The manager who works out loud

Whenever I talk to organizations about open, connected ways of working, this question inevitably comes up: “How do you get leaders to do it?” 

It’s a problem. Most often, managers simply don’t have the time to learn a different way of leading. Or their habits are so deeply-ingrained that doing something different is too difficult. Sometimes the challenge is digital, in that they’re unfamiliar with communication and collaboration tools besides email. 

But there are absolutely managers who are working differently - who are leading in a more effective, engaging way. Those that do experience a wide range of benefits.

 

Explaining decisions, building trust

In one IT department, the security team abruptly cut off access to Github, a a valuable online tool used by thousands of developers at the company. Employees were shocked and angry. To them, it was a sign that management had no idea how work got done and was completely out of touch. People complained on the enterprise social network, and someone posted a question, asking the executive if they could “shed some light” on the decision.

The executive responded. He started by recognizing the importance of the issue to developers. Then he explained his reasoning in clear, logical terms, while presenting a near-term compromise that was already being worked on. He also invited others to the discussion, and what followed was a set of artifacts, proposals, and conversations that involved hundreds of people. 

Instead of simply publishing a policy statement, the executive listened and engaged. Instead of ignoring the widespread sentiment that management were idiots, he built trust and confidence.

Management By Wandering Around (MBWA)

Wherever I've worked, it was taken for granted that senior managers would travel to different offices to visit with staff there. It was seen as a necessary way to stay in touch with how things were going in a given location. Usually, the manager would deliver a town hall presentation, meet with local managers, have dinner with his team, and be off to the next city. Staff generally appreciated the attention, but the trip could easily involve a week or more, including a lot of time in transit.

There are merits to “management by wandering around,” and it became especially popular in the 1970s and 1980s. For managers used to new communications tools, it’s now easier than ever to do it. These managers don’t wait for the annual trip. As part of their routine, they “wander” around their social intranet throughout the week. In a few minutes, they can come into contact with people, ideas, and issues from around their organization and their company. They can discover the answer to “How’s it going?” at a scale never imagined when MBWA was first taught in business schools.

“Digital Leadership”

When trying to communicate something - a new strategy, say, or the latest culture program - managers traditionally had to rely on “cascading the message.” They would assemble their leadership team, impart their messages, and instruct the group to go forth and spread what was said to their respective teams. And so on. What typically happened, of course, resembled “Chinese Whispers” or “Telephone,” the game that shows “how easily information can become corrupted by indirect communication.” 

One benefit of digital leadership - using modern tools to influence and engage an organization - is that you can eliminate the cascades and reach people directly. Even better, the channels work both ways. For example, an employee at one company had an idea that he believed would make the organization more innovative and collaborative. So he posted it online, and mentioned several executives. Much to his surprise, the executive posted a comment. That led to an exchange and then a series of meetings and proposals. 

With that one comment, the executive signaled to hundreds of people (and perhaps eventually thousands), that he was paying attention, was interested in innovation, and actively supported people who came up with ideas. That’s a more powerful message than any bullet point on any slide cascaded throughout teams, and helped strengthen engagement and rapport.

One more benefit

Some particularly open and curious managers have experimented with Working Out Loud Circles to develop new skills, and I was struck by some of their comments:

“I am overwhelmed by the feedback I got throughout the journey…Our WOL Group is fantastic and our meetings are always one hour of inspiration to move forward. This approach really can change the way you interact with people." 
“I have experienced a completely different way of working on and solving tasks… My circle was both peer pressure and "self-help group" for me, providing motivation and really changing things.”

The more a manager works out loud, the more their view of the organization changes from acronyms, budgets, and processes to human beings connected by shared purpose, shared interests, and shared struggles.

It took me a long time to realize this. For most of my career, I simply did what I saw all the other managers doing. I spent my time in back-to-back meetings, barely knew the hundreds of people in my organization, and felt like I was supposed to have all the answers. It was not a recipe for enjoying work.

If there's a manager you care about, send them this post, and help them work out loud by serving as a reverse mentor or inviting them to join a WOL Circle. Help them take a step towards a better way of working, one that's better for them as well as the people who work with them.

The doctor at the fast food convention

Really? Can you imagine being a doctor at a fast food convention, trying to change the way people eat? Even if the attendees know the food is bad for them, they’ll be surrounded by it and by other people who eagerly eat it, so they'll eat it too.

To try to help them, you’ll race around frantically, telling them about the benefits of eating right and exercising. Some will nod their heads. “Yes, we really should.” Then they’ll go back to doing what they usually do.

That’s what it can feel like when you talk about making work better in large companies.

Most people know there are better ways of working. They know their daily practices aren’t good for them. They know they’re not engaged. But for most of them it just feels too difficult to change.

So what do you do? Give up on all those unfulfilled people?

The Work Revolution Summit

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be admitted to the Work Revolution Summit where I could  “join leading entrepreneurs, startup investors, futurists, organizational designers, and technology experts to fundamentally re-design the way we work.”

theworkrevolution

One of the organizers was Jessica Lawrence, who is both former CEO of the Girl Scouts and organizer of the NY Tech Meetup for entrepreneurs. One of the objectives of the summit was to help start-ups maintain “a ‘human’ company culture that helps both the employees and the company reach their full potential as the organization grows and scales.” And Jessica gave a fascinating talk about trying to change the culture while she was CEO.

There were several other great speakers, including Seth Godin. And I got to ask him a question about what to do when your are, in essence, a doctor at the fast food convention.

A question for Seth Godin

Seth GodinSeth Godin’s daily blog has done more to change how I approach work than anything else. And each time I hear him speak, I’m inspired to do more. This time, I had the chance the to ask him “What do you do when you’re preaching change and and it seems like only a small minority is interested in actually changing?”

He told me something that I know is right but I’ve had trouble putting into practice. Don’t preach to everybody. Don’t try to reach everybody. Many people are simply trying to hold onto their job and it's too scary/hard/uncomfortable for them to do something different. Instead, find the people who are ready and eager for change. Connect them to build a tribe who wants to change. And equip and empower that tribe to extend the movement (giving them credit and control when they do).

A shift in tactics

The first NYC Marathon in 1970

I was 6 years old when the first NYC Marathon took place in 1970. Only 127 people ran that race. Only 55 finished. And about 100 people watched. No one I knew heard of it. No one I knew ran at all. At the time, running a marathon seemed ridiculous.

41 years later, almost 47,000 people finished and almost 2 million people lined up along the route. It’s become the largest marathon anywhere in the world. And even I completed one.

Running marathons didn’t spread because Fred Lebow, the original organizer, went around telling everyone about the benefits of running. Instead, all 6 sources of influence came into play. Over time, there was more help to get you started and more motivation at the personal, social, and structural levels. More running books, more equipment, more races, more clubs, more visible rewards.  Over the course of a generation, more and more people just did it.

Growth of a tribe

So of course changing how people work isn’t simply about telling people. We’ll have to keep making it easier to work out loud. Keep writing about it and teaching it. Keep connecting advocates and equipping them to extend their own networks.

Just now, I joined the work revolution where I pledged "I will do whatever I can within my sphere of influence to promote workplaces that are profoundly human and deeply meaningful."

It may take a generation, but we need to keep running.

The doctor at the fast food convention

Really? Can you imagine being a doctor at a fast food convention, trying to change the way people eat? Even if the attendees know the food is bad for them, they’ll be surrounded by it and by other people who eagerly eat it, so they'll eat it too.

To try to help them, you’ll race around frantically, telling them about the benefits of eating right and exercising. Some will nod their heads. “Yes, we really should.” Then they’ll go back to doing what they usually do.

That’s what it can feel like when you talk about making work better in large companies.

Most people know there are better ways of working. They know their daily practices aren’t good for them. They know they’re not engaged. But for most of them it just feels too difficult to change.

So what do you do? Give up on all those unfulfilled people?

The Work Revolution Summit

Yesterday, I was fortunate to be admitted to the Work Revolution Summit where I could  “join leading entrepreneurs, startup investors, futurists, organizational designers, and technology experts to fundamentally re-design the way we work.”

theworkrevolution

One of the organizers was Jessica Lawrence, who is both former CEO of the Girl Scouts and organizer of the NY Tech Meetup for entrepreneurs. One of the objectives of the summit was to help start-ups maintain “a ‘human’ company culture that helps both the employees and the company reach their full potential as the organization grows and scales.” And Jessica gave a fascinating talk about trying to change the culture while she was CEO.

There were several other great speakers, including Seth Godin. And I got to ask him a question about what to do when your are, in essence, a doctor at the fast food convention.

A question for Seth Godin

Seth GodinSeth Godin’s daily blog has done more to change how I approach work than anything else. And each time I hear him speak, I’m inspired to do more. This time, I had the chance the to ask him “What do you do when you’re preaching change and and it seems like only a small minority is interested in actually changing?”

He told me something that I know is right but I’ve had trouble putting into practice. Don’t preach to everybody. Don’t try to reach everybody. Many people are simply trying to hold onto their job and it's too scary/hard/uncomfortable for them to do something different. Instead, find the people who are ready and eager for change. Connect them to build a tribe who wants to change. And equip and empower that tribe to extend the movement (giving them credit and control when they do).

A shift in tactics

The first NYC Marathon in 1970

I was 6 years old when the first NYC Marathon took place in 1970. Only 127 people ran that race. Only 55 finished. And about 100 people watched. No one I knew heard of it. No one I knew ran at all. At the time, running a marathon seemed ridiculous.

41 years later, almost 47,000 people finished and almost 2 million people lined up along the route. It’s become the largest marathon anywhere in the world. And even I completed one.

Running marathons didn’t spread because Fred Lebow, the original organizer, went around telling everyone about the benefits of running. Instead, all 6 sources of influence came into play. Over time, there was more help to get you started and more motivation at the personal, social, and structural levels. More running books, more equipment, more races, more clubs, more visible rewards.  Over the course of a generation, more and more people just did it.

Growth of a tribe

So of course changing how people work isn’t simply about telling people. We’ll have to keep making it easier to work out loud. Keep writing about it and teaching it. Keep connecting advocates and equipping them to extend their own networks.

Just now, I joined the work revolution where I pledged "I will do whatever I can within my sphere of influence to promote workplaces that are profoundly human and deeply meaningful."

It may take a generation, but we need to keep running.

5 lessons for driving change from “The Blue Sweater”

The Blue SweaterEvery once in a while you read a book that changes you. That transcends the author and the original story and holds lessons that you can apply to your own work and life, well beyond the context of the book. “The Blue Sweater” by Jacqueline Novogratz is such a book.

It’s a memoir, recounting the experiences of someone who left international banking to found Acumen, a non-profit that’s “changing the way the world tackles poverty”. But whether you’re changing the world or changing your company, the lessons in the book can help you.

Work in the field

Though she was born and raised in the US, most of Jacqueline’s stories take place in deeply impoverished areas in Kenya, Rwanda, Pakistan, and India. There, she worked with local people to create small businesses. To teach people new skills but also to learn from them.

The way she embraced fieldwork reminded me of Dr. Paul Farmer’s approach in Haiti as described in “Mountains Beyond Mountains” when he said Every patient is a sign. Every patient is a test.”

Her stories are often frustrating, and the work is hard and humbling. She failed often. But Jacqueline’s work with individual women is what gave her a deeper understanding of what could work and what couldn’t. 

Embrace locally-driven change

Some of her early failures stemmed from trying to import ideas and practices that made perfect sense in New York but, in the field, proved to be impractical. It was only when she worked with local people to drive change locally that she had both the necessary knowledge and the social infrastructure to make a sustained difference.

Embracing locally-driven change also meant giving up control. It meant that her projects weren’t about her. She had a vision but learned that “no single source of leadership will make it happen”. So she committed to creating a system that would identify others who could lead and provide support for them.

Take a systems approach

Time and again she learned the solution wasn’t just about money. Or training. Or technology. Or some specific social change.

It was about all of those things. Fighting malaria, for example, wasn’t just about giving away mosquito nets. It was about supporting local manufacturing of nets at a price people could afford so there was a sustainable supply. Making sure the nets were easy to use. Coming up with creative new distribution methods. (I liked the image of Tupperware-style parties where local women talked of the nets as status symbols: “The color is beautiful, and you can hang the nets in your windows so the neighbors know how much you care about your family.” )

To drive change, she learned to tap into all six sources of influence. “It’s not ‘either-or’ but rather ‘both-and’.”

Learn from doing

When she was just beginning Acumen, she had enough funding but was so focused on planning and ensuring things succeeded that she didn’t have enough projects to invest in.

“...we were in a bit of a panic, and a wise CEO of a healthcare company gave me advice I will never forget. ‘Just start,’ he said. ‘Don’t wait for perfection. Just start and let the work teach you. No on expects you to get it right in the very beginning, and you’ll learn more from your mistakes than you will from your early successes anyway. So stop worrying so much and just look at your best bets and go.’”

That didn’t mean she was less careful or meticulous. Just that she learned the importance of  getting feedback from customers early and often while iterating and adapting. That was the best way to learning which solutions would actually be useful.

Leverage other people and networks

Despite her formidable energy, her ideas, her training, and her time in the field, she was still humble enough and wise enough to leverage other organizations. She got help from institutions as diverse as The Rockefeller Foundation and local microfinance organizations. She worked with a wide range of local entrepreneurs.

She didn’t feel the need to always create or control. Instead she searched for groups that were already doing good work. Then she looked for ways to invest in them and connect them so they could scale what they were doing and amplify the benefits.

The gift

When Jacqueline was a young girl, her uncle gave her a blue sweater that she cherished. She wore it all the time until, as a freshman in high school, someone poked fun at her. She insisted on giving it away and her mother and her ceremoniously disposed of it at their local thrift shop.

She didn't think about it again until, more than a decade later, in the streets of Kigali, Rwanda, she saw a skinny young boy wearing her sweater. Incredulous, she ran over to him. Unable to speak a language he understood, she simply grabbed him, turned over the collar, and saw her name on the tag. For Jacqueline, the blue sweater became a symbol of how we are all connected. And that changed the course of her life.

I gave a copy of “The Blue Sweater” to my daughter. I wanted to give her that message of connectedness and, even more so, provide her with Jacqueline’s example of how we can think differently - about change, our definition of success, and what a fulfilling life might look like.

When you’re not sure what you have to offer

"What's in your hand?" I recently sat with a friend of mine to talk about his career. He’s well-educated, has deep knowledge of a complex business, and has done work with many African countries. He’s married, raising kids, and loves music. And he’s also smart, funny, and a good conversationalist.

And yet when I asked him about networking, he was uncertain about what he had to offer.

Why would someone with so much think they didn’t have enough to offer? Because, like many people, he was simply thinking  too narrowly about what he could contribute to others.

Most people have an incredible array of gifts. They just don’t know it. So, whether you’re trying to meet someone or just working out loud, here’s a different way to think about what you have to offer.

“What’s in your hand?”

I’m not a religious person, but in watching old TED talks I came across Pastor Rick Warren’s talk from 2006. And he asked some questions that stuck with me.

In his talk he tells the story of how Moses is depicted in “The Ten Commandments”. How, when Moses first meets God in the burning bush, God asks him:

“Moses, what’s in your hand?” 

Moses is holding a shepherd’s staff, a symbol of Moses’ identity and career, a symbol of his assets, and a a symbol of his influence. Throughout the movie, Moses uses the simple staff to work miracles as he leads his people from slavery. And as Rick Warren talks to various groups around the world, including the TED audience, he asks them:

“What’s in your hand?”

“What do you have that you’ve been given?”

“What are you doing with what you’ve been given?”

20 gifts you’re holding right now 

As I listened to that story I was struck by how most of our gifts are, indeed, right within our grasp. They’re things we take for granted because we feel everyone has them. And so we underestimate their value.

When Dale Carnegie wrote about the best approach to building relationships, he didn’t mention wealth or highly specialized skills. He talked about things that anyone could do.

“Give honest and sincere appreciation.”

Become genuinely interested in other people.”

“Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”

“Be a good listener. Encourage other people to talk about themselves.”

“Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.”

So here are 20 things you hold in your hand right now. 20 valuable things you can do for others.

  1. Listen.
  2. Care.
  3. Show empathy.
  4. Be vulnerable (and thus allowing others to be vulnerable).
  5. Recognize others (pointing out their work, positive qualities, and other contributions).
  6. Appreciate others (e.g., with a public thank you, one of the most underused gifts).
  7. Offer your encouragement.
  8. Offer your support.
  9. Share entertainment you’ve enjoyed.
  10. Share resources - books, presentations, articles - you’ve found useful.
  11. Offer introductions to people you know.
  12. Ask questions (and thus allowing someone else to help).
  13. Answer questions.
  14. Offer your feedback.
  15. Share your ideas.
  16. Share what you’ve learned.
  17. Share your work experiences, especially mistakes.
  18. Share your life experiences, especially challenges (family, health, travel, education).
  19. Offer your skills.
  20. Offer your time.

“What are you doing with what you’ve been given?”

Notice how simple these are. Yet think of the last time someone really listened to you. Really paid attention. How did that make you feel? Or when someone let their guard down and was vulnerable. How often does that happen?

These 20 gifts are the kinds of things Keith Ferrazzi had in mind when he said “The currency of networking isn’t greed, it’s generosity.”

Don’t let a narrow view of what you have to offer stop you from giving. Think broadly and in a human way about all that you have in your hand. And share it.

When you’re not sure what you have to offer

"What's in your hand?" I recently sat with a friend of mine to talk about his career. He’s well-educated, has deep knowledge of a complex business, and has done work with many African countries. He’s married, raising kids, and loves music. And he’s also smart, funny, and a good conversationalist.

And yet when I asked him about networking, he was uncertain about what he had to offer.

Why would someone with so much think they didn’t have enough to offer? Because, like many people, he was simply thinking  too narrowly about what he could contribute to others.

Most people have an incredible array of gifts. They just don’t know it. So, whether you’re trying to meet someone or just working out loud, here’s a different way to think about what you have to offer.

“What’s in your hand?”

I’m not a religious person, but in watching old TED talks I came across Pastor Rick Warren’s talk from 2006. And he asked some questions that stuck with me.

In his talk he tells the story of how Moses is depicted in “The Ten Commandments”. How, when Moses first meets God in the burning bush, God asks him:

“Moses, what’s in your hand?” 

Moses is holding a shepherd’s staff, a symbol of Moses’ identity and career, a symbol of his assets, and a a symbol of his influence. Throughout the movie, Moses uses the simple staff to work miracles as he leads his people from slavery. And as Rick Warren talks to various groups around the world, including the TED audience, he asks them:

“What’s in your hand?”

“What do you have that you’ve been given?”

“What are you doing with what you’ve been given?”

20 gifts you’re holding right now 

As I listened to that story I was struck by how most of our gifts are, indeed, right within our grasp. They’re things we take for granted because we feel everyone has them. And so we underestimate their value.

When Dale Carnegie wrote about the best approach to building relationships, he didn’t mention wealth or highly specialized skills. He talked about things that anyone could do.

“Give honest and sincere appreciation.”

Become genuinely interested in other people.”

“Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.”

“Be a good listener. Encourage other people to talk about themselves.”

“Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.”

So here are 20 things you hold in your hand right now. 20 valuable things you can do for others.

  1. Listen.
  2. Care.
  3. Show empathy.
  4. Be vulnerable (and thus allowing others to be vulnerable).
  5. Recognize others (pointing out their work, positive qualities, and other contributions).
  6. Appreciate others (e.g., with a public thank you, one of the most underused gifts).
  7. Offer your encouragement.
  8. Offer your support.
  9. Share entertainment you’ve enjoyed.
  10. Share resources - books, presentations, articles - you’ve found useful.
  11. Offer introductions to people you know.
  12. Ask questions (and thus allowing someone else to help).
  13. Answer questions.
  14. Offer your feedback.
  15. Share your ideas.
  16. Share what you’ve learned.
  17. Share your work experiences, especially mistakes.
  18. Share your life experiences, especially challenges (family, health, travel, education).
  19. Offer your skills.
  20. Offer your time.

“What are you doing with what you’ve been given?”

Notice how simple these are. Yet think of the last time someone really listened to you. Really paid attention. How did that make you feel? Or when someone let their guard down and was vulnerable. How often does that happen?

These 20 gifts are the kinds of things Keith Ferrazzi had in mind when he said “The currency of networking isn’t greed, it’s generosity.”

Don’t let a narrow view of what you have to offer stop you from giving. Think broadly and in a human way about all that you have in your hand. And share it.

A Genius Bar in every building

Over the past few months, I’ve written about using social tools and practices to save money, about a framework for influencing behavior, and about applying the Fun Theory at work. Today, I want to describe a project I’m working on to show how you can tie all those ideas together, unlocking value and enthusiasm even for mundane corporate goals.

The mundane corporate goal

One way firms can save money is by having people use their own mobile device instead of corporate-owned Blackberries. (Usually referred to as BYOD or Bring Your Own Device.) In a large firm, there could be many thousands of corporate mobiles and the costs could easily be tens of millions every year.

But how would you get people to use their own device instead?

What your firm might normally do

One way to change behavior

Normally, you would just change the policy: “We will no longer issue devices or reimburse employees for mobile expenses.”

You’d still want employees to have mobile access to work, though. So you might accompany your policy change with an awareness campaign, making sure everyone knew about the change and asking for their cooperation.

A different approach: A Genius Bar in every building

Changes to policy are powerful and raising awareness is important. But you can get better results - and do less damage to employee engagement - with an approach that taps into all of the 6 sources of influence described in “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson et al.

Genius!

So we decided to try something different and more positive. We noticed how many people loved using their iPad for work once they got it set up and how they were often eager to help others. What if we could somehow connect those people and form a social movement that drove adoption while reducing costs?

“A Genius Bar in every building” started as a blog post on our social collaboration platform. It described how local volunteers could staff pop-up Genius Bars and help people set up their iPhones and iPads. Over the next few days, others contributed ideas and offered to volunteer. Soon, we had organized our first 2 events.

The initial events weren’t smooth or professional, but we learned a lot. And we were struck by how grateful everyone was. (“Thank you so much for doing this!”) Afterwards, one of the volunteers wrote about what could have gone better. Another person wrote down detailed instructions for future events. Someone else started an online sign-up sheet for volunteers in every location.

Now, we have events planned in a growing number of buildings all around the world. People are continuing to contribute suggestions for improving things. And with each event, we create more positive stories, attract more volunteers, and expand the movement.

Applying the Influencer Checklist

Is this all we can do? In using the Influencer checklist, we see the Genius Bars help us in 4 ways:

6 sources of Influence

☑ Personal Ability: Having mobile experts in each lobby makes it convenient for people to enable their devices.

☑ Social motivation: Seeing a crowd gathered around an Apple logo can go a long way to motivate others to join. We also use the social collaboration platform to share stories of how other people at all levels are using their own devices.

☑ Social ability: By crowd-sourcing volunteers, we build up a network of experts who could help people locally and complement the small team of mobile engineers.

☑ Structural ability: A simple physical thing like having a “Blackberry Bin” makes it easier for people to give back their devices.

To tap into all 6 sources of influence, we’ll still need to change the policy to help with structural motivation - e.g. changing the reimbursement policies over time so it becomes increasingly unattractive to use a corporate device. We’re not doing enough to appeal to those who aren’t personally motivated to give up their corporate Blackberry. (Perhaps the “Speed Camera Lottery” from last week’s post might be applicable here.)

We have a choice

The point is that even for something as mundane as reducing mobile costs at work, we have a choice:

We can rely on crude carrots and sticks to change behavior.

Or we can care.

Care about the people affected. Care about producing more sustainable results. Care enough to try something different so we can make work more effective and more fulfilling.

The Influencer checklist

InfluencerImagine it’s 1986 and you’re responsible for eradicating the Guinea worm, a parasite that afflicts 3.5 million people across 20 countries, has been around for over 2000 years, and for which there is no vaccine or medical treatment. The only way to stop the worm is to change a few specific behaviors - for everyone. What would you do?

If it’s difficult to change one person’s behavior, even your own, then changing millions seems impossible. Yet, in 2009, there were only 3000 cases of Guinea worm infestation - a reduction of 99.9%.

It turns out the approach used to drive that kind of change - to influence behavior at a large scale - has also been used to help 14,000 felons be successfully employed, to reduce AIDS in Thailand, to improve service quality, and even to lose weight.

And now I’m using it to help people make work more effective and more fulfilling.

6 sources of Influence 

6 sources of Influence

The approach comes from “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson, et al. This remarkable book combines the science of changing individual behavior, techniques for making those changes stick, and stories of global change movements involving thousands of individuals. (In doing so, it complements other great books on change like “The Willpower Instinct”, “Switch”, and “The Dragonfly Effect”.)

If you’re like me, your change efforts focus on raising awareness. Maybe on rewards and even penalties. But “Influencer” describes how to tap into 6 very different sources of influence to change specific “vital behaviors”  (also known as “keystone habits”).

“Motivation and ability comprise the first two domains of our model. We further subdivide these two domains into personal, social, and structural sources. These three sources of influence reflect separate and highly developed literatures - psychology, social psychology, and organization theory. By exploring all three, we ensure that we draw our strategies from the known repertoire of influence techniques.”

They’re very clear that “verbal persuasion rarely works” despite being the most common tool we use. Instead, when it comes to altering behavior, you need to help others answer just two questions: “Will it be worth it?” and “Can I do it?” And, in answering them, you need to examine all three levels.

The checklist

At work, we’re using these 6 sources as a checklist. As we try to help thousands of people work out loud (or print less, or use their own mobile phone, or contribute to any of the  collective efficiency programs we have underway), we keep asking ourselves if we’re tapping into all 6 sources of influence.

Personal motivation: If people don’t find the behavior appealing, how can we get them to try it (or at least have them experience the benefits vicariously) and connect it to other things they value? If someone likes doing it, how can we reinforce the behavior by recognizing their accomplishments and encouraging them to do more?

Personal Ability: How can we make it simpler to start? And how can we provide people with opportunities to practice the behavior and attain achievable goals while giving them immediate feedback on ways to get even better?

Social motivation: Who are influential leaders who can model the vital behavior? And can we identify relevant peer groups who are already behaving in the desired way?

Social ability: How can we develop social ties - e.g., buddy systems, peer support groups, advocate programs -  that can help an individual get better at the vital behavior?

Structural motivation: What are extrinsic rewards we can put in place that are immediate, gratifying, and clearly tied to the vital behavior? (Only consider these rewards after intrinsic motivators and social support are in place.)

Structural ability: How can we change the physical environment to make the vital behavior easier or to eliminate the things that pose a risk to that behavior?

The early results

In using the Influencer approach to help tens of thousands of people change how they work, it’s already helped us narrow our focus. Instead of trying to change a wide variety of activities, we’re focusing on working out loud as a specific vital behavior. And by using the Influencer checklist, we’ve uncovered gaps in our approach, expanded our thinking about how to change behavior, and come up with a wider array of more creative methods.

It’s tempting to think we already know what we’re doing. That our judgment is good enough. Or that we can cherry-pick a select few of the possible influence methods available to us. But “Influencer” repeatedly stresses that successful change agents overdetermine their success by using every influence tool available.

As Atul Gawande showed us in “Checklist Manifesto”, professionals as different as surgeons, pilots, and construction workers all benefit from checklists to make sure they take full advantage of methods already known to work.

Now, as aspiring Influencers, we have our own checklist.

The Influencer checklist

Influencer

Influencer

Imagine it’s 1986 and you’re responsible for eradicating the Guinea worm, a parasite that afflicts 3.5 million people across 20 countries, has been around for over 2000 years, and for which there is no vaccine or medical treatment. The only way to stop the worm is to change a few specific behaviors - for everyone. What would you do?

If it’s difficult to change one person’s behavior, even your own, then changing millions seems impossible. Yet, in 2009, there were only 3000 cases of Guinea worm infestation - a reduction of 99.9%.

It turns out the approach used to drive that kind of change - to influence behavior at a large scale - has also been used to help 14,000 felons be successfully employed, to reduce AIDS in Thailand, to improve service quality, and even to lose weight.

And now I’m using it to help people make work more effective and more fulfilling.

6 sources of Influence 

6 sources of Influence

6 sources of Influence

The approach comes from “Influencer” by Kerry Patterson, et al. This remarkable book combines the science of changing individual behavior, techniques for making those changes stick, and stories of global change movements involving thousands of individuals. (In doing so, it complements other great books on change like “The Willpower Instinct”, “Switch”, and “The Dragonfly Effect”.)

If you’re like me, your change efforts focus on raising awareness. Maybe on rewards and even penalties. But “Influencer” describes how to tap into 6 very different sources of influence to change specific “vital behaviors”  (also known as “keystone habits”).

“Motivation and ability comprise the first two domains of our model. We further subdivide these two domains into personal, social, and structural sources. These three sources of influence reflect separate and highly developed literatures - psychology, social psychology, and organization theory. By exploring all three, we ensure that we draw our strategies from the known repertoire of influence techniques.”

They’re very clear that “verbal persuasion rarely works” despite being the most common tool we use. Instead, when it comes to altering behavior, you need to help others answer just two questions: “Will it be worth it?” and “Can I do it?” And, in answering them, you need to examine all three levels.

The checklist

At work, we’re using these 6 sources as a checklist. As we try to help thousands of people work out loud (or print less, or use their own mobile phone, or contribute to any of the  collective efficiency programs we have underway), we keep asking ourselves if we’re tapping into all 6 sources of influence.

Personal motivation: If people don’t find the behavior appealing, how can we get them to try it (or at least have them experience the benefits vicariously) and connect it to other things they value? If someone likes doing it, how can we reinforce the behavior by recognizing their accomplishments and encouraging them to do more?

Personal Ability: How can we make it simpler to start? And how can we provide people with opportunities to practice the behavior and attain achievable goals while giving them immediate feedback on ways to get even better?

Social motivation: Who are influential leaders who can model the vital behavior? And can we identify relevant peer groups who are already behaving in the desired way?

Social ability: How can we develop social ties - e.g., buddy systems, peer support groups, advocate programs -  that can help an individual get better at the vital behavior?

Structural motivation: What are extrinsic rewards we can put in place that are immediate, gratifying, and clearly tied to the vital behavior? (Only consider these rewards after intrinsic motivators and social support are in place.)

Structural ability: How can we change the physical environment to make the vital behavior easier or to eliminate the things that pose a risk to that behavior?

The early results

In using the Influencer approach to help tens of thousands of people change how they work, it’s already helped us narrow our focus. Instead of trying to change a wide variety of activities, we’re focusing on working out loud as a specific vital behavior. And by using the Influencer checklist, we’ve uncovered gaps in our approach, expanded our thinking about how to change behavior, and come up with a wider array of more creative methods.

It’s tempting to think we already know what we’re doing. That our judgment is good enough. Or that we can cherry-pick a select few of the possible influence methods available to us. But “Influencer” repeatedly stresses that successful change agents overdetermine their success by using every influence tool available.

As Atul Gawande showed us in “Checklist Manifesto”, professionals as different as surgeons, pilots, and construction workers all benefit from checklists to make sure they take full advantage of methods already known to work.

Now, as aspiring Influencers, we have our own checklist.