Sunday, April 13, 2008

Influencing Others With Transparent Dignity

I was again struck in a recent meeting how people seem to think about "change management" as communications - if people are told something over and over again, maybe in a few different ways, they'll do something different. We certainly can't deny the power of mass communications, as evidenced by its impact on our society over the last number of generations. But we also can't overlook all those instances where, despite the evidence that a clearly communicated message has been understood, people do not change what they do - some examples include "smoking is hazardous," "speed kills," "reduce, reuse, recycle," "a heart attack is looming if you don't change your diet and get some exercise."

True, effective communication of relevant information is vital for everyone to make good decisions, but change takes much more.

I've just finished a brilliant book, Influencer: The Power to Change Anything that provides a very useful, proven framework for change that can be applied to virtually type of personal or organizational change initiative - the scope of the case studies included in the book are powerful proof.

What I've taken away from the book is that enabling change requires:

  • a clear understanding of current behaviours and what is supporting /encouraging them
  • a clear identification of target vital behaviours - just the few that matter
  • personal motivation and personal capability to change
  • peer / social support, and the knowledge and capability of the peer group to provide the support
  • appropriate rewards and recognition (called structural motivation in the book)
  • removal of organizational barriers to the new vital behaviours (called structural ability in the book)
Enabling and encouraging changes is certainly not a "quick fix" as case studies and many of your own personal examples no doubt demonstrate. The authors point to the need to combine a number of strategies to encourage change when the status quo is very deeply rooted in a complex situation.

I found the book very consumable, easy to read, with surprisingly clear connections between theory and practice. Most importantly to me is the tone of the book - it does not imply or present change as something you do to others, but instead something that we can all engage in and benefit from. I highly recommend it.

For more information, visit a web site created by the authors, which contains a chapter preview, and good supporting resources.

Joseph Grenny, co author, is also featured in a Business Week Interview.

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