Lessons from the Renowned People Skills of Steel Tycoons Charles M Schwab and Andrew Carnegie
The American steel magnate Charles M Schwab (1862–1939,) was a protege of the steel baron-turned-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919.) During the course of a long and successful career, Schwab built his Bethlehem Steel Corporation into America’s second largest steel producer and one of the world’s most prominent businesses.
Don’t be “bothered with the finicky little things that trouble so many people.”
Charles M Schwab started his career as a laborer in Andrew Carnegie’s Edgar Thomson Steel Works. Thanks to his exceptional ability to cozy up to people and facilitate congenial working relationships, Schwab rapidly rose up the ranks of the Carnegie steel empire.
By the age of 19, Schwab was assistant manager of the steel factory. When an accident killed the factory superintendent in 1887, Andrew Carnegie appointed the 25-year-old Schwab as the manager of the Thomson Works. At 35, Schwab became president of the Carnegie Steel Company at an annual compensation exceeding $1 million (worth $30 million today.)
In an essay titled “My 20,000 Partners” in the 19-Dec-1916 issue of The American Magazine, Schwab shared a management lesson he learned from his mentor Andrew Carnegie:
Mr. Carnegie’s personality would enthuse anybody who worked for him. He had the broad views of a really big man. He was not bothered with the finicky little things that trouble so many people. When he made me manager, Mr. Carnegie said, “Now, boy, you will see a good many things which you mustn’t notice. Don’t blame your men for little, trivial faults. If you do you will dishearten them.“
When I want to find fault with my men I say nothing when I go through their departments. If I were satisfied I would praise them. My silence hurts them more than anything else in the world, and it doesn’t give offense. It makes them think and work harder. Many men fail because they do not see the importance of being kind and courteous to the men under them. Kindness to everybody always pays for itself. And, besides, it is a pleasure to be kind. I have seen men lose important positions, or their reputations—which are more important than any position—by little careless discourtesies to men whom they did not think it was worthwhile to be kind to.
“Be hearty in approbation and lavish in your praise”
Schwab’s excellent people skills and management methods are extolled in How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie’s masterful guidebook on people skills. Dale Carnegie quotes Schwab:
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 criticisms from superiors. I never criticize any-one. 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. …
I have yet to find the person, however great or exalted his station, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he would ever do under a spirit of criticism.
Idea for Impact: People who cannot tolerate others’ shortcomings are at a marked disadvantage in life.
The older you’ll get, the more you’ll appreciate the wisdom of enduring the negative emotions— skepticism, disapproval, anger, contempt, and hostility—that stem from others’ behaviors.
One of the keys to effective interpersonal skills is to know when and how to give feedback. Commend whenever you can, criticize when you absolutely must.
Remember, criticism can swiftly erode away positive feelings. Don’t nit-pick. Don’t get caught up in trivial peculiarities.
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