By Joseph Grenny, Co-Founder, VitalSmarts
There’s a lot more to influencing new behavior than just delivering high-quality training. Once training finishes, participants return to work and immediately are pulled in a dozen different directions. In fact, research suggests that all these distractions are the reason why less than 10 percent of what is taught in the classroom translates into real behavior change back at work.
So what can trainers do to ensure learning translates into action?
The most important capacity trainers possess is their capacity to influence profound, rapid, and sustainable behavior change. Leaders implicitly understand that the lynchpin of their grand ideas is human behavior. Whether they want to increase quality, launch a new product, pull off a merger, or drive down costs—ultimately, there are a few thousand hands and feet that will decide whether their lofty aspirations lead to results or disappointment. So when they turn to training for help, they are asking for a credible approach to influencing behavior change. They rarely put it into words this clear, but their reaction to the training division’s learning plans demonstrates their tacit skepticism that training equals influence. They know there’s more to influencing behavior change than dishing up developmental activities—but they don’t know what.
How to Get 10 Times More Influence
What sets influencers apart from other training professionals is the fact that they understand and utilize a far more robust theory of behavior. These trainers understand that there are six sources of influence that must be engaged in order to drive profound and rapid change in behavior. Several trainers struggle to achieve real and measureable change because they draw on only one or two of these sources of influence. Our research shows that leaders who combine all six of these sources of influence are 10 times more likely to create successful change in behavior than their less comprehensive peers.
Consider one example. Matt Van Vranken, CEO of Spectrum Health System, the largest not-for-profit health-care system in West Michigan, knew that in order to improve patient safety, he needed to increase the health-care system’s 64 percent hand hygiene compliance rate by transforming the culture systemwide. And interestingly, one of the leaders who was most integrally involved in the strategy discussions was Kris White—Spectrum’s equivalent of a chief learning officer (CLO).
How did Kris earn this level of engagement? By refusing to tee up “training” or “learning” as an end-all solution to major corporate problems. Instead, she understood that what the executives needed most from her was a robust way of thinking about how to influence the behavior Spectrum’s 10,000 doctors and nurses.
In the last few years, Kris has helped senior executives drive profound change at Spectrum and achieve an unprecedented 98 percent hand hygiene compliance rate by drawing on all six sources of influence in the VitalSmarts Influencer Model. The Influencer Model, named the Change Management Approach of the Year by MIT Sloan Management Review, organizes influence strategies into six sources that both motivate and enable people to change through personal, social and structural forces. Here is what Kris’ influence plan included to help Spectrum become a leader in patient safety:
Source 1—Personal Motivation. The most powerful way to build personal motivation is to use personal experience and moving stories. Below are a few of the methods Kris used to build personal motivation:
Source 2—Personal Ability. This is the traditional domain of influence for training and learning professionals. And yet, much of what passes for training falls woefully short of a real developmental experience. In order for training to lead to influence, it must involve deliberate practice. The majority of the training must engage people in hands-on practice of skills in real-life situations. To increase staff’s personal ability, Kris provided training with hands-on practice, created scripts, and conducted role-plays.
Source 3—Social Motivation. Kris realized that what happens in the classroom is only a fraction of what’s needed to influence change. She carefully identified dozens of informal leaders from across the organization and engaged them to coach and encourage training graduates on their new interpersonal skills to deal with difficult situations. These opinion leaders’ informal influence had a remarkable effect in driving change.
Source 4—Social Ability. The purpose of social ability is to create a team approach—giving any individual the support required to enact new behaviors. Kris did this by the following:
Source 5—Structural Motivation. Structural motivation utilizes incentives and rewards for acting on the new behaviors. These rewards are most effective when used in moderation and in ways that enhance personal and social motivation. Kris rewarded early adopters with gift certificates and celebrated high performance with parties.
Source 6—Structural Ability. Kris did her best to enable people to enact new behavior by creating cues, reminders, and reports that kept the new behaviors on people’s minds. Regular newsletter articles, posters, laminated cards, and lots of the traditional “wallpaper” helped set a mental agenda for behavior change across the organization.
What Kris demonstrated is that there’s a lot more to influencing new behavior than just delivering high-quality learning experiences. If trainers want to increase their personal influence, they need to reframe their contribution in terms of influencing change rather than providing development. They need to learn to become influencers. Those we’ve worked with who deserved more influence almost always received it.
Joseph Grenny is the co-author of “Influencer,” “Change Anything,” “Crucial Conversations,” and “Crucial Confrontations”—New York Timesbest-selling books and training programs of the same titles. He is also a speaker, consultant, and co-founder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance. He will deliver an engaging session entitled, “Why Trainers Lack Influence, and How They Can Get It,” Wednesday, February 20, at the Training 2013 Conference & Expo in Orlando. For more information, visit www.vitalsmarts.com