Carlyle Group’s Secret to Building Culture: Persuasion

David Rubenstein is the founder of Carlyle Group, a publicly traded private equity firm in DC. The firm has about $373 billion in assets under management as of this writing. David is a good example of what I call investor entrepreneurs—investors who have an entrepreneurial spirit and found their own investment firms rather than work for someone else. I’ve been learning more about David’s outsize success and the founding of Carlyle. I listened to an interview he gave recently at Wharton’s Private Equity & Venture Capital (PE/VC) Club.

David believes that culture is one of the most important things in an organization. He was purposeful in crafting the culture of his firm, and it’s been a competitive advantage and part of Carlyle’s brand. David was asked what’s needed to build a great culture. He shared something I didn't anticipate: persuasion skills. He went on to say that life is about persuading others to do what you want. Family, coworkers, friends, spouses, everyone—if you can persuade people you’re right and get them to do what you want, it’s an advantage in life and helps build a great culture.

He explained how to persuade people:

  • Writing – Effective writing is important because it helps you communicate your point succinctly, which can persuade others.
  • Talking – Oral persuasion is about making your case by speaking. If you can speak clearly and succinctly, that will help you be persuasive. Practicing helps.
  • Actions – Leading by example is an effective way to persuade. Do what you want others to do to set an example that they’ll follow.

David is right. Persuasion is an important life skill that can be a superpower for entrepreneurs who lead other people. Culture is about how people act while they execute the company’s mission. Effective leaders are good at persuading their teams to act in a manner that aligns with the company’s core values.