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A Natural Agilist Practices What She Preaches

LucasKatie Iorio-Martin is the Franchise President and CEO; Partner of Dale Carnegie Training for Southeastern Pennsylvania located at 2000 Valley Forge Circle, Suites 119 & 120 King of Prussia, PA 19406.  She has been involved with Dale Carnegie for over 20 years in various roles including sales, operations, and training.  Katie is a top certified, multi-course trainer.   She is responsible for setting corporate strategy and leading her team’s execution.  Katie supports sales consultants, coaches trainers, manages all internal processes and works with clients at the strategic level.  Her dedication to excellence has led her organization to numerous and prestigious awards.

This was an absolutely fascinating interview!  Usually I spend time up front putting the person I am interviewing at ease.  Much to my surprise, I found the tables reversed in this interview.  Katie practiced what she preaches in the Dale Carnegie program with consummate style and a very natural aplomb.

She also had prepared for our interview.  She came supplied with handouts and presented me with the latest Dale Carnegie book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age“.   Instead of lecturing me from across her desk, she sat next to me.  She listened intently when I spoke and made me feel that my questions were more important to her than her answers.  She took notes whenever we broke into a discussion and I made a point she particularly liked.  Katie wasn’t granting me some of her “precious time” as an important CEO of a busy organization; she was having a conversation with me that was as important to her as it was to me.

In short, she made me feel like the most important person in the room, without the slightest hint of condescension.  Katie Iorio-Martin is the genuine article when it comes to honest agile management!  Dale Carnegie would have been proud!

Lucas: You are in an interesting position as a business.  You have a very mature product that was developed long before the technologies we are inundated with today.  It depends on people, not technology.  So can you tell me, how the principles of Dale Carnegie apply in this technology era of working in microtime and hypertasking and how is it that you have almost 100% customer satisfaction?

Iorio-Martin: Interestingly enough, they are not just applicable, but even more necessary today than ever before.  There is intense pressure to maximize the quality of our performance and unrelenting demand for incredible speed in delivering products and services today.  Leaders have to be as efficient and effective as possible in their communication, understanding and cooperation with others to keep pace.  In a word, we need to build a TRUST relationship with co- workers, clients and even those who market to us.  Furthermore, we don’t have the luxury of necessarily meeting someone in person today to build that relationship.  Social media has changed the communication paradigm so much that we can have friends, even business partners that we have never met in person.  The entire relationship could exist through email, texting and Facebook or even intercompany information systems.  It’s a very different world.

Lucas: You really practice what you preach, don’t you.

Iorio-Martin: That is something that is not or should not be unique to Dale Carnegie – we all work hard to do so.  Believing in what you are doing is an important motivator for everyone in an organization. Studies on employee engagement have shown that as high as 50% of an enterprise’s workforce can be disengaged.  Workers don’t trust or have confidence in management and vice versa.  It is unfortunate that so few people are actively and positively engaged in the enterprise today.  We work with organizations to increase engagement levels by working with leaders to create stronger relationships with their people.  Dale Carnegie is ALL about engagement, it’s in our DNA.  In fact, our programs and seminars are made effective because we use a learn-by-doing model.  That is really the answer to the second part of your first question.  We attain high customer satisfaction by practicing what we preach.  That’s one of the central tenets of the Dale Carnegie philosophy.

Lucas: Can you give me a specific example of how your local franchise practices the Dale Carnegie philosophy.

Iorio-Martin: Yes!  One way, and this is very important to us, is that we strive for long term relationships with our team members.  Retaining valued employees is important to any business.  In an organization, such as ours, the relationships and soft skills that are developed over years are absolutely vital to success.  We have a number of people who have been with us for decades, which is unique in today’s business environment.  We are fortunate.

Lucas: Not to interrupt, but your management team is actually generational now isn’t it.  Passing on the management succession in a planned fashion is a key to success even in large companies.

Iorio-Martin: Yes I am the second generation management here.  Our family has owned the Dale Carnegie Franchise in this area since 1985.

Lucas: Just to take a step back for a second what all does Dale Carnegie’s training cover?

Iorio-Martin: Our business is structured to work organization wide, with divisions, teams and also with individuals needing competency development.  Our Customized Corporate Solutions Group provides full solutions that will impact results for a company, department or team. These could be in areas such as Succession Planning, Increasing Productivity or Sales, Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives, or Leadership/Management.  Our public programs offer coaching that provides significant performance shifts in teams or individuals. These fall around our core competencies of Team Engagement, Leadership, Presentations, Communications, and Sales and are offered in both Immersion and Time Phased formats. We also use Live-Online and e-learning initiatives in both our public and in house settings to boost skill transfer before coaching and ensure retention after coaching so results are seen in the workplace and are long lasting as well as to increase flexibility in delivery options. The back drop of our programs utilizes team dynamics and intra-group activities to build and strengthen interpersonal relations.  We show people how adapt to the fast-changing workplace conditions in our modern technologically rich environment.

Lucas: It is interesting, this importance of human skills, in a technological age, don’t you think?

Iorio-Martin: In many ways these social, moral and emotional skills are the only stability we actually have left to us.  They are what help us to enjoy our work as well as our very lives.  Dale Carnegie himself said, “The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. “He also said that, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

Lucas: You mentioned the word, “adapt”, in your previous answer.  It’s a word I am rather fond of since it is how I view agile.  How has your franchise adapted to the changing times?

Iorio-Martin: First, we have from the global presence of Dale Carnegie and Associates.  They invest in surveys and fund and conduct research on a broader scale, which could be done at just a local level, which demonstrates our expertise and sustainability.  Second, we both listen to and try to anticipate our customer’s changing needs.  For example, more than 50% of our business is conducted onsite in conjunction with an organizations’ larger learning plan and we have varied both the length of time and the duration of our training over recent years.  Lastly, we are leveraging technology to expand our reach and services with social media like Facebook, LinkedIn, and blogs.

Lucas: How do you implement these adaptations or changes?

Iorio-Martin: Generally speaking, a little at a time.  We do something discrete that we can measure, get feedback, analyze it, and learn from the experience in taking the next step.  This is a constant process and there is a great deal of training that takes place behind the scenes with our teams before rolling something out to clients.

Lucas: Again I don’t want to interrupt, but you have just described the quintessential agile concept.  You don’t have any training in agile do you? You’re a natural agilest!

Iorio-Martin: (chuckling) No, I don’t have any formal training in agile as you put it.  Otherwise this would not be an interview with a natural agilist, I suppose.  To seriously address the other side of your question though, these are the lessons learned in surviving and thriving in a business.  It is the experience and the knowledge of what works.  From a Dale Carnegie, “the man” perspective; it reaches back even further to his book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” published in 1936.  And Carnegie practiced these techniques as far back as 1912, when he filled lecture halls to capacity with his talks on public speaking.  It’s really timeless wisdom.  And of course, Dale Carnegie practiced what he preached.

Lucas: And that was the secret to his success.

Iorio-Martin: Yes!

Note: At the time of publication the author never worked for nor had any financial interest in Dale Carnegie Training for Southeastern Pennsylvania.

About Brian Lucas

Consultant, lecturer, project manager, business manager, and software architect who has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since its inception over 25 years ago.

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