Tuesday, 13 November 2012

How to get anyone to do anything!


This is how! Go ahead, read this post and you will find the keys to tapping into your or anyone's motivation. I will tell you how you can find motivation to do anything, or to motivate anyone to do anything! I will describe briefly the 6 steps that will make you find motivation to get things done, I will tell what is the force behind motivation and I will share some of my own experiences on success and “progress ongoing”.

Instant influence

I have written previously a post about what drives people to act. The Drive (written by Daniel Pink) has given many answers in how to motivate people in the modern society. For me, that lacked tangible examples, practical process and, odd enough, ways to motivate myself to be motivated.

I follow Daniel Pink on twitter and he posted a blogpost about something called Instant Influence. He just glanced the topic by asking two very powerful questions: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how willing are you to change?” and “Why didn’t you choose a lower number?” Immediately I started asking those questions on why I might want to do something. I began to defend the will to WANT to do something instead of finding excuses why I don’t want to do it.

The writer, Michael V. Pantalon has captured the essence of motivation in the book Instant Influence. It describes the process of asking questions from the “influencee” (he calls the participants of the motivation discussion “influencer” and “influencee”) and allowing her to find her own reasons to embark the road to change.

After I read the book I was in a motivational high and now I will share some of the secrets to you. I will urge you to grab a copy of the book and to read it yourself as this is but an excerpt from the book. The book has special ways to motivate yourself, change resistant people and coworkers, even strangers. There are ways to spot different kinds of indication of budding motivation on people that do not seem to be motivated. It’s quite quick to read and has plenty of practical examples on which to draw useful practices in real life.

The Instant Influence process is based on 3 cornerstones:

  1. No one absolutely has to do anything; the choice is always yours
  2. Everyone already has enough motivation
  3. Focusing on any tiny bit of motivation works better than asking about resistance


Scare tactics don’t work! If you get bullied into doing something, you’re just as likely to choose not to do it. By saying things like “have to”, “should”, “must”, etc. just strengthen the barriers of resistance. Asking about “why might you choose to do it” is more important than telling the effects of not doing something.

6 steps to success

The book describes a process for finding the motivation. The process comprises of 6 steps. All individual steps are analyzed in the book and the power behind them is revealed for you to make the most use of the process. Every step has examples of different flavours on how to get the best out of the step with different people and situations. The process goes roughly like this:

  1. Why might you change?
  2. How willing are you to change?
  3. Why aren’t you less willing to change?
  4. Imagine you’ve changed. What positive might become of it?
  5. Why are those reasons important to you?
  6. What would be the next step, if any?

The first question is to allow the influencee to state the problem and to tell why she might want to commence the process of changing behavior. Asking “how might I change” may bring results but the reason behind the change could prove to be more important than thinking the actions. Trying to figure out how should one change can be overwhelming if not clear with the reasons behind the change.

When asking people “how willing they are to change” the question should be detailed to fit the situation. If I wanted to motivate myself to clean the apartment, I might ask myself: “How willing, on a scale on 1 to 10, might I be in clearing the living room table?” By breaking the task into smaller pieces and motivating oneself to do at least one of the smaller tasks, one can create a snowball effect and end up being motivated to clean the whole apartment and the garage! The number, which should be had in this question, is trivial but it creates a base for the next step.

Let’s say, I answered a “5” in the previous question. I might then ask, “Why didn’t I choose a 4 or a 3?” Then I will immediately start defending the reasons I MIGHT WANT to do the task at hand. This also gives you the opportunity to state the reasons, obvious or hidden, behind your budding motivation. Sometimes, questions 2 and 3 can give enough ground for the influencee to get motivated, but I always ask the influencee if she might be willing to answer more questions.

At the 4th step the influencee is allowed to imagine the world after the change. You can create a scenario where all the obstacles are cleared and the ultimate end result is reached, thus removing any negative influences that might arise at this stage. Focusing on the positive images might motivate the person to begin the journey to the destination, but remember to break the task into smaller goals to make the transition to being motivated easier. And I assure you, the smaller you make your goals on self motivation, the easier it is to start actually doing something.

When the influencee can identify the positive outcomes, she should be asked why those are important. Autonomy is the key here: “Why are these reasons important to *you*?” Drilling into the most deep and profound reasons might be intimidating, but after realizing that the deeper, most personal reasons are the ones that drive you to do things, you can get things done more easily and quicker.

The 6th step is important so that the influencee is clear on what she wants to do next in order to get gears turning. Again it is important to enforce the influencee’s autonomy and power to choose her actions. By asking “What might you do next?” instead of telling, can be the crucial element of finding the true motivation to do something. The action plan can be as simple as “I want to go to the living room and look at the coffee table.” or as detailed as necessary, verbal or written. But I encourage you to have an action plan. To make it even more powerful, state the reason why might you want to do it. “I want to clean the coffee table to make room for my coffee mug. I live my morning coffee when I watch the news and I don’t enjoy holding the cup on the sofa pillow.”

One thing to remember is to choose *active* actions in your action plan, that is to follow the “Dead man’s rule”: Never choose an action a dead man could do! “Don’t eat too much!” could be “Eat just enough to make you full but not too full.” “Don’t smoke!” could be “Smoke 2 cigarettes less a day for one single week.” Be active about the change, however small a change you’re aiming at.

Live exercise 

This is an example of me using the instant influence on myself. I will be bith the influencee and the influencer. I will ask the questions and I will answer what is the first thing that comes to my mind – no later editing, but I will add some notes in brackets afterwards. I have a task that I want to do: I want to write a column to a testing magazine here in Finland. The due date is approaching (or went past already) and my brains are refusing to provide input to the task.

Influencee me: "I want to write a column, but it seems too hard."
Influencer me: "Why it seems too hard?" (I don’t fully understand what makes the writing so hard.)
Influencee me: "I can’t find anything meaningful to say. The ideas I have feel crappy and incoherent. I wish I could find a thread which I could then follow through the column." (I’m frustrated by the situation.)
Influencer me: "Seems like you struggle with a problem that feels too big. What is the smallest thing that you can do to get started writing the column?" (I try to scale things a bit and try to find some spark of motivation.)
Influencee me: "The smallest thing would be to… well… open Word and start typing." (I try to dodge the responsibility.)

Influencer me: "Seems reasonable enough. Why might you want to do it?" (I try to enforce autonomy. I also fell into sarcasm there, which is not good as I could have been more objective about the situation as a whole.)
Influencee me: "Like you asked, I want to get the column written."

Influencer me: "On a scale of 1 to 10, where ‘1’ meaning “not ready at all” and ‘10’ meaning “as ready as possible”, how ready would you be to open Word and start typing?" (I could have tried to push on the “why” with the reasons I want to get the column written, but I thought that I can always ask more about the deep reasons later.)
Influencee me: "To be honest, I’d say about a 7. I like seven, because it’s quite high but not nearly the highest as it could be. Ok. To be totally honest, I’d say 5." (When I really started to think about how motivated I am, I realized that my motivation is alarmingly low. The impact of really thinking about the number was quite important to me. It may not be to others, but knowing about the process, it felt really important to me. The number is arbitrary and is there just to form a base for the next question, but can create surprising effects.)

Influencer me: "Why didn’t you choose a smaller number?"
Influencee me: "Well… I do want to write the column, as I have promised to do so. I also want to share the thoughts I have on the subject as I think many other people are struggling with that kind of issues. It is also a good way to get my name out there to be seen as a writer. On a 4, I would be saying that I don’t want some of those things, but I do." (I started to defend my reasons. By this point I was ready to increase my number to 7, but didn’t. I already had some thread for the column formulating in my head.)

Influencer me: "Let’s say you have written the column. What would be the positive outcome of that?" (I created a happy, sunshine scenario where there is no evil and all columns are done within deadline.)
Influencee me: "I would get the appreciation of my peers. They have worked hard on their papers, and by completing mine I have shown the same dedication towards creating a good testing magazine." (I reflect my actions against others’ but it feels like a shallow reason.)

Influencer me: "Why is the appreciation important to you?"
Influencee me: "I feel that the status of testing professional needs constant visibility to the public and to the community. The appreciation feels like a materialization of the reputation in the community." (Here it started to get personal. I was thinking about stopping writing, because I had no idea where this talk would lead me.)
Influencer me: "Why is the reputation and more so the good reputation in the community important?" (Drilling into the most important reason.)
Influencee me: "Well… to be honest. I might feel that because I have no doctoral degree or the like to boast around, I must constantly prove myself to be worthy of the status I have achieved in the community. Or I think I have achieved it." (I’m constantly saying “to be honest”. I’m trying as hard as I can to be. As much as I want to succeed in the exercise and make it as authentic as possible, I want to get the column done in time.)
Influencer me: "Why do you feel that the status is important to you?"
Influencee me: "It makes me feel like I’m worthy."
Influencer me: "So, you might want to write the column because it might make you feel appreciated and worthy. Is that correct?" (Here I reflect what has been said and formulate them into a single sentence motivation statement. I also try to enforce the autonomy by checking that it is correct.)
Influencee me: "I guess so, yes - to feel worthy of the perceived good reputation."

Influencer me: "So what could be the next step that you’re willing to take, if any?" (I leave room for choosing not to perform any actions.)
Influencee me: "I guess I will reserve a 90 minutes brainstorming session using a mindmap to clear out my thoughts and to create a plan for the column. I will do it while in train to work as I have plenty of time then, but I will make a calendar appointment so I can remember it. That will help me to find the thread and inspiration for the column. I might even finish the text while I’m at it. If I can’t find a thread while doing so, I will write about not finding thread." (I made a plan that has a specific action, a reason to do it, and a situation to amplify the action. I also mention a next step, which I didn’t even thought I was planning. In addition to all that, I made a plan B if my initial effort fails to give results.)

Now we just have to see if I was able to finish the column in time. :)

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PS. If you feel like trying this in real life, contact me through Skype and we can try to motivate you to do something that seems too hard for you to do.

1 comment:

Rodney Daut said...

If a person gives a response like

"I want to write a column, but it seems too hard."

You can always ask, "It sounds like it's very hard for you. Why haven't you given up on it already?" This is another way of asking "Why do you want to change?"