Most people have a misconception about the Dale Carnegie Course. They think it’s just a public speaking course. In fact, it really goes much deeper than that.
Michael A. Crom, Executive Vice President and Chief Learning Officer for Dale Carnegie Training, and I first met at the 1983 annual convention in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had just begun working with James L. Winner and Associates, the Baton Rouge franchisee for Dale Carnegie.
Crom is responsible for Global Support Services and the Global Solutions Group, and is involved in the development of strategic planning for the company. Mr. Crom serves as a member of Dale Carnegie & Associates international board of directors.
Last year, we reconnected via Facebook and when I began plans for a story on the centennial of Carnegie Training, it was only natural that we confer. He agreed to an interview and we spoke by phone just a few days before Christmas 2011.
Etier (National History Examiner): How to Win Friends and Influence People (HTWF) often appears in lists of most influential books in America (or the world). After 75 years, what do you think accounts for it’s enduring appeal — aside from the fact that it is still used in the Dale Carnegie Course?
Crom: It touches people at their very essence. The book was written in a conversational and very real style so that people can relate to the examples. The examples are critical to the book and it gives some very practical tips that they (readers) can use right away in everyday life.
Etier (NHE): 2011 was the 75th anniversary of the publishing of HTWF and 2012 will be the centennial of the course. What has the company done and what can we expect in the months to come to commemorate these milestones?
Crom: The new book, How to Win Friends and Influence People — The Digital Age, was our kickoff point for the centennial celebration. We’re also looking at a series of new workshops that we’re putting on, on a global scale. The first one is called, “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age.” People in eighty-five countries will be able to take. The other three are: “Success Skills for the Digital Age,” “Secrets of Success in the Digital Age,” and “How to Coach Sales People in a Virtual Environment.”
NHE: Speaking of “coaching,” the social media is rife with individuals promoting themselves as “success coaches” and the like. Do you see them as competition — or just a gimmick after the same training dollars in the market place?
Crom: I’m sure there are some very popular people that are success coaches. I don’t know enough about it to know if they’re doing a good and effective job. You have to be able to trust them. A success coach could be in all kinds of different areas. One of my neighbors announced last year that she was becoming a personal coach. Turns out her expertise is in the area of dieting. That was her idea of being a success coach, helping women in particular look better in their 40’s and 50’s.
NHE: Tell us more about “The Digital Age” version of HTWF.
Crom: We wanted to take a look and see how the book relates to people in this 21st century, which is being called, “The Digital Age.” Communication, in many ways, has changed very much. Younger people, especially, communicate less face-to-face. With e-mail, Facebook and Twitter. What we need to take a look at is that we need to be more mindful of our words and understand the impact that they have. Whether we’re communicating in a digital format or face-to-face, there’s real power in how we communicate with other people.
NHE: How do you think that this availability of instant communications has affected human relations in general?
Crom: I don’t think that people are as skilled in dealing with other people as was earlier generations. Mr. Carnegie , in his research on the program back in the 1920’s and 30’s spent a lot of time dealing with engineers. His thinking was that the profile of an engineer was someone who was very intelligent, but not necessarily strong with communications and human relations skills. If his principles and fundamentals would work for them, then they’d work well for everyone. What’s happened with digital technology is that we’re all becoming a bit more introverted. We’re more comfortable sitting in front of our computer typing off a two line instant message than we are picking up the phone and talking with them on a personal level. Because of the digital age, we’re seeing less human contact. If we’re having less practice at good human relations skills, and less time with them face to face — I would challenge people that when we are face to face with them, we treat them well. We show how much we care about other people by the way we communicate.
NHE: Is the original “Human relations course” still the mainstay of Dale Carnegie Training?
Crom: It’s still our largest offering. All of our different curriculums are based on a human relations approach, which is based on Mr. Carnegie’s writings and philosophy — much of it related to How to Win Friends and Influence People.
NHE: Who became the driving force in Carnegie Training after Mr. Carnegie’s death?
Crom: Originally is was Mrs. Carnegie, Dorothy Carnegie. She took over in 1955 and brought in a team of professional managers, one of whom was Percy Whiting.
NHE: He was the author of the book The Five Great Rules of Selling. Do you still use it for the sales course?
Crom: We don’t.
NHE: I notice that you and your father wrote a book on sales, The Sales Advantage: How to Get It, Keep It, and Sell More Than Ever.
Crom: I was looking at the time, when we wrote that book, just to update The Five Great Rules of Selling. So much of it had become dated, it was easier just to start from scratch. We spent close to five years researching that book. We conducted interviews to understand what was making people successful in selling in environments around the world. Ollie [his father] and I did hundreds of interviews from Korea throughout Europe, North and South America.
NHE: In the last 30 years, has there been a significant change in the way Carnegie Training is marketed?
Crom: Yes. Thirty years ago [when I was selling and teaching the course] it was primarily local marketing. We used newspaper ads, we did some national magazine ads, but the bulk of it was coming through a local presence. During those years, it’s changed a number of times. Today, our website is a critical element in our marketing. Doing things in a digital environment has been powerful. We offer “white papers” and other downloads of information that’s critical to people to get them to understand leadership and human relations along with employee engagement issues. That’s often a starting point for people to get to know Dale Carnegie better.
NHE: Do you see the franchise system enduring?
Crom: Oh yes! The franchise system is very important because I think that one key to working with companies is that we have a global presence — we’re in eighty-five plus countries — and then we have a local presence. It’s not just that we could send a trainer in or do an online program for them, but we can be there and get to know the exact needs of that culture, that company, that individual.
NHE: Has the original Dale Carnegie Course changed in thirty years?
Crom: We continue to update it. What’s happened in thirty years is that people are looking to do more, better, faster, so the program has evolved. We can now offer a three day version. There are also once a week versions for eight or twelve weeks. The program’s essence is the same, but we’re looking for stronger results. Matter of fact, your friend, Jim Winner, has been instrumental in increasing the return on investment that corporations are getting through a learning transfer process.
NHE: What exactly is “learning transfer?”
Crom: It means that what occurs in the classroom is being adapted to the individual and they are actually using it to create higher levels of productivity to get greater results in the organization. What the LSU professor, Dr. Ed Holton, came up with is an eleven step process which takes you through understanding what the organization and the individual are trying to achieve. Then actually identifying the barriers that might prevent effective learning transfer from taking place, so that we can have ongoing and rapid communication with the participant as well as people in the organization and enhance that return on investment. It has shown great results. I’m very impressed.
NHE: Will this “learning transfer” be used worldwide?
Crom: Yes. It will be open world wide. We introduced it in December. Everyone’s excited about it.
NHE: Much of the value of adult education derives from the motivation and desire of the participant to learn and use new skills. How would you compare today’s class members with those of say, 20 to 40 years ago? Is there still a strong desire driving people?
Crom: We have a much more savvy consumer today, and that would include our participants. They have more experience. They often have had more training so they’re expecting even more than a class member was thirty years ago. That’s forced us to be stronger and better in what we provide. Another big change is that more of our participants are looking for more follow-up services even in an online format, so we’re providing those of course.
NHE: What does Carnegie have to offer a mid- to low-income 44 y.o. married person with 2 kids that would help them get a job — or a better job? Someone with no company support for tuition?
Crom: There’s a variety of programs that might help that individual. From the original Dale Carnegie Course that would help them with their communications and interviewing skills. It will help them feel more confident as they’re going into an interview. We have programs like “How to Communicate with Diplomacy and Tact.” Typically I would recommend to an individual in that situation to sit down with one of our people so that we can better understand what they’re looking for. What are their competencies that are missing or that need to be enhanced? How can they be more successful in their current role or move into a new role? Finally, identify a program that matched up best with that need. We do a lot of competency analysis now.
NHE: Would you name a few high profile Carnegie graduates?
Crom: (chuckes) Oh, there have been so many over 100 years! CEO’s, politicians. OK, hmm… Lee Iaccoca, Warren Buffett, John Maxwell. I’m sure each of our franchisees can rattle off a list of recognizable names in their local areas.
NHE: What do the next 100 years hold for DCC?
Crom: I started, last year, a Dale Carnegie Digital Division and that holds a lot of promise for all of our programs for the digital resources that we’re beginning to provide. We also started offering a lot of programs on a “live-on-live” format. It’s done through a web platform. We use a telephone bridge where people can see our visuals and chat with each other in an “instant message” format as well as over the phone. We’re delivering that kind of program around the world and servicing areas we could have never serviced before. We’re also providing digital content in the form of videos, pod casts, and self-paced content. You’ll see more of that integrated into the face classroom as well as programs that are 100% digitally delivered. It’s exciting because we’re touching people face to face and in this online world — where they live and work and having greater and greater impact. I suspect we’ll see continued expansion into other countries. We’ve had significant growth in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and of course Asia.
NHE: Final comments for our readers?
Crom: We’re excited about the 100th anniversary of the Dale Carnegie Course and we anticipate some fun programs for people this year. Part of the celebration will include the announcement of new product lines including an “Advanced” Dale Carnegie Course. There will be a new sales training programs. Every one of our six curriculum areas will have new content this year — stronger and better. It will help people achieve their objectives more rapidly and more successfully. I think it’ll be fun!