It’s influence, not authority that makes a great leader
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2014 - 12:00am

In three International Association of Business Conferences (IABC) conferences in North America, this writer personally encountered the works of four-time bestselling author and business social scientist Joseph Grenny prominently promoted and uncompromisingly supported by business communicators from different parts of the world. One of the important works he has done with three other collaborators is Influencer: The Power To Change Anything.

The tome studied the skills of hundreds of successful change agents from the corporate world, and mixed them with many years of superior social science research. Its grand goal was to build an articulate, brief and handy reference on how to shift behaviors that can be conveniently picked up and used by practically anyone.

Truth be told, we all want to wield influence on others every day to change their behavior or refocus their action, to control ourselves by performing short-term sacrifices in order to achieve long-term successes, to convince ourselves to give up quick-fix delights to gain enduring results, and to strive to be relevant in the lives of our families, colleagues and friends, and to project good behaviors constantly and consistently. “The most persistent problems we face in our organizations, our families, our communities, and our nations are problems of influence,” Grenny declared. “Unless we know better how to influence behavior change, we will never achieve the results we all want. The study of influence is fundamental to our desire to change the world for good.”

Leaders have the privilege and influence to achieve the change they want to see in others. Leadership is a position of trust, and those who are on the receiving end of a leader’s influence will benefit from a genuine, smart, and appropriate use of influence to effect positive change. “Leadership is intentional influence,” Grenny proclaimed. It is a process of swaying the behavior of others in order to achieve desired results. All of us attempt to do this all the time, but aren’t good at it. We have great visions, but lack the skill to carry them out, since we don’t understand how to influence others to achieve them.

Studies revealed that those who have achieved remarkable results in assuaging poverty, wiping out major health issues like AIDS, fortifying families, diminishing corruption, perking up economies, and many other situations and issues have one thing in common: a profound and solid understanding of the science of influence. Great communication skills are also key in brandishing influence, but Grenny and company are convinced that we’ll never persuade anyone to make an authentic and enduring change through mere language and vocabulary alone. Our convincing power must go beyond “talk” and move in the realm of  “walk.”

Grenny will be in town on the afternoon of Oct. 28 to talk about “Crucial Leadership During Critical Times” at the 15th Achievers & Leaders Seminar at SMX Taguig Convention Center. In his talk, Grenny will outline the “influence process” supported by extensive intuitive research. Applications of his findings on social change will cover a wide scope: parenting, education and training, defining organizational culture, understanding and influencing consumer behavior, and effecting community and national development. Joining Grenny in the colloquium are social entrepreneur and change advocate Senator Bam Aquino, and Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes. Both will share their own leadership experiences during crunch times. Here are some notable pickups from the book:

Influencers do three things better than others. They are clearer about the results they want to achieve and how they will evaluate and measure them. They focus on a small number of vital behaviors that will help them achieve those results, as they over-determine change by amassing six sources of influence that motivate as well as enable the vital behaviors.

An influencer provides encouragement and assistance. This he does by harnessing the power of social influence by engaging leaders in the task of encouraging vital behaviors, and by putting his social ability at work. People need the encouragement and the push to change how they act during crucial moments.

Many predicaments don’t entail solutions that challenge the laws of nature. They require people to act differently. “Many of us run off prematurely in search of serenity, instead of sticking around and trying to be influencers. The overarching reason is that too many of us fail to perceive ourselves as having any influence. As everyday people, we simply don’t realize that we actually have the power to be positive agents of change in our own lives, and those of others.

To be an influencer, we must possess the supremacy to convince others to think differently. The most common approach to convincing others is verbal persuasion, but it is also probably the least effective. When applied incorrectly, it can be perceived as manipulation or nagging. “Generating vicarious personal experience is a much better strategy. By creating opportunities for individuals to watch others having an experience can allow us to alter the strongest behaviors,” Grenny stated. An influencer helps people love what they hate. And as a personal motivation, he assists people change how they feel about vital behaviors by connecting them with human consequences, through direct familiarity with situations and events and through potent storytelling.

A desired change is always rewarding and pleasurable. This thought is opposed to looking at change as annoying or personally distasteful. To achieve this, we have to create new experiences by providing individuals with ample opportunities to actually try the preferred behavior. After doing this, transform people’s values, as they relate to a particular behavior or set of behaviors to create new motivations.

People’s resistance to change does not always stem from a lack of personal motivation. Rather, our opposition to change is often driven by a distinct lack of skills. The importance of skills and ability can’t be emphasized enough. Many studies have shown that peak performers in virtually every field of human endeavor were able to reach the top not through innate ability or talent, but through deliberate practice. Changing our negative behaviors and that of others requires deliberate and frequent practice. It is simply ridiculous to expect that people can change through sheer willpower. An influencer helps people do what they can’t.  That’s personal ability in action. New behavior requires new skills. Overinvest in helping people learn how to master skills and emotions.

People are strongly influenced by the approval of others. Our peer groups and business networks have an immense influence on our behaviors and decisions. This is even true with complete strangers. We can’t help but care what other people think. A great influencer knows this about people, and he finds ways to leverage their social circles to his advantage.

A great influencer recognizes the power of building cohesive teams and collaboration in spawning solutions Paradoxically, while the value of teamwork has been proven time and time again, forming a team to solve a problem is not always an obvious, or easy choice. Grenny speculated that this may be due, in part, to the messages we receive through the media. Many of our best-known movie and television heroes have fought, and defeated, hordes of enemies all on their own. In this, we are forever celebrating the “rugged individualist” stereotype, which may very well have a dampening effect on the average worker’s willingness to enlist the support of others in order to drive significant change. Truly, an influencer changes people’s space. Modifying people’s physical surroundings makes good behavior easier and, conversely, bad behavior harder.

Extrinsic rewards can be effective motivators.  Think bonuses, perks and recognition programs. But this is true only if applied correctly. Unfortunately, extrinsic rewards are too often employed as a first line of action — or an exclusive line of action. In such instances, where there is no parallel focus on behaviors, rewards are doomed to fail. But when used wisely, the power of incentives brings structural motivation by modestly and intelligently rewarding early successes, and implement some form of punishment only when necessary.

Changing our environment is a powerful and long-lasting influence strategy. It may sound basic or trivial but changing the proximity of people’s offices can have a huge impact on desired behaviors, such as teamwork. Research conducted at Bell Labs has shown that the single best predictor of two scientists collaborating with one another was actually the distance between their offices. Scientists who worked next to each other were three times more likely to join forces than those who worked 30 feet from each other. Similar results confirming the importance of proximity have been replicated in other studies.

Today, we may not be very influential, Greeny and company aren’t about to simply let us throw in the towel, to the extent that we may be ineffective at influencing others — or even ourselves. Undoubtedly, this stems from a lack of proper training, and not a fundamental character flaw. The solution lies in continued learning.

Become an Influencer. Influence doesn’t come by accident. It comes through cautious analysis and uncomplaining trial and error testing. Kenneth H. Blanchard pronounced, “The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.”

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