Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change—Overview

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Influencer" by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, et al.. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change about? What are the main takeaways of the book?

According to the authors of Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, accomplishing goals is all about knowing how to change human behavior. Drawing on their background in social science and organizational change, Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler break down the complex task of influencing people into a simple three-step process.

Read below for a brief overview of Influencer.

Influencer: How to Influence People 101

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change is a book for leaders who want to more effectively accomplish their goals.

According to the authors, effective leaders can accomplish big goals by strategically influencing human behavior. They call people with this skill “influencers.” 

With a shared background in social science and organizational change, the authors (Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler) worked together to found Crucial Learning (previously known as VitalSmarts), an organization that offers professional training in communication, performance, and leadership. The authors also previously co-authored Crucial Accountability in 2004, which builds on the ideas in Crucial Conversations (written by Grenny, Patterson, McMillan, and Switzler in 2002), a guide on how to more effectively manage difficult conversations.

This book focuses on the authors’ three-step process for becoming an effective influencer: setting clear and measurable goals, identifying critical practices, and using every area of impact to exert influence. We’ll look at what the authors consider what’s most important about being an influencer and the main ideas from the third step, which outlines how to directly influence others and yourself.

The Importance of Being an Influencer

The authors argue that influence is about more than just convincing people of something. It’s about understanding how and why they act the way they do, then finding ways to inspire and support them to change their behavior. According to the authors, being an effective influencer has broad implications across numerous fields, and it holds the potential to unlock big goals—from eliminating recidivism to saving thousands of lives.

The authors outline three steps to becoming an effective influencer:

Step 1: Influencers must outline specific and quantifiable goals. 

Step 2: Influencers must then identify one or two critical practices.

Step 3: Influencers must finally use every possible area of impact.

The Six Areas of Impact to Influence People

The authors explore six areas of impact identified by the authors and discuss strategies for influencing behavior in each area.

To ensure that people adopt critical practices, influencers must exert as much influence as possible wherever possible. (Shortform note:  Unlike the authors of Influencer, some self-help authors, like Tony Robbins, focus only on the individual’s ability to change their own behavior, without acknowledging the multiple co-existing variables that impact an individual’s conscious and unconscious decision-making.)

The authors suggest that two main variables affect behavior: inspiration and skill. They identify six areas of impact that influence people’s ability and desire to change their behavior:

  • Individual Inspiration: Do I want to do it?
  • Collective Inspiration: Do the people around me encourage me to do it?
  • Environmental Inspiration: Do the systems in place incentivize me to do it?
  • Individual Skill: Can I do it?
  • Collective Skill: Do the people around me empower me to do it?
  • Environmental Skill: Do the systems in place give me what I need to do it?

According to the authors, many would-be influencers make the mistake of trying to effect change haphazardly, attempting to make changes in only one or two areas at a time. This rarely works. Instead, the authors argue that taking advantage of all six areas of impact will all but guarantee that the critical practices are adopted.

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change—Overview

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, et al.'s "Influencer" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Influencer summary:

  • A three-step guide on how to influence human behavior
  • How to change the minds of those who are unmotivated to change
  • How you can use the power of community connection to inspire people

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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