Motivate Your Team With These 3 Lessons From Dale Carnegie

The first time I heard about and read this book was over 15 years ago, long before I was able to apply many of the lessons taught.

What I’ve found lately is that when I re-read old books from at least three years ago, it’s like I’ve never read the book in the first place.

What I think is happening here is; as I’ve developed, I’ve improved my understanding of the different subject matters I take an interest in—giving me more context to work with when trying to apply new ideas and lessons.

I don’t think anything Dale talks about is groundbreaking; his lessons are simple but effective.

I’ll share with you three lessons here I found particularly useful and applicable.


“I have spent the best part of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them have a good time, and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man” – Al Capone.

Al Capone was once considered America’s number one public enemy and one of America’s most violent men. He had a different view of himself though, Capone believed himself to be a public benefactor.

Being a student of human behaviour, Dale Carnegie found Al Capone fascinating, not because he idolises him but because he was intrigued by his mindset and outlook.

Al Capone is not alone in thinking he did no wrong. Dale Carnegie once interviewed the prison warden Lewis Lawes, Warden of New Yorks Sing Sing prison. Sing Sing housed many of America’s most notorious and violent criminals. Lewis remarked, ‘few of the criminals in Sing Sing regard themselves as bad men. They are just as human as you and I.”

He’s talking about people who killed others for fun with zero remorse. These people all seemed to rationalise their behaviour and didn’t see themselves as people who had done wrong. These people didn’t blame themselves for anything, even though they behaved in unacceptable ways to you and me.

The point here is that if these people who have so obviously done wrong don’t criticise themselves, then imagine how the rest of us think. How often do you do something wrong and willingly condemn yourself for that behaviour? If you’re like me, then likely not usually.

Often when I’ve done wrong in my life, my first reaction was to reason or rationalise why I’ve done wrong instead of acknowledging or accepting my fault.

As Dale states, ‘99 times out of 100, people don’t criticise themselves for anything, no matter how wrong it may be’

So what’s the lesson here?

‘Criticism is futile because it puts a person on the defensive and usually makes them strive to justify themselves. Criticism is dangerous because it wounds a person’s precious pride, hurts their sense of importance, and arouses resentment.’

Time and again, we can see examples of how this plays out at work, at home, on the sports field or wherever you may be. Praise instead of criticism leads to a lot faster positive changes in behaviour.

‘Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbour’s roof,’ said Confucius, ‘when your own doorstep is unclean.’

It’s easy to condemn or complain it takes a bigger person to recognise we all have faults. It takes self-control to understand and forgive people when they make mistakes.

My favourite quote that illustrates this point is ‘A great man shows his greatness, by the way, he treats little men’

Next time someone makes a mistake that annoys you, Dale suggests looking for ways to praise what they’ve done right rather than zeroing on what they’ve done wrong.


‘There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it.’

We can encourage someone to do something with a negative incentive, the all too common goto for people managers. Warnings, demotions, embarrassment are a few different ways I’ve experienced this at previous jobs.

My Dad’s favourite way to do this was when I worked for him was to belittle me in front of other staff. He would sometimes yell at and insult me in front of others for what I thought were minor mistakes. This would even happen when I’d follow his directions that he’d forgotten he’d given me.

In the short-term, sure, I’d course correct whatever the new expectation was. But over time, this caused me to resent and lose respect for my Dad.

Dale prescribed positive incentives as a more effective method of motivation.

John Dewey, a famous American philosopher, said that the most profound urge in human nature is the desire to be necessary.

This desire for importance has driven many of us towards success.

‘It was this desire for a feeling of importance that led an uneducated, poverty-stricken grocery clerk to study some law books he found in the bottom of a barrel of household plunder that he had brought for fifty cents. You have probably heard of this grocery clerk. His name was Lincoln’

This desire to attain status makes us want to wear fashionable clothes, drive nice cars, and name drop people we know are considered ‘important.

It’s the same desire that leads others to gangs and criminal activity such as Al Capone.

If giving people what they want is the best way to get them to do what you want them to do. Then all we have to do is make them feel important.

Andrew Carnegie, one of the world’s most historically wealthy people, was the first to pay an employee a salary of $1 million. The person he paid this salary to is Charles Schwab.

Charles was promoted to president of the United States Steel company in 1921 when he was just 38 years old and was the only person in the world getting paid a $1million salary.

When interviewed, Charles put this down to one simple factor – his ability to deal with people. In his words, ‘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.

He goes on to say, ‘I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.

If you’ve ever read any letters to shareholders written by Warren Buffet, you’ll notice this as a common theme. He constantly praises and acknowledges the contributions of the management of the different companies Berkshire Hathway owns.

 •  False praise doesn’t work. Most people will see straight through it, and you’ll lose their respect.


I found this lesson challenging to comprehend and even harder to follow.

Letting others take praise for my thoughts and ideas is a challenge for my ego.

For example, take me back to the point about us wanting to feel important; I am driven by intellectual acknowledgement. That’s what makes me feel important. Letting others take credit for my thoughts and ideas is not something I’ve been open to in the past.

I’ve helped myself get better at this by acknowledging that virtually no thoughts or ideas I have are my own.

I just use other people’s ideas to make myself appear more intelligent. Isaac Newton puts this nicely.

‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’

Perhaps in a different facet of life, I’m sure you’re the same. We’re a selfish bunch; we take what we need to get what we want without much concern for others.

So Dale thinks ‘the only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it.’

We only need to answer one simple question when we want someone to do something for us ‘How can I make this person want to do it? I can’t imagine any of my employees would still turn up to work if I didn’t pay them to do so. I can’t imagine any of them would put in more than a minimal amount of effort if I didn’t incentivise them to put in more effort.

Henry Ford sums this up nicely ‘If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.

I’ll leave you with this from Dale ‘when we have a brilliant idea; instead of making others think it is ours, why not let them cook and stir the idea themselves. They will then regard it as their own; they will like it and maybe eat a couple of helpings of it.’

 •  first, arouse in the other person an eager want.’

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