Minding Ag's Business

Learning from Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie's truisms may sound like common sense, but he believed we could all be better "people" persons.

What can a Missouri farmer's son who died in 1955 teach farm families today? A lot about how to a positive leader and motivator for your employees and family business owners, says DTN columnist Lance Woodbury. Woodbury, a co-founder of the small business consulting service AgProgress in Garden City, Kansas, devoted his most recent DTN column to the topic and expands on the subject here.

Taylor, DTN: Lance, your column about Dale Carnegie’s “Golden Rules” had some basic reminders about how to positively interact with people. What was the rationale for focusing on Carnegie’s principles?

Woodbury, AgProgress: Marcia, one of the comments that stuck out to me in the dinner where we heard about the Dale Carnegie training was that Carnegie believed you could teach what we today call “soft skills.” But in many businesses, we often talk about the opposite – that you can’t train for soft skills. In other words, if someone comes to work with a good attitude and strong communication skills, then teaching them the technical skills is really not that difficult. Carnegie, according to the speaker, was suggesting that people skills can indeed be improved. The takeaway for me was that we shouldn’t give up on a family member or staff member because they don’t have the people skills. We should help them, if they are willing, try to improve that skill set. They may never be great at communication, but they can be better.

Taylor, DTN: It seems like Dale Carnegie training could be dated since it’s been around so long. But it doesn’t sound like that is the case.

Woodbury, AgProgress: I’ve noticed over the years that when buying audio books, Carnegie’s book shows up as one of the top-selling business books of all time. The speaker mentioned that Dale Carnegie Training is growing by leaps and bounds internationally, and that many top companies in the United States use the courses to develop their employees. So it sounds to me like Dale Carnegie Training is very relevant in today’s marketplace. When looking for professional development opportunities for family members and key employees, don’t overlook programs like this in your area, even if your parents took the course!

Taylor, DTN: Were there other principles that stand out to you?

Woodbury, AgProgress: One was, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” While you may know the names of everyone that works with you, do you know the names of their spouses or children? The ability to mention the name of a person, or someone close to them, demonstrates a level of care and concern that people will remember. Recall the saying about how people don’t remember what you say, but they do remember how you made them feel? By doing something as simple as mentioning the name of an employee, vendor, or customer, people feel that you care.

Another principle was, “Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement.” Family businesses are full of situations where “no news is good news,” meaning that the only time you get feedback is when things are going wrong. It may at times feel awkward to praise a family member. And I’ve heard the complaint that “praising people for doing their job” somehow makes people lazy by rewarding them for doing their job (which is just plain silly). The fact of the matter is that people appreciate hearing feedback about their work, even when they say they don’t “need it,” and Carnegie was reinforcing the fact that people can and do improve and there is power in recognizing them for doing so.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To read Woodbury's "Carnegie for the Family Business," go to https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Follow Marcia Taylor on Twitter @MarciaZTaylor


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