Our biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem; the cultural norms of our youth create our habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend or the gangs we join introduce us to the way our world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to allow us to spend our days within the confines of environments that comfortably maintain our norms. Net net, our lives are inspired by our unconscious biases, causing us to live and work, marry and spend time with, people whose norms, interpretations, and beliefs are very similar to ours.
Our normal skill sets aid and abet us: we listen through biased filters and hear and respond to, basically, what our biases tell us was said (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? ); we play and read and watch according to what we already believe and rarely venture far afield; we notice what we notice in response to our nucleus of personal norms, values, and learned habits.
Indeed, we trust our unconscious biases and interpretations, and the resulting responses, so thoroughly that we are often unaware that our actions – built in, normalized and habituated, accepted by our family, peers, and profession – may harm others.
WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS
We believe, with certainty, that what we see, hear, and feel is ‘real’ because it IS our reality; we restrict our lives accordingly, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand another’s reality. What we might hear as powerful might be heard as insulting by another person; an incident might be noticed by one person, ignored by another, and an excuse for violence by another. We cannot help but judge others according to our reality.
I, for one, never lock doors. My car is always unlocked. My house is always open even when I travel. Many people would find this unthinkable. I find it safe. As an incest survivor and a rape victim, I always need a quick way in and out. If a door is locked around me, I hyperventilate. Terrifying. These past events, of which locks on doors are only a subset of the aftereffects of my early life, have affected my communication, my lifestyle, my choice of friends and mates, my political views, my unconscious triggers, and my choice of professions even after decades of therapy. There is no way you can understand my interpretation of anything, or the resulting behaviors I exhibit, unless you’ve lived in my shoes. And yet my differences might cause you to judge my actions against your own and find them wanting.
And herein lie the problem. When we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs, we may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand; we may wrongly misinterpret their intent. Certainly we may not notice we’ve been triggered and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm another.
I believe that most people don’t intend to harm anyone. But without common ground, the best we can do is act from our habituated interpretations and assume because we ‘mean well’ that we’re not causing harm.
NEED FOR CHANGE
Historically, we’ve done a bad job caring about resolving the problems of inherent bias that may ultimately harm others. I think this might be changing. Companies and public servants are now taking unconscious bias seriously and requiring unconscious bias training in the hopes of giving people new choices and eradicating harm. Good. But I have a concern.
As someone who has spent decades coding and scaling the stages of how human systems change, I know it’s not possible to cause change from the outside; each individual must find a way to evaluate and reconsider their own core norms and biases to make any necessary corrections that only they can make, from within (i.e. inside/out). I don’t believe we’re doing that. Current training approaches are based on helping folks recognize and change behaviors by offering information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc. from the outside (outside/in), hoping to create new triggers, new behaviors, and new awareness. This approach cannot fix the problem permanently because it:
Current unconscious bias training assumes people can learn enough from videos, discussions, ‘practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. what unconscious bias looks like to create awareness to recognize a problematic situation before or while it’s happening (have you ever tried to do that?) and know exactly what behaviors need changing – and what to change them to!
In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we want it to tell itself ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Don’t think that. Stop responding that way. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training offered.
WHAT IS BIAS? AND WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CHANGE?
Bias is the unconscious, habitual, involuntary, and historic reaction to something deemed ‘different’ (skin color, gender, lifestyle choices, etc.) that negatively triggers someone’s largely unconscious beliefs and values – going against what the person deems ‘right’ or ‘good’ as per the subjective filters through which they experience their lives – causing an automatic feeling of, and defense against, some sort of violation.
Our reactions to external stimuli are unconscious and automatic, and follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviorsby merely changing behaviors. Offering training that merely offers examples and experiences of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviors, and expecting people to undo their habituated triggers because they ‘admit’ to, or recognize ‘bad’ behaviors, uses the wrong thinking. Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved at the source, within the system that created it. I’ll lay the problem out for you piece by piece, then introduce a solution for permanent change. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.
WHAT IS A SYSTEM, AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO ADDRESS IN BIAS TRAINING
A system is a conglomeration of (historic, unique) elements (consisting of our norms, culture, history, values, beliefs, dreams, etc.) that we hold largely unconsciously. They are formed during our lifetimes starting from birth, and as in all systems, are made up of elements (beliefs, values, cultural norms, ethics, morality, etc.) that operate from the same set of rules. Indeed, we live our lives in cities alongside others of similar political beliefs, marry people of similar education, and even listen with biased filters that keep out uncomfortable ideas.
Systems are congruent (Systems Congruence, Homeostasis) entities that always seek stability; they define our politics, our mate selection, even where we live and how we listen to others. Because systems seek to maintain congruence, they have a finely tuned unconscious organizational structure of filters that seek out, and avoid, situations that make them uncomfortable or they find incongruent. Attempting to shift them causes resistance as this level change causes the system to be incongruent, regardless of the seeming need to do something different or the efficacy of a new/better solution. In other words, our status quo shows up every day to maintain itself and we will do whatever it takes to maintain it. It’s who we are.
For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be exhibited and chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered because anything ‘new’ would have no place to fit in our largely automated ‘system’. Current bias training uses methods don’t facilitate this change:
And herein lie the problem. Because of the complexity and sophisticated combination of the elements above, merely doing something different because we are told to, or even want to, won’t change our behaviors or our systems permanently. It’s the equivalent of trying to get a forward moving robot to move backwards because we tell it it needs new options, or think it would be better if it did, or show it pictures of other robots who do move backward. To change behaviors permanently it’s necessary to change the system, the programming, which created them to begin with. And this cannot be accomplished by trying to change the output of the problem itself. Remember Einstein? Trying to change behaviors with the system that created them won’t permanently change behaviors.
CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM
Change is the alteration of something that has existed in a certain way, using specific and accepted norms, in a specific configuration, for a period of time. To amend our responses to bias, we must first recognize, then modify, the specific triggers (historically produced for a reason) that have been developed to operate unconsciously as the norm.
It’s basically a systems problem: for permanent change to occur, we must reconfigure the system that has created and maintains the status quo, and has operated ‘as is’ for some amount of time. Anything new coming in to our system (any problem to fix, any new information that creates disruption, any new activity the system is asked to take) demands changing the status quo. Indeed, any new decision is a change management problem. The way we are addressing the problem of changing people’s unconscious biases is not enabling permanent change.
Change means that a system (by definition stable) must go through a process to become something different:
Does any element of the original need to be kept in place? How will the system know? How would any change effect the whole? How will the bits that need change shift while still maintaining its core values? The system will fight to maintain itself. If all of the above aren’t managed, the system will fill in the blanks with something comfortable and habituated (regardless of its efficacy). In other words, if there is not systemic agreement, no known way to resolve the problem using its current givens, no known way to incorporate something new to the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.
Indeed, you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. And all of the current bias training involves a focus on getting behaviors changed without addressing the source that created the behaviors and triggers to begin with.
WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?
Current Bias Training attempts to get behaviors changed by using ‘rational’ means: showing learners biased situations, offering data and research, and playing videos to learn what bias looks like. In other words, offering Information: showing and telling people what’s wrong with what they’re doing and what ‘right’ would look like – all of which can be misinterpreted, misread, or objected to, regardless of our intent. While it certainly can make people more aware, these attempts will not cause permanent change: they develop no new habituated triggers or neural pathways to set off a new response to a stimulus. Let’s delve into this a bit.
Behaviors are what we do – transactions automatically initiated by our core system of beliefs, norms, and experience, to act out and express, who we are. We all develop behaviors that ‘be’ who we are, to represent us. Behaviors are the output, the forward movement of the robot, the actions others see.
If asked in a vacuum if we want to harm anyone, few of us would want to. And yet in small and large ways, our unconscious behaviors too often end up unjustly ignoring, being mean to, or harming someone because of their gender, or race or or… I once heard Malcolm Gladwell, who is bi-racial, say that when tested for unconscious racial bias, he came up biased. We all carry some biases. The question becomes 1. Do we notice when, or before, problems occur, and if not what would we need to know or believe differently to notice, and 2. Once we notice (or not) can we have choice over our actions and avoid biased behaviors or make adjustments at the time, or just before, they occur.
To permanently change a behavior, a system must:
To change our unconscious, automatic responses that cause us to respond defensively, the system that has created and maintains the status quo must be reconfigured to produce alternate outputs while still maintaining Systems Congruence. And unfortunately, information-based training (showing, feeling, telling, explaining) is ineffective.
Offering any sort of information before the system knows why, how, when, or if to do anything different – a belief change – will only inspire resistance as the system won’t know how to apply it as it’s ‘just fine, thanks.’ It’s a belief change issue. We’re asking the system to repopulate its status quo that created the problem to begin with, design new behavioral responses, and develop a new set of triggers to tell the system it’s time to behave differently. Initially the system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and has no inherent desire to do anything different.
In pursuit of excellence, people need some sort of stimulus to begin a process. It’s only during this process the holes in their knowledge become clear: what’s the distance between its current norms and something new and why isn’t the status quo good enough; between what’s been working and what’s now accepted as not working; the old behaviors and responses and designing new ones.
It’s only in the distance between here and there, one set of givens vs another, a known against an unknown, is there’s a desire to change something. And here is where it needs information. If it’s believed that all is well, regardless of any evidence otherwise, the system will not seek out, or pay attention to, any information, regardless of its efficacy.
As per my robot example, if you think the robot should have the option of moving backwards, telling it when and how to know when or if to move backward, giving it scientific data as to why it should move backward, or pushing it backward, will not cause the robot to change. The programming must be changed. And so it is with all of us: when we change our habituated beliefs and norms (our programming), our behavior will automatically change.
CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS
Real change demands a systemic shift to create new triggers, new assumptions, new neural pathways, and ultimately, as an outcome, new behaviors. No one, no information, no person, from outside is able to go into someone’s unconscious to (re)create all these things. And permanent change will not happen until it does. The goal is not to train someone to rid themselves of unconscious bias; it’s to teach the system itself how to discover where it is designating the bias and facilitate it through to new behaviors a way that maintains the foundational norms of the system. It’s using the old to trigger the new. Both/And, not Either/Or. I know this is a lot to understand. Call me and I’ll discuss. 512 771 1117.
Basically, to alter the foundation that will develop new behaviors, the brain must change itself. Over the past decades, I’ve coded the 13 steps that constitute the route to systemic, human change so people can make their OWN internal changes that will lead to new choices, i.e. new behaviors. I’ve taught this model in sales as Buying Facilitation® to global corporations (KPMG, Morgan Stanley, IBM, P&G, Kaiser, etc.) for over 30 years, and written several books on it. The book that details each of the stages is Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.
We must become Facilitators, not Influencers. We must teach folks to create and habituate new neural pathways and filters.
I’ve developed a new way to train that facilitates self-learning and permanent change from within the system. For those wishing a full discussion, I’ve written an article on this that appeared in The 2003 Annual, Volume 1 Training (I’m happy to send you a more specific discussion of this if you’re not already bored) Just note: my process leads people, without any bias, to those places in their brains, into their system of beliefs and cultural norms, which made the decisions to employ their biased behaviors to begin with, and teaches them how to reconfigure their system to adopt something new (so long as its aligned with their beliefs). We are making the unconscious conscious and developing more appropriate triggers and behaviors.
How will you know that by adding systemic change elements to your training that you can enable more people to make more appropriate behavioral choices around their bias?
If you would like my help in designing a program that resolves unconscious biases permanently, I’d love to help. I believe it’s an important task. I believe it’s time we had the tools to enable learners to permanently change and become non-judgmental, accepting, and kind. And above all, cause no harm. All of our lives depend on it.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, change agent, author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity), and two Amazon bestsellers (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). She is the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® method that gives sellers the tools to help buyers navigate through their Pre Sales change management issues (an area of the buy cycle that sales overlooks), and has trained over 100,000 sales people and leaders internationally. She also developed a listening capability that enables all communicators to hear others without bias. Sharon Drew’s award winning blog (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) has original, thought leader articles on the skills of change, negotiation, questions, sales, buy-in, and negotiation. She is a coach, speaker, trainer, consultant, and inventor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sharon Drew Morgen October 8th, 2018
After spending 30 years deconstructing the inner processes of how people decide, 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 designate a 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 it’s being made.
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 standard, or using some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judging the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?” Outsiders don’t have the same data set, criteria and beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate.
Indeed, there is no such thing as a decision maker making an irrational decision. The decision maker carefully – partially unconsciously – weighs an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including 1. Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria,assumptions, experience, future goals; 2. Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation. There is no way an outsider can understand what’s going on within the idiosyncratic world of the decision maker, regardless of academic or ‘rational’ standards, the needs of people judging, the outcome as viewed by others.
CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’
I recently made an agreement with a colleague to send me a draft of his article 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:
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’s the same in any type of personal decision (vs. those decisions that get weighted against specific academic or group criteria – such as coordinates to drill a well): 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, although I’m calling this a personal decision process, anyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with 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 BASED ON OUR OWN NEEDS
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:
Of course, we would have to switch our listening skills. We’d need to become aware of an in congruence we notice and be willing to communicate with the ‘irrational’ decision maker. My new book What? explains why/how we hear others with biased ears, only understanding some percentage of their intent. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? as well as self-learning tools and an on-line team learning program – designed to both assess listening impediments and encourage the appropriate skills to accurately hear what others convey.
Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller ‘Selling with Integrity’ and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy (Dirty Little Secrets). She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 articles that help sellers help buyers buy. She can be reached at email@example.com 512-771-1117
Sharon Drew Morgen October 2nd, 2018
Posted In: News
Our jobs as influencers is to help Others achieve their own brand of excellence, using their own unique values and standards. Sadly, too many of us – coaches, leaders, sellers, consultants, doctors, parents – try to get Others to accede to our viewpoints and suggestions, believing we have information or solutions that offer ‘better’ choices than the ones they’ve made. We’re telling them, net, net, that we’re smarter, that we think our ideas are better than their own.
And the results aren’t pretty: we end up restricting possibility and creating resistance, conflict, antagonism, or disregard, regardless of the efficacy of what we have to offer. In this article I’ll explain why and how we end up creating the very resistance we hope to avoid, and introduce new skills to enable us to truly serve.
WE CONNECT THROUGH OUR OWN SUBJECTIVITY
Regardless of the situation, when we try to effect change using our own viewpoint or beliefs, our biases and expectations cause us to inadvertently alienate those who might need us. As a result, we ultimately influence only a percentage of those who need our help – those who already basically agree with us. Here’s how we restrict our interactions:
Biased listening: We each listen to Others unconsciously, through unique and subjective filters (biases, triggers, assumptions, habitual neural pathways, memory channels), regardless of our concerted attempts to accurately hear what’s intended. As a result, through no fault of our own, what we think we hear is often an inaccurate translation of what was meant and not what the speaker intended. So our Communication Partner (CP) might say ABC but we actually ‘hear’ ABD (And yes, we often hear something quite different than what was said although it shows up as ‘real’. Read article on how this happens.) and our brains don’t tell us we’re misunderstanding.
I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of this until I researched my book on how to hear others without bias. With the best will in the world we end up only accurately hearing, and thereby responding to, some percentage of the message our CPs intend. It’s outside of our conscious awareness. But it’s possible to remedy by listening with a different part of our brain. More on this later.
Fact #1. We hear Others through our subjective biases, assumptions, triggers, habituated neural pathways, and beliefs, causing us to unintentionally misinterpret the message intended, with no knowledge that what we think we’ve heard is mistaken. Obviously this effects both sides of a communication (i.e. Speakers and Listeners).
Subjective expectations: We enter into each conversation with expectations or goals (conscious or unconscious) thereby restricting or misinterpreting what’s been said, and often missing avenues of further exploration.
Fact #2. Entering conversations with goals or expectations (conscious or unconscious) unwittingly limits the outcome and full range of possibility, and impedes discovery, data gathering, and creativity.
Restricted curiosity: Curiosity is both triggered and restricted by what we already know, i.e. you can’t ask or be curious about something you have no familiarity with to begin with. Using our own goals to pose questions that are often biased, assumptive, leading, etc. we inadvertently reduce outcomes to the biases we entered the conversation with; our subjective associations, experiences, and internal references restrict our ability to recognize accurate fact patterns during data gathering or analysis.
Fact #3: We enable Others’ excellence, and our own needs for accurate data, to the extent we can overcome our own unconscious biases that restrict the range and focus of our curiosity.
Cognitive dissonance: When the content we share – information, ideas, advice, written material – goes against our CPs conscious or unconscious beliefs, we cause resistance regardless of the efficacy of the information. This is why relevant solutions in sales, marketing, coaching, implementations, doctor’s recommendations etc. often fall on deaf ears. We are unwittingly causing the very resistance we seek to avoid as we attempt to place perfectly good data into someone’s idiosyncratic, habituated belief system that runs different to our own.
Fact #4. Information doesn’t teach Others how to change behaviors; behavior change must first be initiated from beliefs, which in turn initiates buy-in.
Systems congruence: Individuals and groups think, behave, and decide from a habitual system of unconscious beliefs and rules, history and experience, that creates and maintains their status quo. We know from Systems Theory that it’s impossible to change only one piece of a system without effecting the whole. When we attempt to offer suggestions or advise that runs counter to the normalized system, we cause Others to risk systems congruence and internal disruption. Hence, resistance.
Unfortunately for those of us trying to effect change in Others, it’s important to remember we’re outsiders: as such, we can never fully comprehend the ramifications of adding our new ideas or solution, especially when every group, every person, believes it’s functioning well and their choices are normalized and habituated. Just because it seems right to us doesn’t mean it’s right for another. Sometimes maintaining the status quo is the right thing to do for reasons we can’t understand; sometimes change can occur only when internal things need to shift in ways we cannot assist with.
Net net, we pose questions biased by our own need to know, offer information and solutions that we want to be adopted/accepted, and focus on reaching a goal we want to reach, all of which cause resistance: without buy-in and a clear route to manage any fallout from the potential change that a new element would cause (regardless of the outsider’s belief that change is necessary), congruent change can’t occur.
Fact #5: Change cannot happen until there appropriate buy-in from all elements that will be touched by the change and there is a defined route to manage any disruption the change would entail.
We are indeed limiting all of our interactions to helping only those few who are entirely set up to change (the low hanging fruit) and failing with those who might need us but aren’t quite ready.
INFORMATION DOESN’T FACILITATE CHANGE
As influencers, we mistakenly believe that by offering ‘good’ (relevant, accurate, instructive, empirical) information, the Other will not only interpret it the way it was intended, but know how and why to use it. But our CPs can only hear us through subjective filters and may not recognize, or will feel compromised by, what we’re trying to say. Remember: Others will not considering changing in ways that challenge their status quo.
We can, however, shift from having the answers to helping others achieve their own type of excellence (regardless of whether or not it shows up looking like we envisioned). In other words, we can help our CPs change themselves. Indeed, by thinking we have the answers, by driving our own outcomes, we lose the opportunity to serve, enable real change, and make a difference.
Don’t take the need to maintain the status quo lightly. Even patients who sign up for prevention programs have a history of non-compliance: with new food plans, or recommendations of exercise programs that challenge the behaviors they have habituated and normalized (for good or bad), they don’t know how to remain congruent if they were to change. (Note: as long as healthcare professionals continue to push behavior change rather than facilitate belief change first, non-compliance will continue.)
It’s possible to facilitate the journey through our CPs own hierarchy of values and rules, enable buy-in and agreeable change, and avoid resistance – but not by using conventional information gathering/sharing, or listening practices as they all entail bias that will touch only those with the same biases.
To enable expanded and managed choice and to avoid resistance, we must first help Others recognize how to congruently change their own status quo. They may have buy-in issues or resource issues; maybe their hierarchy of values or goals would need to shift, or their rules. By focusing on facilitating choice/change first we can teach Others to achieve their own congruent change and then tailor our solutions and presentations to fit. Otherwise, our great content will only connect with those folks who already mirror the incoming data and overlook those who might have been able to change if they had known how to do so congruently.
THE SKILLS OF CHANGE
I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model, often used in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and coaching, that offers the ability to facilitate change at the core of where our status quo originates – our internal, idiosyncratic, and habituated rules and beliefs. Developed over 50 years, I’ve coded my own Asperger’s systemizing brain, refitted some of the constructs of NLP, coded the system and sequence of change, and applied some of the research in brain sciences to determine where, if, and how new choices fit.
Using it, Others can consciously self-cue – normally an unconscious process – to enable them to discover their own needs for change in the area I can serve, and in a way that’s congruent with the rules and beliefs that keep their status quo in place. I’ve trained the model globally over the past 30 years in sales, negotiation, marketing, patient relationships, leadership, coaching, etc. Below I introduce the main skills I’ve developed to enable change and choice – for me, the real kindness and integrity we have to offer. It’s possible to lead Others through
For those interested in learning more, I’m happy to chat, train, and share. Or feel free to use my thoughts to inspire your own model.
Listening for Systems: from birth we’re taught to carefully listen for content and try to understand the Other’s meaning (exemplified by Active Listening) which, because of our listening filters, often misses the underlying, unspoken Metamessage the speaker intends. By teaching the brain to disassociate and listen broadly rather than specifically, Systems Listening enables hearing the intended message at the root of the message being sent and supersedes all bias on either end. For those interested, read my article on how our listening restricts our worlds.
Facilitative Questions: conventional questions, used to gather data, are biased by the Speaker and interpreted in a biased way by the Responder. The intent of Facilitative Questions (FQ) is to lead listeners through a sequential discovery process through their own (often unconscious) status quo; not information focused and not biased, they are directive, and enable our CPs to discover for themselves the full range of elements they must address to achieve excellence. Here is a simple (out of sequence) example of the differences between conventional questions and FQs. Note how the FQ teaches the Other how to think:
1. Conventional Question: Why do you wear your hair like that? This question, meant to extract data for the Speaker’s use, is biased by the Speaker and limits choices within the Responder. Bias/Bias
2. Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? While conventional questions ask/pull biased data, this question sequentially leads the Other through focused scans of unconscious beliefs in the status quo. Formulating them requires Listening for Systems.
Using specific words, in a specific order, to stimulate specific thought categories, FQs lead Others down their steps of congruent change, with no bias. Now we can be part of the process with them much earlier and use our desire to influence change to positive effect. We can actually help Others help themselves.
Steps of change: There is a habitualted, idiosyncratic hierarchy of people, rules, values, systems, and history within each status quo. By helping our CPs navigate down their hierarchy they can discover and manage each point necessary to change without disruption or resistance. Until they know how to do this – and note, as outsiders we can NEVER understand this – they can take no action as their habitual functioning (their status quo) is at risk. Offering them our information is the final thing they’ll need when all of the change elements are recognized.
To me, being kind, ethical and true servants, being influencers who can make a difference, means helping Others be all they can be THEIR way, not OUR way. As true servant leaders and change agents we can facilitate real, lasting change and then, when Others know how to change congruently, our important solutions will be heard.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic change management model used to facilitate congruent change. She is the author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity), an Amazon Bestseller Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and her newest book What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? which unravels the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew has trained Buying Facilitation® to many global Fortune 500 companies; she is a speaker, trainer, and coach. To contact Sharon Drew: firstname.lastname@example.org 512-771-1117 Visit her award winning blog and read original content from an original thinker with 1600 articles: www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen September 28th, 2018
I moved to London in 1983 to start up a tech company after spending years as a successful sales person. After years of ‘understanding’ and ‘qualifying’ prospects, getting appointments and networking, presenting and following up, I thought I understood buyers well-enough to become one. But I was wrong. My new role taught me the differences between selling and buying: I hadn’t realized how the complexity of my Pre-Sales activity determined whether or not I’d buy:
As a sales professional my ultimate job was to place solutions; as a buyer, my main focus was to create and maintain Excellence.
As a sales professional I struggled to say/offer the right thing, at the right time, to the right prospects, in order to close; as an entrepreneur and potential buyer I had to continually manage change using the most efficient, integrous, and least disruptive route to success to maintain happy employees and clients, and a great product.
As a sales professional, I sought to influence those who needed my solution; as a buyer, I couldn’t fully define my needs, make adjustments, or resolve problems, until all voices and impediments to change were factored in.
Selling and buying were different: different goals, different behaviors, different communication and thinking patterns. And before becoming a buyer myself, I hadn’t fully appreciated how severely the sales model limits itself to seeking and finding only the low hanging fruit – those who have gone through their internal systems checks and realized they cannot fix their problem themselves and know, precisely, the sort of solution that would be acceptable and cost effective.
As a buyer, the very last thing I needed was to buy. But when I did buy, it was based on my ability to manage change without disruption, not on my need. Even though I had needs, my vendors didn’t close me until almost a year after they met me; if they had entered to first help me address my change I could have closed/bought months earlier.
THE JOB OF A BUYER
As a buyer, my problem was not having needs but in addressing any disruption I’d face in addressing the needs: before bringing in anything new in, I had to first enable congruent change along a murky path between the status quo, and Excellence and respect
The challenge was to be better without losing what worked successfully, to ensure
– everyone involved agreed to a common solution,
– I had consensus and a route through to congruent change,
– I was absolutely certain I couldn’t fix the problem with something convenient or familiar,
– I managed a range of idiosyncratic decision factors that involved my investors, my Board, my staff,
– I had all my ducks in a row and considered any needs in terms of systems congruence, and
– I made sure any change or purchase maintained our status quo or created a new one congruently.
Even though I was the Managing Director/Founder, it wasn’t totally up to me how, if, or when to resolve problems. I had a well-oiled machine to consider, one that had a few problems, but did a lot successfully; I didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I had to discern how to reach Excellence in the most efficient way and create the least disruption to the employees, company and investors. And the last thing – the very last thing – I needed was to buy anything.
– Who did I need to get agreement from? And how would their combined voices shift the thoughts on the needs, the outcome, and the process? What was the fallout if I forgot some of the voices?
– What would be the inflection point between the risk of change and the reward of Excellence?
– How could we fix the problem ourselves? At what point would we realize we couldn’t?
– How could we be certain that the people, policies, rules, and goals we had in place would fit comfortably – would buy-in – with anything new we might do? And was it possible to know the downside?
Once I realized that my needs were not the driving factors, and the change issue was a problem of Systems Congruence (I had to maintain what worked and find a way to expand the status quo to adopt the new) I used my Asperger’s systems-thinking brain to code the 13 steps from problems to Excellence and design a change facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) so my sales staff could sell more:
The change process we all went through was idiosyncratic and iterative (My book Dirty Little Secrets describes the process.). No outsider would ever understand what was involved during our change process; even I didn’t understand what would be involved when I began. What surprised me most was that only the last 4 steps were involved with making a purchase. And my journey to a purchase was defined by my Buying Decision Path. Indeed, I coined this entire process the Buyer’s Journey.
A WALK THROUGH THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Initially, like all buyers, I didn’t know what I didn’t know: I didn’t know WHO really needed to be involved (It wasn’t obvious due to the hidden influence from some of the folks peripherally involved.); I couldn’t know if we could FIX THE PROBLEM OURSELVES (Once we reached consensus as to the nature of the problem, we needed to attempt to use our most familiar resolutions.); I didn’t know IF I needed to buy anything (I merely wanted excellence. A purchase is disruptive and couldn’t be considered until all else was proven lacking.); and it wasn’t until there were no other options, did we consider seeking an outside solution.
In other words, even though we had needs, buying anything was not the objective nor the first thought. When I had an idea of something that needed improvement I needed to hear from the appropriate folks to flush out their issues before we’d have a complete fact pattern; we all had to agree to the goals, direction, outcomes, results, risks, and path to change – confusing because every voice and job title had different priorities, needs, and problems. It was a delicate process, and there was no clear path forward until we were almost at the end of the path. Every buyer goes through some form of this; they never begin at the end where sales enters.
This is where buyers go when they’re silent. They’re not dragging their heels or seeking lower prices; they need to traverse their entire Buying Journey to get to the point of even becoming a buyer. And the process of navigating through the people and policies within the status quo to garner consensus for a potentially disruptive change is a confusing process. It certainly can’t be driven by knowing about, or considering, an external solution.
As a seller I recommended my prospects include the ‘right’ people; I even attempted to help them make good decisions. But I was an outsider. And I was biased by my directive of wanting to sell, or understanding how my solution would fit; no one from outside the system could ever understand the internal politics and relationship issues to be managed. As an entrepreneur there was no one to guide me through this; not schooled in systems thinking, I had to figure out how to navigate this minefield on my own.
This is the Buyer’s Journey – the route from the problem recognition, to the assembling of the appropriate people (idiosyncratic; not obvious), to the research and trials and workarounds to fix the problem with known resources, to the change management issues, to the point of defining the type of solution that will resolve the problem with least disruption.
The act of selling, I realized, does not create buying. But with a different hat on, by entering first as Change Facilitators, sellers could enter the Buyer’s Journey at the beginning and efficiently help prospects navigate through the confusion first, to enable those who will buy, end contact immediately with those who cannot, and then gather data, pitch, and sell with very specific data and a familiar buyer.
NAVIGATING THROUGH THE ENTIRE JOURNEY: THE JOB OF BUYING FACILITATION®
My own sellers used Buying Facilitation® as their first tool even when prospects would call in to us, to guide buyers through their own 13 steps, and then sell to the ones who had all their ducks in a row (We had an eight-fold increase in sales). The time it takes buyers to navigate these steps is the length of the sales cycle. And buyers must do this anyway – so it might as well be with us. Sellers wait (and wait) while buyers do this and then hopefully be there to pick off the low-hanging-fruit. Might as well start at the beginning, be Servant Leaders, and find/close more buyers.
As part of Buying Facilitation® I coined the terms Buyer’s Journey, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Path, Buying Patterns, Buying Decision Team, and Helping Buyers Buy between 1985 and 1993:
Buying Decision Path represents the set of 13 steps from problem recognition and garnering consensus, through to recognizing and managing change in a way that enhances the status quo – all before getting to the stage of purchasing anything. It’s possible to facilitate and discover those who could buy and efficiently help them navigate the steps to purchase and get into the Buying Decision Team. A buying decision is a change management process.
Buy Cycle represents the time it takes from recognition to Excellence, from seeking internal solutions to making a purchase. It’s a change management process, not a solution choice process.
Buying Patterns explains the unique and idiosyncratic actions each buyer takes along their journey to Excellence.
Buyer’s Journey includes the full fact pattern and set of decision and change issues between discovery and decision to buy anything and manage change. This is not merely a journey to a purchase. It’s a journey to Excellence.
Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation model for influencers (sellers, coaches, leaders, managers) that helps buyers traverse and uncover their hidden path to change with Systems Congruence and consensus. It includes a unique set of tools that includes Listening for Systems, a Choice Model, and Facilitative Questions. Buying Facilitation® demands a systems thinking brain and eschews trying to sell anything until or unless the buyer knows exactly what they need and how they need to buy – the first 9 steps of their Buying Journey. After all, you’ve got nothing to sell until they have something to buy. And all the information you share isn’t relevant until then.
All buyers – even individuals buying a toothbrush, as well as complex sales – go through some sort of internal change management before they’re set up to buy. It’s about the buying, not about the selling – two different activities. Do you want to sell? or have someone buy? By putting on a consulting/coaching/
BUYING FACILITATION® FACILITATES THE BUYER’S JOURNEY
Here’s what we don’t know as sellers when we first reach out to buyers to understand need or find a prospect:
The sales model does a great job placing solutions, but expends too much energy seeking those few who have completed their completed Buyer’s Journey and are at the point of being ready/able to buy. Sales believes a prospect is someone who SHOULD buy; Buying Facilitation® believes a prospect is someone who CAN buy and has the tools to invest in efficiently facilitating the Buyer’s Journey from the first moment of the first call, and THEN selling. to those who are indeed buyers.
For less time and resource, we can actually lead buyers down their own change route and recognize who will, or won’t, be a buyer. In one conversation we can help them discern who they need to include on their Buying Decision Team; if we wish an appointment, the entire Decision Team will be eagerly awaiting us. On the first call we can find buyers at different stages along their journey who need our solutions but aren’t yet ready to buy. We just can’t use the sales model until after it’s established who is actually a buyer.
The differentiating factor is that we start out not trying to sell, or qualify, or determine needs (You’re now only closing less than 5%, so obviously that approach isn’t so successful.) but as Change Facilitators, with the goal to help Buyers manage their OWN Buying Decision Path; we trust that our buyers have their own answers, and our solutions may be a part of their solution. We’re outsiders; we can never know the intricate politics and history of a buyer’s environment.
Let’s enter earlier with a change consultant hat on, to actually facilitate buyers to the point where they could be ready to buy – and THEN sell. We will find 8x more prospects, immediately recognize those who can never buy, and be true Servant Leaders. Otherwise we’re merely wasting over 95% of our time and resource seeking the low hanging fruit, and missing a vital opportunity to find, and close, those who WILL buy.And more will buy, and quicker.
I know that some of the recognized sales models (Challenger) talk about ‘buying’. But they are using ‘buyer-based’ terms in service to placing solutions, of finding ways to influence, persuade, or manipulate buying. But buyers don’t buy that way. They first need to navigate through their entire Buyer’s Journey. Help them. Then sell.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the the original thinker and visionary behind Buying Facilitation®. She has trained the model globally to over 100,000 people world-wide in sales, coaching, leadership, and change management. Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets, and other books on how buyers buy. She is also the author of the game changer What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and teaches listening and communication to ensure we all hear each other accurately. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, coach, and author. email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen September 17th, 2018
Have you ever attempted to implement a procedure with a group, or move toward some sort of change that everyone approved of, or get a prospect, client, or patient to agree to adopt a new solution and ultimately fail due to lack of Buy In? It happens all the time:
97% of software implementations are considered failures (and it’s blamed on the group).
The sales model fails to close 95% of assumed buyers, even those who really need their services (and it’s blamed on the ‘stupid’ buyer).
Coaches lose clients who didn’t get the results they wanted (and it’s assumed the clients didn’t really want to change).
Negotiations rarely end up with both sides feeling they were treated fairly (and it’s blamed on the Other being selfish/vindictive, etc.).
Healthcare practitioners fail to convince ill patients to switch to lifesaving regimens (and it’s blamed on the patient not wanting to be healthy).
In each of the above situations, Buy In, permanent Behavior change, compliance, and better decision making could have easily been facilitated by the Influencer. But not with the approaches used.
THE COST OF NON-COMPLIANCE
Failure to elicit Buy In is costly. We certainly try: to ensure success we encourage open dialogue, pose questions, request suggestions; we provide necessary details, data, and incontrovertible reasons; we carefully data-gather to ensure we understand the full fact patterns involved in any change; we request new Behaviors that will implement the new ideas. And yet something happens between our efforts and Another’s actions. What’s happening? We’re:
As Influencers we’re pushing from the outside before the inside is addressed; we’re requesting modifications from the very place that created and maintains the issue we seek to change, in a way that could cause instability.
To garner Buy In and avoid resistance, it’s necessary to help the status quo – the underlying system of rules, Beliefs, relationships, goals, people, etc. – configure its own change process before we begin our implementation, or close a sale, or modify eating/exercising habits for patients (or or or). Currently when we try to influence Others, we’re attempting to CAUSE change to comply with OUR goals – pushing from the outside/in – and unwittingly pushing against the normalized status quo which will automatically resist. Sort of like trying to convince a forward-moving robot to move backward before reprogramming it.
To get real change with no resistance, to garner Buy In, agreement and permanent compliance, we need to help Others ELICIT their own change – inside/out. We need to help others reprogram themselves. And just like with a robot, we cannot do it as outsiders pushing our agendas against their established norms.
INFORMATION DOESN’T ELICIT CHANGE
Our current process to elicit Buy In includes sharing information about our goal: we offer the right details, at the right time, presented the right way, with the right languaging, assuming people will understand its importance and generate new Behaviors. We’re offering what WE want them to know and do, so they will take the action WE want them to take (but may initially seem damaging for them personally).
Information is useless as a stimulus for change until the underlying system that maintains the status quo has prepared itself to change and seeks that specific bit of data to complete new activity. So the robot wouldn’t need verbal instructions from us to move backwards when confronted with a wall, for example, until it already had the capability of moving backward. The robot will break, or just stop working, if we start by trying to push it backwards. Information is the very last thing needed once a route through to congruent change has been designed and the system understands the exact information it will require for Excellence.
Unfortunately, our efforts often fail because we use reasoning, rationale, stories, scientific arguments, numbers crunching, etc. as the ‘rational explanation’ to incur Behavior change and compliance. I was once consulting with Inside Sales at Bethlehem Steel after they moved 90 people from their homes in individual states into one of two centers (Sparrows Point, MI, or Burns Harbor, MD). The Bethlehem Team had ‘incontrovertible evidence’ that teams were more effective when working around each other. They gave the sales folks one month to move house, relocate, sell their homes and buy new ones, get new schools for their kids, etc. The people were furious. Many quit; some had heart attacks. One woman actually became ‘emotionally blind’. All were separated from their families and pets for months while family members were left behind to finish school, pack, sell their houses. My client couldn’t understand why they were so upset. He had, he reasoned, paid all their expenses and gave them $5,000 for their upheaval. The information that detailed the reasoning wasn’t the problem.
CHANGE IS AN INSIDE JOB
All systems (and each of us are a system) are set up to be stable and habitual as per Homeostasis. Systems can’t even recognize anything is wrong, as they are self-perpetuating and ignorant of the problems they’ve already baked into the ‘operating’ system. Fish don’t recognize the water they’re in.
Before any change, or new decision, our unconscious system must be assured its norms will be preserved, its core objectives will be met, its Beliefs and core principles will be maintained, and it will suffer minimal disruption. Buy In requires the core norms and rules of the system remain intact; it demands systemic agreement for core change, and a reconfiguration of the habituated internal configuration that created and maintains the status quo (and the problem being resolved). Only when the system is reconfigured with new rules and Beliefs and norms, will it design the new output, choices, and Behaviors that we require.
The way we’re going about it, we’re inadvertently setting up non-compliance by pushing in against the norm before the system has determined how or why to make changes and actually causing the resistance we get. For congruent change and Buy In, (human) systems must design their own route to determining if they seek change, and if they do, they must understand how to reconfigure their unconscious norms in a way that maintains Systems Congruence; they will not, cannot, hear, understand, or apply what we want from them until all this is handled.
Our normal influencing and communication tools that collect data, share ideas, suggest new Behaviors, and promote dialogue challenge the status quo.
Questions pull a fraction of a fraction of the real answer, if they even find any pay dirt at all. To remedy this problem, I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that eschews information exchange or pull, and acts as a directional device, guiding the Other through their own unconscious (and beyond their biased listening) to cull their own responses and reorganize their internal hierarchy of choices accordingly. They actually lead the brain to sequentially capture each element of memory and Beliefs, highlight each decision necessary in the right order, and develop each necessary action, that all systems must take in order to recognize the elements of their unconscious change. All systems take these internal, unconscious steps anyway, while outsiders wait or push. With Facilitative Questions, outsiders can actually serve Others in making their own best decisions. [Note: I’m happy to discuss this new question if you’d like to contact me.] It’s toward the end of this process they seek the information they need.
Until or unless every element that maintains the problem and causes the current Behaviors that need changing agree to, and have a route through to, change, no Buy In can occur.
BEHAVIORS ARE NOT THE WAY IN
Most people certainly are willing to change to become ‘better’ if they know how to change without major disruption and that they’ll maintain Systems Congruence. Change involves disrupting the status quo in a way that causes different Behaviors to emerge. But new Behaviors cannot emerge without the foundation that stimulates them changing as well. Changing behaviors is not so simple as changing behaviors.
Behaviors do not exist in a vacuum. They are merely the output, the translation, of our unconscious Belief system – we ‘do’ what we ‘do’ because our system needs a physical representation of who we are. Because we’re each unique, we each exhibit different Behaviors to interpret our unconscious Beliefs. And an outsider sees only the output (i.e. the action, the Behaviors) without understanding the underlying values that created them. I repeat, as this is a hard one: there is no way for an outsider to understand, or change, Another’s Behaviors because the system that developed them is unique for each person.
To enable agreement and change, we must facilitate the Other to change its own system, to design new Behaviors, and re-assess the norms, rules, and Beliefs that developed the Behaviors to begin with. There are actually 13 steps necessary for real change to occur. I’ve coded these steps of change and have scaled them, teaching them in the sales and coaching fields (as Buying Facilitation® over the past 35 years. The Change Facilitation model I’ve developed gives influencers the tools to
For Buy In and compliance, we must stop trying to influence or cause the change, but enable Others to develop their own change. It might not look exactly like we hoped, but it will carry our goals forward in a way that becomes a welcome part of the status quo, habituated and accepted immediately. Healthcare providers will elicit permanent healthy Behaviors from patients; buyers will know how to buy quickly; implementations will occur effortlessly and quickly. Our problem has been our focus on changing Behaviors our way. Let’s enable Others to design their own change. And then they will happily Buy In to becoming their own brand of Excellence.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic Change Facilitation model she’s taught in dozens of global corporations (Kaiser, Bose, IBM, KPMG, Wachovia, etc.) to sales, coaching, and leadership teams. She is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the sales standard: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew also decoded how our brains keep us from hearing others (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and offers a route through to closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew is currently developing a route to wellness and healthy eating by facilitating a healthy identity. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 512 771 1117. Read other articles on change, sales, leadership, decision making, and creativity at her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen September 10th, 2018
Until a decision gets made – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, choose one thing over another, or take action in any way – there can be no completed transaction. With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and action, nothing new occurs and there is no change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be.
Every decision, after all, is a change management problem. Whether it’s a personal decision or the result of corporate, scientific, or professional judgments, a decision represents an addition to, or subtraction from, something within the status quo that would be effected by new or different information. So making a decision is not merely about the actual facts, input/output, risks, uncertainty, or acquired information, but about the process of acceptance, buy-in, and flexibility of the system to adopt to change.
I realize that much of the decision making field focuses on ‘good data’, ‘rational decisions’, or ‘reducing bias’, but the subjective, systemic portion of decision making is typically omitted: Until or unless there is a route to adoption that is acceptable to the status quo – regardless of the efficacy of the results – decision making is incomplete.
GOOD DATA IS NOT ENOUGH
Too often we assume that ‘good data’ is the lynchpin for ‘rational’ action. But if that were all that we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. How does it happen that even with right on our side we can end up wrong? By shifting the focus from rational decisions, odds, data, risk, and probabilities – the best outcome – to a focus on enabling our subjective biases to expand the parameters of the search, adoption, and possibility, decision making can be more effective.
We’ve studied decision making for millennia, with a consistent focus on a ‘rational’ outcome based on ‘facts’. Weighted averages and data/accuracy seem to be the most used organizing principles. We always, it seems, associate decision making with ‘good data‘ good choices, risk, and tasks to be completed. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky say that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that let to it.”
I believe the problem lie on the personal, subjective end of decision making. Before we even get to the weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’, our largely unconscious beliefs have restricted the range of possible outcomes by limiting our search criteria, restricting our curiosity and goal-setting, and reducing adoption. In other words, our process limits the full range of possibilities. We’re not even curious about whatever may lie outside the parameters of what we ‘know’ in our guts, or in our intuition, to be true. Our unconscious sabotages our decisions. We must shift the focus away from data and the statistically correct answer, and concentrate on managing our systemic, subjective bias.
HOW SUBJECTIVE BIAS SABOTAGES US
Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions). All options get assessed according to how closely they match our internal, weighted hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious). Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our current data or status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to shift our status quo to adopt new information.
Teams or companies seeking good decisions for new choices do something similar: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against the status quo and accepted industry norms; and change is meant to happen according to some acceptable value structure.
But whether personal or corporate, the human side of decision making is often ignored: separate from the facts, the weighting, the ‘rational’ or the optimal, our subjective biases – sometimes referred to as our ‘intuition’, instinct, or our ‘gut’ – restrict what’s possible. Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases that create the parameters of possibility in the first place. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.
WHAT’S OUTSIDE OUR CONSCIOUS CHOICE
All new decisions must comply with our internal balance, (Systems Congruence): our unconscious, subjective, belief-based criteria is personal, historic, idiosyncratic, and identity based – separate from any external data available or outcome sought. We even seek references that match our beliefs: with an infinite range of data points available, we only consider that tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering severely; we dismiss, ignore, or resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values and internal status quo. With our subjective filters interpreting information, our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data. You see, if we don’t maintain our current beliefs, rules, and status quo we face a potentially disruptive change in our systemic structure, regardless of the facts, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.
In other words, our decisions are restricted by our subjective biases and need for Systems Congruence, whether they are personal decisions or family/business-related ones, whether they lead to ‘rational’ decisions or not. Indeed, who exactly judges what’s ‘rational’? We each consider our decisions ‘rational’ as they comply with our own belief structure and knowledge at the time we’re making them. Imagine saying to yourself, “I think I’ll make an irrational decision.” ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs (and what they consider to be ‘objective’ or ‘rational’ standards). I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!
I once helped a friend decide on what to do with her attic. For years she fought herself on different types of wood and floor plan/design and couldn’t form a decision to take action because of her confusion. When we got to her unconscious weighted hierarchy of beliefs she realized she hated her house, but hadn’t wanted to consciously admit that to herself because moving would uproot her family. She had unconsciously delayed her decision, consciously focusing on entirely different issues to avoid dealing with a much larger problem. She was stuck considering the ‘wrong’ decision criteria for 3 years.
When we ignore our unconscious, we either delay a decision because it doesn’t feel right, gather data from insufficient sources, use partial data and miss the full picture or possibilities, or face a lack of buy-in, sabotage, or resistance. To get a good decision, we need to expand our scope of possibility and separate ourselves from our biases. We can never get it ‘right’, but we can get it ‘righter.’
IS IMPLEMENTATION NECESSARY?
One of my beliefs is that without action, without achieving the output of a decision, we end up with failure, regardless of the accuracy of the facts. This is quite prevalent in among the Decision Scientist community. After keynoting to 200 Decision Scientists on Facilitating Decision Making a few years ago, I sat with them afterword and listened to them loudly bemoan the 97% implementation failure rate (Sadly, a common problem in the field.) they face. Here was part of our Q&A.
SDM: How do you prepare for a smooth implementation, or encourage buy-in?
We provide the best options as per our research. It’s their problem if they can’t implement. Our job is to find the right solutions and hand them over.
SDM: How do you acquire accurate criteria to design your research?
We speak with folks who want the decision.
SDM: If you’re only speaking to a subset (influencers, superiors, clients) of users, how can buy-in be achieved – even with good data and rational choices – if the full set of facts are possibly not being considered? Aren’t you limiting your fact-gathering to a predisposed subset? Aren’t you moving forward without consideration of those who may be involved at some point, have unique goals and data, and resist implementing decisions well outside their value structure?
Not our problem.
SDM: How can say you’re offering a ‘good decision’ if some of those who need to use the decision aren’t ready, willing, or able to adopt it because their reality was excluded from the initial data gathering?
We gather criteria from the folks who hire us, from recognized sources, and weight the probabilities. We give them good data. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Rational data is rational data.
They wouldn’t even consider that by doing initial fact-gathering from as large a set of people involved as possible, they’d not only acquire a larger set of identified goals, parameters and foundational beliefs and values that uphold the status quo, but they’d set the stage for follow-on buy-in.
When we use a subset of possibilities and people to define the objective criteria for a decision and exclude the available personal criteria, and when we use our instinctive judgements as out lens, we face the possibility of gathering insufficient data and alienating those would might benefit from the outcome of the decision; we are ceding control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious. How can we willingly take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?
WHAT DOES OUR UNCONSCIOUS WANT?
All of us pit our unconscious drivers – our beliefs and values, expectations and biases – against our ability to change (And I repeat: any decision is a change management problem. To adopt something new, something old must be replaced or added.). To focus merely on external facts defies logic. In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance. Here are some questions to ask ourselves:
What are my gut thoughts about what a new result would look like, act like, achieve? Am I comfortable with a change? Am I willing to contain/expand the parameters of the status quo? What would cause me to resist?
How far outside of my own beliefs am I willing to go to make sure I have as expansive a range of possible data as possible? Or must I maintain my current parameters (beliefs, or external mandates) regardless of the restrictions this poses on the outcome?
Should I add to what I already know? Or am I willing to explore what’s outside of my knowledge base that may make me uncomfortable? Where would I find acceptable resources to explore – and what would I find unacceptable?
What do I need to believe to be willing to consider data that I don’t ordinarily trust…and what, exactly constitutes trust?
Is there an inclusive idea that’s a ‘chunk up’ from my starting place that might encourage expansive consideration? I.e. if resistance is apparent, is there an idea, an outcome, which encapsulates the proposed change that doesn’t cause resistance? If everyone is fighting over house ownership in a divorce, maybe everyone can agree that a house is necessary for everyone’s well-being and move forward from there.
STEPS TO BETTER DECISION MAKING
There is a point when gathering data is necessary. But when? Here are steps to knowing when it’s time:
With this approach*, your testing and data gathering will have the possibility of being more reliable and complete, will reach the broadest parameters of choice, possibility, agreement, and will encourage buy-in for action. You’ll also be in place for implementing without resistance. Again, the final decision may not be ‘right’ because no decisions ever are, but it will certainly be ’righter.’
*For those wishing an expanded discussion/explanation of how to generate unbiased choice, read Chapter 6 of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. I’ve also coded the sequential steps the brain travels en route to choice, and developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that facilitates decision making and congruent change, for use in sales, coaching, negotiating, and leadership.
Sharon Drew Morgen August 27th, 2018
Posted In: Change Management
When researching my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was surprised to learn how little of what we hear someone say is unbiased, or even accurate. Seems we hear what we want to hear, and not necessarily what’s been meant; too often we don’t know the difference. There are several elements that conspire against accuracy. And sadly, it’s largely out of our control.
THE PROBLEM WITH LANGUAGE
Let me begin with my definitions of ‘language’ and ‘communication’:
In dialogue, language is a translation process between a Speaker’s thoughts – translated and verbalized into a delivery system of ideas, words, voice (tone, tempo, pitch), and the unspoken goal/bias of the outcome sought – and the Listener’s filtering system.
A completed communication is a circle – Speaker -> Listener -> Speaker: the Speaker translates an internal thought/idea through language to their Communication Partner (CP) who listens through their own unique and subjective filters, and responds to what they have interpreted. Until or unless the Speaker’s message has been received accurately, the communication is not complete.
Language itself is one of the problems we face when attempting to accurately understand what a Speaker means:
We speak in one unbroken stream of words (Spaces appear only between written words.) that can be differentiated only by those familiar with the language and vocabulary (Have you ever asked a question from a language book in a foreign country and get a response in a continuous stream of sounds that can’t be isolated to allow you to look up words to translate?) Since everyone speaks in word streams, our ears have become subjectively habituated to listen for patterns within them; our brains continue down those pathways even if the Speaker’s intent isn’t matched.
Words have uniquely nuanced meanings for each of us. The words a Speaker chooses that impart understanding may not be the best word choices for our Listener whose subjective filtering process may not match, or indeed instigate the wrong interpretation.
Our brains only remember spoken words for approximately 3 seconds. By the time our brains separate the individual words to glean meaning, we’re lagging ‘behind’ the speaker, so we rely on our unconscious habits and thinking patterns to bridge, or fill in, gaps in understanding. Obviously, it’s easiest to accurately understand people we’re similar to.
Arguably the largest detractor of accuracy for understanding our CPs intended message are the cultural, experiential, belief, education, and intimacy gaps that create subjective and unconscious filters in us all. These filters – biases, assumptions, triggers, habituated neural pathways, and memory channels – unconsciously and automatically sift out or transform what our CP says that’s uncomfortable or different from our beliefs, our lifestyles, etc., or aren’t in line within the goal of what we’re actively seeking in the exchange.
While we each assume that what we ‘hear’ is an accurate representation of what’s been said, often it’s not. With our subjective listening filters uniquely interpreting what others say, we can’t help but
bias their intended message subjectively,
make inaccurate assumptions, miss important ideas, requests, and emotional cues,
follow established memory channels and neural pathways that lead us to wrongly interpret what was meant,
mishear directions, rules, warnings, nuance, names etc.,
take away mistaken comprehension,
and on and on. As sellers we ‘hear’ that people are buyers; as coaches we ‘hear’ people complain of stuff we know how to fix; as leaders we ‘hear’ our teams convey they’re on-board (or not) with our ideas; as change agents we ‘hear’ rejection rather than alternate approaches or shared concerns; as parents we ‘hear’ our teenagers making excuses.
OUR BRAINS TRICK US
Simplistically, here’s our unconscious listening process:
We first listen through a hierarchy of historic and habitual filters, unconsciously seeking a match with our biases, beliefs, and values – and delete or alter what seems incompatible.
With what’s left from the initial round of filtering, our brains seek a match with something familiar by sorting for a similar memory, which could focus on just a term or one of the ideas mentioned, or or or, and throws away what doesn’t match without telling us what’s been omitted or misconstrued! We might accurately hear the words spoken, but unconsciously assign a vastly different interpretation from the intended meaning.
And because we’re only ‘told’ what our brains ‘tell’ us has been said, we end up ‘certain’ that what we think we hear is actually what’s meant. So if someone says ABC we might actually hear ABL, without knowing what our brains added, subtracted, or muddled. I once lost a business partner because he ‘heard’ me say X when three of us sitting there, including his wife, confirmed I said Y. “I was right here! Why are you all lying to me! I heard it with my own ears!” And he walked out in a self-generated rage. His brain actually told him I said something I never said and he never questioned it, even though three people told him he misheard.
I know this is disconcerting but it’s important to understand: Listeners always assume what they (think they) hear is what has been said. And where this diverges from the Speaker’s intended meaning, we end up responding to an inaccurate understanding, blaming our CP for miscommunicating, and never consider that just maybe we unwittingly got it wrong.
It all happens automatically and unconsciously, and we end up involuntarily misunderstanding without realizing, until too late, that there is a problem. Indeed we have no conscious ability to tell our brains what to search for when we’re listening, causing us to potentially hear a fraction of a fraction of what’s meant; we then compound the problem by responding according to what we THINK has been said. So we might get self-righteously angry, or perceive we’re forgiven; we hear people as racists or healers or sarcastic or buyers; we feel slighted or complimented or ignored; we think ideas are stupid and opinions absurd. And in each instance, we miss the possibility of a partnership, or a new concept, or a conversation or relationship that might have been.
In summary: the structure of language itself causes confusion when listening to Others; our subjective filters – biases (of which there are hundreds), assumptions, and triggers – are unconscious impediments to what we think we hear; our neural pathways, habitual associations, and memory channels automatically, and subjectively, get triggered by a word or phrase and go down their own well-travelled path to seek a match, potentially eschewing more relevant or accurate routes to understanding; our brains don’t tell us what it’s omitted or transformed, leaving us potentially misunderstanding – without question – what our CP meant to impart.
And it’s all unconscious. According to Sarah Williams Goldhagen in Welcome to Your World, our unconscious (or ‘nonconscious’ as she calls it) is approximately 90% of our attention, and only 10% “…patterned and schematized in a way we can interact with others.”(pg 59) So misunderstanding is virtually built into our communication.
LISTENING FOR METAMESSAGES INSTEAD OF WORDS
Unfortunately we have no automatic capability to hear a Speaker’s intended message accurately, regardless of the Speaker’s word choices or the Listener’s commitment to listening ‘carefully’, regardless of the costly wordsmithing done in many industries to lure Listener buy-in. But as Listeners can take an active role in consciously managing our listening filters to encourage greater understanding. For this we must circumvent our biased listening; we must learn the skill of avoiding listening for meaning solely from the words.
From birth, we’re taught to carefully listen for words (and Active Listening has a part to play in this predisposition), assuming, falsely, we’ll translate them accurately. We can, however, circumvent our normal filtering process by shifting our attention from listening to words to listening for meaning; listening for what’s meant, rather than for what’s said; listening less to the words and more for the Speaker’s underlying intent.
Let’s walk this back. Remember that Speakers speak to impart an underlying thought (I call this the Metamessage) and then unconsciously select the most precise words – for that situation, for that Listener – to do so. But these word choices might not be the best ones to garner accurate understanding in that particular Listener. Certainly, a Speaker has no idea how a Listener’s filters will interpret the sent message. This becomes more obvious when speaking to a group and some members understand, others misunderstand. To circumvent misunderstanding, to have a greater chance of hearing what’s meant and eliminating the factors causing misunderstanding, we must take filters out of the listening process.
There’s a higher probability of hearing others accurately if Listeners bypass the normal filtering process and instead focus on the Speaker’s intended meaning. I learned the basic concept while studying NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming – the study of the structure of subjective experience) and expanded it in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? When listening we can actually go beyond the brain and experience a broad view (not intimate details) of what’s being meant.
To avoid our listening filters, to get the broader meaning behind the idea intended, we must go ‘up to the ceiling’ and listen as a Witness/Observer. A very simple example would be if someone said ‘I wish you would be on time more often’, the Metamessage might be ‘I hate that you’re late again. And I’m getting tired of waiting for you all the time!’ We do this naturally when speaking with a small child, listening with for what they mean to tell us, rather than focus on their possibly unskilled wordsmithing. Or when we overhear a conversation in a Starbucks. In both instances we’re Observers.
We don’t know how to consciously choose; the problem is we don’t know how to consciously choose to do so. To choose the Witness/Observer viewpoint, think of a time when you’re aware you were listening without any personal agenda and break down how you did that – how you knew when it was time to disengage from the words, what you noticed that was different, how it shifted your communication exchange. If it’s something you want to learn, I’ve written an entire chapter on this (Chapter 6) in What?.
LISTENING FOR MEANING VS WORDS
Here are two cold call interactions that exemplify the difference between listening for words vs for Metamessages. The first is a dialogue of a coaching client in which I was teaching him how to sell with integrity. He started out fine, but then dissolved into his old push technique when he interpreted the prospect’s words according to his own filters:
BROKER: Hi My name is Jeff Rosen. I sell insurance and this is a cold call. Is this a good time to speak?
CLIENT: Hi Jeff. Thanks for calling but I’m just walking out the door.
The prospect hung up.
SDM: What was that????? You started off great! And he responded kindly.
BROKER: I had to talk really fast because he said he was busy.
Listening for the spoken words through his filters, my client only heard a time constraint and didn’t ‘hear’ that the prospect stayed on the line and didn’t hang up. Listening from a Witness/Observer position he would have heard that the prospect was polite and hanging in with him, and made another choice: “I’ll call back when it’s convenient.” Or “Thanks. What’s a better time?”
In a very similar situation, I made a cold call to the Chief Training Officer at IBM; you’ll notice that both of us listened for the Metamessage instead of the words:
NANCY: [The world’s fastest] HELLO!
SDM: You sound busy. When should I call back?
NANCY: Tomorrow at 2.
And we both hung up.
This continued for 3 days with the exact same dialogue. Finally we had this exchange on day 4:
SDM: You still sound busy.
NANCY: Who are you?
SDM: Sharon Drew Morgen, and this is only a cold call. I can call you back when you’re not so busy.
NANCY: What are you selling?
SDM: Training for a facilitated buying model to use with sales.
NANCY: I’ll give you 5 minutes.
SDM: Not enough.
NANCY: 10 minutes.
SDM: Not enough.
NANCY: OK. I’m yours. But I want to know how you just did what you did. How did you get me to speak with you? How do I feel so respected when you’re cold calling me? How did you get me to give you so much time? And can you teach my sales team how to do that? Can you come next month? [Note: I ended up training with them for two years. I didn’t even have to pitch.]
Both of us listened with our Witness hats on. Nancy heard my Metamessage: by immediately hanging up after getting a time, she ‘heard’ me say that I respected her time. Calling back at the requested time told her I was responsible. Telling her it was a sales cold told her I was honest and wasn’t going to manipulate her. And by me abiding to her time frame she abided to mine. Indeed, I ‘said’ none of those things in words; the meaning was the message I intended to send. My goal was to connect if possible and serve if able. To connect, I’d have to value her time, not push; to serve I’d be honest and responsible. So she ‘heard’ me, beyond the words. It was win/win.
So here’s a suggestion: For those times it’s important to understand the underlying meaning of another’s communication, and you cannot risk biases and assumptions that might significantly alter the outcome, I suggest you go up to the ‘ceiling’ and listen from Witness/Observer.
This is a great tool for those of you who are Active Listening proponents. When listening to correctly capture the words spoken, understand your brain will bias how you interpret them and you may not achieve clarity as to the intent of the message. In my experience, AL doesn’t ensure understanding and too often puts the ‘blame’ of misunderstanding on the Speaker.
Try listening from the ‘ceiling’ from Witness/Observer. It might make a difference. And if that’s not comfortable at least clear a way to understanding in each important conversation:
Before we continue, I just want to make sure I understand what you mean to say.
Here’s what I heard…. Is that accurate?
Communication is delicate, as are relationships. Take the time to ensure you and your Communication Partner are on the same page. And delight that a shared understanding inspires possibility.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, and author of 9 books, including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Change Facilitation, used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and management – any influencing situation in which integrity, ethics, and collaboration are involved. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach for sales and listening. She can be reached at: email@example.com; her award winning blog has thoughtful articles on change, systems, decision making, and communication. www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen August 20th, 2018
Posted In: News
As sellers we are taught to find prospects with a need that matches our solution and then find creative, professional ways to pitch, present, entice, push, market, or somehow introduce our solution to enable them to understand how our solutions will fix their problem.
Unfortunately, we fail to close over 90% of the time (from first contact) regardless of how well their need matches our solution. And it’s not because of our solutions, our presentations/pitches, or our professionalism. It’s because the sales model does not include the skills to facilitate the largest component of buying decisions – those systemic, idiosyncratic, behind-the-scenes, change-management decisions that comprise their Pre-Sales processes, exclude outsiders, and have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with buying anything.
Until they go through this process and walk through each stage of managing their unique change management issues, until everyone who touches the final solution agrees to a change, until the entire team is assembled and lends their voice to ideas, problems, solutions, and fallout, they cannot buy regardless of how much they may need our solution. They must do this – with us, or without us. It takes much longer without us, hence a protracted buying decision and closed sale. Without appropriate change management, they cannot buy. And the sales model doesn’t address this, causing sellers to spend most of their time finding ways to get in – and missing the route in because of their focus on solution placement. The route is change management.
FACILITATING CHANGE IS NOT SELLING
I’ve spent the last few decades coding and designing new tools to promote buyer readiness and help sellers facilitate buyers through their Pre-Sales decision path that buyers go through without us and is not focused on buying/solution choice. My model, called Buying Facilitation®, gives sellers the tools to be Facilitation/Change Consultants to get onto their Buying Decision Team, facilitate their change-management decisions, lessen the time between decision making/close, and differentiate from the competition. It’s a model that works with sales, but focused on enabling our buyers to congruently manage their systemic change, which has always been done outside of our purview until now.
Here’s the question to ask yourself: do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They are two different activities, necessitating two distinct skill sets. Sales merely handles one of them. Buying Facilitation® works with sales to first help buyers manage their consensus and change issues to ready them to buy.
Using Buying Facilitation® first, then sales, will immediately enlist those who can buy, and immediately get rid of those who will never buy. After all, we all know too well that when buyers buy there doesn’t seem to be a direct line between their need or the relevance of our solution: it’s about their ability to manage their environment to make the necessary decisions that will lead them to congruent change and to their best possible outcome – which may, or may not, be to buy anything. When we speak with prospects to discuss need, we have no idea if the information we’re being given is the takeaway from all assembled voices, if the group has already agreed to buy anything, or what stage of the decision path they’re on. Are they merely gathering data for options? To bring back to the team? To compare with competitors?
Here are the steps I’ve discovered that buyers – all change – must address. As you read them, note that facilitating change is not sales, and includes some unique skill sets, goals, and outcomes.
1. Idea stage. Someone has an idea that something needs to change and discusses his idea with colleagues.
2. Assembly stage. Colleagues meet and discuss the problem, bring ideas from online research, consider who to include, possible fixes, and fallout. Groups formed.
3. Consideration stage. Group meets to discuss findings: how to fix the problem with known resources, whether to create a workaround using internal fixes or seek an external solution. Discuss the type/amount of fallout from each.
4. Organization stage. Organizer apportions responsibilities, or hands over to others.
5. Change Management stage. Meeting to discuss options and fallout. Determine
a. if more research is necessary (and who will do it),
b. if all appropriate people are involved (and who to include),
c. if all elements of the problem and solution are included (and what to add),
d. the level of disruption and change to address depending on type of solution chosen (and how to manage change),
e. the pros/cons of external solution vs current vendor vs workaround.
f. possible workaround and if they are sufficient.
6. Addition stage. Add needs, ideas, issues of new members; incorporate change considerations.
7. Research and change stage. Everyone researches their portion of the solution fix (online research—webinars, etc., call current vendors or new vendors etc.). Discussions include managing resultant change.
8. Consensus stage. Buying Decision Team members meet to share research and determine the type of solution, fallout, possibilities, problems, considerations in re management, policies, job descriptions, HR issues, etc. Buy-in and consensus necessary.
9. Choice stage. Action responsibilities apportioned including discussions/meetings with people, companies, teams who might provide solutions.
10. Meet to discuss choices and the fallout/ benefits of each. Discuss different solutions and vendors.
11. Vendor/solution selection. Meet with possible vendors.
12. New solution chosen. Change management issues incorporated with solution choice.
13. New solution implemented.
The sales model handles steps 10-13. Marketing, marketing automation, and social marketing may be involved in steps 3 and 8, although it’s not clear then if the decision to choose an external solution has been made, the full fact pattern of ‘needs’ has been determined, what the marketing content is being used for, or if the appropriate decision makers and influencers are included. Buyers muddle through this but we can enter earlier and help them transition through their steps, so long as we stick to our initial roles as facilitators and not try to sell or manipulate.
BUYING FACILITATION® IN ACTION
I started up a tech company in London 1983-89 and developed Buying Facilitation® to teach my sales folks to navigate buyers through their decision path, change management, and buy-in BEFORE they began selling. We increased sales 5x within a month. I’ve been teaching this model in sales and coaching to global corporations since 1989 with similar results.
My book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell discusses these steps and how Buying Facilitation® can work with sales and marketing to enter the buy path earlier, and to help coaches, leaders, and negotiators facilitate congruent change. It’s truly a change management skill that makes a seller a real consultant and uses entirely unique change facilitation skills: Facilitative Questions, Listening for Systems, and Choice. Remember, needs/solutions are irrelevant until buyers understand how any change will affect their status quo. The sales model isn’t designed to handle this Pre-Sales change management function. Read the book 🙂
Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. As the developer of Buying Facilitation®, she trains sellers to help buyers facilitate their change management, Pre-Sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.
More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 512 771-1117. www.didihearyou.com; www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen July 30th, 2018
Posted In: News
INFORMATION CAUSES RESISTANCE
For some reason, we maintain a long-standing belief that if we offer the right people the right information at the right time, presented in the right way, those it’s intended to influence will be duly impressed and adopt it. But that’s erroneous. Just think how often we
and how often our brilliant delivery and logical (and probably accurate) argument is not only ignored but rebuffed. Certainly the ineffective behaviors continue regardless of the logic of the information we offer. Are they just stupid? Irrational? We’re ‘right’ of course: we’ve got the rational argument and data points; what we have to share is what Others need to hear.
But is this true?
It’s not. And we’re wrong. We’re actually creating resistance, losing business, destroying relationships, and impeding change. Here’s why. When we present rational data, or make arguments based on logic or wisdom or knowledge, and hope it will sway an opinion or get a new decision made to, say, change a behavior, we’re putting the cart before the horse. While the data itself may be important, we are merely using our own biases, needs, control issues, etc. as the motivation to offer it, not to mention our timing may be inappropriate.
We sometimes forget that the organizing system that holds the problem in place – the people, rules, relationships, goals, etc. that make up the status quo and created the problem to begin with – has maintained itself in that same format through time and has developed and normalized it’s own series of biases, habits, assumptions, etc. In fact, the organizing system regards new information as a threat to it’s status quo: until it discovers a way to change so stability is maintained, it will automatically resist anything from outside. You see, until there’s internal buy-in for change, and until the system that holds the problem in place is assured it will not face chaos with change, people have no place to put the new information. The system is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution/information; since it’s functionality has become normalized, it won’t seek, understand, use, or welcome new information.
We believe that part of our jobs as leaders, sales professionals, coaches, managers, or even parents is to be the arbiters of change, with information a main ingredient. And we tend to think that if we offer appropriate data – rational, proven, useful, well-delivered – as the reason for change, the Other will adopt it. But information in and of itself does not teach someone how to change: information promotes knowledge that may not be understood or pursued by that person at that time. Not to mention that people listen through subjective filters and can only hear/understand new information in direct relation to the same beliefs that caused the problem to begin with.
Change requires a systems overhaul. It’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.
Let me explain. Everyone – people and teams, companies and families – possesses unique internal beliefs, values, histories, biases (representing our status quo, or our unique, personal, unconscious system) that are idiosyncratic and determine our behaviors (behaviors being the translation, the representation of, our unconscious system). Indeed, these internal systems are so clearly defined, habituated, and defended that our lives are actually determined by these: our unconscious listening filters are so subjective that we don’t even know how to listen when information is offered that’s outside our conventional thinking (See my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? about how our brains are organized to listen subjectively and mishear/misunderstand anything outside our norms).
And I cannot say this enough, so please disregard this repetition: Regardless of how important, necessary, or life-saving our information is, it will be resisted until/unless there is internal buy-in for it and an identified route from the problematic status quo, through to buy-in for change, through to execution, is developed in a way that maintains Systems Congruence.
OFFER INFORMATION ONLY WHEN SYSTEM READY FOR CHANGE
It is only when parts of our system seek a new level of excellence and get buy in from the habituated parts of us, that we’re even ready to consider thinking, listening for, and opening our eyes to anything different. There is no direct route between hearing new information and acting on it, unless we’ve already determined that THAT DATA at THAT TIME is worth the disruption of change.
Certainly it’s necessary to figure out how to change without disruption before any sort of change be considered, regardless of our initiatives as outsiders to influence the change. If the system had recognized the need to change and knew how to fix it congruently it would have fixed the problem already.
Here are some specifics. At the point the need for change is considered, even by a small part of the system, the system must get buy-in from everything and everyone that will touch a potential new solution and knows how to change its underlying rules in a way that insures minimal disruption. In other words,
no buy-in/no agreed-upon safe route forward = no change considered = no information accepted.
The new information doesn’t fit anywhere, can’t be heard, can’t be understood. We end up pushing valid data into a closed system that doesn’t recognize the need for it. Information is the very last thing needed once the route of change has been designed.
Telling kids why they should clean their rooms, telling prospects why your solution is better, telling managers to use new software, telling patients to lose weight or exercise, doesn’t create the hoped-for change, regardless of how cogent the information except where the kids, buyers, managers, or patients were already set up to/seeking change and know how to move forward congruently (i.e. the low hanging fruit).
Here are a couple of simple examples.
It’s not about the need or efficacy: change cannot happen until a system knows:
In my book Dirty Little Secrets I lay out the steps to change and decision making in a buying decision. It carefully details how systems fight fight fight to maintain themselves – homeostasis – regardless of their problems which have been baked in and accepted (i.e. not recognized as a problem); anything that pushes the system out of balance will create resistance (whether the system needs the change or not – remember: the system ‘is’, and gets up daily maintaining itself) as the normalized functioning is threatened.
Giving information too early, before a system can learn how to adopt change so any disruption is integrated, merely causes resistance as the system fights for balance. Not to mention if the new information is well outside of our conventional beliefs or experience, it cannot even be heard accurately.
And so, our brilliant, necessary, cogent information gets ignored, resisted, objected to, or misunderstood and we must handle the ubiquitous objections and resistance that we have created (and sadly miss real opportunities to facilitate change). Hence long sales cycles/lost sales and implementation problems, ignored advice, ill patients not complying with necessary behavior changes, and lost opportunities. So: help people/groups manage change first to set up the agreement, congruency, and buy-in; then offer information.
Conventional sales, marketing, training, coaching, parenting, healthcare, and leadership models use sharing and gathering information as their core, and first, activity, assuming people will be willing to change by being offered rational, necessary, data. But facilitating change goes well beyond information.
I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® in sales) which works with each step of systemic change to generate buy-in of all elements, people, rules, etc. that will touch the new solution, and enables a system to design it’s own route through to congruent change; information is offered once there is agreement for adoption – and by the time you offer it, there is already eagerness for change and an eagerness to adopt and listen to your information. If you’re a coach, negotiator, seller, purchasing agent, leader, doctor, or implementer add it into your current skills. Then when it’s time to offer information, your clients will be ready for it.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 original articles with original thinking on systems, collaboration, buying, leadership, etc. Sharon Drew is a visionary, trainer, coach, consultant, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen July 23rd, 2018
Posted In: Communication
Buyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption; the last thing they want to do is bring in something new into their environment that will disrupt. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase (rather than finding a workaround, using a familiar fix, or maintaining the status quo) is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo, they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is available.
While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means
Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem. And the sales model does not manage change. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.
A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM
Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch and sell their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:
These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: having spoken to only a fraction of the full Buying Decision Team, and having no way to know the political and personal discussions going on internally (and without us), we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path; we get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyer’s needs to first manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point they want to pitch. They have no idea; sales people don’t think about faciltiating change; the sales model as it is, is not equiped to facilitate the systemic change management issues that must be resolved in order for people to become buyers. It’s just far more complex than having a ‘need’ or a problem.
A SOLUTION CAN’T COMPROMISE THE STATUS QUO
Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. It’s not until step 10 that they they actually become buyers, i.e. recognize they have a problem they can’t resolve with their own resources AND is worth fixing AND they have buy-in to buy something. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchase is necessary or a workaround is possible: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. I have written an entire book to explain this problem: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.
When we enter too early with a solution-placement goal, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time, using biased questions to gather data we use to sell with – and then we sit and wait. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But there is a much more efficient way to do this: we need to help them facilitate change first before beginning the actual sales process. We sit and wait while prospects do this anyway – all the while hoping, calling calling calling – and overlook a real opportunity to become part of the Buying Decision Team and sell to those who will buy. Buying anything is the last thing people do; before that they cannot hear you, understand they need you, and don’t even consider themselves buyers. And by focusing on solution placement, we are short-circuiting the buying decision process, entering at the end, and overlook the real opportunity to facilitate the entire Buying Decision Path. To do this, however, requires a skill set different from sales.
I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process called Buying Facilitation®. Although a change facilitation model, not a sales model per se, it works with sales and employs a wholly different skill set (Facilitative Questions, Dissociative Listening) that actually shows buyers how to discover and manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitation® THEN it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time, once the buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, if purchasing your solution would cause more harm than good to the prospect’s environment – regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution – they won’t buy. And the time it takes them to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.
If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.
Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution. Use Buying Facilitation® first to facilitate the Pre-Sales change management issues all buyers must manage, help them get ready to change, and turn them quickly into buyers.
Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. Sharon Drew is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell to introduce the buying decision stages. She is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She can be reached at; sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen July 9th, 2018
Posted In: Change Management