Six Factors That Make Change Inevitable

The New York Times bestselling book, Influencer, presents Joseph Grenny’s helpful research into leading change in any community, church, club, workplace or family. The summary version is available via the 2017 Global Leadership Summit (which can be ordered along with the discounted book until stock runs out). Grenny states that successful influencers ‘overdetermine’ change by purposefully focusing on six factors that make it inevitable.

  1. Personal Motivation. This involves making people love what they hate through the use of direct experiences and powerful stories, but is insufficient on its own. Grenny shows that many inadvertently miss the other factors and wonder why this one, though important, fails to gain results. Nevertheless, motivation is enhanced by creating environments in which people feel the power and need of impact, even if they also need skill to enhance the will.
  2. Personal Ability. This provides the practical know-how that produces new behaviours through the mastery of key skills and emotions. The classic work of Walter Mischel is described in which children able to exercise self-control in the face of temptation actually become more self-assertive and dependable adults with higher academic success and a greater capacity to deal with frustrations. Less capable children can, however, be taught techniques for self-control that also help them achieve greater success in life. Grenny claims that leaders often perceive resistance to change and then mistakenly continue to focus on preaching or inspiring, rather than on switching to addressing ability first.
  3. Social Motivation. This provides encouragement by tapping the power of community. It amplifies vision through established leaders and other ‘opinion leaders’ to create environments of trust. These do, however, need key leaders to model preferred behaviours and to lead the celebration of noticed change. Acceptance and respect flow from the desire for connection and can lead to behavioural change. Habits that are often mistakenly believed to be entrenched may quickly conform to the different standards of a new culture. Socially-owned change is proven by healthy accountability that includes direct but loving conversations.
  4. Social Ability. This recognises the need for assistance in order to change. It taps the divergent gifts of others within a community and/or any necessary external resources to facilitate personal or team growth. In the spirit of the principle that it takes a village to raise a child, people of all ages are helped to understand culture and to adopt the skills and behaviours needed to conform to it. This is often facilitated by a combination of coaching and friendships that provide the social nudge in the direction of preferred outcomes for which there is shared ownership.
  5. Structural Motivation. This creates an environment that rewards positive behaviours with socially-validated motivation and an appreciation of the intrinsic value of the behaviour. This requires an intentional shaping of appreciation, even in smaller gestures, so as to steer a desire for change. Punishment is avoided where possible and ideally preceded with warnings if used. Incentives are also minimised, since the focus is on preferred behaviours rather than outcomes.
  6. Structural Ability. This changes the physical environment in ways that make negative outcomes less achievable and positive ones as likely as possible. The working space, the aesthetics, the processes, and other circumstantial factors are also part of shaping the desire for changed behaviours and therefore the outcomes that result from them.

For a tenfold increase in change to occur in your leadership, says Grenny, you need the combination of all six sources of influence. These need to be focused on vital behaviours that you identify and measure to be sure of progress.

Of course, this requires intentionality, but the promised results are surely worth the investment. What might these require of your own leadership, parenting, management, coaching, pastoring or friendship in 2018?

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