My dad worked in sales his entire life. He started as a manufacturer's rep and ended up working as a car salesman in his twilight years. Growing up, I remember how he would talk about Dale Carnegie, the book author and sales guru who died in 1955.
Carnegie became famous because his books changed how successful people lead companies and sell products. Instead of just pushing their own agendas, those with the most friends and the most success have learned how to show empathy to others.
So, what about those who are not successful? They don't show empathy. They are so selfish and focused on their own goals that they don't ever gain allies in business, they push people out of projects, and no one bothers to seek their advice. They fail to empathize, and they demonstrate several other traits that can ruin projects--and even destroy companies.
1. They purposefully misunderstand feedback.
The most unsuccessful people always seem to have this trait: They hear what they want to hear instead of the truth. Recently, I had a misunderstanding with someone who is not that interested in my own point of view. I've explained my opinion a few times, and I've come to the realization that this person doesn't really want to understand me. My friend is not interested in growth or changing his leadership style; he's only interested in being right. The result? I am not so sure our friendship will even last.
2. They communicate as poorly as possible.
Set down the tablet, close your e-mail program--put your smartphone on silent. Those are all great tactics for pushing friends away. People who lack influence and close colleague relationships are always poor communicators. They live in a bubble of seclusion, quietly trying to work out their own success. It's a strange way to operate, but it makes sense to selfish people who care only about their own advancement.
3. They keep their ideas confidential.
People who lack any influence in the workplace are usually mousy, secretive, and lack confidence. I've written before about how the most liked people at work are usually those that talk and share their ideas. Those who lack influence are the exact opposite: They don't ever talk, so no one in the office bothers to ask their opinion. They don't have any friends at work, because they won't share the credit with anyone--or even share an idea.
4. They start every conversation being critical.
Finger pointing--there's a great tactic to win friends! Instead of admitting weaknesses and starting an investor meeting with a little humility, friendless people always start with a complaint about a project, a person, or a proposal. "Oh, that's not going to work, and here's why..." they always say, and it's a sure way to make people defensive.
5. They only see things only from their perspective.
One of the most brilliant insights Carnegie ever had was to start seeing things from the perspective of other people. This actually works, because you adjust your behavior to "win" them over in an honest way. You give them the gift of empathy, and they respond. Unsuccessful people never do this. They look at projects and companies in light of how they will benefit personally, the recognition they will receive, and the paycheck they'll get in the end. The are not just myopic; they are blind to an anyone else's perspective.
6. They always expect others to comply.
Failed leaders always have a "my way or the highway" approach. They stomp-stomp-stomp around the office and raise their voices in meetings, using aggressive tactics to get what they want. Everyone else has to adjust to their approaches. And they have no friends. Their lack of empathy plays out in the workplace in a tangible way because no one ever wants to work with them or fall under their dictum; in the end, they know it will be the bad golden rule (she who has the most gold, rules) and not the good one.
7. They go it alone.
When you look at the most unsuccessful people at work, they all share the same trait: They are loners. They don't understand the power of teamwork, or how to adjust personal goals for the sake of the company, or even how to set aside a task list for once and help someone else on a project. One single person is never, ever successful. Successful leaders in business always have a team that helps them push a company forward; they share the glory.