How to Change Entrenched Bad Habits

A Leader’s Guide to Influence - Part 2: How to Change Entrenched Bad Habits

By Joseph Grenny

Over the past 30 years, I’ve sought out and studied a different kind of leader. I’ve tried to find those who had remarkable abilities to influence change—rapidly, profoundly and sustainably. I’ve studied up close the methods used by one remarkable influencer who—with no formal authority—has changed behavior in thousands of US hospitals. I’ve looked first-hand at one influencer who saved five million lives from AIDS—simply by influencing behavior change in a country of 60 million people.

These influencers have the skills to create influence strategies that really worked. They influenced profound change in behaviors rapidly and permanently. Those who sustained their influence efforts described how changes lasted for years.

Below are a few of the most powerful strategies they, along with other influential leaders, routinely employ. If you put these strategies to work, you will be far more likely to turn entrenched bad habits into positive work practices.

1. Pick two or three behaviors. Ironically, one of the best ways to improve results is to stop focusing exclusively on results. Effective influencers target one or two “vital behaviors” to bring about significant change. For example, if you want to improve accountability, influence how people talk to those who let them down.

2. Overdetermine influence. Effective influencers refuse the temptation to find the “one easy answer.” For example, unsuccessful leaders rely on a heartfelt e-mail to drive change and mediocre leaders may deliver a PowerPoint presentation explaining what must change. By contrast, successful influencers combine four or more “sources of influence” to facilitate change. For example, they employ values, training, praise, coaching, incentives and environmental factors in combination.

3. Influence the influencers. Many leaders wonder how they can influence dozens or even hundreds of people. Effective influencers realize they don’t have to have personal relationships with everyone; they just have to have relationships with the opinion leaders who do. Less effective leaders could think they’re working with opinion leaders when they’re actually working with people who look good to management but are held in low esteem by their peers.

4. Enlist the environment. Much of behavior is influenced by our physical environment—the buildings, reports, tools and things surrounding us. Smart influencers design the environment to enable new behaviors and by doing so, create an influence strategy that works 24×7. For example, one leader increased accountability in her team by posting all commitments made, kept and broken in the team area. She also listed “Review of commitments” as the first and last agenda item at meetings. These small visual cues kept the team focused on changing their behavior.

If your organization has found a way to tolerate or “live with” entrenched bad habits, then it’s time you challenged these behaviors and turned them into productive work practices. If you don’t, then our research suggests these bad habits will continue indefinitely and produce profoundly damaging results. On the other hand, if you learn the skills of influence, you will make change inevitable.

Joseph Grenny is the coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers—Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything. He is also a sought-after speaker, consultant, and cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance,

Why Leaders Have No Influence

A Leader’s Guide to Influence - Part 1: Why Leaders Have No Influence

By Joseph Grenny

As my coauthors and I conducted research for our latest book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, we sat down with two dozen senior executives from several Fortune 500 companies and asked each leader whether they faced any of these problems:

  • Bureaucratic infighting that smothers innovation and change
  • Self-centered silo thinking and turfism that prevents true collaboration
  • Shoddy accountability wherein failure, plus an excuse, is acceptable performance
  • A “let’s do the minimum” work ethic

The most typical response was, “Can I pick ‘all of the above?’”

Suffice it to say, these are very common problems. These issues are also especially costly and difficult to resolve because each involve entrenched habits—ineffective practices that have come to be accepted, or at least tolerated, within an organization. Consequently, solving these problems requires influencing chronic patterns of behaviors.

Why Leaders Have No Influence

As we continued to interview senior leaders, we began to see some very clear failure patterns. Before long, we could quickly tell whether the change strategy a leader described was going to fail. Below are the five most common failure modes we observed.

1. Leaders act as if it’s not their job to address entrenched habits. Most leaders put a great deal of time into crafting breakthrough strategies, selecting winning products and engaging with analysts, shareholders and major customers. However, few realize the success or failure of their grand schemes lies in influencing the behavior of the hundreds or thousands who will have to execute on the big ideas—their employees. In fact, our research shows the average leader spends less than five percent of his or her time on active efforts to create behavior change. Instead, they delegate these responsibilities to others, mainly leaders in HR—who often lack the credibility to influence real change.

2. Leaders lack a clear influence plan. Many leaders who previously stumbled into success at influencing behavior change couldn’t articulate why their efforts succeeded. Even worse, the study showed that while most executives were frustrated with many behaviors in their organizations, only one in 20 had a carefully developed plan for influencing change.

3. Leaders confuse talking with influencing. Many leaders think influence consists of little more than talking people into doing things. It’s no wonder most influence efforts start with PowerPoint presentations. But profound, persistent and overwhelming problems demand more than verbal persuasion. Anyone who’s ever tried to talk a smoker into quitting knows there’s a lot more to behavior change than words. Leaders make the same mistake when they publish platitudes in the form of Mission and Values statements, give a few speeches on why these values are crucial and then assume their job is done.

4. Leaders believe in silver bullets. When leaders actually attempt to influence new behavior, they commonly fall into the trap of thinking deeply ingrained bad habits can be changed with a single technique. Some host star-studded retreats. Others hand out inspiring posters and color-changing mugs and think people will line up for change. Still others believe it’s all about incentives, and so they tinker with the performance management system. The research shows that when leaders rely on just one simple source of influence to drive change, they almost always fail.

5. Leaders try to influence everyone. The few leaders who do understand that influence is their job make the mistake of trying to influence everyone. The most influential leaders amass a wealth of social capital by investing time and energy with two influential groups—their chain of command and their opinion leaders. Influencers know they don’t have to have personal relationships with everyone in the company—they just have to have relationships with those who do. If leaders spend time building trust with formal and informal opinion leaders, they will inherit social capital that extends their influence into every corner of the organization.

Don’t fall trap to these failure modes. Awareness is the first step in changing your own behavior so you can become the Influential leader your organization needs to succeed. In my next post, I’ll share important strategies leaders can use to change entrenched habits.

Joseph Grenny is the coauthor of four New York Times bestsellers—Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything. He is also a sought-after speaker, consultant, and cofounder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and organizational performance,

Henry Cloud: Reversing The Death Spiral Of A Leader

Post by Matt Perman

Imparting practical and effective wisdom for improving leadership skill and workplace performance, Henry Cloud is the author of more than 20 books, including the four-million selling Boundaries series.

Here are my notes on Henry Cloud’s session, which was fantastic just like his message two years ago on three kinds of people .

  • As leaders, you are people who take charge and do stuff.
  • Leaders take the stewardship God has given them and exert their energy in that space to lead people and take ownership of that.
  • The hardest thing a leader has to be in charge of is himself.
  • Some leaders get results, and some don’t.
  • Some in the middle of here to there hit a block in the middle and start to stumble and fall because they can’t lead themselves.
  • How does a downward spiral of a leader happen?
  • The leaders who can stop a spiral: they think, feel, and behave differently than the ones who spiral out.
  • They put the smart guys who were pessimists, and the no-nothings who were optimistic, and the no-things out performed by 53%. The ones who believe they can will win every single time. The biggest factor on whether you will get from here to there is whether or not you believe it can be done. The number one factor is “do you believe that it can happen.” All leaders believe it can happen when they start, but then something happens—they get into a circumstance (and it will happen to you) where they become out of control (that is, not of their own doing—they are out of control of the circumstances behind them, and that begins to change their brain: learned helplessness).
  • We are designed by God to be in a cause and effect universe. But when we find ourselves in a circumstance where there are things we cannot control that are affecting us. What happens to the brain in a situation that you can’t control? It begins to change—in some predictable ways. The three Ps.
  • The brain begins to change in the ways it interprets everything around you.

The Spiral

1. Personal

The brain begins to interpret that in a personal way. “Why didn’t that sale happen? I’m no good.” Or a failed capital campaign. Or whatever. You interpret in a way that “I’m not good enough.” Every leader does stuff that doesn’t work. But the “dummies” don’t take it personally. They say “I guess they weren’t ready, or I need to tweak the presentation.” But they don’t conclude it’s because “I’m not good enough.” And they go on to succeed.

But for those who take it personally, the brain begins to shut down, and goes to the next P.

2. Pervasive

They then generalize from this. “My whole life sucks.” It goes to a different region of the brain and everything goes bad. Then there’s another event. You get an email that’s critical. It reinforces the first to Ps. Then to the third p:

3. Permanent

You think it’s permanent. Once the brain begins to go into this state, even the best performers can get here, but there’s a way out.

Science and the Bible always agree in a place called reality. If they’re not agreeing, you have goofy science or whacky Christians, and there’s no shortage of either.

We see David in the Bible going here. We see great leaders here.

When your brain is going negative, the things you can do to change things—you don’t do them anymore.

How do you get out of it? You have to reverse the three Ps.

Reversing the Spiral

1. Log them and dispute them

  • Write down the negative thoughts. 99% of will be absolutely false. Then you find the themes, and start to dispute them. You dispute it with God’s word. “What do you mean you aren’t good enough? You are my workmanship (Eph 2:10).” There is a difference between your brain and your mind. Your brain is a physiological organ that can give off false signals.
  • Dispute the personal stuff, dispute the pervasive stuff. One client might be mad at you, but another one loves you. It’s not pervasive. When you begin to look at the whole picture, life changes. Your life is a movie, not a scene. Every great movie has crisis scenes in it. It’s the people that see it as a scene that make it through. And it’s not permanent because there’s a hope for you.

2. Get back in control

  • What caused this problem? The loss of control. Write two columns. What you can control and what you can’t control. Obsessive about what you can’t control as hard as you can—for five minutes. Then take action on the stuff you can control.
  • Some passengers said about an airline: “It’s like they hate us. It’s like they don’t want us to be here.”
  • Dispute the negative noise and get back in control of what you can do.

3. Connect

  • Your brain turns to a cesspool of stress if it is focused on things it can’t control. The brain runs on oxygen, glucose, and relationships. So you must connect.
  • The opposite of bad is love. You don’t start trying to do good to feel better. You connect—relationships. Once you start to feel good in relationship, you forget about whether you are doing good or bad, and you begin to solve problems.
  • Study: when they connected, the brain changed.
  • Connect, connect, connect. When you feel the spiral starting, connect and your brain will change.
  • A can-do attitude is something that will give you confidence. What God wants for you is a “find-a-way” thinking.

What were your greatest take-aways from Dr. Henry Cloud’s session?

Matt Perman does consulting for churches, business, and non-profits and is the author of What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done, coming in 2014. He blogs at

Courage: A Difference Maker in Leadership and Life

Without fail, speaker after speaker graced the WCA Global Leadership Summit stage on day one imploring us to be courageous. From the opening session with Willow Creek Community Church Senior Pastor Bill Hybels to the final interview session with Hollywood producer Mark Burnett, courage in leadership was practically demanded by every teacher. Courage with our calling and courage with our people were the top two areas emphasized.


We all have a calling in life. Some of us are called to lead companies. Other of us are called to lead teams. Many more are called to lead families. Regardless your calling, our   #wcagls leaders reminded us, again and again, that courage in your calling is a dealbreaker. Attorney and entrepreneurial leader Bob Goff said, “If we were not afraid, we’d live the life worthy of our calling.”

He is right on point. The day we get a glimpse of what we are called do is the day we must decide to stare our greatest fears in the face and defy them. It is not a one-time deal, it is a daily decision to get up and pursue our life’s work. Our calling deserves our attention and accountability. We owe it to the calling to live no other way. How else will we motivate the people we do life with to join us in the calling if we ourselves are afraid to go for it.


People in our lives need us to be courageous as well. Whether it’s the family you lead or the team at work, the people we lead expect us to have the courage to take care of the entities we head. We must ensure that the environment we lead is a healthy one where the inhabitants can grow and flourish. Business strategist Patrick Lencioni challenged us to know the people who work with us. Take an interest, make certain we know our people so that they can live up to their best potential and have the courage to face their own callings.

Relational courage is of utmost importance in our lives both in business and personal settings. Burnett stated that “unresolved emotional conflict drains the energy from an organization.” It takes courage to face conflict with others. It takes courage to root out toxic behavior. We cannot move toward our collective or individual calling without courage in our relationships.

Reflect today on ways you can be more courageous in your calling and with the people you do life with.

Courage can make all the difference in your leadership and in your life.

Accidental entrepreneur, author and TEDx speaker Denise W. Barreto brings a fresh marketplace perspective to the WCA GLS team this year. A seasoned corporate strategist with over 20 years of marketing experience across multiple industries, Denise is the founder and managing partner of Relationships Matter Now, LLC, a boutique strategic business and marketing consultant firm.

Stay Connected To The Summit Year-Round

The Summit goes beyond a 2 day event. It’s a year-round experience happening around the world. Stay connect throughout the year and engage in a community of over 170,000 leaders.

Twitter: Tweet using @wcagls and/or use hashtag #wcagls

Instagram: Follow videos and photos throughout the year

Facebook: Like Us on Facebook and join the conversation

LinkedIn: Link up with us on your professional network

Flickr: View and download photos

WCA Blog: Learn and process content from a variety of leaders

Summit Website: Follow the Summit and whats happening around the world this fall

WCA Website: Get free resources, learn about WCA membership, and stay up-to-date with WCA

We believe that the local church is the hope of the world, when it’s working right. A culture of Christ-centered leadership can change individual lives, churches, businesses, governments, schools, and home. Stay connected year-round…the stakes are high.

A Social Summit

Months leading up to the Summit, the idea of Social Media became more than Twitter or Facebook. Social Media is meant for strategy through relationship, when it’s done right.

After working through new ideas, strategies, and connecting with some amazing people around the world, a team was birthed to lead the social media efforts for The Global Leadership Summit 2013.

Serving to enhance Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WCA Blog, and the Web experience, the analytics are astounding. The Summit trended #1 and reached millions of people world-wide.

This team exemplified social media at its best. 

Let’s give a round-of-applause to the amazing Online Experience Team and to all who helped spread and share the word about the launch of The Global Leadership Summit 2013. This is just the beginning…

Meet our Onsite Online Experience Team:

Charles Lee, Ideation

Tim Schraeder, SomeCompany

Justin Wise, SomeCompany

Laura Crosby, Engage International

Jenni Catron,

Laura Turner, Writer

Denise Barreto, Relationships Matter Now

Tommy Bowman, Mission Church

Ian Philpot, Willow Creek Community Church

Meet our Extended Online Experience Team: 

Drew Gneiser, Feed My Starving Children

Ashley Williams, Catalyst and Leadercast

Ben Aaker, CrossRoads Church

Kristen Raves, Grace Community Church

Carrie Kintz, Focus on the Family

Kyle Reed, Crosspoint Church

Jason Inman, Convoy of Hope

Matt Brown,

Clark Campbell, Church of God

Seth Magnuson, Desiring God

Marty Duren, Social Media Strategist

Nathan Smoyer, Logos

Laurie Nichols, Billy Graham Center, Wheaton College

Daniel Guy, Assemblies of God

Mark Forrester, Assemblies of God

Dan Rockwell, LeadershipFreak

Jim Gray, ThirtyThirtyPM

Scott Williams, Big is the New Small

Adam Hann, LCBC Church

Justin Brackett, Seacoast Church

Sean Burroughs, The City Church

Johanna Price, Eagle Brook Church

Brendan Stark, Harvest

Sam Hoover, Focus on the Family

It has been an honor and a privilege to have this team play a part in The Global Leadership Summit 2013. 

To see some Summit stats, check out this info-graphic from Will Mancini & team HERE.

Just the Beginning…

The Global Leadership Summit 2013 launched August 8-9 reaching more than 75,000 attendees across the U.S. This fall the GLS will be brought to 100 countries reaching an additional 100,000+ leaders.

View this brief highlights video of what took place last week and remember…

This is just the beginning.

10 Quotes That Should Shape Your Leadership

Re-post by Tony Morgan

Here are my top 10 leadership quotes from The Global Leadership Summit 2012.

  1. “An organization is not truly great if it can’t be great without you.” –Jim Collins
  2. “Too often we argue about Christianity instead of marveling at Jesus.” –John Ortberg
  3. “Don’t just delegate tasks to the next generation. If you delegate tasks, you create followers. Instead delegate authority to create leaders.” –Craig Groeschel
  4. “You are the most difficult person you will ever lead.” –Bill Hybels
  5. “The signature of mediocrity is not unwillingness to change. The true signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency.” –Jim Collins
  6. “People need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed.” –Patrick Lencioni
  7. “When you are angry, you will make the best speech you will ever regret.” –William Ury
  8. “When you’re in a position of authority, you need truth-tellers around you.” –Condoleezza Rice
  9. “I failed him for two years because I was too chicken to have the difficult conversation.” –Bill Hybels
  10. “The morale failure of a leader will challenge the integrity of others as well.” –Mario Vega

In case you missed these, here are all my notes from last year’s Summit.

What were your favorite quotes?

The Global Leadership Summit 2013 launches August 8-9, just two weeks away. Find out more information here

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of He’s a consultant, leadership coach and writer who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact.