Knowledge of human nature in everyday business: What you won't learn at Harvard

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Text comes from: Was Sie an der Harvard Business School nicht lernen (2019) from Mark McCormack, published by Münchener Verlagsgruppe (MVG), Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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We are told that success in life depends on good grades and the right contacts. But that is only the half truth. Above all, it depends on knowledge of human nature and experience. And Harvard can't help either.

Knowledge of human nature in everyday business: What you won't learn at Harvard13

Here writes for you:


Mark McCormack is the founder and CEO of IMG.


From the author:


A particularly valuable course of study?

When I was a law student at Yale, I was told that this degree was as valuable as a business degree for a career in business. Long afterwards, after lecturing at both Harvard and other economic institutes, I came to the same conclusion - although both disciplines have clear limits when it comes to the realities of business life. A degree in law or business administration is definitely recommended as a stepping stone. But as an education, as part of a continuous learning process, it represents at best a solid foundation and at worst a naive form of presumption. What we learn at our universities is the realization that they cannot convey one thing to us: the ups and downs, the The ups and downs of everyday company life.

Leadership practice includes autodidactic learning processes, whereby one's own reservoir of experience, if it is as large as mine, can undoubtedly shorten, simplify and "sweeten" learning. In the early 60s, I started my own company with less than $ 500 in start-up capital, starting a new industry - the sports management and sports marketing industries. Today it has become the International Management Group (IMG), a mammoth company with billions in revenues and branches all over the world. But I am probably better known as "the man to whom Arnold Palmer owes his millions". In reality, Arnold Palmer owes his millions to Arnold Palmer, although he will certainly think I was of great help to him.

How to Get Experience: Learning by Observation

Even if the management of such famous sports stars as Jean-Claude Killy, Jackie Stewart, Björn Borg, Herschel Walker, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and many other of our numerous clients is very important to us, it is only part of our group. Our Television division produces hundreds of hours of programming around the world and sells them to people as diverse as Wimbledon, the national soccer team, the American Tennis and Golf Association, the International Ski Association, the University Sports Association, and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club. Our business consulting area is used by more than fifty listed companies on an international level. We've done personal financial advice and planning for hundreds of top managers.

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We have three fashion centers and are or have been working for a wide variety of clients, such as: B. for the Nobel Foundation, the Vatican and the Catholic Church of England; We are also an adviser to the Organizing Committee for the television recording of the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea. In my more than twenty years of experience in business life, without wanting to be presumptuous, I have got to know every conceivable situation and type of personality. I had to deal with the complex characters of sports greats and their wives, parents, friends, neighbors and fans. I've dealt with statesmen and corporate bosses, international bankers and small town lawyers, with bureaucratic sports associations and autocratic company founders. I have been confronted with every phase and form of the entertainment, communication and leisure industries and have certainly done business with every country in the world at some point.

What I do not know from personal experience, I have learned through observation. As a result of our business relationships too great Company I have been a guest in the offices and boardrooms of countless companies all over the world. I've had the opportunity to see them in "full action" - and see why so many fail. I have probably got to know every conceivable corporate style, every cultural background, every theoretical and philosophical foundation - and found out why so often »people build on sand«. From these experiences and observations, I derived advice on sales techniques, negotiations, starting business life, how to found and run a company, manage employees and personalities, plan your career or achieve something. However, I have to say that this categorical analysis is misleading because this book is primarily concerned with what I would like to call "healthy pragmatism" - the ability to make positive use of one's instincts, insights, and knowledge. to use them to reach a specific goal as quickly as possible, even if that means that you have to overcome some hurdles or use the "back door".

Can a sure instinct be learned?

Can a sure instinct in business life really be "learned"? Perhaps not quite, but what you can learn is the results of practical thinking. Much of what I say or do in my work serves to give myself a slight psychological advantage over others or to put myself in a position to spur others on to top performance. That's what I mean by healthy pragmatism - namely, applied knowledge of human nature. Whether it is about closing a deal or asking for a raise, motivating five thousand salespeople or negotiating with someone to talk to, buying out a new business or fundamentally changing an old one - every situation in business life is basically a situation in which it is is primarily about interpersonal relationships. And only executives who develop a keen sense for people and know what practical benefits they can draw from are successful.

To be fair, it has to be said that you don't learn at Harvard what you can't learn there: namely, good knowledge of people and how to use them practically to achieve a certain goal. This is exactly what you can learn with the help of this book: namely, how you can understand others better and achieve that you too are better understood, and how you can use both skills in any given situation in business life or adapt them to the respective circumstances. Certain dispositions in business are, of course, situational. But whenever it was possible, that is, when a clearly conscious act leads to a consequent more or less unconscious reaction, I have tried to analyze the facts for you. Based on my own experience and observations, I can recommend many specific techniques that can be applied in practice and lead to immediate, tangible results. Much of the advice is a little unconventional, not in order to differentiate yourself in principle from others, but because I am convinced that our dependence on conventional knowledge - on traditional ideas and antiquated methods - is probably one of the big problems for our economy. Corporate governance is the constant process of breaking out of the rigidity of existing systems, questioning conditional reflexes, and scratching the surface to expose the core. Everyone is actually ready to work, but certain adverse circumstances prevent them from doing so. It is simply impossible today to write a realistic book without addressing this problem and its many variations.

What is an academic education good for?

Our economy needs innovation. There has always been a need to feel your way to the limit, to measure yourself against problems, but our business schools are - inevitably - doomed to teach the past. This not only perpetuates conventional thinking, but also slows down innovation. Someone once said that if Thomas Edison had attended business school, we would still read by the light of candles, albeit larger ones. My intention with this book was to fill some gaps - gaps between the theoretical training and the healthy pragmatism that derives from the daily experience of running a company and leading people. Over the years we have recruited many senior graduates from Harvard and other universities. In fact, I think it was one of my own conditioned reflexes when I was still easier to impress: "If you have a problem, you need a business graduate!" Even as our company grew and ventured into areas where If we lacked confidence or professional competence, I argued that, because of their academic training, they were best suited to lead our first steps into "uncharted territory". In doing so, I realized that a university exam can often be a stumbling block in practice. Many of the economists we hired at the time were either incredibly naive or victims of their professional training. This resulted in a kind of inability to learn about real life - that is, to correctly assess people and situations - and a dangerous tendency to draw the wrong conclusions. But, in fairness, it must also be added that some of our business graduates have managed to adapt to reality quite well.

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But, as I once did, to believe that an academic title or a high IQ must inevitably be coupled with healthy pragmatism has all too often turned out to be a serious fallacy. A case study of this problem was conducted at Harvard Business School a few years ago. As soon as the questions were formulated, it turned out that the students had difficulties in finding the appropriate »theoretical drawer« into which certain business situations should be classified. And those who found it expected that the correct answer would come out by itself - as if at the push of a button. Obviously, however, neither people nor problems fit into prefabricated "templates", and if you try to force them into them, the perspectives become distorted. Two old friends met again by chance on the street after 25 years. The one who had been top of the class worked as an assistant manager in a bank in his hometown. The other, who had never shone because of his intelligence, had his own company and a large bank account. When his friend, the bank clerk, asked him what the secret of his success was, he replied, “It's easy. I have a product that I buy for two dollars and sell for five dollars. It's amazing what you can do with the three dollars in profit. ”I am not prejudiced against intellect, intelligence, or, in this case, academic degrees, but they are no substitute for common sense, human knowledge, and sound pragmatism. I believe that Harvard Business School has now come to this conclusion too.

Knowledge of human nature: how power changes people

Let me begin by telling you two stories: one is about a - then still - presidential candidate, the other about a well-known professional golf player. Although there are almost ten years between the two events, in my opinion they belong together. In 1963, on the occasion of the International Golf World Cup in Paris, I met Richard Nixon twice - the first time at the golf club when he came to our table and greeted Gary Player, and the second time a few days later, at the Tour d'Argent, when he had a brief chat with Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, with whom I was having dinner. Nixon's remarks were certainly humorous, but what I remember particularly is that he used the same words both times, the same five or six sentences, as if he wasn't talking to people but to puppets or a certain repertoire of standard sentences for the different categories of people he might get to know or meet - a few phrases for a sports star, a few others for a business captain and another "set" for a representative of the Church. The second story is about an extraordinary golfer, Doug Sanders. At first, many believed that we had signed Doug as a mistake. He actually had a bit of a gambler, rushed from appointment to appointment, was in serious trouble more than once and was always ready to "go all out." Some thought he was too contradicting and wanted to know why we trusted him. To be honest, I trusted Doug Sanders more than anyone who asked me that question. But now to the real story.

Doug once participated in a golf tournament in Canada. He had made all the necessary preparations himself. I didn't know anything about it and I would hardly have ever found out, because his hand money was paid out in cash. But about a week after the tournament, we received an envelope that contained neither a letter nor a note - only our percentage, in cash. I still remember these two incidents so well because they show a fundamental aspect of human knowledge: What someone says or does in a completely unimportant situation sometimes speaks "volumes" and often only reveals the real self. My chance acquaintance with Nixon was marked by a degree of insincerity and hypocrisy that I should remember all too well ten years later when he was forced to resign. Nixon's case may be due to his insincerity as well as the Watergate affair. Dishonest people are anathema to most; we instinctively distrust them and are certainly not enthusiastic about the fact that they decide the fate of our country. In the case of Doug Sanders, the cash paid for participating in the golf tournament was hardly worth mentioning. But to this day I can still imagine Doug going into his hotel room, pulling a wad of money out of his pocket, counting our share, putting it in an envelope, and addressing it to us. It was so typical that he couldn't think of anything else. Certainly, some of us would prefer the future American president to have shown himself to be "solid of character" and the "seedy" golfer to have shown himself to be "characterless", but the facts clearly speak against it. But what does that have to do with business, you might ask? Very much!

How to get an idea of ​​someone

In our profession, it is not difficult to acquire a certain personality or an image that corresponds to the respective situation. Some people behave completely differently when dealing with subordinates than they do with superiors or outsiders. But the original self, the true nature of a person, is not a chameleon that adapts to the respective environment. In an ongoing relationship, sooner or later, consciously or unconsciously, you will discover the true character of your business partner. At least you want to hear what he really has to say, not what he is trying to tell you; You want to be able to relate his actions or his professional activities more fully to his character. Whether I sell or buy, whether I am hired (as part of my consulting work) or hire employees myself, whether I negotiate a contract or respond to a client's wishes - I want to know who the other person is. I want to get to know the real me. Basically, every situation in business is primarily about human relationships, and the more and the sooner I learn about the person I am dealing with, the more I can make a difference. An Opinion Is Not An Answer Many people judge others without knowing them personally based solely on what they hear or know about their company. They discard or even ignore their own perceptions unless they agree with their preconceived notions.

At IMG, we are often confronted with prejudices that affect our company. Our way of working is fairly transparent, and a number of articles or TV shows that dealt with the company profile or myself believed that they had to put special emphasis on our position of power in the sports field and characterize us as tough, even ruthless negotiators. In nine out of ten cases, this image is an advantage for us. We are practically expected to »play high poker« and this expectation makes it easier for us to »get a grip on our negotiating partner«. And if he then has to find out that we are actually quite accessible and sensible people, we have already won. But there is also the "tithe" who clings so doggedly to his preconceived notions that he completely misjudges the actual business situation or the employee of our company with whom he is negotiating. He has made up his mind to be as tough as we are or to arm himself against our toughness, which means that he sees a friendly "Nice to meet you" as a hidden threat. Obviously, because of his prejudices, he is no longer capable of really revealing insights. Developing knowledge of human nature requires opening up all the senses to reality and converting the knowledge gained into tangible starting points that can be used to your own advantage. Dave DeBusschere, a former basketball star, was vice president of our television division for a few years before he joined the New York Knicks as general manager. Dave had some frustrating negotiations with the head of a Connecticut insurance company he was trying to get to sponsor one of our television shows. The man seemed seriously interested but was so overwhelmed to negotiate with DeBusschere that he couldn't cope with that fact or his own suspicions. If the opportunity was really that great, he said, why hadn't an "ordinary" clerk been assigned to try it out?

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Use knowledge correctly

Dave Marr, former PGA Professional Golfers' Association Champion, and I once spoke about some of the great golfers we knew; In doing so, Dave established one of the most important rules for golf betting in my opinion: "Never bet with someone you hit on the first tee who is deeply tanned, has a golf club with an iron headstack and is throwing furtive glances." The true character of a person can often only be found with the help of observation. In most business situations, there is more to be seen than what "catches the eye" - namely, a wide range of dynamic personality traits that operate behind the surface. There is almost always an opportunity that allows you to peek behind the curtain. Sometimes it is the things that someone unconsciously says or does, or the way that someone, e.g. B. avoids your gaze with a certain question. But there are also behaviors that are neither simple nor unconscious, e.g. B. how someone formulates a certain thought. What is certain, however, is that there are key elements that lead to profound insights in abundance, available to anyone who picks up on them. But an astonishing number of executives seem to be blind to it. They are unable to see what is really going on around them. Either they are too busy hearing themselves talk and pay too little attention to the other, or they are focused solely on their own professional activities and are unaware of what others are doing. I cannot imagine that there is anyone in business who succeeds without a minimum of human knowledge. In our economy it is perhaps more important than in any other area to gain every advantage, no matter how small

recognize and preserve. And all aspects of this process can be traced back to dealing with people: you have to lead them, sell them something, work with them and basically get them to do what you want. Without adequate knowledge of human nature, you simply lack the necessary insight. Insights enable a perspective that extends beyond the present. Imagine if you were able to provide an exact forecast for the economic development in the next ten years. Because of this informational advantage, you would not only be significantly smarter, but also significantly more successful and wealthy. Undoubtedly, a good knowledge of people helps to see the future more clearly. A person's true self, their real character, cannot adapt to different situations like a chameleon. It's completely consistent. The better you know someone, the sooner you penetrate their facade, the more precisely you can predict how he or she will act or react in a certain situation. This knowledge can be invaluable to you. The modus operandi that comes into play here is similar to that of the "professionals" - the spiritualists and fortune-tellers who have been predicting the future with the same "trick" for centuries. Fortune tellers try to assess their clients by observing them closely - how they behave, what they look like, what clothes they wear - and asking them innocuous questions. With this information, they can "take a look into the future," which is actually exactly what the client wants to hear, based on what they have learned in the meantime. A good fortune teller sometimes finds out the most amazing things that he has put together from tiny bits of information. Some of this "guild" would undoubtedly make excellent managers. On the other hand, I know many managers who would have no chance as fortune tellers.

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