Strategic Behavior

It turns out that all influence geniuses focus on behaviors. . . . They don’t develop an influence strategy until they’ve carefully identified the specific behaviors they want to change. They start by asking: In order to improve our existing situation, what must people actually do?

—Authors of Influencer: The Power to Change Anything

The ability to influence others to commit to goals and strategies over the long-term doesn’t come from a one-time motivational speech or a colorful banner at the national sales meeting. As evidenced by the research presented in the preceding section, the success of influence is determined by one’s ability to shape other’s behaviors. A behavior is defined in its simplest form as an observable activity.34 Behaviors fundamentally change one’s relationship to their environment, sometimes in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way. Beginning in childhood, as parents coerce their children to eat more vegetables, behaviors are continually being shaped.

At its foundation, influencing another’s behavior comes down to addressing two questions for them: 1) Is it worth it? 2) Can I do it?35 The first question addresses the benefit and the second question addresses the belief. People first and foremost want to know why they should do something, and need to have the belief that it can be done. Instilling the belief that it can be done is a matter of showing them the path or technique to do it. Advising someone to quit smoking without arming them with proven techniques for doing so will result in zero behavioral change. A teacher admonishing a student to pay attention, which is vague and non-directional, has a much greater opportunity for positively influencing the student’s behavior by saying instead, “Eyes forward, feet on the floor, and hand up to speak.” Telling a group of managers to be innovative and think out of the box is useless. Instead, sharing with them how to use the Value Mining Matrix (discussed in Discipline #1) to assess current and potential customers and their existing and emerging jobs to be done, while providing an example for each helps them behave out of the box. Whether it’s at home, school, or work, behavioral direction needs to be specific, concrete, and observable.36

When developing new behaviors for a group to effectively create and implement strategies, remember the power of games. Games are an effective way to keep people fully engaged in an activity. A game typically involves goals, rules, challenges, and interaction. Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a leader in the field of positive psychology, showed that activities involving game criteria such as goals, rules, and clear feedback can create flow: the state in which people become so engrossed with an activity that it creates an optimal state of inner experience.37 As you design new behaviors to implement strategies, attempt to include built-in opportunities to loop in goals, guidelines, challenges, and frequent feedback.

While sales teams are the group most commonly receiving goals (sales numbers) and frequent feedback (sales results), they generally lack sufficient guidelines for winning their game. The sales arena in particular suffers from the “activity = achievement” mentality. For many years, in industries such as pharmaceuticals and consumer packaged goods, having the greatest reach and frequency numbers were the key to success. That isn’t always the case today. Great sales leaders realize it’s no longer enough to know the competitor’s product specifications inside and out. Today, top sales managers also understand their competitor’s overall strategic approach to the market and help their sales reps develop behaviors to attack those strategies.

One such behavior of advanced sales representatives is to create a Competitive Advantage Profile for their top five accounts. Strategic sales reps can use the Competitive Advantage Profile to break down the core competencies, capabilities, and business model of the competition and then target weaknesses in the competitor’s strategic approach to bring unique value to those accounts. Other internal groups such as human resources, information technology, and research and development tend to be lighter on the goal and frequent feedback criteria. The important thing to understand is that the behaviors you develop should contain the game and flow criteria to build a greater sense of inner fulfillment and drive within your team members.

In my prior book, Deep Dive: The Proven Method for Building Strategy, I introduced the premise: New growth comes from new thinking.38 A strategic leader understands that their role is to not only to stimulate this new thinking for their group, it’s also to ensure it’s accompanied by the appropriate behaviors to generate new growth. We can capture this notion in an advanced premise: New thinking inspires new behavior, leading to new results. The term inspire is defined as “to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence,” and as the epigraph to this section states, “. . . all influence geniuses focus on behaviors.”39

To prepare your business for new results, ask the following 12 questions: [1]

  • 8. What is the most relevant reason why people should adopt these behaviors?
  • 9. How can I most effectively communicate the reason why people should adopt these behaviors?
  • 10. What specific, concrete, and observable directions can I provide to embed these behaviors in our team?
  • 11. How will I measure the level of commitment to these new behaviors?
  • 12. Which metrics will best track these behavior’s effects on the business?

  • [1] What are the three to five key behaviors that have driven mysuccess in the past? 2. What are three to five behaviors that my colleagues have used todrive their success? 3. What are three to five behaviors that my competitors have usedto drive their success? 4. What are three to five behaviors that have held my businessback from reaching its full potential? 5. Based on my business’s situation and strengths, and the contextand opportunities of the market, which behaviors are most likelyto create success? 6. What resource investments in time, talent, and budget will berequired to make these behaviors happen on a daily basis? 7. Will the current corporate culture support or suppress these newbehaviors?
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