By David Maxfield, Vice President of Research, and Al Switzler, Cofounder, VitalSmarts
For the last 20 years, we’ve studied the most influential and respected employees in more than 50 companies across dozens of industries. As we observed these people clamoring to climb the corporate ladder, we discovered a few startling trends. One of the most disconcerting: Some 87 percent of the employees we surveyed said they have bosses who have prevented them from getting the pay, promotions, or other opportunities they wanted because of a concern they’ve had about their performance. Managers are equally frustrated. More than half say they have employees who are stuck at performance levels that are below their potential.
As we compiled our research for our new book, “Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success,” we uncovered some ways to help managers take a career that’s stuck or off the rails and get it back on track. As the research reveals, employees who face performance problems have both a knowingproblem and aninfluenceproblem. In fact, 70 percent of employees who were aware that their boss was unhappy with their performance couldn’t tell you what they were doing wrong or how they were going to change it.
The Change Anythingapproach empowers employees to take control of their own career path by teaching them the knowledge and tools to change their behavior and improve their performance.
Solving the Knowing Problem
In our study of top performers we asked thousands of employees (including managers) to give us the names of the three people in their organizations whose opinions, work habits, and abilities they most admired. We were looking for the “go-to” people.
Next, we closely observed these highly valued individuals. We analyzed the behaviors they routinely practiced that made them so valued and found that top performers practice the same three vital behaviors:
Solving the Influence Problem
While the behaviors are straightforward, employees won’t necessarily be able to adopt them. That’s what we call the influence problem. Knowing what behaviors are required to get a career back on track is only the first step. Next comes implementation.
The mistake we often make is to put far too many eggs in the willpower basket. We say to ourselves, “I’ll just do it!” as if we could bend our entire universe with the force of our will. It turns out there is an exponentially more successful approach to influencing change.
Apply Six-Source Strategies
There are six sources of influence that work on both our motivation and ability; they explain why we make the choices we do.
Employees will never have enough willpower to change because so many other sources of influence are stacked against them. If employees don’t understand how additional sources of influence, such as the environment or their social circles, affect their behavior, then the sources will work against them—combating their best efforts to change.
However, if the six sources of influence can get people to behave in dysfunctional and ineffective ways, it is also true that people can marshal these same sources of influence to make positive habits inevitable. Leaders can help empower employees to change by providing them with the following powerful strategies within the six sources of influence.
How to Change Anything
From our research, we discovered once employees know what they should do to improve their career and understand how to influence change through engaging all six sources of influence, they are 10 times more successful. When your change strategy is informed by good science, the differences in effectiveness are not incremental, they are exponential.
The truth is training managers can help employees get their careers on track simply by understanding how behavior works and helping employees create a multifaceted improvement plan. When we escape the willpower trap and develop competence in engaging all six sources of influence, we can change behavior and influence others for good.
David Maxfield and Al Switzlerare the coauthors of the New York Times bestseller “Influencer.”This April, they released “Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success.” They are also the vice president of research and cofounder of VitalSmarts, respectively. VitalSmarts is an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance. For more information about the book, visit www.changeanythingbook.com