Did you ever find yourself trying over and over to change someone’s behavior, without success? Perhaps it’s a lead carpenter who seems to never hang the windows the way you want. Or a salesperson who refuses to do the paperwork that you need. Or an office manager who regularly forgets to enter important information into your contact management computer program. If so, then you should read Influencer: The Power to Change Anything, the new book by the VitalSmarts team.

Like the other VitalSmarts books, Crucial Conversations and Crucial Confrontations, Influencer is not just theory but is packed full of fascinating stories, practical tools, and step-by-step advice that you can use to improve your organization.

Much of the book is dedicated to stories about people the authors call “influencers.” Among them, a woman who transforms convicts and criminals through a unique community approach, and a television producer who uses his TV shows to sway the behavior of thousands.

Pinpointing Behaviors

The authors believe that making a big improvement or change starts with a pinpoint focus on a few, specific behaviors. The more we focus on these precise behaviors, and not the sometimes overwhelming end result, the greater our ability to influence others. That’s right: If we can identify these highly influential behaviors and focus on encouraging these, we will see a huge difference in the end result.

For example, in our peer network, some remodeling companies are far more successful than others. They run more smoothly, have more satisfied clients, and keep their most talented employees longer. And they are more profitable. So, what are the behaviors that contribute to this success?

One of the behaviors is regularly scheduled meetings with key staff. These meetings are treated as top priority by the company’s owner and are rarely, if ever, missed. By making the meeting a priority, the team has regular communications, which allows issues to be aired and mistakes avoided. Fewer mistakes means happier clients and higher profitability.

Now, if other, less successful, companies had the same dedication to these meetings — exhibited the same behavior — I believe that they would experience a higher level of success.

Strategies to Motivate

Once the vital behaviors are identified, the authors recommend six strategies that either motivate or enable the vital behaviors. These are then broken into three main sources: personal, social, and structural.

The model looks like this:

Personal level: At the this level, we have to connect vital behaviors to personal motivations: Why do I want to do it? Will it be worth my effort? And the individual’s ability to perform: Can I do it?

Top influencers first understand how to make the right behaviors pleasurable and the wrong behaviors painful. They also help to improve ability by coaching their employees and encouraging practice of the behavior.

Social level: Another way to influence is to draw on the enormous power of a person’s social network. “No resource is more powerful and accessible than the persuasion of people who make up our social networks... The ridicule and praise, acceptance and rejection, approval and disapproval of our fellow beings can do more to assist or destroy our change efforts than almost any other source,” they write.

Structural level: Finally, at this level, top influencers create systems that focus on rewarding the desired behaviors. They make sure that the things surrounding the person — systems, processes, work layouts, tools — also work to support the behavior we want. The book teaches how to optimize the power of rewards, perks, bonuses, salaries, and discipline.

As business leaders, especially in challenging times, we continually find ourselves in situations that call for change. Influencer: The Power to Change Anything helps us to make those changes achievable.

—Victoria Downing, co-author of Mastering the Business of Remodeling, is president of Remodelers Advantage, home of Remodelers Advantage Roundtables with over 200 members nationwide. Contact her at 301.490.5620.

This is an extended version of an article that appeared in the July issue of REMODELING.