Influence Without Authority

Post date: Apr 18, 2010 4:18:8 PM

Identifying the crucial steps to discover what and how to influence for change.

    • Step 1: Recognize that solutions to very complex problems don't defy the laws of nature, they simply require people to change their behavior. Often we decide we can't possibly control or influence people and we give up too soon.

    • Step 2: You must do your research to discover the root causes of the problem. If you've been around the Six Sigma environment for a while you will recognize the phrase 'identify the vital few from the trivial many.' Identify the root causes and then hone them to a critical few.

    • Step 3: Identify vital behaviors. Once you know the root causes you can focus on the behaviors that need to change to affect these root causes. Recognize that there are just two main motivating factors for human behavior change: People need to know if their effort will be worth it and if they are capable of doing what is required.

    • Step 4: Create an experience or tell a story. Verbal persuasion rarely works; it is often perceived as manipulation or an attack.

    • We've all heard it, talk is cheap. Recent research by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler demonstrates that verbal persuasion is not effective when trying to influence a change of behavior. Their study of influencers all over the world has discovered that what individuals require to change behavior is an experience that allows them to 'feel' the situation. Come up with anything that will provide a kinesthetic or empathetic experience: take a field trip, do a hands-on demonstration or let them hear directly from customers.

      • It is not always practical to provide first-hand experience so the next best thing is a story that transports the individual into the experience. As an illustration, Italian researchers Rizzolatti, Fogassi and Gallese were experimenting by placing electrodes into the inferior frontal cortex of macaque monkeys. One of the researchers standing near a bowl of fruit reached for a banana. Having observed the action of the researcher, the monkey's neurons that are associated with reaching then fired. The monkey's brain reacted as if he had reached for the banana himself.

      • In human studies it was discovered that even more sophisticated human systems "allow us to grasp the minds of others not through traditional conceptual reasoning, but through direct stimulation – by feeling, not by thinking." (Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler).1 The power of a well-told story should not be underestimated. People can create a vicarious experience in a listener's consciousness.

    • Step 5: Identify the recovery plan. If you don't tell people how to solve the problem, they do not change their behavior. You can show them graphic photographs of diseased lungs from smoking or mangled bodies from distracted driving accidents, but unless you tell them what to do instead, they will block out the message.

Finally, successful influencers employ a strategy to "overdetermine" success, which means using more influence strategies than they believe are the minimum required to affect change. This could be likened to the belt-and-suspenders approach for the overly cautious. When millions of lives or dollars hang in the balance, it is easily justified. The National Weight Control Registry has tracked people who have lost at least 30 pounds and maintained that loss for a minimum of six years. Their conclusion about vital behaviors for weight loss is that successful people exercise on home equipment, eat breakfast, and weigh themselves daily. The National Weight Control Registry has narrowed the list to three vital behaviors.

To learn more, read the book Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan and Switzler.