Influencer, by Patterson, Grenny, Maxfield, McMillan, and Switzler

Influencer, Patterson, et al, coverThe book Influencer: The Power To Change Anything, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler, is a book about changing behavior. Based largely on the work of Albert Bandura, it could be summed up with this statement: “If you want to change the world, you eventually have to change how people behave. And if you want to change how they behave, you have to first change how they think” (p. 20). What follows in the book is the explanation and illustration of the key influence strategies that can by used to change profound, persistent, and resistant problems and behaviors.

The first premise of the authors is that, before you can influence any kind of change, you must first discover the few vital behaviors that currently drive people and/or will be necessary for change. The importance of this first step derives from the basis that “enormous influence comes from focusing on just a few vital behaviors” (p. 23). With these vital behaviors identified, the next step will be to create or inspire a desire to change, and this best happens through the use of vicarious experiences and stories.

The remainder of the book expands on the strategies of influence that should be employed, in combination, in order to bring about change. These strategies are divided into two forces that impact behavior – motivation and ability – and three sources of influence – personal, social, and structural. Therefore the influence model is made up of six strategies:

  1. Personal Motivation – make the undesirable desirable by creating new experiences to overcome the pre-existing feelings, and by creating new motives that connect with personal and moral significance.
  2. Personal Ability – surpass your limits by developing skills through deliberate practice, and by exercising emotional control.
  3. Social Motivation – harness peer pressure by ensuring that people feel praised and supported by those around them, and by engaging the support of respected and connected opinion leaders.
  4. Social Ability – find strength in numbers, by turning the “me” problem into a “we” problem, and by developing people’s ability to work as a team.
  5. Structural Motivation – design rewards and demand accountability, by incorporating symbolic rewards that reward behavior, not results, and by using punishment carefully and judiciously.
  6. Structural Ability – change the environment, by making changes in the physical world of information, space, and tools, thereby making the change unavoidable.

This book is clearly a behavioral approach to change, but is also based on both theoretical research and real-world practice, drawn from the illustrations of individuals and organizations who are addressing persistent global issues. These are valuable principles and ideas that can be applied to your leadership as you address the need for change or face resistant obstacles, so I think it is definitely worth a read.   In addition, I do think it reflects the truth of the biblical concept of “the outside reflects the inside,” or, behavior is a reflection of the heart, and therefore, to change the way you act, you need to change the way you think, and to change the way you think, you need to change your core beliefs. So for me, I find this to be a valuable and useful tool for my leadership.


Patterson, K., Grenny, J., Maxfield, D., McMillan, R. and Switzler, A. (2008). Influencer: The Power To Change Anything. McGraw-Hill: New York, NY.


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