How to Affect Change – Part Three

by Marie on August 29, 2012 · 0 comments

Do you ever look around and think to yourself, wow that is really messed up. Do you wish that you could make it work differently, but think that would be impossible?

Sometimes it seems impossible to change things, but there are methods that can help. Authors of the book Influencer, the Power to Change Anything spell it out for us.

This is part three of a series of posts on how to affect change, based on the book Influencer – the Power to Change Anything. Check out the overview in How to Affect Change Part One if you haven’t already. In it, I relayed the general concepts the authors presented on how to go about identifying the behaviors that need change and ways to think about getting it done. In Part Two, we took our sample problem and identified the specific result desired; the vital behaviors John and Jane (our pretend couple) need to change; and the recovery behaviors they need to use to stay on track.

In this third (and final) post on how to affect change we look at our example problem and try to use some of the concepts and techniques to get our desired result.

The problem that needs change.

The problem we are following – the behavior we are trying to change:

Imagine that you and your spouse always have overdrafts on your bank account, costing you extra money in penalties and fees. You want to avoid the overdrafts. You want to change the behavior that results in them.

The vital behaviors that need to change:

  • Track all transactions as they happen – whether or not the bank has processed them, allowing them to keep a running balance of the value of their account.
  • Keep the account transaction tracking ledger where it is available to each of them all the time.
  • Make a budget to know what should be going in and coming out of the account and when it happens.
  • Pay irregular (periodic) bills from another account.

The recovery behaviors needed when they thought they might slip were:

  • Tell each other each day about transactions done and ask if the register was updated.
  • Keep more than they need in the account to cover occasional lapses.

Now we will explore tools and techniques John and Jane can use to change their behavior – using the personal, social and structural dimension motivational and ability suggestions presented by the authors of Influencer -The Power to Change Anything.

Ways to motivate personal change.

Get people to try the new behavior.

One thing that John and Jane can do is to just force themselves to do the new behavior, no matter how hard it is or how much they hate it.

Tell stories to provide a vicarious try it out experience.

Another thing they could do is to find other people with success stories to share – maybe their parents or other family members or perhaps co-workers or additional friends might have their own stories about how they beat the overdraft habit or set a budget up.

Create a game or competition to get people to try the new behavior.

Jane and John could start a contest between themselves to see who can track the most transactions each week. Or perhaps they could promise themselves a prize if they set up their first budget together.

Show people how the new behavior (or the old one) affects people.

Jane could tell John how hard it is to balance the account each month if there are missing transactions. John could tell Jane how hard it is to track the transactions if the register is in her purse.

Tie the desired behavior to the persons sense of self worth or morals.

Jane and John pride themselves on their intelligence and success. Once they realize that the vital behaviors are denting that pride and tarnishing their success, they will probably decide that the new behavior is important to their self worth and derive pleasure form getting it right.

Ways to develop the personal ability needed to change vital behaviors.

Skills and practice are necessary to get behavior change.

To learn the best and easiest way to develop and use their budget, Jane and John could first go get the information/training, then practice doing a budget for a prior year and then comparing it to what they actually did.

Focused attention for short durations is helpful in learning new behavior.

It might take John and Jane awhile to draw up that first practice budget. They will need to stay focused on the task (which they could find pretty boring!).

Immediate feedback while practicing new behavior is helpful.

If Jane and John practice implementing the recovery behavior of talking to each other about the transactions they do and asking each other if they have updated the register, they will be getting timely feedback from each other.

It is easier to learn complex behaviors if they are broken down into component simple tasks.

John and Jane probably won’t need to break any of their vital behaviors down into more simple tasks, as they are pretty simple already.

People get discouraged if they don’t learn how to deal with setbacks in performing the new behavior. Structure any training to include failure and recovery.

In learning how to develop and follow a budget, and in practicing with past years transactions, Jane and John may get a feel for where their budget didn’t match reality.

Ways to motivate social group change.

Demonstrate the new behavior yourself to pave the way for groups to do it.

Either Jane or John could take the initiative to start tracking all transactions, communicating to their partner and developing a budget to understand when they will have special drains on the account. Seeing his/her spouse doing this could motivate the other partner to also start. It can become an expectation.

Find opinion leaders and work with them to spread the behavior.

If one spouse or the other doesn’t want to bother trying to change their behavior, the other guy could enlist support from family (parents might be opinion leaders!).

Find ways to open up dialog on the problems preventing your desired result that aren’t being discussed.

If one spouse wants to change but the other doesn’t see the need, perhaps bringing a third party financial counselor into the discussions could help the couple reach agreement on the issue and resolution.

Make new groups to shake loose old behaviors and get the new ones.

Usually this means that you move people around into new work groups. Perhaps that is not possible in Jane and John’s situation.

Ways to develop the social group’s ability to affect the vital behaviors.

Get lots of people involved in making the behavior changes.

Jane and John could ask their children, parents or friends to check in on how they are doing with their changes.

Seek support and feedback from brainstorming, diverse groups, multiple options, close colleagues, sample groups and critics.

If one spouse wants to change but the other doesn’t see the need, perhaps bringing a third party financial counselor into the discussions could help the couple reach agreement on the issue and resolution.

Ways to using structural or environmental motivation to assist making vital changes.

  • Don’t use rewards/punishments until you have tried all other methods – they often backfire.
  • Link the rewards used to the vital behaviors – not the final result or inconsequential behaviors.
  • Only use rewards that the people actually think ARE rewards.

Ways to use structural or environmental factors to assist making vital changes.

Use space – move people together or apart.

In John and Jane’s case, what they need to do is make the register available at all times to each of them. They could leave a checkbook register in a certain place in their house, or, better yet, they could keep their register in a secured online site. That way they could update it even when away from home.

Use cues – remind people of the desired behavior with cues (such as signs) in their environment.

John and Jane could put a sticker on their debit cards, on their phones and on their computers reminding themselves to update the register.

Use tools – automate things messing with the desired behavior, change reporting structures, work flows, procedures or manuals.

John and Jane can set up an automated notification, either from their account institution or on another site or tool with that capacity (such as so that they know when bills are being paid automatically, when desposits come in and when their balance is getting dangerously low.

What changes have you made in your family, community or career?  Did you use any of the techniques described in these posts?

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