sometimes lasts forever, none are so rich they can get along without it, and none so poor but are richer for its benefits. It creates happiness in the home, fosters good will in a business, and is the countersign of friends. It is rest to the weary, daylight to the discouraged, sunshine to the sad, and Nature's best antidote fee trouble. Yet it cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is no earthly good to anybody till it is given away.
So as you begin your every conversation, as you walk across your campus and when someone approaches you in an angry manner because they are having technical difficulties, remember to smile
Read Dale Carnegie's book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" to learn more about the techniques shared here in addition to many more.
In Part Two we'll take a look at how you can apply Carnegie's advice on arousing enthusiasm within your parent community.