Warren Buffett’s wisdom—and it’s not all about investing

Wisdom shutterstock_347446928.jpgOr is it?  As a graduate of the Carroll School of Management of Boston College, I recently read an article about 20 M.B.A. students traveling to visit with Warren Buffett, regarded as one of the most successful investors in the world.  Initiated several years ago, the program sends a group of students to meet with Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.  So what investment wisdom did he share?

It all depends on your definition of investing—most of us might think of it in terms of wealth accumulation.  But for Buffett and so many other servant leaders it is much more. Investing isn’t just financial returns, but also emotional returns.  Treating people well, showing compassion, and understanding their differences—much of what I wrote about in What Dogs Taught Me about Teamwork and Success – can yield huge dividends over time, perhaps more than what you’d gain in financial rewards.  And at the foundation of those types of returns are communication skills. Being able to speak well and articulating points of view with confidence can increase your value to a company.  Buffett shared with the group the importance of communication and how, early on in his career, he realized the need for improvement and took a course to polish his speaking skills.  His first big investment, if you will.  And according to Buffett, that investment has had huge returns.

Effective communication skills, such as speaking publically as noted by Buffett, are extremely valuable skills to have.  But what do we do when we aren’t speaking at a podium or in front of a large audience?  We have conversations instead.  And understanding how to be an all-around effective communicator includes going back to the Neurochemistry of Positive Conversations—an article in the Harvard Business Review 2014.  As with serotonin, the chemical in the body associated with happiness, there is more neuroscience to help explain how something said in a conversation can affect us.  For example, which would you rather hear?  “You continue to amaze me” or “Just do as you are told”?   And why do negative comments and conversations stay with us so much longer?

When we face criticism or fear, such as disapproval from a boss or a disagreement with a co-worker, our bodies produce higher levels of cortisol, which is a hormone that makes us more sensitive to the pain caused by the negativity.  And what’s worse, is that this effect can stay with us for as much as 26 hours!  But on the flip side, there is hope!  When we make positive comments, such as providing supportive feedback, a different chemical reaction occurs.  Oxytocin, the hormone that helps us feel good, actually enhances our ability to communicate. You can even see this change on someone’s face and body language as well as speech.  

So what did the Boston College M. B. A. students really learn when they visited Warren Buffett?  They learned a whole new meaning to the word investing. 



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