By Sharon Drew Morgen

DiversityDiversity is vital, yet often difficult to attain due to barriers of communication and biases, making assimilation complicated. We know that by diversifying our companies, our schools, our neighborhoods we’re capable of creating all that’s possible; without diversity we limit who gets heard, who gets to lead, what knowledge we deem important, what we teach our children, what creativity looks like. Indeed, misrepresenting and under representing categories of people cost an unimaginable price in money, possibilities, and life. And yet our unconscious biases seem to restrict our choices.

People much smarter than I have evaluated the high cost of the lack of diversity and offered behavioral approaches to change. But I’d like to offer a modest way to begin the process of overriding our biases: we can shift how we listen.

BIASES ARE SILENT, STEALTHY EXECUTIONERS

While researching my new book (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) I learned that the listening process involves 1. our ears collecting and funneling the sounds of words spoken, then 2. our brain (filtering meaning subjectively through our own unique, cultural, and historic beliefs, values, rules, etc.) interprets meaning from the sounds. In other words, every one of us hears, interprets, understands, and biases an incoming message uniquely, through our personal subjective filters, regardless of the accuracy. The problem is compounded when our brain filters what’s been said, it forgets to tell us what it omitted from a Speaker’s meaning, causing us to believe that we’ve heard accurately. Our biases and assumptions potentially lead us to misinterpretations, or worse. And we sometimes aren’t even aware it’s happening.

The way our filters work, the job of our biases and assumptions is to notice ‘differences’. As a result, we may unconsciously, and quite quickly, deem a person ‘unsafe’ (judged against our status quo), causing automatic prejudice outside conscious awareness. I heard Malcom Gladwell, the noted author of Blink say in an interview that when tested for unconscious racial bias, his results revealed something like a 53% bias against African-Americans – and he’s half black. And because these historic prejudices become part of our automatic thought process, we end up living and thinking in bubbles of our own making. The ideas, the capability, the innovation that gets lost is unimaginable.

At a dinner party once a man at my table discussed what I knew to be a naïve idea in my area of expertise. I ‘kindly’ explained to him the error of his ways. He merely smiled and ignored me, while everyone else at the table seemed to be annoyed. I was confused. After all, I was ‘right’! Afterwards I learned that I had been admonishing a Nobel Laureate (in a different field than mine). Had I known that, I might have listened to his ideas as merely different or even interesting. Ditto if he knew I was a noted expert on the topic. Maybe together we could have changed the world in a unique and wonderful way. Instead, we listened to the other with biased, judging, ego-filled ears. What would we each have needed to believe differently to be able to hear each other without restriction?

On another occasion my biases potentially kept the world from glorious music. Visiting an ill friend at a nursing home recently I chatted with the orderly on staff. Whatever he heard me say motivated him to ask me to mentor him. I’m embarrassed to admit I declined. Thankfully he persisted. I went to his place for a lovely dinner, serenaded by a CD of his wonderous compositions! I coached him going forward, to find funding to make his music available to the public. But I almost missed that opportunity because I immediately judged him negatively.

LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

A bit of the problem in judging others as ‘different’ lies with how we interpret what we hear. We can take steps to recognize when we are judging, biasing, or assuming, and then supersede our brain’s natural tendencies and listen neutrally:

  • Enter conversations with a bias of listening for all that’s possible.
  • Notice when we begin hearing differences or an internal judgment, and return to concentrating on what’s really being meant.
  • When our internal voice begins judging, reducing, disparaging, or condemning, pose the question to your internal self: What would I hear if I only heard what this person wants to share with me?

If we can at least aspire to hearing what others have to share, we can be further along the path of diversity and avoiding limitations. It’s not easy, as our brains automatically delete and misrepresent the intended meaning of what was said when the message goes against our comfort zone. The problem gets compounded when our brain doesn’t let us know what it omited during its translation process, leaving us to believe what we think we hear was what was said; our interpretations are often inaccurate, regardless of how hard we try to hear accurately. It’s neurological, and not our fault, but this process unfortunately puts us out of choice.

I’ve actually developed tools for those who wish to have choice to listen neutrally – without bias, assumptions, or triggers, and how to do Dissociative Listening that supersedes our habituated listening filters. First read What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Then go to the Learning Tools on www.didihearyou.com and get the Assessment Tool to identify your biases and the Study Guide to learn how to listen without filters. Or contact me, and we can discuss ways your team can gain new skills for meetings, implementations, sales, HR, or diversity training. It’s time, folks. We need to hear the uniqueness of everyone.

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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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

May 3rd, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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Ever since the serpent convinced Eve to eat the apple there’s been someone trying to sell something. The original idea was fairly simple: find folks with a problem, then create and sell a product that will fix it.

For centuries, companies worked hard to understand customer needs then create good products to fill those needs. With limited reach and communication tools, early sellers went around to neighbor’s homes and showed their wares; those with money advertised in the most prestigious magazines (TIME, LOOK, LIFE). Sellers closed 25 – 40% back in the day.

Forward a few decades to Silicon Valley that began creating products because they could, with little concern for need, assuming ‘if they build it they will come.’ Using technology to covertly track and gather huge swaths of data, sellers used their new marketing metrics, human behavior predictors, and an ‘understanding’ of sales demographics to reach high-probability buyers.

Theoretically it became possible to cheaply find those who might need a solution after it was already created, and sell by sending ‘possible buyers’ some ‘targeted messages’ and play the percentages. Given the low cost per touchpoint, sellers only needed a small percentage to take the bait for the investment to pay for itself.

INSANITY

So did it work? Did more sales close? During this new era of using technology, of creating solutions first and then finding potential buyers, sales fell. Here are the actual numbers: according to numbers averaged out from my own clients (Fortune 1000 companies), email marketing closes 0.0059%; sales professionals close less than 5%.

But those numbers don’t seem to matter to the field as it continues to use the same thinking that caused the numbers to begin with. Sales just pushes harder, always assuming they only have to find buyers. Build it and they will come indeed.

To me, those numbers matter. They tell me the industry is failing: A 5% close rate means a 95% failure rate! There is no other industry that finds a 95% failure rate acceptable. No one would even go to a hairdresser with a 95% failure rate. Imagine getting on a plane with a 95% failure rate!

Yet this hasn’t caused a re-think; it’s merely caused sellers to seek more targeted prospects, use more technology, gather more private data, all with the assumption that with better data, sellers can pitch better and close more. And yet, with all the expenditure and brilliant minds working on the problem, the numbers continue to go down as the field continues to attempt to place solutions.

At no point has the sales industry wondered why their sophisticated technology doesn’t close more sales. Well, there’s been a bit of movement: When I began writing about internal buying decisions and decision makers (starting with my first book Sales on the Line in 1992 on facilitating buying decisions) the sales industry fought back (“I know how my buyers decide!!”). Eventually the field took decision makers into consideration (“Yup. A great way in! Let’s include them because they’re smart enough to buy when they hear the facts and how they need us.”), but only as a way to prompt sales.

At no point has the industry realized there might be something going on within a prospect’s environment that causes and maintains the problem the sellers want to fix. At no point has the system, the environment, that prospective buyers live in been a real consideration.

And so it continues. The thinking has remained steadfast: It’s all about the sale. Just find the eyeballs, predict and influence the behavior, and you’ll sell whatever.

SALES USES INCOMPLETE THINKING

Take a moment and think with me, given I suspect that if ‘need’ were the criteria for a purchase, more folks would be buying. And they’re not. Why? Maybe the problem isn’t about what you’re selling.

The industry recognizes that over 40% of a buying decision is based on internal change criteria (i.e. nothing to do with buying anything) and occurs before sales gets involved. So why aren’t sellers doing anything about this? Trying to ‘understand’ to get in and sell misses the point.

Let’s look at the facts. You’ve hired good professional folks, successful, with good instincts. Your marketing materials are great. You’ve learned how to pitch and present your material perfectly. And yet you’re closing less sales than occurred decades ago, when you didn’t have all the technology.

Obviously the problem is not your product or solution. The problem is on the buying decision end and more complicated than the sales model has tools for. There seems to be a gap between the moment people consider themselves buyers and seek solutions, and what and how sellers are selling; the push for eyeballs and understanding don’t address the Pre-Sales, non-buying portion of a buyer’s journey that is focused on change.

But you’re doing nothing about it. With a continued focus on placing solutions, it’s a different mind-set to think about change facilitation as a first step in finding a home for your products.

That’s where the bulk of real buyers are. And you’re ignoring them. They don’t heed your solution data, don’t want appointments, don’t read your marketing materials. They’re just not ready. But they will be. And they can be.

Think with me about the changes in decision making and leadership. Businesses have become sophisticated, as employees and customers and partners are global; leadership is no longer top-down and more inclusive and collaborative.

Given the complexity of environments and their increasingly multifaceted dynamics, and the issues that come up when a problem arises that needs resolving, it’s just not possible for anyone to purchase a new solution on their own. There are just too many consequences with relationships and job functions, chains of command and responsibility to other business practices and partners.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT FUNCTION

To address the complexity, a buying decision has become a change management function before reaching the stage of a solution choice problem.

And the sales industry hasn’t kept up. Instead of helping facilitate the change issues first, it’s still trying to sell, to place solutions, to find buyers, almost at any cost (hacking, spam, false advertising…), insuring they only close the 5% who have already completed their change process on their own.

But the answer is so much cheaper and simpler (and has integrity and far greater success): It’s possible to find those who will seek change in the area your solution can help by putting on a change facilitator’s hat and leading them through the changes they must address before seeing their way clear to buying. And then selling.

By then you’ll both agree to the need, and the sale will be based on values and a real relationship.

Walk with me now through the history of buying decisions.

LET’S LOOK AT BUYING

Originally if there was a need, whoever was in charge would just make a purchase. Now, there are complex decisions to be made even for simple purchases: the days of a single-person purchasing decision are gone; everyone must be involved to fix problems or find workarounds or manage change before any purchase can be considered.

Indeed, all purchases involve some sort of change. It’s a systems problem. You can’t just wake up one day and decide to buy something and ignore everyone else who has a stake in maintaining the status quo.

  • If you’re a member of a family and considering moving to a larger house when the kids get older, you don’t begin by calling a realtor. You begin by discussing everyone’s problems and needs, first figuring out if it’s possible fix your house to avoid the disruption of a move. It’s only when the full fact patterns emerge from everyone – needs, fears, current responsibilities, future plans – does the group come up with a solution. It’s not about the house.
  • What about buying a CRM app? I bet you don’t read about a new one on Monday, buy it on Tuesday, then tell everyone it’s arriving to be implemented on Wednesday. Why not? Because whoever uses the CRM needs to be consulted; tech folks need to give a heads up; and then users would have to buy-in to any changes. You’d probably first try to fix what you’ve been using to avoid the downtime or cost. It’s got nothing to do with the new CRM app.

People who need to fix a problem must not only rearrange some of the status quo, but also must have the buy-in and implementation procedures in place before they buy anything. It’s imperative: they must do this anyway, with you or without you. Might as well be with you. You wait (and push, and lower price) while they do so.

But you’ll need to begin with a different thinking and skill set. Rather than pushing pushing pushing product data at someone you guess might have a need, just learn to recognize someone who WILL buy once they’ve managed their change and facilitate them through the steps of change that lead to a purchase.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Why continue to build your strategies on selling solutions when the sticking point is in the buying? People don’t really want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the lowest cost to the system. And change is the key at this early stage. Regardless of need or the brilliance of a product or the efficacy of a new solution, nothing will be bought, no solution will be purchased, if the new disrupts the system.

A buying decision is a change management problem well before it’s a solution choice issue. Making a purchase is the last – the last – thing anyone does. Indeed, among the 13 stages of a buy cycle buying is stages 10-13 and the decision/change process stages 1-9 (See my book on these stages.).

This is where you’ll find the greatest concentration of new buyers. And they really, really need help, as figuring out all the stakeholders and the downsides of the change takes them quite a long time… it’s the length of the sales cycle.

Why has the sales industry overlooked this? It’s where the real decisions get made. Nothing, nothing, nothing, to do with your solution and the reason folks still in their change stages don’t heed your marketing or pitches or don’t return calls.

When they’re considering their change issues, they are not yet buyers. Maintaining a working system is their highest criteria: they people will not buy if the ‘cost’ of the fix is greater than the cost of the status quo.

Here are a few bullets to think about:

  1. Without the ‘buying’ the ‘selling’ doesn’t have a role. Yet sales continues to think of ‘buying’ through the lens of ‘selling’. It’s wrong. The ‘buying’ should be looked at through the lens of ‘change management’ first.
  2. Sellers can’t understand buyers. They’ll never know the weight of influence of ‘Joe in Accounting’, or the history of two feuding teams who have to share budget to buy a new solution, or the relationship shared between their old vendor they’d need to get rid of to buy your solution. People who might become buyers must manage all this before looking for outside solutions. It has nothing to do with sales, solutions, needs or selling.
  3. Sellers can never know what that that a prospective buyer’s change configuration is as outsiders can’t know or assess the variables that capture the ‘cost.’ The current state has been good-enough for now; it can continue if the cost of change is too high.
  4. Just because someone has a need doesn’t mean they’re a buyer.
  5. The time it takes all stakeholders to
    1. know they must seek an external solution because their workaround doesn’t help,
    2. change with the least disruption,
    3. manage the implementation with the least fallout,
    4. get buy-in from all who will be effected by bringing in something new,

6. By focusing only on finding folks with ‘need’, sales reduces the number of potential buyers down to the low hanging fruit (i.e. a 5% close), those who show up after having completed their change.
7. By entering with a change management hat on and focusing first on facilitating change it’s possible to find 8x more prospects – those in the process of becoming buyers but haven’t yet completed their change management – and facilitate them down their decision path. My clients using my Buying Facilitation®method close 40% against the control groups that close 5.2%.
8. It’s possible to find those who will become buyers on the first call – but not with a sales hat on.

It has nothing to do with need, seller, or solution. I can’t say this enough.

It’s time for sales to begin the sales process by facilitating buying decisions as an add-on to their approach. I am not taking away selling from the equation, just adding new thinking to help people buy. After all, without buyers, what are you doing anyway?

________________________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 26th, 2021

Posted In: News

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Early this morning I went to my favorite ‘big box’ supermarket, WinCo. If you’re not in one of the 5 states where it operates (Washington, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Oregon), you may not be familiar with it.

WinCo is an employee-owned food-supply chain that cares as much for its employees as it does for its customers. As a result, the customer service and store care is personal: the stores are spotless, well-stocked, and employees are easy to find if you have a question, not to mention always kind, informed, and personal. And it’s always a surprise to find items I purchase in more specialty stores – even Amazon! – at least 40% cheaper! Who knew my favorite Roasted Salsa Verde (Herdez) was available at half the price! I love this store and am willing to drive out of my way to shop there.

As I was walking down an aisle I noticed a tall woman and young man walk over to a much older man as he was cleaning the floors:

Woman: We’d like to give you a gift (She handed him an envelope – I assume it was a check.) for all the hard work you do and how well you take care of us all. You always go the extra step to make this store even better. We deeply appreciate you and all do you for us. We all thank you.

I must admit I stopped in my tracks and began crying a bit. I had never heard this in any store, nor have I been aware of supermarkets gifting and thanking employees for their service. I sought the woman (his manager?) out.

SD: Do you choose an ‘employee of the month’ each month and hand out checks to the winners?

Woman: No. It’s on an individual basis. Sometimes we hand out a few in one month, sometimes only a few a year. It depends. When we notice someone doing a great job we reward them and let them know they’re important to us. It’s pretty simple. We take care of each other and show our appreciation when one of us shines.

‘We take care of each other’. So simple! When was the last time you let an employee, one of your staff or team, know how much s/he was appreciated? Went out of your way to take care of her?

OUR EMPLOYEES ARE OUR FIRST CUSTOMERS

When I started up my tech company in 1983 in London I had never run a business before. But even without knowing ‘the rules’ I knew it was as important to care for my team as well as I cared for clients. To that end I put in place some initiatives to make sure they felt taken care of.

Every year I gave the management team a fully paid week off and a $3,000 check for tuition and travel to take any type of course they wanted (Photography? Pottery?), even if the subject matter had nothing to do with their jobs. The goal was to help them keep their brains creative and curious. Certainly a way to let them know I appreciated them.

I also didn’t give them vacation time per se but told them to take off whatever time they needed (so long as they covered their responsibilities) when they felt they weren’t operating on all cylinders. I told them I trusted them to know when they needed rest – it wasn’t about the time.

Surprisingly I had to force them to take time off. I would call their wives – and in those days (1980’s) the team was mostly men and the women were usually at home doing child care – tell them to give the kids to the grandparents for a few days, and keep them in bed. To make sure they had plenty of time to relax, I had restaurants deliver food to them so no one had to cook or shop. My folks would return rested with a happy faces.

Because it was quite important to me that we all meshed even though in scattered locations, I took my inside and outside folks to a pub once a month for beer and darts. I always lost (I never figured out darts in all my years in London!); out of pity, I suspect, they then bought the next round.

To keep abreast of the field folks (the techies) and make sure they felt like part of the company, I called each of them once a month to check in. Sure, I only had 40 people in the field so it was doable (My secretary would schedule the calls to make sure we connected).

One of the pluses of my check-ins was they would tell me when our client was preparing to upgrade the program/package we supported. I knew the vendor had a team that installed it, but that would have taken business away from us and we could easily do the installation.

I would then call my client before they hired the vendor. Of course they were happy to have us do the work, given my staff’s excellence. This factor alone caused my business to explode. I once even got a call from the vendor: “You’re killing me. Clients order the upgrade and then we don’t hear from them because you’re already handling it. How do you find out so fast?”

My colleagues chided me: “Are you running a spa?” they’d ask. “Don’t you think your folks will take advantage?” I think they were jealous, but that didn’t stop them from trying to hire my staff away from me. I would hear grumbles at conferences, gossip that they were offering big bucks to lure my folks away. But nope, I never lost an employee to anything other than relocation in four years. They were happy.

Together we grew the business from zero to almost $5,000,000 in under four years – with no internet (1984 -1988), no websites, no email, no Twitter, no LinkedIn. Just me – a rookie entrepreneur – and my team dedicated to caring for our clients and each other.

WHO IS YOUR CLIENT?

I believe our employees are our first customers – happy staff happy clients. Why do we forget this? How is it possible that some of the larger companies are known to have high turnover, low pay, and very strict hours with rules designed to minimize variance and kill the creative spirit rather than maximize kindness and respect?

Why are companies willing to harm employees, to be disrespectful and unkind, just to save a buck? When did money become more important than values, or humanity? What are they saving, anyway?

When I did consulting work at KPMG I noticed a bravado about working all night, or 80 hour weeks. No surprise that many of the partners were on their third marriages – almost all on their second. Working that hard – hard enough to ignore sleep, relationships, food – was a highly valued part of the culture. Why?

Why don’t we take care of our employees better? Trust them and their ideas? Take time to listen to them? Make them understand that without them we can’t be successful? How did people become expendable to save money at all costs?

I know a very large, successful multinational that forces all levels of management to spend an hour in meetings begging for funds to support their employees – even $200! – to buy an online course or get them needed coaching. It’s a misuse of time, disrespectful, and not even rational. Why not give managers a slush fund to have on hand when someone needs something and trust their judgment!?

We all put so much energy into our clients and customers so we can make money. Why don’t we offer our staff the same respect? We ‘carefully’ hire the ‘right’ people and then create rules and restrictions so we can monitor ‘success’, and treat them like chits, like cogs in a wheel and make them replaceable, ‘things’ without value. And yet we want them to deliver for us and complain about turnover.

What we lose is not only ideas and loyalty, but the spirit of a man, the heart of a woman. We too often make our employees objects. I’ve interviewed middle managers in large corporations who tell me they’ve stopped bringing in new ideas because they don’t get heard, or live only for their vacation time because they’re so miserable and stay only because they’re getting paid so well.

Let’s take as good care of our employees as we do our clients and customers. Let’s make sure everyone is given the time, the respect, the remuneration, to lead fulfilled, exuberant, satisfying lives so they can’t wait to come to work each day. Let’s treasure each of our employees. They are, indeed, special. That’s why we hired them.

What’s the cost? What’s the cost if we don’t? 

_________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventorBuying 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 IntegrityandDirty 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.www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 19th, 2021

Posted In: News

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What if most of our viewpoints, interpretations and assumptions are so unconsciously biased that we unwittingly restrict our ability to accurately understand, or act on, incoming information? And what’s accuracy anyway?

Usually, we don’t question what our brains tell us, what seems to be reasonable or wrong. Responding from our personal norms and beliefs, we instinctively assume our perceptions, actions, interpretations, are based on reality. But what if we’re actually restricting ourselves to what’s comfortable and acceptable, and not accounting for our deep seated biases?

Our subjectivity maintains us. At all costs.

SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY

Subjectivity is based on personal, unique, and idiosyncratic beliefs, assumptions, and norms. We’d think we’re making good choices when we choose or consider one thing vs another, when we easily reject something because it makes no sense or annoys us. Or worse, when it’s ‘obvious’ to us that one thing should be valued differently than another.

We like to think we’re able to be objective. I’m here to tell you, we’re not.

The Wikipedia definition of objectivity is “… the elimination of subjective perspectives and … purely based on hard facts.” And “a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice.” But is this possible? What are ‘hard facts’ when our brain rejects them as faulty? I suggest that objectivity is only slightly less biased than subjectivity. It’s our brain’s fault.

Indeed, it’s pretty impossible to experience or interpret most anything without bias. We act, make decisions and choices, communicate with others, raise children and have friends, all from a small range of favored, habitual mental models that we’ve spent a lifetime culling and assume are accurate.

  • We hear and understand through our brain’s existent neural pathways, causing incoming information (incoming via electrical and chemical signals devoid of meaning) to flow down historic brain routes developed through a lifetime of beliefs, norms, experiences. Regardless of how ‘factual’ it is, when incoming data doesn’t jive with our existing beliefs, our brains ‘do us a favor’ and resist and re-interpret whatever falls outside of what we ‘know’ to be true. Obviously, anything new has a good chance of not being understood accurately. Bias is just cooked in; we don’t even think twice about trusting our intuition or natural reasoning.
  • Whether we’re in a conversation, listening to media, or even reading, we listen through biased filters, and hear what our brains tell us was said – likely to be X% different from the intended message. Unless we develop new neural pathways for the new incoming data, we will only hear what our brains are already comfortable with.

Indeed, our worlds are very tightly controlled by our unconscious and habituated biases, making it quite difficult to objectively hear or understand new idea-based incoming information that is different. It takes quite a bit of work to act beyond our perceptions.

WHY CAN’T WE BE OBJECTIVE?

Each of us interpret incoming messages uniquely. Have you ever spoken with folks who believe that ‘9/11’, or the moon landing, was a hoax or conspiracy? What about people who smoke, and interpret the health data uniquely, believing that because their grandfather smoked until he died at 95 that it’s not going to happen to them? Objectivity is not, well, objective. Here’s what happens: Sometimes

  • the way the new info comes in to us – the words used, the setting, the history between the communication partners, the distance between what’s being said and our current beliefs – cause us to unconsciously misinterpret bits of data;
  • we have no natural way of recognizing an incongruity between the incoming information and our unconscious thoughts;
  • our brain deletes some of the signals from incoming messages when they are discordant with what’s already there, without giving us the deletions to let us know what we missed (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?explains and corrects this problem.);
  • our beliefs are so strong we react automatically without having enough detachment to notice;
  • what we think is objective is often merely a habitual choice.

We each live in worlds of our own making. We choose friends and neighborhoods according to our beliefs and how our ears interpret ‘facts’, choose professions according to our likes and predispositions, raise our kids with the same norms and beliefs that we hold. In other words, we’ve created rather stable – certainly comfortable – worlds for ourselves that we fight to maintain regardless of how our biases may distort.

When communicating with others, ‘objective facts’ might get lost in subjectivity. In business we connect with different viewpoints and attempt to convince other’s of our ‘rightness’, and either they don’t believe us or they feel we’ve made them ‘wrong’. Our children learn stuff in school that we might find objectionable regardless of its veracity, or we might disagree with teachers who have different interpretations of our child’s behavior. What about the ‘fake news’ claims these days? What, exactly is true? I contend the difference between ‘fake news’ and factual reporting is in our perceptions. Either can be objective or subjective given our underlying biases, and separate from the ‘reality’ of facts.

And of course, most scientific facts we deem ‘objective truth’ may just be opinions. Folks like Curie, Einstein, Hawking, and Tesla were considered to be cranks because their ideas flew in the face of objective science that turned out to be nothing more than decades and centuries of perceived wisdom/opinions.

The problem shows up in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes there’s no way to separate out objective fact from subjective belief, regardless of the veracity.

I remember when my teenage son came home with blue hair one day. Thinking of what his teachers would say (This was in 1985!) or his friend’s parents, I wanted to scream. Instead I requested that next time he wanted to do something like that to please discuss it with me first, and then told him it looked great (It actually was a terrific color!). But his father went nuts when he came to pick him up, screaming at both of us (“What kind of a mother lets her son dye his hair blue!!!”), and taking him directly to the barber to shave his head. For me, it was merely hair. Objective reality.

CASE STUDY IN OBJECTIVITY VS SUBJECTIVITY

I once visited a friend in the hospital where I began a light conversations with the elderly orderly helping her sit up and eat. During our chat, the orderly asked me if I could mentor him. Um… Well, I was busy. Please! he begged. Not knowing what I could add to his life and having a bias that folks who asked me to mentor them just wanted me to give them money, I reluctantly, doubtfully, said ok.

He emailed me and invited me to dinner. Um… well, ok. I’d donate one night. He lived in a tiny room in a senior living center, on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. It was very clean and neat, and he had gone out of his way to prepare the best healthy dinner he knew how to offer. Shrimp cocktail. Nice salad. Hamburger and beans. Ice cream. During dinner he played some lovely music. Just lovely. I was transfixed. Who is that playing, I asked.

“It’s me. I wrote that piece, and I’m playing all the instruments. I have several CDs of music I’ve composed and self-produced. Can you help me find someone who might want to hear it and do something with it? I’ve never met anyone who could help me.” I helped him find folks who helped him professionally record at least two of his compositions.

By any ‘objective’ measure, using my own subjective biases and ignoring the objective truth that we’re all equal and everyone is capable of having talent, I didn’t initially consider that someone ‘like that’ (old, black, poor, uneducated) had the enormous talent this man possessed, regardless of my advocacy of non-bias and gender/race equality.

Unwittingly, we seriously restrict our worlds by the way we process incoming data. We live subjective lives that restrict us. And as a result, we end up having arguments, misunderstandings, failed initiatives; we end up having a smaller pool of ideas to think with and don’t see a need for further research or checking; we make faulty assumptions about people and ideas that could bring benefits to our lives. I personally believe it’s necessary for us to remove as many restrictions as possible to our pool of knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO COMPENSATE

To recognize bias and have a new choice, we must first recognize the necessity of noticing when something we believe may not be true, regardless of how strong our conviction otherwise. It’s quite difficult to do using the same biases that caused us to unconsciously bias in the first place.

Here’s a tip to help expand your normalized perception and notice a much broader range of givens, or ‘reality,’ to view an expanded array of options from a Witness or Coach or Observer position on the ceiling:

  1. Sit quietly. Think of a situation that ended with you misinterpreting something and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Replay it through your mind’s eye. Pay particular attention to your feelings as you relive each aspect of the situation. Replay it again.
  2. Notice where your body has pain, discomfort, or annoyance points.
  3. As soon as you notice, intensify the feeling at the site of the discomfort. Then impart a color on it. Make the color throb.
  4. Mentally move that color inside your body to the outer edges of your eyeballs and make the color vibrate in your eyes.
  5. When you mentally notice the color vibration, make sure you sit back in your chair or stand up. Then move your awareness up to the ceiling (i.e. in Witness or Observer position) and look down at yourself. From above you’ll notice an expanded range of data points and options outside your standard ones, causing you to physiologically evade your subjective choices.

Since the difference between subjectivity and objectivity is one of perception, and in general our brains make our determinations unconsciously, we must go to the place in our brains that cause us to perceive, and make it conscious. Only then can we have any objective choice. And next time we think we’re being objective, maybe rethink the situation to consider whether new choices are needed.

___________________________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 12th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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Most of us believe we don’t have listening biases accurately hear what’s been said. But given our brain’s inability to accurately hear incoming messages due to our historic circuits that translate them subjectively (and out of our awareness), it’s difficult to be certain that what we think we heard is accurate. But it’s possible to at least know what our tendencies are.

I’ve developed an assessment tool to get a greater understanding of your unconscious listening biases. Let’s get a baseline knowledge of your current assumptions and unconscious, habitual choices of how you typically hear others in conversations. Once you understand these, you’ll know what areas to pay specific attention to and where, or if, you need to add new skills.

PART 1: When do you take extra steps to ensure you accurately hear what your Communication Partner (CP) intends?

Directions: Check off any that apply.

Relationship-related

_When I’m with my partner/spouse (i.e. all the time).

_When I’m having a disagreement with my partner/spouse.

_When I’m trying to clean up a problem/misunderstanding.

_Only when it’s someone I care about.

_I don’t take extra steps. I just assume I hear the message as intended.

Circumstantial

_When something important is at stake in my life and I need to know the Other’s takeaway.

_When I’m aware I don’t understand someone.

_When I have a message I want to impart and want to make sure I’m being understood as I prefer.

_When communicating with someone of a different culture, background, and I’m not certain we’re mutually understanding each other. But I sometimes do nothing about it because I don’t know what to do differently.

Are there times it’s especially important to ensure you hear what your CP intends to convey?

_When the conversation is going badly.

_In all business-related, profit-related conversations, or where I’m getting paid.

_ In all/some conversations related to my spouse or family.

_No. I prefer to accurately understand what’s said in every conversation and am usually successful.

_I prefer to accurately understand all of my CPs but not sure that I do.

Take a moment to think about your responses in all of the above and answer the following questions, in writing, as a summary.

  •  Are there specific times you regularly take responsibility, take extra steps, to make sure you hear your CP accurately?
  •  Why are you more comfortable with your natural listening skills in some situations than in others? Are there patterns to when you have misunderstandings?
  •  Are you fully aware of the outcomes of all of your conversations, and generally assume that everyone understands each other accurately?
  • How do you know if you’ve accurately understood someone?

PART 2: Do you know your communication biases?

Directions: assess your predispositions as a communicator on each of the following. Check off the ones that apply:
Bias Choices
When I enter into a conversation, I enter with

_An ‘ear’ that listens according to my history with that person.

_An unconscious/conscious agenda of what I want from the conversation.

_ A need to be perceived in a specific way or to impart the message I want.

_An ability to enter each conversation without bias, with a mental ‘blank slate’.

_The needs of the Other in mind at the expense of my own.

_My beliefs about what this person might need from me given his/her background.

_An understanding that my unconscious biases might keep me from fully understanding so I regularly check that me and my CP are on the same page.

_ No conscious thought. I just assume I’ll hear what’s intended and respond appropriately, regardless of how different my CP might be from my own cultural experience.

During a conversation I

_Might get annoyed by something said due to my own preconceptions and history.

_ Assume I have the skills to recognize when there’s a misunderstanding and make things right if there is a problem.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and say something to get us on the same page.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and I say nothing.

_Don’t notice if my CP is responding differently from the message I’m sending and don’t know if I’ve hurt/annoyed them.

_Work hard at maintaining a ‘blank slate’ in my brain to listen through.

_Just be me, because I know I’m not biased and I listen accurately.

_Am aware I may not be speaking, listening, or responding in ways that regard the differences of my CP but don’t do anything to speak, listen, or respond differently than normal.

_Would prefer I’m not saying anything disrespectful, or hearing with unconscious biases, but I’m not sure if I know how to do this.

_Would prefer I’m respecting my CP but have done nothing to learn new skills to be able to speak or listen to match another’s unconscious cultural assumptions.

PART 3: Do you have the choices you need for an unbiased communication?

Directions: Please write down the answers to these:

If you don’t consider how accurately you hear what others intend to say (as distinct from what you think you hear) during a conversation, what you would need to know or believe differently to make this part of each communication? To think specifically if responses are congruent, if communication lines are balanced, if both CPs speak about the same amount of time and follow the same topic?

If you don’t know for certain if you’re hearing without bias, or if you’re listening with a ‘beginner’s mind’ to lessen your unconscious biases, what has stopped you until now from taking steps or learning new skills to listen without bias?

If you don’t know for certain if something you think you heard is inaccurate, what do you do to check? What stops you from stopping the conversation and asking?

How can you tell if your CP is understanding YOU accurately and without bias? Do you have the skills you need to monitor and manage this?

PART 4: Whose responsibility is a shared understanding?

Directions: Answer Yes or No for each of the following:

Beliefs
_I believe it’s the Sender’s responsibility to send her message properly to match the needs of the Receiver.

_I believe there’s a shared responsibility between CPs to understand each other; both are equally at fault if there’s a misunderstanding.

_I believe it’s the Receiver’s responsibility to hear what the Sender is saying, and tell the Sender when there is confusion or misunderstanding.

Responding
_I formulate a reply as soon as I hear something that triggers a response in my head, regardless of whether or not the person has finished sharing their ideas.

_I know I’ve been heard when someone responds according to my expectation.

_I know I’m hearing another’s intended message accurately when I feel comfort between us.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue, I interrupt or show my disagreement without asking for an explanation.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue I allow her to complete her message before sharing my disagreement.

_I try to listen without my biases and respond to what has been said, but I’m aware I probably can’t understand because of our differences. But I’ve not taken steps to learn how to listen without biases.

_If I have an idea to share that’s different from my CP’s topic, I just change topics.

_When I don’t understand my CP’s response to what I said, I just keep going or try to say something better.

_My responses conform to what I think I heard and I don’t check.

_I respond to what I think was said and don’t consider I might have biased and misinterpreted what I heard.

Understanding the message

_When I don’t understand someone, I can tell immediately and ask for clarification.

_I rarely think it’s me when there is confusion during a conversation and take no action, assuming it will work itself out.

_I can tell I’ve misheard/misunderstood when I get a negative reaction or a confused look.

_I can tell I’ve misheard only when I hear my CP say ‘WHAT?’ or ‘I don’t understand’ after my response.

_I cannot tell if I’ve misunderstood or misheard, and respond according to what I think I heard.

_I don’t know how to listen differently to people who are different from me and just respond like I do in any conversation.

_I assume I understand Others who speak English, regardless of our differences.

Communication problems

_As soon as I realize I have misunderstood someone, I ask her to repeat what she said so I can understand her message.

_When I realize I’ve misunderstood, I assume they aren’t being clear.

_When my CP tells me I misunderstood him I know it’s not my issue because I know I hear accurately.

_When my CP tells me she thinks I misheard, I ask what I missed so I can get it right.

_I can’t tell if I’ve misunderstood someone, and aren’t aware if there are negative consequences to my repsonses.

_I use my normal communication skills in all conversations regardless of cultural differences.

When you’re done, please write a paragraph on what you discovered.

Now, write a paragraph on this whole assessment experience. What did you take away? What do you need to do differently? Write down a plan to move forward in a way that will help you hear what others say with the least possible bias.

How did you do? Are you willing to make changes where you need them? Do you know how to make changes? Did you find areas you’d like to have more choice? Were you able to notice your predispositions?

It’s important to notice where you find yourself resisting change as those are the exact areas in which you might occasionally mishear or misunderstand. Determine if you want to continue your current patterns and don’t mind the cost of being wrong some of the time.

For those of you seeking more understanding on how our brains hear, check out my book: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?

_______________

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 IntegrityandDirty 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.www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

April 5th, 2021

Posted In: News

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BIG IDEA: Buyers can’t buy until they’ve handled all of their internal stuff and everyone involved agrees they’re ready, willing, and able to bring in something new. With a solution-placement focus, sales and marketing limit us to finding only those who have completed those tasks and deem themselves ready to engage – the low hanging fruit.

PROBLEM: The problem is not in getting our solution sold; it’s in getting our solution bought. Buyers have Pre-Sales work to do that doesn’t involve the content we spend a lot of resource trying to push on them. Our sales and marketing efforts are set to seek ways to ‘get in’, get read, or determine ‘need’, ignoring the buyer’s need to figure out how to do their real change work: to assemble the most appropriate people, get consensus, try workarounds, and manage change. Because of the selling biases in our listening and questioning, we extract partial data, from people who don’t have the full fact pattern yet; promised dates get ignored; people disappear; there is no buy-in. We waste our time pushing content and waiting, hoping they’ll buy, instead of entering earlier to facilitate the change with them.

PROBLEM: The flaw in the sales model: designed to place solutions, sales starts selling before buyers are ready/able to buy, restricting success to those who deem themselves ready- the low hanging fruit (5%). Indeed, buyers don’t want to buy anything: they just want to solve a (business) problem with the least disruption.

PROBLEM: The status quo is preferred and is the basis of decision making. Regardless of a buyer’s real need, or the relevance of our solution; regardless of relationship or pitch/content/price; it is only when there is buy-in for systemic change, and an action plan that manages disruption, will buyers investigate the most agreeable solution. This holds true regardless of type or price of solution.

SOLUTION: Buying Facilitation® is a unique consulting model that facilitates change and decision making. Used with the sales model, it enters the buyer’s buying decision process to facilitate excellence, teaching buyers how to manage all the systems/change stuff they must do: recognize and manage all of the back-end, idiosyncratic, internal issues they must address before they can consider a change in the area our solution can help in (i.e. you’re not helping them determine if they need new software if you sell leadership training.). It can be used with small personal products, cold calls, help desks, complex sales, and marketing.

A non-biased change management model, BF uses a new form of listening (Listening for Systems) and a new form of direction-driven/non-biased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate our buyer’s journey through the steps of change only they can make – change that would include our solution for those ready. Once BF has supported buyers through the steps of their decision making, we are already in place, on their team. Makes it much easier to sell.

A buying decision is a change management problem. Buyers must handle stuff, with us or without us: we’ve always sat and waited (and called, sent, called, pitched, prayed, waited) while they do this themselves. If we can collaborate with them as consultants (change facilitators, not solution providers – and this is an important distinction), we’ll serve them from the beginning, making the process more efficient for those who are the real prospects, eliminating the rest immediately, and being on board when they’re ready. [Read my book on this: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com]

CASE STUDY USING BUYING FACILITATION®

Let me lead you through one simple case study from a group of small business bankers I trained for one of the 3 major US banks. Their numbers after the training were quite impressive compared to the control group:

A. Control group Sales: 100 calls, 10 appointments, 2 closed sales in 11 months.
B. Buying Facilitation®: 100 calls, 37 appointments, 29 closed sales in 3 months.

While this might sound high, remember: interactions proceed differently using Buying Facilitation® because the focus isn’t to sell/push product/find a buyer (A) but to facilitate the entire buying decision path (B). We began immediately by helping them determine how they’d add a resource such as ours when they needed it:

“Hi. My name is John and I’m a small business banker from X bank. This is a sales call. I’m wondering: How are you currently adding new banking resources for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need to keep your business operating optimally?”

Here’s the thinking: Given all small businesses have some banking relationship, the only businesses who would want to meet to discuss new banking services were; 1. those who weren’t happy with their current bank, or 2. had bankers who might not be able to provide what they might need. Attempting to get an appointment because ‘we want to understand your needs’ or ‘show you our new solutions’ etc. to prove we’re “better”, or to try to convince them to change suppliers, meant we would seem to be attacking their current vendors and current relationships. Not to mention pitching into a closed environment, leaving us hoping that the spaghetti would stick somewhere. That approach got a 90% refusal to even meet. Nope. No need to meet. We’ve got a bank, thank you.

By focusing on helping them determine how they’d manage if they needed more than their current providers could supply, and by helping them figure out where they could add a new resource without disrupting current working relationships, we vastly expanded the field of possible buyers and instantly eliminated those who would never buy. It proved a winning tactic: 37 made appointments just from that opening question (up from 10). During the field visit we helped them get buy-in and consensus to bring in an additional vendor – us. Win/win. Collaboration. True facilitation.

CONCLUSION: Buying Facilitation® is not sales, not a solution placement tool, not an information gathering tool, and not a persuasion tactic. It’s not content-driven, and sellers don’t try to understand a buyer’s needs until the time when the buyers 1. have the complete set of ‘givens’ they need in order to consider all of the elements of change (including, but not limited to, buying something); 2. are ready to adapt to change and there is consensus. There’s no manipulation, no persuasion, no influencing. It’s a win/win collaboration, servant leader model: we actually facilitate buyer readiness. I can’t say this enough: buyers go through this anyway, without us. We can push stuff at them while we wait for them to show up, or we can facilitate them through the length of it. It can be your competitive edge.

We can teach people how to change/buy; we can shorten the time to buy by making their change process efficient; we are helping them determine how, and when, they need us. It’s a facilitation, not a push. And we end up with real prospects who we’ve helped get ready to buy. Not to mention the collaboration, trust, respect, and integrity built into the interaction creates lasting relationships when used throughout the relationship.

The good news is that you can still sell – but use your time to sell to those who are indeed ready willing and able, rather than waste 90% of your time trying to manipulate, pitch, persuade, push, ‘get through the door’, network, write content, etc. You can help those who CAN buy get their ducks in a row and quickly eliminate those who will never buy because it will become obvious to you both. I’m not suggesting you don’t sell; I’m merely suggesting you spend your selling time only on those who WILL buy, and set that up by first facilitating prospective buyers down their own buying decision path.

____________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

March 29th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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I’ve decided to start an Institute for Facilitation to offer coaches, leaders, managers, and influencers a Servant Leader-based set of skills to guide excellence without bias. I began my passion for ‘facilitation’ quite some time ago.

In 1989 I named my company Morgen Facilitations. Back then folks suggested I choose a different name. “Facilitation is just too big a word,” I was told. In 2000, when I got a registered trademark on my new sales paradigm named Buying Facilitation®, I was told no one would understand what ‘facilitation’ meant, that the term should be “short and snappy, like SPIN, or Sandler.” Thankfully, times have changed.

WHAT IS FACILITATION?

I’ve always been in the Facilitation business, with little interest in trying to convince others its importance as a way to conduct business. It’s my brand, and thankfully, over the past decades, many folks have used my services in sales and leadership to help move my ideas forward.

As Facilitators we care about others, using our hearts, kindness, and skills to help both personal and corporate clients achieve their goals. With ears primed to listen and hearts ready to open, we work at lessening our biases to help effectively manage any proposed change using the Other’s criteria.

I believe:

Facilitation is the commitment to enable others, without bias, to discover and navigate their best routes to their goals in a way that represents their beliefs and values.

However, I believe that using conventional Facilitation skills may not achieve that outcome. Let me explain.

MISSING SKILLS

Using conventional skills, even as we seek to serve, we sometimes inadvertently end up gathering insufficient or erroneous data, possibly causing resistance and impeding change. Of course we don’t do this purposefully. And it’s not our fault.

For the last 50 years I’ve been studying, and developing facilitation models to address, how brains are configured to enable change and decision making, and boy, are we restricted. Because our brains are set up to automatically experience all incoming sensory data (what we see, hear, think, feel, etc.) according to our historic synapses and pathways, we are restricted by our history and have little conscious choice.

It seems our assumptions, beliefs and mental models, history of past communications, and habituated brain circuits cause automatic, and very subjective, interpretations of all incoming content regardless of the reality.

If/where incoming messages differ substantially from our past experiences, we may not have similar-enough neural pathways to translate the messages accurately and end up unable to fully understand, act on, or even make proper sense of them.

With such a huge possibility of mistranslations on both the Facilitator and client end of this issue, there’s obviously a problem for Facilitators as we try to understand, serve, and lead clients. To get the full picture of the problem so we can figure out how to manage it, I’ll give you a more complete, though simplified, explanation of how our brains interpret for us.

A BRAIN THING

Sounds, including incoming words, enter our brains as puffs of air without meaning, as vibrations that our brain turns into signals, and get sent down the nearest, most well-worn neural pathways, to ‘close-enough’ synapses that are ‘similar-ish’, for interpretation.

In other words, our brains don’t recognize words or meaning, just electro-chemical vibrations that get matched in hundreds of a second to synapses and circuits that most likely don’t exactly match; where they don’t, our brains kindly discard the differences automatically – without telling us!

In other words, once we hear someone speak our brain converts the incoming sound vibrations into signals, sends the signals down the most habituated – not necessarily the most accurate – pathways for action/interpretation, discards the signals that don’t correspond with what’s already there, and fails to inform us of the deletion.

So let’s say someone says ABC and our brain determines ABL is a close-enough match. It then discards D, E, F, etc. without even offering a warning sign that stuff was discarded! We have no choice but to assume ABL is accurate.

Given this process occurs for both speakers and responders, we all assume our communication partner will translate what we’ve said accurately – and our assumptions may not be accurate!

Obviously, that’s potentially problematic as clients end up translating what we’ve said into what’s automatic for them; and we, in turn, translate what we believe they’ve said into what’s automatic for us.

This, unfortunately, is how we end up misunderstanding, and the exact reason our conventional skills need a bit of updating.

Of course we have no choice but to believe what our brains tell us, leaving us with no idea how disparate what we think we hear is from what’s actually been said (and meant) unless we specifically ask.

HOW WE ALL RESTRICT OUR WORLDS

What this means during the Facilitation process is profound: all that we hear, all that we say, is restricted according to existing electro-chemical brain configurations and translated idiosyncratically according to our history and any nuance, or unrecognized, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable concepts may get deleted or misconstrued.

As an example, think of something you have a very strong belief about, and remember a time when someone tried to change your mind or discuss options. Politics? Your diet? Exercise? Most likely you’ll reject it regardless of its efficacy.

Unwittingly, we bias every interaction we have. And herein lie the problem for Facilitators:

  • How do we Facilitate outside of our own, and our client’s, historic beliefs and biases, our automatic, historic brain circuitry?
  • How can we Facilitate others to change if they don’t already have circuits for it?
  • How can we go beyond brain biases to promote meaning and change?
  • How can we help Others create new circuits and pathways to discover new answers?

Sadly for us, there’s no conventional way into another’s brain. How, then, do we serve?

WHAT IS FACILITATION

Now that we know it’s not as simple as Speak + Listen = Understand, or Think = Commit + Act, as Facilitators we must add new skills to override the brain problem.

I believe the job of a Facilitator is to help Others develop new brain connections so they can discover answers that might not arise automatically. I believe:

Facilitation is a leadership process, but not leadership.

Facilitation instigates discovery, but never asks why.

Facilitation uses the values of the facilitator, but never the biases.

Facilitation uses questions to instigate clarity, but has no answers.

Facilitation aims to reach goals, but doesn’t define them.

I’m sure many of you agree with me. But in case your brain translated my comments differently than I intended and still believe that your current skills can accurately interpret what’s been said or meant, let’s check.

Do you pose conventional questions?

Conventional questions are meant to gather data but prove to be rather problematic. They

  • are posed using the intent and goals of the Asker,
  • emanate from the curiosity of the Asker,
  • use the natural words and sentence structure of the Asker,
  • are translated according to the Responder’s assumptions and idiosyncratic neural circuitry (i.e. limited and subjective).

I bet you don’t think of questions that way, but that’s what they do. So when you’re posing questions out of your own curiosity, or believe clients need to consider something specific, your words and thoughts may be mistranslated or misunderstood. It’s the same problem when your client speaks to you – it’s a problem on both ends as we all

  • interpret,
  • translate,
  • guess,
  • assume
  • respond

subjectively, based on the responses we think we’ve heard.

This biases what we think our clients want to achieve, or how accurate the data is we’re trying to collect. In other words, conventional questions are unwittingly biased and will collect some unknowable subset of accurate data, or translate incoming messages in some unintended way, given the potentially flawed baseline assumptions of all parties.

What are you listening for?

When we listen to understand and collect data as per our goals, we’re listening through ears biased and restricted by a lifetime of our own subjectivity – our mental models, training, history, beliefs, and experience. Indeed, because of the way our brains listen we can’t know if what we’re hearing is what was meant to be conveyed. Again, as with questions, when we think something has been said or meant, we’re just hoping, guessing, and assuming.

I spent three years writing a book on this topic that explains precisely how our brains misinterpret and misunderstand based on neurology (i.e. not intent) and what can be done to mitigate it. Take a look at sample chapters: www.didihearyou.com.

Note that by the time we’ve carefully, attentively listened (through historic, unconscious neural pathways that are some degree off the intended message spoken) and posed questions, we’ve already biased the conversation and may inadvertently be collecting incomplete data and sending incomplete, or flawed messages. That’s how people walk away from a meeting with different thoughts on what happened.

But there’s more! That’s just questioning and listening. I’ll continue.

Are you facilitating using your own goals?

We generally enter each situation with a goal in mind. I contend there’s no way for an outsider to have a goal that captures the full set of unconscious criteria held by a client.

Since it’s so difficult to ask questions or listen without our own biases, it’s pretty hard to appreciate the complete set of criteria clients need to meet. Indeed, clients often begin with the most conscious awareness of a problem to be resolved, but ultimately end up – much later! – realizing the unconscious criteria involved that may get in the way of a resolution. This costs time and frustration on both sides.

Obviously the deck is stacked against us, we aren’t always able to Facilitate a change initiative to the fullest extent possible. Hence I developed new skills oriented around brain change and choice.

NEW SKILLS FOR UNBIASED FACILITATION

As facilitators deeply wanting to serve, we want to get it right, certainly without bias. The new skills I developed work with the brain to create and guide brain circuits to discover solutions that match their historic integrity.

I actually spent 10 years creating a new form of question I’ve called a Facilitative Question that sequentially, consciously, leads the brain to specific channels to discover unconscious criteria; I spent three years developing a way to listen that enables hearing accurately.

I will teach these skills in my proposed Institute for Facilitation and will invite others to offer additional skill sets I believe necessary when facilitating others through change:

*Change Management *Storytelling *Coaching *Power/control management *Buy-in *Servant leadership *Influencing *Negotiating *Questioning *Listening

If you’re interested in becoming part of the Institute, please let me know. I look forward to offering a foundation where facilitation is elevated to a Servant Leader skill set.

___________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventorBuying 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 IntegrityandDirty 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.www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

March 22nd, 2021

Posted In: News

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Servent Leadership

I became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servantleader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”

Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.

THE BIAS PROBLEM

As a Quaker, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:

  • Conventional questions are little more than interrogations based on the needs/biases of the Asker, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses. Obviously this causes flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships.
  • With our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways, normal listening restricts us to hearing mainly what our brains want us to hear. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly.
  • Information – regardless of its accuracy, importance, or presentation – cannot be accepted or accurately interpreted when it flies in the face of the Other’s Beliefs. It’s just not possible for information gathering or sharing to elicit permanent change, regardless of its efficacy.
  • Influencers tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely translations of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • Too many influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.) seek methods to push their agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few.

With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities, ignoring the Other’s unique choices.

We assume that we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable, the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do.

I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they had the right to push and manipulate.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. And this actually causes the resistance we receive, and then we blame them – prospects seem ‘stupid’, patients ‘don’t care’ about their health, students ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients ‘won’t listen’ to us – for resisting.

WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES

We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get Others to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution. And yet they persist with failing results rather than change.

What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but conventional practices do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in to, and accommodate for, any change.

Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. Our failures are due to the ways our brains have created and maintained our status quo:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our Mental Models, our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviors we think need to be changed but which actually enable us to show up as who we are. We wake up daily, and maintain whoever we were yesterday, without judgement. Our system just IS, good or bad, right or wrong. And it will fight to the death to maintain itself. Literally.
  2. Change Behaviors: Behaviors are merely Beliefs in action. When we try to change nothing but the Behavior, we push against the entire system. Regardless of the efficacy of a different solution or a dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system (i.e. not an outsider’s brilliant suggestions) and the system is reorganized around the ‘new’, it will be resisted.
  3. Information doesn’t get heard: Our brains/ears hear subjectively, filtering out and misconstruing what’s not comfortable, failing to tell us that what we think we hear is most likely some fraction off of what the Speaker intended.
  4. Ignore the steps to change: As outsiders, we too often use our intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for the Other’s Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the system must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

Our current approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote changes that challenge Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that anything ‘new’ must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.

And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption.

Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world our suggestions challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the skills to do more than attempt to cause the change WE think is needed, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.

GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. We need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers by facilitating Another’s change, offering real leadership.

I’ve spent my life coding and training the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve used it in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.

Servant Leadership assumes:

  1. Others have their own answers and are the only ones who can effect their own change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system. Our responsibility is to lead them through the pathway to change themselves.
  2. We only have questions for Another, not answers. And since conventional questions are biased interrogations (biased by the wording, the intent, and the goal of the Asker) that may miss important, hidden, elements necessary for the Other to elicit their change criteria, I’ve designed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that lead Others through their own trajectory of change to discover their own answers, in a way that causes new understanding and decision making.
  3. There is no way for an outsider to have THE ANSWERS for Another. They have no knowledge of the systemic elements that created and maintain the problem and that must buy-in to any change.
  4. To listen without bias or misunderstanding, we must practice Dissociative Listening to avoid the filters, bias, assumptions, and triggers that are part of our normal listening. [Note: for those interested in learning Dissociative Listening, read Chapter 6 in What?.]

Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted.

I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.

So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.

____________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

March 15th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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How do we manage change in our organizations? Not very well, apparently. According to statistics, the success rate for many planned change implementations is low: 37 percent for Total Quality Management; 30 percent for Reengineering and Business Process Reengineering, and a whopping 97% for some software implementations. Regardless of the industry, situation, levels of people involved, or intended outcome, change seems to be sabotaged in unknown ways, causing the real possibility of failure:

  • Internal partners fail in attempts to promote and elicit proposed change initiatives across departments.
  • Leaders get blindsided by unknowns, creating more problems or becoming part of the problem when attempting to find a fix.
  • The system gets disrupted during the change process, unwittingly harming people, relationships, and initiatives.
  • Improper, or non-existent, integration between developers and users cause lack of buy-in and resistance.
  • The change doesn’t get adopted as conceived, with financial and personal fallout.

Is it possible that our approach is causing some of the problems? I submit that we’re omitting some of the foundational elements to congruent change, change that can be successful in:

  • its comfortable transitions between phases;
  • its ease of buy-in;
  • enabling all participants to embrace leadership roles and be a part of designing and developing the Rules and Beliefs that will define the emerging, new system;
  • reducing fallout and cost;
  • eliminating resistance,
  • encouraging creativity.

But we’ll need to do something different from what we’re currently doing.

THE SYSTEMS ASPECT OF CHANGE

Let’s begin at the beginning with my definitions of change and systems.

CHANGE: Change is a new set of choices within a system that cause the elements of the system to exhibit altered Behaviors while still maintaining homeostasis. No change can occur unless the system reorients (i.e. re-organizes, re-prioritizes etc.) itself in a way that incorporates and maintains its core accepted norms (i.e. homeostasis, Systems Congruence). In other words, all change must include a way for the elements to ultimately buy-in to, and incorporate, new functioning while maintaining the rules and Beliefs of the status quo.

SYSTEM: Any connected set of elements that comprise a homeostatic entity, held together by consensual rules and Beliefs that then generate a unique set of Behaviors that exhibit its unique identity. All systems must maintain Systems Congruence or they lose their identity and become something else. Because change represents the disruption of the status quo in unknowable ways, systems defend themselves by resisting when feeling threatened. In order to facilitate congruent change, it’s necessary to get the agreement, and a recognized path forward (There are specific, sequential steps in all change processes.), of all of the bits that will be effected by the final solution to ensure it maintains its core identity, Beliefs, and rules.

As a lifelong student of systems thinking and theorizing (50+ years), I’ve recognized that change is often approached with an eye on altering activity and Behaviors without addressing the vital need for the core system to maintain homeostasis. And when we tie our understanding of the functionality of a system to its Behaviors and attempt to push Behavior change before eliciting core Belief change, we

  • overlook the ability to facilitate the system down its own path through to it’s own version of congruent change
  • are relegated to managing the fallout when the stable system reaches Cognitive Dissonance and is forced to defend itself.

Herein lie the problem: until or unless the full complement of relevent elements (that not only created the problem but holds it in place daily) agrees to congruently alter, and get buy-in from, the elements that caused the problem and will be effected by any change, it will resist change regardless of the underlying problem that needs fixing. The system is sacrosanct. And it applies whether trying to get a teenager to pick up his socks, a diabetic patient to exercise, a team to work harmoniously, or a person to figure out if/when she needs to buy something. In general, outsiders cannot effect congruent change because they cannot know the core elements that have created and maintain the status quo, nor how to re-orient them congruently around any proposed change. It’s an inside job.

With our focus on changing Behaviors, we’ve overlooked the need for a system to maintain Systems Congruence – the foundational rules, Beliefs, relationships, etc. that define the system. Outside influencers – regardless of their initiatives or rationality or persuasiveness or authority – can never understand a system they’re not a part of. Change must begin by teaching the system how to change itself. I’ve written this article to:

  • Explain how current approaches to change management lead to resistance,
  • Introduce the elements of change and need for buy-in,
  • Introduce a route to change that can achieve goals without resistance while maximizing leadership and creativity through buy-in and congruent change.

In my forthcoming book (tentatively titled Facilitating Change) I’ll explore this topic thoroughly. In this article I’ll introduce the important elements and lay out my thinking. And I look forward to your feedback.

ALL PROBLEMS START WITH SYSTEMS

Most influencing professions (leadership, coaching, consulting, sales etc.) begin with a goal to be met, adopt an outside-in approach that uses influence, advice, ‘rational’ scientific ‘facts’, and various types of manipulation to inspire change – while ignoring the fact that anything new, any push from outside the system, any dissimilar element not already within it, represents disruption and Cognitive Dissonance. We put the cart before the horse, attempting to change Behaviors and elicit buy in before the system is certain it won’t be compromised and knows how to make sure it survives. Until the necessary steps of change are completed and the system knows it will maintain Systems Congruence, the identified problem will continue as is: it’s already built into the system:

  • The full complement of elements and that created the problem and represent the status quo must be assembled and recognized [Note: this applies to making an individual decision since each of us is an individual system.];
  • Everyone/everything within the system must accept that it’s not possible to fix the problem with known resources;
  • All of the elements (people, policies, rules, relationships, etc.) that will be effected by a new solution – i.e. change – must begin by understanding, buying-in to, and accounting for, the ways they’d be changing to ensure the path they design for better funtioning leads them to homeostasis.

Until all that happens the system will resist change (or buying, or learning, or eating healthy or or) regardless of the level of need or the efficacy of the solution. And because of the unconscious, historic elements involved, for congruent change to occur, those inside the system must design their own route to acceptable change. And as outside influencers we actually cause our own resistance by pushing our agendas, when we can actually lead Others through to their own change.

By assuming a Behavior addition/subtraction is ‘rational’ or necessary, without accounting for whatever workaround the system has already adopted and built in to its daily functioning, we end up with far more failure and resistance than we should have given the efficacy of our solutions. Indeed, it’s necessary to elicit buy-in for each element that will be changed: to maintain congruence throughout the change process, systems must

  • Maintain Functional Stability. Systems must maintain homeostasis. Their current functioning, even when problematic, has been finely honed over time, waking up every day maintaining the Behaviors, rules, goals, etc. that created the problem to begin with. Change is not so simple as shoving in a new Behavior. Remember: a system doesn’t judge itself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It just is. And it keeps ticking over the same way day after day.
  • Achieve Buy-In. Whether consciously or unconsciously, a system will resist anything from outside that threatens the status quo, regardless of the efficacy of the change. For successful change to occur, the system must recognize exactly what fallout will occur when anything shifts or is added, and how each affected element must modify itself in a way that maintains the integrity of the system (i.e. Systems Congruence). I can’t say this enough: the system is sacrosanct, quite separate from whatever reasons an influencer uses to change it.
  • Maintain Underlying Rules and Beliefs. Great data or solutions, important needs or dangerous consequences do not influence the change if they run counter to the system’s homeostatic Beliefs and rules, overt or covert. (It’s why your Uncle Vinny still smokes with lung cancer, and why training doesn’t cause new behaviors.) Note when we attempt change a set of Behaviors without changing the underlying Beliefs that created those Behaviors to begin with, we cause resistance. And here’s a tip: when you start from inside out, from eliciting any change within a system’s Beliefs and rules (i.e. rather than ‘Eat your broccoli,’ start with ‘I’m a Healthy Person.’), new behaviors will automatically accompany them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way ‘round: when we attempt to push a new Behavior into the system – say, asking a heart patient to change her diet or exercise program – before eliciting Belief change from the entire (and largely unconscious) system, we will achieve resistance as it may be seen as a threat. It cannot be otherwise.

The issues are the same regardless of the focus, whether it’s a company resisting reorganization, a patient refusing meds, a user group resisting new software, a buyer who hasn’t figured out when, if, how to buy, or a group not taking direction from company leadership. As outsiders we too often push for our own results and actually cause the resistance that occurs.

It’s possible to use our positions as outside influencers eschew our bias and be real Servant Leaders and teach the system how to traverse each step of its own change.

CASE STUDY: SYSTEMS ALIGNMENT

Here is a case study that exhibits how to enable buy-in and congruent change management by facilitating a potential buyer through her unique systems issues en route to a purchasing decision. Note: All change situations (whether coaching, leadership, software implementations, family problems, healthcare initiatives, etc.) must go through a series of steps to change to achieve buy in. Until now, we’ve left Others to manage the route through to the steps of change on their own as we push, advocate, advise, influence, manipulate for our own agendas and then we blame them when they resist – not to mention potentially not even reach their own internal route to change.

I was with a client in Scotland when he received a call from a long-standing prospect – a Learning and Development manager at a prodigious university with whom he’d been talking for 11 months – to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” for the product purchase. After three product trials that met with acclaim and excitement, an agreed-upon price, and a close relationship developed over the course of a year, what happened? The software was a perfect solution; they were not speaking to any other providers; and price didn’t seem to be a problem.

At my client’s request, I called the L&D manager. Here is the conversation:

SDM: Hi, Linda. Sharon Drew here. Is this a good time to speak? Pete said you’d be waiting for my call around now.

LR: Yes, it’s fine. How can I help? I already told Pete that we wouldn’t be purchasing the software.

SDM: I heard. You must be so sad that you couldn’t purchase it at this time.

LR: I am! I LOVE the technology! It’s PERFECT for us. I’m so disappointed.

SDM: What stopped you from being able to purchase it?

LR: We have this new HR director with whom I share a leadership role. He is so contentious that few people are willing to deal with him. After meeting with him, I get migraines that leave me in bed. I’ve decided to limit my exposure to him, discussing only things that are emergencies. So I’ve put a stop to all communication with him just to keep me sane. He would have been my business partner on this purchase.

SDM: Sounds awful. I hear that because of the extreme personal issues you’ve experience from the relationship, you don’t have a way to get the necessary buy-in from this man to help your employees who might need additional tools to do their jobs better.

LR: Wow. You’re right. That’s exactly what I’ve done. Oh my. I’m going to have to figure that out because I’ve certainly got a responsibility to the employees.

SDM: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to work through the personal issues and figure out how to be in some sort of a working relationship with the HR director for those times your employees need new tools?*

LR: Could you send me some of these great questions you’re asking me so I can figure it out, and maybe use them on him?

I sent her a half dozen *Facilitative Questions to both teach her how to design a route to her own sanity and a path to healthy collaborative partnership with the HR Director. Two weeks later, Linda called back to purchase the solution. What happened?

1. While the university had a need for my products solution, the poor relationship between the HR director and the L&D director created hidden, ongoing dysfunction. The information flow problem could not be resolved while the hidden problem remained in place – details not only hidden from the sales person (outsider) but used as a deterrent by Linda (who didn’t know how to resolve the problem other than to walk away because her own internal system had been violated). So yes, there was a need for the solution and indeed a willing partner, but no, there was no systemic buy-in for change.

2. I stayed completely away from attempting to resolve the problem by sharing, gathering, pitching information or my reasons why change (i.e. buying my solution) was necessary. (Not only is information not needed until the system knows what information it needs – if you haven’t figured out what type of car you want to buy there’s no need to hear a pitch about a Lamborghini – but the bias involved in sharing it and gathering it restricts success. There’s plenty of time to offer our solutions when we can pitch it relevantly, according to the way the system is set up to use it.). The only viable route was to help her figure out her own route to a fix.

3. This was not a sales problem (It’s always a ‘systems change’ problem, rarely a ‘coaching’ problem or an ‘implementation’ problem) – the Behaviors/outcomes were merely representing a broken system. I had to facilitate the change by enabling Linda to resolve her own system. This is how current change management models fail: they attempt to rule, govern, constrict, manage, influence, maintain the change, rather than enabling the system to recognize and mitigate its own unique (and largely unconscious) drivers and change itself congruently.

4. There was no way for the system to fix itself as long as the L&D director – merely one piece of the systemic puzzle that created the problem to begin with – didn’t know how to develop additional choices for herself. Her choice to do nothing was an ode to Systems Congruence.

5. In Linda’s unconscious decision to forgo a problem fix to maintain her own personal homeostasis, she unconsciously weighted her personal criteria above her criteria for doing her job. In order to buy the solution, she’d need to find a way to ensure personal Systems Congruence.

Linda was willing to separate her work-related decision from her personal issues and reevaluate her choices once she realized there was a way to maintain her internal homeostasis AND fix the problem.

Rule: Until or unless people grasp how a solution will match their underlying criteria/values, and until there is buy-in from the parts that will be effected from the change, no permanent change will happen regardless of the necessity of the change, the size of the need, the origination of the request, or the efficacy of the solution.

Current change management models assume that a ‘rational’, information/rules-based change request and early client engagement will supplant the system’s need for homeostasis.

Focusing instead on effecting Behavior change as per the route, goal, assumptions, needs of the influencer. Indeed, even when change agents attempt to include clients into the software design or change implementations, their questions and info sharing strategies are largely biased by their personal outcomes and unwittingly overlook the interdependency of core Beliefs, historic roles, unspoken rules and relationships, and unconscious drivers within the user’s unconscious system.

Rule: Whether it’s sales, leadership, healthcare, coaching or change management, until or unless the folks within another’s system are willing to adapt to, and adopt, the requested change using their own rules and Beliefs, they will either take no action or resist to maintain the homeostasis of the system. The system is sacrosanct. And information push, rational argument, leadership directives, or any outside-in model threatens the system.

HOW BELIEFS, BEHAVIORS, AND BUY-IN EFFECT SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Fortunately, it’s possible to highlight each pivotal element of change and get buy-in before attempting a change initiative. It requires an understanding of what, exactly, is a Behavior, and why starting by attempting to change the Behaviors/output of the system can only cause resistance.

Behaviors are merely Beliefs in action – the physical transaction that exemplifies the underlying rules and values of the system. In other words, they’re the means a system uses to operate and perform its purpose – the end point, and certainly an ineffective place to begin change.

Think of it this way. If you want your forward-moving robot to go backwards you might tell it why moving backward is beneficial, order it to move backward, offer scientific proof why moving backward is best, or push it. But until the internal programming is changed from the core, it cannot change regardless of how you position your request or push the robot backwards. Indeed, you might even break the robot in your attempts to get it to behave the way you want it to behave.

Since it’s not possible for an outsider to lead from inside, we must teach the system how to lead itself, much like a GPS system leads a driver to a destination without actually being in the car or noticing the landscape. Like a GPS system, we begin by leading the system through its own idiosyncratic route to design its own change (i.e. like I helped Linda figure out her core issues (i.e. not our products) and how to communicate with the HR director) to ensure Systems Congruence, buy-in and leadership from within. Here are my rules to facilitating congruent change and buy-in:

1. Enter with no bias. Help the system define the elements that created the status quo and must buy in to the change. These include anything – jobs, people, initiatives, relationships, departments – that the new solution will touch. Rule: Entering the decision-navigation portion of the change experience with bias or a personal outcome will impede the process and create resistance. Change agents must listen for systems without a biased ear (see my new book on this topic –What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and eschew attempting to introduce information until the system is set up to change, knows what it needs to know (usually quite different from what we think it needs) and has achieved buy-in.

2. Help the system recognize all of the parts – the people, rules, relationships, presuppositions, workarounds – that created and maintain the status quo. Rule: Until or unless the system recognizes all of the factors, knows how they have contributed to the problems in the status quo, and ensures that they buy in to the change, it will not be able to give agreement.

3. Help the system figure out how to reorganize around the new change so it will not face disruption and will have all of the pieces in place to accommodate the change. Rule: The change cycle is the time it takes for the system to figure out its own trajectory so there will be minimal disruption during the change process.

BUY-IN: A REAL WORLD EXAMPLE

Joseph, a coaching client of mine, was a CMO in a small company (around 150 employees) had a problem: He wanted to implement a new customer-service initiative but had just joined the company and was fearful of making waves. He initially wanted to design the project, issue edicts, and fire those who didn’t comply with the initiative. After casually speaking with a few people about it, he got huge resistance.

He called me in when he realized he had to choose between enforcing the Behaviors and outcomes he had in mind, or creating the structure and teaching the employees how to become creative leaders who would design their own congruent process. I helped him build a creative structure for congruent change, which meant giving up some of the details of his plan while maintaining the congruence of what the outcome looked like. Joseph put together a list of his baseline criteria and then left open the financials, job descriptions, activities, and other decisions:

1. Maintain the company’s integrity, professionalism, and level of service;

2. Design a mix between technology and human interaction;

3. Provide customers with better access to more data, have ease of use for any information they needed, and meet their needs more proactively;

4. Create award-winning service that would differentiate the company from all competitors and keep customers over time.

He called a meeting with the entire company – even groups that the change process wouldn’t necessarily touch – and told them that he was thinking about expanding the customer service operations. He asked everyone to take a few hours to discuss, think about, and brainstorm what it could look like if they had an unlimited budget (which they didn’t have, but it would eliminate the money piece from their brainstorming), and said he’d meet with them the next week to get their ideas.

He told them that this process was highly important, and he wanted it to be part of people’s daily discussions over the next week. He asked that each group have a spokesperson and historian to keep track of all ideas.

The next week, Joseph met with employees again and asked for their input. He captured the ideas by audio and put them all up on an interactive website for the new ideas and told people to add their thoughts. He then sent them back to consider the ideas offered and generate even more.

At the next meeting, he asked workers to take all of the ideas now floating around and use them to brainstorm what the new initiative would look like, who might do what, what would have to change, and what the change would look like for those involved. He asked them to consider:

1. What jobs would change? What jobs would be added/subtracted – and what would happen with the people whose jobs might be affected?

2. What needed to stay the same internally, no matter what? And how could this be included in the new initiative?

3. What might be the possible fall-out from the staff and from customers?

4. What could get in the way of a successful change initiative?

Eventually, employees got into teams and developed solid implementation plans. Those folks who had to change jobs or had their work significantly restructured in a way that might cause resistance joined a management team or focus group and became part of the solution. And throughout the process, I listened carefully to hear points of discontinuity so we could stop and go through their internal examination of their steps to change.

Did Joseph get everything he wanted? Well, yes and no. The new organization ended up far exceeding anything he had conceived. It had more creativity and leadership. It also cost more than he realized (time and money) to put everything in place. But it elicited buy-in from everyone: there was no resistance because everyone had bought in to the idea and made it their own. And over a short amount of time, the change paid for itself.

This is only one method of facilitating change and avoiding resistance. I’ve developed a Change Facilitation model, used often in sales as Buying Facilitation®, that uses a unique skill set to enable core change. I’ve trained this to Senior Partners at recognized consulting firms, farmers in Iowa, tech people in Hong Kong, coaches in Kansas. It’s a generic model that influencers can use to elicit real change. I’m happy to discuss it with you (Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com).

Conclusion

Before introducing any change initiative, give up the need to push the change, listen without bias, and enable Others to traverse their route to discovery:

  • what elements created and maintain the status quo,
  • who needs to be included (often a larger group than anticipated),
  • recognize what would get in the way of success and what needs to happen to mitigate that interference,
  • figure out how to manage the workarounds in place that attempt to mitigate the problem,
  • notice levels of buy-in and help those who resist shift their personal criteria to become part of the group,
  • get agreement, steps, criteria, and Behaviors for an intact, non-resistant, functioning system that welcomes the new initiative. Then introduce the change.

Until now, we’ve assumed that resistance is a normal part of the change process. But we’ve effectively been pushing our own biased needs for change into a closed, hidden system. We’ve ignored the rule of systems and forgotten that the change we are suggesting will encounter a status quo that is trying to maintain homeostasis. But as we’ve explored above, it is possible to get buy-in without resistance. We don’t have to throw out the many wonderful change models out there. But we first need to get buy-in, and then the change will be welcomed rather than spurned or sabotaged.

____________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

March 8th, 2021

Posted In: Communication

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Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

A View from the Buy Side, by Sharon Drew Morgen

Did you ever wonder what happens behind the scenes with prospects after you’ve made a connection, given a great pitch, or delivered an engaging presentation? Why they don’t return your calls or call with an order? The silence has nothing to do with your solution.

Indeed, after you’ve pitched, the prospects return to the team to share your ideas. Some might like it. But maybe some don’t like what they’re hearing (or the way your pitch has been interpreted), or argue about using your solution instead of a different one, or discuss a new workaround to try. Some might think it’s not time.

Without group consensus for what criteria a solution must include, they do nothing because the risk of disturbing what’s working is too great. It’s the difference between selling and buying: You’re using the sales process to place your solution; they’re using their (buying) decision process to figure out how to resolve their problem with the least disruption.

Selling and buying are two different things. The sales model too often introduces solutions before the prospect has gotten buy-in for change and they’re just not ready to buy.

Unfortunately for sellers, you’ve got no control over what buyers are doing because the change they must consider is idiosyncratic to their environment and beyond the purpose of sales. It’s possible to facilitate them through their change decisions, but not with the sales model as it is now.

THE CART BEFORE THE HORSE

When sellers start off with a goal to sell a solution (and yes, ‘gathering information’ merely poses biased questions that give you a platform to pitch), it’s a solution looking for a problem. Obviously this narrows the buyer pool to only those who seek THAT solution at THAT moment, those who have already

  • understood exactly what something New should do that they can’t do for themselves;
  • assembled the full set of stakeholders who have already agreed and bought-into what something New should look and act like and their roles in managing implementation;
  • tried several workarounds that don’t work out and an external solution is the only option;
  • recognized the ‘cost’ of bringing in something New and know how to manage it;
  • have figured out how to manage the change with the least disruption.

Buying occurs only after a prospect has tried everything else and there is wide-spread agreement for change.

Since every environment is a system and includes the history, rules, goals, norms, relationships and Beliefs held within that culture, bringing in anything New must match or the system will be compromised. Nothing, nothing is ever purchased in isolation; a system will ignore, procrastinate, deny, defend, and resist if something is pushed in beforehand.

If you think you want a new car, getting a pitch about a Tesla will only be welcome if you’ve decided on an electric car in a specific price range. Rejecting a Tesla pitch isn’t a testament to the car, merely a commentary on the buying (or buy-in) decision criteria.

BUYERS BUY IF THE ‘COST’ OF CHANGE IS LESS THAN MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO

Let’s think more about the buy side. People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem with the least ‘cost’ to their system. Sometimes they sound like they have a need but are merely in their research phase; sometimes they are seeking workarounds when they connect with you and are comparing alternatives; sometimes they take an appointment to learn more from you so they can develop their own solution; sometimes they want to bring back new ideas to the team.

When you’re speaking with someone who seems like a ‘prospect’, you may be right and they have a need. But until they understand and address the full set of internal issues involved with solving their problem, they can’t fully define the best route to a fix.

Until or unless the criteria for change is known and a plan in place to manage it effectively, people aren’t buyers; the ‘cost’ of any potential disruption is just too high and the status quo has been good-enough. One more thing. Before people are buyers, they must be absolutely certain they can’t fix the problem themselves.

All of these issues explain why you’re closing only 5% – the low hanging fruit actually ready, willing, and able to buy.

SELLING IS TACTICAL, BUYING IS STRATEGIC

A purchase is systemic and strategic – a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution. Sales is tactical, solution-placement driven, and doesn’t address the complexities and criteria of the hidden buying environment or their specific buying patterns.

I got a cold call once in which the salesman began by telling me he had a great way for me to save money on a phone provider.

SD: But saving money isn’t one of my buying criteria!

Rep: Well, it should be. [Wait, he’s telling me I should buy using his selling criteria?]

SD: Great. Then you buy it.

Until people know the rules, roles, and relationships they must maintain, the specifics of your solution are moot. When you’re pitching before people have all their ducks in row, they can’t even hear the details you proudly offer. 

You’ve got nothing to sell if they have nothing to buy, regardless of the need or the efficacy of your solution. And unfortunately, because their internal considerations are so idiosyncratic, you can’t ever understand them. But you can know the areas they must handle so you can facilitate them through their uncertainty.

WHAT BUYERS MUST KNOW

Here is a list of what folks must figure out before they can buy anything, regardless of how well your solution matches or how great their need. And the time it takes them to do this is the length of the sales cycle. Indeed, they can’t define what they need until this is completed:

  • Stakeholders: Have all stakeholders who have been part of maintaining the status quo been assembled? Have those who will be part of the solution been included and driving the initiative? Have they reached agreement on the specific modifications needed? Do they know, and have agreed to, their roles within the processes of the New? Are they aware how their responsibilities will change? Is there supervision or leadership in place to facilitate them through change? Do they all – all – believe the New will maintain the team’s values and goals and offer more efficiency? Have the stakeholders had a say in any transition and had their voices and ideas added?
  • Workarounds: Have all possible workarounds been tried so it’s obvious to everyone something New is necessary?
  • Users: Have the users asked for this and have a say in the specifics they need? If not, how will management help them buy-in to using something they didn’t ask for or won’t do what they want it to do? Will they need training for the New? Will their habituated use behaviors need to change? How will the adoption of the New affect their workload or jobs? Have they agreed to a learning curve and to less-than-optimal output when they won’t be so efficient?
  • Old vs New: How will something New fit with the old? Must the old be removed or is a ‘both/and’ possible? Must the old be retrofitted to work with the New? How? Who will do this?How many of the old practices are needed to maintain work flow? What’s a plausible time frame on this?
  • Implementation: Does everyone understand the downsides – the labor, costs, time, output issues – of the New and how to mitigate them? Are all – all – on board with New procedures and willing to take on the new activities without resistance? Who is responsible for managing the overall implementation and downsides?
  • Creativity: Does the team have the opportunity to add ideas? Will they be able to add what they need so they’re part of the solution and won’t resist?
  • Brand: Will the New change the brand and require different kinds of marketing? Will the new potentially change the finances? The audience? Is it worth it? How will they know before they try?

Bringing in something New or different requires group buy-in, discussion, debating, questioning and idea-sharing. Imagine coming home for dinner and announcing to your family that you just purchased a new house and moving next week! The fact that last night your spouse mentioned s/he’d love an extra room is not the point.

No one buys anything unless workarounds have been tried, research has been done, possibilities are discussed, options are considered, and stakeholders have bought into, and added to, the process of change.

Because sales focuses on ‘need’ and placing solutions, it only closes those at the tail end of their change management process and expends far too much resource trying to drive a decision with folks who aren’t yet real buyers.

Why not begin selling by seeking those going through the change process at that moment and help them facilitate the change first then leading them through their systemic decisions and selling to those who are ready? It will take far less time, and if you’re like the large numbers of sales reps I’ve trained globally, you’ll close 40% instead of 5%.

DO YOU WANT TO SELL? OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

Selling and buying are two different activities. Start on the buy side, discover those who WILL be buyers and then facilitate buying. Then you can sell because they’re ready to buy. By then you’re on the Buying Decision Team, can target your pitches and presentations, be a real trusted advisor, and your price discussions will be minimal. You will also have saved a lot of time, closed a lot more sales, and have real relationships.

For those of you wanting to learn how to do this, I invented a model called Buying Facilitation® that uses the 13 steps all people go through on route to buying. It involves a wholly different facilitation skill set: Facilitative Questions, Presumptive Summaries, and Systems Listening. I suggest you visit www.sharondrewmorgen.com and read the articles I put up on change, buying, and decision making. And if you’re committed to helping buyers buy, read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Or just contact me and we can chat. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

_________________________________

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. www.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

March 1st, 2021

Posted In: News

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