What Makes A Decision Irrational? After spending 30 years deconstructing the mind-brain interface that enables choice and decision making, and training a decision facilitation model I developed for use in sales, coaching, and leadership, (Buying Facilitation®), I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

Only outsiders wishing for, or assuming, a different outcome will designate someone’s decision as ‘irrational’. I doubt if the decision-maker says to herself, “Gee! I think I’ll make an irrational decision!” I could understand her thinking it irrational after reaping surprising consequences. But not at the moment the decision is being made.

HOW WE DECIDE

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standards, or use some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judge the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?”

There are two components to making a decision. The brain; and the criteria against which the decision maker weights their options.

Brain: All of our actions arise from neurological, biological, physiological, electrochemical and automatic interactions in our brains. When we think, listen, hear, see, our brain goes through several processes before finding familiar neural connections to translate the incoming vibrations into decisions, behaviors, habits. Even when something brand new enters, we end up using existent – historic! – cell assemblies to translate it, restricting us to what we’ve done and thought before. Net net, our decisions emerge unconsciously, and sometimes don’t reflect the full fact pattern of all that is possible.

Data weighting: to ensure congruency, our brains compare incoming content against our mental models, an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including

Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria, assumptions, experience, future goals;
Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.
No one uses the same data set, or has the same criteria, beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate their decision.

Each of us have unique brain systems; different mental models, connections, neural pathways, histories. There’s not a single person whose brain is organized as anyone else’s. In other words, we just can’t judge others according to our own standards.

Indeed, there is no such thing as an irrational decision.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

Let me offer a simple example to explain. I recently made an agreement with a colleague to send me a draft of the article he was writing about me before he published it. Next thing I knew, the article was published. How did he decide to go against our agreement? Here was our ensuing dialogue:

SD: I’m quite upset. How did you decide to publish the article after agreeing to send it to me before publishing?

BP: I didn’t think it was a big deal. It was only a brief article.

SDM: It was a big enough deal for me to ask to read it first. How did you decide to go against our agreement?

BP: You’re a writer! I didn’t have the time you were going to take to go through your editing process!

SDM: How do you know that’s why I wanted to read it first?

BP: Because you most likely would not like my writing style and want to change it. I just didn’t have time for that.

SDM: So you didn’t know why I wanted to read it and assumed I wanted to edit it?

BP: Oh. Right. So why did you want to read it?

SDM: My material is sometimes difficult to put into words, and it has taken me decades to learn to say it in ways readers will understand. I would have just sent you some new wording choices where I thought clarity was needed, and discussed it with you.

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it clearly describes how we judge situations according to our Beliefs, assuming everyone is operating with the same ones. But that’s not true: each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

In our situation, my partner wove an internal tale of subjective assumptions that led him to a decision that might have jeopardized our relationship. I thought it was irrational, but ‘irrational’ only against my subjective criteria as an outsider with my own specific assumptions and needs.

And everyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with unique brain configurations and personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS

What if we stopped assuming that our business partners, our spouses, our prospects were acting irrationally. What if we assume each decision is rational, and got curious: what has to be true for that decision to have been made? If we assume that the person was doing the best they could given their subjective criteria and not being irrational, we could:

ask what criteria the person used and discuss it against our own;
communicate in a way that discusses assumptions, differences, gets curious, enables win-win results;
agree at the start to work from the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.
In other words, to make sure we understand where Others are coming from, we need to become aware of any incongruences and find common ground. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.

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

October 17th, 2022

Posted In: News

In the late 1970s, I approached my studies for an MSc in Health Sciences (Community Health Education) with an idealistic goal to create ways to promote wellness and prevent disease. Although life took me in a different direction, I’ve tried to stay caught up on healthcare, but now have merely a passing understanding of what’s going on. Lately I’ve had some opportunities to look more intimately into the healthcare profession/industry, and I’m both gladdened and saddened.

On the plus side, there’s a committed effort in this country to assist the under-served. Food services that offer nutrition to hospitals and training in healthy eating for patients; outpatient groups for treatment and prevention for diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer sufferers; school lunches and Pre-K programs.

I hadn’t been aware of the extent, or creativity, of the outreach of caregiving professionals. (How could I have known this? News sources focus on the bad stuff.). Houston Spore’s dedication to creating addiction services that work with whole families. Esther Dyson’s Wellville.net lets us track the progress of 5 groups of caregivers around the US as they design and implement innovative projects to promote preventative health care. We’re on our way to understanding that prevention is preferable to relying on treatment.

The bad news is that some easily treatable or preventable conditions (diabetes, heart conditions, cancer, obesity) are not garnering the necessary buy-in from patients to make the needed healthy choices.

With the best will in the world, providers – intent on designing outreach programs to encourage change and choice – are facing non-compliance: even with adequate funding, multi-faceted prevention services, and supervised support, patients are resisting not adopting the necessary changes that have the capability of making a difference in their long term health. What’s going on?

STATUS QUO

The problem is that the methods we’re using to inspire healthful behavior aren’t facilitating compliance. But with a shift in thinking, buy-in is achievable. Let me begin with a brief discussion of change and how our ‘system’, our status quo, fights to remain stable regardless of its (in)effectiveness. Buy-in is a change management problem.

We’re intelligent. We know smoking and sugar are bad, that exercise and fresh veggies are good. Yet we continue to smoke and eat processed foods. We know that telling, advising, or offering ‘relevant’ and ‘rational’ information is largely ineffective and invokes resistance. Yet we continue to tell, advise, and suggest, knowing even before we start that the odds of success are against us, and blaming the Other for non-compliance.

When faced with the need to change, we tend to continue our current behaviors with just a few shifts, hoping we’ll get different results (Hello, Einstein.), finding things to blame, or new approaches using the same thinking.

The problem is that change is a systems problem that demands buy-in from the very things that created the problem in the first place. And buy-in is much more intricate than knowing there’s a problem, or offering good ideas and recommendations, or getting people to sign up for healthful activities.

Let’s look at the problem from a different lens and understand why people keep doing what they do, regardless of any evidence that points to a need for other options.

OUR STATUS QUO LIKES STABILITY

Each person, each family (everyone, actually), is an internal – often unconscious – system of rules and goals, beliefs and values, history and foundational norms often called our Mental Models.

It’s our status quo; it represents who we are and the organizing principles that we wake up with every morning; it’s habitual, normalized, accepted, and replicated day after day – including what created the identified problem to begin with – with the problems baked in, and unfortunately (when we want to make a change) will do whatever it takes to keep doing what it’s most comfortable with.

Any proposed change challenges the status quo, offering a potentially disruptive outcome. When a problem shows up, diabetes for example, the patient has a dilemma: either continue their comfortable patterns and be assured of a continued problem, or dismantle the status quo and risk disruption with unknowable consequences.

How does she get up every day if she needs to eat differently and must convince her family that the food they’ve been eating for generations isn’t healthy? How does she avoid dessert when the family is celebrating? And the family’s favorite recipe is her cookies!

Change means the status quo has to reconfigure itself around new/different/unknown rules, beliefs, and outcomes to become something that can maintain itself with the ‘new’ as normalized. Because – and this is important to understand – until people and their unconscious norms

  • recognize that something is wrong/ineffective,
  • recognize that whatever they’ve been doing unconsciously has created (and will maintain) the problem,
  • know how to make congruent change that includes core values and systems norms,
  • know exactly the level of disruption that will occur to the status quo, and
  • make a belief shift that is acceptable to the rest of the system and enables new behaviors,

they will not change, regardless of its efficacy of the value of the solution.

In other words, until or unless someone recognizes at their deepest levels that change can be accomplished without permanent disruption to who they are and how they live, AND are willing/able to do the deeply internal work of designing new habits, beliefs, and goals, AND manage any fallout, people will not change regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution. [Note: I’ve been teaching the same premise to sales folks and coaches for decades.]

Why isn’t a rational argument, or an obvious problem, enough to inspire behavior change? Because we’re dealing with long-held and largely unconscious patterns, habits, and normalized activities and beliefs. And because we’re trying to push change from the outside – usually through information, advice, and activities – before the system has figured out how to change itself congruently.

Rational argument is ignored because our unconscious fights to maintain the status quo: we’ve been ‘like this’ for so long and it’s been ‘good enough’ to keep us stable. Change must be agreed to from our deepest norms before being willing to change behaviors. And until then, we can’t even accurately hear incoming data if it runs counter to our norms.

THE INTRICACY OF BUY-IN

With the best will in the world, using rational arguments, ‘good’ data, stories, or facts will not make a difference because it enters our unconscious in the wrong place, in the wrong way, at the wrong time. We try to offer new choices, new behaviors, before we have enabled internal, unconscious agreement to change.

And here’s the interesting bit: behaviors will change themselves once the core beliefs have shifted (Personally, because I’ve now defined myself as a Healthy Person, I have no choice but to go to the gym. And I hate going. But now it’s who I am.).By focusing on behavior change before facilitating belief change, trying to cause change without a buy-in is actually creating resistance because it puts our unconscious status quo at risk. Our status quo must, by the laws of Systems Congruence, maintain balance and stability at all costs (literally).

Behaviors are merely the expression – the representation – of our beliefs. Think of it this way: behaviors express our beliefs much like the output of a software program is a result of the coding in the programming. To change the output, you don’t start by changing the functionality; you first change the coding which automatically changes the functionality.

Like a dummy terminal, our behaviors only represent our programming. Trying to explain why a different output, or behavior, is necessary is useless, even when our information is ‘rational’ or ‘right’.

WHY PROFESSIONALS DON’T PROMOTE CHANGE

Here’s what happens. Influencers wrongly believe that if they share, advise, gather, or promote the right information in the right way, using the right words and offering good rational reasons why change is necessary, Others will comply. But our patients and clients

  • hear us through biased filters and cannot hear our message as meant;
  • feel pushed to act in ways they’re unaccustomed to or that go against their beliefs;
  • resist and reject when expected to act in ways currently outside their norm;
  • lose trust in us when we push them.

They cannot even consider, understand, or recognize the validity of, our information appropriately.

Everyone actually listens through biased filters that only allow us to hear what we’re programmed to hear as per our histories and mental models our brains as they interpret, understand, and translate what’s been said according to what’s been programmed in, regardless of what’s been said. To make it even worse, when our brains misinterpret what they’ve heard, they don’t even tell us they’ve made a mistake and we’re left believing we heard accurately.

We all do this unconsciously, leaving us to assume that what we hear is what’s been said. (Note: I just wrote a book about this – What? Did you really say what I think I heard? – and was quite surprised to learn how effectively our listening controls our status quo.) So my brain might tell me you said ABX when you actually meant ABC, and I believe my brain is accurate (and it didn’t tell me what it left out) Any information we hear or read that goes against our historic programming actually that can’t even be heard or absorbed appropriately.

So how can we effect compliance if offering information or diets or exercise programs, for example, isn’t effective?

PEOPLE CAN ONLY CHANGE THEMSELVES

Start by recognizing that people change themselves; change can’t come from the outside. Instead of seeking better and better ways to offer plans, rules, and advice (and getting rejected and ignored), we must help people make their own discoveries and systemic changes; for real change, we each must design a path to our own change so they can remain congruent.

The sad truth that all influencers must understand is that the need for balance (Systems Congruence) is of greater importance (unconsciously) to the system than the need for change, regardless of how necessary the change is. That’s how people end up refusing smoking cessation programs when they have lung cancer, or continuing to eat unhealthful foods with diabetes (or voting for candidates that go against our best interest).

Here are some ways you can enter a change conversation to enable buy-in and avoid resistance:

  • Shift your goal. Your job is to help Another be all they can be. It’s not about you getting them to accept the change you believe necessary, but enabling them to design the change they need, in a way that concurs with their beliefs and values.
  • Enter differently. Enter with a goal/outcome of facilitating change and buy-in, not to change behavior. They must change their own behavior. From within. Their own way.
  • Examine the status quo. First help Others recognize and assemble all of the elements that created and maintain their status quo – not merely the ones involved with the problem as you perceive it, but the entire system that created and maintains it. Outsiders can’t recognize the full complement of givens within another’s status quo. Starting with a focus on what you perceive is the problem (or the Other recognizes as a problem) inspires rejection.
  • Traverse the brain’s steps to change. There are 13 steps to change that must be traversed for all change to occur. Unless all – all – of the elements have been included, recognize a need to change, and know precisely how to make the appropriate shifts so a stable systems results, they will resist.
  • Behavior is an expression and not a unique act. We must recognize that exhibited behaviors are expressing beliefs. Change must occur at the belief level. Trying to push or inspire behavior change is at the wrong level and causes resistance.
  • Everyone has their own answers. They may not be what you would prefer and might not make sense given the outcomes. Help them recognize how and when and if to change. But not using information as it can’t be understood.

 

Here are some examples of how I’ve added Change Facilitation to elements of health care in a way that promotes belief change first (Note: these below exemplify only a portion of what would need to be included on forms, in groups, etc.):

Intake forms: instead of merely gathering the data you think you need (which you’ve inadvertently biased), why not enlist patient buy-in at the earliest opportunity? It’s possible to add a few Facilitative Questions (I developed a form of question that enables unbiased systemic change. It uses no information pull or gathering and has no bias. See examples below.) to your forms to start the patient off recognizing you, and including you, as a partner at the very beginning of your relationship and their route to healthful choices:

We are committed to helping you achieve the goals you want to achieve. What would you need to see from us to help you down your path to health? What could we do from our end that would best enable you to make whatever changes you might want to make?

Group prevention/treatment: instead of starting off by sharing new food or exercise plans, let’s add some change management skills to the goals of the group. By giving them direction around facilitating each other’s change issues, you can enable the group discuss potential fallout to any proposed change, determine what change would look like, and begin discussions on how to approach each aspect of risk together to recognize different paths to success. Then the whole group can support each other’s different paths to success:

As we form this group, what would we all need to believe to incorporate everyone’s needs into our goals? If there are different goals and needs, how do we best support each other to ensure we each achieve our goals?

Doctor/patient communication: instead of a medical person offering ideas or information, make sure you achieve buy-in for change first. This encourages the trust/belief that the professional has the patient’s success in mind, rather than a dependence on the information (and viewpoint) they wish to espouse.

It seems you are suffering from diabetes. We’ve got nutritional programs, group support, book recommendations. But I’d first like to help you determine what health means for you. How will you know when it’s time to consider shifting some of your health choices to open up a possibility of treating your diabetes in a way that doesn’t diminish your lifestyle?

A healthy patient, or any desire to change in a way that benefits a more balanced life, is the goal. Be willing to enable change and compliance, rather than attempt to manage it, influence it, or control it. I’ve got some articles on these topics if you wish further reading: Practical Decision MakingQuestioning QuestionsTrust – what is it and how to initiate itResistance to GuidanceInfluencers vs Facilitators.

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

October 10th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

When I coined the term Buying Process in 1987 I was describing the change management steps people take between having a problem and self-identifying as buyers. In other words, the Buy Side.

Over the years the sales industry has (mis)translated the term to refer to how people choose a solution. In other words, the Sell Side.

The Buy Side and Sell Side have different goals and journeys: before self-identifying as buyers, people/groups must assemble stakeholders, try workarounds, figure out the risk of disruption and get buy in (Buy Side). It’s wholly different from how, when and if they choose a product (the Sell Side).

Buying is a change management problem (Buy Side) before it’s a solution choice (Sell Side) issue. Both should be addressed in order to both find and facilitate folks who will become buyers (the Buy Side) and help now-self-identified buyers choose their solutions (the Sell Side).

By overlooking facilitating the (Buy Side) Buying Process, by narrowing the search for buyers to those who’ll listen to product details or seem to have a ‘need’ (the Sell Side), the sales industry overlooks 80% of potential buyers. As a result, sales closes a small fraction of possible buyers. I believe the field is using the wrong metric and chasing the wrong target (‘Need’).

LOOKING FOR PROSPECTS IN THE WRONG PLACE

Buyers aren’t where sales is looking for them. It’s like that old joke about folks looking for lost keys where the light is instead of where they lost them. Sure, sales continues to find new and better ways to push solutions. But that’s not where or how people buy especially now with the internet.

People become buyers when they have no other choice AND can tolerate the risk of doing something different (a purchase); if the risk (the disruption, the change involved) is too high they’ll stay the same regardless of need. Here’s one of my MorgenismsPeople don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least cost to the system.

Selling and buying require two different sets of actions. By only focusing on one portion of the buying decision process, sales overlooks the vast numbers of not-yet-self-identified buyers who really need help figuring out their unique systemic change issues. And unfortunately, the approach to facilitating the Buy Side Buying Process isn’t through any thinking, tools, or goals used to sell a solution. And it’s not about ‘need’.

A ‘NEED’ FOCUS CAUSES FAILURE

I have a few questions for you: Do you need to stop watching so much TV and exercise more? Do you need to shed 10 pounds? Do you need to be kinder to your employees? See? Need is NOT the metric used by folks who will become buyers! Your 5% close rate should tell you something is wrong. People buy when

  • everyone (even peripherally involved), and everything (policies, projects, leadership) agrees there’s a problem that needs resolving;
  • they’ve tried everything they know to resolve it and nothing worked;
  • they fully understand the risks – the cost – to the system and find them manageable;
  • everyone who will touch the final solution buys in to doing something different.

Here’s why a ‘need’ focus causes sales to fail:

  • You get few meetings with few in attendance, and then don’t hear back.

o  What ‘weight’ did the folks in the meeting have on the final decision team?
o  How many folks needed your solution but wouldn’t take a meeting?
o  Who took the meeting and why? Have they tried workarounds yet?
o  What will they use your presentation content for?
o  Where are they in their Buy Side Buying Process?

      • When you facilitate folks through their complete change process (Buy Side Buying Process), you’ll help them discover who to assemble, how to find workarounds to try, and how to assess risk and manage buy in according to their unique environments. THEN they all want to meet with you and bring 10 people to the meeting.
  • You’re posing biased questions based on what you sell and miss important data.

o  Your questions are biased according to what you think would make them a prospect, hence miss the underlying (systemic) reasons they haven’t resolved the problem yet and where they really need your help and your differentiation point.

      • Facilitative Questions help them uncover their own idiosyncratic route to a problem resolution and buy in without bias.
      • Your ‘need’ focus causes you to assume far, far more people are prospects and you spend large amounts of time chasing folks who will never buy. Remember: People cannot buy unless they understand the risk of change. It’s not about their problem or the efficacy of your solution.
  • With a ‘need’ focus you’ll get one person’s restricted viewpoint and mistakenly believe she’s a buyer.

o  It’s possible someone is speaking with you only because she’s the only one who wants change and using your call to collect data points.

      • When you only seek need, you really have no idea of the accuracy of the person’s answers, or their reason to speak with you.
      • When you only seek need, you miss people doing their discovery and not yet ready to self-identify as buyers.
      • When you only seek need, you don’t understand the entire fact pattern the problem sits in and don’t recognize folks who could never buy.
  • You have no idea if the person you’re speaking with represents a real opportunity.

o  Has he been directed to contact vendors because the team is ready to choose? or just doing research? Has the whole team self-identified as buyers?

      • By assuming folks talk to you because they have a ‘need’ you’re overlooking the systems/change management issues that must be resolved before they’re even buyers and wasting a lot of time pushing products they can’t buy.
      • By assuming folks have a need, you’re restricting your close rate to 5% and wasting 95% of your time.
  • You have no idea what stage folks are at in their (Buy Side) Buying Process?

o  Have they assembled all (ALL) the stakeholders? Know the full fact pattern of the problem (only happens toward the end of the Buying Process when all factors are discernable)? Have they tried workarounds? Do they know the type of risk they face if they purchase? Do the stakeholders buy in to the risk?

      • Until or unless they’ve gone through all change management stages (i.e. the Buy Side Buying Process), they are not buyers, regardless of what you think they need.

The sales model is so focused on placing solutions, on sharing information sellers believe prospects need to hear, that they miss the real Buying Decision Pathjust because you think they have a ‘need’ doesn’t mean they’re ready willing or able to buy.

STEPS TO BUYING ARE CHANGE MANAGEMENT BASED

Until they realize they cannot fix the problem themselves AND everyone recognizes that the cost of the fix is less than the cost of staying the same, they will not, cannot, buy. And when you don’t hear back, they’re not facing indecision: they’re merely involved in their change management process and not yet buyers. And unless the risk of the change is less than the cost of staying the same, they’d rather stay the same and avoid the disruption.

Sellers can help would-be buyers traverse their decision path – their Buy Side Buying Process – BEFORE trying to sell them anything and help them become buyers very quickly. After all, they must do this anyway, with or without you: until they accept the risk that a new solution brings, they aren’t buyers anyway. That leaves you selling to the low hanging fruit (the 5%) rather than helping the 80% manage their Buy Side decision process.

Before considering themselves buyers, all people must mitigate the steps between problem recognition and risk management. Until people manage their front-end change management piece (the first 9 steps of a 13 step change process, or, um, Buying Process) they ARE NOT BUYERS and will ignore any attempt at being sold to!

The sales industry must shift their thinking to facilitate the Buy Side as a precursor to selling. I know the field has recognized the need to do so, but unfortunately still uses the same tools and sales thinking to try to get there!

SELLING DOESN’T CAUSE BUYING

Buying is risk management. Selling is product placement – two different sets of things to handle for two different sets of problems.

Unfortunately, facilitating people through their discovery of risk is not based on a solution, or need, or features and functions, but on a different metric entirely: neither the sales model nor the solutions themselves can help with the Buy Side Buying Process. Buying is first about change:

Buying represents change in the underlying system that includes people, policies, initiatives, jobs, budgets etc.

Change represents disruption. It must be addressed and bought into by everyone it will disrupt.

A purchase represents an unknowable risk to the system.

And sellers, as outsiders, cannot ever understand what their idiosyncratic issues are.

I’ve written extensively on this for decades. Terms that I’ve coined as part of the Buy Side Buying Process (‘stakeholders’ ‘workarounds’ ‘Buying Decision Team’) have been mistranslated, and now endemic in the sales vocabulary, but unfortunately applied only on the Sell Side. Buying Facilitation® finds those on route to becoming buyers and leads them through their change steps.

BUYING FACILITATION® FOR THE BUY SIDE

When I started up my tech company in 1983 and became a buyer after being a very successful seller, I realized the problem with sales: as an entrepreneur with problems to solve, I didn’t even think of making a purchase until I assembled the full set of stakeholders and knew the full fact pattern, tried everything familiar to fix it, and understood the disruption an external solution would cause.

I invented Buying Facilitation® to facilitate folks through their change management steps on route to becoming real buyers. It works WITH sales but isn’t sales. It’s change based, not product sell based. In my Buying Facilitation® training programs I teach how to facilitate change as the precursor to selling. Participants go on to close 40% against their control groups that close (on average) 5.4%. When I trained my own sellers to find folks on route to change, our closed business improved by a factor of eight.

Buying Facilitation® uses wholly different tools and goals, starting with prospecting for people seeking to resolve a problem – people in their Buying Process – that the seller’s solution can resolve. It includes:

  • Facilitative Questions: a wholly new form of question in invented (Took me 10 years!) that leads Others through their elements of systemic change.
  • Listening for systems: a way to listen for systemic problems (leadership, ancient corporate rules, etc.) instead of seek what I wanted to hear.
  • The steps of change: the 13 steps all people must traverse before they agree to any change. Sales enters at step 10 when folks are ready to buy. They can enter at step one and lead folks efficiently through their change issues.

Buying Facilitation® finds people on route to becoming buyers ON THE FIRST CALL when your goal is to find folks changing in the area you solution can serve. It’s a generic change facilitation model used also by coaches and leadership. It has nothing to do with buying or selling per se. And yet it facilitates real change.

Below I’ve included a few articles I’ve written on the subject. Go to www.sharon-drew.com, read the section Helping Buyers Buy, and go to the categories Sales, Buying Facilitation® in my blog section and start reading. Then call me. I’ll teach you.

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‘No Decision’ is not Indecision

What is Buying Facilitation® and What Sales Problem Does it Solve

The Real Buyer’s Journey: the reason selling doesn’t cause buying

How, Why, and When Buyers Buy

A View from the Buy Side

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

October 3rd, 2022

Posted In: News

After listening to folks complaining about getting resistance during a needed change initiative, I decided to write an article explaining how resistance gets triggered from our brain. You see, people don’t make a conscious choice to resist; their brains are perceiving risk and automatically rebelling as protection. As I’ll explain, it’s possible to avoid resistance altogether. But we’d have to alter the way we’re going about change.

I’ll begin by saying that behaviors don’t just pop up, arise like Venus from the sea. Before we ‘do’ anything our brain goes through a series of neurological, biological, and electro-chemical reactions that automatically trigger and instruct behaviors.

Everything we do, think, see, feel originates in our brains, including our behaviors. And in current change management models, we overlook the brain bit. Resistance is caused by brain chemistry; to avoid it we’ll need to think differently about how we construct our change initiatives.

RESISTANCE IS A (WRONGLY) ASSUMED CONSEQUENCE OF CHANGE

I’ll begin by naming the elephant in the room: ‘resistance management’ has become integral to change management. Frankly, my ideas in this article may cause resistance because they go beyond perceived wisdom and current academic research which both concentrate on behavior change rather than where behaviors get triggered in the brain. And because it’s believed to be endemic, resistance is naturally incorporated into change practices.

A friend of mine (a Harvard professor and MacArthur Genius) was writing a book on how to manage resistance. When I sent back my edits following his request to look at his draft, he opposed my ideas about avoiding resistance altogether: “This is just aspirational thinking, Sharon-Drew. Resistance is endemic no matter what models you use.” As I said, it’s built in.

Remember the adage: if you always do what you’ve always done you always get what you’ve always got? Indeed, the expression “change is hard” has become the perceived wisdom and various forms of coercion (persuasion, convincer strategies, rewards, manipulation) have cropped up to mitigate it.

In John P Kotter’s change bible Leading Change he says it’s necessary to ‘win hearts and minds’,

encourage them to make sacrifices to support the change and persuade them that the change is achievable and that the rewards are beneficial to both the business and themselves.

In other words, resistance is such an integral part of the change culture that the reason it occurs is overlooked. We assume:

  • change is hard (It’s not hard. We’re just approaching it as a behavior change issue rather a brain triggering problem.);
  • there will be obstacles (The existing norms and current activities have been the status quo. To make a change, a new set of norms must be developed that match the values of the old, and those involved in the status quo must determine this.).
  • the efficacy of ‘urgency’ to involve Others (We ask folks to adopt OUR urgency without helping them design something THEY feel urgency around and then push them to full OUR needs!);
  • when change is led by someone respected, Others will be compliant soldiers (Think of your mom telling you to wear that horrid outfit to Grandma’s. Nope. And it’s not about the clothes.);
  • all will go smoothly once we win ‘hearts and minds’ (The initiatives created may not match THEIR hearts and minds!).

Resistance is avoidable and change is not hard at all. We’re just doing it wrong.

In this article I’ll explain how our brains cause our reactions/responses, and how conventional change processes cause the very resistance it works to overcome.

WE UNCONSCIOUSLY RESIST WHEN OUR IDENTITY IS THREATENED

Let me say a bit about my mindset and thinking. I’ve dedicated my life to developing change facilitation models used in coachingbehavior change, and sales that enable mind-brain connections to have conscious choice over our unconscious behaviors. Along the way I’ve discovered that our brain neurology is set up to create and maintain our core identities; as such, all of our actions and responses, attitudes and convictions are nothing more than unconscious, automatic outputs of who we are. To explain how we end up resisting, I’ll begin by introducing you to how we ‘be’ who we are.

Each of us is an amalgam of generations of family history, education, religion, friends, employment, life experience. Together, these mental models – the system of ‘me’, or SOM – carry electro-chemical signals (without meaning) that link together as neural circuits, or ‘cell assemblies’, that inform our actions: the way we look at, judge, and operate in the world; our assumptions, our politics. They inform our identity, our values, our beliefs. And signals from these circuits instruct our choices, our behaviors, in a way that maintains our system.

All of us act, make choices, decide from our mental models, our SOM; our behaviors arise unconsciously and automatically to represent and maintain who we are. In other words, we’re always ‘doing’ who we are, making us all victims of our unconscious.

Personally, I’ve been a liberal and activist since my first protest as a freshman in college when I chained myself to a crane and ended up in jail (Mother: ‘You’re calling from WHERE?’). I’ve continued my liberal activity during my life, taking great pride in who I am, believing fervently that my map of the world is the ‘right’ one. I’ll defend this to my death, regardless of what anyone else wants me to do, regardless of whether I’m considered right or wrong. I’ve lost jobs, book deals, friends, husbands, rather than make choices that will put my core identity, my SOM, at risk. I think I’ve been ‘right’ more often than not. But I’ve always respected my unique system, made the best choices I knew how to make based on my values, and followed my vision. It’s who I am.

And so we all are: our behaviors – our choices, our actions, our unconscious automatic triggers – are our beliefs in action. It’s here we must begin when considering resistance.

HOW BRAINS CAUSE BEHAVIORS

Given we are always DOing who we are, let me explain (in simplified fashion) how our brain accomplishes this so you’ll see how defiance might be a natural, albeit unconscious, choice.

Behaviors are the end result of several neural processes, generated from a sequence of neurological, biological, and electro-chemical actions that get triggered by incoming vibrations (as words, thoughts, messages, instruction). Here’s the sequence in words:

  • input vibrations (all sound/words enters ears without meaning) that get
  • filtered, massaged, shortened and
  • automatically turned to signals
  • that get dispatched among
  • 86 billion neurons, 1,000 trillion neural connections to seek a match
  • with ‘similar-enough’ cell assemblies that then
  • translate the signals uniquely and
  • send instructions to act (behave).

Here’s another way to explain what happens from start (input) to an action (output):

Input (message, vibration) -> Filters (Beliefs, norms) -> CUE (Signal creation) -> CEN (Dispatch to ‘similar-enough’ existing circuits) ->Output (Behavior, action, decision)

For those who want more detail, here’s a video of me explaining the entire process of how we make decisions with visuals.

Notice that the input (message) and the filters (beliefs, norms) drive the output (behavior). It’s impossible to have an output without an input that triggers it. Indeed, everything we do, think, feel, see, hear has been instructed by our neurology. An easy way to think of this is how Alzheimer’s sufferers die because their brain forgets to instruct their organs.

BEHAVIORS ARE BELIEFS IN ACTION

Resistance begins at the input stage: If the incoming instructions, the initiatives and goals we provide at the start, match the norms/values/beliefs of the existing system being targeted, the filters will accept it.

If the incoming message is in conflict with the system, the filters (automatically, unconsciously) discard, mistranslate, or resist it. It’s biologic and of out awareness, an act performed by dopamine.

Since our unconscious brain is the instigation point that causes us to ‘do’ who we are, our behaviors arise from the way our brain translates (mistranslates) incoming vibrations (words, messages). So a behavior is nothing more than a response, the output of a chain of events set up to comply with the norms and values of the system – the person – they represent. Behaviors (outputs) are the very last element that arise from a string of commands from our brain.

Simply put: When people receive inputs that are out of alignment with their SOM, they resist. Resistance is merely a reaction from the part of the brain that thinks it’s at risk. It has nothing to do with intent. It’s not malicious. It’s neurologic.

This is what we overlook during change initiatives: when we get an unwanted reaction from an initiative, we end up trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior – push change from an output that’s already been programmed! It’s like trying to change a chair into a table!

Unfortunately, by the time there’s a reaction it’s too late. Here’s my podcast series on change without resistance.

It is possible, however, to avoid the problem altogether. To get a different response, a new output, we just need to create a different input.

STAKEHOLDERS MUST DESIGN THE INITIATIVE

To make sure new directives are approved, carried out, and enlist buy-in; to make sure we achieve goals that produce Excellence; our change initiatives must comply with people’s mental models and personal beliefs or the brain thinks it’s at risk and balks to protect the system.

When leadership tries to elicit behaviors before enlisting the brain circuits that protect the SOM, the belief-based filters that check incoming messages will discard or resist anything that doesn’t match the existing norms of the system.

There’s a simple way to fix this problem, but I’m going to ask that you don’t resist what I’m saying out-of-hand: We can bring in the stakeholders, the folks who will be performing the new initiative, before the initiatives are developed, before the goals have been established and have them design the initiative. (Note: no problem set can be fully understood without the input, the knowledge. of the entire stakeholder body anyway.)

This ensures that the values, the SOM, of the stakeholders will become part of the new initiative and the brain will happily generate the new behaviors with passion and creativity, responsibility and ownership. And no resistance!

By starting with a goal in mind, by beginning with outcomes and targets and proposed action, by designing initiatives to conscientiously overcome resistance by including users somewhere – too late! – in the process, current change management models unwittingly instigate the very resistance they seek to overcome.

And note: it’s not possible to attempt to ‘gather data’ to capture the SOMs to include in the initiative as the both the questions and answers will be biased by the direction already set; and conventional questions don’t get into the unconscious anyway.

Everyone involved (or a very comprehensive set of representatives) must sit down together – maybe for an offsite day with an outside consultant – and brainstorm ideas, needs, fears, feelings, job descriptions, collective goals, and dreams.

I’d even suggest there be only representation from leadership, with the bulk of the participation coming from the users. After all, folks in leadership have different jobs, different goals and viewpoints, different knowledge of the day-to-day ops, different SOMS than the managers and staff who will carry out the initiative.

A NEW GOAL: EXCELLENCE

Here are a few starter questions to create compliance and joy throughout the life of the initiative:

  • What’s the best idea, the best aspiration, to begin from that will result in goals that match the beliefs, the integrity, the vision, of those who will carry out the change?
  • What if we begin with a goal of Excellence, not specific actions?
  • How can we design initiatives in a way that expands possibility and invites buy-in, creativity and vision over time?

Will goals be met in the exact way the leadership team originally envisaged? Nope. But they never are anyway. The goals will be met, just differently and with long-term follow through and universal buy-in.

I’ve written extensively on this and developed several models and tools that create comprehensive teams, unearth the SOMs, and design goals and action items that lead to Excellence far beyond anything originally envisaged. Please contact me to either help you design a new initiative or coach you through one you’re currently involved with. Here’s how an article on how I’ve used my thinking in one industry (sales) to facilitate change and avoid resistance.

For now, here’s an example of how I enlisted the buy-in of a resister who wasn’t even compliant with the coach hired to help him keep his job.

EXAMPLE OF FACILITATING A RESISTER THROUGH TO CHANGE

I once got a call from a very noted coach (once on the cover of Inc Magazine) who had a problem he needed help solving. He had been hired by a senior manager (Susan) from a company going through change. She was having difficulty enlisting the agreement of one of their top, well-respected managers and asked Ed to coach the guy (Lou) to perform the new behaviors or he’d be fired. Ed said he’d tried for three months to get Lou to do what he’d been asked to do – set agreed-upon target actions and goals for Lou – only to have Lou miss deadlines and overlook entire segments of his agreements. Ed thought that maybe I’d have a different way to think about helping Lou and save him from losing his job.

Ed agreed to do a role play with me during which I used my facilitation process that targeted Lou’s underlying, baseline sentiments. With no real knowledge of what Lou would say, Ed responded using bits he’d heard from Lou. We had the following conversation (Note: I knew nothing about either Lou or the initiative.).

SD: Hi Lou. Before we begin, I’d like to thank you for being willing to speak. Seems you were not given a choice about speaking with me. Do I have your approval? I don’t want you to be forced to speak if you don’t want to.

Lou: You’re right. So much seems to be going on that I have no say about. But I know Susan is trying to help me keep my job. So I’m happy to speak. Thanks for asking.

SD: I hear both Susan and Ed have been trying to encourage you to take on new tasks and there seems to be a glitch in your uptake. What has stopped you from being comfortable doing what they need you to do?

Lou: I have some questions. I was hired to do my original job and I’ve done it well. Over the years I’ve come up with creative solutions, hired terrific people, and have been successful. I’ve gotten promoted and rewarded, and by now part of my identity is based on my success. Now they want me to do X. Who will take over my old job and do it as well as I did? Maintain the relationships with my staff and clients? And what happens to me? Given it’s a wholly new job description, how do I know I can do it? And no one will be teaching me because it hasn’t been done before. What happens if I don’t succeed? I’ve never been unsuccessful before. Seems they’ve given me a lose/lose situation. If I do what they want me to do, I’ll end up being fired for incompetency anyway.

SD: Wow. So you had no input into this new role before it was given to you, weren’t included in the creation and description of it, don’t know if you know how to do the work, don’t know how to be good at it, and might end up losing the success you had in your current job! That’s a lot. What has stopped you from telling this to Ed or Susan?

Lou: I tried to tell Susan but she told me they trusted me and just concentrate on doing the new job. But that didn’t handle my fears or loss of identity. When I started working with Ed he just gave me targets for each part of the new job and never discussed my personal challenges.

SD: Oh! So if Susan could make sure your current job will end up in good hands with continued great results, and you could have someone guide you through the new job with an agreed-upon learning curve, it would be easier for you.

Lou: Right. But I’d also need to have a say in how the new job is defined. As I can’t know what I don’t know before I start, I can’t know what would need to change in the job description they’ve provided. If I can have a say in how I will accomplish what they need accomplished, and have the time to get good at it, AND my original job is being done well, I have no problem being compliant.

When we were done, I asked Ed why he hadn’t considered my line of questioning since he apparently had all the data.

Ed: I heard him say those things, but because they seemed to have nothing to do with my job of getting him to ‘do’ the necessary behaviors, I ignored them!

This is a true story. How many people have been fired because they didn’t ‘do’ what they were told to do, and this type of conversation hadn’t occurred?

The belief that a change initiative must be agreed-with as per leadership’s vision has caused great harm in corporations and people. In 2004 I spoke with the then-CEO of Kinkos who traveled to all U.S. sites to visit 30,000 employees to announce the FedEx/Kinko’s merger. He used a multi-million-dollar deck to make his announcement. How did it go? You decide.

Kinkos: I had trouble convincing about 10% of them to get onboard.

SD: What happened to them?

Kinkos: It became a retention issue.

SD: You fired 3,000 people because they didn’t like your dog-and-pony show??

Kinkos: Yes, but it wasn’t a big loss. They were the folks who had been around from the beginning and were expendable.

He fired the very core, the very foundation of his business, the folks who carried the history and heart of the company, because he had no capability of enabling collaboration and a joint vision.

Indeed, there is a way to create productive routes to outcomes that carry passion, ongoing success, and happy people. I’ve dedicated my career to creating mind-brain, conscious-to-unconscious models that make systemic change possible and very easy. Contact me and we can discuss: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

_________________________________________

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

September 26th, 2022

Posted In: News

gender neutralAs someone who’s written about communication for decades, I’ve decided to say what it feels like day in, day out, to be at the wrong end of being a person in America. A female. This article offers my personal viewpoint of how our endemic gender communication biases affect me as a woman. I hope it will inspire a dialogue that leads to gender-equal communication.

I don’t want this article to be a ‘scold’; there’s plenty of blame to go around given 1. our cultural norm that assumes a male preference; 2. women have been historically quiet when at the wrong end of gender communication bias (fear of reprisal, exhaustion and impotence from decades of being disparaged). But I deeply long for authentic and respectful styles of speech.

I suspect most men don’t understand what we women have to adjust to even in ordinary daily activities, from small seemingly-insignificant slights to those that cut to the bone; I suspect most men don’t realize how the endemic male bias methodically picks away at our souls. Sitting with a man recently, another man entered the room:

Man: Hi guys.

        SD: Why not say ‘Hi gals?’

        Man, pointing to my friend: Because he’s a man.

        SD: What am I, chopped liver?

Women being referred to with a male term seems to be acceptable, to have crept into the culture as ‘generic’. But to me, given conversations like the above, it’s not. I’d like to think men would be willing to make some alternate choices and refer to me as a woman, with the strength, power, and respect that deserves. And it’s more than just the use of inept terms; it’s the attitude, the inbuilt assumptions that I’m less-than.

In this article I’ll share a few examples of how I’m too-often spoken to and how it makes me feel. Some of you may not understand or identify with what I’m saying (and men, since most of you have no history of being a woman, this might seem funny or slight), and some of you may judge me. But just maybe a few things I say will open a door to awareness so a dialogue can begin and start a conversation so we can heal this thing and come together as equals.

ACCEPTED BIAS

At an event recently, a man walked up to introduce himself. Here was our conversation:

BILL: Oh Hi! You’re the girl with two names!

SDM: Yes, I’m the woman with two names.

BILL: Aw, come on!!! Gimme a break! Get off it, will ya? Woman? Girl? What’s the difference!

SDM: Seriously? Surely by now you’ve been educated by women in your life as to the proper way to refer to an adult female.

BILL: I’ve been educated!!! Believe me! A lot! I know what I’m supposed to do! Very well!

SDM: So what’s stopping you from doing it?

Bill went quiet. We stood quietly looking at each other. He then said, in a very soft voice:

BILL: You’re right. It’s an old habit, and I’m embarrassed I spoke without thinking. I mean no disrespect. I do realize you’re an adult. I’ll work harder at it. Thanks for reminding me.

Why did he have to fight so hard to be wrong? Why was it easier to try to diminish me rather than apologize?

Let me begin with the very easiest question and annoyance: Why do some men still not know the difference between a child and an adult? It’s a no-brainer: There are two categories of people: child people and adult people. Children are boys and girls. Adults are men and women. Simple. It’s a respect thing. I suspect most men over 25 wouldn’t be happy constantly, daily, being referred to as boys.

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Just curious: how can it seem right to use the same vocabulary for an adult woman as you do a 7-year-old female child? Being called a ‘lady’ is not ok either. Just last night, in 2022, I was told by a man “Lady, girl, woman, what’s the difference? I mean no harm by it. Why don’t you just get over it?” He doesn’t realize being referred to as a child devalues my power as a fully fledged adult. Don’t use alternative terms for me! I’m a grown-ass woman!

Do we women really have to fight for the right to be referred to as adults? It’s not a small thing: it sets the tone of the underlying thinking. And yet it has persisted for eons. In line for a movie once in 1980, I heard one man tell another: “When a woman hears the word ‘girl’ she doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence.’ 42 years ago, yet the problem remains. And as a woman facing so many other slights, when you refer to me as a child, my rights, my intelligence, my sexuality, my power is diminished.

Another problem frequently ignored is the cultural acceptance of conforming to a male bias – male being seen as ‘neutral’. As per my story above, I’m curious: how did ‘guys’ become the ‘gender neutral’ term? Why didn’t the term ‘gals’ become the norm? Sounds funny right? Why? Why not use Folks (more inclusive) as the gender neutral term?

Every time – every time – I am amongst women and someone calls us ‘guys’, I look around to see where the men are and wonder why I’m being excluded. What about ‘all men are created equal’? or ‘manpower’ and ‘mankind’? that are accepted as gender neutral, but the term ‘feminism’ (is defined as ‘equality between the sexes’) remains a term to be avoided because it’s ‘about women’?

And how did wearing pants become gender neutral? Generally, men don’t have an option to wear skirts – i.e. if conforming company attire for, say, McDonalds or the USPO, would be that everyone wore skirts? See what I mean? The assumption that ‘male’ equals gender neutral stops us from creatively discovering something new that’s both/and.

What about pronouns in books. Why are they almost always male? Do men realize what it’s like to read only masculine pronouns in books, newspapers, articles? Every time I pick up something to read – every time – I have to adjust. Dammit! I’m not a HE, or isn’t this book for me?

In my own books I alternate pronouns between odd and even chapters. A reader once wrote me to ask why all the pronouns in the entire book were female. “Such a good book otherwise,” he wrote. “Very annoying.” He was so annoyed by half the chapters with ‘she’ that he didn’t even notice that the other half were ‘he’. And yes, we refer to doctors and other professionals as ‘he’ although law schools, medical schools, etc. enroll 51% women.

This presumption that male is preferred overlooks women of every profession. It’s been proven in books, scientific research, for decades that women managers provide better results; women directors, artists, consultants, negotiators, bring an emotional honesty and innovation that doesn’t exist with men. And the patients of women doctors get healthy more quickly with fewer relapses. Why is this still a thing?

What is it that makes someone with a penis automatically better, smarter, more trustworthy, more creative or worth more money? Don’t even get me started on why having a vagina means we don’t like getting paid for our work, or look forward to unwanted sexual advances.

TO SAY OR NOT TO SAY

From my earliest memory – certainly in the decades I’ve been an adult – I’ve had to find ways to manage the disrespect, the condescension, the belittlement, I often feel from men when in conversation, especially when I share feelings. Recently a man ended a partnership with me when I told him I was annoyed and felt disrespected because he canceled four meetings (FOUR!) within an hour of the start time! I doubt that would have occurred had I been male.

Should I shut my mouth and stay silent (the route most women take given it’s such a frequent occurrence), express my annoyance, or turn off my feelings so the disrespect doesn’t get to me? Do I say something in the hopes that it will make a difference – that the dolt speaking to me might not do it to the next woman – and risk being put down? My self-talk sounds like this: “Idiot. Does he realize he just insulted me? Is he mean? or just stupid? Is he worthy of my energy to share my feelings and maybe teach him something or if I do, will he recognize what he’s done? or be a jerk and put me down?” Until now, I’ve walked away and ended our connection.

It’s a sad commentary that the baseline, endemic assumption is that women will bend to a man. And if she doesn’t like it and says something about it, she gets shunned, made fun of, tattled on, put down, beaten, berated, excluded, called a nasty name; men prefer to defend their actions rather than think they might have harmed someone, or be wrong.

But I’m done with making excuses for men. If someone hurts my feelings or offends me, I now say something. Silence has been our enemy. I am silent no more. I now speak my truth directly, without blame: the good ones say ‘Sorry’. The rest, I don’t need.

I think the tide may be shifting. Women are speaking up now and many men are listening. But the male bias is deeply, deeply built in to our culture, relationships, child care (How many men know their kids’ shoe size? Their kid’s upcoming school trips?), our work lives.

Here’s an exemplary story: While hiking in Bend, OR recently I came upon a family who had stopped to look at the view. On the right stood a woman, two teenage daughters, and a dog. About 15 feet away was the man. The woman stopped me and asked if I’d take a picture of the family. Sure. At which point this conversation ensued:

MAN turning to his family members: Hey, why don’t you all come over here?

SDM at the point in my life when I say what I want: You’re entire family is over there. Why don’t you just move yourself over to them? Why should they all move over to you?

DAUGHTER: Right on, sister.

MAN in utter confusion, seriously: What??

WIFE: I’ll explain it to you later, Joe. Ma’am, he has a hard time when he’s not the center of everything. And after all these years we’ve been married, and all the conversations with the women in his life, I have no idea why he still thinks he is. Men are just a different species.

They’ve had that conversation many times, and yet there it is still. The expectation, beyond all logic, that an entire family – and dog! – would move 15 feet because the person ‘over there’ was male.

How sad that so much creativity is lost, so many relationships damaged, so many works of art and innovations and services that never get created; so much possibility of learning and growing and caring and supporting each other through this maze of life because of our culturally ingrained assent that all things male are the standardized choice.

WHAT DOES RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION SOUND LIKE?

For those of you who may not be aware of some of the things that might make the women in your life feel less-than, I will share some of the comments and questions I regularly hear. And note: I lived in Europe for six years where men spoke to me with egalitarian, respectful, authentic communication.

I was shocked on return at the level of condescension, the use of words of mistrust, skepticism and degradation that’s built into – and accepted! – our daily communication. I had lived with it so long that it had become part of my life experience. Only with six years away did my ‘new’ ears hear the disrespect. When I told my seatmate on the plane coming back that I had started up a tech company and an international non-profit he replied, “Yeah? You and who else?”

Even now, as a well-known, well-respected author of several bestsellers, inventor, entrepreneur, etc. my intelligence and ability are regularly questioned. Here are a smattering of phrases I hear regularly:

Do you really think you can do that? or Don’t you think you need help with that? or Are you sure you don’t need help? * Did you do it yourself? * That dress really makes you look sexy.* Just scroll down and hit ‘enter’ – it’s right there in front of you.* That’s pretty good – did you come up with that yourself? * Calling you a girl is a complement – chill out! * You took it the wrong way; get over it.* Here you go, young lady (Spoken by much younger man: my response is always “I’m neither.” I’m not young, and who the hell wants to be a lady?) * We didn’t forget you – we just thought you might not be interested in that sort of thing and we knew John could catch you up. You don’t mind, right? * Oh! You know about boats/math/science/computers… etc.! Huh! * Seriously? You can do that? – and what is your background? * You write books? Do you write them on your own, or do you have a ghost writer? * Where are your footnotes…what do you mean ‘original thinking’ – that’s impossible.* It’s all in your head. * You won’t go out with me??? Dyke. * You look a bit tired; do you need a break? * I hope you don’t mind that I used your term – I’m sure you don’t mind if there’s no attribution. * I know you think your way works, but let’s use the conventional format, shall we?

Women live with this daily. There’s this all pervasive, underlying, endemic assumption that we’re not creative or smart, not to be believed, trusted, or acknowledged, that we don’t know/can’t know, or that we won’t care if we’re left out, ignored, made small, or paid less. Why is it still a thing to pay women less? Why?

There hasn’t been a day in my life that I haven’t had at least one conversation that would never have occurred if I were a man. The language is different, the tone might be snide or pejorative, the assumptions patronizing even if the men mean well.

One man actually went out of his way recently to send me an email re an article I wrote on some of my original thinking: “Well, you’re just full of yourself, now, aren’t you!” My answer, of course, was ‘Yup.’ I doubt he would have sent that note to a man. He might have thought it, but wouldn’t have sent it. Does possessing a vagina mean that I don’t mind being insulted?

COMMUNICATION

For too long our tribal norms have normalized condescension and sexuality: assumptions of inequality has been built into our culture. I believe men aren’t speaking this way purposefully, and the majority of men trust and respect women. But it’s time to change the language to reflect this. Let’s start with how conversations should sound and what we should aspire to:

  1. A collaborative communication – what I call a WE Space – between both Communication Partners (CPs) that has no leader, no follower. Both/And. No right or wrong, better or worse, smarter or dumber. Both and neither partner are in control. Everyone is equal. No put-downs or slights. Every exchange includes the feelings of the Other. A Recognition and openness to emerging ideas, feelings, problems without defense should something need resolving. No fault – just willingness to get it right for both CPs. Everyone enters the conversation with no goal other than to be collaborative and serve the other. And if something specific needs to emerge from the conversation, it must be agreed to by all parties at the beginning of the conversation. [NOTE: I teach this in corporations. It’s astounding how many men, even CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, aren’t aware of their communication biases. And yes, it’s changing. But it remains a struggle.]
  2. Listening biases that assume a positive outcome, not an assumed conflict that starts with an ear readied to be ‘right’ if challenged by a woman. Men: women very often feel conversations include words and attitudes that make us wrong, weak, or silly, giving men permission to step in with disparaging demeanor, words, insults, and be ‘right’. It’s inherent in language and attitude choices and often not obvious to you. It’s all been normalized – but we women always, always notice.
  3. The belief that everyone is equal, that everyone’s ideas are valid, that everyone’s work is meaningful, that people are generally honest.
  4. The time between exchanges to notice a shift in voice, tone, tempo, volume that might connote a problem that creates a pulling away from engagement.
  5. The ability to check yourself if thoughts of intelligence, sexuality, competition arise.
  6. The willingness to ask if there’s a problem, or apologize when necessary.
  7. The willingness to not get your individual needs met if the conversation takes a different turn than expected.

I believe that behaviors are merely a translation of our beliefs. Since our language is one form of behaving, I’d like to pose a few questions to men to help begin considering change:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to examine your own unconscious attitudes in case you might be harboring some imbalances? How will you know (given your normalized and habituated communication) there’s a problem?
  • In case your internal exploration shows no problems, would you be willing to request feedback from 3 women as per your communication patterns?
  • What would collaborative, respectful conversations sound like? And what, specifically, might you need to change to achieve this?

Play with listening filters. Using these 5 words – Why Did You Do That – ‘listen’ to them in your head as if they were said by 1. A close female – wife, partner; 2. A female colleague; 3. Your mother; 4. A male colleague; 5. Your father. What are the differences in tone, expectation, assumed meaning, feeling? If you notice any, write them down. [NOTE: in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I have many fun exercises to highlight listening biases and assumptions.]

Thinking about entering conversations with women:

  1. What are your expectations re your own takeaways going in to the call/conversation? Expectations such as being collaborative, or getting your own objectives met, etc. Write them down.
  2. Listen for shifts in a colleague’s speech patterns. When a shift occurs following something you’ve said, stop the conversation and ask your Communication Partner if something happened, and if there was something you inadvertently said that needs to be examined.
  3. Go into a Starbucks, or other coffee shop, and overhear a few conversations that you can hear well enough to mentally code. Notice the flow, the words, the tone; notice when shifts occur in topics. See if you can tell if there were shifts that might have been initiated by male-dominated biases built in. Listen to conversations between women only, men only. And mixed. What are the differences between types of words used, underlying and unspoken messages, between the three.

Here are some easy phrases to use:

That dress is pretty. It suits you.

I am so excited to learn you know how to do that! I’d love to learn how at some point.

Your ideas are so profound! Well done! I’d love to hear more. Given some of my ideas are more traditional, I’d like to ask some questions so I can add to what I already know.

Oh my! I hadn’t meant to speak in a way that you find patronizing. I apologize. Would you mind telling me exactly what it was you heard and tell me how I can say it differently so I can learn to not do it again? Thanks.

Seems you’re not able to get X up on your computer. There should be a ‘submit’ button near the bottom somewhere. It might be hidden on your screen. It’s up there somewhere I think.

My bias is that we communicate kindly and respectfully, that women get treated like capable, creative humans, that men are merely the other gender – not better or worse, smarter or dumber. I believe we’re all here to serve each other, life being what it is. Let’s not use our gender to separate us. And men, if you’re not sure what to say, here’s the rule: they only barometer for acceptable is integrity.

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

September 19th, 2022

Posted In: Communication

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

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

I’d like to offer a different point of view on what questions really are and how they function. See, I find questions terribly subjective and often don’t get to the Truth. In fact, it’s quite possible to use questions in a way that enables Others to discover their own, often hidden and unconscious, answers.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

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

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

And, to make it worse, our normal processes get in the way:

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

As you can see, questions posed to extract useful, relevant data have a reasonable chance of failure: with an outcome biased by the needs and subjectivity of the Asker, with Responders listening through brain circuits that delete incoming sound vibrations and only translate incoming words according to what’s been heard before, it’s likely that standard questions won’t gather the full set of information as intended.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACILITATIVE QUESTION

When I began developing my brain change models decades ago, I realized that conventional questions would most likely not get to the most appropriate circuits in someone’s brain that hold their best answers.

Knowing that our brain’s unconscious search for answers (in 5 one-hundredths of a second) leads to subjective, historic, and limited responses along one of the brain’s neural superhighways, I spent 10 years figuring out how to use questions to help people find where their unbiased (and unconscious) answers reside.

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

            Language to avoid bias and promote objectivity

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

Incoming words get translated according to our existing superhighways that offer habitual responses. To redirect listening to where foundational answers are stored, I figured it might be possible to use questions to override and redirect the normal routes to find the specific cell assemblies where value-based answers are stored and not always retrieved by information gathering questions! That led me to a model to use specific words in a specific order so the brain would be led to find the best existing circuits.

To accomplish this, my Facilitative Questions are brain-change based, and save information gathering until the very end of the questioning process when the proper circuits have been engaged.

            Getting into Observer

To make sure Responders are in as neutral and unbiased a place as possible, avoid the standard approach of attempting to understand, and have a chance of listening without misunderstanding, Facilitative Questions are formulated in a way that puts Responders in Observer, a meta position that overrides normalized neural circuitry. They are not information gathering and use the mind-body connection to direct incoming messages to where accurate answers exist that often are not noticed via conventional questions.

Let me show you how to put yourself into an Observer, coach/witness position – the stance you want your Responders to listen from – so you can see how effective it is at going beyond bias. You’ll notice how an objective viewpoint differs from a subjective one and why it’s preferred for decision making. Indeed, it’s a good place to listen from so you can hear responses without your own biases.

Here’s an exercise: See yourself having dinner with one other person. Notice the other person across from you (Self, natural, unconscious, subjective viewpoint). Then mentally put yourself up on the ceiling and see both of you (Observer, conscious, objective, intentional viewpoint).

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

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

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

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

Notice they immediately cause the Responder to ‘observe’ their brain; they do NOT gather data or cause ‘understanding’ in the Asker. The intent is to have the Responder begin to look into their brains to discover answers stored outside the automatic circuitry.

            Change the goal

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

“Why do you wear your hair like that?”

is a conventional question puts the Responder directly into Self and their automatic, historic, unconscious responses, while

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

enables the Responder to step back, to look into their full circuitry involving hair (How would you know), look at current and past hairstyles (if it were time), note their situation to see if it merits change (reconsider), and have a more complete data/criterion set with which to possibly make a change – or not.

Note: because some questions are interpreted in a way that (unwittingly) causes Responders to distrust you, Facilitative Questions not only promote an expanded set of unbiased possibilities, but encourages trust between Asker and Responder and doesn’t push a response.

            Questions follow steps to change

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

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

For those who wish to learn how to formulate Facilitative Questions, I’ve developed an Accelerator you can purchase. Enjoy.

          WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM FACILITATING DISCOVERY?

Facilitative Questions are especially helpful in

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

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

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

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

___________________________

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

September 12th, 2022

Posted In: News

As a preamble to a discussion about failing consciously, I’d like to retell a story. Many years ago Xerox was beta testing a then new-type digital printer. The testers sent back complaints: it was hard to figure out how to work the damn thing, and the user guide was confusing. Obviously, User Error, the designers concluded. Yup. More stupid users. So an internal focus group was set up by senior management to test what exactly was happening.

They brought in three middle managers, put them in a room with the new printer and user guide, and from the one-way mirror watched while mayhem ensued. They watched while the managers got confused by the directions in the user guide, spent literally hours arguing amongst themselves about what the user guide meant, kept pressing the wrong buttons, and finally gave up – never getting it to work.

User Error, they again said. Obviously, went the thinking, the managers weren’t smart or savvy enough to understand simple directions. Except they didn’t know a trick had been played on them: the testers were actually PhD computer scientists. Oops. It wasn’t User Error at all. They had failed to design a machine and a user guide that had clear user interfaces. So while the printer itself might have been a marvel of machinery for its day, it couldn’t be used. It was a failure. Or was it?

WHAT IS FAILURE

I contend that until every ‘failed’ step was taken, and every ‘failed’ assumption made, there was no way to know exactly what problems needed to be fixed or if indeed their printer was a success. The failure was part of the march to success.

We call it failure when we don’t achieve a goal we’ve set out to accomplish, whether it’s starting up a company, reaching a job goal, learning something new, or starting a new diet. I think that as humans we strive to succeed, to be seen as competent, to be ‘better than’, even if we’re only in competition with ourselves. It’s natural to want our products, our teams, our families, our competitive activities, to reap success. To be The Best. And we plot and envision how to make it happen.

But the road to success isn’t straight; sometimes we face disappointment, shame, and self-judgment along the route. We get annoyed with ourselves when results don’t seem to comply with our mental images, and tell ourselves maybe we didn’t follow the original plan, or didn’t plan well enough, or maybe we’re self-sabotaging. We blame teammates or vendors, spouses or neighbors.

I’m here to tell you that failure is a necessary part of success. It’s built in to learning and succeeding, actually a natural part of the process of change and accomplishment. Before we win we gotta fail. Tiger Woods didn’t wake up the best in the world. Neither did Pavarotti or Steve Jobs. For anyone to get to the top, to achieve success in any industry, any endeavor, any sport, it’s necessary to fail over and over. How surprising that no one teaches us how to fail consciously. I suggest we develop conscious failing strategies that become built in to our success procedures.

WHAT IS OUR STATUS QUO? AND WHY IS IT SO STUBBORN?

Getting to success is a sequential process that includes trial and error – i.e. winning and losing are both part of the same process, and each adding a piece of the puzzle. Of course there’s no way to know what we don’t know before we start – no way to even be curious, or ask the right questions because we don’t know what we don’t know. And unfortunately, part of the process is internal, unconscious, and systemic.

Change – and all success and failure is really a form of changing our status quo – has a very large unconscious component, and when you only try to add new behaviors you miss the unconscious elements that will rear their ugly heads as you move toward hitting your goals: you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. It just doesn’t work that way.

Let me explain a few things about how your brain works in the area of change. Anything new you want to do, anything new that requires, ultimately, new behaviors, or added beliefs or life changes, requires buy-in from what already exists in your make up – your status quo. Indeed, as the repository of your history, values, and norms, your status quo won’t change a thing without congruency. Indeed it will reject anything new, regardless of how necessary it is, unless the new has been properly vetted.

Setting a goal that’s behavior-based without incorporating steps for buy in assures resistance. Sure, we lay out the trajectory, attempt to make one good decision at a time, and use every feeling, hope, data point, guess, to take next steps. But when we don’t take into account the way our brains unconsciously process, it may not turn out like we envision. Lucky there’s a way to manage our activities to take into account what a brain needs for congruent change and a successful outcome.

THE STEPS TO FAILING CONSCIOUSLY

In my work on how brains facilitate change and make decisions to shift what’s already there (my The How of Change program teaches how to generate new neural routes) I offer ways to create new synapses and neural pathways that lead to new behaviors. Take a look at the Change Model chart I developed, with a careful look at The Trial Loop:

How of Change

When developing the Change Model, it became important to me to diagram how we learn and developed The Trial Loop to explain it.

The Trial Loop is where the brain learning occurs. It’s here we iterate through several touch points: new data acquisition, buy-in, trial behaviors, and the stop/go/stop action (double-arrowed line between Beliefs (CEN) and red Stop) as each new element is tried and considered before new behaviors are formed.

So as we try out new stuff, our personal mental models of rules, beliefs, norms, history, etc., go through iterations of acceptance, rejection, acceptance, rejection, etc. until the new is congruent with the norms of the system, something we cannot know before we go through this process. So let’s call our disappointments all part of the iteration process that precedes success. Here is a closer look at my chart:

  1. An initial goal/idea/thought enters (through the CUE),
  2. then gets sorted through an acceptance/rejection process for beliefs and systems congruence (the CEN), which
  3. darts around the brain seeking a match for an existing neural pathway for earlier incidence of achieving this goal.
  4. If no existing pathway is found, a new synapse/neural pathway must be formed.
  5. The brain goes through an iterative process to form a new path to a new action with agreement (buy in) needed at each step (notice the iterative arrows in the chart).
  6. Iterative process includes: gathering data, trialing new activity, getting internal buy in, testing for Systems Congruence (All systems must be in a congruent state. Individually and personally, we’re all a system.)
  7. Process of Stop/New choice-data acquisition-action/Stop etc. as each new thing is tried.
  8. Final success when there’s congruency and new is adopted without resistance as a final Behavior. (And note: the Behavior is the FINAL activity. You cannot change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.)

Now you know the steps to conscious change. Should you want to learn more talk with me about my How of Change program let me know.

THE STEPS TO CONSCIOUS FAILING

Now let’s plot out the steps to conscious failure to avoid large-scale malfunction. To begin with, write down components and sub-outcomes for each stage of the route between input (start of the initiative or goal) and final outcome; examine each stage and resistance point against this; examine what’s not doing what was expected through time; come up with new choices to try, and run through the Trial Loop again; then ultimately create steps to ensure the new is integrated and on track to become a new behavior. Success!

The Beginning: to start the process toward succeeding at a goal, you need:

  • Include all (all) stakeholders (including Joe in accounting) and all who will touch the final solution;
  • Agree upon the wording for the final goal, including specifics of new behavioral elements, rules, politics, outcomes – i.e. what, exactly, will be different;
  • Write up a ‘guess list’ of problems that might occur (failures) to the status quo as a result: what they might look like, as well as possible workarounds;
  • An agreement clause from all stakeholders to act when something is going off course. Note: listening without bias is urgently needed here;
  • Consider possible ways your starting goals may shift the status quo and make sure it’s tenable;
  • Know how the new outcome will be maintained over time (including the people, rules, norms, changes, that will be involved) and what else has to buy in to maintenance;
  • State potential, detailed steps toward achievement that are agreeable to all stakeholders;
  • Agreement to reconsider all previous steps if the problems that show up cause new considerations.

The Middle: to make changes, add new knowledge to trial, get continuous buy in, you need:

  • Re write the original goals, with delineated outcomes for each;
  • Notice how the new is disrupting the status quo. Is it necessary to amend the new plans to ensure Systems Congruence? Is the cost of the new lower than the cost of the original? There must be a cost-effective decision made;
  • Find ways to acquire the right knowledge to learn from;
  • Check on the ways you’re failing. Were they expected? Do they conform to your goals? Do you need to shift anything?
  • Agreement to develop new choices where current ones aren’t working as per plan.

The End: making sure the outcome is congruent with the original goal:

  • Go through the Beginning steps and check they’ve been accomplished;
  • Compare end result with original goal;
  • Make sure there is congruent integration with the thinking, beliefs, values of the original;
  • Make sure the status quo is functioning without disruption and the system ends up congruent with its mental models and belief systems.

Here are more specifics to help you integrate the necessary failure, and avoid guesswork and reactions to what might seem inconsistent with your goals:

  1. Lay out specifics for each step you’re considering to your goal. Include timelines, parameters, and consequences of results, specific elements of what success for that step should look like, and what possible failure might look like. Of course, you can’t truly know the answers until they occur, but make your best guess. It’s important to notice something new happening when it’s happening.
  2. If something unplanned or feared occurs (i.e. failure), annotate the details. What exactly is happening? What elements worked and what didn’t, and how did they work or not work – what/who was involved, how did the result differ from the expectations? What does the failure tell you – what IS succeeding instead of what you wish for? How does the remedy for the problem influence the next step? How long should you allot for each occurrence before determining whether it’s failure, or just part of the success trajectory you weren’t aware of?
  3. Are all stakeholders involved and shared their input? Do you need to bring in more stakeholders?
  4. Notice the consequences of the outcomes for each: employees, clients, hiring, firing, quitting, vendors, competition, state of the industry and your place in it. What comes into play with these factors when considering if you want to continue down one trajectory rather than designing a new one? What will it look like to decide to change course? How will your decisions effect your vision of an outcome? How are the stakeholders affected by each choice?
  5. How much failure are you willing to risk before you determine that either your outcome is untenable, or you need to make structural changes? What part does ego and denial play? Does everyone agree what constitutes failure? Success?
  6. What will you notice when your trajectory to success is negatively effecting your baseline givens? What are you willing to change, or accept, to reach your goal?
  7. What will it look like, specifically, when you’ve concluded your efforts? Will parts of the failure be factored in as success? Do all stakeholders buy in to the end result? If not, what remains unresolved? And how will you bring this forward?

Of course there’s no way to know before you start what any specific stage will look like. But using the steps, the thinking, above, you’ll be able to get a handle on it. And by including the failure, you’ll have a far better chance of succeeding.

For some reason, as leaders or individuals, companies or small businesses, we shame ourselves when we don’t achieve what we set out to achieve during our change processes. I contend we must think of each step as an integral part of the process of getting where we want to be. As they say in NLP, there’s no failure, only feedback.

___________________________________

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

September 5th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

I used to assume that what I hear someone say is an accurate interpretation of what they mean. My assumption was wrong; what I think I hear (the words, the meaning) has a good chance of being inaccurate, regardless of my intent to listen carefully. But it’s not my fault.

During the years I spent reading, thinking, and researching for my book (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was quite surprised to learn how little of what I think I hear is unbiased, or even accurate. Listening, it turns out, is a brain thing and has little to do with words or intent.

HOW BRAIN’S ‘LISTEN’

Our historic life experiences (education, family, values, Beliefs, mental models) filter all incoming words, creating biases and assumptions that keep us from translating incoming messages accurately. Generally speaking, our brain determines what we hear. And it’s not objective. Here’s what happens:

    • Words are merely puffs of air that emerge from our lungs, formed by our mouth and tongue. They are meaningless sound vibrations that enter a Listener’s brain and get made into signals that get sent to ‘similar-enough’ brain circuits for translation. Everything ‘heard’ is understood and translated as per the circuits the signals were sent – what’s been ‘heard’ before – leaving the possibility that incoming content may be at least partially misunderstood.
    • A Listener’s ears

– capture some portion of incoming sound vibrations,

– conducts them through historic filters (Beliefs, mental models, etc.)

– translate the remaining vibrations into signals that get sent to

– match ‘similar-enough’ existing circuits, which

– discard what doesn’t match.

The remainder is what we think we ‘hear’.

Listeners have no idea what has been discarded in the process, the relevance of the historic reference the translating circuit refers to, or what parts of the originating message are heard inaccurately.

    • Speakers have no idea how a Listener’s brain has interpreted or biased what they’ve said or how close to accurate it is. Neither do Listeners. We all accept the translation our brain offers us as real.
    • We speak in run-on sentences, not individual words, and a Listener’s brain must make sense of the variations in vibrations of each word.
    • People speak for approximately 600 milliseconds and respond (or begin formulating a response) in 200 milliseconds. Large portions of what’s been said is not even listened to.

In other words, what we think we hear is some version of what’s been said. With people we’re in regular contact with and already have circuits to translate, it can be pretty accurate. With others not so much.

DIAGRAM OF HOW BRAINS ‘LISTEN’

Herein lie the gap between what’s said and what’s heard: we all make inaccurate assumptions of what we think we hear, causing us to respond and choose actions from a restricted or flawed knowledge base. Of course, it’s not done purposefully, but it sure plays havoc with communication and relationships.

I once lost a business partner because he misinterpreted something he thought I said, even though his wife told him he had misheard. His comment: “I heard it with my own ears! Are you both telling me I’m crazy??” and stormed out, never to speak to me again.

Unfortunately, and different from perceived wisdom, brains don’t allow us to ‘actively listen’ to accurately understand what’s been said. Sure, Active Listening allows us to ‘hear’ the words spoken but doesn’t capture the intent, the underlying meaning. And given our neurological hearing processes are automatic, mechanical, and thoughtless, we’re stuck with what we think we hear. Here’s a simplified diagram of the process of listening:

INPUT (WORDS/VIBRATIONS) -> FILTERS (BELIEFS, MENTAL MODELS) -> CUE (CREATES SIGNALS) -> CEN (DISPATCH) -> OUTPUT (INTERPRETATION – WHAT WE THINK WAS SAID)

There’s little chance any of us can understand a Speaker’s intended meaning accurately.

GUIDELINES TO MAXIMIZE UNDERSTANDING IN DIALOGUE

Given how vital listening is to our lives, for those times we want to make sure we understand and get on the same page with a Communication Partner (CP) to reach consensus, here are some guidelines:

Get agreement for a dialogue: Often, Communication Partners have different life experiences and, potentially different goals – many of which might be unconscious. Begin by agreeing to find common ground.

“I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to a path that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”

“I wonder if we can find common goals so we might find agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well.”

Set the frame for common values: At a global level, we all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – for family, food, shelter, health. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find areas of agreement.

“I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if we share areas of agreement. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”

“It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. How do you recommend we go about finding if there’s any agreement we can start from?”

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure CPs agree to each item and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. (Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.) Work with ‘what is’ instead of ‘what should be.’

Enter without bias: Unintentionally our historic, unconscious beliefs restrict our search for commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

“I’m willing to find common ground and would like to put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since my feelings are so strong. Do you also have strong feelings that also might bias our communication? I wonder if we could share our most cherished beliefs and then discuss how we can move forward without bias.”

Get into Observer: To help overcome unconscious biases and filters, here are a few mind hacks that will supersede automatic brain processing: in your mind’s eye, see yourself on the ceiling looking down on yourself and your CP. I call this the Observer (witness, coach) position. It will provide a different viewpoint for your brain, replacing the emotional, automatic response with a broader, far less biased, view of your interaction. Another way is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 in What? teaches how to stay in Observer and reduce bias.). From your Observer place, notice elements of the communication of both you and your CP:

      • Notice body language/words: Similar to how your brain filters incoming words, your CP is speaking/listening from their filters and assumptions, which will be exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From Observer notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.
      • Notice triggers: Emphasized words hold beliefs and biases. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens for you both. If your CPs words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, you’ve gotten out of Observer and must get back onto the ceiling where you have choice. But just in case:

“I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”
Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll accurately hear what your CP means to convey, summarize what you think you heard after every exchange:

“Sounds to me like you said, “XX”. Is that correct? What would you like me to understand that I didn’t understand or that I misheard?”

“I’ statements: Stay away from ‘You’ if possible. Try to work from the understanding that you’re standing in different shoes and there is no way either of you can see the other’s landscape.

“When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you are telling me that YY. Is that true?”

“When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table as I feel you really aren’t willing to hear me. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

Get buy-in each step of the way: keep checking in, even if it seems obvious that you’re on the same page. It’s really easy to mistranslate what’s been said when the listening filters are different.

“Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”

“What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on and you’re out of Observer. Get back up to the ceiling and then tell your CP:

“I’m experiencing some annoyance/anger/fear/blame. That means something we’re discussing is going against one of my beliefs or values. Can we stop a moment and check in with each other so we don’t go off the rails?”

Get agreement on action items: Simple steps for forward actions will become obvious; make sure you both work on action items together.

Get a time on the calendar for the next meeting: Make sure you discuss who else needs to be brought into the conversation, end up with goals you can all agree on and walk away with an accurate understanding of what’s been said and what’s expected.

COMPASSION, EMPATHY, AND RESPECT

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility for each (inadvertent)act of harm; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal.

It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, by closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts and find a way to join with another’s Truth and heart. By hearing each other accurately, it’s the best start we can make.

______________________

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

August 29th, 2022

Posted In: Listening

Think about the number of stars in the sky. Let’s say you’ve been told that 500 of them would provide elements of a good resolution to one of your problems, although some would be better than others. You’re offered a spaceship to bring you to just one of them. How would you know which star to choose given you can’t know where they’re located or what, specifically, they can provide?

Now, let’s parallel your brain with the stars, although there are more synapses, neurons, and circuits in your brain than there are stars in the sky! The problem above is the exact problem your brain faces whenever you want to do or decide something: you have a wish, an aspiration; you want to make a new decision; your team needs to figure out how to approach a new initiative.

To make your decision, your brain must send the ‘request’ to one grouping of your 1,000 trillion synapses, neural pathways, circuits (etc.) for translation into action. How does it choose? And how do you know it’s the best possible choice?

In this article I’d like to explain how your neural circuitry (abbreviated here as ‘circuits’) creates and biases everything you experience, and why you get resistance during a change initiative.

BRAINS MERELY INTERPRET SIGNALS

Let me begin with a bit of background on brains. See, they are merely electro-chemical interpretation devices, devoid of thought or meaning. That’s right: you think with your mind, but the instruction to act come from brain circuits that (simplistically) get chosen and triggered by the vibrations of the incoming content. You think or hear something, your brain captures the corresponding vibrations, dispatches the subsequent signals for interpretation, and the results are sent to your mind for action.

Without the mind-brain interaction, you wouldn’t feel, see, hear, or do anything. And here is where a problem emerges: few of us realize that our self-talk – our fears and annoyances, rejections and excitement, plans and rationalizations – as well as our actions, comes from instructions sent by our brain and might not accurately represent a full fact pattern.

When you make a decision, see a color or listen to a concert, you assume what you experience is an accurate representation of what’s happening. And sometimes it is. But sometimes your lazy brain has chosen the nearest superhighway (sequence of circuits) to translate the experience and it’s only a good-enough choice among a thousand other possibilities. Since it’s the only option you were given, how would you know there are better ones available?

See, your brain can’t tell the difference between good or bad – it only sorts for matching signals to interpret an input: meaning, intent, importance are not accounted for. Imagine if it were possible to consciously choose or create the exact circuits to provide your best choices!

YOUR BRAIN IS A PREDICTIVE MACHINE

Your brain is merely a predictive machine, comprised of vast numbers of elements (synapses, neural pathways, axons, etc.) that hold your history. To achieve an outcome, it employs thousands of biological, physiological, electrical, and chemical interactions that interpret incoming messaging into output action: input from the mind and setting (requests, conversations, thoughts, music, etc.), goes through some internal processing that filters the incoming to make sure it’s congruent, and eventually provides meaning and action (output).

In other words, everything you experience is directly from an instruction in your brain. Even words have no meaning until a brain circuit interprets them for you. In fact, many of the books I’ve read call words puffs of air!

Indeed, your mind has no way to understand or act, hear or see, unless your brain interprets it. Here’s what happens: the brain

  • filters incoming vibrations (inputs) from thoughts, feelings, sounds and words
  • through your Beliefs,
  • turns what remains into electro-chemical signals, and
  • dispatches them to ‘similar-enough’ circuits (among your 1,000 trillion)
  • that exit in your historic neural circuitry and
  • translates them into outputs/meaning or action (behaviors, decisions),

all in five one-hundredths of a second. Here is a simplistic diagram using the language of neuroscience:

INPUT (VIBRATIONS, WORDS) -> FILTERS (BELIEFS, MENTAL MODELS) -> CUE (CREATES SIGNALS) -> CEN (DISPATCH) -> OUTPUT (INTERPRETATION – WHAT WE THINK WAS SAID)

The process is automatic, devoid of meaning, and unconscious; you have no choice but to operate from the meaning your brain has provided. Sadly, the conscious ‘you’ is largely out of control: Once you provide an input message, and these vibrations have been turned into signals that become outputs, it’s too late to change their destination.

WE’RE APPROACHING CHANGE IN THE WRONG PLACE

Unfortunately, today’s standard practices for change management ignore the brain change element and focus on modifying the behaviors, decisions, actions – the outputs – AFTER they’ve been generated and therefore difficult to alter.

You end up with resistance or return to an unwanted habit when you try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. This is the reason Behavior Modification and other behavior-change models fail 97% of the time. Have you ever tried turning a chair into a table? You can’t, but it’s possible to reprogram the machine (input) to get a table (output)!

For change management, it’s possible to begin by getting a whole team to design the input: the norms of the new system for the proposed outcome, the stakeholders to include (not always obvious), the values and criteria to be met, the goal that everyone agrees to, and then send the brain the full set of criteria to process. This avoids resistance as the group develops suitable neural pathways that generate new responses.

Here’s a very simplistic example of the difference between using an input leading to an existing circuit, and a new input instruction that provides a new output:

“I’m a fat cow now! I need to go on a diet. I’ll start Monday.”

Vs

“I’m a healthy person who will do the necessary research to find the best foods and nutrition to help my body attain and maintain my best weight over time.”

In the first instruction, the brain sends the input to an historic neural pathway used for past diets and provides the same outcome. But the new input carries instructions that don’t have existing circuits and will create a wholly new pathway for permanent weight loss. I call this conscious choice.

THE ROLE OF SYSTEMS IN CHANGE

I’m not a scientist, but as someone with Asperger’s, figuring out how to get into my brain to have conscious choice has been my ‘topic’ since around 1957 when I became annoyed that I couldn’t hear exactly what someone meant or do precisely what I wanted.

I’ve devoted my life and intense curiosity to reading, thinking, designing, unpacking, writing, and inventing new skills and programs to create conscious routes into the unconscious for making personal decisions, serving Others by enabling their personal discovery and change, and for change initiatives that ensure buy-in and collaboration without resistance. I believe this is a Servant Leader route: how to enable Others to discover and design their own version of Excellence. Great for coaches and leaders.

Over the decades I’ve realized that change is a systems problem since everything you do must be congruent with who you are. And by judging incoming messages in relation to how ithey maintain your system, your brain is the arbiter of keeping you congruent.

Using systems as the foundation, here are what I consider to be the norms that all change follow as it relates to the brain:

  1. Every person (or group) is a unique, idiosyncratic system made up of norms, history, Beliefs and mental models that define it uniquely and must remain congruent to keep the system whole. Each action, thought, behavior, choice must match the norms, Beliefs, and mental models of the system. Turns out that behaviors are Beliefs in action. I call this the System of Me (SOM).
  2. Whatever you think see, hear, think, ‘know’, feel is what occurs after your brain has chosen interpretation circuits. Your world is restricted according to what you already know and believe; your understanding of unknown concepts is restricted accordingly. This makes curiosity, innovation, understanding new ideas, and accepting direction with new initiatives difficult.
  3. Before your brain changes what is historically built-in, anything new must match the SOM (For those scientists reading this, this is Systems Congruence.) or it will be rejected or resisted. This is true for both individuals and groups.
  4. All existing circuits (of which there are 1,000 trillion) predict the data it will accept. According to Jordi Cami and Luis M. Martinez in The Illusionist Brain,

“When the brain perceives, it generates a prediction…by inferring and anticipating reality based on past experiences.” (pg 102) Over time we generate a codification system…. And through experience we learn to store only what is most relevant (to us) … and eliminate details that we do not process.” (page 182).

In other words, your choices, how you interpret what you hear someone say, what you want to do, is pretty restricted to what’s already ‘in there’. We’re all restricted and unwittingly biased. And yes, there is neurogenesis, and brains constantly evolve. But the evolution is based on the existing neurology, physiology, and biology. How, then, is it possible to cause change and maintain Systems Congruence?

CONGRUENT CHANGE WITHOUT RESISTANCE

When you attempt to make a change without discovering and reorienting those parts of the brain that represent the status quo – regardless of how necessary or effective the new might be – resistance results.

In We Know It When We See It, Richard Masland says neurons get fired together automatically in response to an input used frequently, causing the brain to see these elements together even if only a portion of the same signals are sent (page 137)! He goes on to say:

“Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses…There are very few inputs in our world that are not redundant.” (pg 143)

When you attempt to make a change using similar input as you’ve used before (i.e. without involving new input, new circuitry), your brain – acting mechanically and automatically – will seek existing circuitry so long as even a portion of the same signals are sent. And this is how you end up with resistance.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. I’ve developed models that make it possible to recognize the circuitry causing the activity and enable the brain to develop new circuits or change existing ones as needed.

Note: my models don’t use conventional thinking so you may not have the circuitry to translate my ideas completely. But if you’re interested in the topic, and don’t fully understand the article, contact me and I’ll lead you through it. It’s my life’s work and I’m here to serve you.

WHAT TO DO?

Knowing that your brain is an unreliable servant, how, then, can you create a new output? Here is what must be included:

  1. We must create input messages that include the proper wording and word placement, the correct hierarchy of criteria, the full set of instructions that captures the outcome as well as the route to get there.
  2. By following the natural path the brain takes to make a new decision, it’s possible to create successful initiatives/outputs very efficiently, without resistance. I’ve unpacked the 13 steps to change/decisions that match the flow of systems.
  3. The criteria (often unconscious) that hold the current problem in place (and have been maintained) must be matched when anything new is generated. Resistance follows when this is omitted. I have developed a 5 hour program that makes it possible to unpack a current habit and design new circuits for permanent habit/behavior change.
  4. To know which circuits are involved I invented a new form of question that directs the brain to the exact circuits (i.e. they are NOT information gathering).
  5. It’s vital to capture the full set of norms in the status quo so the underlying Beliefs, mental models, and history remains intact through the change. Without this, there is resistance as the system faces incongruence.

For those of you interested in leading congruent change without resistance, posing questions that enable Others to discover their actual answers, changing habits permanently, please 1. Go to www.sharon-drew.com and read some of the 1000 articles (clearly labelled in categories) on these subjects; 2. Connect with me and we’ll chat: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

For those seeking the tools to change habits and behaviors, I’ve developed a HOW of Change™ model. For those seeking to enable Others to generate change without resistance, I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation® model frequently used in sales to facilitate buying.

For those who would like to create their own systemic change models that enable the unconscious to generate effective outputs, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What criteria will you use to generate new messaging that incorporates the SOM for new behaviors and new decisions?
  • How can direct your conscious mind to the relevant access points in your unconscious without bias?
  • How can you influence the choice of circuits to best translate your input?
  • How will you know when there are more appropriate choices if your brain doesn’t offer them?
  • How will you generate the instructions and triggers that cause permanent behavior change that avoids resistance?
  • When creating a new initiative, how will you maintain Systems Congruence?

These are a few of the questions I’ve asked myself for decades and helped lead my thinking. I invite you to join me in discovering all the conscious routes into the unconscious for permanent, congruent, values-based change.

___________________

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

August 22nd, 2022

Posted In: News

The only time I ever stole anything I was 11 years old. A group of us girls pledged to do the very naughty thing we knew we weren’t supposed to do and steal one item from the local pharmacy. To this day I remember sidling up to the lipstick counter, putting my right arm behind me, looking around to make sure no one would notice my dastardly deed, then grabbing whatever my hand landed on – a $2.98 lipstick.

Once the deed was done and we were outside, we compared our bounty.  The other newly-minted thieves seemed quite proud of themselves. They were now, after all, officially Bad Girls. Me? I felt so guilty that when I got my first babysitting money years later I ran into the store and left three crumpled one-dollar bills on the counter and ran out.

I never even wore the lipstick. I’ve never even liked lipstick! Hated the feel of it on my lips – like a sheet of rubber. Ewwww. So I never wanted to wear it. My friends thought I was crazy. It was a sign of maturity, after all. Grown-up women wore lipstick, and of course we all wanted to be grownups. Even my mother got into the act when I was 16 going to proms and parties, telling me I wasn’t ‘finished’ without it.

THE ONE

Over the decades, I’ve amassed hundreds – drawers full – of once-used lipsticks, always seeking the ONE I could tolerate. But no matter the price, the brand, the color, they all felt like rubber.

And then I found it. THE ONE perfect lipstick: perfect color, stayed on forever no matter what I ate, was light and didn’t feel like leather. Perfect. Finally, a finished face my mother would love.

But for the last month it’s not been available. Nowhere, no how. Online. Every store. Nope. I was frantic. What if they were going to remove this from their line? I finally got accustomed to having a finished face!

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER

Yesterday, walking downtown Portland, I decided to go into a Target and give it a try. And there it was!!!! OMG. Such happiness! HAPPY!!!! I brought the three they had and went to the cash register. Here was the conversation:

SD: I’M SO HAPPY I FOUND THESE I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FIND THEM ANYWHERE I’M SO HAPPY!

CLERK: I’m so glad we had what you needed. Let me do a price check and see if I can make you even happier.

SD: But I’m already REALLY happy! So happy!

CLERK: And I can make you REALLY REALLY happy because I can save you $2.00 on each! So glad you could make ME really happy today!

I must admit the frustrated month I spent trying to find the lipstick was worth it just for this exchange. And it brought up some questions. Why didn’t other cashiers in other stores take this extra initiative? Did Target know she was saying that?

I’ve never had that experience in other Targets. Was it just this woman who took this initiative? With just me or with everyone? Was she trained to do that? Why aren’t all customer-facing folks trained to do this sort of thing? Do employers even know what their employees are saying to clients and customers? It leads me to wonder:

  • How many of our customer-facing staff want to make customers really REALLY happy?
  • How many of our customer-facing staff are ready and willing to go out of their way to truly serve a customer when their job isn’t dependent on it and no one will know if they do or not?
  • Do we really know what our client-facing, customer-facing employees are saying to our clients and customers?

Indeed. Are the employees serving clients? Or getting caught up in their own personalities and might not be serving the company? Are we losing business and actually harming people because some sellers or customer service reps are being less than helpful?

THE LOBOTOMY CAUGHT ON TAPE

Most managers have no idea what their employees say. After being hired, folks are generally trusted to say the right thing, to represent the company professionally. But do they?

During the course of my Buying Facilitation® training I have learners tape conversations and send them to me. Some have been pretty shocking. I played one particularly inexplicable one to a client as a seller went on (and on and on) about how she needed a lobotomy, how it would certainly improve her memory and probably make her a nicer person. She was selling phone services! The manager’s response was chilling: “My God, I have no idea what my sellers are saying to clients.”

So how, exactly, are your sellers, your customer service reps, the help desk folks, the cashiers, your admin, speaking to your customers? What are they saying? And how will you know?

___________________________

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

August 15th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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