Dale Carnegie: The World’s First Blogger! (Or: In Praise of Conversational Writing)

Source: Flickr (by Auntie P – Creative Commons)

November marked Dale Carnegie’s birthday (November 21, 1888) and also the anniversary of his death (November 1, 1955). While recently browsing the bookstore, I saw Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People alongside another familiar book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey’s 1989 bestseller. I have read both books; while both books have much to offer, I hold one book in much higher regard than the other (I bet you can guess which one from this post’s title!).

Covey billed his book as a next generation self-improvement book above and beyond Dale Carnegie (in fact, Covey’s 7 Habits includes an irksome “Goodbye, Dale Carnegie” quote of critical praise for Covey at Carnegie’s expense). And yet, Dale Carnegie’s venerable 1937 book has actually endured much better than 7 Habits over the last twenty years, thanks to Carnegie’s timeless, highly personable advice, wrapped in one of the first and best conversational writing books ever written.

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Poor Communication can Scuttle Effective BI, Your Reputation, and a Simple Bus Ride

Several years ago I flew to and from a trade show via TF Green Airport in Providence, RI instead of Boston Logan Airport as usual.  This small airport has (or at least had at the time) one large economy parking lot with shuttle buses.

Remember Ralph Kramden? The bus driver I dealt with was the Anti-Kramden.

You were supposed to give the bus driver the number of your bus stop near your car.  Running late, I rushed to catch my departing flight and didn’t make note of the number, but I knew I had parked near a certain corner of the lot.

“Excuse me,” I said to the bus driver, “but I don’t have my bus stop number. Can you just drop me off at whatever stop is nearest to the far right corner of the lot?”

“What’s the number?” grunted the bus driver.

“I don’t have the number.  But I know my car is near the far right corner of the lot from where we are right now.”

“What’s the number?” the driver again grunted, a little louder this time.

(What…?!) “I said I don’t have the number. I’m near that corner of the lot over to your right.”

“What’s the number?”

(Is this guy for real?!) “Look, can you just stop anywhere near the far corner of the lot?”

One of my colleagues from the trade show, a TF Green regular and just as annoyed with the driver as I was, shouted out a stop number he happened to know was close to my car. The bus driver, now given “The Number,” did silently agree to stop there, his eyes forward as I walked off the bus. Note that there was no language, cultural or hearing-ability issue with the driver. He was simply locked into his own way of thinking to a ridiculous degree: no stop number, no stop.

The way a person communicates is a major component of their reputation and personal brand.  And I believe the vast majority of communication problems are caused by the personal baggage we bring to the table when communicating, known in psychological terms as confirmation bias.   Continue reading

A Tale of Two Polar Opposite Managerial Styles

UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski (photo: Bb World)

In 2010, I was remote director of marketing for iStrategy (now Blackboard Analytics) based in Maryland. The company hosted its first-ever iStrategy User Conference that year, hosted at Loyola University. It was a pleasure to meet so many smart, enthusiastic data warehousing customers I had been collaborating with on case studies and webinars, highlighted by a fantastic keynote presentation by UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski.

Flying into BWI that September and back home in October on AirTran (a nice airline that I miss, btw). I had happened to read the September and October issues of Go, AirTran’s surprisingly good in-flight magazine. I found it interesting that the business author profiled in each issue so thoroughly and diametrically opposed the other.

George Cloutier, the founder of American Management Services, with a long record of successful business turnarounds to his credit, is the author Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing, profiled in the Go September issue. Meanwhile, the October issue of Go profiles the book ESPN the Company: The Story and Lessons Behind the Most Fanatical Brand in Sports by longtime consultant to ESPN Anthony F. Smith (scroll about halfway down each of these links to read each book and author profile).

How is this for disagreement, not to mention two very different personal brands, as summarized by Go magazine:

On Leadership:

George Cloutier: I am Your Work God! You want your employees to do what you say, not what they think.

Anthony F. Smith: Avoid the myth of single-person leadership. “Leadership is really a shared phenomenon…(Each ESPN executive) needed to surround themselves with other effective people who could fill in areas where they were not as skilled.”

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Just Ivy Leaguers for these Bush League Recruiters?

I have blogged before about Nick Corcodilos and his book Ask the Headhunter – I can’t recommend this book enough to job hunters and am most thankful to my friend David White who first directed me to it. Nick’s new book will help you work effectively with headhunters, too.

Nick doesn’t mince words when it comes to HR recruiters: you should avoid them, to the extent possible. Instead, connect directly with the hiring manager and “do the job in the interview.” Ask the Headhunter tells you how. Do that and you’re home free…right?

I hope Nick doesn’t stroke out from this recent question posed on the Job Doc section of the Boston Globe website (also appeared in the August 9 Boston Sunday Globe). In a nutshell, the fellow of a think tank organization has an opening for an assistant. He knows who he wants to hire. He has worked with the candidate before. The candidate has a strong work and academic record. Not so fast…

None of this, however, negates their HR department’s top-ranked snobbishness. They would rather hire an Ivy Leaguer with a degree in something completely different. They do not even entertain applications from lower-ranked schools. This fellow has gone through four assistants in three years because his HR people keep giving him Ivy League grads who are experts in other fields. The position involves actual skills (lots of math) that a philosophy major from Harvard can’t learn on his/her own.

I am not the entitled type, but this is bordering on ridiculous…We both anticipate this being a problem but don’t know how to approach it.

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Buy this Book and Read it Now: The Leader as a Mensch (Book Review)

I have referred to business author Bruna Martinuzzi’s article Optimism: The Hidden Asset previously on this blog (here and also here) as a wise and pragmatic exploration of a positive character trait that tends to come in handy for anyone looking to succeed in marketing, anywhere in business… or at life itself. Optimism is just one of a wide array of highly desirable character traits, including humility, empathy and generosity, to name just a few.

Hopefully you have worked for a person who demonstrates these traits routinely; who communicates with openness and dignity, and leads by example with honor and integrity. If you have worked for such a person, as I luckily have, you have had the unique pleasure and personal enrichment that can only come from working for a mensch.

mensch (měnsh)  n.  Informal. A person having admirable characteristics, such as fortitude and firmness of purpose: “He radiates the kind of fundamental decency that has a name in Yiddish; he’s a mensch” (James Atlas).

Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mensch (accessed: July 21, 2009).

Take this quick survey: What one word best describes your boss…

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Job Hunters, Read this Book: Ask the Headhunter (Book Review)

I was in a job interview and I opened a book and started reading.  The [HR recruiter] said, “What the hell are you doing?!” I said, “Look, I have one question for you. If you are in a spaceship that’s traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen?” She said, “I don’t know!” I said, “Forget it, I don’t want the job.” – Stephen Wright

Submitting job applications online, waiting for responses after interviews, braving overcrowded job fairs…this is what most people may think of when imagining the necessary components of a job search.

But there is a better way: show the hiring manager directly the compelling work value you will provide. So says Nick Corcodilos, former headhunter and author of the book Ask the Headhunter: Reinventing the Interview to Win the Job.  I owe some serious thanks to my friend David White, a business intelligence researcher for Aberdeen Group, for referring me to this book very early in my layoff-induced job search. If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall getting nowhere in your job search, read this book.

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The Power of Critical Thinking in Marketing (or: Devil’s Advocate, Get Thee Behind Me!)

I read a great blog entry entitled Critical Thinkers vs. Critics by Mark Logic CEO Dave Kellogg. (Quick aside: Any blog by a CEO/Chairman/Founder that is regularly updated and features plenty of wisdom, wit and insight is evidence that company has a competitive advantage in leadership. Good on you, Dave.)

Dave Kellogg raises the important difference between a “critic,” a person who criticizes everything, generally without proposed solutions” and a “critical thinker,” a person who attacks ideas in the spirit of making them better, and who can hold both sides of an argument in their head at once.”

Point very well taken. I’d additionally define a critical thinker as someone who will also not allow herself/himself or others to fall victim to “paralysis by analysis.” Even more importantly, by virtue of being unafraid of taking a hard, unbiased look at issues and listening to others’ opinions, concerns and doubts, and in fact welcoming such open discussion, a critical thinker is also an optimist by nature.

I like how Dave assesses the level of critical thinking applied in the crafting of successful marketing positioning (emphasis added):

Critics “attack” other people’s ideas but not their own. Critical thinkers “attack” everyone’s ideas, especially their own. For certain disciplines (e.g., marketing positioning) one of my primary tests is not to examine the substance of a proposal, but instead to examine the critical thinking in the process that led to it [for example, reviewing a marketing proposal recommending a new company tag-line]:

  • How many other tag-lines did you think of?
  • Why didn’t you pick tag-line 3?
  • Did you consider tag-lines based on the higher-level notion of satisfaction?
  • What’s the argument against the tag-line you’re proposing?
  • What are the direct and indirect competitors tag-lines and their relative strengths and weaknesses?

As David Ogilvy once said: “good writing is slavery” (see page 33 of Ogilvy on Advertising). So is good positioning. And it comes from critical thinking and plenty of it.

I think delving into the multiple meanings of Dave’s word “attack” is important here, too.  A critical thinker will indeed “attack” an idea much differently than a critic. There is a world of difference between “attack,” as in how a critical thinker will “earnestly initiate” a rigorous debate of an idea, in such a comment as, “The European sales team will have concerns about the time they will need to devote to the new product. Let’s work out how we can address that concern and ensure they will have time to complete their deals in the pipeline,” versus how a critic might truly “attack,” as in, “beat down,” an idea with a discussion-dampering remark:  “Oh, the European sales team always marches to their own drummer. Mark my words, they will ignore the new product. I’ve seen it before.”

Dwight Schrute-A good example of an office criticHow to effectively deal with the “critic” is addressed in author Bruna Martinuzzi’s article on optimism, which she kindly allowed me to republish on this blog. Bruna accurately identifies the behavior of the “critic,” aka “devil’s advocate,” as symptomatic of general pessimism, which can discourage critical thinking:

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