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Influencer - Book summary

To solve problems, leaders must be able to influence behavioral change. In Influencer, the authors (Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler) present proven skills, principles and strategies that you can apply to create fast, impactful and lasting change in any aspect of your work and personal life. In our free version of Influencer summary, we’ll explain the science of leading change and how you can apply it to gain the power to change anything—at personal, organizational or community levels.

Influencer: An Overview

Effective leaders must be influencers, i.e. they must be able to bring behavioral change. Unfortunately, it’s hard to change people—be it to get yourself to do something you dislike, to get your child to obey you, or to get criminals to turn over a new leaf.

After studying top leaders and influencers around the world, the authors uncovered several common principles and strategies that can be learned and replicated. By mastering them, you too can become a powerful leader and change agent.

3 Keys to Becoming an Influencer

To successfully influence change, you need 3 keys. These keys jointly constitute the science of leading change, and can be used to predictably influence behaviors. Do get a copy of our Influencer summary for more implementation tips, details and examples.

Influencer summary_3 keys to influencing change

1. Focus and Measure

Influencers are crystal-clear about the exact outcome they want, when to achieve it, and how to measure it. They apply these 3 principles:

  • Set specific, meaningful and time-bound goals. A goal to “help the poor” is vague and subjective, whereas a goal to “save 100,000 lives in Africa from poverty-related diseases by 31 Dec 2020″ is specific. Clear goals that appeal both to the head and heart are more likely to spur action.
  • Measure frequently. Unless something is measured regularly and given constant attention, it won’t drive behaviors. To influence change, you can’t rely on estimations—you must invest the effort and resources to collect specific data and metrics and assess your actual progress.
  • Measure the right things that’ll drive the behaviors you want to change. If you’re trying to reduce sexual aggression, it may be a mistake to directly track the number of sexual assaults. If people are afraid to report the assaults, you may see a drop in assault cases when the situation is getting worse in reality. Instead, it’ll be better to measure if people feel safe from sexual assaults and if they feel safe to report such assaults.

2. Identify Vital Behaviors

Once you know your desired outcomes, you must define the behavioral change required to achieve those results. Influencers don’t dilute their efforts over dozens of behaviors. They focus on a few high-leverage behaviors that’ll create the greatest impact.

In our full book summary, we elaborate on 4 strategies you can use to identify the 2-3 vital behaviors that will create a cascading effect with disproportionate results.

After identifying possible vital behaviors, test the solutions with other failed groups to see if they deliver the desired results.

3. Use the 6 Sources Of Influence

Now that you know the exact results you want and the vital behaviors that’d get you there, you must get people to implement those behaviors. Influencers use 6 different sources of influence to motivate and enable the vital behaviors at various levels, thus guarantee change.

The 6 Sources of Influence

These 6 sources of influence jointly address 2 driving forces across 3 domains:

  • All human behaviors depend on 2 drivers: ability and motivation. Whether you do something depends on (i) whether you can do what’s required (ability), and (ii) whether you think it’s worth it (motivation).
  • These 2 drivers can be applied in 3 domains: personal, social and structural.

You can apply the sources of influence individually, though you’ll increase your chances of success by applying all of them. Here’s a quick overview of the 6 sources of influence. Do get more details on each source from our complete Influencer summary, where we also include a range of examples from stopping the spread of the HIV virus to changing employee behaviors.

Influencer summary_6 sources of influence

1. Personal Motivation: Help Them Love What They Hate

How can you get people to do something they don’t want to do? Most people assume that others’ lack of motivation is due to personal flaws (e.g. “He’s too lazy”). In reality, we often don’t act in our best long-term interests because we’re trying to avoid short-term pains. Influencers increase personal motivation by making painful things pleasurable using 4 tactics: offering people the freedom of choice, making abstract visions tangible, telling compelling stories and gamifying vital behaviors (more details in our complete Influencer summary).

2. Personal Ability: Help Them Do What They Can’t

Behavioral change usually requires new skills. If people lack the ability to take action (or believe they can’t learn the required skills), they won’t do what’s required. Influencers improve people’s ability to execute the vital behaviors by equipping people with technical, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills.
In our full 14-page summary, we explain (i) what’s deliberate practice, (ii) how to dissect big goals into big-sized ones for focused practice, and (iii) how specifically to equip people with the crucial blend of technical, interpersonal and intrapersonal skills to facilitate change.

3. Social Motivation: Provide Encouragement

We’re heavily influenced by our social networks, due to our need to feel connected, accepted and respected. Even a simple social cue (e.g. a nod, frown or snigger) can prompt us to do or avoid something. Great influencers use at least 3 best practices to amplify their social influence and the impact of social support: using the “Power of One”, engaging both formal and informal leaders, and creating new forms. Find out how in our complete book summary.

4. Social Ability: Provide Assistance

Most complex problems can’t be solved by 1 individual; they require people to work in concert, e.g. for interdependent tasks, solving novel/complex problems, group-learning and group solidarity. Influencers build social capital to provide the help, approval or cooperation needed for individuals to adopt new behaviors (see more details in our full Influencer summary).

5. Structural Motivation: Change Their Economy

Often, deeply-entrenched behaviors are the result of structural incentives or disincentives in an economic system. Influencers ensure that any extrinsic rewards and punishments will support rather than undermine the desired vital behaviors. Check out our full book summary for various principles in designing your extrinsic rewards/incentives vs punishments.

6. Structural Ability: Change Their Space

Nonhuman forces in our environment—buildings, colors, sounds, etc.—have a huge impact on how we behave. Influencers are mindful of such environmental factors and know how to shape them to enable vital behaviors.  In the full Influencer summary, you can learn several strategies to shape your surroundings, including (i) making invisible cues obvious, (ii) using data to shape decisions, (iii) leveraging physical proximity, and (iv) making vital behaviors easy to perform and hard to avoid.

Getting the Most from Influencer

In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 26-minute audio summary.Influencer summary - book summary bundle

Using the 3 keys to influence—focus and measure, define vital behaviors, and using the 6 sources of influence—you can have the power to change anything.

The book is full of detailed case studies and scientific evidence to illustrate Influencer principles and strategies work. These examples offer useful insights and ideas to help you develop influence strategies for a wide range personal, organizational and societal challenges. You can purchase the book here or, get more details and resources from, including:
• A worksheet to help you plan for influence projects;
• Segments of interviews with influencers; and
• A self-assessment of your influence skills and potential areas for development.

About the Authors of Influencer

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change is written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler.

Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron Mcmillan, and Al Switzler are the cofounders and leaders of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance, which has taught more than two million people worldwide and worked with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies.

Influencer Quotes

“What qualifies people to be called ‘leaders’ is their capacity to influence others to change their behavior in order to achieve important results.”

“In order to create profound change, you don’t have to change 50 behaviors. You usually have to change only a couple of them.”

“Stories provide a window into the storytellers’ culture.”

“Transform numbers into names, statistics, faces, and charts into human conditions, and everything would change. What seemed like an interesting abstraction would become a moral imperative.”

“Learn how to tap into the power of social influence, and you can change just about anything.”

“If you can’t talk about it, you can’t change it…Changes in behavior must be preceded by changes in the public discourse.”

“If you bundle the right number and type of influences into a robust influence strategy, you can change virtually anything.”

Click here to download the Influencer summary & infographic

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