Art Markman articulated in a recent Harvard Business Review article “…if we want to influence other people’s behaviour, we must make desirable behaviours easy and undesirable behaviours hard.” It is not a novel concept. Yet we rarely seem to follow such simple advice in our organisations.
Most of us have used online portals for booking business travel. They are designed to provide the best prices available for staff members. In theory they capture the Organisation’s travel expenditure and make for simple, effective and accurate reporting. Thing is, they can be difficult to navigate, so much so that the vast majority of travel bookings occur outside of the portal, making the reporting functionality all but moot. These systems discourage desirable behaviour… how many similar examples have you encountered?
Systems and processes are not the only culprits. People are also culprits; our co-workers exert huge influence on the way that we do (or don’t) work. That comes in the form of peer observation and imitation, in mirroring interactions with our colleagues (frustration is often met with frustration, for example), and importantly, from our leaders. Leaders exert an enormous amount of influence on their teams. Indeed, Professor Gary Yukl, regarded as one of the world’s foremost leadership scholars, captured it succinctly in Leadership in Organisations: “Influence is the essence of leadership”.
But, really, how many of us are taught how to influence?