Unpacking Influence - Part 2

Back up a step. As we talk about influence, I want to make sure we narrow the scope to something quite specific. I believe that fundamentally, we can't change others. We can force a change in the environment, such as restructuring, merger, or new technology. People will work around these modifications, but they will not necessarily change underlying belief systems or behaviours. Sometimes the environmental change triggers self-reflection and internal change, just as often it does not. This is how you can install an entirely new computer system and still find people using their old paper and pen methods to solve problems.

However, we can influence people in ways that motivate them to change themselves.  Traditional change practice is largely centred on how to lead people through change through identification of the carrots and sticks which encourage individuals to make an internal behavioural or emotional change. So to clarify, everything about this series I'm writing is about how people can be influenced and how we can influence others to make that crucial, behavioural change. Already, the model is sufficiently complicated that I need some definitions so we can short cut the conversation: let's say a change agent is the person using their influence to inspire change while the target is the person being influenced to make a change in themselves.

So... Let's just let power simmer for a bit and turn to another variable in our influence equation which I think I'll call Engagement. Engagement in this context is the intensity with which either a change agent or a target connects to the specific change in question. Basically, how much do you want it? As a change agent, if you really care about the issue, you're going to put a lot of discretionary effort towards influencing people to make a change. Conversely, if it's not particularly important to you, you'll do a half assed job at motivating others to change. Let's put this on a scale from Meaningless to Crucial.

On the target side of the equation, I think we need to look at how central the issue is to your own sense of self. We know that people identify more strongly and respond more intensely to internal, intrinsic motivators than they do to externally imposed extrinsic motivators. This makes sense intuitively. There is a fundamental difference between wanting to study hard because *you* would like to grow up and become an engineer, versus your mom and dad forcing you to study because *they* want you to grow up and become an engineer. I want to work on this project because it's super interesting and will move my career forward versus I am assigned to work on the project because the senior manager said we need to do it. So our scale for the engagement of targets is Extrinsic to Intrinsic.

There is a missing intensity element for both of these scales that bugs me. I feel like there is something to capture from Indifferent to Passionate that neither of the above really does for me. Change agent scale does a better job, but by focusing on the source for targets, I'm missing an element of oomph. Argh. We can only make this so complicated before my head explodes though so let's just go with what we've created  thus far.

Because the last time I did this, Fitch tells me I got my lefts and rights wrong, I'm making a really crappy graph this time.


Now. I don't care how passionate everyone is, if both your change agent and your target are in the upper right, the whole thing is super easy. Your strategy here as the change agent is simply to Show the Way. The target is highly motivated. Even if your power and trust levels are relatively low, the person wants to go there anyway so you're likely to need nothing more than a small nudge and a roadmap and off they will go. In fact, even if you are an Asshole (from the @protectedstatic appropriately named band Bucket of Assholes), your best bet is to find someone else to be your public face for the change and just get out of the way.

If neither the change agent nor the target give a rat's ass about this change and you are sitting there in lower left, your recommended strategy here is to Stop the Project. Why the hell are you doing it anyway? You don't want, they don't want it. There isn't really a reason to do it. I know this sounds like it shouldn't happen, but I've seen it over and over again. Zombie projects that literally no one wants that somehow proceed on autopilot. Ultimately, they die, but usually only after absurd amounts of time and money have been spent. Look up the food chain, BTW. Often the change agent themselves is the target of a higher power Asshole. So a secondary strategy is to identify and reverse influence the highest Asshole in the decision chain so you can make the project go away.

When the change agent really wants something and needs to impose it on a more or less unwilling target, we are in the lower right. Now traditional change management says the trick is to 'find the WIIFM' (what's in it for me). I find this super stupid. By definition, if you're in the lower right, there is no WIIFM. Let's assume no matter what you do in this quadrant, there is no 'what's in it for me' for the target and no number of workshops or propaganda will surface one. I think the most effective strategy I've found in this quadrant is to educate targets to Let It Go. Targets with a well developed understanding and acceptance of the concept that some stuff just has to happen, life is full of arbitrary and capricious shit, get over it. Adapt, people. But you can't do this in the heat of the change moment; this is a capability that you need to develop in advance.

Finally, in the upper left we have highly motivated targets and indifferent change agents. Again, this is easy as a change agent. The strategy here is similar to Show the Way, but it more closely resembles Get Out of the Way. You don't really care so don't spend a lot of energy here, but make sure that the energy you spend is positive and not negative. As a change agent, the two factors to worry about: your target may be more interested in this change than something else you want to motivate. Okay, see if you can link something you are more passionate about to this thing they want anyway. Honestly, this connects to your lower rights, BTW. If you can get a target to think the change YOU want is actually a change THEY want, bingo. Your other problem is your own negativity. Probably Assholes will have the biggest issue here, but all of us can be barriers to positive change in others through carelessness. So maybe a better strategy here is Don't Rain On Their Parade.

Ooh. This is a long one. Sorry about that. I'm waiting for laundry.

Please let me know if you are finding this influence series at all useful or interesting or have any comments, insights are extensions of these ideas. Also, examples! Examples would be useful. Send any or all to voiceover@toastchanges.com or visit the article and comments at http://toastchanges.com.

 "Working hard for something we don't care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion." ~ Simon Sinek