Influencing People

I had the pleasure of speaking about transforming culture at the ASCD Empower17 conference this weekend in Anaheim, California. I have enjoyed learning and connecting with educators from around the world including several members of my Personal Learning Network (PLN).  My talk focused practical ways to transform culture based upon my experience as a Principal.  I was struck by how many of the attendees in my session had never heard of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.  I’ve read this book multiple times and currently have a CD of it in my truck for my commute.

Transforming culture is directly tied to our ability to influence human behavior.  It begins to transform as new behaviors taking root in the organization.  Working in schools for the past fifteen years has certainly taught me that I am only able to control the man who stares back in the mirror.  Control isn’t what we are aiming for, but rather the ability to influence others.  

Carnegie focused on a multitude of different factors that are surprisingly profound yet simple. These include:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people
  • Smile
  • Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the most important sound in any language
  • Be a good listener
  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
  • Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely

I submit that these simple steps are exactly the same today as they were when Carnegie’s book was published in 1936. This is evidenced by the fact that the book was still #19 on Time Magazine’s list of 100 most influential books as recently as 2011.  After all, the basic needs and wants of human beings has not been changed by the industrial revolution or the rapid developments in technology.  People just want to feel important and experience a sense of purpose.

Leaders and teachers alike would benefit from reminding themselves that regardless of test scores, disabilities, degrees, race, religion, or any other factor, students and teachers are people first. Our ability to connect with our students, teachers, families, or any other stakeholder group is ultimately determined by our ability to win friends and influence people.  This perspective is paramount as we aim to build the conditions in which students and teachers can thrive.

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