Helping people change can be a difficult task—especially when the behaviour you’re trying to influence is a longstanding habit. In some organisations, dysfunctional behaviour has been around for decades. It becomes “the way we do things around here.”
The first step in helping others behave differently is to figure out how you’ve unknowingly arranged things to make bad behaviour impossible to change. There are six sources of influence that will help you see why their current behaviour is inevitable.
Once you see these clearly, you’ll be empowered to begin dismantling the ineffective world as it currently exists.
When your vision improves, so does your influence.
One reason we fail to influence others is because we completely misunderstand why people resist change.
We tell ourselves that others won’t change because of some character flaw—they’re lazy, selfish, evil, stupid, and so on.
When we believe this to be true, we do one of two things:
- We give up
- We attempt to motivate them with bribes or threats.
For example, I once worked in a manufacturing facility where a fellow had cut his hand. When I asked the executives what occurred, they explained that he had removed a safety device. I thought to myself, “Why would a person act against their own self interest in this way?”
Later that week I found myself seated across the table from a man who had a bandage on his hand. I asked him what had happened, and sure enough, he was the guy who’d removed the device. So, I asked him why he did it.
He explained, “If I removed the device, I could finish earlier.”
The device slowed him down.
When I asked him why that was so important he explained that by finishing earlier, he could go play cards with his friends. The truth is, he didn’t even like playing cards! He said that his friends needed him to complete the foursome. If he didn’t show up, they would give him a hard time.
So there it was. He didn’t remove the safety device because he was acting against his own self interest. He wasn’t motivated by laziness, self-loathing, or evil intent.
He removed it because 1) there wasn’t a company policy against it, and 2) he was facing peer pressure to finish early and show up to the card game.
The important thing to keep in mind is that people’s behaviour is influenced by six sources:
If you try to pile on incentives when people lack skills, you’ll fail.
If you try to tap into their values when the environment is pulling against them, you’ll find them discouraged—even cynical.
If you put them through training when they just don’t care, you’ll waste your time.
You need to examine all six sources of influence. Remember this when dealing with someone whose behaviour you’re trying to change. Before you try to boost his or her performance with lectures or company mugs and medals, find out where the real source of the problem lies and go from there.