by Christian Youngblood

If Dale Carnegie was CIO

Apr 24, 20155 mins
CIOIT Leadership

In 1936, Dale Carnegie wrote "How to Win Friends & Influence People" and became one of the most respected experts in human relations. The principles outlined in his book are equally important today and can be used in your role as CIO. Whether you need assistance with a Board, co-workers, or employees, Dale has provided useful tips for improving all types of relationships.

If Dale Carnegie was CIO, he would have projects to complete in an impossible amount of time and be required to do so with limited funds. He would have a group of all-star employees that work their hardest to compensate for that one person that performs below par. And of course, his Board of Directors would consist of people that loved the company but didn’t possess much knowledge of information technology. How would he use his skills to point this company to success?

Dale Carnegie was, among many other things, a writer and motivational speaker that lived from 1888-1955. He is most famous for his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” which continues to be one of the most popular self-help books of all time. The book is broken into four chapters, each of which contains a number of principles for improving relationships with people. Following are some of my favorite principles and examples of how Carnegie might use each in his role as CIO.

Don’t criticize, condemn or complain

Dale would never directly confront his poor performing employee. He knows that harsh words and accusations will never motivate someone to give it their all. It may stimulate a short-term performance increase but could also generate hostility and cause hurt feelings.

Instead of being critical of the faults of his employee, he finds something that the employee has done well and is extra complimentary about it. He makes the employee feel good about himself and demonstrates that quality work benefits everyone. He then suggests that if the employee did other aspects of his job as well, greater results would certainly come.

Additionally, Dale takes the time to show his appreciation to each of the employees that have been covering for the low-achiever. He finds specific examples of their work and provides detailed praise. His employees know that their efforts have been noticed and they continue working hard to preserve their good reputations.

Talk in terms of the other person’s interests

Technology departments are told to provide greater speed, efficiency, and redundancy every day, and none of these items are inexpensive. Many CIOs prepare budgetary spreadsheets to highlight costs for each project and wait to see which items are funded. Dale Carnegie uses a different technique to achieve buy-in.

The Board wants to hear about increased profits and improved efficiency. They do not want to hear jargon about the latest fads. Instead of going to the Board to request additional funds, Dale would come prepared to demonstrate how new technologies will increase profits and lower costs for the organization. He knows the Board will be more willing to invest extra money once they know how it will achieve their interests.

Let the other person feel as though the idea is his/her own

Large organizations have many departments that often do not cooperate very well with each other. Perhaps when Dale joined his current company, human resources had already chosen software that never integrated properly with the application selected by accounting. The marketing department consistently flouted the technology department’s approval process and purchased their own hardware without checking for compatibility with the rest of the company.  There was no cohesive strategy being followed.

Some leaders would attempt to resolve these issues with brute force and develop new, tighter, regulations that require all departments to comply. They would contact the CEO and request authority to block all purchases that were not made through the proper channels. However, Dale knows such techniques will neither make friends nor earn any respect.

Dale contacts each of the people that he wishes to persuade and starts a conversation. He uses this opportunity to learn about the person and the reasons that they have bypassed his department. He then composes a list of benefits for using the proper channels, including such aspects as reduced expenses, better support, and increased features.

Instead of commanding change, Carnegie demonstrates so many great reasons for following procedure that the departments conclude it really is beneficial. He knows that when the idea comes from within, it will not generate resentment or hostility. Also, instead of being a bully, Dale now looks like he is fulfilling a request.

If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically

Even Dale Carnegie makes the occasional mistake, like the time he migrated the company email server to a discount cloud-provider. When performance dropped substantially, he could have presented his board with various SLAs that stated how great the service would run and show that they had guaranteed 2-hour recovery of all problems. He could contact the corporate attorney and let the courts resolve the problem while making sure that everyone knew that the problem was a vendor issue. However, we all know that Dale would never take this route.

Dale Carnegie wastes no time in admitting that he selected the wrong company for hosting this service and he apologizes to his users for the inconvenience. He makes contact with every possible executive at the vendor’s company and offers his assistance to correct the problem right away. Finally, he begins researching alternative options to ensure that future problems are averted. He knows that taking ownership of the problem is important to maintain trust and respect.

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” has been read by millions of people and sits on the top shelf of executives across the world. It is as relevant today as it was in 1936.

Now is an excellent time to review your copy and come back to share some personal experiences.  I have discussed a few principles, but Dale Carnegie provided us with a total of 30. Which ones are your favorites and how do you think they might be used by a CIO?