Dimensions of Influence in Christianity: Joseph Grenny, GLS Malaysia

20 November 2013 by Jason Law CM –


The Global Leadership Summit took place in Malaysia on the 4th and 5th of November this year. Among the training in leadership learnt by Malaysian leaders was also one on influence, delivered by Joseph Grenny, the author of best-selling books ‘Influencers’ (2007, revised 2013) and ‘Crucial Conversations’ (2011) in his message titled ‘Mastering the Skill of Influence’.


Joseph Grenny, Global Leadership Summit 2013


The lessons in this session (the 5th in the Malaysian conference) were taught from a leadership approach, but the guidelines can easily be used in our lives as Christians. The Christian call to be salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) is familiar to all of us, but Joseph Grenny taught us a systematic way to extend our influence in a positive way.


Matthew 5:13-16

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.


Two Case Examples




Joseph Grenny illustrated his message by giving two case examples. In the first case study, some children were given money and a kid playing the role of Influencer was given a role to determine the outcome of the case. The children were brought to a table with expensive candies costing much more than their normal prices, and the Influencer unbeknownst to the other children, caused them to act in one way or another, and they did this just by speaking to them, either ‘There’s some really awesome candies here. We should get as much as we can’ or ‘The candies are really expensive. I think I should save some of my money’. 


Stairs vs Escalators on a Normal Day


In a second case study, in a setting with both escalators and an attached staircase, where most people usually used the escalator, the researcher changed the scenario just by placing a board near the staircase with the words ‘Want to lose 10 pounds? Use the stairs.’ Both case studies took place in real-life settings. They show that people do respond in a surprisingly, but encouragingly, easy way to influence and low-cost motivation.       


Dimensions of Influence in a Christian Life




Joseph Grenny showed that in order to be good influencers we only need to understand the sources of influence and utilize them. This consist of 2 aspects (Ability, Motivation) acting on 3 levels (Personal, Social, Structural) for a total of six dimensions. Grenny defined leadership as intentional influence. This means that there must be something intentional in extending our influence, and the best way to do this is by first  understanding people’s vital behavior (defined by Grenny as the defining, high-leverage behavior that makes a difference in a culture or character make-up).

Pointers were given for each of the six sources, which we can apply in a Christian context:


1. Personal Ability: Don’t just teach principles. Connect to values.


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This means that in order to influence people for the good and glory of God, we cannot just preach to them through principles or dogma and just leave it at that. We need to connect them with values. For example, telling someone not to have premarital sex in most cases would not work if people are already so inclined. In order to influence people, we need to teach them the ability to see the larger picture of God’s plan for humankind, such as what consequences such a breaking of the law might result in. Every act has a consequence. In the case of the above example, the consequence comes in multiple levels: relationship, physical, emotional, and spiritual (http://chastity.com/node/184) We need to teach them the ability to think about such matters in a personal way.   


2. Personal Motivation: Help people to see values in an attractive way.




Good behavior and obedience to the commandments of God can be made attractive, and need not be approached as burdensome or restrictive. In the second example of case study above, the seemingly burdensome act of using the stairs is superseded by the motivation of acquiring a fitter and more healthy body. One way we can do this in our Christian life, is by emphasizing the richness of our relationship with a loving God, and not treating Christianity as a tally of rights and wrongs. Another way is to treat sin not as a legalistic wrong, but as something that hinders the joy of our relationship with a loving God.     


3. Social Ability: Provide assistance and start building up the abilities of others         




This is where discipleship comes in. Joseph Grenny gave the example of Joshua, who spent over 40 years being discipled by Moses. Moses himself spent many years learning the skills necessary for leadership during his time being brought up in the Pharoah’s court. Grenny advised that the practice setting must be practical and approximate real-world settings. Train them in small bites, intensely focus on issues for brief periods, and give immediate feedback during each training.


4. Social Motivation: Replace accomplices with friends and colleagues.




The company a person keeps is very important as exemplified by the first case study above. If we want to be good influences, we need to provide social support to those we’re discipling. On our ends, we must ensure that the companies we keep are those that can build us up in our Christian walk. In the same way, we need to be accountable to our disciples, and guide them not just in their abilities, but also that they receive adequate spiritual support socially. Introduce them to trusty and faithful friends, and be there for them during times of struggle.


5. Structural Motivation: Provide Incentives




This simply means that people usually respond to incentives, and thus, incentives are very important. It need not mean that we resort to providing material incentives. An example of an incorporeal incentive is the acquiring of a fit and healthy body from the second case study above. Some of the incentives from a Christian life are (http://blog.tifwe.org/christians-incentives-biblical-perspective/):

1. Hope for today, and for the future.

2. A relationship with our Creator, the King of the universe.

3. A bond of love we could never otherwise conceive.


1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us. 


6. Structural Ability: Change Their Environment




The space people inhabit influences their choices. Grenny's principle here is simple: Make bad behavior hard and conscious, and make great behavior easy and convenient.  The way we do this is to guide our disciples or children by giving them a healthy environment to grow in. Shower them with plenty of love but learn to be firm, guide them every step of the way, warn them of the consequences of sin, and provide plenty of incentives for good behavior. Our Christian walk must be relational.  


Joseph Grenny Sharing About One of the Lives Changed Through Positive Effect of Influence

Through a research, Grenny found that 80% of respondents know Christians, but only 15% said they behave differently. We don’t get to choose these influence factors. You either get them working for you or they work against you. As Malaysian Christians, we have the dream of changing the world, but in order to do that, we must learn to change behavior. It is Grenny’s vision and hope that more and more Christians all over the world would grow to be great influencers by learning how to change the vital behavior surrounding us.  Joseph Grenny’s final reminder to us is ‘If our religious experience isn’t translating into other habits and experiences, we aren’t leading’.


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