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Power is good.
We tend to cast “power” in a negative light — blaming the things we don’t like on the people in charge and calling out the power-hungry, status-seeking, overly-ambitious, ladder-climbers around us.
But power isn’t all bad. Really, power is just another word for influence.
We need influence.
We need influence at work — whether it’s to improve accountability with our team members, drive six-sigma methodology into our day-to-day business operations, or reduce the number of medical errors we see in hospitals.
We need influence on an individual level as we try to lower our cholesterol, exercise more, or make better choices in our relationships.
Power and influence get a bad reputation because we’ve all been susceptible to negative pressure. After all, no one lives in a vacuum. Long-standing bad habits are almost always influenced by people who either encourage the wrong behaviours or discourage the right ones.
But there are also people who do the opposite.
They disable bad behaviours and enable positive ones. They encourage us to be better and discourage us from acting in ways we regret.
How do we get more positives from influence and fewer negatives? We harness the power of social pressure by finding strength (rather than resistance) in numbers.
If we want to make it easy for people to make changes in their life, business, or habits, we need to rally the support of those who enable. We need the power of influence.
Enlist Your Best Enablers
When we seek change in our organisations or in our personal lives, we need people who promote the correct behaviours. They may be the same people as your motivators, and they may include you!
In every organisation, there are people who negatively influence change and people who positively influence change. This is the reality of what you’re working with. Enablers are the people who help — so use them to help you achieve change.
Give Enablers An Outlet for Influence
Enablers are most effective if they have a specific avenue for influence. If you want to maximise their effect, establish support structures that help people change. Create systems, structures, and routines that provide enablers with ways to coach people in your organisation.
It’s hard to adopt new behaviours. It’s even harder to let go of old habits. But, when people join a support structure, they’re better able to move on and let go.
How do you do it? Bring team members together, unite them around their shared purpose, and get them talking. Once they realise their shared goal, they will support each other. They’ll find ways to brainstorm and help each other overcome obstacles.
You can also put together panels of specialists who can provide resources of help and assistance to your team. Encourage coaches and mentors to be available to answer questions. Open the door for people to ask questions and seek advice as they work towards change.
Help Enablers Plan for Mistakes
Enablers aim to help others adopt new behaviours. But, every change comes with its obstacles.
Enablers, look for the things that will get in the way of the change. What are the warning signs something is off track? How do we know when we’re not accomplishing our goals?
Then, once you see subtle shifts in behaviour, help people recover quickly from their mistakes. We know nothing is perfect, so we want to be ready for the times we mess up.
How Accountability Works
Enablers are so effective because they keep us on track. And when people hold us accountable to accomplishing our goals, we see great change in short periods of time.
I’ve seen this first-hand through working with women’s focus groups. In these groups, we bring eight strangers together for a two-month period. We ask these eight women to identify the personal and professional things that matter most to them and what they’d like to accomplish in their lives. Essentially, we want them to identify their goals.
The progress they make in eight weeks is astounding. They overcome obstacles they’ve struggled with for decades.
How? They’re influenced by enablers. They harness the power of social influence for good.
Here’s how it works:
As a group, they make commitments to each other. They share their dreams, “For years I’ve wanted to start my own business” or “I’d like to lose weight” or “I need to leave a troubled relationship.”
They come together, not knowing each other at all, week after week, sharing the progress they’ve made towards their goals.
After the two months, they repeatedly tell me, “This changed my life.”
Because it led to accountability.
They say, “I’ve always wanted to do this, but having to show up at a meeting every week and talk to other women who are equally focused on accomplishing change made me excited to do it. I ran out of excuses. I knew I’d be held accountable at that meeting. If I didn’t show up, I knew someone would call me and make me explain! That was all I needed to be able to get it done.”
Making a change becomes more doable when you’re supported. With accountability, you start finding ways to achieve the goals that have eluded you for years.
Maybe you don’t establish groups — perhaps that isn’t a luxury. But you can find a buddy. Even one person who enables you to make better choices makes a difference. If you want to start working out more, tell someone to meet you at 6:00 am. Knowing someone is awake and waiting for you will get you out of bed!
Don’t overlook the power of influence. When people are there to hold us accountable while providing coaching and support, they’ll help us accomplish more than we ever thought possible.