By Sharon Drew Morgen

Imagine starting work each day at 7:45 with a 15 minute meditation and working until 3. At your 7-8 pm nightly zoom meeting the team shares new ideas, discusses problems, and sets agendas for upcoming work; follow-on meetings occur at 8-9pm. Your workspace has a corkboard to put up whatever items keep you happy and creative. All memos use She or They pronouns exclusively. Besides vacations, you’re given a week off each year, with full pay and costs covered to take any course in the US that will keep you creative.

Your manager (as are most managers and corporate leaders in your company) is a woman. All salaries and bonuses are published online for transparency. For the annual super bonus, you develop a new product (with a pitch statement explaining how to make money AND make nice) to fit within the decision team’s (all women) criteria around physical, mental, and emotional intelligence. You will trial the idea to your boss during your monthly check-in where she asks about your work-life balance and to make sure you’re doing well. All communication practices are built around win/win, both/and, and Servant Leader thinking. And for help solving problems, you can access the company coach.

In case you haven’t guessed, this might be how a woman-run workplace operates, although women would certainly make sure of an equal ratio of women to men. The hours are set around school hours, with after-dinner time devoted to unfinished work. And sharing feelings, ideas, creativity, happiness, are part of your job. How different work would be.


Hundreds of books have been written on the inequities that women suffer in the United States. (The most inclusive and fact-filled is: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men ). But let’s take a peek at just one industry – the notedly woman-blind tech industry – and see how women fare.

In 2020 $5.1 Billion was raised in venture money by women; men received $58 Billion. In the 1990s, 2% of women got funded. I bet

  • more than that tried to raise money for really good ideas;
  • women’s ideas are at least as revenue-producing as men’s;
  • our internet, keyboards, search tools, websites, games, and apps would be different if created with designs and ideas with 50% involvement from women.

Virtually all technology has been designed and funded by men.


In general, women are minimally present in innovation and leadership regardless of the industry. Women receive 10% of the funding (up from 2% in 1996. Um, yay?), far fewer management positions, less pay (Lower salaried women get equal pay; the higher the position, the more discrepancy between women’s remuneration and men’s.). We get underestimated, patronized, overlooked, undervalued, isolated and our ideas get ignored (or taken over to great fanfare by men); we’re kept off creative teams if we’re even hired at all.

We’re certainly left out of upper-management positions and Boards, invisible and not mentored, even as corporations claim to work toward having sustainable and diverse workplaces. Yes, it’s ‘getting better.’ But still nowhere close to equal.

And do you realize that everything you read uses a male (he) pronoun as standard? In my books I alternate pronouns in odd/even chapters. Invariably I get asked why I only use the feminine pronoun; readers don’t even notice the male pronoun used in half the book. Imagine if all books, all articles, were written with only ‘she’.

With proof of excellence, with the knowledge that at least half of all spending dollars are spent by women, with the knowledge that women are better managers and provide better results all around, what’s the problem?

Hmmm. Oh. I know. We have vaginas.

How is it possible that a body part can cause such unfairness and stupidity, such a constraint on creativity and innovation and possibility? The problem is obviously long-standing and systemic – built right into the system.

It touches everyone. A colleague of mine is a trans woman who transitioned in her 50s after she had already achieved great status and pay as a man. She says that once she became a woman she was given less opportunities, less respect, and the possibility of less pay (She put up a helluva fight.) Same person. Same brain. Different genitals. It makes no sense at all.

According to statistics, men working in women-led companies (or teams) are over 50% happier and bring in far more revenue. Google states (bold from Google):

Female-led organizations are more profitable, perform better, and have higher profit margins compared to male-led companies. …these economic benefits translate into profits of up to $1.8 billion globally” and “Companies with more women in management and board positions outperformed their more male-led counterparts.”

And the Boston Globe writes:

“Women — and men — report higher job satisfaction at women-led companies. Companies where women make up more than half the executive team scored higher in key areas: more confident in their employers’ overall goals and strategies; more effective communication and the mission more clearly defined, leading to a greater belief in the company’s product or service; and more autonomy.”

We know this. Really we do. So why aren’t we acting as if we do?


I’ve had to contend with this my entire work life. As a woman inventor, my original thinking is too far outside the box – certainly too far outside mainstream – and sometimes defy conventional givens. But instead of excitement, curiosity, respect or consideration, my concepts are largely ignored or not believed and I’m denigrated. I just heard an erstwhile male colleague say I was ‘One of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. But so irritating!’

And I get overlooked. When Harvard Business Review did a double edition on ‘The Future of Sales’ years ago, I was excluded. Why? As the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, the only new, wholly unique selling model in 100 years, it was quite a surprise, especially when the editor was a think tank colleague! I called him:

SD: Hey, Tom. Nice Job. But since I have the only future-based selling model, and you are familiar with my work, how did you leave me out? You included Dale Carnegie which is 90 years old, not the future, and no longer being used. Why couldn’t you at least have given Buying Facilitation® a mention somewhere?

TS: I thought of it, Sharon-Drew. But you didn’t have the credentials.

Um. Let’s see: New York Times Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity) with six other books and over 500 published articles on the subject; trained 100,000 sales people globally for many Fortune 500 companies with an average of a 600% increase over sales. What credentials am I missing?

The problem first reared its head in 1996. Years before Google, with a new World Wide Web that had no search capability, I developed a search tool that efficiently facilitated site visitors to the exact page(s) they needed. Then, in the Dot Com era where even Joe the Plumber was raising millions, I sought funding. I was offered $15,000,000 by the one woman VC in Silicon Valley IF I could find another million from someone else.

You know where this is going: In an era where investors were hungry for ideas, eager to give away millions to just about anyone who provided a sliver of hope that they could be part of the action, I couldn’t find $1,000,000 from a male investor for a pretty cool idea that was at least worth trialing. I’m going to make a guess that my being a woman had something to do with it.


As an example of one, I’d like to share my story and ideas. Maybe you’ll also wonder what might have been if I were male.

With a distinct mental vision of brain connections, a visceral insight into systems, accompanied by decades of study with available data, I’ve spent my life designing ways to consciously cause change – the HOW to enable everyone to discover or create their own best answers by generating neural circuits. With the intent to serve Others to discover their own excellence, with the trust that everyone has their own answers, I build a bridge between spirit and business.

Ultimately I design systemic brain change models, ways to consciously (re)configure the brain to

  • discover where best answers are stored/how to retrieve them,
  • develop new circuits that generate wholly new habits and behaviors,
  • listen without bias,
  • learn without resistance,
  • change and decide consciously using the specific steps and sequence all brains take.

My models include:

  • Buying Facilitation® – Helps sellers lead not-quite-yet buyers through Pre-Sales change management steps so 40% more become buyers in half the time.
  • Change Facilitation – Enables intentional creation of new neural circuitry for permanent habit/behavior change.
  • Leadership Facilitation – Leads Others to discover their values-based choices in a resistance-free change management initiative.
  • Facilitative Questions – A new form of question that pulls unconscious criteria, in a specific sequence, from the right places in the brain for efficient and accurate criteria-based decision making.
  • Thirteen Steps to Change – The specific steps all change takes for decision making and resistance-free transformation.
  • The Decider – An app for sales, deal rooms, sites, team decision making, to direct each step, phase, criteria, and consideration to an efficient decision.
  • Learning Facilitation – Facilitates learning by providing neural circuits a path for permanent learning without resistance.

Profound ideas and innovative capabilities for healthcare, sales, leadership, coaching, decision making, change, training, and management. They’ve made their way into the world. Sort of. Stolen in part by men (A recent new ‘partner’ advertised my newest idea (Buying Enablement) as his own, relegating me to ‘trainer.’), the ideas have been minimized (misunderstood, misdefined) to fit mainstream thinking causing me to watch my own ideas, now defined almost beyond recognition, compete with me. At a think tank recently, I discussed my ideas with a Harvard neuroscience who firmly stated that I was obviously a liar as my ideas weren’t possible.

But it doesn’t stop at ‘liar’. I’m seen as: pushy (translation for a man with similar behaviors: A Go Getter!); obnoxious (He’s Got Such An Interesting Personality!); arrogant (He’s So Confident!); eccentric (Great Ideas! Soooo Outside The Box!); without merit due to inadequate education (His Ideas Are Profound! And Self Taught Too! He’s A Genius!) and irritating (She’s So Much Smarter Than Me!).

And yet I wake up every day with hope – hope that at least some of the concepts will be used to enable folks to truly serve one another, for people to consciously change habits permanently, for leaders to enable change without resistance, for doctors to facilitate folks to healthier lifestyle choices, for sellers to facilitate people through change.

Is it possible if I were a man they’d be endemic by now?


What needs to happen for helpful, useful, innovative ideas to be shared and distributed regardless of the gender of the creator? I certainly don’t have answers. But I can offer some questions for us all to noodle:

  • What would you need to believe differently to deeply consider the efficacy of ‘different’ ideas regardless of the sex of the innovator?
  • What’s stopped you from using your voice in your company to advocate for more female hires, more women on the Board, and equal pay for women?
  • How many women on your team are heard, backed, and mentored up the leadership chain? And what is stopping you – personally – from doing your part to boost women in management?
  • How would you know if you have unconscious biases that either ignore, avoid, or disparage ideas from women?

It’s time, folks. It’s time to use all the brain power, the heart capacity, the creativity and innovation available, regardless of genitalia. What are you willing to do to help make it happen?


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

December 6th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management

One Comment

Ask more questions! sellers are admonished. Ask better questions! leaders and coaches are reminded. Questions seem to be a prompt in many fields, from medicine to parenting. But why?

There’s a universal assumption that questions will yield Truth, generate ‘real’ discussion topics or realizations, or uncover hidden gems of information or important details. Good questions can even inspire clarity. Right?

I’d like to offer a different point of view on what questions really are and how they function. See, I find questions terribly subjective and often don’t get to the Truth.


Let me start with Google’s definition of ‘question’: a grouping of words posed to elicit data. Hmmmm…. But they don’t often elicit accurate data. Here’s my assessment. Questions are:

  • posed according to the needs, curiosity, goals, and intent of the Asker;
  • interpreted uniquely and unconsciously, according to a Responder’s world view;
  • potentially ignore more important information outside the Asker’s purview.

Here’s my reasoning:

  1. Language: Questions are posed using words and languaging unique to the Asker. Using their own (subjective) intent and goals, their own idioms and word choices, Askers assume Responders will accurately interpret them and respond along expected lines. This expectation is most easily met between folks who are familiar with each other, but less successfully with those outside the Asker’s sphere of influence. Too often Responders interpret a query quite differently than intended, offering responses far afield from the Asker’s intent.
  2. Listening/brain: All incoming words enter our ears as meaningless sound vibrations (see my book on this topic), “puffs of air” that eventually get translated according to historic circuits based on our mental models that have been set during our lifetimes. In other words, and similar with the language problem, Responders may not accurately translate incoming questions according to the intent of the Asker. The way Responders hear and interpret the question is at the mercy of the Responder’s brain circuits.
  3. Curiosity: Often an Asker seeks data, thoughts, according to his/her desire for knowledge. It might be for research, interest, or ego – to exhibit their intelligence or prove their commitment. Yet given the way information is stored and retrieved in the brain, the question may capture some degree of applicable data, or a whole lotta subjective, unconscious thoughts that may or may not be relevant.

As you can see, the stated goal of questions – to extract useful, relevant data – has a reasonable chance of failure.


Here’s my opinion on a few different forms of question:

Open question: To me, open questions are great in social discussions but there’s no way to get precise data from them. What would you like for dinner? will prompt an enormous variety of choices. But if the fridge only has leftovers, an open question won’t work, and a closed question “Would you like me to heat up last night’s dinner or Monday night’s dinner?” would. Open questions cause brains to do a transderivational search that may unearth responses far afield from the Asker’s intent and the Asker is out of control.

Closed question: I love these. They are perfect when a specific response is needed. What time is dinner? Should we send answers now or wait until our meeting? Of course they can also be highly manipulative when only limited responses are offered for potentially broad possibilities.

Leading question: Don’t you think you rely on conventional questions too much? That’s a leading question. Manipulative. Disrespectful. Hate them.

Probing question: Meant to gather data, these questions face the same problem I’ve mentioned: using the goal, intent, and words of the Asker, they will be interpreted uniquely as per the Responder’s historic stored content, and extract some fraction of the full data set possible.

Given the above, I invented a new form of question!


When I began developing my brain change models decades ago, I realized that using conventional questions would most likely not help me achieve my goal of facilitating Others through their brains to discover their own best answers. Knowing that our brain’s unconscious search for answers (in 5 one-hundredths of a second) leads to subjective, historic, and limited responses along one of the brain’s neural superhighways, I spent 10 years figuring out how to use questions to help people find where their unbiased answers reside.

Since incoming words get translated according to our existing neural circuits, the trick was to use specific words in a specific order so the brain would be led to find the best existing circuits. This proved especially helpful in

  • data gathering to discover a more expanded range of choices,
  • decision making to uncover each element of consideration as matched with values and outcomes,
  • habit/behavior change when seeking to understand and modify the patterns and neural circuitry underlying the current behaviors,
  • leadership, sales, coaching when leading others to discover routes to new choices.

One of the main problems I had to resolve was how to circumvent a brain’s automatic and unconscious preferences to make it possible to notice the broadest view of choices.

Language to create objectivity

Since questions (as words) are automatically sent down specific neural routes, I had to figure out a way to use language to broaden the parameters of routes the brain could choose from, expand possibility, and circumvent bias as much as possible – a difficult one as our natural listening is unwittingly biased.

To this end, my Facilitative Questions use specific types of words to facilitate distancing the Responder from the emotions and biases. Let me show you how an objective viewpoint differs from a subjective one and why it’s preferred for decision making: See yourself having dinner with one other person. Notice the other person across from you (the Self/automatic/subjective/unconscious modality). Then mentally put yourself up on the ceiling and see both of you (the Observer/objective/conscious modality).

If you’re having an argument with your dinner partner, where would you rather be – ceiling or across the table – to understand the full data set of what was going on so you could make personal adjustments?

On the ceiling, where you’d see both of you. From this meta position, you’d be objective, free from the feelings and biases that guided the argument along historic circuits. From Observer you’d have the best chance to make choices that might resolve your problem. Try it for yourself! Don’t forget to go back down to Self to communicate warmly. My clients walk around saying ‘Decide from Observer, Deliver from Self.’

So when developing Facilitative Questions, I had to put listeners into Observer. I played with words and found that these cause Responders to unconsciously step back (i.e. meta) to take an unbiased, less subjective, and broader view.

  • how would you know if…
  • what would you need to understand differently…

Change the goal

I also had to change the goal of a question, from my own curiosity and need to elicit data to helping the Other discover their own answers.

“Why do you wear your hair like that?”

is a conventional question puts the Responder directly into Self, while

“How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?”

enables the Responder to step back, look at current and past hairstyles, note their situation to see if it merits change, and have a more complete data/criterion set with which to possibly make a change – or not. This not only provides a full set of unbiased possibilities, but it encourages trust between Asker and Responder and doesn’t push a response.

Questions follow steps to change

The biggest element I had to figure out was the sequence. I figured out 13 sequential steps to all change and decision making and I pose the Facilitative Questions down the sequence. Here are the main categories:

  • Where are you and what’s missing? Responder begins by discovering their full set of givens, some of which are unconscious.
  • How can you fix the problem yourself? Systems don’t seek change, merely to resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. To minimize any ‘cost’ involved, it’s best to begin by trying to fix the problem with what’s familiar.
  • How can you manage change without disruption and with buy-in? Until it’s known what the fallout of the ‘new’ will be, and there’s agreement, no change will occur.

I’ve trained these questions globally for sales folks learning my Buying Facilitation® model to help prospects become buyers, and for coaches and leaders to help followers discover their own best answers.

If your job is to serve, the best thing you can offer others is a commitment to help them help themselves. Facilitative Questions can be used in any industry, from business to healthcare, from parenting to relationships as tools to enable discovery, change, and health.

It takes a bit of practice to create these questions, but the coaches, sellers, doctors, and leaders I’ve taught them to use them to help Others discover their own excellence. I encourage you to consider learning them. And I’m happy to discuss and share what I know. My hope is that you’ll begin to think about questions differently.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

November 22nd, 2021

Posted In: News


Trust. The big kahuna. The sales industry seeks it; doctors assume it; couples demand it; change can’t occur without it. But what is it? Why isn’t it easier to achieve? And how can we engender it in relationships?

I define trust as the awareness of Another as being safe, similar, and sane enough to connect with, and occurs when they

  • have core beliefs that align and seem harmonious with mine,
  • feel heard, accepted, and understood by me,
  • feel compatible or safe as a result of our interacting,
  • believe their status quo won’t be at risk when connected to me.

Unless these criteria are satisfied, trust can’t occur no matter how kind, professional, necessary, or well-intended another person or message is. It’s a Belief issue.


Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized, unconscious, and unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider.

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”. The problem occurs when our world views collide.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and enable us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

Beliefs instigate our habits and assumptions, restricting our life choices such as our occupations, politics, values, mates – even our child rearing practices. And our Beliefs are the initiators of our behaviors – behaviors being Beliefs in action.

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, and because we each view the world through our own Beliefs and perceptions, it’s difficult to accurately perceive Another’s internal world view.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The content they share, or even their unique delivery style, may unwittingly offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by expecting their ideas to be accepted, but instead cause resistance and distrust.


I’d like to offer thoughts on some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust, then provide some ideas of how to stimulate it.

Relationship Building: We’ve been led to believe that having a relationship encourages buy-in to new ideas. But it’s a conundrum: polite as an interaction appears or how necessary our message, we can’t easily build a relationship with folks with divergent Beliefs, or fight their automatic filters that react to us immediately. In other words, “pushing in” doesn’t work, even if our data and intent are accurate, and even if we think we have a relationship that entitles us to ‘share.’ We might have a superficial connection, but not a relationship; “making nice” does not constitute a relationship, or engender change or trust.

Information: As influencers we often attempt to “get in” with the information we assume our CPs need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). We fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, or how their listening filters translate it for them. With the best will in the world, even with good data to help folks who need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in since people unconsciously defend their status quo. It’s our brain’s fault! Because all incoming data is translated for us automatically by our historic neural circuits, new ideas aren’t always interpreted accurately and run the risk of causing resistance. (See my book on this topic.) So save the information sharing for when a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed.

Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, the “rational/ scientific” data you offer to “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of the medical model, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

Clear Communication: We all think we communicate clearly, yet we’re not as effective speaking in ‘Other’s language’ given our CPs unconscious, biased listening filters that end up preventing our “risky” data from being heard accurately. Certainly we believe we’re choosing the “right” words and approach to convey our intent. Yet our message is heard accurately only by those with similar Beliefs and resisted by the very people who need our information the most.


Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do?

As coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate conversations based on them discovering their own excellence, with a goal to match their Belief criteria before offering new ideas. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility that actually creates trust:

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering how their Beliefs instigated their behaviors. Entering with the goal to offer information, or get your question answered, or extract promises of action will automatically engender distrust and resistance.
  2. Ask the type of questions that facilitate and enable internal discovery; conventional questions merely pull data biased by the needs of the Asker. I designed Facilitative Questions (see below) that enable congruent change without bias by leading the CP through their unique route to discovery.
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change for decision making and new habit generation. These promote congruent change by leading Others down their own choice points. Learn the steps, and help your CP traverse the steps to match Beliefs and encourage acceptance prior to mentioning your idea.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers and that she’ll shift toward excellence as appropriate for her. It won’t show up exactly as you’d hoped; but there will be a new opening for collaboration without resistance.
  5. Understand that until or unless your CP can recognize his own incongruences, there is no way he’ll welcome comments from you that sound like you’re saying he’s wrong or insufficient.

In other words, create a Beliefs-based bond that will open the possibility of you offering information later, once they’ve discovered exactly where they need it and how to use it.


I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order, and based on systemic brain change, not information gathering. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

Conventional: Do you think it’s time for a haircut? or Why do you wear your hair that way?

Telling someone they need a haircut, or asking them if they noticed they need a haircut, or giving them an article on new types of hair styles – all based on your own need to convince your CP to change – will cause defensiveness and distrust.

Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This leads your CP

  • into a Witness state,
  • beyond their resistance and reaction,
  • outside of their normal unconscious reactions,
  • to notice the exact criteria they need to consider change and
  • to open the possibility for new choices that match their own Beliefs.

By using this type of question we offer a route for the CP to discover their own best answer that aligns with their Beliefs and engenders trust. No push, no need for a specific response. Serving another by helping them discover their own Excellence.

I designed these questions as part of my Buying Facilitation® model, a generic change facilitation model (often used in sales) that enables congruent change. Sounds a bit wonky, I know, and it’s certainly not conventional. But worth researching. I’ve trained large numbers of sales folks and coaches over the past 40 years against control groups and consistently have a 40% success rate. When we facilitate our CPs down their path to conscious choice, we

  • help them discover their incongruencies,
  • help them understand the areas at risk,
  • help them develop their own route to managing risk (i.e. change) and where they can’t do it themselves,
  • enable buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

Until your audience is able to accomplish this in their own way, using their own Beliefs, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you.

Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

November 15th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Listening


As an influencer, how often do say to yourself “Why doesn’t she understand me?” or “If he understood me better this decision would be a no-brainer.” It’s natural to assume Others will understand – and comply with – your suggestions. Have you ever wondered what’s happening when they don’t?

As influencers, part of your job is to change minds. But how? In general, you’ve likely used different forms of information (story, article, pitch, etc.) to ‘hook, grab, engage, guide,’ assuming your words carry the meaning you intend to convey. But do they?

Sometimes people misinterpret you and your audience is unintentionally restricted to only those who naturally understand your message. Sometimes people ignore you, regardless of how important your message or how engagingly you deliver it or how badly they need it.

What if ‘changing minds’ was easier without content or information? Or that it was the last thing needed? I’d like to begin by explaining how brains interpret language and how this facilitates decision making.


Thinking about using information as a persuasion strategy, let me share a confounding concept: words have no meaning at all! According to John Colapinto in his fascinating book This is the Voice,

Speech is a connected flow of ever-changing, harmonically rich musical pitches determined by the rate at which the phonating chords vibrate, the complex overtone spectrum is filtered by the rapidly changing length and shape of the mouth, and lips, interspersed with bursts of noise…It is our brain that turns this incoming stream of sonic air disturbances into something meaningful. (pg 54)

Indeed, it was only when researching my book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard that I discovered words have no inherent meaning until our subjective brains define them.

Here’s a greatly simplified explanation of how brains translate incoming words. Seems words enter our ears as meaningless sound vibrations. These ‘puffs of air’, as many books call the vibrations, soon become signals that our Central Executive Network, or CEN, dispatches to what it deems an historic ‘similar-enough circuit’ (one among 84 billion) for translation.

People understand us according to the existing circuits the incoming signals are sent to, regardless of meaning, or of how different these circuits are from our intended message.

And where the signals don’t match the existing circuitry, a listener’s brain kindly discards the difference!

In other words, people don’t hear us according to the messages we send but by what they already know and believe, potentially outside of our intent.

Unfortunately, because this brain activity is electro-chemical and automatic, neither Speaker or Listener understands how far from accurate the translation is. Listeners assume their brains tell them exactly what’s been said; Speakers assume they’ve been heard accurately. Turns out these assumptions are false; communication potentially ends up biased and subjective.


The misinterpretation problem gets exacerbated when your words get sent down Other’s circuits that unwittingly incur resistance. If my brain tells me you said ABL it’s hard to convince me you said ABC. I’ve lost friends and partners that way and didn’t understand why until my book research. And sadly, because it all takes place outside of conscious awareness, we have no control over it.

This possibility of misinterpreting incoming information makes the case for providing information when it can be most accurately translated: when the Listener knows exactly what they are listening for, the brain will have a more direct route to the right circuits.

But by shifting your goal there’s a way to get your message to invoke change: lead Others to where their brains seek new data and then share the information to fit! In other words, help Others figure out the information they need from you then supply content that will be heard accurately.

One of my clients said that instead of shooting an arrow to hit a bullseye I taught him to first shoot the arrow then draw the bullseye where the arrow lands! I’ll discuss how I figured this out.

After 60 years of studying, and developing models for, systemic brain change and decision making, I’ve realized that information is the very last thing anyone needs when considering doing something different (i.e. buying, changing habits, etc.). And yes, it goes against most conventional thinking. But hang with me.

As a kid, my then-undiagnosed Asperger’s caused me to act differently than people around me. I was in trouble often, and never understood why. I began reading voraciously – dozens of books! – on how to change my behaviors: how to visualize, to motivate myself, make plans. But they were all based on trying to fix my seemingly automatic actions. And I failed repeatedly to make any of the changes permanent.

After trying unsuccessfully for decades, I realized my brain was the culprit and began developing neural workarounds to create new brain pathways to new behaviors. I know, I know. It’s odd, and there was lots of trial-and-error. But eventually I figured it out.

It proved so powerful I dedicated the rest of my life to developing, writing about, and teaching systemic brain change models. Thankfully, my concepts caught on in sales, coaching, leadership, and change management.

My facilitation models help people orchestrate their own change; in sales, my Buying Facilitation® model teaches people on route to fixing a problem how to traverse their change management steps to become buyers. I enable people to discover, and act on, their own excellence and as needed, influencers then supply the information or skills.


For those of you whose job is to get others to do something you want them to do, let’s look at it from the Other’s side – the people on route to change, those who have discovered a problem they want resolved. Once you understand what goes on between the status quo and doing something differently, it’ll be easier to facilitate change. Here are some points to consider:

Conform to norms: Change is more than doing something different, but a reconfiguration of the status quo that must end up conforming with the norms on which it was developed. And it’s only when something has gone wrong that something different from the status quo is required. Obviously the timing is dependent on the changee, regardless of when an influencer wants change to occur.

Cost: It’s not until the ‘cost’ (resource, results, disruption) of a fix is identified that anyone knows whether a problem is worth fixing. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve recognized, no one naturally seeks out change if all seems fine, regardless of the problem or the efficacy of the solution.

Disruption: Because our internal systems seek balance (homeostasis), we avoid disruption. And the time it takes us to change in a way that avoids disruption is the length of time it takes us to buy, change, or decide.

Personal: For change to be sought, the Other must discover their own route to change and maintain control over their own criteria, not to mention ensure their underlying system ends up matching the Identity and Beliefs of the original configuration. The status quo does not like being altered!

It only takes a shift in thinking and a focus on helping Others first discover how to handle their own change issues. Here’s a situation where I used a carefully crafted sentence to direct a friend’s thinking to where her choice points lie.

I have a lovely young friend who, to me, had serious energy problems. Some days she had difficulty getting out of bed, even with 5 children. Some days she didn’t have the energy to cook or work. And she’d been having this issue for decades. After knowing her a year I finally said, “If the time ever comes that you wish for additional choices around your store of energy to be more available for your kids, I have a thought.”

By shifting the context to her children, by giving her control over her choices and not trying to change her, by leading her to each of her decision points, her system didn’t feel threatened. She welcomed my thoughts, got help (My naturopath discovered she was actually dying from a critical lack of vitamin B12.) and now is awake daily at 5:30 a.m. with endless amounts of energy.

No matter what the problem or solution may be, if a system is adjusted to the status quo and can’t do anything different without major disruption, if the cost is too high, it won’t consider doing anything different. So how can we help Others find their own excellence?


You must begin by trusting Others have their own criteria for change and that as an outsider, you can’t know it. But as you lead them through their steps to excellence, they’ll notice where they can’t accomplish it on their own and know exactly what they need from you. Then they’ll be ready to hear your information. And as you’ve already helped them help themselves, they’ll come to you for their needs and trust has been established.

The facilitation model I developed leads them through to excellence. It involves 13 specific steps that follow the sequence all brain change takes as a precursor to behavior change. It provides the tools to help the Other figure out their own steps to change so you can then offer the information at the point they needed it:

  • recognize the full set of givens involved;
  • identify all stakeholders and get them involved early;
  • try workarounds to fix the problem internally if possible;
  • understand what the change/fix involves if getting help needed;
  • get buy-in to adopt the new.

It’s not so simple as an outsider gathering information or posing questions to help the influencer understand. Because until they know that the cost change will be equal to or less than their status quo, they will not take action.

Historically, I’ve taught this facilitation process successfully to 100,000 sales professionals and coaches. But with the new technology, it’s quite possible to use it in marketing for Deal Rooms, ABM discussions, and Sales Enablement.

Recently I’ve developed a new Buying Enablement practice to enable marketers to first facilitate the buying decision process and remain a thought leader during the customer life-cycle.

So as you consider delaying your storytelling or pitching until you’ve facilitated change, ask yourself:

  • Would you rather speak or be heard?
  • What is your job – to serve Others through to their own form of excellence or get your point across to anyone who can listen?
  • Do you seek a quick hit or a long-term relationship?
  • Would you rather be a servant leader or an information hawker?

You decide. It’s possible to serve Others and be available with information when and as they need. Sellers can first facilitate buying, coaches and facilitate permanent change, and marketers can develop content that leads people through to brain change. I’m here if you have questions. Or go to to learn about my facilitation and brain change models.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at    

November 8th, 2021

Posted In: News


Did you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? Why important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time when they have the opportunity to learn something new to be better?

The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner but a problem with both the training model itself and the way brains learn. In this article, I’ll explain how to design training to facilitate learning.


Learning is a systems/change problem, and our brain is in charge. It unconsciously translates incoming messages automatically as per our history, which doesn’t include the new content. And herein lie the problem.

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will.

Because anything new is a potential threat to our habitual and carefully organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ and automatically resist when there’s no buy-in.

Indeed, to maintain system’s balance (homeostasis), our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy of the required change. With the best motivation in the world, learners may not be able to congruently make the change the new information requires.

The other problem is a pure brain thing. Because the new doesn’t enter with an infrastructure, our brains have no place to store it uniquely. Hence learners practice well during the experiential portions of a program, but they can’t continue their proficiency after they leave.

But there’s a way to design training programs that incorporates change with new neural circuits. Let’s begin by examining the training model itself.


The design of most training is information-transfer based and potentially poses problems when

  • learner’s brains don’t recognize the need for anything new,
  • the new material opposes long-held beliefs.
  • there are no existing circuits that accurately translate the incoming information.

The current training model assumes that if new material is important and useful, offered in a logical, informative, interesting way, and offers experiential learning, learners will accept it. But this assumption is faulty.

At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign (i.e. new knowledge) into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is. While new, incoming data might be adopted briefly, if it opposes our habituated norm, if it flies in the face of the beliefs and values that represent the status quo, the new will show up as a threat and be resisted.

The unconscious system that holds our beliefs, values and habits in place must be ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material be permanent. Effective training must change the existing system.


Training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system and status quo;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change;
  3. the system to develop new circuitry to ‘translate’ and hold the new material so it will be available when called upon

before the new material is adopted and available for habitual use.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm, I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field.

My job was to help learners first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones.

Since change isn’t sought out until the system finds an incongruence, I had to help learners self-recognize where they had gaps in their automatic choices, then try to resolve the problem with their current skills, and then seek out new learning as their best option if they couldn’t first fix the problem themselves.

I called this training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Here’s how I design courses:

  • Day 1 offers exercises and self-study questionnaires that help learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Once they learn exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they know exactly what they need to learn.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route to supplement their current skills then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Courses are designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example because ‘information’ is the last thing offered, Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, no computers, no phones, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist and expand their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material, then when there are new circuits in place, offer the new information.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities. To enable learning, it’s necessary to first facilitate brain change before offering content. I’m happy to discuss my training model or help you develop training programs that enable learning.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

November 1st, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News



Listening to your customerI got to the gym yesterday only to find that my regular treadmill had been replaced by a new-fangled computer machine. I asked the young woman next to me how to start the damn thing as it wasn’t obvious. Here was the conversation:

SDM: Where’s the start button on this thing?
Woman: Over there. You’ll want to start on 2.3 miles and…
SDM: Thanks for showing me. I’m good now. Thanks.
Woman: You’re starting too high! Plus, you’ll want to put it at an incline of 1% to start, then …
SDM: No. Really. I’m good.
Woman: I’m telling you the right way to do this! I’m a professional trainer! I know what I’m talking about!
SDM: I’m sure you do. But I’m good. Thanks.
Woman: What’s your problem, lady??? You asked me for my advice! I’m just responding to your question! I’M A PROFESSIONAL!

That woman converted my simple request into a request for her expertise and she couldn’t hear my attempt to disengage from the conversation – three times! But we all do this sort of thing. And it’s our brain’s fault.


Far too often, we interpret what someone says with the filters of what we’re listening for and end up limiting the scope of what’s possible. We actually inadvertently restrict our listening in most conversations as our unconscious biases filter out what doesn’t match. Let me introduce you to some of the more common ones out of the hundreds of recognized biases:

Confirmation bias: we listen to get personal validation, often using leading questions, to confirm to ourselves that we’re right; we seek out people and ideas to confirm our own views and maintain our status quo, and unwittingly mistranslate what’s been said according to our beliefs.

Expectation bias: we decide what we want to take away from a conversation prior to entering, causing us to only notice the bits that match and disregarding the rest; we mishear and misinterpret what’s said to conform to our goals.

Status quo bias: we listen to confirm that we’re fine the way we are and reject any information that proves us wrong.

Attention bias: we unconsciously ignore what we don’t want to hear – and often don’t even hear, or acknowledge, something has been said.

Information bias: we only gather the information we’ve deemed ‘important’ to push our own agendas or prove a point. When used for data analysis, we often collect information according to expectation bias and selection bias. (This biases scientific and social research, and data analysis.)

And of course, we all have a Bias Blind Spot: we naturally believe we’re not biased! And anyone that doesn’t believe we’re Right is Wrong.


When researching my book on how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I discovered that our brains only allow us to understand a fraction of what others mean to convey (Note: the fraction depends on familiarity, triggers, history, beliefs, etc.).

Here’s what happens: Sound enters our ears as puffs of air (literally!) that get turned into signals that then seek out similar-enough circuits that will translate the incoming signals as per the content already there (i.e. subjective, biased, restricted to what we already know).

The bad news is that where the incoming signals don’t match the old circuits, our brains discard what doesn’t match – and doesn’t tell us what it has discarded! And we’re left ‘hearing’ what our brains tell us – some fraction of what was said!  So the woman in the opening story actually heard me ask her for advice.

I believe our success is regulated by our listening biases and our ability – or not – to recognize when/if our biases are getting in the way (I wrote a chapter in What? that offers a skill set on how to do this). Certainly our creativity and opportunities, our choices of jobs, mates, friends, etc. are restricted. The natural biasing we do is compounded by the tricks our brains play with memory and habit, making the probability of factual interpretation pretty slim.

If we can avoid the trap of assuming what we think has been said is accurate, and assume that some portion of what we think we heard might contain some bias, we could take more responsibility for our conversations.

  • At the end of each conversation, we’d check in with our Communication Partner and get accuracy agreement.
  • Whenever we hear something that sounds like an agreement or a plan, we’d stop the conversation to check that what we think we heard is accurate.
  • At the end of meetings, we’d check in that our takeaway plans and their outcomes are agreeable.
  • When we hear something ‘different’ we won’t assume the other person wrong, but consider the possibility that we are the ones who heard it wrong.

Knowing the difference between what we think others are saying vs what they actually mean to convey takes on great importance in meetings, coaching calls, negotiations, doctors, and information collection for decision analysts.

Let’s get rid of our egos. Let’s put our need to collaborate, pursue win/win communication, and authentic Servant Leadership into all our communication. Otherwise, we’re merely finding situations that maintain our status quo. And we lose the opportunity to be better, stronger, kinder, and more creative.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at    

October 25th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News


What if

  • you could find real prospects early in their Buying Journey?
  • you could discover non-buyers immediately while leading real prospects efficiently through their Buy Side steps?
  • none of this involves sales, product details, need, or pitch?

How can you promote buying without “sales, product details, need, or pitch”? I believe that by relying on these concepts exclusively you close less sales than you deserve given your efforts and the quality of your solution.

I suggest that by adding new thinking and tools that facilitate and enable buying from the Buy Side – wholly different from Sales Enablement that facilitates the Sell Side – you’ll not only find people on route to becoming buyers, but you can help them be ready to close. Let me explain.


All current technology in Sales Enablement, marketing, and ABM is biased toward the Sell Side with a focus on finding, enabling, and engaging folks with an assumed need to ultimately make a purchase. But we overlook an audience of potential prospects 50% larger; our current tools overlook the differences in goals, steps, considerations, decisions, and activity that occur as people try to resolve a problem on the Buy Side.

Sure, we track ‘buying’ but, generally, only in terms of product sale – the Sell Side – and overlook the change management activities that people must address before they’re even buyers.

People don’t start off wanting to buy anything, merely resolve their problem at the least ‘cost’ to their system. They begin by figuring out how to congruently manage change.

Indeed, a buying decision is a change management issue well before it’s a solution choice issue. Because sales tools are aimed at how sales and marketing define ‘buying’ and only apply to the Sell Side, folks in the process of possibly becoming buyers but aren’t there yet, won’t heed our messages trying to sell them anything.

Until people understand the entire fact pattern of what and who’s involved and know what any change means to them, they can’t have a full understanding of a need. They certainly don’t read unsolicited marketing material or take appointments, regardless of a need or the efficacy of a solution.

But take heart! By holding off on conventional sales and marketing until these folks are self-identified as buyers, there’s a way to not only find them but facilitate them through the process they must manage, making it easier for them to buy and for us to sell: those who would never buy fall out, those who become buyers will do so faster, and their names can be handed over to Sales Enablement, ABM, or a sales professional as real prospects.


As a million-dollar producer on Wall Street in the 70s, I thought buyers were incongruent. We called them ‘stupid buyers’ because they didn’t ‘understand’ what we believed they needed.

In 1983 I became a tech entrepreneur in London and recognized the problem I had had as a seller: Before I could buy anything, I had stuff to do internally that had nothing to do with making a purchase. I certainly wouldn’t consider buying anything until I had no other options. To resolve my problems, I had to

  • understand the full problem set by hearing everyone’s thoughts on how they were affected and what they considered a solution;
  • try available fixes to resolve the problem internally;
  • understand the ‘cost’ of doing something different;
  • get buy-in from those who would connect with the solution;

and, once I understood what the change would entail, determine if the problems were worth fixing. Obviously if a fix caused more problems than leaving things as they were, it wasn’t worth solving. But we couldn’t know that until the end of our considerations. Honestly, I didn’t even understand my real ‘needs’ until I had done all of the above.

There seemed to be unknown implications in doing anything different, necessary to take into account beforehand. I certainly hadn’t realized how much disruption was involved, that making any change (all problem-solving involves change) had to be first considered via thoughtful change management assessments and buy-in, to make sure we ended up ‘butter side up’.

Eventually we fixed some of our problems internally. Indeed, I didn’t start off wanting to buy anything, merely wanting to fix problems as simply and congruently as possible. Buying anything was the very last thing on my mind. Last thing.


After leaving my company I became an author of the first NYTimes Business Bestseller on sales (Selling with Integrity) and inventor of Buying Facilitation® that taught sales professionals how to facilitate the Buy Side change management process – the process the sales model ignored because it had little to do with ‘need’ or solution placement.

‘Need’ is a big one in sales; it’s assumed if need can be ascertained, the person should buy. Yet there’s a case to be made that ‘need’ is not necessarily a precursor to buying. Here’s an example of a client with a need who ended up not buying because of what it would ‘cost’ to change.

Years ago I ran a pilot Buying Facilitation® training at Proctor and Gamble, in hopes that if successful I could train the other 15,000 sales folks.

The program was tremendously successful – 15% increase over the control group’s 2% which in this instance potentially increased sales by billions of dollars annually. Good, right? But the ‘costs’ ended up being higher than they wanted to ‘spend’. To implement Buying Facilitation® internationally, they’d need to

  1. bring in new machinery to manufacture products faster,
  2. get more trucks and drivers to transport products to outlets faster,
  3. pay more shipping and air rate costs,
  4. reorganize their management structure,
  5. bring in more assistants, customer service reps, etc.

They calculated it would cost almost $2,000,000,000 (That’s billion.) and take years to recoup, not to mention explain it to their shareholders.

It had never occurred to me to consider what the ‘cost’ of success would be for them. Neither did they. My client said if she’d realized how much more they’d sell and how much faster, she wouldn’t have done the pilot. Confounding.

In this case, they needed the training and loved both me and my ‘solution’ but couldn’t handle the cost of the change. Need, as I learned, had little to do with buying and is actually quite subjective. And outsiders can never factor the private equation.


As an entrepreneur I was responsible to staff, solution, and clients. I had to address problem solving as a change management issue and make sure all voices were heard and everyone bought into change.

But as a seller, I never considered the point of view of change. Everything I did, created, or thought was on the Sell Side. I was taught product knowledge, how to listen for a way ‘in’ so I could mention my solution in their context, pose questions that implied a need, start a ‘relationship’ so they’d like me, and assume every ‘need’ or ‘problem’ should be resolved with my solution. As if the Sell Side were the only side.

But how much time I wasted finding and seeking ways to influence folks who weren’t, and might not ever be, buyers! Creating marketing materials to entice would-be buyers who were in process but not ready – certainly not eager to read unsolicited articles on something they didn’t yet know they couldn’t handle themselves.

And how much opportunity I overlooked facilitating would-be buyers to more efficiently figure out what they had to figure out so they would be ready to buy. My ‘Sell Side Only’ practices restricted my audience to those who already considered themselves buyers.

There’s a much larger group of would-be prospects who are not-yet buyers, and won’t be reached with sales assumptions:

  1. those still trying to resolve their problem internally;
  2. those with a problem they don’t want to resolve (now);
  3. those seeking different solutions or from different vendors;
  4. those you’ve mistranslated when they respond to your questions and don’t even have a need.

I now finally understood why buyers seemed so stupid: they weren’t even buyers! All those years assuming my solution, ‘relationship’, and marketing materials would convince, influence, or encourage when I could have been using an additional tool kit to lead them efficiently through their change before trying to sell them anything! We’ve overlooked a potentially lucrative audience.


I eventually unpacked each step I took during my decision and buy-in process so I could duplicate the route I took as I became a buyer myself.

Turned out my change management process had 13 steps from which I developed Buying Facilitation® for sales, and trained over 100,000 sales folks globally with an average 40% close rate (against the control group’s 5.4%). But these same steps are markers for marketers as well.

Here are the main elements of the 13 step change management path all people go through before they identify as buyers or even understand their needs:

  • Recognize a problem
  • Gather the full complement of stakeholders to understand the full fact pattern that caused and maintains the problem
  • Figure out how to fix the problem with available resources
  • Understand the downside, the ‘cost’, of making a change
  • Get the buy in from the stakeholders to agree to the change
  • Agree on the criteria that an external solution must meet
  • Choose a solution that will match their criteria.

If you remember times you bought something, you didn’t begin with the purchase, but could have used help figuring out what you had to figure out – so much of it unknown until the end.

Since the time it takes folks to complete their process is the length of the sales cycle, why not help them? While we wouldn’t be able to sell them anything until the process is complete, we would be selling our services and inspiring trust, and be there as real relationship managers and trusted advisors when they more quickly become buyers. Certainly a competitive advantage.

I suggest it’s time to add technology and new thinking in both sales and marketing to enable the Buy Side to

  • find and help people going through change in the area the solution can benefit,
  • efficiently lead them through their steps to problem-solve and make decisions,
  • gather the right set of stakeholders to involve at each step,
  • offer the best available knowledge so each step will explore the cost – and resolution – of the change.

By adding a change management component to marketing and ABM (Buying Enablement), it’s possible to

  • recognize non-buyers immediately, and disengage,
  • lead would-be buyers through their next steps efficiently,
  • understand where, exactly, people are along their 13 step change management/Buying Decision Path,
  • efficiently and very quickly lead those who will be buyers through their core change decisions to the point of being ready to buy,
  • build trusting relationships through helpful content,
  • create a competitive advantage as you truly serve,
  • pass the names of real prospects over to sellers and/or sales enablement to do the sales job.

Selling and Buying are two different activities. Let’s develop two different outreach and facilitation processes that work together to efficiently find, engage, and enable real buyers.


In addition to my Buying Facilitation® model that teaches the process of change facilitation to sales folks, I have developed Buying Enablement for marketing to lead folks efficiently through their steps and then hand over names of in-target buyers to Sales Enablement and ABM for the Sell Side.

In other words, help those on route to buying do what they need to do anyway and stop wasting resource following and pushing content to folks you think SHOULD buy but aren’t yet ready. Then hand over real names to SE and sales.

Buying Enablement enters through marketing to facilitate each change management step on the Buy Side, helps would-be buyers become buyers efficiently, then hands off names of real prospects to sales. Of course search analytics can be used, but they will include new terms and timing. The process addresses these points:

  • Finding people getting ready to, or in the process of, working internally to resolve a problem that your solution could resolve;
  • Noting specific markers to send specific content;
  • Helping uncover elements that caused and maintains the problem;
  • Facilitating the recognition, incorporation, and buy-in of all stakeholders;
  • Diagnosing and resolving the actual ‘cost’ of change to the system;
  • Finding a workaround or simple fix where possible;
  • Determining sales add-ons – sales enablement, Buyer Personas – to move the activity over to sales.

Buying Enablement makes the Buy Side more efficient. Here’s what I offer:

  • Buy Side training: For both sales, marketing, and customer service professionals to understand the profound differences between the Buy Side and the Sell Side so all can work in tandem going forward.
  • Data gathering/report: To understand specifically how your specific buyers buy, I’ll speak with several current buyers to discover

a.   the timing, activity, search, people, and constraints during each stage of problem solving and change management;
b.   what they do and when to understand the full problem set. Includes people, relationship, history, and policy issues and snags encountered;
c.   patterns of (external) factors that bias problem maintenance and resolution, and cause resistance;
d.   the possible workarounds and range of solutions they’re considering to resolve the problem and how they fare;
e.   understand their risks in bringing in something new and how that affects people, policies and solution choices;
f.     the times they go online to research each stage and the search terms they use at each stage and why.

I recommend my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell to better understand each step on the Buy Side.

  • Marketing tools, article ideas, and Buyer Personas for each stage. I will suggest best practices and offer article titles along each step, to get folks the knowledge to do what they need to do. Ardath Albee will design Buyer Personas that lead people through each change management stage. With this full tool kit you’ll know

a.   where prospects are in the buy-cycle,
b.   the job titles of those involved,
c.   have a line between marketing -> content -> sales,
d.   offer titles so marketing can personalize the best content for each stage,
e.   be relevant to the specific needs of your audience.

  • Digital App: My ‘The Decider’ app can be populated with the knowledge learned from the Report to

a.   efficiently lead folks through their decision phases if they need help;
b.   digitally lead site visitors to the pages with data they need from your site and/or your company,
c.   use with sellers in Deal Rooms,
d.   discover which stage of a change decision they’re at to make sure the best content is sent out to them at the right time.

  • Footers: Since they’re not yet buyers, we must be careful how solution details are offered. Ardath Albee can tie the right words, tone, style, and voice to ensure buyers are engaged personally.
  • Connect with Sales Enablement: This process will produce probable buyers to hand over to sales and Sales Enablement and continue outreach throughout the length of the customer life cycle.

With our close ratios dropping, and more money being spent to engage it’s time to begin adding Buying Enablement to marketing and Buying Facilitation® to sales. Is it solution related? Nope. But people must do all these things before they’re buyers anyway. We might as well help them.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

October 18th, 2021

Posted In: News


Marketing is currently designed to inspire, identify, and engage potential buyers in a way that leads them to action. The baseline assumptions are that good content in the right hands, or engaged relationships that create connection, will provide the foundational components to cause buying. But do they?

Before people become buyers they have work to do that’s not buying related, outside the purview of both marketing and sales, and won’t be activated by conventional sales or marketing strategy.

I contend that marketing and sales could be so much more effective if they added the capability of finding, engaging and facilitating not-yet buyers through their Pre-Sales, change management issues – the stuff that precludes them from identifying as buyers initially but who will be once they’re ready.


Currently sales and marketing spend money/resource finding names and inundating them with content, hoping to evoke a sale. But success has been elusive, and we must ask ourselves these questions:

  • Do our product details move people to action they wouldn’t take otherwise?
  • Are we convincing those who would NOT buy to choose us over our competitors? Cause them to buy NOW instead of later?
  • Does our information get read by folks who aren’t yet buyers but will be?
  • Are we capturing/engaging folks who WILL be buyers?

I think the answer is ‘no’ on all counts. It’s because we’re focused on the Sell Side and overlook the Buy Side. And they’re two entirely different things. Let me explain.

Before people consider themselves ‘buyers’, or have clarity on what, or even if, they’ll buy anything, they have Pre-Sales work to do. This is why they ignore what we send: it doesn’t seem relevant, regardless of a need or the efficacy of our solution. It’s like a realtor sending you details about a terrific house before you and your family have decided to move.

Until people figure out the bits and pieces they must handle, until they know for sure they’re going to fix something rather than leave it as it is, until they try to fix it themselves and get buy-in for change, they don’t seek to buy anything.


A buying decision is a change management issue issue before it’s a solution choice issue. And there are far more people in the process of deciding than there are those who show up as buyers. But as of now, neither marketing nor sales addresses this segment of a prospective buyer’s process.

It’s possible to facilitate buyer readiness with different thinking.

Right now our outreach is limited to folks who meet the demographics and search terms that imply to us they have a need.

But our ‘need’/solution-placement focus only attracts folks who self-identify as buyers, reducing our target audience to those relative few who have completed their change- and decision-making activity while ignoring a much larger group who have not yet identified as buyers (and will not read our marketing content) but will buy when they’re ready.

We’re not reaching them now because our selling criteria is disparate from their buying criteria: we need different outreach strategies to connect with them.

And yes, it needs new thinking and new types of content, but it will prove its worth in short order: since people do this anyway before they become buyers, we can enter earlier, help them do what they need to do more efficiently, prove our worth as trusted advisors, and be there when they’re ready.


At the start, people don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. They only become buyers once they

  • recognize a problem,
  • gather the entire complement of stakeholders to understand the full fact pattern that caused and maintains the problem,
  • try to fix the problem with workarounds/available resources,
  • get buy in from the stakeholders if workaround not possible,
  • understand the downside, the ‘cost’, of making a change,
  • agree on the criteria that an external solution must meet,
  • choose a solution that will match their criteria and all agree on.

Regardless of how sophisticated our efforts at engaging the ‘right’ ones, until people have completed their change management work above, they are not buyers, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. They certainly won’t be lured by marketing that pushes content they haven’t yet recognized they want.

And this is why we fail to close more sales: we’re assuming our content will entice, when they’re not looking for enticement. With our current solution placement/’need’ lens, we’re merely hoping and guessing our missives will inspire buying when we could be engaging and leading real, but not-yet-ready, buyers through their Buying Decision Path (BDP).

Certainly we capture some eyeballs as folks do research on route to fixing their problem, but these folks aren’t engaged buyers and often ignore what they read or we’ve sent them: they’re not ready, and they’re not yet buyers.

In other words, a high percentage of folks who may be our target market are not actively buyersYet.

I suggest it’s possible to generate a much larger group of in-market buyers by first facilitating folks who haven’t yet completed their change process and be their natural choice once they’re ready.


I figured out the ins and outs of buying decades ago. When I became a tech entrepreneur in the 1980s after being a sales professional for many years, the differences between the Sell Side and the Buy Side became obvious.

When I began hiring and managing, it hit me that a decision to buy anything – leadership training, software – was more complex than I had realized. As a responsible leader, I had to first try to resolve the problem internally, understand the full problem set by hearing from all involved, and get everyone’s buy-in for any change.

Ultimately, until we all understood the ‘cost’ of the change to our job descriptions and policies, and were certain we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves, I would have been irresponsible to consider making a purchase.

That’s when I realized the problem I had as a seller: buying and selling are two wholly different mind-sets and activities! The Buy Side is change management-based; the Sell Side involves solution placement. And both sales and marketing overlook this discrepancy.

But we can add a new initiative to engage more buyers; by focusing on the Buy Side first, marketing can find, follow and lead folks through each stage of their change management process, and send them targeted data that helps them complete their processes – then be there to begin the sales process once they’re buyers.

Right now we wait for these folks to appear. But we can influence their journey – just not with selling or marketing as they are now used.


Once I realized that change management preceded buying, I developed a unique change facilitation process I named Buying Facilitation® for my own sales team. Instead of beginning by seeking folks with need, we sought out folks seeking change in the area our solution could support, and facilitated them through the steps they had to take anyway as they approached problem resolution.

Once they completed their work with our help and the targeted articles we offered (How to Engage the Right Stakeholders, etc.), we were in line to be their chosen providers. I was happily surprised that we no longer needed proposals, and our pitches were greatly diminished as most of their decision making was already done by then.

We were seen as an active participant in their change and decision processes, a true trusted adviser, and there was no content push that risked annoying them. Not only did sales close in half the time, we stopped wasting time because we spent more time facilitating folks who were real buyers. My business doubled.

In case you want more data on the 13 steps all people and groups take as they manage their change issues, I suggest (and here’s a pitch!) you get my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. It lays out each of step in separate chapters with a very detailed case study at the end.

Obviously this is different than what we’re used to as the outreach is not based on placing a solution. Because of the different focus and goals, the new thinking brings up questions: are we willing to

  1. broaden our activities to include change management?
  2. use a different filter than need or solution placement?
  3. take non-solution-related action?
  4. seek out those on route to becoming buyers and facilitate them down their steps rather then directing efforts to those we guess might have need?
  5. avoid solution details and sales/marketing techniques?

Of course we use customary sales tools and Sales Enablement once these folks are ready to buy. But are you ready? And can I help? My site explains my change management and sales models.


I’m now a Buying Enablement Consultant to help marketing professionals develop the capability to facilitate each stage of a potential prospect’s Buying Decision Path to bring names of high-quality prospects to sales. Here are the elements in the new Buying Enablement initiative:

  • Buy Side training: For both sales and marketing professionals to understand the profound differences between the Buy Side and the Sell Side, and to enable divergent thinking so both sides can work in tandem going forward.
  • Data gathering/report: To understand specifically how your buyers buy, I’ll speak with several current buyers to discover

a. the timing, activity, search, people, and constraints during each stage of problem solving and change management;
b. what they do and when to understand the full problem set. Includes people, relationship, history, and policy issues and snags encountered;
c. patterns of (external) factors that bias problem maintenance and resolution, and cause resistance;
d. the possible workarounds and range of solutions they’re considering to resolve the problem and how they fare;
e. understand their risks in bringing in something new and how that affects people, policies and solution choices;
f. the times they go online to research each stage and the search terms they use at each stage and why.

  • Marketing tools, article ideas, and Buyer Personas for each stage. I will suggest best practices and offer article titles. Ardath Albee will design Buyer Personas that lead people through each change management stage.
  • Digital: Populate my Decider app with questions gleaned from my report. This can be used on your site to help site visitors first figure out what they need from your site and/or what they need from your company then leads them to the right page(s). It could also a. be configured to discover which stage of a change decision they’re at; b. be used in Deal Rooms or during sales calls.
  • Footers: Since these early articles will no longer be solution-detail based, it’s vital marketing creates the right footers and links to move people from the specific step/stage they’re at to the next one. Since they’re not yet buyers, we must be careful how solution details are offered. Ardath Albee can tie the right words, tone, style, and voice to ensure buyers are engaged personally.
  • Connect with Sales Enablement: This process will produce probable buyers to hand over to sales and Sales Enablement and continue outreach throughout the length of the customer life cycle.

Using BE you’ll

  • know where prospects are in the buy-cycle to send target marketing,
  • have a line between marketing -> content -> sales,
  • offer personalized content during the entire BDP,
  • lead would-be buyers through their change management stages,
  • be involved during each decision stage,
  • be relevant to the specific needs of your audience.

The field of marketing is beginning to include ‘buying’ thinking, but it’s still housed in product placement activity. To facilitate the BDP, it’s time to focus on how buyers buy and refrain from selling until they’re buyers.


For sellers doing in-person sales, my Buying Facilitation® model offers new skill sets (formulating Facilitative QuestionsListening for Systems, etc) that I’ve taught in many global corporations for over 35 years. (Clients: IBM, Kaiser, HP, DEC, Wachovia, KPMG, Bose, DuPont, P&G, etc.) My clients consistently close 8x more than the control group. This could be your competitive edge. After all, the time it takes them to complete this is the length of the sales cycle.

By starting with a facilitation hat on you’ll

  • find and facilitate soon-to-be buyers through the steps of change rather than assuming searches constitute a need or a prospect;
  • find real prospects on the first call;
  • stop wasting time chasing those who will never buy;
  • close in half the time.

You’ll end up with a higher quality prospect, a higher closing probability, and a competitive edge as you truly serve folks by helping them get their ducks in a row.

Also, I suggest marketing (ABM, Demand Gen, Lead Gen, etc.) can specifically know, and target people through, each of their change management steps; build real relationships; and provide the right story line to continue to advance people through to becoming buyers.

Ultimately you’ll end up with vetted buyers to hand over to sales – hence, more closed sales. And of course the process can be used to keep customers engaged during the customer life cycle.

The days of using marketing only to offer product details are behind us. We’ve got the technology and the knowledge to enter a Pre-Sales change management journey and hand over a great, actionable list, to sales.

I continue to pose the question I began posing in 1985: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities. And now we can do both.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell). Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

October 11th, 2021

Posted In: News


Because I wanted choice over my actions, I’ve spent a good portion of my life coding the trajectory of change so I could intervene to do something differently. I realized early on that knowing WHAT I wanted to change, WHAT doing it ’right’ entailed, and WHY I wanted to change, didn’t reliably lead me to the HOW of successful change, regardless of my willpower and discipline. Even my attempts at Behavior Modification were unsuccessful.

After studying brains and how they generate behaviors for many decades, and after trying unsuccessfully to try to change some of my own habits, I realized the problem: because behaviors are merely mechanical responses (outputs) to how my brain is programmed (inputs), real change can only come by rewiring my brain. In other words, I’ve been doing it wrong.

Seems by merely trying to change a behavior by ‘doing’ something different – a behavior being the output of a series of brain signals – I failed to change my brain circuits at the place where the behavior is initially prompted.

How is it possible to consciously change our brains, you might ask? I spent decades figuring it out. And I’ve made it possible to generate new circuits whenever you want to change a behavior or habit. Let me explain what’s going on, and then I’ll introduce the program I’ve developed so you, too, can permanently change behaviors at will.


Brains require a very specific sequence of activity to generate behaviors: First we

  1. send a message to our brains for what we want to accomplish
  2. that gets checked against our risk filters and beliefs that agree, or not, to proceed and
  3. creates signals that seek out similar-enough circuits
  4. which carry the message to an action.

Our behaviors are merely the output of our brain’s signaling system, the response to a set of instructions that travel down a very fixed pathway. They are not stand-alone features, or values-laden actions, but the activity, the output, the response, from a series of electro-chemical brain signals that have no meaning at all.

It’s like putting liquid red rubber into a machine and a red chair emerges. Something inside is programmed in a way that produces ‘chair’. If it were programmed differently, even using the same red rubber, a ‘ball’ might emerge. It’s all in the programming.

These brain signals, this specific circuit that carries out that specific behavior, is hard-wired. And once we have a circuit for a behavior set up in our brains, it becomes a habit. Hence, the problems we all have when we attempt to change an existing behavior.

Indeed, trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior is like trying to get a forward moving robot to go backwards by pushing it: until the programming is changed, until the signals and motivators are reprogrammed to trigger new wiring with different responses, it cannot do anything different than what it was programmed to do. And merely trying to change our behaviors will not alter our existing, programmed, circuits. Hence our difficulty losing weight, or maintaining an exercise regimen.


The good news is that our brains are more than happy to generate new behaviors when they’re reprogrammed, which we do by developing brand new circuits (neuroplasticity). I’ve spent decades unwrapping the ‘how’ to generate new messaging and circuits and the steps involved, eventually developing a training model of change facilitation that I’ve been teaching in sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, and coaching for 40 years.

Recently I developed a new model to facilitate others through the steps to generate new circuits for their own new behaviors (i.e. transformative change) and ending old habits – not to modify what’s there, but to actually consciously transform their brain’s pathways for permanent behavior and habit change. It includes:

  • why it’s so hard to change a habit [By merely trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior we’re unwittingly recruiting the same circuits that caused the habit to begin with.];
  • why we can’t change behaviors by trying to change behaviors [Behaviors are outputs and reside in habituated circuits that unconsciously hook up with what’s already there and normalized, regardless of our desire to change.];
  • why we must develop new signals and circuits to generate new behaviors [Brains will always generate new circuits when they receive new messaging for new circuits that cause new behavior generation.];
  • how our brains enable or prohibit change, habits, and behaviors [Our Beliefs are our traffic cops and react unconsciously to incoming signals, separate from our conscious wishes.];
  • how to build a scalable model to develop new messaging to generate new circuits that to trigger new outputs and choices, from input to output, while avoiding resistance and failure.

Take a look at the program syllabus:


Here is a chart of the elements of The HOW of Change™ model. It isolates the brain elements necessary to generate new circuits that will create new behaviors, habits, ideas. Certainly our brains are able to generate new circuits (but they cannot get rid of existing ones), but to do so requires very specific elements be included in a very specific sequence. It’s really not as simple as merely doing something different. Take a look at the chart as it explains the trajectory of change:

Let me explain a bit of the chart, and it’s a bit geeky, so hang in.

When your wish (I want to be better organized) enters in the CUE it gets translated into an electro-chemical signal that then gets sent to the CEN which matches circuits that are ‘close-enough’, and behaviors emerge. If you want to do something different than you’ve done before, the Trial Loop (in chart) is instigated (I developed this Trial Loop) to facilitate agreement, buy-in, congruency and risk during a learning process. Watch as I discuss the process in my sample one hour video.

I’m writing a new book on this, and now offer a 5-part video training program available to teach leaders, change makers, coaches to help their clients change. Let me know if you’d like a conversation to learn if the program could help you stop smoking, lose weight, start your exercise regimen, or any other new behaviors you’d like to make habits. And watch my sample video, or see the program syllabus, here.

This is a new-type of program, in that it asks you to actually work hard on making your unconscious conscious. It’s not behavior-change based, or information-based, but brain change-based and takes more concentration. It produces permanent change via wholly new circuits. If you’re interested in real change, take a look. And I’m here for questions.


Sharon-Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon-Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

October 4th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication



In these trying times, one thing has become clear: the biases we live with restrict our choices. Certainly no one ever wants to harm anyone. And yet, because of the unconscious nature of them, we are too often unaware that we even have them. It’s not our fault, but we must learn to take more responsibility for them.

Our biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs and life trajectory become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem made up of our habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend or the gangs we join introduce us to the way our world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to allow us to comfortably maintain our norms.

These norms – unique for each of us – create the status quo we make unconscious choices from. Net net, our lives are inspired by our unconscious biases, causing us to live and work, marry and spend time with, people whose norms, interpretations, and beliefs are very similar to ours.

Our normal skill sets aid and abet us: we listen through biased filters and hear and respond to, basically, what our biases tell us was said (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? ); we play and read and watch according to what we already believe and rarely venture far afield; we notice what we notice in response to our nucleus of personal norms, values, and learned habits. All our decisions, actions, choices, are ruled, restricted, and biased by our unique predispositions.

Indeed, we trust our unconscious biases and interpretations, and the resulting responses, so thoroughly that we are often unaware that our actions – built in, normalized and habituated, accepted by our family, peers, and profession – may harm others.


We believe, with certainty, that what we see, hear, and feel is ‘real’ because it IS our reality; we restrict our lives accordingly, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand another’s reality. What we might hear as powerful might be heard as insulting by another person; an incident might be noticed by one person, ignored by another, and an excuse for violence by another. We cannot help but judge others according to our reality.

I, for one, never lock doors. My car is always unlocked. My house is always open even when I travel. Many people would find this unthinkable. I find it safe. As an incest survivor and a rape victim, I always need a quick way in and out. If a door is locked around me, I hyperventilate. Terrifying. My choices, of which locks on doors are only a subset of the aftereffects of my early life, have affected my communication, my lifestyle, my choice of friends and mates, my political views, my unconscious triggers, and my choice of professions even after decades of therapy. There is no way you can understand my interpretation of anything, or the resulting behaviors I exhibit, unless you’ve lived in my shoes. And yet my differences might cause you to judge my actions against your own and find them wanting.

And herein lie the problem. When we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs, we may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand; we may wrongly misinterpret their intent; we may judge them against our own standards which they could never understand. Certainly we may not notice we’ve harmed someone with our actions or words and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm another.

I believe that most people don’t intend to harm anyone. But without common ground, the best we can do is act from our habituated interpretations and assume because we ‘mean well’ that we’re not causing harm.


Historically, we’ve done a bad job caring about resolving the problems of inherent bias that may ultimately harm others. I think this might be changing. Companies and public servants are now taking unconscious bias seriously and requiring unconscious bias training in the hopes of giving people new choices and eradicating harm. Good. But I have a concern.

As someone who has spent decades coding and scaling the stages of how human systems change, I know it’s not possible to push change from the outside; each individual must find a way to evaluate and reconsider their own core norms and biases to make any necessary corrections that only they can make, from within (i.e. inside/out). I don’t believe we’re doing that.

Current training approaches are based on helping folks recognize and change behaviors by offering information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc. from the outside (outside/in), hoping to create new triggers, new behaviors, and new awareness. This approach cannot fix the problem permanently because it:

  • doesn’t get to the root of someone’s unconscious, and very subjective, biases;
  • demonstrates subjectively chosen hypothetical situations believed (from the outside) to trigger bias and may miss specific issues and habituated norms of an individual;
  • has no way of knowing if the offered visuals or stories or trial experiences address the full range of potential biases within each individual learner;
  • doesn’t teach how to transcend someone’s habituated ‘unconscious triggers’ that go off in real situations;
  • fails to install permanent, instinctive, alternative, appropriate behaviors.

Current unconscious bias training assumes people can change if they understand the ‘good, rational’ reasons behind it. The training offers videos, discussions, practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. showing examples of unconscious bias, hoping this creates the awareness to recognize a problematic situation as it’s happening and know exactly what behaviors need changing – and what to change them to!

In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we want it to tell itself ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Don’t think that. Stop responding that way. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training offered. For real change to occur it’s necessary to get to the root of the bias: beliefs. And unfortunately, as you’ll see, information doesn’t teach anyone how to change, even it attempts to explain the reasoning behind the need to do something different. Sharon Drew’s rule: change cannot occur because of any outside rational, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.


Bias is the unconscious, habitual, involuntary, and historic reaction to something deemed ‘different’ (skin color, gender, lifestyle choices, etc.) that negatively triggers someone’s largely unconscious beliefs and values – going against what the person deems ‘right’ or ‘good’ – causing an automatic feeling of, and defense against, some sort of violation.

Our reactions to external stimuli are unconscious and automatic, and follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. In other words, we do what we do, react the way we react, in a split second as per our historic responses logged permanently into our brain circuitry.

To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by merely trying to change behaviors. Offering behavior-based training that merely offers examples and experiences of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviors, and expecting people to undo their habituated triggers because they ‘admit’ to, or recognize ‘bad’ behaviors, uses the wrong thinking.

Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved, within the system that created it. I’ll lay the problem out for you piece by piece, then introduce a solution for permanent change. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.


A system is a conglomeration of (historic, unique) elements (consisting of our norms, culture, history, beliefs, dreams, etc.) that we hold largely unconsciously and are a foundation of who we are. They are formed during our lifetimes starting from birth, and as in all systems, are made up of elements (values, cultural norms, ethics, morality, etc.) that operate from the same set of rules. Indeed, we live our lives in cities alongside others of similar political beliefs, marry people of similar education, and even listen with biased filters that keep out uncomfortable ideas.

Systems are congruent (Systems Congruence) entities that always seek stability (Homeostasis); they define our politics, our mate selection, even where we live and how we listen to others. Because systems seek to maintain congruence, they avoid situations that make them uncomfortable or they find incongruent. Attempting to shift them, to change in any way, causes resistance because they seek to override the norms of the system that hold them in place, without getting buy-in.

As a result, trying to change from the outside in, by trying to change behaviors without getting the necessary buy-in, threatens stability. As a result, by attempting to push change without the system’s agreement, we’re threatening the system’s internal congruency, regardless of the seeming need to do something different or the efficacy of a new/better solution. In other words, our status quo shows up every day to maintain itself and we will do whatever it takes to maintain it. It’s who we are.

For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be exhibited and chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered. Current bias training uses methods don’t facilitate this change:

  • Listening: our habituated listening filters and neural pathways automatically bias whatever anyone says to us; we set up our lives to avoid discomfort, and uniquely interpret differences in what has been said so our brains can keep us comfortable. When information is offered as evidence, our historic, habituated, biased listening filters kick in and uniquely interpret incoming data, often differently than the intended meaning. Indeed, it’s not even possible to hear anyone without bias; when what we hear (or see, or feel) makes us uncomfortable, we react historically.
  • Questions: all normal questions are biased by the Asker’s subjective curiosity, thereby restricting the Responder’s replies to the interpretation of what was heard, and potentially overlooking real answers.
  • Historic: biases are programmed in from the time we’re born. Every day we wake up with the same biases, kept in place by our choice of friends, TV, neighborhoods, professions, reading materials, etc. To permanently shift our biases, we’d have to change our historic programming.
  • Physiological: who we ‘are’ is systemic; our beliefs and norms, character and values have been programmed in and become our Identity, creating the behaviors and responses that will unconsciously maintain our status quo in everything we do and every action we take.
  • Triggers: because of our lifetime of inculcated beliefs, values, norms and outlook, our brains react chemically, unconsciously, and automatically when there is an untoward activity.
  • Information: our training programs typically tell, show, explain, offer stories, videos, etc. etc. using the biased choices- languaging, presentation style, chosen information – of the trainer in hopes that their information triggers a new response. But since people can’t even listen without bias, they can’t accurately make sense of whatever we’re telling them: they have no brain circuitry already set up to listen through, and the process of ‘telling’ does not develop new circuitry. All it will do is get misinterpreted or misunderstood according to historic beliefs already in place.
  • Behaviors: as the expression and execution of our beliefs and status quo, behaviors translate our core systemic beliefs and norms into daily action. Behaviors represent us; they are not ‘us’. And since behaviors are merely outputs, they are fixed by the time they show up. Change must happen at the input, at our beliefs.

And herein lie the problem. Because of the complexity and sophisticated combination of the elements above, merely doing something different because we are told to, or even want to, won’t change our behaviors or our systems permanently. It’s the equivalent of trying to get a forward moving robot to move backwards because we tell it it needs new options, or think it would be better if it did, or show it pictures of other robots who do move backward. To change behaviors permanently it’s necessary to change the system, the programming, which created them to begin with. And this cannot be accomplished by trying to change the output of the problem itself. Remember Einstein? Trying to change behaviors with the system that created them won’t permanently change behaviors.


Change is the alteration of something that has existed in a certain way, using specific and accepted norms, in a specific configuration, for a period of time. To amend our responses to bias, we must first recognize, then modify, the specific triggers (historically produced for a reason) that have been developed to operate unconsciously as the norm.

It’s basically a systems problem: for permanent change to occur, we must reconfigure the system that has created and maintains the status quo, and has operated ‘as is’ for some amount of time. Anything new coming in to our system (any problem to fix, any new information that creates disruption, any new activity) demands changing the status quo. Indeed, any new decision is a change management problem. The way we are addressing the problem of changing people’s unconscious biases is not enabling permanent change.

Change means that a system (by definition stable) must go through a process to become something different:

  • a trigger alerts the status quo that something may be awry;
  • a careful examination by all elements within the status quo must occur to find any incongruence;
  • agreement within the system (rules, stakeholders, identity, etc.) that change is necessary and that a fix won’t cause permanent disruption;
  • an initial attempt to fix anything missing (using the same elements that created the problem to begin with);
  • the realization that the problem cannot be fixed from within the system;
  • an examination by everything that created the problem of any new possibilities that will create Systems Congruence;
  • an understanding and acceptance of the downside and disruption of a change (i.e. if politics change, how do we speak with family? If same-sex relationships, what happens with our church group?);
  • a fix is found that is agreeable, with full knowledge of how to circumvent any disruption it will cause;
  • new habits, new triggers, new neural pathways, etc. are developed in a way that incorporate the ‘new’ with the old to minimize disruption.

Does any element of the original need to be kept in place? How will the system know? How would any change effect the whole? How will the bits that need change shift while still maintaining its core values? The system will fight to maintain itself.

If all of the above aren’t managed, the system will fill in the blanks with something comfortable and habituated (regardless of its efficacy). In other words, if there is not systemic agreement, no known way to resolve the problem using its current givens, no known way to incorporate something new to the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

Indeed, you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. And all of the current bias training involves a focus on getting behaviors changed without addressing the source that created the behaviors and triggers to begin with.


Current Bias Training attempts to get behaviors changed by using ‘rational’ means: showing learners biased situations, offering data and research, and playing videos to learn what bias looks like. In other words, offering Information: showing and telling people what’s wrong with what they’re doing and what ‘right’ would look like – all of which can be misinterpreted, misread, or objected to, regardless of our intent.

While it certainly can make people more aware, and might, if remembered, offer different choices of actions, these attempts will not cause permanent change: they develop no new habituated triggers or neural pathways to set off a new response to a stimulus. Let’s delve into this a bit.

If asked in a vacuum if we want to harm anyone, few of us would want to. And yet in small and large ways, our unconscious behaviors too often end up unjustly ignoring, being mean to, or harming someone because of their gender, or race or or… I once heard Malcolm Gladwell, who is bi-racial, say that when tested for unconscious racial bias, he came up biased.

We all carry some biases. The question becomes 1. Do we notice when, or before, problems occur, and if not what would we need to know or believe differently to notice, and 2. Once we notice (or not) can we have choice over our actions and avoid biased behaviors or make adjustments at the time, or just before, they occur. To permanently change a behavior, a system must:

  • shift the core beliefs that inform any habituated, unconscious bias and develop additional beliefs, assumptions and triggers;
  • create new neural pathways to the brain that lead to choosing more respectful outputs, habits, behaviors;
  • listen with a different listening filter than the habituated ones;
  • enable the person to change themselves, using their own unconscious system of norms to design new behaviors that won’t offend the system;
  • interpret another’s actions in a neutral way that doesn’t offend our own beliefs – or change our beliefs.

To change our unconscious, automatic responses that cause us to respond defensively, the system that has created and maintains the status quo must be reconfigured to produce alternate outputs while still maintaining Systems Congruence. And unfortunately, information-based training (showing, feeling, telling, explaining) is ineffective because it only seeks to change behaviors.


Offering any sort of information before the system knows why, how, when, or if to do anything different – a belief change – will only inspire resistance as the system won’t know how to apply it as it’s ‘just fine, thanks.’ It’s a belief change issue. We’re asking the system to repopulate its status quo that created the problem to begin with, design new behavioral responses, and develop a new set of triggers to tell the system it’s time to behave differently. Initially the system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and has no inherent desire to do anything different.

As per my robot example, if you think the robot should have the option of moving backwards, telling it when and how to know when or if to move backward, giving it scientific data as to why it should move backward, or pushing it backward, will not cause the robot to change. The programming must be changed. And so it is with all of us: when we change our habituated beliefs and norms (our programming), our behavior will automatically change.

Real change demands a systemic shift to create new triggers, new assumptions, new neural pathways, and ultimately, as an outcome, new behaviors. No one, no information, no person, from outside is able to go into someone’s unconscious to (re)create all these things. And permanent change will not happen until it does.

The goal is not to train someone to rid themselves of unconscious bias; it’s to teach the system itself how to discover where its beliefs are restricting understanding and teach it how to add new beliefs to decide with and facilitate it through to new behaviors a way that maintains the foundational norms of the system.

Basically, to alter the foundation that will develop new behaviors, the brain must change itself. Over the past decades, I’ve coded the 13 steps that constitute the route to systemic, human change so people can make their OWN internal changes that will lead to new choices, i.e. new behaviors. I’ve taught this model in sales as Buying Facilitation® to global corporations (KPMG, Morgan Stanley, IBM, P&G, Kaiser, etc.) for over 30 years, and written several books on it. The book that details each of the stages is Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

We must become Facilitators, not Influencers. We must teach folks to create and habituate new neural pathways and filters.

  1. Listening: We must avoid habituated neural pathways when listening to others. In your mind’s eye put yourself on the ceiling and listen from above. From above, you can observe what’s going on without bias or reaction. I have a whole chapter on this in What?. Not difficult – you just need to want to do it and develop triggers that will alert you to the need to do something different.
  2. Questions: I developed a new form of question that doesn’t interrogate and is not biased by the needs of the questioner, but instead acts like a GPS to guide people through their own unconscious. These Facilitative Questions are systemic, use specific words, in specific order, that traverse through the steps of change sequentially so others can note their own incongruencies. So: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to spend time with me so we could both learn, together, how to listen from a ‘different ear’?
  3. Beliefs: by shifting the focus from changing behaviors to first changing beliefs and systems, we end up with permanent core change, new triggers and habits.
  4. Information: we make several types of information available for the learner to choose from, to fit their own learning criteria and styles.

I’ve developed a new way to train that facilitates self-learning and permanent change from within the system. For those wishing a full discussion, I’ve written an article on this that appeared in The 2003 Annual, Volume 1 Training (I’m happy to send you a more specific discussion of this if you’re not already bored) Just note: my process leads people, without any bias, to those places in their brains, into their system of beliefs and cultural norms, which made the decisions to employ their biased behaviors to begin with, and teaches them how to reconfigure their system to adopt something new (so long as its aligned with their beliefs). We are making the unconscious conscious and developing more appropriate triggers and behaviors.

How will you know that by adding systemic change elements to your training that you can enable more people to make more appropriate behavioral choices around their bias?

If you would like my help in designing a program that resolves unconscious biases permanently, I’d love to help. I believe it’s an important task. I believe it’s time we had the tools to enable learners to permanently change and become non-judgmental, accepting, and kind. And above all, cause no harm. All of our lives depend on it.


Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell), listening/communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), change management (The How of Change™), coaching, and leadership. Sharon Drew coaches and consults with companies seeking out of the box remedies for congruent, servant-leader-based change in leadership, healthcare, and sales. Her award-winning blog carries original articles with new thinking, weekly. She can be reached at

September 13th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening


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