Book Review: Influencer – The Power To Change Anything


Share on LinkedIn

“I haven’t got the slightest idea how to change people. But I keep a long list of candidates in case I figure it out.” ~ David Sedaris.

We do a lot of work in the area of loyalty-marketing programs which use recognition and rewards to change customer behavior. But according to bestselling author Joseph Grenny, the real key to changing behavior is harnessing the power of influence. And, when it comes to influence, Grenny says that “we stink.” Consider these examples:

* Companies spend more than $300 billion annually for training and less than 10 percent of what people are taught sticks.
* Dieters spend $40 billion a year and 19 out of 20 lose nothing but their money.
* Two out of three criminals are rearrested within three years.

If influence is the capacity to help ourselves and others change behavior, then we all want influence, but few know how to get it.

There are two basic problems of leadership: 1) What should we do (strategy) and 2) How do I get everyone to do it? (influence). Grenny’s Law of Leadership is that “there’s no strategy so brilliant that people can’t render it worthless.” We’ve seen this time and time again with the clients that we work with and you’ve probably seen it right in your own company.

Grenny’s book Influencer takes you on a fascinating journey from San Francisco to Thailand where you’ll see how seemingly “insignificant” people are making incredibly significant improvements in solving problems others would think impossible. You’ll learn how savvy folks make change not only achievable and sustainable, but inevitable. You’ll discover why some managers have increased productivity repeatedly and significantly-while others have failed miserably.

In a Businessweek article, titled “Increase Your Influence Tenfold”, Grenny examines the six sources of influence using the example of why seasoned executives so predictably engage in petty politics during a high-stakes budget process:

1. Personal Motivation. For 358 days of the year senior executives feel morally obligated to their functions—the people they work with and care about. It’s no surprise that the moral inertia they bring to the seven-day conversation about enterprise budgets keeps them oriented toward the needs of those they are most deeply connected to.

2. Personal Ability. These executives have been highly trained to think about investments in their area of functional expertise. They have little experience or education in the financial trade-offs and opportunities available in other areas.

3. Social Motivation. Human beings crave approval. These executives experience more praise and pressure regarding achievements in their functional areas than for any lofty enterprise-level concerns. A few nudges from the CEO about transcending their silo are a paltry assault on the tsunami of social pressure they get from their functional employees and yes, even the CEO, for “hitting it out of the park” in their own area.

4. Social Ability. The executive team did little to enable one another to question, challenge, or contribute to teammates’ plans. They were slow to answer each others’ questions and they spent little time together in creative development.

5. Structural Motivation. Ninety percent of each executives’ incentive pay is tied to functional goals. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

6. Structural Ability. Our physical environment doesn’t just motivate, it enables. To understand an executive’s behavior, you need only look at what information and relationships are most enabled by his or her surroundings. These executives’ offices were located with their functional teams. Ninety-nine percent of their time was spent with those in their divisions. If they did make contact with those from other departments, it was usually because they got off the elevator on the wrong floor. Likewise, the reports and meetings that dominated their mind-share focused them downward, not upward.

Notice how much more seriously we can begin to think about influence when we acknowledge the reality of all of the sources of influence aligned behind the status quo. And notice how silly it would be for a CEO to give a motivational speech at the beginning of an annual budget process and assume this meager source of influence would succeed in the face of an onslaught of contradictory sources.

According to Grenny, “Until we get all six of these sources of influence flowing in the same direction, we’ll continue to not only fail, but even more damaging, pin the failure on moral deficiencies rather than mental proficiency—an insufficient understanding of human behavior.”

Jill Z. McBride
Jill founded JZMcBride & Associates in 1996 to provide marketing, public relations, social media and event planning services and consultation. More than a decade later, the firm serves an impressive roster of consumer, business-to-business and non-profit clients. Jill's contagious energy, personal involvement and extensive industry knowledge infuses every endeavor of the group in order to help her clients grow.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here