Becoming a Master Influencer, with Leadership Speaker Joseph Grenny

Exclusive Interview with: Joseph Grenny

Leadership speaker Joseph Grenny uses his cutting edge research on leadership practices, influence, and human behavior to boost business productivity and foster high performing work environments. The four-time New York Times best-selling author’s work has propelled results at 300 of the Fortune 500 companies. Grenny’s dynamic and no-frill programs give people the tools for taking on those uncomfortable conversations in the workplace, empowering them to turn disappointments and broken promises into opportunities for enhancing accountability, improving performance, and ensuring execution.

Those who understand how to combine four to six sources of influence are up to ten times more successful at producing substantial and sustainable change.

SPEAKING.COM: What are the “6 sources of influence” that make us do what we do?

GRENNY: We’ve found that effective influencers drive change by relying on six different sources of influence strategies at the same time. Those who understand how to combine four to six sources of influence are up to ten times more successful at producing substantial and sustainable change.

To exponentially improve your chances of success, assemble a critical mass of the following six sources of influence:

• Values — tie into what people care about, make it part of their moral imperative.

• Skills — teach others what to do and how to do it by using the latest techniques for helping individuals delay gratification and engage in deliberate practice.

• Support — tap into the massive motivational power of social pressure, turn annoying pressures into healthy motives.

• Teamwork — draw down on social capital by ensuring that everyone involved provides the information, helping hand, materials, and resources required to succeed.

• Incentives — tie the vital behaviors directly to both existing and new sources of extrinsic motivation, learning how to make best use of small by symbolic rewards.

• Environment — structure the physical world — including all non-human forces such as work layout, reporting structures, policies and procedures — in such a way that makes the desired behaviors easy if not inevitable, while making the wrong behaviors noxious and difficult.

SPEAKING.COM: Your research shows that people’s inability to change isn’t due to a lack of will power, but rather a lack of skills. What skills are we missing and what steps can we take to develop them?

GRENNY: We found that when it comes to influence, what most of us lack is not the courage or desire (i.e. willpower) to change things, but the skill to do so – in fact, few people can articulate an effective influence strategy. A primary reason for our chronic failure is that we live in a quick-fix world and want quick-fix solutions. We also assume that if we just want something badly enough, we will be able to accomplish it. Unfortunately, our most pressing and profound behavioral problems don’t yield to quick fixes or stubborn battles of willpower. We can’t outsmart or overpower the six sources of influence that are perfectly aligned to promote unhealthy behavior.

SPEAKING.COM: What three things do influencers do better than other people?

GRENNY: Our research found that influencers use three powerful strategies to create rapid, dramatic, and permanent change in their personal life, their business, and their world. Those three strategies are:

• Identify a handful of high-leverage behaviors — vital behaviors — that lead to rapid and profound change.

• Apply powerful strategies for changing both thoughts and actions.

• Marshall Six Sources of Influence to make change inevitable.

Too often, people try to encourage and motivate others to adopt new and possibly uncomfortable behaviors with ineffective tactics…

SPEAKING.COM: How can people approach influencing another person without hurting their feelings, provoking unproductive conflict, or driving them away?

GRENNY: An important step in the influencer process is to change the way you change people’s minds. Too often, people try to encourage and motivate others to adopt new and possibly uncomfortable behaviors with ineffective tactics like verbal persuasion, data overloads, ineffective incentives, or even shear force. These tactics can be offensive.

Rather than just aiming at someone’s intellect, influencers direct their efforts at the whole person. The most powerful tool to change someone’s story is experience. Direct experience is the gold standard of helping people answer two questions fundamental to helping individuals or groups change: “Can I do it?” and “Will it be worth it?” When people can draw from direct experience, they are more likely to answer these two questions in the affirmative.

Direct experience includes things like field trips where people experience first-hand the effectives of negative behaviors. If a direct experience is not possible, then rely on vicarious experience by asking those who have had direct experience to share powerful first-hand stories with others.

SPEAKING.COM: According to your research “people waste $1,500 and an 8-hour-workday every time they avoid an accountability discussion.” Could you elaborate on that, please?

GRENNY: Our research shows 95 percent of a company’s workforce struggles to confront their colleagues and managers about their concerns and frustrations. As a result, they engage in resource-sapping avoidance tactics including ruminating excessively about crucial issues, complaining to others, getting angry, doing extra or unnecessary work and avoiding the other person altogether.

But while unresolved conflict is never a positive thing among teams intended to collaborate, innovate, and produce, our research revealed the ramifications of conflict go far beyond inconvenience. In fact, avoiding conflict is extremely costly. Employees waste an average of $1,500 and an 8-hour workday for every accountability discussion they avoid. In extreme cases of avoidance, an organization’s bottom line can be hit especially hard.

We found that a shocking 8% of employees estimate their inability to deal with conflict costs their organization more than $10,000. Furthermore, 1 in 20 estimates that over the course of a drawn-out silent conflict, they waste time ruminating about the problem for more than 6 months.

We found that those who used four simple skills to share their opinion — even when it was different from the other person — were seen as 140% more persuasive…

SPEAKING.COM: What are some tactics people can use to effectively voice their opinion particularly if they’re discussing a sensitive topic with someone who does not share their viewpoint?

GRENNY: Our research shows that that whether you agree or disagree with another person matters much less than how you share your opinion. You can speak up to others with differing views as long as you are skilled in your approach. Take politics, for example, so many of us bite our tongue for fear our differing opinions will ruin the relationship. However, we found that those who used four simple skills to share their opinion — even when it was different from the other person — were seen as 140% more persuasive, 140% more likely to stay in dialogue with others, and 180% more likely to maintain relationships with others. The four skills include:

1. Focus on learning: Frame your conversation as a chance to learn from each other – not to change each other’s minds. Simply being curious about another’s position is sufficient motivation to engage. But, if you harbor a hope of converting the other person you’ll be tempted to become manipulative or coercive.

2. Ask for permission: After affirming your “focus on learning,” ask for permission to talk about the sensitive topic.

3. Show respect: Respect is like air; if you take it away, it’s all people can think about. Others will not engage with you if they don’t feel you respect them. Set the stage by over-communicating your respect for the other person and his or her opinion: “I value you and your perspective. I want to hear from you. I don’t assume I’m right.”

4. Focus on common ground: Look for areas of agreement rather than disagreement. If or when the conversation takes a more dramatic turn, look for the greater principle governing both opinions and you’ll likely find a mutual purpose behind your convictions.

To bring leadership speaker Joseph Grenny to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at:

©, published on June 17, 2018

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