Are you frustrated at your inability to persuade people to make the changes needed in your organization? Are you tired of talking, cajoling, pleading, and ordering people around? Are you in search of a completely different approach to change?
If so, you will want to pick up a copy of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything (Patterson, K., Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R., & Switsler. (2008). New York: McGraw-Hill.
The authors, all of VitalSmarts, previously collaborated on bestsellers about Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High and Crucial Confrontations and now turn their talents to change leadership. The book is in two parts, the first covering the basics of change leadership and the second setting out the details of six influencing strategies.
Part I - How behaviors and stories drive change
The authors contend that change efforts are best based on specific behavioral changes, as opposed to the high level visions we often engage in. They ask us to take four steps:
Search for specific behaviors that will create the change you seek. Where you can find it, use research others have done to identify these behaviors. If you cannot find research, then look for your own "positive deviants" - people, departments, situations in which the change is already in place. Look for behaviors that seem to be present in the positive deviants and absent elsewhere.
From list of behaviors you identify, make a hypothesis as to which few behaviors are vital. (You won't succeed if you ask people to embrace too many changes at once.)
Search also for "recovery behaviors" - actions folks can take when they get off track; when they fall of the change wagon.
Test your ideas (vital behaviors and recovery behaviors) and modify as necessary. And then, spread the change beyond your test bed.
The authors also contend that verbal persuasion just doesn't work with really tough change. They suggest getting folks out to experience the reality of the current situation, along with seeing places where the change has succeeded. And if you can't get all your folks out to experience things first hand, well crafted stories are a second strong method of persuasion. To drive change, stories need to make the pain of the current situation real to the listeners, by engaging all senses and evoking strong emotional responses. Vivid detail and a protagonist with whom the audience identifies are key elements. Once the pain is felt by all, a good story provides hope of a better future.
Part II - The six influencing strategies
The bulk of the book focuses on six strategies for increased influence. The authors suggest that following only one strategy is not likely to be enough in tough change situation. Better, they say, to find ways to employ all six.
The six strategies include three that build motivation for the change and three that increase abilities to actually do what the change requires.
Personal - "Make the undesirable desirable" by connecting the change to people's values.
Social - "Harness peer pressure" by enlisting opinion leaders in the change effort.
Structural - "Design rewards and demand accountability" by rewarding early successes and punishing only rarely.
Personal - "Surpass your limits" by breaking the changes into manageable, teachable behaviors, helping folks practice the new behaviors and giving them feedback.
Social - "Find strength in numbers" by building teamwork around the change, so folks aren't left to sort it out on their own.
Structural - "Change the environment" by finding ways to make it easy to behave in new ways and hard to cling to the old ways of doing things. The environment is far easier to change than people, so it often pays to attend to the possibilities of "things."
I know this sounds a bit simplistic. Perhaps you think you have heard it all before. But the authors of this book have done the best job I've seen lately of making change leadership actionable. They don't make change easy, but they do make it understandable. If you answered yes to any of my questions above, consider reading this book!
For more information:
- Back in the early days of this blog, I listed my 11 keys to change. You might find additional insight there.
- Mahatma Gandhi told us we need to be the change we were seeking to create.