The Influencer Change Framework–The Power to Change Anything


Influencer - the Power to Change Anything

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” — Viktor Frankl

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 Influencer Change Framework at a Glance

The Influencer Change Model is about changing behaviors to achieve measurable results.  And you change behavior by changing motivation and ability across personal, social, and structural aspects.


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.

Start by Clarifying Meaningful Results

The key is to clarify 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.

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.

The Influencer 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 …

Vital Behavior Result
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 MotivationDo they want to engage in the behavior?
  • Source 2 – Personal AbilityDo they have the knowledge, skills, and strengths to do the right then even when it’s hardest?
  • Source 3 – Social MotivationAre other people encouraging the right behavior and discouraging the wrong behavior?
  • Source 4 – Social AbilityDo others provide the help, information, and resource required at particular times?
  • Source 5 – Structural MotivationAre rewards, pay, promotions, performance reviews, perks, or costs encouraging the right behaviors or discouraging the wrong behaviors?
  • Source 6 – Structural AbilityAre 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 …

Vital Behavior Result
Source 1 – Personal Motivation
  • “I don’t like …
  • “That’s not fun for me …”
  • “I don’t enjoy …”
Source 2 – Personal Ability
  • “I can’t.”
  • “I don’t know how.”
  • “I keep trying, but I can’t figure it out.”
Source 3 – Social Motivation
  • “The boss told me to do this.
  • “She has been praising this for months.”
  • “Everyone is doing this.”
Source 4 – Social Ability
  • “John didn’t get me this material.”
  • “When I needed help, everyone disappeared.”
  • “I needed my boss’s approval, but she wouldn’t sign off on it.”
Source 5 – Structural Motivation
  • “That won’t affect my performance appraisal.”
  • “Of course I would never pass the ball. My dad pays me $20 for every soccer goal I score.”
  • “They talk a lot about quality,but you could lose your job if you stop the line.”
Source 6 – Structural Ability
  • “It’s hurry up and wait with all the bureaucracy around here.”
  • “Drugs are available within a mile of every house in the city.”
  • “Bosses get their data from analysts, not customers, so they don’t care about quality.”

Influence vs. Persuasion

Here’s a quick comparison of influence and persuasion that we walked through during class:

Influence Persuasion
  • Challenges involve changing long-term, deeply entrenched behaviors.
  • Getting support is often many people and many interlocked behaviors.
  • Challenges require changing minds, hearts, and actions.
  • Challenges are more short-term.
  • Challenges typically involve getting someone to say yes or no.
  • Challenges are about getting verbal agreement or support.


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:

  • Aspiration
  • Motivation
  • Achievement

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.

Influence Challenge

My learning partner and I paired up to work on an influence challenge. In our case, we focused on building a reliable resource pool.

Influence Persuasion
Effective Results
  • Build a resource pool that can deliver results that increase customer sat by 5% as measured by customer proof points within 6 months.
  • Skills, experience, and interest match roles and responsibilities within 1 month of ramp up.
Crucial Moments
  • Determining insourcing or outsourcing
  • Budgeting for it.
  • Determining sponsorship level.
  • Defining the criteria.
  • When people don’t perform.
  • When onboarding or ramping up.
  • Hire experience over capability.
  • Assign track record mentors.
  • Have multiple sources with multiple candidates.
  • Pair up.
  • Create a ram up ritual for tools / process.
  • Setup customer workshops (customer empathy).
  • Show and tells (motivation, feedback)
  • Implement a train-the-trainer.
Vital Behaviors.
  • Hire experience over capability.
  • Show and tells.
  • Pair up.

Key Takeaways

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 Self-Efficacy in Changing Societies.

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.

You Might Also Like

Influencer Training Day 2 – How To Change Anything with the Six Sources of Influence

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

Improve Your Influence and Impact – Be Aware of the Larger System

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How New Leaders Sequence Their Influence


  1. Thanks for all the detail.

    In particular I find the 6 sources of influence interesting. At work we are often stumped at why clients act in certain ways and figuring this out is core to solving our problems.

  2. Wow, JD. You’re quite a note-taker! This was a really detailed post, and I especially liked the flow diagram from the 6 sources of influence to the measurement of results. I can tell you’re a great student, and therefore a great teacher. Great stuff.

  3. Influence certainly sounds much better than dictatorial or pressure. I like the idea of building influence to produce meaningful and sustainable results. Anything short term only creates a fad that is easily forgotten in the minds of others.

  4. Hi J.D.
    Wow, this is a lot of detail. Thanks for putting all of that together. Influence is a very powerful thing.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Giovanna Garcia
    Imperfect Action is better than No Action

  5. I liked the breakdown to personal/social/structural – it really stick with me.I also liked the frame for recognizing sources of influence.

  6. @ Jarod

    The six sources are a real gem. In fact, in day 2 we drilled much deeper into this (I’ll share my notes soon.) I really like the fact that it’s a simple “motivation and ability” focus and then simply walking the personal, social, and structural perspectives. It really helps diagnose sticking points and map out the lay of the land. You can then find your best leverage points.

    @ Positively Present

    It’s the same team that writes Crucial Conversations and the rock. I’ll be paving my way through the book in way more detail once I let the training sink in a bit more.

    @ Daphne

    Ever since I put my “insights, actions, and notes” technique into practice and adopted sticky notes, I’ve gamed my game with note taking. I really eat up training sessions now. It’s night and day.

    @ Fred

    I took it through corporate training. You can start with the book though. It’s very well written and easy to follow.

    @ Evelyn

    That’s the key. It’s all about sustainable change and getting over humps and hurdles that might otherwise block you if you couldn’t see them. It makes the invisible visible.

    @ Giovanna

    Just like I have a new respect for inspiration, I have a new respect for influence. The beauty of the framework is that you have a system you can count on versus trying to luck into success.

    @ Alik

    As simple as it is, it really does provide some deep perspective. I think it really is the missing link when it comes to personal and organization change. I should probably walk through an example of using it for personal change to really show off how powerful it is.

  7. Hi J.D.,

    What a comprehensive and value based post.

    As I was reading this it reminded me of how many will try to bribe others to do something. Although it might work in the short term, the bribee (is that a word?) often reverts back to their old ways.

    With regard to setting time lines, I remember years ago when I wrote down some goals and used dates. I forgot about them and months later looked back on what I had written. One of my major goals was accomplished on the exact day I had set to do it by. That blew me away. It all comes down to what we focus on, doesn’t it?

    Now I’m off to read part II.

  8. @ Barbara

    Thank you. I tried to do justice to the training, but the training really rocked (the instructor makes a big difference.)

    That’s a good distinction on bribes. You’re right, it doesn’t last.

    There is something amazing about writing goals down, even if you forget about them. I’ve surprised myself a few times with similar events. In fact, your story is very similar to the stories I’ve heard from more than a few of my friends. It’s uncanny. It’s the type of thing where even if I can’t explain it, I do want to leverage it. I do write things down way more now than I used to and I think it pays off.

  9. Thank you for the notes and synopsis — I think this may be one of the most important books I’ve ever read! Do you have information on where classes in this technique are taught — I’m ready to learn more! Thank you… Ning

  10. I’m reading and enjoying this book right now. Thanks for the diagrams and comments. Very insightful and helpful.

  11. Very detailed overview of the book and the key points. Thanks for doing this. It will make operationalizing the content of the book easier. Will let you know how it works for me.

  12. Wow, this is a great post. I just listened to the audio book and found your text-based overview a fantastic companion to the book. Thank you for taking the time to pull together this great summary.

  13. This seems like a reproduction of proprietary information. Vital Smarts is cool with your posting their content?

  14. @ Susan — Joseph Grenny (Co-Founder, Co-Chairman of VitalSmarts) enjoyed my write up and appreciated that I was spreading the word about their work.

  15. JD: At our healthcare organization we are being asked to consider this equation:

    Satisfaction + Teamwork=Decreased expense

    Let me explain. We (senior management) want to engage our front line supervisors in an all day retreat. We want to spend time discussing the equation above. We are struggling with how we can maintain employee satisfaction (goal=75% or more) and create an environment of teamwork (goal also 75%) and at the same time meet the demands of our leadership to decrease expenses, preferrably without layoffs or salary reductions.

    It appears to me this comes down to influencing others and attempting to change their behaviors. Our workforce includes five different generations: 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60’s. Each are motivated in different ways. Any suggestions you have would be appreciated.


  16. @ Bob — In my experience, the key is to have compelling goals and vision. So much of today’s work is knowledge work. People do their best when:
    1. they are uniquely doing what they are uniquely good at (i.e. giving their best where they have their best to give.)
    2. they co-create the vision or goals (e.g. they “sign-up” for the wor vs. just get assigned the work.)
    3. they are paired with people that make them more effective (for example, pair up starters with finishers and vice-versa)
    4. they unleash their passion
    5. they are empowered and supported to be successful

    There are some ways to cut through this. For example, one way is to identify what your worst bottleneck is. There is always a limiting factor to results.

    We only get so much time in a week, and that part is constant. The big variable then is “energy.” When people use their best energy, they get better results in less time.

    Another key is having clarity on the vital few things that really matter in terms of results. Less is more, but it’s about using the 80/20 rule to find the highest ROI.

  17. […] Influencer – The Power to Change Anything, es una entrada del blog Sources of Insight, que refleja las conclusiones del autor en un curso recibido sobre el libro del mismo nombre, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything. […]

  18. Thanks for sharing these Knowledge , am too far to get these seminar and have been very useful , even that I am a follower of vital smarts these is an unvaluable information
    Very kind
    Muchas gracias por compartir

    Sorry for my English I am writing from venezuela

  19. […] So I followed the tried and proven method. I thought of my Crucial Moments: birthdays of friends and family. I pondered my Vital Behaviors: marking in my calendar, setting alarms, etc. I imagined tools and tactics to help me change in my behavior in each of the six sources. […]

  20. […] everyone was chatting I was recalling Influencer’s six sources of influence and based on that model I suggested an alternative that appealed to personal and social motivation of an important person […]

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