If you’ve ever struggled to get ideas adopted or change the system you’re in, read this. I had the privilege of taking some extreme training on influence. It’s a pilot class based on the book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. Influence is about changing hearts, minds, and behavior to produce meaningful, sustainable results. The beauty of the model is that it scales up and down from personal life style changes, such as losing weight, to global changes, such as eliminating diseases. I like it because it’s a simple lens to look at those persistent problems where change seems impossible. Rather than bump your head against a glass ceiling or spin your wheels without traction, it’s a systematic approach to diagnose and implement change.
The key is clarifying measurable results, finding vital behaviors, and analyzing six sources of influence. Most change efforts fail because they look at only one source of influence or they don’t focus on the vital behaviors. Vital behaviors get specific on what actions to take that produce exponential results. Change efforts also fail because they don’t identify crucial moments which are when the right choices matter. When you know these things, and you have a model, you can dramatically improve your effectiveness. It’s skilled change. I’m sharing my notes as a forcing function to help me boil down and distill the insights. While the model is simple, the challenge is putting it into practice so my first step is summarizing the lessons in a way I can turn into action. It’s the beginning of the journey. I see it as a life long quest. I’m on the path now, with the right instructor and the right techniques to pursue a black belt in change management.
Key Take Aways
Here are my key take aways:
- Know what influence is. Influence is the ability to change our own behavior or the behavior of others.
- Know the difference between influence and persuasion. When short-term isn’t enough, you need influence. Persuasion is short term, while influence is about long term impact. Persuasion often involves getting verbal agreement or support, while influence requires changing minds, hearts, and actions.
- Know why most change efforts fail. Most change efforts fail because we have unrealistic expectations and we look to one simple solution.
- Know that unrealistic expectations get in the way. It’s not realistic to expect that people will change even when the consequences for not changing are enormous, everyone knows the consequence, and the change required is simple.
- Know the Fundamental attribution error. The mistake is assuming people do things for only one reason.
- It’s not one simple solution. Profound, persistent, and resistant problems last because we look for one simple solution. There’s rarely one cause. Analyze six sources of influence to diagnose the problems. You can influence persistent and resistant behaviors when you know the forces driving it.
- Use multiple strategies. Overwhelm the problem with resources. If you want to improve your success 10x, then rather than use 1-2 strategies, use 4 or more high-leverage behaviors.
- Identify effective results. Effective results are specific and measurable, they matter, and they’re time-bound.
- Know the 3 strategies for finding vital behaviors. The 3 strategies for finding vital behaviors are: 1) insist on vital behaviors, 2) identify crucial moments, and 3) study positive deviance.
- Insist on vital behaviors. Vital behaviors are specific actions that dramatically influence the results. This is about focusing on the vital few behaviors that have cascading impact. For example, in our group, we ship projects on time because we “fix time, flex scope.” When we ran scope driven projects, we would slip schedules. That’s an example of a vital behavior. You don’t always have the benefit of hind-sight so the key is to find good candidates, experiment, and test your results.
- Identify crucial moments. Crucial moments tell you when it’s time to act. For example, when your alarm goes off, you can decide to work out or roll over and go back to sleep.
- Study positive deviance. Study those who succeed where most others fail. Find the exceptions. For example, there might be people right around you that stand out. You can also research examples on the Web. For example, you can follow projects, such as the Positive Deviance Initiative. You can ask your network, “who succeeds despite the odds?” and “what do they do differently?”
- Share vicarious experiences. Rather than lecture or coerce, you can share vicarious experience to influence others. One simple way is to tell a story. This works if the audience identifies with the story and there is emotion involved. Another way is to have the people you want to influence see people in action. They can watch others perform the vital behaviors and learn simply by watching the successes and failures.
- Motivation and ability. People do things because of motivation and ability. Another way to put it is, “is it worth it?” and “Can I?”
- Personal, social, and structural forces. When you analyze motivation and ability, you can think in terms of personal forces, social forces, or structural forces. Personal forces would be what an individual wants and can do. Social forces would be what the group wants and can do. Structural forces would be the systems, processes, tools, and environment. It’s these 3 perspectives that give you a more complete view of the problem.
- Think in six sources of influence. Know the six reasons why we do what we do: 1) personal motivation, 2) personal ability, 3) social motivation, 4) social ability, 5) structural motivation, and 6) structural ability.
- Diagnose why change seems impossible. Your world is perfectly organized to create the behavior you’re currently experiencing. When change seems impossible, use the six sources of influence to find the conspiracy of causes.
- Know the influencer of influencers. Albert Bandura is considered the influencer of influencers. Some of Bandura’s books include: Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control, Social Learning Theory , and Social Learning Theory.
Change is Tough
To kick things off, we started the class with some highlights of failure to influence:
- Eighty-five percent of corporate change efforts fail – Arthur D. Little
- 2 out of 3 criminals are rearrested within 3 years – U.S. Dept. of Justice
- Two years after receiving coronary bypass surgery to save their lives, 90 percent of patients are back to old behaviors – Dr. Edward Miller, John Hopkins University.
Change is tough. You can dramatically improve your chances of success, when you have a model.
Here is a mock up of the influencer model we walked through during class:
The main flow of steps is:
- Step 1. Clarify measurable results.
- Step 2. Find vital behaviors.
- Step 3. Use six sources of influence.
Step 1. Clarify Measurable Results
Don’t waste time on how to create change until you’ve clarified what you want, why you want it, and when you want it. An effective result is:
1. Specific and measurable. It is quantitative not qualitative.
2. What you really want. It’s the outcome that matters.
3. Time bound. It comes with a completion date.
- So what? Now what? Right level?
- Are the results specific and measurable?
- Is it what you really want?
- Is it time bound?
Step 2. Find Vital Behaviors
Vital behaviors exponentially improve your results. If crucial moments tell you when it’s time to act, vital behaviors tell you exactly what to do and how to do it. Vital behaviors tend to stop self-defeating and escalating behaviors. They often start a reaction that leads to good results. Here are the keys:
- Behaviors are actions.
- Behaviors are not results or qualities.
- Not all behaviors are equal.
- Only a few are genuinely vital.
- Some is not a number.
- Soon is not a time.
Examples of vital behavior and results …
|Make ten cold calls a day to keep the pipeline filled.||Hit $2 million in sales by the end of the quarter.|
|Do thirty minutes of cardio daily.||Lose three inches from my waist by December.|
3 Strategies for finding high-leverage behaviors:
- Strategy 1. Insist on vital behaviors. Tells you exactly what to do and how to do it.
- Strategy 2. Identify crucial moments. Tell you when it’s time to act. It’s the point in time where the right behavior, if enacted, leads to the results you want.
- Strategy 3. Study positive deviance. Find and study those who succeed where most others fail.
Finding vital behaviors ….
- With larger projects: check with local experts, scan the best and most-cited articles and research, search the Internet for most-cited experts, perform a culture assessment.
- With smaller projects: determine your crucial moments, find the behaviors in those moments that will affect your results, conduct a mini-experiment (test the vital behaviors.)
Step 3. Six Sources of Influence
Rather than just look to one source for influence, explore six sources. Here is a mock up of the six-sources of influence model we walked through during class:
Here is a summary of the six sources:
- Source 1 – Personal Motivation – Do they want to engage in the behavior?
- Source 2 – Personal Ability – Do they have the knowledge, skills, and strengths to do the right then even when it’s hardest?
- Source 3 – Social Motivation – Are other people encouraging the right behavior and discouraging the wrong behavior?
- Source 4 – Social Ability – Do others provide the help, information, and resource required at particular times?
- Source 5 – Structural Motivation – Are rewards, pay, promotions, performance reviews, perks, or costs encouraging the right behaviors or discouraging the wrong behaviors?
- Source 6 – Structural Ability – Are there enough cues to stay on course? Does the environment (tools, facilities, information, reports, proximity to others, policies) enable the right behaviors or discourage the wrong behaviors?
Recognizing sources of influence …
|Source 1 – Personal Motivation||
|Source 2 – Personal Ability||
|Source 3 – Social Motivation||
|Source 4 – Social Ability||
|Source 5 – Structural Motivation||
|Source 6 – Structural Ability||
Influence vs. Persuasion
Here’s a quick comparison of influence and persuasion that we walked through during class:
The Guinea Worm Success Story
One of the stories that really helped show the power of vital behaviors was the story of the Guniea Worm:
- Challenge: Guinea worm disease
- Intervention: Focused on 3 vital behaviors: 1) filter drinking water 2) don’t enter the drinking water with infected limbs 3) hold other members accountable to doing the first two behaviors.
- Results: Reduced the number of Guinea worm cases from 3.5 million in 1986 to fewer than 10,000 by 2006. 11 of the 20 countries considered endemic in 1986 were certified as free of the Guinea worm disease as of 2007.
Impressive. The key was focusing on just a few vital behaviors.
Efficacy is the Foundation of Aspiration, Motivation, and Achievement
Albert Bandura (the influencer of influencers) was cited that a belief in efficacy – the ability to influence the events in your life — is the foundation for the following:
Vital Behavior Examples
During the class, we covered some vital behaviors (the difference that makes the difference):
- 3 vital behaviors for weight loss: 1) weight yourself daily 2) eat breakfast 3) work out at home.
- 3 vital behaviors for diabetes: 1) improve diet 2) exercise 3) monitor.
Nobody guessed that eating breakfast or working out at home were success patterns of those that successfully maintained their weight loss.
My learning partner and I paired up to work on an influence challenge. In our case, we focused on building a reliable resource pool.
It’s a lot of information, but like anything, it’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know. in this case, it seems like the real key is doing more vital behaviors.