Dale Carnegie’s book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, has been our guide for this short series on Achieving Buy-In, and this final installment specifically addresses those power relationships where you are seeking to get subordinates “on board” with a new direction.
Carnegie makes his point with a story about fasting:
“I once succumbed to the fad of fasting, and went for six days and nights without eating. It wasn’t difficult. In fact, I was less hungry at the end of the sixth day than I was at the end of the second. Yet I know, as you know, people who would think they had committed a crime if they let their families or employees go for six days without food; but they will let them go for six days, and six weeks, and sometimes sixty years without giving them the hearty appreciation that they crave almost as much as they crave food.”
Carnegie continues: “We nourish the bodies of our children and friends and employees, but how seldom do we nourish their self-esteem? We provide them with roast beef and potatoes to build energy, but we neglect to give them kind words of appreciation that would sing in their memories for years like the music of the morning stars.”
How long has it been since you have expressed genuine appreciation for the work of a subordinate? If you can’t remember, then perhaps you will be challenged by Carnegie’s thoughts on appreciation (not flattery).
“What’s the difference?” you ask. Carnegie continues:
“The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.”
We have all experienced the joy of receiving genuine praise, although sometimes in the workplace, praise can be rare regardless of how well-intentioned your supervisor might be. Why is that?
My own opinion is that each of us somehow suspects that when we build another person up, we are somehow making ourselves lower. Our ego comes into play, and we can’t offer the praise that is due (or overdue) because the simple act of offering it would subordinate us to our own subordinates.
Here’s Carnegie again: “Let’s cease thinking of our accomplishments, our wants. Let’s try to figure out the other person’s good points. Then forget flattery. Give honest, sincere appreciation.”
Our task, then, in achieving buy-in, is to break free from the constraints of ego and fear to embrace a paradigm of authentic praise. But can this be done successfuly in the workplace?
Consider the words of Charles M. Schwab, the 20th century American steel magnate who guided Bethlehem Steel in its rise to become one of the most important heavy manufacturers in the world:
“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 by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of a person as the criticisms from superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a person incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise."
If you are seeking buy-in from those who report to you, you may find Schwab’s recipe for success to your liking.
Speaking of your workplace, how's the temperature?