This article was originally published a few years ago at the RockStar Success Library. One thing that I’ve realized in the interim is that we are all influencers – and it’s a skill worth working to improve!
I started reading Influencer for two reasons. One, it had a really cool big, green font on the front cover (really). Two, it was written by the same team that had written Crucial Conversations, a book highly recommended by a friend. Apparently, there was a third reason I didn’t even know about- it is really relevant to what I do for a living.
The main focus of Influencer is that “People will attempt to change their behavior if (1) they believe it will be worth it, and (2) they can do what is required. (pg 71). That alone is a very powerful statement that distills what causes and guides personal development and growth. The authors sometimes fall into the trap of thinking too scientifically about human interaction (as if you could make everything into an equation), but they offer one of the best examinations of how to exert influence that I’ve read to date. The authors focus on what they feel are the six sources of influence that can be used to change behavior:
- Personal Motivation – Making the Undesirable Desirable
- Personal Ability – Surpassing Your Limits
- Social Motivation – Harnessing Peer Pressure
- Social Ability – Finding Strength in Numbers
- Structural Motivation – Designing Rewards and Demanding Accountability
- Structural Ability – Changing the Environment
Implications, Ideas, And Questions:
- Influencer is an especially powerful book for me because I’m in the business of influencing. As a trainer and coach it helped clarify the steps that I need to take to help clients grow and change. Taking the two steps in order, my first goal is to help clients create a vision where growth and change has value. The second step is then to build the skills, the foundation, that will help them create the goals
- The authors make an important distinction about what they call vital behaviors. “Discover a few vital behaviors, change those, and problems….topple like a house of cards (pg 28). These are the behaviors that everything else is built upon. I think this can be very helpful when facing entrenched problems that seem to be overwhelming. The goal isn’t to fix everything all at the same time, but rather to identify the one or two key factors that everything else rests on, and then work to change those.
- One part of the process that the authors emphasize (I think rightly) is that effective influencers use many overlapping forms of influence. They don’t use one, they use all six of the forms listed above. I think this has a lot of relevance to influencing our own behaviors. The authors use the example of a person trying to lose weight, but I know that I could use this idea in many parts of my own life. Some of the nagging challenges I face might fall under the combined weight of many sources of influence instead of one or two. I can also use this with my coaching clients who are trying to change specific areas of their life.
- Also, if you combine the previous two observations you can create some serious change. Bringing a bevy of influencing techniques to bear on a few vital behaviors can have massive effects. It’s like finding the one really ticklish part on a person, once you’ve found that, it’s easy to really make them laugh. It’s finding the primary leverage points for the change you want to influence.
- I liked the authors’ description of motivational interviewing (pg 105), because I realized that it is exactly what I do when I’m coaching someone. It really highlights the power of creating change by allowing someone to decide a different path instead of coercing them. It also shows why it’s better to make internal changes because you want to, rather than having it forced upon you externally.
Should you read this:
Unlike the authors’ other book, Crucial Conversations, I don’t think that this book is as immediately relevant to everyone. That being said, if you are in the business of influencing people, read this book. If you are a leader, a boss, a parent, a teacher, or a coach, the ideas in this book will help you coalesce your own thinking on how to become a better influencer and help you develop stronger tools.