How To Make Change Happen For Your Clients

How To Make Change Happen For Your Clients

How can you change your clients’ behavior when you don’t have any power over them? Influence! Learn how to be a better consultant by getting better at influencing people. 👇

One of the eight main consulting skills is influence.

We obviously don’t have the power to force anyone to do anything, and as consultants our strength is our objectivity, perspective, and outsiderness as well as our expertise. That means we can only influence what’s going to happen.

So how do you create change in other people, and in yourself? How do you create change in organizations? How do you influence the behavior of people?

Explore in this episode of Profitable Joyful Consulting as you learn how to grow your influence skills.

Key areas discussed in this episode

  • 0:00 What influence is and why it matters for consultants
  • 0:40 How to influence people on your team to align around common goals (especially when they may be freelancers or contractors)
  • 4:14 Reflecting on ways you’ve changed your own behavior and how you get influenced to change
  • 5:50 Three examples from my life that have a lot to teach us about influence
  • 15:08 A requirement for anyone who wants behavior change
  • 18:11 Understanding the gap between where your clients are and where they want to be
  • 18:57 Why we don’t always need to market to pain
  • 20:35 The key things to do in the middle of your work with clients
  • 22:56 What to remind your clients of when things get hard
  • 25:34 What influence is really about

Influence is a consulting skill that comes up as an opportunity you can practice every single day.

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Podcast Transcript

Samantha Hartley Hey, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This is the last episode of Season 11. This whole season, we’ve been talking about consulting skills and in the beginning episodes, I talked about one of the eight main consulting skills as being, influence.

Influence to me is a really interesting and tricky skill.  As consultants, we don’t have the power to force anyone to do anything. We can only influence. Our strength is our objectivity and perspective and our outsider-ness, and that means that we can only influence what’s going to happen. 

So how do you create change in other people? How do you create change? Not just if you have a single client like your executive coaching client who runs the company, but you’ve got to make changes with all the people in the organization. How do we really influence the behavior of somebody who reports to us, but we don’t really have that much power over like contractors, or any of the freelancers who might work with us. 

For years I have worked with non-employees. Back when I had employees it was easy to say, “Well, do this or I’ll fire you, or I’ll give you a negative report or something that’ll look bad in your career.” Those were all of the kind of negative threats that we can wield over employees. At the time, I felt like even that doesn’t really get anybody to change their behavior. So how do you really get people to do what you want? 

Now, once I was self-employed and the people who work for me were not employees and they were freelancers, they could come and go. They didn’t have to put up with any nonsense from me. So how do I really get them to do things like show up on time and do high quality work, and improve when I’ve given them notes, or like get things done on deadline? Over time, realizing that I had only influence and not really much authority or power or force that I could use, I found ways that I could get on the same page with them. 

I think about one specific example of someone that I worked with, Andrea, and she loved the work and we worked great together. Then sometimes we had issues when there would be a power struggle or something like that. Well, what’s the way that I could get her to do what I wanted or align with me around a common goal? Aligning on a common goal usually means aligning around shared values so that’s what we would very often do is get on the same page.

I would figure out where what I want from Andrea and what she wants overlap? We could take a look at that and put that into place in the actions that she would take. She loves doing certain things and she works better on this timeline in this schedule, then I would work with her to accommodate that because it would help me to get what I wanted.

I also figured out what are the ways to reward her that feel good to her and also to me. So sometimes it’s financial bonuses. Sometimes people just want words of affirmation like, “Hey, great job, way to go,” or they want a little more kind of a public acknowledgment or recognition with your shout on social media, or a recommendation to other people that just shows like I got her back and I endorse her and I support her work. 

Those are some of the ways that I’ve influenced people who have worked for me.  Definitely if you have somebody who is no good, then you’re going to just fire them. That’s fine. But if you have a relationship where you want to support the continued work together and you want to influence their behavior in that role, then those are some of the things that I’ve done. 

So how do we do that when it’s a client? I think there’s a big picture idea here, which is how do I change other people’s behavior when I’m even further away from them? Like in this case, this is a team member that I could have fired. Maybe it’s a colleague or a contractor who comes in and works with you, but you can choose not to work with them again and to fire them. In the case of a client they’ve hired us. Of course, we can fire them if the whole thing doesn’t work out. But if we want to get results for them, then what is it that we can do and how can we make that work? 

Before I get to the answers to that question, I want to zoom out and just have a conversation with you. Let’s focus on for ourselves, how have you noticed that someone has affected or influenced you in a way that changed your behavior?

I was really fascinated by this because I’ll talk to a lot of people who’ll be like, “I never listen to anybody.” “I don’t give a crap about influencers.” “Nobody really ever changes my mind, I make my own decisions.”

I think all of us want to feel like we’re really autonomous. But we are often influenced by the behaviors and the ideas of other people, especially those of us who are in self-improvement and self-development and hire coaches and read books. So we really want to be constantly improving ourselves. So we’re paying attention to what other people who are making positive changes are doing. 

That’s one of the reasons why your clients come to you, right? They believe that you’re making positive changes for others and that you can make them for them. So let’s first ask ourselves, and this is the thing I want you to ask yourself: When was the last time you changed your behavior in a minor or major way? 

What happened, and was it an instantaneous change, like you had a light bulb moment? Got it. Done. Never going back to the way it was. Or was it a gradual getting used to things? 

I’m going to share three examples from my life that I have been studying for a long time to see what they teach me about myself, what they teach me about influence in general, and how I might leverage what I’ve learned, and what I’m learning to help my clients better. 

The first one is a reference that I’ve made before, probably last year sometime, definitely during the pandemic years. I saw an Instagram video by Mel Robbins. You might follow her as well. She’s the author of The 5 Second Rule, really fun, super transparent, just a raw personality and speaker. Very down to earth with great advice. She had a video about why she makes her bed every morning. When I saw it, I thought, “Oh, for goodness sake, here we go again.”

Because it’s constantly these drill sergeant people and all of these didactic types who are like, “If you have a messy desk, have a messy mind,” I had a boss who taught me that and all this other nonsense. I just don’t even want to hear it. I watched the video anyway and she said, “I make my bed every day because it’s a gift to myself.” I thought, “Sold.”

For years and years and years, I’d read all the drill sergeant kind of points of view about how this is going to start your day off on the right foot, or it’s going to do whatever. I always thought, I like that idea and maybe I had tried from time to time, but it just was not a thing that ever got any traction or stuck for me. As soon as it was positioned as a gift for myself, I was into it. So why do I think that worked on me? 

I’m a big believer in gifts for your future self. So there’s a lot of actions that I take based on that train of thought. Discipline in the short term is hard, but it’s much harder than trying to change bad habits long term. So that’s an idea that’s persuasive for me always, even though I’m not always super disciplined in the moment.

This was a case where the action to me had a disproportionately positive outcome relative to the amount of effort that went into it. Egoically, it really spoke to the way I want to treat myself. So in terms of self-care, how I want to be with myself. I immediately saw from that quick implementation of it, I saw how pleasant it made things for me.

A lot of us work from home and even though I have two different workspaces that I work between, sometimes I’m in one, sometimes in the other, and I’m often passing that bed. When it’s looking all made, I don’t just benefit from the fact that it’s a pretty nice looking bed. I actually do arrange the pillows and things like that. I don’t just benefit from the fact that it looks nice. I benefit from that intention that I had, which was to do a nice thing for myself. So I have the appreciation of my own gift to myself. So it’s a double effect. Probably the triple effect is and also things are tidier and life is easier.

I’ve been studying that for a really long time, mostly because there were many approaches that various influencing voices had tried to take to change that behavior in me, that had never worked until the day that I heard the thing that was the right thing for me. What’s your version of this? What is something that you had tried to do before, that finally “stuck” when somebody said it in the right way?

This can be a savings account. It can be like eating better and more healthy for yourself. It could be writing down three things that you need to do tomorrow before you leave today, or journaling. All kinds of stuff that we know we should be doing, but we don’t do because we haven’t been influenced to do it in the right way. We haven’t convinced ourselves and that means whatever argument we needed to bring into ourselves hasn’t been there yet. 

There’s another couple of quick examples here. I’ve mentioned before that I started this podcast as a video podcast because a few years ago I went to a conference held by my podcast producers. At the time they were two friends of mine, Danielle and Tamara, who held the conference. I went to the conference and while I was there, there was tons of talk about the importance of starting a podcast. I had maybe like on a scale of 1 to 10, I had a one level of interest in ideas about starting a podcast, but as soon as they said video, I went there.

Now, why was that persuasive? So here’s a time when the behavior changed. I had been thinking about doing a video. I wanted to be more visible, but I didn’t want to travel for speaking engagements. I thought that video, even though I had struggled with it in the past, could be a good medium for me. The idea of the consistency of a podcast really spoke to me, even though I knew it would be hard. 

The influence that happened was that it echoed a thought or an idea that I had for myself already. So all of this gurgling, bubbling, but disjointed ideas and intentions that I’d had all coalesced when I heard the words, ‘video Podcast,’ and I went, “Okay, that’s what I’ve got to do.” Now it sounds like I started immediately, but I didn’t. I procrastinated for like four and a half months before I ever got to it

Luckily my producers, Serious Take Productions, make it so much easier for me to actually get this done. Now this is not paid advertising, I really, really do appreciate them. So it doesn’t mean just because we’re influenced that the thing becomes easy, but that the first domino fell. The first domino, which was, I know what I need to do. That fell and then the rest of the process of that ensued. So being convinced I make my bed as a gift for myself, that’s the first domino. Ahhhh, video podcast, that’s the first domino. So those things really got into practice. 

What I think is amazing and this is the third thing that I want you to ask yourself is: How have you incorporated this new behavior into your life? We can’t just do the thing once and then have been influenced by that. I’m looking for things that changed behavior that needed to be weaved permanently into your life. So I make the bed every day, no matter what.

The only time the bed isn’t made is if I didn’t get up first. Somebody who shall remain nameless, my husband, doesn’t do it as a gift for anybody. So I might come back later on and do it. But that is a permanent habit and I’m very often making it as I’m getting up out of bed. It’s amazing how ingrained that habit has gone from a thing I do when I get up, or after I’ve brushed my teeth, to I am doing this thing as I’m getting out of bed. That’s how even more ingrained that new habit becomes, that new behavior becomes. 

The video podcast I make every single week without fail. Sometimes and probably very soon I’ll begin creating video content and doing more of this multiple times per week. It’s super easy for me now, so it is definitely ingrained as a habit. 

The third thing, and this is the thing that if you had told me this actually, if you told me about the other ones three years before they happened, I would have said, “Well, that’s never, ever going to happen.”

Sometime last year, I got Lyme disease, which when you live on Martha’s Vineyard, we’re in deer central and there’s deer ticks. Deer ticks transmit Lyme disease so eventually I feel like everybody here is going to get it, and last year was my year. I got Lyme disease, which seems to be pretty resistant, it didn’t want to get cured with a couple rounds of antibiotics.

So I began to do a ton of research to figure out what was the next way to do something about this. What is important to know is that I work out a lot with weights and being in strong, physical shape, being fit and strong is an important part of my ego identity.

I think this is really critical when you are working with your clients to figure out what’s the brand of this organization, what’s the culture of this organization, what’s the ego identity of the people? You’re working with the primary one and then all of the people around them.

What do they want to be known for? Like we are a happy organization, we are productive, we’re responsible. We get things done. We are whatever those values are, this is the thing that is going to be important.

As a fit, healthy and strong person, what was not working for me was the way this particular Lyme disease was acting on me, which was it got into my muscles and joints and I really couldn’t move a lot, or very easily. I certainly couldn’t continue my workouts. So to me, that was a nonstarter and I was like, “How are we getting rid of this?” 

I’m super highly motivated, which I think is a requirement for anyone who wants behavior change. When you’re looking at your clients, you must look at: What’s the level of motivation of not just the primary person who comes to you, but everyone who has to change behavior?

My client Dawn Marie Turner of Turner Change Management, would call this change readiness. Dawn does a readiness assessment to see how ready in people’s minds they are to make change. So when I heard, I’m going to have this physical issue, I was like, “No, this is not going to happen, we’re going to get this fixed.” So the next thing that I did was I found somebody who could help me to heal that condition.

How do we heal that condition? Well, it turns out with a vegan diet, which is not just vegan, but raw vegan and also no sugar and no allergens. So during this process of healing, I’m transitioning to this diet. 

Now, if you know me, you know I’m from the South, I’m a keto person. I’m a very red meat kind of person, even though I’m an animal lover, which is of course incongruent even in my mind. It became really the beginning of transformation for me to transition from the person that I used to be, who was this southern barbecue and steak eating young woman to being somebody who was like, I’m now mostly raw vegan and I’m keeping this kind of lifestyle. 

What is the thing that changed that behavior? So first of all, extreme motivation to have a different physical result. The second thing, it actually did align with my values. Once I was able to take the cravings and the ego and other things out of it, it was the way that I truly do want to be. Then the third thing is we just built a habit. We built a habit that this is how we eat. It’s not an easy way to be in the world, but over the past six months we’ve created a way in which we can do this sustainably. Then importantly, I am basically cured from the Lyme disease that I had. I have like the last teeny tiny remnants of it, which I feel like I won’t have within the next two months.

Again, I’m sharing this because what’s the biggest change that you have made in your life? Did you make it instantaneously, or did it erode some beliefs over time before it sank in? Then how does it weave itself into your life? When you have that information you can take that to your clients and work with them better and more easily to achieve what they want. 

I have some specific ideas about how I recommend and how I have worked with my clients in order to achieve change. With that kind of framework in mind, this is the next thing that I want you to take a look at. 

The first thing is to look at the gap. What is the gap between where they are and where they want to be, and how painful is being in that gap? For many organizations it could be that they know we could be achieving more, or we’ve fallen behind. Or this is a circumstance that has happened, for example, this new hybrid work situation. We don’t know how to deal with it and we’re not good at managing not being good at things. We have a different kind of work to get done and we don’t want to be dealing with this. How urgent, important and painful is that gap that your client is in?

I’ve said before that we don’t always need to market the pains. Sometimes the pain is, I know I could be doing so much better. We’re missing out on so many opportunities, it’s that upper limit gap where they know what they could be achieving and the fact that they aren’t achieving it right now, that’s the thing that hurts. It’s not that they suck and they want to get out of their trough. It’s that they really want to aim for what they want. So look at what that gap is. How bad do they want the thing that they want?

I think here it’s important to add it’s important to charge organizations a lot of money. Create high stakes for failure. is the way No one wants to have thrown away $2 million on a change initiative that didn’t go through. No one wants to spend $25,000 with you on a new fitness program for their small law firm, and then have it not work out because nobody would adapt to the new ways of being. 

Think about when you’re doing this, how you can create high stakes. I will tell you that I’m a firm believer that charging a lot of money for our services is very often the way to get incredible results from our clients. Because the $10 a month gym I never went to, but the one that was like almost $300 a month. What do you know? I was there like five days a week. Watch that for yourself and for your clients. What are the things that motivate them? Get them on the hook and make them feel like there’s a little compulsion in here, even though it’s not necessarily coming from you and force. 

A long time ago, I set up these parameters for my brand and the three things that I think that I do as a brand, and these are the key things to do in the middle of your work with clients: Educate, empower and inspire. When we educate, we teach them exactly what to do. When we empower them, we show them that they can do it, too. A lot of times we share examples of other people just like them who are doing it. So they feel like, “Yeah, I can do it.” Then inspire, again those other examples, sharing their progress with them every single week, watching those kinds of things can really make that big difference.

Educate, empower and inspire” is how we can help our clients achieve their goals. Show them what they need to do, work alongside them so that they believe that they can do it so that they begin to achieve it. Then speak to their emotions and remind them of that goal. That’s the way I think a lot of that change, especially in organizations, can happen.

I also feel like empathy and support in that piece is key. If you have been there especially, and you can be with them when it’s hard, It’s so empowering because it is not that easy to ask someone to change their behavior. As I said, if you had even the easiest things that we’re talking about here like making the bed, it wasn’t that it was hard. It was just I had no desire to be doing it, and finding the desire and the will and the time of my day to get that done, that just wasn’t going to happen.

There’s not much harder than you for a vegan diet, especially for carb loving sugar addicts like me. So it really has helped for me to have definitely empathy, community, support, and having my husband do that with me. Those are the ways that I wove success into my life in order to make that change happen. Those are the things that we can do for our clients. Daily reminders, availability, accessibility of support, things like that. Even setting up little champions groups within their organizations, who they can go to and get support from, that can make a difference. 

Then the last thing that I really try to do is when my client comes to me and they say, “Here’s the thing that I want to achieve, here’s what success looks like.” That outcome, that picture of success, I will hold that for them so that even when it’s hard, when they’re mad, when their things are the toughest part of the time, when they’re failing, when they’ve had a good success, but it feels like it’s pulling them in a different direction. I’m there to remind them of, “Why did you start this in the first place? And what did you want to achieve? What’s the big deal here?”

If I look back at the three things that I said, the gift to myself, I want to have a reminder of self-care in my visual field on it on a daily basis. I want to take an action that is being nice to myself because a lot of us know as women, as business owners, and as leaders that we can come last in a lot of our own activities, and to-do lists. So I wanted to have an act of self-care that I do for myself and that I see the reminder of all the time. That’s one of my pictures of success.

Why did I do the video podcast? I wanted to be more visible to help more people who would never even work with me. So I may never meet you or know you, but I’m able to reach you through this thing that I’m making today. 

Why did I do the vegan thing? It wasn’t just that I wanted to get rid of the Lyme Disease. Although let’s be honest, I would not have done this without the gift of this tick bite. I did it because what I’m seeking is optimal health. I’m seeking optimal health, an alignment with my values around how I think we need to be on the planet. And how I want to be with animals and what I want my relationship with plants to be. So my ultimate picture of success evolved over the course of that, but that’s why it makes it possible for me to sustain that behavior. 

When you’re working with an organization, remind them this is what you said you wanted. One of my favorite expressions is: A friend is someone who learns the song in your heart and sings it to you when you’ve forgotten it. So I want us to learn the client’s goal, vision and desire for themselves. When things are hard and when they’re losing touch with it, and when they’ve forgotten, it’s for us to remind them, this is what you wanted. This is what you are dreaming of. This is what you came to me for help with. I’m going to be here with you until you achieve it, even when it’s hard. 

To me, this is what influence is about. It’s not about hawking things on your Instagram. Although, yes, there is that. It’s not about the persuasion ideas that Robert Cialdini is espousing.

To me, influence is how do I make behavior change in myself that will have a domino effect for the people around me? How do I help the people who have come to me to change their behavior, or to do what aligns with what they want so that we’re both happy? How can I effect change in my environment through love-based methods rather than any kind of force. 

I’m excited to share this with you. I’ve been thinking about this a lot all season and as a consulting skill, I think it’s an amazing one. It comes up every single day. How do I get better results for my clients is what I’m constantly thinking. How do I help them get results? How do I help them to get better results and more easily? I’m sure you’re thinking of ideas like that as well in your business, and I would love to hear about them any time. 

This is the end of Season 11. I hope I will see you in Season 12 with more great ideas and great consulting skills. I would love to hear from you on any of the channels where you find this podcast, or at my website: Super You can find all of the bonuses from this season and past seasons there. With that, I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting Business. Thank you.

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