Sometimes the best way to serve is not to serve at all. 

J’s blog is about servant leadership, about “living your why.” He closes his posts with an invitation to schedule a phone call with him. “We’ll talk about whatever is on your mind.”

I wanted to affirm and strengthen my connection with J, and I am attracted to the blog’s themes. Accordingly, I took him up on his offer. 

It was a pleasant conversation. However, as a servant leader, J wanted to serve, and that required me to have a need. 

After some digging, I admitted that I thought my weak point was lack of accountability. For most of the things I do to turn my diverse gifts into service, nobody notices if I do them or not.

“Choose just one thing and commit to doing it every day for sixty-six days. Check in with me at the end of each week. I’ll be your witness,” J told me. 

J’s suggestion was sound, and his offer kind and generous. To my surprise, I felt terrible after I hung up. 

I don’t like being the needy one. Here’s what would really help: “Bob, your skill in X is wonderful; I could sure benefit from your doing some of it.”

Sometimes the greatest service is to be served. Often, validation of worth is what people need most.  

For a servant leader, stepping back from finding a fix can be difficult. That’s certainly true of me. I delight in suggesting a remedy to someone’s problem. 

This engenders a tightrope act. I want to use my gifts in service. I would benefit from a little help here and there. At the same time, I don’t want to be reminded that my efforts yield little fruit. How do I seek and receive help yet avoid feeling inadequate? 

Concerning my own leadership role: when does greatest service mean being a recipient? 

How can I validate others? It may be asking for and accepting their service. It may be praise. It could be a gift, or a touch, or a phone call or card. 
Establishing a culture of appreciation is, perhaps, vital. In such a culture, service must be given—and received. 

7 Habits To Fight Depression

Fighting depression is tough. Thankfully, there are some behaviors that tend to keep the foe at arm’s length.

You can use a simple technique to have a behavior well on its way to occurring automatically within a week.

The technique I’m talking about is BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits.

One trick is to keep the behavior something you can do in less than thirty seconds. By making it short and sweet it becomes something you can do pretty much however you feel.

Another key is to anchor it to something, preferably associated with the habit behavior, you do every day. After every occurrence, carry out the tiny habit.

The third trick is to reinforce the behavior each time you do it. Little celebrations, such as humming a victory fanfare or pumping your fist in the air, release endorphins in your brain.

Depression is a cruel son of a bitch. Depression fights dirty. Having some weapons to fight back just might give you a little edge.

Before you know it it’s a habit you don’t even think about. Pretty cool.

Here’s a list of behaviors that can help ward off depression:

  • eating a healthy diet
  • cultivating gratitude
  • creative activity
  • meditation
  • maintaining a support system (keeping in contact with people who care about you)
  • spending time in nature
  • cardiovascular exercise

Let’s take the first one: eating a healthy diet. That’s too vague. To be a good target for a habit, the behavior must be simple and specific.

Say you want to limit your junk food intake. Putting a serving into a small bowl gives you two benefits: fill up the bowl and it looks like a lot; the trek back to the kitchen is a barrier to mindlessly eating more.

Opening the bag of chips is the perfect trigger. And of course you celebrate when you fill the little bowl.

The recipe is “After I open a bag of chips, I will pour a serving into a small bowl.”

Cultivate gratitude

After I pour some chips into a small bowl, I will consciously and deliberately savor the first chip.

Creative activity

After I wash the dinner dishes I will play three chords on my guitar. 


After I close the door upon returning home from work, I will take three deep breaths. 

Maintaining a support system

After I process my business email I will send a short note to a friend.

Spending time in nature

After I sit down at my desk I will gaze at a photograph of an idyllic scene. (There’s benefit in just appreciating a beautiful image. But you’re likely to develop an urge to visit a local park.)

Cardiovascular exercise

After I pee, I will do two jumping jacks.

Pick three you like. Or create your own. Then write them down. (I know that sounds silly, but it really helps. You’ll remember them better and writing them will give your commitment a serious boost.)

Depression is a cruel son of a bitch. Depression fights dirty. Having some weapons to fight back just might give you a little edge. Especially if you can wield them with virtually no effort.


Education Is Overrated

Education Is Overrated

Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.

That’s a lie.

I served in the Peace Corps in Guatemala. For want of better land, subsistence farmers there plant on horrendous slopes. Topsoil that took a century to develop is washed away in a few years. And without fertile soil, your crops can’t grow, and ….

So I energetically entered the education business. I taught people conservation methods that would save their land from rapid destruction. They loved me, and they learned. But almost nobody put the simple techniques into practice.

Education failed. I taught ’em how to fish, and they couldn’t be bothered.

No doubt you encounter the same thing all the time. You share a great benefit with someone, and they just don’t take action.

Education failed.

You probably do it yourself. Have you ever abandoned a New Years resolution you knew would really be good for you?

Education failed.

Whether it’s for community benefit or personal improvement, awareness is worthless until there is action.

I will show you what delivers success. Your missions, the good things you want for others and yourself, will triumph when they and you take action.

Most folks will say it all depends on motivation, self-discipline. Once you have the information (education), call upon your fortitude and good sense to get it done.

That’s the hard way. And it usually fails. (Refer to your abandoned New Years resolutions.)

My friend BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford University, developed a simple model. There are three ingredients that must be in place for someone to take action.

Consider answering your cell phone. You won’t answer unless it rings. One of the three essential elements is a cue to act, or a trigger.

Sometimes you can’t—say you’re in the shower or at the movies. That’s another factor: ability.

And sometimes you just don’t want to talk to the person right then. The want-to factor, motivation, is the third ingredient.

With these three things simultaneously in play, in the right measure, behavior will occur. Without them, it won’t.

Education speaks only to motivation. And it’s not even the kind of motivation that usually leads to the desired behavior. Despite common wisdom, only machines, not people, always base their decisions on rational argument. Further, education ignores two of the three necessary pieces.

Here, then, is the recipe for success. Here, in simple terms, is how to get people to do stuff.

• Be sure that there is a specific cue to act. It might be reminder signs or some signal. Tying the new action to something in your existing schedule is often the most effective trigger.

• Make the right action the easiest action. Eliminate or reduce the barriers. (Conversely, if you are trying to cut down on a behavior, make it harder to do.) That’s the ability part.

• The want-to factor is essential, but the things that actually motivate people to action are often surprising. For example,we humans are hard wired to avoid losing things we treasure, so fines and bets can be powerful. Desire to fit in with peers and public commitment are often effective. And just a triumphant fist in the air actually provides a chemical reward that makes maintaining a behavior easier.

That’s it. Instigation to kick into gear, ability, and the want-to factor.

Unless, if course, you have no interest in follow-through. If your only aim is awareness, education works great. As for me, I usually want to see something happen.

Say you want folks to protect their farmland from erosion, or to use greener transportation. Or you want to get into a flossing habit. Perhaps you have a music student who needs to practice regularly. These require behavior change, not education. All it takes is the right combination of a spark to set it in motion, can-do, and want-to.

So if you need community action and you are thinking about using an awareness campaign, please reconsider.

And if you’re planning on launching a self-improvement effort armed only with your willpower and the knowledge that it’s a good thing to do, give a second thought.

Let me know how I can help.

Join with thousands who use these techniques to develop life-improving habits, and organizations around the globe who work to make the world a better place. (Motivation)

It’s easy—use the comment section immediately below. (Ability)

What’s lacking? A trigger. So on the count of three, write me a note in the comment box. One… Two…

Want People to Join Your Cause? Try Modeling
By Bob Rowell, @RobtRowell
Advocating a behavior? Try modeling.

Advocating a behavior? Try modeling.

You have an important cause. You want people alongside you taking action.

In your search for effective ways to get folks on board, you might consider modeling. In many cases, people will adopt a behavior when they see someone else do it first.

Below are some examples of modeling.

Anti-litter behavior initiated by modeling

Researchers performed an experiment to test the effect of modeling on anti-littering behavior. The subjects had just attended a presentation on environmental stewardship. They were presumably opposed to littering.

When they returned to their cars, they found their windshields held annoying flyers that had been placed there by the researchers. Their predominant reaction was to toss the fliers on the ground.

That changed, however, following the action of one person (who was part of the research team). He bent down, picked up a tossed flier, and deposited it in a trash can. The researchers found that this modeling resulted in massive change in behavior: the people followed the example rather than littering.

Stevie Wonder’s boycott of Florida

In reaction to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case, the musician Stevie Wonder announced he would cancel all of his performances in Florida until that state changed a policy on use of firearms. Within a week, inspired by this model, a score of other artists followed suit.

You can read a brief Examiner article on this modeling example here.

“Standing Man”

The country of Turkey recently instituted some policies that met with widespread public disapproval. Dissent was forcibly discouraged. One determined man decided to express his aspiration for greater democracy. He stood stock still for hours in a public square, staring at a portrait of the Turkish equivalent of George Washington. Authorities and fellow citizens alike took note of his odd statue-like presence. Based on the wordless model of that one “standing man,” hundreds of people took up the action.

Here is a Huffington Post article on the Standing Man event.

Importance of avoiding “do as I say, not what I do”

Given the powerful influence of modeling, people in positions of authority must strictly avoid “do as I say, not as I do” behavior. When you want your team to adopt some action, modeling can make all the difference.


Make sure that your target audience identifies with your model. Be even more sure that your model is not part of a group they don’t identify with. They likely would do the opposite in order to accentuate their differences.

Two Ways Modeling Can Lead to Behavioral Buy-in

It’s important to note that three factors must be simultaneously in place in order for behavior to occur. (see BJ Fogg’s behavior model.) These are the “want to” factor, ability, and instigation to act. Modeling may enhance the “want to” factor. It can also act as a trigger leading to action. The third factor is important, too: make sure the best thing to do is also the easiest.

Should you use modeling?

Don’t ask me, unless I am part of your target audience. (But do find out how they react before you roll out your campaign!)

To consider: Modeling that is public. Modeling by executives. Modeling by celebrities. Modeling by ordinary folks. Modeling by team leaders. Avoid modeling by people your target audience does not identify with (e.g.: emergency preparedness modeled by Chuck Norris probably won’t work for ordinary folks; modeling by Rush Limbaugh will backfire for people who are not right-wingers.)

Let me know how you incorporate modeling in support of your cause. Please add your comments below.

A Vital Organization

A local club recently invited me to speak about the benefits of participation and cohesion. Or, you might say, organizational vitality.

Some leaders of the group envision a more vibrant club. It would be able to do so much more for the community. It would be better for networking. There would be greater camaraderie and more fun.


I agreed that it was a very important topic. Furthermore, I’ve learned a good deal about it, and am quite eager to help out. But I strongly urged a different topic for the speech.

Talking Won’t Make A Difference

For one thing, talking is very unlikely to make any difference.

Sure, a skilled speaker might make an audience feel good, and even enable them to recite great things about cohesion and participation.

Even for a world-class speaker, though, that would be difficult. Because before you can sell a solution, your audience must feel the pain of not adopting it. They would have to admit that their current performance is inadequate.

But even that speech wouldn’t change the condition of the club.

The reason they asked me to address the topic of organizational vitality is because some people felt a dissonance. The club they have doesn’t match the club they want. The resolution comes from creating alignment between the desired and the actual.

Resolve the Dissonance: Embrace Your Strengths!

One way to resolve that dissonance might be to embrace and celebrate the club as it is. In this particular organization, members attend meetings every week. Objectively, that is a lot of energy, resources, and, undoubtedly, combined talent!

It could be that by recognizing their strengths and partnering with other community entities, the club would discover that it has everything it needs. There are success stories that border on miraculous, all because of collaboration. Rather than do everything, each partner complements the others by providing the component function they already do well.

Resolve the Dissonance: More Vim!

The other way to resolve the dissonance would be to elevate the level of vitality. Talking about it is unlikely to have any effect. What might?

You Have Control

It often helps to consider how much control one already has. Even if it is ability to change things in a negative direction, it can reduce the feeling of impotence. And if you can figure out how you could make it worse, maybe reversing those efforts 180 degrees could deliver the results you want.

So what could you do to create more lethargy in an organization? You might

  • Make the meetings difficult to attend
  • Have goals and activities that members don’t think of as their own
  • Make sure meetings are predictable and dull
  • Make members feel overburdoned by demands on their time and resources
  • Build a sense of resentment and frustration because a small contingency does all the work
  • Make members feel unappreciated

Here are the opposite actions. There might be something here that could improve vitality.

  • Make meetings more convenient
  • Make planning open, inclusive and transparent
  • Incorporate surprises in meetings
  • Reduce demands on time and resources
  • Broaden the distribution of duties through delegation
  • Create activities and events that honor members

You Need Target Behaviors. Shared Experiences

One difficulty of improving vitality is that it is hard to define and measure. Imagine your reaction if someone got up in front of the group and said, “OK, we’re all in favor of participation and cohesion. So on the count of “three,” everybody cohere!”


Cohesion grows out of shared experiences, and, to a lesser degree, shared values and goals.

Now, in contrast with cohesion, experiences provide for some very clear target behaviors. And once you have a clear target behavior, there are some great tools to bring it about.

Create Something Special!

A group retreat can be wonderful for increasing organizational vitality. Creating something out of the ordinary lets everyone know that this is important. Food is always good for bringing people together. Include games or activities that require everyone to work together. Give each member plenty of chance to share their opinions about the organization and how to make it stronger. Celebrate your strengths!

When Time Is Limited

A retreat may be impractical, or members may be unwilling to invest that extra time. There are still plenty of things you can do within the context of regular meetings.

They need to be short, of course, but there are plenty of activities that can increase esprit de corps.

  • Have a discussion about what people like about the club. But start it out with buzz groups of two or three.
  • Do the same with how the club could be even better.
  • Take turns expressing appreciation for another member. Focus on diversity.
  • Any challenge–especially physical (it’s more fun!) that requires full participation to accomplish it.

Change Is Hard. Recruit New Blood

You can try to change the people you have, or get new people. (Hint: change is hard.) Here are some tips on recruiting.

A Vital Organization

Reassessing your resources just might show you that your organization is just fine the way it is. If, however, you are convinced that you need greater participation and cohesion, you can’t really do it by talking. There may well be steps you can take to make it easier and more rewarding. There are also activities you can implement to help. And don’t forget about bringing in new blood.

Usually, we do our best to carry out our projects on our own. But what would it be like if a couple other organizations, or a dozen, or the whole community cooperated on the project?

Coral reef community.

Coral reef community.

One strategy is to partner with friends who share the same aims. Another can be called “functional collaboration.” This approach utilizes partnerships with organizations already fulfilling the component functions of the project.

Here are a few examples of projects that enjoy the benefits of partnerships. Perhaps you’ll find some ideas about how partnering with friends can add more effect to your cause.

Fork It Over

Metro, the regional government serving greater Portland Oregon, was looking for ways to reduce the 180,000 tons of food being dumped annually in landfills. They partnered with the Oregon Food Bank to develop the Fork It Over program. It gave food businesses a safe and easy way to donate that food, rescuing it from the waste stream and getting it to those in need.

Eventually, partnerships burgeoned to include industry professional organizations, food industry personalities, Health Department inspectors, media providers, government recycling outreach staff, numerous food rescue agencies and dozens of donor businesses.

Each partner drew on their particular strengths to fill roles in support of the overreaching goals. In addition to donating, receiving and distributing food, these roles included encouraging participation of peers, publicity, planning, and providing infrastructure.

As a result of all this collaboration, tons of food were saved from the dump and diverted to people in need. Food businesses saved on their waste disposal fees. And Metro got a very high rate of return on their grants: Every dollar spent yielded $31 in benefits.

Check out the case study here.

Diaper Bank project

Many low-resource families have to balance spending $100 a month on diapers with other priorities, such as clothing and rent. Want of diapers affects elder abuse, ability to keep a job, and social isolation as well as health and comfort of babies. A surprisingly wide range of community ills could be alleviated by providing diapers.

A community benefit consulting company saw that there were programs offering assistance for food and other basic needs, but no help when it came to diapers. So they started a diaper bank.

As the project evolved, the planners began a process of “functional collaboration.” They broke it down to determine the functional components, then they looked around to see who else in town was doing that function. Examples of functional needs included warehousing, case management, transportation, and promotion.

Eventually, the entire community owned the project. Schools and businesses conducted diaper drives, and other groups filled needed roles by simply doing what they were already doing.

“The result is a program that is immensely lean, immensely agile, able to handle considerably more volume than it otherwise could,” says Hildy Gottlieb, one of the project designers.

Details are in the book, Pollyanna Principles.

Check out the article on this project here.

Roofers, Road Builders and Recycling Shingles

Thanks to a coalition of waste management, roofing contractors, and the road construction department, everybody is coming out a winner.

Instead of dumping torn-off shingles in the landfill, the roofers give them to the road builders. The shingles from a typical home provide enough material to build fifty feet of new highway.

Waste management sees their landfill expanding a little less quickly. Roofers save on disposal fees. And the highway construction department (and the taxpayers) receive free material.

(Thanks to Chuck Hester, truline Roofing, for providing this example.)

Instead of competing...

Instead of competing…

... try partnering!

… try partnering!

How Might Partnering Give Your Cause More Effect?

When it comes down to your community benefit projects, how might partnering give your cause more effect? What are some groups or people that share your aims or provide complementary services? How might you go about reaching out to these allies?

Let’s talk about your bottom line.


Here are some metrics which will guarantee greater effectiveness for your organization.

Everybody knows what is meant by “bottom line.” It tells whether your organization is profitable, and by how much. If yours is a for-profit organization, it is the goal towards which everything else aims.

But that bottom line does not necessarily tell if your organization is successful and effective. Unless the sole objective of your organization is to make money.

Bhutan and Gross National Happiness

Consider the country of Bhutan. They are, of course, concerned with economic wellbeing, and keep a close eye on their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But they are also intensely interested in the happiness of their citizens. Before they are adopted, proposed policies are examined through the filter of the Gross National Happiness (GNH).

Bhutan’s GDP is a measure of the country’s economic bottom line. The GNH is a measure of another bottom line. Policies are chosen based on their ability to advance both of them.

If You Don’t Measure It …

If you don’t measure a given metric, you’re probably not going to make advances. And if you do make progress in that area, you probably won’t even notice.

A “Chamber of Commerce” With A Twist

Here’s another example. The Sierra Business Council is a sort of regional chamber of commerce in California’s great mountain range, the Sierra Nevada. They want businesses to be increasingly prosperous.

But that’s not all. SBC combines this economic bottom line with two others: community wellbeing and environmental integrity. They see these three bottom lines as interdependant. After all, the natural environment is important to tourism, an important business of the region. And those mountain folks have a keen appreciation for their towns and neighbors.

Plotting For Success

What are your organization’s desired outcomes? the goal towards which everything else aims? What other bottom lines might you have?

CompassPoint offers a system for visualizing how dual bottom lines interact. The graph below shows resources along the horizontal axis, and mission impact along the vertical axis. (Thanks to Susan Mooney for directing my attention to this.)


Mission impact is the true aim of nonprofits, local and regional governmental agencies, utility companies, and other organizations. Resources (including but not limited to money) provide the wherewithall to carry that out.


The folks at CompassPoint use a graph like this to help organizations decide which activities they should adopt, and which to avoid.

High mission impact is your ultimate aim. So anything at the top of the graph–quadrants 1 and 2–is something you want to pursue.

Activities in quadrant 4 don’t yield much outcome for your mission. But they do yield a high return in resource development. (Think broadly about the resources that can give greater effect for your cause! Funding is but a fraction.)

You should shun anything that neither furthers your underlying mission nor provides you with more wherewithall (quadrant 3).

In your organization, never neglect your bottom line(s). Recognize and define what they really are. Because measuring those bottom lines can help keep you on track, can help you set meaningful objectives, and will probably show you more resources than you had suspected.

Maybe, if your cause had all the resources in the world, you wouldn’t have to worry about finding the most effective tactics to fill all the unmet needs you see. It goes without saying, though, that there’s always some need somewhere that you would fill if only you could.

Me, I love the thrill of seeking out the best way to reach people.

Missions Require Action; What’s Yours?

Almost every mission comes down to people doing something. Healthier lifestyle, better student performance, cleaner air and water–they all depend on people changing their behavior. A lot of times, just clearly defining what you want people to do is challenging.

Encouraging Action: Easy As MAT

Very often, causes work to motivate their stakeholders by giving them convincing information. When it comes to persuading people to take an action, though, there are almost always other kinds of motivation that work even better.

And more often then not, causes rely on the stakeholder to provide all their own ability to act. Usually, there are good ways to make the action easier for people to do. And why not?




Even today, a lot of causes still depend on stakeholders to provide their own inspiration to act. Heck, most of us don’t buy socks, eat lunch, or even simply pick up the telephone unless there is something to trigger the action. Surely our stakeholders deserve as much, especially if it makes the world a better place.


(These ideas about how to encourage behavior come from a model from my friend BJ Fogg. It explains that Behavior occurs as a result of the right combination of Motivation, Ability, and Trigger — B=MAT.)

I’ll bet you already have some good ideas about what would be good motivation, ability enhancers, and behavior instigators.


You still want to be a good steward of your resources, of course. Maybe your ideas are the very most effective. But wouldn’t it be prudent to check?

Checking Out The Competition Collaboration

One step is to see what other people have done and what worked for them. There are some online resources that make that extremely easy, especially for any projects pertaining to sustainability. Two I’m aware of are Tools of Change and Fostering Sustainable Behavior. (If you know of more, please give me a holler!) And you can do internet searches. Put in a keyword description of your project plus the term “case study”.

Talking with the people who have done projects like yours is a splendid idea. Pick their brains. They’re probably just as eager to share their insights and tips as you are to receive them.

Developing A Plan: What Do Your Stakeholders Have To Say?


As part of your research, you might want to check out what your stakeholders have to say. What do they currently think about doing what you propose? What would make it more appealing? What would make it easier? Why aren’t they doing it already?

The best way to find out is to ask them. Questionnaires or surveys can be great tools. Focus groups can give you very useful information. Census data and other database resources have a lot to tell; some of it might be helpful to you.

Before You Buy, Take It For A Test Run

Test drive it first!
Test drive it first!

If you find you need to do more to check out what the best ideas are, try some out, small scale, before you invest a lot of resources into something that might not work very well.

Keep An Eye On Your Progress (and you’ll probably learn something good!)

In her book Hands-On Social Marketing, Nedra Weinreich envisions developing a behavior change program as a pyramid. Research is not only the foundation of this pyramid, it envelopes it. NedraPyramid

After you have gone to the trouble of determining the best course of action, it only makes sense to do follow-up checks. You might find ways to tweak it and make it even better.

If There’s A Better Way, You’ll Find It!

I’ve noticed something about us idealists. We’re always on the lookout for better ways to advance our missions. Your search has brought you to this blog (thank you!). If these ideas are helpful, or if you have others, please let me know! Add a comment, below, or shoot me an email.


I used to deliver information. I did so on behalf of causes such as giving people healthier lives and saving Guatemalan peasants’ fields from being eroded into rocky subsoil. When it came down to people taking action, the information didn’t do much. Diligent seeking out of knowledge has taught me methods of giving causes greater effect. Now, instead of information, I deliver yeses.

The first key is to carefully consider what it is you want to happen. Since missions require action, I am particularly interested in creating behavior change.

What Do You Want People To Do?

Let’s say you’re a music tutor, and want your students to play better. Your target behavior is for them to get out their instruments and practice.

Or if you want patients to comply with their prescriptions, the first thing they have to do is pick up the medicine at the pharmacy. (That’s a bigger challenge than I had imagined—one in three never do, and it ends up costing over 100,000 American lives each year.)

Let’s take a closer look at giving to a charity. That seemingly simple act is not one behavior, but a whole series of them. A potential donor must (1) open the email (2) click on the link to the organization website, (3) navigate to the “give here” section of the site, (4) fill out a donation form, and (5) arrange payment. Clever fundraisers do all they can to help contributors accomplish each separate behavior.

Baby Steps

Breaking the target behavior down into smaller components is eminently useful. Take a look at what my friend BJ Fogg has to say about how taking tiny steps is critical to developing a habit.(E.g: to create a habit of flossing your teeth, start with flossing one tooth.)

Here are some tiny target behaviors:

  • Text I’m Helping to donate $5
  • Floss one tooth
  • Buy a water conserving shrub for your yard
  • Ride your bike to work for one week
  • Buy a low-energy light bulb

How to Facilitate the Behavior: Make it Easy, Provide Triggers (and Motivation)

After you define exactly what you want people to do, the next step is to facilitate that target behavior. First, find out why they aren’t already doing it. (Hint: it’s probably not because they need another brochure.)

For one thing, you need to make sure that the right choice is the easy choice. Tear down any barriers to the target behavior.

Another key to facilitating your target behavior is to provide a trigger that tells people do it now.

Last, and usually least, assure that your target population has motivation. Just like making it easy and giving a trigger, the particular motivation is totally dependent on your target behavior and population. Making a public commitment and fitting in with expectations of peers are often powerful motivators.

Greater Effect for Your Cause—Define Your Target Behavior

When it comes to getting people to do stuff, you must first define exactly what the stuff is. What are your cause’s target behaviors? How can you break that down into tiny steps? And how can you encourage people to take those actions? Let me know what you come up with. Because I’m committed to giving your cause greater effect.

More Effect For Your Cause

Maybe you are working to help an individual, or perhaps you are working for the good of the planet. You have a cause. I’m here to help your cause have more effect.

Before you launch a campaign, take some time to consider what specific outcomes you’re looking for. The clearer you are about your target, the better your chances of hitting it.

Four Different Aims

Perhaps you want someone to increase their level of skill in doing something. Math teachers, music tutors, soccer coaches and physical therapists work on skills development.

Or let’s say you want your target audience to know more about some topic. Increasing knowledge is the purview of history teachers and research librarians, among others.

Maybe you want more members or friends for your organization.

The target of many, however, is for people to take some action. What they really want is for their target audience to adopt some behavior. Examples are donating money, saving electricity, practicing violin and picking up after their dog.

Don’t Use a Hammer to Drive a Screw

Skills development, education, or joining a club don’t necessarily have anything to do with adopting a behavior at all. Carefully defining your target is the first step to choosing the appropriate tools. Trying to promote an action by using education or membership development is like trying to drive a screw with a claw hammer.

Different Tools for Different Aims


Do you want people to increase their skills? Give them guided opportunities to practice, practice, practice. Make it as easy as you can to exercise that practice. Remember that practice is a behavior. Here’s a little cartoon I made about helping a guitar student develop her musical skills. And always remember your audience(s).


If you want folks to know more, then give information. Be quick, clear, and interesting, and always remember your audience(s).

4AIMSmembersTo bring new members on board, ease them along the five steps of engagement.


If taking some particular action is your target, give them, in the proper blend, trigger, ease of action, and motivation. Don’t confuse information with motivation. And always remember your audience(s).

For Best Effect, Match the Approach to the Target

Skills development, gaining information, increasing membership, and taking action are distinct types of targets. They usually call for distinct approaches, as well. Having your desired end result clearly in mind is key for giving your cause more effect.