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Vital Smarts. Introduction to Influencer: The Power to Change Anything Douglas L. Finton, Managing Director Vital Skills International, LC Principal Associates of VitalSmarts. What Could You Do with More Influence?. Move your strategy from PowerPoint to reality.

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Introduction to

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything

Douglas L. Finton, Managing Director

Vital Skills International, LC

Principal Associates of VitalSmarts

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What Could You Do with More Influence?

  • Move your strategy from PowerPoint to reality.

  • Translate your organizational values into day-to-day behavior.

  • Create a sustainably, robustly diverse organization

  • Engage everyone in cost management.

  • Improve employee engagement.

  • Get compliance with new processes or policies.

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We Lack Influence

85% of organizational change efforts fail.

– Arthur D. Little

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  • We Lack Influence

    Big Point. The most important capacity we possess is the ability to influence behavior—that of ourselves or others.

    And yet few of us have any systematic way of even thinking about this most precious capacity!

    So, when it comes to our toughest influence challenges, we fail.

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In Search of Influencers

  • Worldwide Search

    • Articles: To find the best and most-tested methods to influence profound and persistent problems we examined over 17,000 articles.

    • Influencers: We found leaders and scholars who (1) had succeeded where others had failed, and (2) had data to prove it.

    • Experience: We used these methods to influence rapid behavior change in over 50 organizations.

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Meet the Influencers

Most all of the Influencers we found were profoundly influenced by the work of Dr. Albert Bandura.

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Three Keys to Rapid & Measurable Change

  • Focus on Results

    • Identify measurable results you want to improve. Focus attention on the vital behaviors

    • that influence them.

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How’s this?

  • “I’d love to loose weight” vs.

  • “I need to eat fewer calories than I burn” vs.

  • “I will loose 10 pounds and 5% body-fat by September 1 of this year”.

  • Now how about your results?

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Principle #1: Vital Behaviors

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Vital Behaviors

  • What’s a Vital Behavior?

    A vital behavior:

    • Leads directly to better results.

    • Breaks self-defeating patterns.

    • Causes many other positive behaviors to follow naturally.

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Identify Vital Behaviors

The Big Idea

Even with complex and long-standing problems, just a few vital behaviors can lead to enormous change.

Find the vital behaviors, and find a powerful leverage point for change.

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Examples of Vital Behaviors

Desired Result

Vital Behavior

Candid dialogue during the planning phase

On time project performance

Create and maintain a functional diverse workforce

Improve our ability to confront those who cross our personal boundaries

Improve how we disagree

Lasting and happy relationship

Slow down when you get near the lines!

High quality coloring

Get fit

Write down everything I eat

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Find Vital Behaviors

Don’t look for influence strategies (such as creating public awareness)—just look for crucial moments and the behaviors you’d need during them.

(E.g., Diversity: when individual boundaries are crossed, is the person able to speak candidly and respectfully to the offender about the boundary, and reach a new agreement around respect?)

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Vital Behaviors

Not the End

  • We are not suggesting that once you find the vital behaviors, all challenges are over.

  • It’s a whole new challenge to influence people to actually do the behaviors.

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Principle #2: Make Change Inevitable

To achieve such amazing success, Influencers used every aspect of the Influence Model.

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Why Change Seems Impossible

We live in a quick fix world looking for “silver bullet” answers to complex influence problems.

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Why Change Seems Impossible

Your world is perfectly organized to create the behavior you’re currently experiencing.

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Six Sources of Influence

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Influence vs. Quick Fix

Influencers succeed where the rest of us fail because they “over determine” success.

They marshal a critical mass of all Six Sources of Influence to make change inevitable.

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Source 1: Personal Motivation

The influence of the pleasure or pain of the behavior itself.

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Source 1: Personal Motivation


Many Vital Behaviors are boring, frightening, uncomfortable or even painful and many wrong behaviors feel pretty good—for a while.

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How Would It Feel?

We spend most of our lives morally disengaged… we are unconscious of the moral and human implications of our choices.

As a result…

  • We mindlessly behave in ways that undermine our values

  • Even when we do behave consistently with our values, we often derive little joy from it.

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What’s a Manager to Do?

  • Connecting with Human Consequences

  • A medical devices company has various employees share “Mission Moments” at monthly company gatherings. These employees share the story of some patient whose life is better because of one of the devices the company provided.

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Source 2: Personal Ability

The influence of skill.

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Source Two: Personal Ability


Many Vital Behaviors are far more physically or emotionally challenging than we realize.

So we grossly under-invest in building skills.

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What about Our Department?

  • Increasing Personal Ability

  • A manager trained employees on skills for speaking to colleagues who fail to support diversity in viewpoint and process on the team. In the training, front line employees practiced these skills with supervisors and more senior colleagues.

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Sources 3 and 4

The influence of other people – through modeling, praise, helping, and enabling.

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“Why don’t people do what we’ve asked them to do?”

  • Peer Pressure. No one else does it.

  • Leadership Modeling. My boss doesn’t do it with her boss.

  • Social punishment. When you try it others become offended.

  • No accountability. When you don’t do it, no one bugs you about it.

  • No expectations. When you start working here, no one tells you it’s expected.

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The Promise

Small changes in your social system can lead to big changes in behavior—Add a friend. Throw in some encouragement. Build a little accountability. And change happens.

You don’t need to have relationships with everyone you’re trying to influence.

You just need to gain influence with those who do.

Sources 3 and 4—The Promise


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What about Our Department?

  • Increasing Social Motivation and Ability

  • A manager asked highly respected team members to be “Mentors.” They were given training in holding others accountable before anyone else received it. Each committed to be a role model of “holding bosses accountable” for a 30 day period. After the 30 days, each enlisted a colleague to join them for the next 30 days. And so on…

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Source 5: Structural Motivation

The influence of costs, incentives, and accountability.

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Source 5: Structural Motivation


Rewards, incentives, or costs encourage the wrong behaviors or discourage the right ones.

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Reward Systems Matter a Lot

In Broward County, Florida, an elderly person facing a competency hearing was evaluated by three court-appointed experts and defended by a court-appointed attorney.

The psychiatrists were paid more when they judged someone to be incapacitated than when they judged them to be competent ($325 versus $125).

What do you think happened?

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Reward Systems Matter a Lot

Of598 competency proceedings in the year, 570 ended with a verdict of incompetence.

Source: Kerns, 1995

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Source 6: Structural Ability

The influence of space, data, cues, tools, processes, and other environmental factors.

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Source 6: Structural Ability


We are blind to the incessant and powerful force the environment exerts on our own and others’ behavior.

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What Environmental Factor Is This?

What’s available.

How close it is.

Cues that tell you how much you’re eating.

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What about Our Department?

  • Increasing Structural Ability.

  • Change the Data Stream. A manager publicly posted department “Energy Use” data every month.

  • Add Cues and Reminders. Two boxes were placed on every meeting agenda—1)Energy usage/recycling targets; 2) commitments kept/not kept from previous meeting. Every meeting started and ended with these boxes.

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Three Keys to Rapid & Measurable Change

  • Measure 3-4x/Year

    • Not chest-beating but the systematic influence of motivation and attention.

  • Focus on Results

    • Identify measurable results you want to improve. Focus attention on the vital behaviors that create them.

  • Implement

  • Influence, Not Training

    • Leader-led cascade. Leaders are responsible for change.

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To learn more:

  • Contact Vital Skills International, LC

  • A Preeminent Provider of Crucial Skills Training & Consulting

  • Principal Associates of VitalSmarts


  • (248) 650-6290

  • Daniel L. Brunet and Douglas L. Finton, Managing Directors

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