Outside the Box: Practicing ReAch for More Influence

A Familiar Cliche

How many times have you heard the phrase “think outside the box” in a workplace conversation?  Such a comment is often meant to encourage new ideas or to introduce a novel approach to a project or opportunity.  Although we may not know exactly what the “box” is, for the most part we understand the sentiment.  There can be a great payoff in approaching an issue or situation differently – and hopefully more effectively – by recognizing unique circumstances that may suggest a departure from our usual or default response.  If this might be the case for a project, it is most certainly true for how we influence others.

As important as it is to adjust our approach when influencing others, for the most part, we tend to do quite the opposite.  Most of us develop a particular leadership style over time, and we stick to it.  We tend to rely on this same style nearly all the time, even as circumstances and people around us may differ.  Research suggests this reliance may be associated with a link to our brains’ neurochemical systems, and may develop over time without our intentional effort.

We may assure ourselves that such consistency is out of our control and even desirable.  In reality, such false comfort may mask an over-reliance on a particular style (“box”), while assuming those same circumstances and people will adjust to our approach – which is rarely the case.

From Neuroscience to Everyday Practice

As complex as neurochemical composition can be, we need only to focus on two aspects of motivation to maximize influence in our daily interactions:

  • Relational Drive:  how we approach those working with us (“who” will help us get it done)
  • Achievement Drive:  how we approach the work itself (“what” needs to get done, and when)

The interaction of these two drives creates our ReAch – that is, the combination of our Relational Drive and our Achievement Drive.


ReAch can be seen in every interaction between two people, whenever one person seeks to influence another.  ReAch is practically described via just four primary approaches styles:

  • Counselor:  a more methodical, expressive style that influences others through encouragement and empathy.  The Counselor interacts with warmth and openness, and their ReAch is particularly strong in identifying and addressing personal concerns that may impact a person’s motivation.
  • Coach:  a more urgent, expressive style that influences others through enthusiasm and persuasion.  The Coach is known for a very engaged approach, and their ReAch is particularly strong at promoting camaraderie and gaining buy-in with those who may not feel engaged in pursuing goals.
  • Driver:  a more urgent, guarded style that influences others through direction and control.  The Driver’s “take charge” approach is known for decisive action, and their ReAch tends to be most effective when creating momentum toward goals and taking corrective action when things get off track.
  • Advisor:  a more methodical, guarded style that influences through instruction and organization.  The Advisor is known for a consistent, steady approach that promotes stability, and their ReAch is most noticeable when structure and order are needed to translate goals into specific actions.

Expanding our ReAch

In order to influence others more effectively, the best leaders learn to be adaptive in using all four styles. Simply put, they ReAch others. They learn to apply each style at different times to match the unique setting in which they find themselves.  They learn to recognize even subtle differences in conversations or in body language that provide cues as to which style may be the best fit for a given situation.