Mr Atarashi And The Big Breakthrough
Ever heard that a training course changed somebody's life. "It was good", "I enjoyed it", maybe. Warren Buffett, the famous American billionaire investor is a huge Dale Carnegie fan and often mentions in TV interviews how the Dale Carnegie course changed his life. Being in Japan, it is great to hear a leading local businessman like Mr. Masami Atarashi say the same thing.
He is famous in Japan and spends his time writing and adding to the 40 books he has already published and giving public speeches and training to executives. Previously he headed up Johnson & Johnson, Philips, and Hallmark in Japan as President. Last Thursday evening, he gave a brilliant talk at our graduate party on being successful in business in Japan.
He also shared with me how the course impacted him, "The Dale Carnegie Course changed my life. When I was asked to make a speech to an audience or to a customer etc., I trembled with fear and I was a lousy speaker, not so much technically but mentally. Half way through the Dale Carnegie Course I found myself beginning to enjoy talking, that's one significant visible change which occurred to me. And overall I began to look at things in a positive way. Instead of saying we can't do it, I start looking at how we can do it. The whole mind set changed and that happened when I was 32."
Like many senior Japanese businessmen who took the Dale Carnegie course in their younger days, he rose to the top in Japan because of how he applied the ageless and universal principles of how to get on with people and how to get their active cooperation.
Buffett and Atarashi share a common passion for a system of training that has been so carefully refined over the last 100 years. It changes with the times but never dates, because the person to person relationship is always the centrepiece of any successful business.
We may believe that technology has completely changed how we communicate and how we interact in the business world, now that we are together on email, LinkedIn , Facebook, Twitter etc. The reality is we don't do deals over business social media. We want to look the business partner in the eye and confirm we can trust them.
We do that through listening to what they say and how they say it. We are trying to get behind the superficial to the reality. We are racing around in business, with our antennae on full throttle, trying to dodge the dodgy types and find some trustworthy keepers.
Yet, people say the dumbest things to us, ruining their credibility. I was in my gym gear recently, waiting to pick up my car after a workout and a long established businessmen I have known for many years was also waiting for his car. He looked me over and said, "so what are you trying to prove?". I was flummoxed by the question, and I am still not sure how to answer it, but more so because of the poor human relations skills on display. I thought, "Wow, how has this guy lasted so long in business, if his communication skills are so poor".
We see people who are quite clever, scoring "own goals" all of the time because they can't control what comes out of their mouth or because their self-awareness level is hovering somewhere around zero.
Trust me, these people will have a hard life in business getting others to cooperate with them or getting people to follow them. They can pull position power on the team and force everyone's compliance. This is a long way though from having the team really engaged, actively thinking how we can win against the competition or how can we have things run better around here.
Business is too complex for us to do it all by ourselves anymore - the day of the hero is over. Today we need the hero team. To get things done requires more and more specialisation but with that often comes a poverty of skills in other key areas. Persuading people rather than trying to order them. Getting willing cooperation instead of whipping them into a frenzy of reluctance and resistance. Being smart is good but it isn't enough. We need to be better communicators, better with people, better with diversity.
Buffett and Atarashi both discovered that the Dale Carnegie course was a source of answers to a lot of the challenges they faced to be successful through other people. There is a good reason this course is still around after 100 years. It works.