24 November 2019

Influencer, the New Science of Leading Change – Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

The 3 Keys to Influence

1. Focus and measure. Influencers are crystal clear about the result they are trying to achieve and are zealous about measuring it.

2 Find vital behaviors. Influencers focus on high-leverage behaviors that drive results. More specifically, they focus on the two or three vital actions that produce the greatest amount of change (not dozens of actions, just two or three).

3. Engage all six sources of influence. Finally, influencers break from the pack by overdetermining change. Where most of us apply a favorite influence tool or two to our important challenges, influencers identify all of the varied forces that are shaping the behavior they want to change and then get them working for rather than against them. And now for the really good news. According to our research, by getting six different sources of influence to work in their favor, influencers increase their odds of success tenfold.

Focus and measure

1. Fuzzy, uncompelling goals: They begin with only a vague sense of what they'll achieve ("Empower your employees," "Help inner city kids," or "Build the team").

2. Infrequent or no measures: Even when they have a somewhat clear result in mind ("Develop a culture of candid communication"), unsuccessful individuals rarely develop credible measures against which to match their intentions.

A measure won't drive behavior if it doesn't maintain attention, and it certainly won't maintain attention if it's rarely assessed.

3. Bad measures: And finally, even when they do take measures, folks who fail often drive the wrong behavior by measuring the wrong variable.

Example: reporting the number of sexual assaults. But how can you know whether the increase is good news because reporting has gone up or bad news because the actual incidents have increased? By measuring the real target you need to change: people's thoughts and actions. A useful measure would tell you (unit by unit) how safe people feel. It would tell you (1) if they feel safe from harassment or assault and (2) if they feel safe reporting harassment or assault. If you gather these numbers frequently, you're in a much stronger position to properly interpret an increase or decrease in reported assaults.

Find vital behaviours

[Page 39] Delancey employees: all felons, homeless or drug addicts. Changing two behaviours: (1) everyone in charge of someone else’s success: teaching them a new skill, mentoring as soon as they join; (2) speak up to people who are breaking rules.

[Page 45] Staying happily married primarily comes down to (not 50 things but) how people behave during the few minutes a day or week when they disagree. If a couple’s disagreements include significant amounts of four behaviours (blaming, escalation, invalidation, or withdrawal), then their future is bleak. If, on the other hand, they learn to take time out and communicate respectfully during these few minutes, then their entire future life will be far brighter.

Four vital behaviour search strategies:

  • Notice the obvious, at least obvious to experts, but underused
  • Look for crucial moments, when behaviour puts success at risk
  • Learn from positive deviants – those who live in the same world but somehow produce much better results
  • Spot culture busters – behaviours that reverse stubborn cultural norms and taboos.

Engage all 6 sources of influence

Source 1. Personal Motivation. When watching others repeatedly doing the wrong thing, ask: do they enjoy it? > help them love what they hate.

Source 2. Personal Ability. Can they do it? e.g. KIPP: creating a feeling of competence and mastery, helping children experience success from day one. > help them do what they can’t.

Source 3. Social Motivation. Do others encourage them to enact the wrong behaviour? e.g. KIPP: entering students meet and interact with peers who value learning. > provide encouragement.

Source 4. Social Ability. Do others enable them? e.g. KIPP: teachers visit students and parents… at their home; and give their personal mobile phone numbers. “If you’re stuck on one assignment, here are 3 classmates you can call for help. And if they can’t help you, call me.” > provide assistance.

Source 5. Structural Motivation. Do rewards and sanctions encourage them? > change their economy.

Source 6. Structural Ability. Does their environment enable them? e.g. KIPP: routine visits of family homes by teachers. > change their space.

Sources 5 & 6 = non-human forces but things, buildings, etc.

1. Personal Motivation | Help them love what they hate

Fundamental attribution error: belief that people do what they do merely because they enjoy it. Whenever others cause us inconvenience or pain, we have a natural tendency to suspect they have selfish motives coupled with malicious intentions. The problem is not that they are incapable of caring about others: it’s that they are not thinking about others, at that particular moment. Not necessarily a moral defect, but moral slumber.

4 tactics:

  • Allow for choice
  • Create direct experiences
  • Tell meaningful stories
  • Make it a game

1.1. Allow for choice

“Your “yes” means nothing if you can’t say “no”. There can be no commitment if there is no choice.” – Peter Block

The more we push others to comply, the less it works. Particularly true for people addicted to their wrong behaviour. Replacing dictates, nagging, shaming, threats, with dialogue: motivational interviewing = through a skilful use of open and nondirective questions (thought-provoking questions), the counsellor helps others reach their own conclusions about the values that are most important to them and the changes that might be required for them to live according to their values.

1.2. Create direct experiences

e.g. field trips, interviewing similarly addicted people, etc.

See for yourself what’s really happening, feel the pain associated with the consequences you observe. Most are reluctant about change initially, overvaluing what they’re losing and undervaluing what they gain: but the point is to get them to just “try it” (once, at least, so they can get a glimpse of how it feels).

1.3. Tell meaningful stories

When previous tactics don't work or want to influence at scale (many people).

1.4. Make it a game

  • Keep score: produces clear, frequent feedback
  • Competition: with oneself (am I doing better than before?), with others (more questionable when it leads to unhealthy rivalry)
  • Constant improvement: actual numbers aren’t as important as the trend
  • Control: all earned points and rewards are designed to be in the participant’s control

2. Personal Ability | Help them do what they can’t

Marshmallow experiment: ability to delay gratification did predict a large number of long-term results (more socially competent adults, self-assertive, etc.).

Question: did self-control stem from an intractable personality characteristic or something more malleable and thus learnable? After a single exposure to an adult model, children who previously hadn’t delayed suddenly became stars at delaying. Months after, they retained much of what they had learned.

Conclusion: it’s a skill – employing specific, learnable techniques to keep attention off what would be short-term gratification and attention on long-term goals.

Practice doesn’t make perfect but “perfect” practice does: deliberate and guided. True for sports but also for soft skills e.g. interpersonal, in knowing how to speak up to authority, especially when noticing mistakes (nurses vs. doctors, officers vs. pilots, sex workers vs. clients) – practice can involve writing down scripts of what to say, how to behave in those circumstances, role-playing.

No correlation between time in the profession and performance levels. Any difference due to deliberate practice = using time wisely, incorporating feedback, focusing on what others would see as diminishing marginal returns. Evidence: teaching calculus doesn't take thirty years as once expected; Olympic swimming times of 1920s achieved by high school children today.

Deliberate practice:

  • full attention for brief intervals
  • immediate feedback against a clear standard (in teaching, testing should thus be frequent, which in turn makes it less dreaded)
  • break mastery into mini goals
  • prepare for setbacks, build in resilience with practice regimen gradually introducing tasks that require increased efforts and persistence
  • build emotional skills: if delaying urge, brain returns control to the rational/know system within a fairly short period of time. Active strategies such as classifying, debating, deliberating and delaying can help change what you think (as it changes where you think – from amygdala and fight/flight to frontal lobe – which changes how you think, which in turn changes what you think)

3. Social Motivation | Provide encouragement

Milgram’s electric-shock experiment (1961) demonstrated how human beings place a high premium on the approval of others, often strangers (65% of the subjects would administer shocks).

Best practices to magnify the power of social support:

1. “Power of One” = magnify our own social influence by means of sacrifice and symbolic action. Lead the way.

  • One variable more than any other affected how people behaved (one way or the other): the presence of one more person… but it will exert power only to the extent that the person who is modeling the vital behaviours is truly respected.
  • When you ask people to step into a place of uncertainty and change, they look to you to take their cues. Unfortunately, they have a bias for interpreting your behaviour in ways that confirm rather than disconfirm their existing concerns or mistrust. You therefore have to generate clear, unambiguous evidence that they can believe you – how? Forms of sacrifice: time (everyone has the same amount, no such thing as “quality” time) e.g. weekend visits to employee homes; money; ego e.g. listen/apologise; previous priorities (when sacrificed for newer ones, the newer ones gained credibility)

2. Partnering with formal and opinion leaders. Avoid “innovators” (first to be open to new ideas but they are unlike the masses) but focus on “early adopters” instead (also open to new ideas but they are socially connected and respected; about 14% of the population). The rest of the population will not adopt the new practices until opinion leaders do.

  • If supervising 20 people, identify the 2 or 3 who hold sway over the team and spend disproportionate time with them (listen to their concerns, build trust with them, be open to their ideas, rely on them to share ideas).
  • Ask people to make a list of the employees who they believe are the most influential and respected.

3. Changing existing social norms, create new norms. By making the undiscussable discussable (e.g. through the power of stories, vicarious experience / go public, make it safe to discuss), and by creating 200% accountability (everyone is responsible to enact the vital behaviours but also to hold others accountable for them as well).

4. Social Ability | Provide assistance

Wisdom of the crowds: the idea that groups can do better than the smartest individuals. Example: Grameen Bank, with individuals within groups having to cosign for the microloan granted to each one of them to start their business (increasing change of smart and workable plans).

When to enlist the power of social capital (brains, hands, other personal resources of people in our network):

  • When others are part of the problem
  • When you can’t succeed on your own: interdependence (learning how to work as a team), novelty (new ideas come through a group's thinking), risk (Delancey: "you learn a little and then you teach it to someone else" almost immediately; peer coaching rather than top-down professional teaching), building networks of people you can go for expertise or trust (successful people reduce their personal vulnerability by ensuring that they're valued members of hyperconnected networks), blind spots (power of real-time coaching = feedback coming from another pair of eyes; not enough implemented in low-stakes business settings), group solidarity (if one individual deviates, common interest at risk).

5. Structural Motivation | Change their environment

Using incentives should not overwhelm people to change. It should be primarily to remove disincentives.

In a well-balanced change effort:

  1. influencers first ensure that vital behaviours connect to intrinsic satisfaction;
  2. next they line up social support;
  3. they finally choose extrinsic rewards to motivate behaviour.

In that order, otherwise risk that rewards become first motivational strategy. Example: rewarding people for engaging in an activity that is already satisfying to them may lead them to decrease their activity levels when rewards taken away.

Many employees leave corporate award ceremonies not motivated and excited as intended; half believe they were better qualified that the person who was honoured.

Use incentives wisely:

  1. If you're doing it right (first two steps above), less is more. Rewards don't need to be large e.g. earning stars – not ridiculous if both personal and social motives completed; earning new privileges (Delancey: moving from grunt work to increasingly complicated/interesting jobs; from dorms to single rooms to apartments); $10 Starbucks vouchers to high-earning doctors when “caught” washing their hands with disinfectant distributed in parking lot.
  2. Reward vital behaviours, not just results. Reward small improvements in behaviour, don’t wait until people achieve phenomenal results.
  3. Reward right results and right behaviours. Careful not to reward results without giving any thought to the behaviours/actions that drove them.
  4. Reward vital behaviours alone.
  5. Watch for perverse incentives.

Punishment sends a message, and so does its absence – so choose wisely.

Punishment doesn't guarantee the mirror effect of positive reinforcement; host of other undesired effects: perhaps compliance but only on the short term; or pushback or rebellion.

First provide a clear warning before actually administering any punishment. Example: drug dealers invited to an open forum… then being shown evidence that will be used against them if they don't commit to job programs or commit a new crime.

Corporate example: lack of punishment for poor performance (termination) is sending a loud message across the organisation.

6. Structural Ability | Change their space

Example: restaurant industry in late 1940s, cooks and waitresses trekking at each other. Problem eliminated not by contributing norms, history or habit but by removing the need for verbal communication with introduction of metal spindle to stick written orders to.

Example: crime in NYC subways. Fix minor conditions like graffiti or litter right away, otherwise giving the impression that no one cares.

Learn to notice. Example: size of portions acting as cues to how full we "feel" (in negative or positive ways). Much of what we do is influenced by dozens of silent environmental forces.

Make the invisible visible. Example: cans of stacked chips, with every tenth chip in a different colour makes people eat less. Example: put price tags on equipment to make people realise the cost and only use when necessary (hospital, office).

Information/data affects behaviour. But data needs to be fresh, consistent and relevant if it's going to have much of an impact. Example: "Guinea worm race" chart comparing countries makes them competitive.

Effects of physical space. Even more difficult to notice than the effects of data on behaviour. Frequency and quality of human interaction is largely a function of physical distance (Leon Festinger, 1950). Opposite isn't necessarily true: distance doesn't just lead to inconvenience and loss of friendship, also bad things happen (silos, infighting, "they"). Distance kills the chance that people will run into each other and then work together on a shared project.

Make the right behaviours easier, while making the wrong behaviours harder. Example: small plates for smaller food portions; sports equipment in living room vs. basement dramatically increasing/cutting chances of using it.

Make it unavoidable. Example: regular meetings to solicit ideas from employees – that calendared practice created a forum that encouraged and enabled new behaviours, thereby making the right behaviour inevitable.


1. Identify what you really want. Examples: diet or benefits associated with it (energy, self-esteem, etc.); production quality or behaviour of employees to care themselves about quality.

2. Find two or three vital behaviours that will drive a disproportionate amount of change.

3. Engage all six sources of influence. Find the right combination through trial and error. Don’t tinker with one or two sources instead of conducting a genuine, comprehensive effort (which doesn’t necessarily mean always using the six sources).