The Six Sources of Influence Model — A Powerful Model for Change




“A leader is best when people barely he exists, when his work is done, his aim filfulled, they will say, we did it ourselves.” — Lao Tzu

The six sources of influence model is a powerful model for change.

I first learned about the Six Sources of Influence from my Influencer Training.

The Influencer Training is based on the book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, by  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler.

The more I walk through the model, the more I appreciate it.

One of the main things I like about the model is that it’s easy to remember and it’s easy to whiteboard.

Change Anything with Skill

When I whiteboard the 6 Sources of Influence for people, I simply make a 2-column table. The one column is motivation and the other is ability. I then slice the table into 3 rows: personal, social, and structural.

That’s it. That’s all it takes to frame out and analyze your worst problems that you want to change.

The model scales up and down from changing yourself to changing the world. I’ve included an example of using the Six Sources of Influence to lose weight at the end of this post to help show the model in action.

Keep in mind I’m still learning and testing the model, and the best thing is always test things for yourself. You can just use me as a springboard 🙂

Six Sources of Influence

Here is a tickler list for thinking about the six sources of influence:

  1. Source 1 – Personal Motivation – whether you want to do it.
  2. Source 2 – Personal Ability – whether you can do it.
  3. Source 3 – Social Motivation – whether other people encourage the right behaviors.
  4. Source 4 – Social Ability – whether other people provide help, information or resources.
  5. Source 5 – Structural Motivation – whether the environment encourages the right behaviors.
  6. Source 6 – Structural Ability – whether the environment supports the right behaviors.

A Visual of the Six Sources of Influence


Key Strategies

Here is a tickler list of the key strategies organized by each of the Six Sources of Influence:

Source Strategies
Source 1 –
Personal Motivation
  • Strategy: Consciously connect to values
Source 2 –
Personal Ability
  • Strategy: Demand Deliberate Practice
Source 3 –
Social Motivation
  • Strategy 1: Pave the Way.
  • Strategy 2: Enlist the power of those who motivate.
  • Strategy 3: Seek the support of those who enable.
Source 4 –
Social Ability
  • Strategy 1: Pave the Way.
  • Strategy 2: Enlist the power of those who motivate.
  • Strategy 3: Seek the support of those who enable.
Source 5  –
Structural Motivation
  • Strategy 1: Link rewards third and in moderation.
  • Strategy 2: Link rewards to vital behaviors.
  • Strategy 3: Use rewards that reward.
Source 6 –
Structural Ability
  • Strategy 1: Use the power of space.
  • Strategy 2: Use the power of data and cues.
  • Strategy 3: Use the power of tools.

You can find out more on the strategies from my earlier notes on Influencer Training Day 2.

Analyze and Execute

Before you make an action plan, you can analyze the Six Sources of Influence.  To do so, you simply walk each source and ask relevant questions.  Similarly you can execute against each source.  This table summarizes how to analyze and execute against the Six Sources of Influence:

Source Analyze Execute
Source 1 –
Personal Motivation
Do I enjoy it? Make the undesirable desirable.
Source 2 –
Personal Ability
Am I personally able? Surpass your limits.
Source 3 –
Social Motivation
Do others motivate? Harness peer pressure.
Source 4 –
Social Ability
Do others enable? Find strength in numbers.
Source 5 –
Structural Motivation
Do “things” motivate? Design rewards and demand accountability.
Source 6 –
Structural Ability
Do “things” enable? Change the environment.


Example – Losing Weight with Six Sources of Influence

Here is a quick example of analyzing losing weight using the Six Sources of Influence.

Source Analysis
Source 1 –
Personal Motivation
Do you want to lose weight? For example, if you don’t really want to lose weight, you’re not really going to try. It can’t just be for other people. It has to be for you.
Source 2 –
Personal Ability
Do you have the skills, knowledge and techniques that work for you? Chances are, you may know the patterns that work for you, or at least the patterns that don’t work.
Source 3 –
Social Motivation
Do your friends want to go out drinking every night or encourage you to eat a lot at your favorite haunts?
Source 4  –
Social Ability
Is there somebody in your social circle that might have the knowledge or resources you need to get an edge?
Source 5 –
Structural Motivation
When you go home, are you greeted by a big bowl of candy or a big bowl of fruit? Your environment can motivate you in a good way or a bad way.
Source 6 –
Structural Ability
Do you have a way to workout at home? This can give you a big advantage in the long run.

I hope this example helps you see the power of the Six Sources of Influence.  You can substitute whatever resistant or persistent problem you want to change.  Walking the frame will help you quickly see where you can get your best leverage or where you might be stuck the most.  The more you leverage multiple sources the more you set yourself up for success.

You Might Also Like

Influencer Training Day 1

Influencer Training Day 2

Is Will a Skill?


  1. Nice thing about this model is it allows you to rank the areas by how difficult they are to change and by how important they may be in determining whether you succeed. In your example, Number 3 can be devastating in so many ways you may discover a complete change in social networks is necessary (or a ‘vacation’ from your friends). I’ve found that discovering that likely failure point is the first step to making it past.

  2. I absolutely love the way you set up your posts. You always put such great and informative stuff into easy-to-navigate structures. It’s great. This post has some really interesting stuff in it. I got a lot out of it so thank you!

  3. How simple but stunning! But simple usually is best in many things.

    And I like how it progresses logically with the most obvious first, so you would not backtrack or jump around in some model that was not so well organized.

  4. I love the losing weight example you give, that makes it so clear how you should think about and use this model. Enabling and motivation fit so well there.

  5. Hi J.D.

    Very powerful tool for life and in business, yet you made it so simple and easy to follow and applied. Stumbled!
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  6. Very good model. And darn simple to use. I was a little confused until the example so thanks for including that. Can’t wait to try it out on some of my issues.


  7. Hi JD – I love this model. And using the weight loss example was a great way to show how powerful it is. It really shows that a weak link in any of those parts could make the difference between success and failure.

  8. Very interesting. Something I’ll definitely keep in mind, especially when helping people through various problems.

  9. […] Six Sources of Influence (J.D. Meier) […]

  10. @ Fred

    I agree. When you know the source of the sticking points, you know where to put your elbow grease.

    @ Positively Present’

    Thank you. I try to master my craft a post at a time and I think of it as information artistry.

    @ Jannie

    It really is a simple, but effective model. I’ve been testing it daily and I’m liking how easy it is to find where the friction is.

    @ Christine

    I figured losing weight would make it easy to follow, but the model is powerful for just about any change.

    @ John

    It really is stretch to fit.

    @ Melissa

    It’s so much easier to put the puzzle together when you have a place to put the pieces.

    @ Giovanna

    Thank you! I’m having fun with the model and it’s really helping me quickly find glass ceilings and go around speed bumps.

    @ Rob

    I think the model will serve you well and I look forward to your results. It is life changing.

    @ Cath

    I wish I knew this model long ago. I can literally play back past failed attempts at change and see where things went wrong. On the corporate side, just think how many change efforts fail because either the people didn’t want the change or the tools didn’t support it or people didn’t have the skills and support they need, … etc.

    @ Craig

    I highly recommend the book. It’s a fun read, full of stories, and it’s a comprehensive model. While it’s a simple model to follow, there are a lot of moving parts to master.

  11. Finding the cues that distract me has been so vital…and they are there under each subheading. I just want to stay on my course and live my life.

    Another great post. Thank you

  12. […] Six Sources of Influence – J.D. Meier of Sources of Insight discusses the six sources of influence model, which is a powerful model for change. […]

  13. @ Bunnygotblog

    Thank you! I plan to share more stories of using the Six Sources down the line. It’s a powerful system.

  14. […] this book, Patterson identifies Six Sources of Influence. In short, these 6 aspects affect the ability to institute a […]

  15. […] social motivation, social ability, structural motivation, and structural ability. The link provides a good, brief explanation of these sources which I’ve copied […]

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