Are Bosses Human?

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What do you read when you want to relax? For athletic-minded individuals, it’s the sports pages. For masochists, it’s the business pages. For the truly twisted, it’s this column. For me, it’s Dale Carnegie® Training’s electrifying publication, “Courses + Seminars.”

Issue #10, Spring/Summer, is on my desk right now, and let me tell you, in terms of sheer excitement, the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue runs a pale second place.  From the moment it hits my mailbox, I can’t wait to devour the latest menu of offerings from the company that calls itself “your global engagement partner.” [A relationship that is sure to incite jealous rage in my local engagement partner -- Tiffany, the afternoon bartender at the Kit Kat Klub.]

The big news in issue #10 is the new “Success of Success” app for your smart phone. “Now you can have a Carnegie Coach in your pocket” is the headline on this cover story, and, frankly, I can’t think of a scarier concept. The idea here is that if you need to “motivate your team” or resolve “conflict in the department,” click on “Be a Leader” or “Gain Cooperation” and up pops a video of a teeny-tiny consultant who will tell you the way to “get everyone rowing in the right direction.”

I suspect this technological breakthrough is only a first step in the development of the pocket coach. By the time Version 2.0 arrives, the pocket coach will not require a click from you, but be proactive, so that in the middle of a meeting, in the middle of a muddle, a well-modulated squeak will emanate from your pocket, coaching you to “Shut up, you moron. You’re only making it worse!”

Of the rich panoply of educational offerings in issue #10, I was drawn to a Carnegie classic — “Effective Communications and Human Relations.” This 12-week behemoth attracted my attention by describing its goal with a simple statement of purpose, “It’s Time to Get Human Again!”

Alas, as I looked more deeply into this “newly transformed Dale Carnegie Course®,” I realized the curriculum did not include beer busts, wild wedgy workouts, burping contests, or water balloon battles. These are basic human activities that have been driven out of the workplace by a sick and sickening emphasis on productivity, profitability and economic survival.

For Carnegie, the way to return humanity is to “act as a persuasive communicator, creative problem solver, and focused leader” so you can “stretch your abilities, tackle complex challenges, generate more ideas and excel as a consensus builder.”

If this is humanity, I’m sure you’d rather work a bunch of robots.

Oh, wait a second. You already do.

If you can’t wait for 12 weeks to transform yourself into a human being, it only takes two 8-hour days and a registration fee of $1595 to “Create an Executive Image.” Acknowledging the sad reality of casual dress codes, this Carnegie program goes beyond fashion advice to focus on the true essence of the executive animal — their ‘tude.

“Image has everything to do with attitude and almost nothing to do with being color coordinated,” as Mr. Carnegie himself has said, and who are we to argue? Over the 18 hours of course work you learn to “use eye contact to hold attention,” and “influence others to your point of view.” This sounds like hypnotism to me, which could explain the zombie-like behavior of our managers. I may be wrong, but next time you get an order from above, clap your hands in front of your supervisor and bark, “wake up!” The results could be quite dramatic.

While it takes a full 12 weeks for a manager to become human, it only takes a 7-week course to learn how to “think outside the box!” This Carnegie course is designed to unleash leadership principles to “instill an innovation process” and “create and sustain change initiatives.” Go figure! You would think that by this point in an economic melt-down so colossal even the politicians have noticed it, the only training for which companies would gladly pay $1695 would be designed to force managers back into their boxes, and keep them there.

Still, it could have been this very Carnegie course, which encouraged innovation inside the Carnegie organization, which resulted into the new Secrets of Success app.

Will the app succeed? We must rely on the business wisdom of Mae West, who famously said, “Is that a Carnegie coach in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?”

 

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