By Sharon Drew Morgen

decisionUntil a decision gets made – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, choose one thing over another, or take action in any way – there can be no completed transaction. With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and action, nothing new occurs and there is no change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be.

Every decision, after all, is a change management problem. Whether it’s a personal decision or the result of corporate, scientific, or professional judgments, a decision represents an addition to, or subtraction from, something within the status quo that would be effected by new or different information. So making a decision is not merely about the actual facts, input/output, risks, uncertainty, or acquired information, but about the process of acceptance, buy-in, and flexibility of the system to adopt to change.

I realize that much of the decision making field focuses on ‘good data’, ‘rational decisions’, or ‘reducing bias’, but the subjective, systemic portion of decision making is typically omitted: Until or unless there is a route to adoption that is acceptable to the status quo – regardless of the efficacy of the results – decision making is incomplete.

GOOD DATA IS NOT ENOUGH

Too often we assume that ‘good data’ is the lynchpin for ‘rational’ action. But if that were all that we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. How does it happen that even with right on our side we can end up wrong? By shifting the focus from rational decisions, odds, data, risk, and probabilities – the best outcome – to a focus on enabling our subjective biases to expand the parameters of the search, adoption, and possibility, decision making can be more effective.

We’ve studied decision making for millennia, with a consistent focus on a ‘rational’ outcome based on ‘facts’. Weighted averages and data/accuracy seem to be the most used organizing principles. We always, it seems, associate decision making with ‘good data‘ good choices, risk, and tasks to be completed. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky say that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that let to it.”

I believe the problem lie on the personal, subjective end of decision making. Before we even get to the weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’, our largely unconscious beliefs have restricted the range of possible outcomes by limiting our search criteria, restricting our curiosity and goal-setting, and reducing adoption. In other words, our process limits the full range of possibilities. We’re not even curious about whatever may lie outside the parameters of what we ‘know’ in our guts, or in our intuition, to be true. Our unconscious sabotages our decisions. We must shift the focus away from data and the statistically correct answer, and concentrate on managing our systemic, subjective bias.

HOW SUBJECTIVE BIAS SABOTAGES US

Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions). All options get assessed according to how closely they match our internal, weighted hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious). Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our current data or status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to shift our status quo to adopt new information.

Teams or companies seeking good decisions for new choices do something similar: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against the status quo and accepted industry norms; and change is meant to happen according to some acceptable value structure.

But whether personal or corporate, the human side of decision making is often ignored: separate from the facts, the weighting, the ‘rational’ or the optimal, our subjective biases – sometimes referred to as our ‘intuition’, instinct, or our ‘gut’ – restrict what’s possible. Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases that create the parameters of possibility in the first place. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.

WHAT’S OUTSIDE OUR CONSCIOUS CHOICE

All new decisions must comply with our internal balance, (Systems Congruence): our unconscious, subjective, belief-based criteria is personal, historic, idiosyncratic, and identity based – separate from any external data available or outcome sought. We even seek references that match our beliefs: with an infinite range of data points available, we only consider that tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering severely; we dismiss, ignore, or resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values and internal status quo. With our subjective filters interpreting information, our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data. You see, if we don’t maintain our current beliefs, rules, and status quo we face a potentially disruptive change in our systemic structure, regardless of the facts, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.

In other words, our decisions are restricted by our subjective biases and need for Systems Congruence, whether they are personal decisions or family/business-related ones, whether they lead to ‘rational’ decisions or not. Indeed, who exactly judges what’s ‘rational’? We each consider our decisions ‘rational’ as they comply with our own belief structure and knowledge at the time we’re making them. Imagine saying to yourself, “I think I’ll make an irrational decision.” ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs (and what they consider to be ‘objective’ or ‘rational’ standards). I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!

I once helped a friend decide on what to do with her attic. For years she fought herself on different types of wood and floor plan/design and couldn’t form a decision to take action because of her confusion. When we got to her unconscious weighted hierarchy of beliefs she realized she hated her house, but hadn’t wanted to consciously admit that to herself because moving would uproot her family. She had unconsciously delayed her decision, consciously focusing on entirely different issues to avoid dealing with a much larger problem. She was stuck considering the ‘wrong’ decision criteria for 3 years.

When we ignore our unconscious, we either delay a decision because it doesn’t feel right, gather data from insufficient sources, use partial data and miss the full picture or possibilities, or face a lack of buy-in, sabotage, or resistance. To get a good decision, we need to expand our scope of possibility and separate ourselves from our biases. We can never get it ‘right’, but we can get it ‘righter.’

IS IMPLEMENTATION NECESSARY?

One of my beliefs is that without action, without achieving the output of a decision, we end up with failure, regardless of the accuracy of the facts. This is quite prevalent in among the Decision Scientist community.  After keynoting to 200 Decision Scientists on Facilitating Decision Making a few years ago, I sat with them afterword and listened to them loudly bemoan the 97% implementation failure rate (Sadly, a common problem in the field.) they face. Here was part of our Q&A.

SDM: How do you prepare for a smooth implementation, or encourage buy-in?

We provide the best options as per our research. It’s their problem if they can’t implement. Our job is to find the right solutions and hand them over.

SDM: How do you acquire accurate criteria to design your research?

We speak with folks who want the decision.

SDM: If you’re only speaking to a subset (influencers, superiors, clients) of users, how can buy-in be achieved – even with good data and rational choices – if the full set of facts are possibly not being considered? Aren’t you limiting your fact-gathering to a predisposed subset? Aren’t you moving forward without consideration of those who may be involved at some point, have unique goals and data, and resist implementing decisions well outside their value structure?

  Not our problem.

SDM: How can say you’re offering a ‘good decision’ if some of those who need to use the decision aren’t ready, willing, or able to adopt it because their reality was excluded from the initial data gathering?

We gather criteria from the folks who hire us, from recognized sources, and weight the probabilities. We give them good data. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Rational data is rational data.

They wouldn’t even consider that by doing initial fact-gathering from as large a set of people involved as possible, they’d not only acquire a larger set of identified goals, parameters and foundational beliefs and values that uphold the status quo, but they’d set the stage for follow-on buy-in.

When we use a subset of possibilities and people to define the objective criteria for a decision and exclude the available personal criteria, and when we use our instinctive judgements as out lens, we face the possibility of gathering insufficient data and alienating those would might benefit from the outcome of the decision; we are ceding control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious. How can we willingly take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?

WHAT DOES OUR UNCONSCIOUS WANT?

All of us pit our unconscious drivers – our beliefs and values, expectations and biases – against our ability to change (And I repeat: any decision is a change management problem. To adopt something new, something old must be replaced or added.). To focus merely on external facts defies logic. In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance. Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

What are my gut thoughts about what a new result would look like, act like, achieve? Am I comfortable with a change? Am I willing to contain/expand the parameters of the status quo? What would cause me to resist?

How far outside of my own beliefs am I willing to go to make sure I have as expansive a range of possible data as possible? Or must I maintain my current parameters (beliefs, or external mandates) regardless of the restrictions this poses on the outcome?

Should I add to what I already know? Or am I willing to explore what’s outside of my knowledge base that may make me uncomfortable? Where would I find acceptable resources to explore – and what would I find unacceptable?

What do I need to believe to be willing to consider data that I don’t ordinarily trust…and what, exactly constitutes trust?

Is there an inclusive idea that’s a ‘chunk up’ from my starting place that might encourage expansive consideration? I.e. if resistance is apparent, is there an idea, an outcome, which encapsulates the proposed change that doesn’t cause resistance? If everyone is fighting over house ownership in a divorce, maybe everyone can agree that a house is necessary for everyone’s well-being and move forward from there.

STEPS TO BETTER DECISION MAKING

There is a point when gathering data is necessary. But when? Here are steps to knowing when it’s time:

  1. Make sure all users – all – and influencers (or personally, brainstorm yourself for all surrounding data points of possibility, regardless of how outlandish) are involved in the initial data gathering and outcome-setting.
  2. Get internal (personal or team) agreement for high level beliefs, values, and outcomes as to what a final solution should/shouldn’t entail.
  3. Elicit concerns, fears, beliefs that any change would bring.
  4. Elicit hopes and viewpoints as to best outcomes, goals, and options.
  5. Everyone involved do research on data sources, studies, comparative projects, possible problems (or personally, research all brainstormed possibilities) using agreed-upon resources for data gathering, testing, parameters for results.
  6. Reach consensus on 5, then begin a typical decision analysis/weighting.

With this approach*, your testing and data gathering will have the possibility of being more reliable and complete, will reach the broadest parameters of choice, possibility, agreement, and will encourage buy-in for action. You’ll also be in place for implementing without resistance. Again, the final decision may not be ‘right’ because no decisions ever are, but it will certainly be ’righter.’

*For those wishing an expanded discussion/explanation of how to generate unbiased choice, read Chapter 6 of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. I’ve also coded the sequential steps the brain travels en route to choice, and developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that facilitates decision making and congruent change, for use in sales, coaching, negotiating, and leadership.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a generic change management/decision facilitation model that give leaders, decision analysists, coaches, and sellers the tools to help other make their own best decisions based on their own values and beliefs. She works with global clients to enable them to listen without bias, pose Facilitative Questions that enable Others to recognize and act on their own best answers, and help buyers buy. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com512 771 1117.

August 27th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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What

When researching my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was surprised to learn how little of what we hear someone say is unbiased, or even accurate. Seems we hear what we want to hear, and not necessarily what’s been meant; too often we don’t know the difference. There are several elements that conspire against accuracy. And sadly, it’s largely out of our control.

THE PROBLEM WITH LANGUAGE

Let me begin with my definitions of ‘language’ and ‘communication’:

In dialogue, language is a translation process between a Speaker’s thoughts – translated and verbalized into a delivery system of ideas, words, voice (tone, tempo, pitch), and the unspoken goal/bias of the outcome sought – and the Listener’s filtering system.

A completed communication is a circle – Speaker -> Listener -> Speaker: the Speaker translates an internal thought/idea through language to their Communication Partner (CP) who listens through their own unique and subjective filters, and responds to what they have interpreted. Until or unless the Speaker’s message has been received accurately, the communication is not complete.

Language itself is one of the problems we face when attempting to accurately understand what a Speaker means:

  • We speak in one unbroken stream of words (Spaces appear only between written words.) that can be differentiated only by those familiar with the language and vocabulary (Have you ever asked a question from a language book in a foreign country and get a response in a continuous stream of sounds that can’t be isolated to allow you to look up words to translate?) Since everyone speaks in word streams, our ears have become subjectively habituated to listen for patterns within them; our brains continue down those pathways even if the Speaker’s intent isn’t matched.

  • Words have uniquely nuanced meanings for each of us. The words a Speaker chooses that impart understanding may not be the best word choices for our Listener whose subjective filtering process may not match, or indeed instigate the wrong interpretation.

  • Our brains only remember spoken words for approximately 3 seconds. By the time our brains separate the individual words to glean meaning, we’re lagging ‘behind’ the speaker, so we rely on our unconscious habits and thinking patterns to bridge, or fill in, gaps in understanding. Obviously, it’s easiest to accurately understand people we’re similar to.

 

Arguably the largest detractor of accuracy for understanding our CPs intended message are the cultural, experiential, belief, education, and intimacy gaps that create subjective and unconscious filters in us all. These filters – biases, assumptions, triggers, habituated neural pathways, and memory channels – unconsciously and automatically sift out or transform what our CP says that’s uncomfortable or different from our beliefs, our lifestyles, etc., or aren’t in line within the goal of what we’re actively seeking in the exchange.

While we each assume that what we ‘hear’ is an accurate representation of what’s been said, often it’s not. With our subjective listening filters uniquely interpreting what others say, we can’t help but

  • bias their intended message subjectively,

  • make inaccurate assumptions, miss important ideas, requests, and emotional cues,

  • follow established memory channels and neural pathways that lead us to wrongly interpret what was meant,

  • mishear directions, rules, warnings, nuance, names etc.,

  • take away mistaken comprehension,

and on and on. As sellers we ‘hear’ that people are buyers; as coaches we ‘hear’ people complain of stuff we know how to fix; as leaders we ‘hear’ our teams convey they’re on-board (or not) with our ideas; as change agents we ‘hear’ rejection rather than alternate approaches or shared concerns; as parents we ‘hear’ our teenagers making excuses.

OUR BRAINS TRICK US

Simplistically, here’s our unconscious listening process:

  1. We first listen through a hierarchy of historic and habitual filters, unconsciously seeking a match with our biases, beliefs, and values – and delete or alter what seems incompatible.

  2. With what’s left from the initial round of filtering, our brains seek a match with something familiar by sorting for a similar memory, which could focus on just a term or one of the ideas mentioned, or or or, and throws away what doesn’t match without telling us what’s been omitted or misconstrued! We might accurately hear the words spoken, but unconsciously assign a vastly different interpretation from the intended meaning.

And because we’re only ‘told’ what our brains ‘tell’ us has been said, we end up ‘certain’ that what we think we hear is actually what’s meant. So if someone says ABC we might actually hear ABL, without knowing what our brains added, subtracted, or muddled. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us sitting there, including his wife, confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I heard it with my own ears!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage. His brain actually told him I said something I never said and he never questioned it, even though three people told him he misheard.

I know this is disconcerting but it’s important to understand: Listeners always assume what they (think they) hear is what has been said. And where this diverges from the Speaker’s intended meaning, we end up responding to an inaccurate understanding, blaming our CP for miscommunicating, and never consider that just maybe we unwittingly got it wrong.

It all happens automatically and unconsciously, and we end up involuntarily misunderstanding without realizing, until too late, that there is a problem. Indeed we have no conscious ability to tell our brains what to search for when we’re listening, causing us to potentially hear a fraction of a fraction of what’s meant; we then compound the problem by responding according to what we THINK has been said. So we might get self-righteously angry, or perceive we’re forgiven; we hear people as racists or healers or sarcastic or buyers; we feel slighted or complimented or ignored; we think ideas are stupid and opinions absurd. And in each instance, we miss the possibility of a partnership, or a new concept, or a conversation or relationship that might have been.

In summary: the structure of language itself causes confusion when listening to Others; our subjective filters – biases (of which there are hundreds), assumptions, and triggers – are unconscious impediments to what we think we hear; our neural pathways, habitual associations, and memory channels automatically, and subjectively, get triggered by a word or phrase and go down their own well-travelled path to seek a match, potentially eschewing more relevant or accurate routes to understanding; our brains don’t tell us what it’s omitted or transformed, leaving us potentially misunderstanding – without question – what our CP meant to impart.

And it’s all unconscious. According to Sarah Williams Goldhagen in Welcome to Your World, our unconscious (or ‘nonconscious’ as she calls it) is approximately 90% of our attention, and only 10% “…patterned and schematized in a way we can interact with others.”(pg 59) So misunderstanding is virtually built into our communication.

LISTENING FOR METAMESSAGES INSTEAD OF WORDS

Unfortunately we have no automatic capability to hear a Speaker’s intended message accurately, regardless of the Speaker’s word choices or the Listener’s commitment to listening ‘carefully’, regardless of the costly wordsmithing done in many industries to lure Listener buy-in. But as Listeners can take an active role in consciously managing our listening filters to encourage greater understanding. For this we must circumvent our biased listening; we must learn the skill of avoiding listening for meaning solely from the words.

From birth, we’re taught to carefully listen for words (and Active Listening has a part to play in this predisposition), assuming, falsely, we’ll translate them accurately. We can, however, circumvent our normal filtering process by shifting our attention from listening to words to listening for meaning; listening for what’s meant, rather than for what’s said; listening less to the words and more for the Speaker’s underlying intent.

Let’s walk this back. Remember that Speakers speak to impart an underlying thought (I call this the Metamessage) and then unconsciously select the most precise words – for that situation, for that Listener – to do so. But these word choices might not be the best ones to garner accurate understanding in that particular Listener. Certainly, a Speaker has no idea how a Listener’s filters will interpret the sent message. This becomes more obvious when speaking to a group and some members understand, others misunderstand. To circumvent misunderstanding, to have a greater chance of hearing what’s meant and eliminating the factors causing misunderstanding, we must take filters out of the listening process.

There’s a higher probability of hearing others accurately if Listeners bypass the normal filtering process and instead focus on the Speaker’s intended meaning. I learned the basic concept while studying NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming – the study of the structure of subjective experience) and expanded it in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? When listening we can actually go beyond the brain and experience a broad view (not intimate details) of what’s being meant.

To avoid our listening filters, to get the broader meaning behind the idea intended, we must go ‘up to the ceiling’ and listen as a Witness/Observer. A very simple example would be if someone said ‘I wish you would be on time more often’, the Metamessage might be ‘I hate that you’re late again. And I’m getting tired of waiting for you all the time!’ We do this naturally when speaking with a small child, listening with for what they mean to tell us, rather than focus on their possibly unskilled wordsmithing. Or when we overhear a conversation in a Starbucks. In both instances we’re Observers.

We don’t know how to consciously choose; the problem is we don’t know how to consciously choose to do so. To choose the Witness/Observer viewpoint, think of a time when you’re aware you were listening without any personal agenda and break down how you did that – how you knew when it was time to disengage from the words, what you noticed that was different, how it shifted your communication exchange. If it’s something you want to learn, I’ve written an entire chapter on this (Chapter 6) in What?.

LISTENING FOR MEANING VS WORDS

Here are two cold call interactions that exemplify the difference between listening for words vs for Metamessages. The first is a dialogue of a coaching client in which I was teaching him how to sell with integrity. He started out fine, but then dissolved into his old push technique when he interpreted the prospect’s words according to his own filters:

BROKER: Hi My name is Jeff Rosen. I sell insurance and this is a cold call. Is this a good time to speak?

CLIENT: Hi Jeff. Thanks for calling but I’m just walking out the door.

BROKER: “IonlyneedtwosecondsIwouldliketocomeandseeyounextweek.”

The prospect hung up.

SDM: What was that????? You started off great! And he responded kindly.

BROKER: I had to talk really fast because he said he was busy.

Listening for the spoken words through his filters, my client only heard a time constraint and didn’t ‘hear’ that the prospect stayed on the line and didn’t hang up. Listening from a Witness/Observer position he would have heard that the prospect was polite and hanging in with him, and made another choice: “I’ll call back when it’s convenient.” Or “Thanks. What’s a better time?”

In a very similar situation, I made a cold call to the Chief Training Officer at IBM; you’ll notice that both of us listened for the Metamessage instead of the words:

NANCY: [The world’s fastest] HELLO!

SDM: You sound busy. When should I call back?

NANCY: Tomorrow at 2.

And we both hung up.

This continued for 3 days with the exact same dialogue. Finally we had this exchange on day 4:

NANCY: HELLO!

SDM: You still sound busy.

NANCY: Who are you?

SDM: Sharon Drew Morgen, and this is only a cold call. I can call you back when you’re not so busy.

NANCY: What are you selling?

SDM: Training for a facilitated buying model to use with sales.

NANCY: I’ll give you 5 minutes.

SDM: Not enough.

NANCY: 10 minutes.

SDM: Not enough.

NANCY: OK. I’m yours. But I want to know how you just did what you did. How did you get me to speak with you? How do I feel so respected when you’re cold calling me? How did you get me to give you so much time? And can you teach my sales team how to do that? Can you come next month? [Note: I ended up training with them for two years. I didn’t even have to pitch.]

Both of us listened with our Witness hats on. Nancy heard my Metamessage: by immediately hanging up after getting a time, she ‘heard’ me say that I respected her time. Calling back at the requested time told her I was responsible. Telling her it was a sales cold told her I was honest and wasn’t going to manipulate her. And by me abiding to her time frame she abided to mine. Indeed, I ‘said’ none of those things in words; the meaning was the message I intended to send. My goal was to connect if possible and serve if able. To connect, I’d have to value her time, not push; to serve I’d be honest and responsible. So she ‘heard’ me, beyond the words. It was win/win.

So here’s a suggestion: For those times it’s important to understand the underlying meaning of another’s communication, and you cannot risk biases and assumptions that might significantly alter the outcome, I suggest you go up to the ‘ceiling’ and listen from Witness/Observer.

This is a great tool for those of you who are Active Listening proponents. When listening to correctly capture the words spoken, understand your brain will bias how you interpret them and you may not achieve clarity as to the intent of the message. In my experience, AL doesn’t ensure understanding and too often puts the ‘blame’ of misunderstanding on the Speaker.

Try listening from the ‘ceiling’ from Witness/Observer. It might make a difference. And if that’s not comfortable at least clear a way to understanding in each important conversation:

Before we continue, I just want to make sure I understand what you mean to say.
Here’s what I heard…. Is that accurate?

Communication is delicate, as are relationships. Take the time to ensure you and your Communication Partner are on the same page. And delight that a shared understanding inspires possibility.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, and author of 9 books, including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Change Facilitation, used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and management – any influencing situation in which integrity, ethics, and collaboration are involved. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach for sales and listening. She can be reached at: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com; her award winning blog has thoughtful articles on change, systems, decision making, and communication. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

August 20th, 2018

Posted In: News

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As sSD Stepsellers we are taught to find prospects with a need that matches our solution and then find creative, professional ways to pitch, present, entice, push, market, or somehow introduce our solution to enable them to understand how our solutions will fix their problem.

Unfortunately, we fail to close over 90% of the time (from first contact) regardless of how well their need matches our solution. And it’s not because of our solutions, our presentations/pitches, or our professionalism. It’s because the sales model does not include the skills to facilitate the largest component of buying decisions – those systemic, idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management  decisions  that comprise their Pre-Sales processes, exclude outsiders, and have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with buying anything. 

Until they go through this process and walk through each stage of managing their unique change management issues, until everyone who touches the final solution agrees to a change, until the entire team is assembled and lends their voice to ideas, problems, solutions, and fallout, they cannot buy regardless of how much they may need our solution. They must do this – with us, or without us. It takes much longer without us, hence a protracted buying decision and closed sale. Without appropriate change management, they cannot buy. And the sales model doesn’t address this, causing sellers to spend most of their time finding ways to get in – and missing the route in because of their focus on solution placement. The route is change management. 

FACILITATING CHANGE IS NOT SELLING

I’ve spent the last few decades coding and designing new tools to promote buyer readiness and help sellers facilitate buyers through their Pre-Sales decision path that buyers go through without us and is not focused on buying/solution choice. My model, called Buying Facilitation®, gives sellers the tools to be Facilitation/Change Consultants to get onto their Buying Decision Team, facilitate their change-management decisions, lessen the time between decision making/close, and differentiate from the competition. It’s a model that works with sales, but focused on enabling our buyers to congruently manage their systemic change, which has always been done outside of our purview until now.

Here’s the question to ask yourself: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities, necessitating two distinct skill sets. Sales merely handles one of them. Buying Facilitation® works with sales to first help buyers manage their consensus and change issues to ready them to buy. 

Using Buying Facilitation® first, then sales, will immediately enlist those who can buy, and immediately get rid of those who will never buy. After all, we all know too well that when buyers buy there doesn’t seem to be a direct line between their need or the relevance of our solution: it’s about their ability to manage their environment to make the necessary decisions that will lead them to congruent change and to their best possible outcome – which may, or may not, be to buy anything. When we speak with prospects to discuss need, we have no idea if the information we’re being given is the takeaway from all assembled voices, if the group has already agreed to buy anything, or what stage of the decision path they’re on. Are they merely gathering data for options? To bring back to the team? To compare with competitors? 

Here are the steps I’ve discovered that buyers – all change – must address. As you read them, note that facilitating change is not sales, and includes some unique skill sets, goals, and outcomes. 

1.     Idea stage. Someone has an idea that something needs to change and discusses his idea with colleagues.

2.    Assembly stage. Colleagues meet and discuss the problem, bring ideas from online research, consider who to include, possible fixes, and fallout. Groups formed.

3.     Consideration stage. Group meets to discuss findings: how to fix the problem with known resources, whether to create a workaround using internal fixes or seek an external solution. Discuss the type/amount of fallout from each.

4.     Organization stage. Organizer apportions responsibilities, or hands over to others.

5.     Change Management stage. Meeting to discuss options and fallout. Determine

a. if more research is necessary (and who will do it),

b. if all appropriate people are involved (and who to include),

c. if all elements of the problem and solution are included (and what to add),

d. the level of disruption and change to address depending on type of solution chosen (and how to manage change),

e. the pros/cons of external solution vs current vendor vs workaround.

f. possible workaround and if they are sufficient.

6.   Addition stage. Add needs, ideas, issues of new members; incorporate change considerations.

7.    Research and change stage. Everyone researches their portion of the solution fix (online research—webinars, etc., call current vendors or new vendors etc.). Discussions include managing resultant change.

8.   Consensus stage. Buying Decision Team members meet to share research and determine the type of solution, fallout, possibilities, problems, considerations in re management, policies, job descriptions, HR issues, etc. Buy-in and consensus necessary.

9.   Choice stage. Action responsibilities apportioned including discussions/meetings with people, companies, teams who might provide solutions.

10.  Meet to discuss choices and the fallout/ benefits of each. Discuss different solutions and vendors.

11. Vendor/solution selection. Meet with possible vendors.

12.  New solution chosen. Change management issues incorporated with solution choice.

13.  New solution implemented.

The sales model handles steps 10-13. Marketing, marketing automation, and social marketing may be involved in steps 3 and 8, although it’s not clear then if the decision to choose an external solution has been made, the full fact pattern of ‘needs’ has been determined, what the marketing content is being used for, or if the appropriate decision makers and influencers are included. Buyers muddle through this but we can enter earlier and help them transition through their steps, so long as we stick to our initial roles as facilitators and not try to sell or manipulate.

BUYING FACILITATION® IN ACTION

I started up a tech company in London 1983-89 and developed Buying Facilitation® to teach my sales folks to navigate buyers through their decision path, change management, and buy-in BEFORE they began selling. We increased sales 5x within a month. I’ve been teaching this model in sales and coaching to global corporations since 1989 with similar results.

My book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell discusses these steps and how Buying Facilitation® can work with sales and marketing to enter the buy path earlier, and to help coaches, leaders, and negotiators facilitate congruent change. It’s truly a change management skill that makes a seller a real consultant and uses entirely unique change facilitation skills: Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, and Choice. Remember, needs/solutions are irrelevant until buyers understand how any change will affect their status quo. The sales model isn’t designed to handle this Pre-Sales change management function. Read the book 🙂

 ____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. As the developer of Buying Facilitation®, she trains sellers to help buyers facilitate their change management, Pre-Sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com  512 771-1117.   www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

July 30th, 2018

Posted In: News

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Too much information is the problemInformation, used at the wrong time, or when used to influence or sell, advise or share, has cost us untold loss in business and relationships. It actually causes resistance.

INFORMATION CAUSES RESISTANCE

For some reason, we maintain a long-standing belief that if we offer the right people the right information at the right time, presented in the right way, those it’s intended to influence will be duly impressed and adopt it. But that’s erroneous. Just think how often we

  • patiently explain to our kids why something is bad for them,
  • present a well-considered idea to our boss,
  • share an important idea with a friend,
  • offer great data as rationale to lead change initiatives,
  • offer brilliant pitches to prospects to explain how our solution can help them,
  • explain to patients why they need to change habits or diets,

and how often our brilliant delivery and logical (and probably accurate) argument is not only ignored but rebuffed. Certainly the ineffective behaviors continue regardless of the logic of the information we offer. Are they just stupid? Irrational? We’re ‘right’ of course: we’ve got the rational argument and data points; what we have to share is what Others need to hear.

But is this true?

It’s not. And we’re wrong. We’re actually creating resistance, losing business,  destroying relationships, and impeding change. Here’s why. When we present rational data, or make arguments based on logic or wisdom or knowledge, and hope it will sway an opinion or get a new decision made to, say, change a behavior, we’re putting the cart before the horse. While the data itself may be important, we are merely using our own biases, needs, control issues, etc. as the motivation to offer it, not to mention our timing may be inappropriate.

We sometimes forget that the organizing system that holds the problem in place – the people, rules, relationships, goals, etc. that make up the status quo and created the problem to begin with – has maintained itself in that same format through time and has developed and normalized it’s own series of biases, habits, assumptions, etc. In fact, the organizing system regards new information as a threat to it’s status quo: until it discovers a way to change so stability is maintained, it will automatically resist anything from outside. You see, until there’s internal buy-in for change, and until the system that holds the problem in place is assured it will not face chaos with change, people have no place to put the new information. The system is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution/information; since it’s functionality has become normalized, it won’t seek, understand, use, or welcome new information.

We believe that part of our jobs as leaders, sales professionals, coaches, managers, or even parents is to be the arbiters of change, with information a main ingredient. And we tend to think that if we offer appropriate data – rational, proven, useful, well-delivered – as the reason for change, the Other will adopt it. But information in and of itself does not teach someone how to change: information promotes knowledge that may not be understood or pursued by that person at that time. Not to mention that people listen through subjective filters and can only hear/understand new information in direct relation to the same beliefs that caused the problem to begin with.

Change requires a systems overhaul. It’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.

Let me explain. Everyone – people and teams, companies and families – possesses unique internal beliefs, values, histories, biases (representing our status quo, or our unique, personal, unconscious system) that are idiosyncratic and determine our behaviors (behaviors being the translation, the representation of, our unconscious system). Indeed, these internal systems are so clearly defined, habituated, and defended that our lives are actually determined by these: our unconscious listening filters are so subjective that we don’t even know how to listen when information is offered that’s outside our conventional thinking (See my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? about how our brains are organized to listen subjectively and mishear/misunderstand anything outside our norms).

And I cannot say this enough, so please disregard this repetition: Regardless of how important, necessary, or life-saving our information is, it will be resisted until/unless there is internal buy-in for it and an identified route from the problematic status quo, through to buy-in for change, through to execution, is developed in a way that maintains Systems Congruence.

OFFER INFORMATION ONLY WHEN SYSTEM READY FOR CHANGE

It is only when parts of our system seek a new level of excellence and get buy in from the habituated parts of us, that we’re even ready to consider thinking, listening for, and opening our eyes to anything different. There is no direct route between hearing new information and acting on it, unless we’ve already determined that THAT DATA at THAT TIME is worth the disruption of change.

Certainly it’s necessary to figure out how to change without disruption before any sort of change be considered, regardless of our initiatives as outsiders to influence the change. If the system had recognized the need to change and knew how to fix it congruently it would have fixed the problem already.

Here are some specifics. At the point the need for change is considered, even by a small part of the system, the system must get buy-in from everything and everyone that will touch a potential new solution and knows how to change its underlying rules in a way that insures minimal disruption. In other words,

no buy-in/no agreed-upon safe route forward = no change considered = no information accepted.

The new information doesn’t fit anywhere, can’t be heard, can’t be understood. We end up pushing valid data into a closed system that doesn’t recognize the need for it. Information is the very last thing needed once the route of change has been designed.

Telling kids why they should clean their rooms, telling prospects why your solution is better, telling managers to use new software, telling patients to lose weight or exercise, doesn’t create the hoped-for change, regardless of how cogent the information except where the kids, buyers, managers, or patients were already set up to/seeking change and know how to move forward congruently (i.e. the low hanging fruit).

Here are a couple of simple examples.

  1. As you run out the door to get your daughter to school your spouse says, “I think we should move.” Huh! “We’ll speak more tonight,” you reply. On your way home you notice a great house for sale and you buy it. You come home to your family and tell them “Hey. We’re moving next week. I just bought a house!” Do you think the information about the house is relevant to your family at that point (even if it’s the perfect house)?
  2. You and your team are getting ready to launch a new product you’ve been developing for two years. Your boss tells you the company has been bought out and it may affect the launch, certainly effects next year’s budget, your work location, and the makeup of the team. Then a sales person calls selling team building software. Do you think information about the software is relevant at this point?
  3. You’re a consultant hired to lead a team through a complicated company reorganization that will leave the function, output, and relationships in jeopardy. The team has been stable, working successfully together for three years and has enjoyed great productivity and camaraderie. Do you think knowing the reasons behind the reorganization will help the transition be effortless or effective?

It’s not about the need or efficacy: change cannot happen until a system knows:

  • how it will be affected by the new solution and that the new will maintain Systems Congruence;
  • that the new solution will be agreeable to all involved – all the stakeholders that will be effected by a change;
  • the criteria that must be met and how to manage any discrepancies between the new and the old;
  • the parameters for, and route through to, change to ensure minimal disruption;
  • the level of buy-in necessary;
  • the new rules and norms that must be adopted and how they will fit with the status quo.

In my book Dirty Little Secrets I lay out the steps to change and decision making in a buying decision. It carefully details how systems fight fight fight to maintain themselves – homeostasis – regardless of their problems which have been baked in and accepted (i.e. not recognized as a problem); anything that pushes the system out of balance will create resistance (whether the system needs the change or not – remember: the system ‘is’, and gets up daily maintaining itself) as the normalized functioning is threatened.

Giving information too early, before a system can learn how to adopt change so any disruption is integrated, merely causes resistance as the system fights for balance. Not to mention if the new information is well outside of our conventional beliefs or experience, it cannot even be heard accurately.

And so, our brilliant, necessary, cogent information gets ignored, resisted, objected to, or misunderstood and we must handle the ubiquitous objections and resistance that we have created (and sadly miss real opportunities to facilitate change). Hence long sales cycles/lost sales and implementation problems, ignored advice, ill patients not complying with necessary behavior changes, and lost opportunities. So: help people/groups manage change first to set up the agreement, congruency, and buy-in; then offer information.

Conventional sales, marketing, training, coaching, parenting, healthcare, and leadership models use sharing and gathering information as their core, and first, activity, assuming people will be willing to change by being offered rational, necessary, data. But facilitating change goes well beyond information.

I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® in sales) which works with each step of systemic change to generate buy-in of all elements, people, rules, etc. that will touch the new solution, and enables a system to design it’s own route through to congruent change; information is offered once there is agreement for adoption – and by the time you offer it, there is already eagerness for change and an eagerness to adopt and listen to your information. If you’re a coach, negotiator, seller, purchasing agent, leader, doctor, or implementer add it into your current skills. Then when it’s time to offer information, your clients will be ready for it.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew  is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 original articles with original thinking on systems, collaboration, buying, leadership, etc. Sharon Drew is a visionary, trainer, coach, consultant, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117

 

July 23rd, 2018

Posted In: Communication

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blind_buyer-166x2501Buyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption; the last thing they want to do is bring in something new into their environment that will disrupt. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase (rather than finding a workaround, using a familiar fix, or maintaining the status quo) is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo, they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is available.

While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means

  • some sort of change management to ensure that the new and the old work together,
  • helping folks who touch the current practices be willing and able to change,
  • understanding and diminishing any fallout that will ensue.

Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem. And the sales model does not manage change. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch and sell their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:

  1. sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement portion of the buyer’s decision.
  2. neither sales nor marketing are equiped to enter the environment/culture in which the buyer lives to help facilitate the systemic, non-solution-focused internal political or relational issues buyers must address to get the buy-in and make the adjustments to their culture that change demands .
  3. buyers don’t know their route through, or implications to, change when they begin to think about resolving a problem.
  4. the time it takes buyers to get the appropriate buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the sales/change cycle. Until they figure this entire process out, they cannot buy. This is considered the pre-sales process.

These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: having spoken to only a fraction of the full Buying Decision Team, and having no way to know the political and personal discussions going on internally (and without us), we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path; we get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyer’s needs to first manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point they want to pitch. They have no idea; sales people don’t think about faciltiating change; the sales model as it is, is not equiped to facilitate the systemic change management issues that must be resolved in order for people to become buyers. It’s just far more complex than having a ‘need’ or a problem.

A SOLUTION CAN’T COMPROMISE THE STATUS QUO

Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. It’s not until step 10 that they they actually become buyers, i.e. recognize they have a problem they can’t resolve with their own resources AND is worth fixing AND they have buy-in to buy something. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchase is necessary or a workaround is possible: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. I have written an entire book to explain this problem: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

When we enter too early with a solution-placement goal, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time, using biased questions to gather data we use to sell with – and then we sit and wait. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But there is a much more efficient way to do this: we need to help them facilitate change first before beginning the actual sales process. We sit and wait while prospects do this anyway – all the while hoping, calling calling calling – and overlook a real opportunity to become part of the Buying Decision Team and sell to those who will buy. Buying anything is the last thing people do; before that they cannot hear you, understand they need you, and don’t even consider themselves buyers. And by focusing on solution placement, we are short-circuiting the buying decision process, entering at the end, and overlook the real opportunity to facilitate the entire Buying Decision Path. To do this, however, requires a skill set different from sales.

I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process called Buying Facilitation®. Although a change facilitation model, not a sales model per se, it works with sales and employs a wholly different skill set (Facilitative Questions, Dissociative Listening) that actually shows buyers how to discover and manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitation® THEN it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time, once the buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, if purchasing your solution would cause more harm than good to the prospect’s environment – regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution – they won’t buy. And the time it takes them to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.

Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution. Use Buying Facilitation® first to facilitate the Pre-Sales change management issues all buyers must manage, help them get ready to change, and turn them quickly into buyers.

_____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. Sharon Drew is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  to introduce the buying decision stages. She is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She can be reached at; sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.comwww.didihearyou.com;www.sharondrewmorgen.com

July 9th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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Servent LeadershipI 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 Buddhist, 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. They pull information to enable the Asker to create an approach that will generate specific results, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses to fit more closely with the needs of the interrogator. The real answers might lie outside the scope of the questions, potentially causing flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships. Certainly an enhanced opportunity for failure.
  • Normal listening practices listen for content, ensuring we hear mainly what our brains want us to hear as per our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly. (See What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) In other words, we hear some portion of the full data set – and it’s biased, at that. This problem is exacerbated when our brain doesn’t tell us what it discarded or misrepresented during the ‘listening’, leaving us to act on what we believe we’ve fully understood – but is most likely some degree of wrong, a problem for both Asker and Responder.
  • 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. Information when used as a convincer strategy will succeed only when the listener already agrees with it. Our brilliant stories, pitches, rational data, and advice will not convince Others that change is necessary until the Other has already discerned how to make the appropriate changes internally, to ready themselves for the disruption a new idea might bring to the status quo. It’s just not possible for an outsider to elicit permanent change by pushing information of any kind, regardless of its efficacy.
  • We tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely the transaction of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Change occurs at the unconscious Belief level which when happens, will cause new Behaviors to emerge automatically. Think of it this way: a robot that only moves forward will not move backward if you tell it to, or explain why it should change, or provide a scientific reason why walking backward is best, etc. The only way the robot will walk backward is by changing the programming. And so it is with our approach: once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • As influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.), we believe it’s our responsibility to cause Others to change in the way we believe they must. We find best methods to push our agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to lead, influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few. But we’re never taught to trust they can – they must – design and discover their own best answers and route to change. We fail to fully understand that no one, no Outsider, can ever understand another’s unconscious system.

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 – even potentially causing a rift in the relationship. We assume that because we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable (or necessary, or dictated by above, or rational, etc.) 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 were above manipulation and ‘healers’ who had the right to push and manipulate. And they absolutely believed that because they were ‘right’ they got to use any strategies they need to convince.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers, and taking on the job of making sure the Other does what’s ‘right’, we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. Not to mention it’s quite impossible to understand Another’s unconscious, that whatever they are doing has been part of their normal operating system and used habitually during the course of their lives.

Regardless of the efficacy of what we offer, our approach threatens the Other’s status quo. Our biased questions, the Other’s inability to hear us outside of their habituated listening filters (and our inability to hear them accurately), and the existing rules and Beliefs that have put the current (problematic) behaviors in place, will resist us. We are causing the resistance we receive and blaming them for their resistance – prospects who seem ‘stupid’, and patients who ‘don’t care’ about their health, students who ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients who ‘won’t listen’ to us.

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 someone to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. And yet they persist. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution, and yet they persist with failing results rather than buy.

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 using conventional practices, change runs the risk of permanent disruption in our comfortable habits and status quo; outside-in push/behavior change approaches do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in, and accomodate for, any change. Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. The reasons we fail mount up:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviours we think need to be changed 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 the translations of, the action of, the underlying system of Beliefs that initiated them to begin with. They allow us to wake up every day and show the world who we are. When we try to change the Behavior, we push against the entire system they represent. Regardless of the efficacy of our solution or their dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system 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 all on its own, 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 own intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the Other must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: the system would need to find a way to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

So our entire approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote the changes we think should occur in a way that challenges Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that whatever ‘new’ comes into an existing system must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected rather than be disrupted. 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 fine, 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 we challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the full set of skills to do more than attempt to cause change, 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. Since our current skill sets won’t get us there, we need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers. We must change the trajectory of our efforts. There is a route to facilitating Another’s change that is congruent, highly successful, and offers real leadership with no resistance.

I’ve spent my life coding the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve often written about, and trained it, in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover and own their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with the rules and history of 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 routes to their own destination, and are the only ones who can enter their unconscious system to effect change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system that has defined them. It’s possible to facilitate Others to their own state of Excellence, using their own route to congruent change. 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, the direction, 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, with specific wording in specific order, acts as a directional device to lead Others through their own systemic, unique trajectory of change. These questions teach Others to peruse persue their own unconscious to sequentially 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. Often influencers are self-serving, using  their ‘intuition’ (a subjectively biased guess), professional knowledge, or best wishes, to push another to where they want them to be, having 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 missunderstanding, 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?.]
  5. We get credit for serving. That’s it.

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, where their habituated behaviors and status quo originates through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted, without disruption.

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 an original thinker, thought leader, and subject matter expert, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew speaks, trains, coaches, and consults in sales, healthcare, coaching, and leadership. She is the originator of Buying Facilitation®, a Change Facilitation model that offers influencers the tools to facilitate congruent change in Others via Servant Leadership.  She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

June 25th, 2018

Posted In: Listening

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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.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books on Change Facilitation, including how buyers buy (including Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell) and how congruent change occurs. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com

June 18th, 2018

Posted In: Listening

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low_hanging_fruit_800_clr_5580-297x29780% of your prospects will buy a solution similar to yours within 2 years of your connection, but not from you; your relationship-building, price breaks, marketing campaigns, etc. are irrelevant until they have their ducks in a row and are ready to bring in a solution.

Indeed: the time it takes buyers to manage changes they’ll face from bringing in your solution is the length of the sales cycle.  And you’re not helping them manage the change.

A purchase is the last thing a buyer needs. But since sales only addresses the solution placement portion – the last steps – of a buyer’s journey, sellers have no control over the comprehensive change management issues that precede a solution choice.

We sit and wait, and are unfortunately out of control, as buyers: decide between an external solution, a current provider, or an internal workaround; get buy-in from all relevant touch points; manage any potential disruption. And so we close only the low hanging fruit when they call to buy after they’ve completed their behind-the-scenes elements – and we’re totally at effect of their timing.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s possible to enter earlier and help them address the many issues that must be handled between an idea and a purchase.

I developed Buying Facilitation® to manage that problem for my own sales team. It’s a decision facilitation tool that helps buyers address all decision/pre-sales issues they must address internally to get consensus and manage change. My clients with 8 figure solutions brought 3 year sales cycles down to 4 months; smaller solutions from, say, 6 months to one month, and avoided presentations and RFPs.

Buying Facilitation® employs a novel listening system, a new form of question, and uses the decision points of change to facilitate the pre-sales/decision/non-solution-related systems issues buyers need to manage before they can even consider buying anything. Should the HR person share budget with L&D? Is the merger going to meld departments? Sales doesn’t get involved with these issues, yet these are the systems issues buyers must address that affect buying.

We can help buyers manage these issues and either make or expunge a buyer very quickly. Let me teach you a new skill set – if you want real control over your pipeline and don’t want to merely wait for the low hanging fruit.

_______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrityand 7 books how buyers buy including Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com ; 512-771-1117. www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

 

June 11th, 2018

Posted In: Listening, News

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group-decision

While researching my new book What? I discovered that when listening to others, we naturally assume we understand what’s meant and don’t question that assumptions. The truth is, our brains are not set up to enable us to understand what Others tell us: the filters, the habituated neural pathways, the biases our brain uses to translate sounds into words into meaning preclude accuracy, leading to faulty assumptions. We actually only accurately hear some unknowable percentage of what is being said. Here’s what happens that makes accuracy so difficult:

  1. We only retain words we hear for approximately 3 seconds, and since spoken words have no spaces between them, our brains must also expend some amount of energy listening for breaks in breath, tone, and rhythm to differentiate words and meaning.
  2. Throughout our lives, the neural pathways we use when hearing others speak become habituated and normalized, limiting how we understand conversations as per our comfort and beliefs.
  3. On direct listening, our brain automatically and haphazardly deletes some unknowable portions of the message being conveyed that is foreign to our typical thinking.
  4. Our brain then takes what’s left over from the initial deletion and seeks an historic match in a potentially appropriate memory channel (that our brain deems similar from a previous conversation), and deletes whatever is divergent from that match.
  5. Our brain then takes the remainder from that deletion and filters it through our beliefs, values, filters, habits and memory.
  6. Whatever is left after deletions in steps 2, 3, 4 is what we adamantly assume we have heard.

A simple example of this just happened today when I was introduced to someone:

Joe: Hey V. I’d like you to meet my friend Sharon Drew.
V: Hi Sharon.
SDM: Actually, my first name is Sharon Drew
V: Oh. I don’t know anyone who calls themselves by their first name AND last name.
SDM: Neither do I.
V: But you just told me that’s how you refer to yourself!

Because a double first name was foreign to her, her brain used a habituated pathway for ‘name’, deleting two instances of correction (i.e. how Joe introduced us and my correction). She exacerbated the problem by then assuming – as per her habituated knowledge about names – I offered first and last name, again ignoring my name. She went on to further assume she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her. Curiosity wasn’t an option as her normalized thinking patterns about ‘names’ offered her no possibility of error. She believed what her brain told her and acted on the assumption that she was ‘right’.

ASSUMPTIONS RESTRICT AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION

We all do this. Using conventional listening practice, using our normalized subjectivity that we’ve finely honed during our lifetimes, it’s pretty difficult to accurately hear what’s meant without making assumptions; our brains are just set up to routinize and habituate most of what we do and hear – it makes the flow of our daily activities and relationships easy. But there is a downside: we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff when we believe we’ve heard accurately. After all, our brain tells us what it wants us to hear, doesn’t tell us what it left out or altered, potentially getting the context, the outcome, the description, or the communication, wrong.

Or we assume the speaker meant something they didn’t mean at all and then act on flawed information. In business it gets costly when, for example, implementations don’t get done accurately, or people are deemed prospects’ and put into the sales pipeline when it could be discovered on the first call that they were never prospects at all.

Assumptions cost us greatly, harming relationships, business success, and health:

  • Sellers assume prospects are buyers when they ‘hear’ a ‘need’ that matches their solution and end up wasting a huge amount of time chasing prospects who will never buy;
  • Consultants assume they know what a client needs from discussions with a few top decision makers while potentially overlooking some unknown influencers or influences, causing resistance to change when they try to push their outcomes into a system that doesn’t yet know how to change;
  • Decision scientists assume they gather accurate data from the people that hired them and discount important data held by employees lower down the management chain, inadvertently skewering the results and making implementation difficult;
  • Doctors, lawyers, dentists assume problems that may not be accurate merely because some of the symptoms are familiar, potentially causing harm – especially when these assumptions keep them from finding out the real problems; they also offer important advice that clients/patients don’t heed when the patients themselves assume their own ability to take care of themselves;
  • Coaches assume clients mean something they are not really saying or skewering the focus of the conversation, ending up biasing the outcome with inappropriate questions that lead the client away from the real issues that never get resolved;
  • Influencers and leaders assume they are ‘heard’ when offering reasons or rational behind behavior change activities, and blame the Other for resisting, ignoring, or sabotaging, when if approached from a Change Facilitation format first, people will be happy to behave in their best interests.

Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. The belief that sharing, pushing, presenting, offering ‘good’ (rational, necessary, tested) information will cause behavior change has proven faulty time and time again, across industries. But it’s possible to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions and hear what’s being meant – by taking the Observer/Coach role and listening for the metamessages rather than the story line or content (which is what our brains use to subjectively assume).

It’s the difference between being in front of a tree and noticing veins on the leaves (listening for content) while failing to notice a fire 2 acres away, vs being on a nearby mountaintop (listening for metamessage) noticing a fire in the forest, but not seeing the veins on the leaves. Both content and metamessage listening are necessary, of course, but at different times in a communication.

I contend we listen first in a dissociative way (Dissociative Listening – listening for the metamessage, what’s meant underneath the words) when new information, a new relationship, collaborative dialogues, or fine data gathering is necessary. Doing so makes it possible to listen in a part of the brain that doesn’t have the habituated neural pathways and filters that our normal listening involves. In other words, we won’t need to make assumptions.

In my book What?  there are chapters devoted to explaining how we make the assumptions we make, and how to resolve the problem. It’s an important skill set that we all could use. I don’t know about you, but I personally get so annoyed with myself when I make an assumption that proves wrong, and I lose the possibility of what might have been.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has spent her life coding systemic change and developing models for sales (Buying Facilitation®), healthcare, coaching, and leadership. For folks wishing to recognize their listening biases and assumptions, Sharon Drew has developed a listening bias assessment tool to get a good understanding of how, when, and where you make assumptions: http://didihearyou.com/learning-tools/assessments. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

 

June 4th, 2018

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change-2696395_960_720How 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 an original thinker, systems theorizer, and developer of a change facilitation model used in sales as Buying Facilitation®. She is an award-winning blogger (www.sharondrewmorgen.com), and the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets
and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained Buying Facilitation® to coaches, leaders, healthcare providers, in many global corporations such as KPMG, Wachovia, Bose, Kaiser, Morgan Stanley, IBM. She is currently working on a new book tentatively titled: Facilitating Change: the route to congruent decision making, buy-in, and compliance.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com;  sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

May 14th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Listening, News

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