12 Most Timeless Principles for Bringing Out the Best in People

12 Most Timeless Principles for Bringing Out the Best in People

No matter what you do, people are involved. How to interact, to lead and to motivate is an ongoing challenge. In short, what can you do to bring out the best in people?

Over 25 years ago, Alan Loy McGinnis, wrote a book to teach people how to do exactly that. Though technology has changed much in the way we do business, people are the same. Thus, the principles in his book “Bringing out the Best in People” still apply. Following are his 12 principles along with comments and quote.

1. Expect the best from people you lead

Though it may seem obvious, it’s not always the reality. There is a high degree of correlation between what we expect people to do and what they do. From the Pgymalion effect to classroom experiments, examples abound of what happens when we expect the best of people Goethe said:

“Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he already were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

2. Make a thorough study of the other person’s needs

How do you do this? Ask questions. Don’t assume, find out what matters to each individual. Think of a motivational plan as a designer dress or a custom fitted suit; both are tailored for the individual. Find out where they have been, where they are going, what’s important to them as well as any sore spots. Or, as Zig Ziglar is famous for saying:

“You can get everything in life you want if you just help enough other people get what they want.”

3. Establish High Standards for Excellence

Those who succeed know the pleasure of setting high standards and living up them. What that belief system for excellence is varies from company to company—it may be innovation, quality or a number of other measures. A strong leader is necessary to develop the culture and create it as the norm. Those who do not buy into it, will leave. The late John W. Gardner, leader, author, speaker and Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare said:

“The best kept secret in America today is that people would rather work hard for something they believe in than enjoy a pampered idleness.”

4. Create an environment where failure is not fatal

People who learn that mistakes or failures are only temporary, are the ones who go on to do great things. Anyone who has ever achieved anything of significance, no doubt made countless mistakes along the way. Indeed, those people who can openly show they risked, failed and then started anew are examples to us all. A very successful businessman I know always says: “Fail forward fast.” The late Charles Kettering, inventor of Delco, head of research for General Motors and holder of 140 patents, wisely said:

“The chief job of the educator is to teach people how to fail intelligently.”

5. If they are going anywhere near where you want to go, climb on other people’s bandwagons

Whether you are talking about parents and children, psychologists and patients or salespeople and their clients, it is far more effective if the person thinks it is their idea. What people say, they believe. If you know clearly what your goals are, then you can more easily find people with whom to work to realize mutual goals. American President Harry Truman put it this way:

“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it”

6. Employ models to encourage success

Be it a stirring story of triumph over adversity or a real life “tortoise and hare” success story, we relate, we respond and are motivated when we hear such stories. Rags to riches stories speak to each of us so tell them, use them. Whether or not you are a fan of Apple products, Steve Jobs is an inspiration and an example taking Apple from near bankruptcy 13 years ago to the most valuable publicly traded company today. Back in the late 1700s, philosopher, orator, author and Irish statesman Edmund Burke was right when he said:

“Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.”

7. Recognize and applaud achievement

Acknowledge a person’s effort for a task; be specific in your praise. Rather than say “you’re doing great” say “you’re doing great because you take such consistent action or you help people to understand why they need to ______” Ken Blanchard, “The One Minute Manager” recommends catching people doing “something right” and then giving them an immediate compliment. English cleric and writer C.C. Colton said:

“Applause is the spur of noble minds.”

8. Employ a mixture of positive and negative reinforcement

Though some positive thinkers believe the only way to motivate people to produce is by positive reinforcement, this simply isn’t true. To illustrate this, here’s an interesting story about the late Coach John Wooden. During the 1974-1975 season, two psychologists watched 15 of his practices sessions. What they found surprised them; he used negative statements, or scolded them, twice as much as he praised them. However, it was the way he did it that made such a difference in his teams and the lasting relationships he forged with individual players. He used the scold/instruction method. In other words, he told them what not to do and then told them what to do. Know when to praise and when to reprimand. Nobel prize winner Pearl S. Buck explains it this way:

“Some are kissing mothers and some are scolding mothers, but it is love just the same, and most mothers kiss and scold together.”

9. Appeal sparingly to the competitive urge

It seems that inherent in each of us there is a desire to compete. Evidence abounds that we love to play “games” and win. When there is a balance of cooperation and competition it is a win-win situation for all. When taken to excess, people feel manipulated, stab each other in the back, become angry and it becomes destructive rather than productive. The same thing holds true with comparisons; there’s a fine line between using them to criticize or to inspire. Author Burt Struthers says this about the will to win:

“People are failures, not because they are stupid, but because they are not sufficiently impassioned.”

10. Place a premium on collaboration

Inherent in each of us is a need to belong. Most of us work best when teamed with at least one other person whether it’s on a project or to lose weight. What happens when we work as a group or team is that our resolve strengthens and the support of the group gives the momentum to break through obstacles. The late U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa stated:

“What we call society is really a vast network of mutual agreements.”

11. Build into the group an allowance for storms

Learning to work with difficult people is essential to success. The more successful a person is, the more people will resent them and their power. Allow for the differences in people, for inexplicable behavior, disruptive behavior and know ahead of time how you will deal with each.. Open communication and expecting the best in others go a long way to diffusing potentially volatile situations and troublemakers. Benjamin Franklin offered this sage advice:

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

12. Take steps to keep your own motivation high

What is it about certain people that enable them to lead, to inspire others? History shows it’s not a matter of looks, education or talent. Some call it charisma while others call it obsessiveness or enthusiasm. No doubt about it, “enthusiasm is contagious.” It grabs attention and compels action. To keep yourself up and brimming with energy, with enthusiasm, associate with positive people, monitor your self talk, feed your mind and focus on your goals. Neurosurgeon and pioneer of brain surgery Dr. Harvey Cushing believed:

“Nothing great or new can be done without enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the fly-wheel which carriers your saw through the knots in the log. A certain excessiveness seems a necessary element in all greatness.”

Have you either heard of or read “Bringing Out the Best in People?”

Which one of these principles spoke to you?

What other tips do you have for bringing out the best in people?

Janet Callaway


As a Network Marketing & Social Media Coach, I am passionately involved with teaching people how to build thriving online Global businesses. Whether people want to earn a few hundred dollars extra a month or multiple six figures a year, I provide strategies & practical “how to” solutions including the use social media & networking to help them achieve those goals. It is my belief that everyone should design the life they want and live it. To be able to mentor people to success and help them achieve what is important to them, matters to me.

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