Influencing individuals can be done by telling, selling, testing, consulting, or co-creating. Doesn’t work with large groups of people over time. That requires systematic influence based on purpose, frameworks, and incentives. Purpose drives emotion – why. Frameworks drive thinking – how. Incentives drive action – what.
Leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to do their absolute best together to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose. People don’t commit to leaders, organizations or even teams. They commit to causes. When a cause-focused purpose is genuinely shared, all understand why they must do what they are setting out to do.
Purpose inspires emotional commitment.
Frameworks are the basic conceptual structures that people use to flesh out their ideas. They help people know where to start, and they focus and guide thinking about how to achieve purpose.
For example, jury instructions give juries frameworks for their thinking. As US Legal explains, a trial judge gives the jury instructions to “apply the law to the facts as he gives it to them; they are not to substitute their own judgment as to whether a different law should be applied or whether the law as has been explained to them is unjust.”
Frameworks are swim lanes for thinking.
There’s an old saying, “Show me how they are paid and I’ll tell you what they do.” Incentives are the consequences of behaviors. If the incentives are clear up front, they serve as antecedents, prompting the behavior. Even if they are not clear, people figure them out eventually.
A guy from the corporate headquarters was out with a salesman and watched him close a big sale.
“Do you know that we lose money on every case you sell at that price?”
“Then why did you sell them so many cases?”
“I’m compensated based on revenues, not profits. I assume some genius at the corporate headquarters knew what they were doing when they put this price on this product. If you want me to focus on profits, give me the tools I need and compensate me based on profits.”
Incentives drive behaviors.
Different tools for different tasks. Everything you’ve learned about one-on-one and small group communication still applies. This is not a substitute for that. It’s an addition to help you influence larger groups. Purpose, frameworks, and incentives reinforce the changes you’re making to lead through five steps at a point of inflection:
- Assess the changes in your situation or ambition. What has changed? So what are the implications of that? Now what must you do? If the answer is nothing new, fine. But if the answer is to accelerate through an inflection point, put your best current thinking into a plan.
- Strategy. Jump-shift your strategy, culture, and strategic process ahead of the point of inflection. Agree on a new overarching strategy, strategic priorities, and cultural changes. These are closely linked to your purpose, cementing the why of what you do.
- Organization. Jump-shift your organization and organizational process. Create a new organizational structure and future capability plan in line with your new strategy. Do an immediate role sort. Accelerate individual transitions as appropriate. Deploy appropriate frameworks to help guide everyone’s thinking.
- Operations. Jump-shift your operations and operational process, implementing a new approach, flow, and management cadence to track and manage your new priorities quarterly, new programs monthly, and new projects weekly as appropriate. Ensure your incentives reward desired actions and punish undesired actions.
- Learning and Communication. Deploy a purpose-driven learning and communication effort in line with your new operating flow and management cadence. This is an ongoing effort, not a one-off event.
At every stage of working through an inflection, every single person in your organization and ecosystem will have one question that has to be answered before they can pay attention to anything else: “What does this mean for me?” Leverage your purpose, frameworks and incentives to reinforce all of that with a broader group over time systematically.