By Sharon Drew Morgen

BUY IN how to procure compliance, and why it seems difficultHave 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:

  • seeking compliance and agreement before people know how to appraise the personal ramifications of the request:
    • How, specifically, will the new expectations blend with, or affect, their normalized status quo in their daily activity, job descriptions, relationships, output, ego drivers, etc.?
    • Which of their instinctive, standardized habits would need to be changed and how (un)comfortable or disruptive will that be? Would their norms and values remain intact?
    • What level of certainty is there, at the very start, that the final result would be better for them?
  • challenging the rules, ego needs, habituated/normalized activity, or Beliefs that have been the foundation of all prior decisions, activities, and the status quo.
  • starting with a specific set of actions, Behaviors and end-point goals that will alter whatever was in place, normalized, comfortable, and stable.

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.

  1. Listening: Because of the way our brains listen subjectively (I wrote a book on this called What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), people only hear what our brains have normalized. With habituated neural pathways already in place, we mishear, misunderstand, or discard what has been said when it doesn’t fit – without our brains telling us what it has misheard, misunderstood, or discarded. We have no way to recognize what our brains have translated (or discarded or mangled) from someone’s comments and how far our interpretation is from accuracy. In other words, sharing explanations, details, reasons, etc., regardless of how necessary, targeted, or well-presented may not be interpreted as per our intention.
  2. Questions: Conventional questions are interrogation devices biased by the Asker and cannot, cannot be fully, honestly, or accurately answered by the Responder who is most likely listening with subjective ears and hearing something different from what we intend.

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.

  1. Systems: Each of us is regulated by our unconscious, internal systems: our ‘I’, our status quo, our identity, is made up of an established system of internal rules, Beliefs, norms, history, experience, etc. that are the foundation of our choices and the instigation of our Behaviors. Our system is who we are. It’s sacrosanct, and it fights to maintain itself (our status quo, Homeostasis) and remain stable (Systems Congruence). Anything new threatens the habituated standard; it won’t do anything differently unless it develops new norms and accompanying Behaviors that will maintain the congruence of the original system. By asking the system to change, or add new Behaviors, before this discovery and modification process occurs, we’re actually inciting resistance regardless of the need or efficacy of our solution.
  2. Responsibility: We cannot change anyone; we are not part of their system, and as outsiders can never, ever understand how the Other’s status quo was configured or maintained. In other words, with the best will in the world, there is no way to cause permanent change or Buy In in Another by pushing our requirements from the outside.

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

  • listen in a way that hears what’s being meant, with no over-arching bias that might restrict what’s been said;
  • ask questions that lead Others sequentially through to their own discovery of how to implement something new without disrupting the status quo;
  • trust that when Others change themselves, they will keep the change and find their most efficient Behaviors to embody the change;
  • become Servant Leaders and facilitate the reorganization of Another’s status quo to congruently make room for the new;
  • facilitate the system through to Belief change to accompany the new, and allow it to design new Behaviors that match the new Beliefs of the system.

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.

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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 sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com and 512 771 1117. Read other articles on change, sales, leadership, decision making, and creativity at her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com

December 23rd, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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In 1996 my sister called to say she’d made an online purchase. I was surprised: in those early days it was not only difficult to search for anything on the new internet, there wasn’t much to search for. Certainly, purchasing anything seemed illogical – we had no way of knowing if ‘secure lines’ were, well, secure. Curious, I asked my sister to explain her decision process.

J: I needed a simple Y connector, and decided to see what online purchasing was all about. This was my test case. I found three companies with the exact same product at the same price.

SD: How did you choose which company to buy from?

J: Since the price and products were identical, I decided I’d trust the company with the best customer service so I’d be cared for if I had a problem. Because none of the websites mentioned customer service, I decided to call them and ask. The first company kept me on hold for 23 minutes before I hung up. The second call put me straight through to a voice message. A sales rep answered my call in the third company, asking me if I had questions. So it was an obvious choice. There was only one company that took care of me.

I then realized there were three problems with the current (1996) search capability: 1. Site visitors had only a haphazard method of finding what they wanted; 2. People occasionally didn’t recognize their unconscious criteria for resolving their query, even if they could find what they initially thought they wanted; and 3. Sites could only meet the search criteria imagined by the site designers, sometimes overlooking criteria sought by visitors. In other words, if people were happy with the information a site offered, they were satisfied. For those folks not entirely clear, or had needs outside the obvious, there was a probability they couldn’t find what they really needed and would leave the site.

I decided to create a tool to help site visitors become aware of the unconscious criteria (i.e. not top-of-mind) they needed from a specific site, and be led directly to the page(s) that offered the exact answers they sought – with just a click!

MY SEARCH INVENTION DEFIED THE NORM

Enter Hobbes. With a few sequenced facilitated questions, a simple backend tree, and carefully culled choices of criteria-based options, my search tool Hobbes could lead people to both their unconscious factors and intended take-away to the one or two site pages that fit their search. For those who chose to use Hobbes, this would keep them on the site and help them walk away buyers or satisfied visitors. It would also cause companies to do their homework to learn what visitors truly needed and add those responses to their sites. On my site I had a 54% use rate.

Specifics: Hobbes employs a sub screen which posed 3 or 4 Facilitative Questions (a new type of question I designed to elicit unconscious criteria for decision making in the sequence of brain change) focused on decision making criteria in each industry (i.e. in buying a car – price, color, etc. plus possibly Environmental Factors; in software – features, functions, etc. plus possibly Integration with Current Technology, etc.). Then site pages would be tagged to respond.

Here’s an example. Suppose you wanted to buy a red shirt online. In addition to searching for styles, price, etc., you could also be guided through your decision making with 3 Facilitative Questions representing types of choice criteria. You’d choose a category, then you’d answer 3 brief questions that linked you to the right (tagged) site page. For example, one selection might be:

What would you need to see from us to trust we can take care of your needs?

  1. An explanation of who makes our shirts and our fair trade practices;
  2. A selection of colors and materials with testimonials proving our quality;
  3. Customer service and return policies.
This would lead visitors directly to what they needed so long as the tagged menu items included visitor criteria beyond merely what the company naturally offered. Way outside of normal, especially for 24 years ago.

And therein lie the problem. My thinking, my models, my ideas, went outside Perceived Wisdom; few people understood why it was needed; everyone else just found it weird. Obviously, the Perceived Wisdom believed, people only need the facts.

WHO AM I? AND WHY DOES CRITERIA MATTER?

Before I continue my story, let me stop for just a moment to give you a thumbnail sketch of who I am. When I was age 11, I recognized that I think differently than others – thinking, listening, and understanding in systems, seeing the world in beliefs, values, relationships, norms, and metamessages, in circles that gave me a wholistic understanding. So different from how conventional people experience the world – in content, with a linear understanding.

Wanting to show up as normal, I began what would become my life’s work: coding the systems involved with how brains cause us to make choices – the sequenced steps of decision making, the internal neuronal/synaptic connections in our brains that match our unconscious belief-based criteria, and cause us to do what we do and think what we think. Once I understood the foundational differences in thinking and assumptions between me and others, I used my ideas to teach myself to choose behaviors closer to the norm – a practice I use to this day.

Since then, I’ve developed several original facilitation models (some folks refer to me as a genius, but for me it’s just normal thinking) that teach influencers in several industries (in sales as Buying Facilitation®in leadership as change facilitation and choice, and in healthcare to help folks permanently change behaviors) to enable influencers to

And none of it uses information, storytelling, or any sort of push based on the information, needs or assumptions of the external influencer. It offers parents, sellers, coaches, and leaders the skills to facilitate others through the brain elements necessary for them to make their best change decisions based on their largely unconscious criteria. I’m happy to discuss this or send you further articles on it: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

Note: I recognized decades ago that an outsider can never understand anyone else’s unconscious criteria, but they can – with an unbiased skill set – help others make their own best choices using their own hidden criteria.

HOBBES COULDN’T BE FUNDED

To continue my story: Hobbes in hand, I went forth to raise funds. I created a one sheet for it and pitched wherever I could. Heidi Roisen, then at PeopleSoft and one of the only women VCs, offered $15,000,000 if someone else would put in $1,000,000. I couldn’t find that million. Why would anyone need such a tool? I was asked frequently.

And who was I pitching to? Men. The VCs in the tech boom were by and large men. It was only years later that I learned that in the internet boom, women received merely 2% of VC funding (Now women get about 6%!). I was a woman, ahead of a new curve that even then rewarded men instead of ideas. In the Perceived Wisdom of the new internet, with no/few women present, women weren’t perceived as smart, competent, innovative regardless of the importance of the ideas.

Btw there’s an addendum to the story that’s even sadder: several years ago, decades after I developed Hobbes, I spoke with Stefan Weitz, then head of Bing (a major search tool). He saw Hobbes and said, “Cool! Nothing else helps people sort for their criteria. We could have this up and running in days.” I spoke with him days later: his folks didn’t think anyone would use it – that no one sorted for criteria.

And Hobbes remains unused as site owners seek ‘questions’ to extract visitor data. Personally, I believe helping visitors/buyers trust them is a more potent sales ploy. But that’s just me: I do not welcome uninvited spam, I’ve never bought a single thing from spam, nor will I (and many people I know) ever fill out any form or answer those manipulative questions. And yet those fill-in forms, the questions, are part of the new normal – the Perceived Wisdom of the day seems to be get what you want from site visitors without giving anything back.

WHAT IS PERCEIVED WISDOM AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

My Hobbes story provides a background for my newest grumble. This essay is meant to start a discussion about how the Perceived Wisdom (PW) of the internet restricts our worlds, rules our assumptions and restricts creativity.

I’ll begin with my definition of Perceived Wisdom. PW is another way of saying ‘the norm’, the accepted myths, practices, ideas that constitute the immediate assumptions we make without questioning them. It’s the accepted convention, the normal.

PW is perpetuated in every sphere of our lives. We learn it as infants and it permeates our education, cultures, religions, what we buy and wear, who we marry and where we live. Our thinking, our behaviors are often based on accepted norms that have become ubiquitous. * Do you avoid white after Labor Day? (Silly) * Do you feed a cold and starve a fever? (Wrong) * Do you avoid answering phone calls from numbers you don’t know? (What if some important tried to reach you?) Calories in determines weight (proven false). * Behavior Modification works to help you lose weight, exercise, change habits, yadayada. (There’s no scientific evidence anywhere that it does) * Do you fail to display a contact number on your site, seeking to collect names for marketing outreach – assuming people are happy to fill out your form and accept your spam? (Thereby turning away folks with real interest who refuse to fill out those things.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I once asked my mother if she nursed me. ‘I would have, but everyone said it would harm you. So I didn’t. And now I’m sad about it.’

PW meets our foundational criteria of belonging: it offers comfort, safety, absence of uncertainty, and no risk of encountering scorn or derision. And because PW is aimed toward the middle (where, according to the late great, Molly Ivins, exists only yellow stripes and dead armadillos), we spend our lives unwittingly maintaining and recreating a specious status quo that causes us to lose our uniqueness.

PW keeps us locked in. Our language, our conventional assumptions, keep us like gerbils, going round and round the same ideas and conventions regardless of their success or failure. So in sales, a 5% success rate is acceptable, and the matching 95% failure rate is not even mentioned; in leadership and coaching, the assumption that the person ‘in charge’ has the knowledge that Others must conform to, and their resistance is something to be managed. Even great Harvard thinkers like Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have written books on managing resistance, using the baseline assumption that all change involves resistance. Nonsense. Another faulty fact we’ve normalized.

While we think our personal beliefs are specific to us, they are invaded by the PW in the customs we live in. It’s where we get our racial biases, our assumptions about education, class, age, history. We’re so hamstrung by PW we’ve become tribes, where our politics and beliefs keep our ‘team’ on the good side and we hate everyone else, like sports fans.

And since it’s endemic we find no reason to reject it, even going so far as passing down these baseless concepts through generations and unquestioningly resisting anything that’s different. But worst of all, it restricts our creativity. Indeed, from health, to sex, to climate change and politics and relationships, almost every area of life is circumscribed by PW. It’s pernicious.

THE PERCEIVED WISDOM OF CURRENT SEARCH CAPABILITY

This is a huge topic, involving our health and healthcare system, our financial system, the environment, education, privacy – the list goes on. I’m going to limit this article to a narrow discussion how PW has kept our search use hamstrung to monetize our news and restrict data. PW assumes, even expects, our personal data will be extracted to send spam.

PW assumes our search will be restricted and monetized. It didn’t start out that way, but as monetization and demographic compartments became ubiquitous, we didn’t even notice. Most of our online interactions are now suspect: even simple searches lead us to knowledge selected by algorithms that contain us to the demographic we’ve been thrust into, causing facts to seem like fake news.

Our use of Google as a search engine is ubiquitous. This company, more than any, determines what we read, the information we have access to (the full range of data available only after dedicated search and rescue), the news in other countries. Even scientific facts are fed to us according to where we live, who we vote for, what we read.

And here’s the worst part. Google’s standard monetizing procedures tag us into a demographic and sends us what it can make money on. Rarely do we find the full range of possible solutions, answers, or ideas. I recently was led to a site that seemingly had the data I needed only to receive a phone call WHILE I WAS STILL LOOKING AT THE SITE from a sales person FROM THAT SITE who wanted to sell me something!

Surely we should care about accurately nourishing our curiosity without fear of spam and Robo calls. Surely it’s time to change our criteria.

WHAT COULD BE DIFFERENT

We’d like to believe that the internet and social media are the glue that stimulates the flow of information around the world. Yet we don’t have full access to it and it’s vulnerable to manipulation. Why have we come to accept this? Why is it ok to have our curiosity monetized? Why is PW so deep-seated that we sit back and allow it? Where are the voices that scream in the empty space where new ideas and creativity and innovation once lived? Are we all that lazy? Or don’t we care?

I can’t believe that people with terrific ideas aren’t grousing as I am. Yet none of us are doing anything about it. Why do we put up with this? Is our criteria for belonging so fierce that we’re willing to give up our personal criteria to be all we can be?

I wonder how search would have been different if Hobbes (or something like it) were one of the search tools we all had at our disposal – the ability to freely search for what we wanted to know, plus the ability to make sure our criteria were being met on each site we visited.

And I wonder why companies aren’t putting service before data extraction. Site designers are now inundated with requests to add ‘questions’ to their sites that allow them to grab data to send out god-knows-what. Always trying to push, to sell, to influence; always outside-in, using the criteria of the sites about pushing data enough times to instigate a buy.

What if our companies shifted their criteria toward excellence, and sought to make money the old way, by offering great solutions and service. Why wouldn’t sites want to spend their time/energy proving to site visitors they’re trustworthy, creating companies people want to engage with – facilitating user service instead of data extraction? What if the company criteria were integrity: to help visitors be served. I, for one, immediately disengage from sites trying to pull data from me.

Our Perceived Wisdom is faulty. And until we begin thinking differently and stop acting as if PW is true, it cannot change.

THE MISSING VOICE ON THE INTERNET

One other aspect of PW bugs the hell out of me, and that might supply answers to my ‘whys’: Have you realized that men – the male human of our species – designed, developed, and generated the internet and social media – and continue to do so? The Perceived Wisdom is the male view of the internet; we use it (and it abuses us) by the requirements, the criteria, of men. And we all buy into it.

How different would it be if women’s voices and ideas – currently a tiny fraction of the design of the internet – had been involved in the creation of our technology? Has the male viewpoint become so much a part of our culture that we all just assume that’s the way it is and should be (PW), and never stop to consider the results if women played their representative percentage in designing it?

Seriously: how would the internet or social media be different if it had been designed by women? Or designed by 50% women? Or designed in equal measure by people of color, people from different cultures, people of different levels of education. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the internet is the Perceived Wisdom of White Men in Silicon Valley. And we’ve normalized it as being The Way It Is.

WHY GO BEYOND PERCEIVED WISDOM?

Of course, going outside the box is hazardous. After recognizing the craziness of PW in several industries, I find myself writing articles yelling “But seriously! You have no clothes on!” and getting beat-up on, ridiculed, ignored and made stupid. But disputing PW is vital:

  1. Obviously, there’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow lines and dead armadillos. Who would want to be there anyway?
  2. New ideas can’t come from the middle. New ideas always come from the ends.
  3. There’s no debate, curiosity, creativity, free expression in Perceived Wisdom.
  4. Things change. Time, ideas, technology culture. Wisdom must change too or we stagnate.
  5. Perceived wisdom is linear. Real life occurs in systems.
  6. Perceived wisdom is what u get when everything is thrown into the middle and becomes moderate enough to please most. Vanilla.

New ideas come from the ends – ends that are loud enough, insistent enough, and interesting enough to push into the middle, eventually change, and become part of, the PW. But getting there – the journey – is the creative part. And those of us willing to take on the job must have very tough skins. Instead of our criteria being comfort, we must shift our criteria to truth and integrity, collaboration and serving.

What, exactly, is so powerful about Perceived Wisdom that whole industries (healthcare, sales, coaching, leadership) prefer to suffer failed strategies rather than add anything new to ensure success? What would we need to believe differently to be willing to question our long held assumptions? How can we tell if a long held assumption is wrong, or incomplete, or could be expanded, or worth thinking of something different? And how would each of us need to be different to be willing to hear fresh ideas and new voices that seemingly conflict with all we think we hold dear?

The good bit is that going against the norm is fabulous. I’ve been doing it for many decades, and the rewards make up for the pitfalls. I urge anyone with original ideas, passion for truth, and a hunger for diversity, creativity, and integrity, to shout that the perceived wisdom is wrong, and put forth

  • Diversity of ideas,
  • Fresh ideas from different cultures, ethnicity, countries, educational backgrounds,
  • True creative thinking that pushes industries (sales, coaching, leadership, listening, change) to new vocabulary and (slowly slowly) new thinking,
  • Expanded possibilities for innovation,
  • Ideas that inspire other ideas that wouldn’t have otherwise been stimulated.

The internet and search are now normalized, locked in place by our groupthink, maintained by the needs of Silicon Valley. But there must be a way we can find solutions that are both ethical AND make money. The internet, search, can be used for problem solving, not divisive rhetoric or monetization, for collaboration instead of discord. And yet we shame people who tell the truth because they don’t follow PW.

If our criteria is for better, more authentic ideas, for equality and integrity, we must go outside PW where innovation comes from. PW is merely the group/tribe acceptance of the status quo that has been standardized by the masses. Let’s all be innovators; let’s all shout out new truths and challenge the norm. And let’s all listen to the dissenters because they may be shedding light on new truths.

Let’s discuss this. I’m happy to discuss should anyone want to contact me. Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, visionary, inventor, and genius of note. She has developed new models for sales (Buying Facilitation®, how to lead people through their change management issues as they become buyers); listening (closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard); leadership and coaching (enabling followers to develop their own path to change); change and healthcare (generating new behaviors consciously by creating new neural pathways in the brain that replace old habits).

Sharon Drew is the author of many books, one of which (Selling with Integrity) was on the NYTimes Business Bestseller’s list, and two of which were on the Amazon bestseller’s list (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). Her award winning blog, sharondrewmorgen.com is populated with 6 original articles/essays a way that illustrate new ideas that go against the perceived wisdom. Sharon Drew is available as a trainer, coach, sales strategist, and keynote speaker.

December 16th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, News

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communicate

As a Buddhist, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take another’s life or how it’s even an option. Yet so many in our country are feeling disempowered and ignored, targeted and disenfranchised and we haven’t yet created a dialogue to heal. In fact, we don’t even know how to hear each other. During this time of racial, class, political, gender, and education divide, of distrust and blame and victimhood, of killing and guns and violence, our inability to deeply hear each other is heartbreaking and costly.

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

During the 3 years researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous our challenge is: the distance between our subjective experiences and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Indeed, words can’t be correctly translated when the intended meaning gets lost in another’s unfamiliar mind-set, culture, and history; the possibility of finding collaboration and reconciliation gets lost in our communication.

Heartfelt intent and tears aside, we’ve not been taught how to listen without bias. From the individual spots we each stand in, with our restricting viewpoints and hot-buttons, we pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may have similar foundational beliefs that we just don’t know how to recognize.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or inflammatory or habitual or or… and doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent. So we actually hear ABL when our CP said ABC and we have no reason to think what we we’ve ‘heard’ is faulty. I lost a partnership this way. During a conversation, John got annoyed at something he thought I said. I tried to correct him:

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.

“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!

“But I didn’t say that at all!

“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.

“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when it’s time to make a new choice.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need a way forward to choose behaviors that maintain our Beliefs, Values, and Identity AND find common ground to listen to each other and come to consensus with action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

  • Everyone’s experience and history is valid, unique, and guides their choices.
  • Others cannot see or feel what you see or feel.
  • Everyone has a right to the same basics: health, a living wage, good work, safety for our families, education.
  • All change, including adopting new ideas, is threatening to the status quo and will cause resistance unless there is buy-in at the level of beliefs.

We must

  • recognize common beliefs and values we can buy-in to without impairing our individual values,
  • feel safe in conversations when it feels like we’re speaking with enemies,
  • override our resistance and biases to find common intentions, compassion and outcomes,
  • be able to hear another’s intended message without overlaying our biases, assumptions, and habits.

I’ve put together a few action steps to begin to dialogue with those we’ve historically sat in opposition to. I also recommend that our conversations must work toward win/win. I call this a We Space.

Get agreement for a dialogue: It’s likely that you and your CP have different goals and life experiences. Begin by agreeing to have a conversation to do nothing more than find common ground.

  • “I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to an agreeable route forward that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”
  • “I wonder if we can find common goals so we might possibly find some agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well. ”

Set the frame for common values: We all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – they’re just different. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find agreement.

  • “I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if there are places we can agree. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”
  • “It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. What might be a comfortable way forward for us to discover if there is any agreement at all we can start from?”

Enter without bias: With limiting beliefs or hidden agendas, there’s no way to find commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias, just for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

  • ‘I’m willing to find common ground and put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since I’m so angry. Do you want to share your difficulty in this area, or are you ok with it and can help me? How do we move forward without bias?’

Get into Observer: In case you have difficulty overcoming your biases and filters, here’s a physiological ‘How-To’ that comes straight from NLP: in your mind’s eye, see yourself up on the ceiling, looking down on yourself and your CP. It will virtually remove you from the fray, and offer an unbiased view of your interaction – one step removed as it were. One way to do this is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 inWhat? teaches how to do this.)

Notice body language/words: Your CP is speaking/listening from beliefs, values, history, feelings, exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From your ceiling perch, notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.

Notice triggers: The words emphasized by your CP hold their beliefs and biases. They usually appear at the very beginning or end of a sentence. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens and don’t take it personally – it’s not personal. Don’t forget to notice your own triggers, or blame/victim words of your own. If their words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, get yourself back into Observer; you’ll have choice from the ceiling. But just in case:

  • “I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”

Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll actually hear what your CP means to convey, it’s necessary to summarize what you hear after every exchange:

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

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

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

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

  • “Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”
  • “What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on. If that happens, make sure you get back up to the ceiling, and then tell your CP:

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

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure you both agree to each item, and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.

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

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

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility of each needless death or killing; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal. It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts. It’s the only real start we can make.

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters. Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively.

She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

December 9th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Super QuestionAlexa, Siri, Google, and all programs that answer questions, have mechanisms that determine the answers. If you’re like me, you largely assume they are accurate, without us knowing the reference material or checking further. We actually do this in our daily lives – pose questions to friends, colleagues, and clients, about stuff we’re curious about, and receive responses we don’t check for accuracy or congruence.

Have you ever wondered what a question actually is? Conventionally, questions are posed to elicit a response, to gather data from a Responder, like “How many children do you have?” or “Why are you doing that?” Parents and spouses sometimes use questions to point out insufficiencies or annoyances, as in “Didn’t you notice the dishes haven’t been done?” Sometimes we use them rhetorically to demand fairness in the world, like in “Why is this happening to me??” Sometimes questions are deemed ‘closed’, like in, “What time is dinner?” Sometimes they’re ‘open’, like in, “What do you want to eat?” But there is a unifying feature to all conventional questions: questions are biased by the needs of the Asker to elicit data from the Responder, with the assumption that our questions will extract the information we intend.

Of course, most of the time, conventional questions work just fine. How else could we find out how many acres there are at Machu Picchu, or which movie our spouse wants to see?

But I believe we are underutilizing questions. I believe it’s possible for questions to serve a higher purpose – to collect accurate data, of course, but also to help others discover their own answers and path to decision making and change. What if it were possible to use questions to actually lead people through their unconscious discovery process to uncover their own best answers – without any bias from the Asker?

WHAT QUESTIONS DO

There is a reason questions don’t necessarily unearth accurate data. Using uniquely chosen words and an outcome biased by the curiosity, needs, and assumptions of Askers, influencers extract a restricted subset of data from Responders, all answers being some degree removed from the complete set of available responses. Indeed, questions impose limits that often have some percentage probability of missing the mark, being misunderstood or interpreted badly. There are several reasons for this.

  1. Information: because information is elicited by the needs or curiosity – the bias – of the Asker, real answers may not be captured. The wording, the request, the topic, the intent, and/or the vocabulary may offend or annoy, given differences between the Responder’s and Asker’s beliefs, communication skills, and lifestyles.
  2. Listening: words and meaning are merely our brain’s interpretations of sound waves that enter our ears through our unique neural pathways, guaranteeing we understand what’s been said as per our unconscious biases. Obviously, we often misunderstand or misinterpret the intended message and potentially miss the intent of the question entirely. I wrote an entire book on this (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Given these natural biases, it’s likely that what we think we’ve heard is some degree off of what was intended. Read my article on this: We don’t know how to hear each other.
  3. Biased question formulation: Askers use words that will hopefully elicit good data for a specific goal and outcome, and may not elicit the best responses. Sadly, it’s possible that more accurate answers could have been retrieved with a different wording or intent.
  4. Restriction: questions restrict answers to the boundaries of the question. You cannot uncover data you never asked for, even if it’s available. You cannot elicit accurate data if the question is heard differently than intended. If I ask you what type of summer shoes you wear, you’re not going to explain the foot surgeries you’ve had.

Are you getting the point here? Questions are biased by the Asker in several ways, with so much bias built in it’s a miracle people communicate at all. And the Responder? Well, a Responder is at the mercy of the question.

This is especially disturbing in coaching, healthcare, and leadership situations. Well-meaning professionals believe they’ll instigate a truth from a Responder, exposed by the ‘right’ question; or that the Other will discover the ‘right’ answer if they search their brains in ‘this direction’. Every coach and leader I’ve met deeply believes in their own knack – ‘intuition’ – for posing the ‘right’ question because they have a history of similar situations and ‘know’ where another’s answer most probably lie.

Yet we all have examples where these assumptions have proven false. Sometimes the influencer has control issues and doesn’t trust the Other to have the ‘right’ opinions or ideas and believes they know more; sometimes they pose biased questions that elicit incorrect data, or worded in a way that unwittingly creates resistance to the assumptions built into them. And sadly, when they’re certain their questions are the right ones, blame Responders who don’t comply, or respond with ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘deceptive’ answers. And worse, patients end up keeping bad habits, clients end up not making needed changes, buyers end up not getting what they need.

A NEW FORM OF QUESTION

As someone who has thought deeply, and written, about the physiology of change and decision making for decades, I began pondering this conundrum in the 1980s. I wondered if questions could be used for something other than eliciting information and instead could direct Responders through their brain toward taking congruent action. What if the intent of the Asker was to facilitate Others in discovering their own route to change with no bias, no ego, no personal needs from the Asker for a particular solution – only the trust that Others had their own answers and merely had to discover them?

What if healthcare professionals asked questions that triggered patients to positive, immediate habit change, or coaches knew the exact questions that enabled new habit formation and behavior generation? What if scientists and consultants could elicit the most accurate information? And imagine if it were possible for questions to help advertisers actually inspire action and sellers to generate Buyer Readiness.

What if a question could be worded in a specific way to act as a GPS to lead a Responder through a sequence in their brain to unearth the accurate data? To make it possible to discover the full set of criteria to make a decision from?

I’m going to get a bit wonky here, so hang with me because what I discovered is not obvious. I began studying neuroscience to learn how to sequence the elements involved in personal, systemic change. I recognized that before anyone would make a change, they’d need to make sure it was congruent with their beliefs. One way to get there is to traverse – or be lead – through to the appropriate memory channels or value or data set they needed to consider, and use their own memories, their own beliefs, their own goals, in their own words, to be able to make a change congruent with who they were. It would be necessary for Askers to change their criteria from having answers to being facilitators.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

I eventually came up with a new form of question that I labeled a Facilitative Question. It uses specific words, in a specific order to go to the most appropriate memory channel in the right order to enable discovery without resistance; it includes time; it’s’ neutral; it limits the scope of response so it avoids elements that might spark defense or feelings; it has no bias, and the Asker cannot know the answer; there is no challenge to the underlying status quo. They’re quite different from conventional questions, and I’m happy to discuss more fully should anyone wish to speak with me about them.

With these questions, prospective buyers can be led through change and buying stages; coaching clients can discover their own path to resistance-free change; doctors can elicit behavior change in patients rather than push to try to cause change; and advertisers can trigger interactive responses to normally one-sided push messages. They

  • unlock the means to help Responders discover their own excellence;
  • are non-manipulative and non-biased;
  • offer change agents a new skill to elicit real change without resistance;
  • eschew information exchange and adopt real servant leadership;
  • enable Responders to solve their own problems and be ready to change.

Here is a simple example:

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

This Facilitative Question (FQ) begins by expanding the viewing range to the full set of possibilities (i.e. ‘how would you know’), does not challenge the status quo (i.e ‘if it were time’), enables the consideration of possible change without demanding it or threatening the system (i.e. ‘reconsider’), and limits the area of analysis to a bite sized chunk so the brain isn’t overwhelmed (i.e. ‘hairstyle’). And used in the sequence of how decisions get made (my book Dirty Little Secrets discusses the 13 sequenced steps that all change decisions must traverse), this type of question leads the Responders brain to action. In fact, each FQ demands some form of action when responded to.

A conventional question posed to cover the same area might be:

  • Why do you wear your hair like that?

This conventional question challenges the Responder and attempts to elicit data for the Asker’s use, causing a defensive response (a reply would start with ‘Because’) and keeping the person in a very small, idiosyncratic, and personal response range which may end up not being about hair at all, but might send the person back to a fight with their mother 30 years prior, or a defense against their boss, or whatever. And while the Asker is most likely attempting to elicit a response they can ‘sell’ into, they are out of control. FQs actually define the parameters and give Askers real control.

One of the skills needed to formulate FQs is listening for systems, listening without bias. When we listen with biased ears, we will only hear what we want to hear, or what our brains are set up to hear neurologically. When we can listen without bias (read my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? on this topic) we can hear where the person is along their change cycle and where exactly to pose the next question (again, the 13 steps to change and decision making applies here). A new skill set, a new set of outcomes, and the real belief that everyone has their own answers.

A bit of caution: sometimes people use my examples of FQs and change words, change the sequence, and change the intent. In other words, use a bit of what I suggest to, again, formulate a question to get what they want to get. In other words, it won’t be a FQ. FQs truly demand the Asker give up the need to be the change agent, have or seek ‘the answers’, or be in control.  The goal of the FQs is merely to serve others in finding their own best answers.

USES

FQs direct people to the exact spots within their brain – the most appropriate synapses and memory channels – where their accurate answers reside, in the proper order the brain can use them to consider making a change that’s congruent with their lifestyle, while creating an interactive situation. Here’s a few examples that could benefit from FQs.

  1. Healthcare: Intake forms that create an interactive doc/patient experience from the start:What would you need to see from us to know we’re on your team and ready to serve you? [This FQ automatically creates a WE space between patient and provider.]
  2. Advertising, for an ad for a Porsche, for example: How would you know when it was time to buy yourself a luxury car? [This FQ makes the ad interactive and gives a reader time to reflect on personal change.]
  3. Sales:What has stopped you until now from resolving your issue using your own resources? [This FQ enables potential buyers to look at how they’ve gone about solving a problem on their own – necessary before realizing they can’t fix the problem themselves and might need to buy something.]
  4. Coaching:What would you need to see or believe differently to be willing to consider new choices in the places where your habitual choices are more limited? [This FQ gives clients an observer viewpoint, thus circumventing blame, to notice old habits/patterns, and limits viewing to the exact historic behaviors that may not be effective.]

The examples above are merely of single FQs which have limited use: on their own they are not part of the process of enabling change. For most change it’s necessary to formulate a sequenced set of FQs that lead a Responder from their initial discovery of change criteria through their own unique, sequenced, steps of congruent change. These can be used in advertising and marketing campaigns; healthcare apps that sit on top of Behavior Mod apps and facilitate new habit formation; AI where apps or robots need to understand the route to change and decision making. I’ve been teaching it in sales with my Buying Facilitation® model for 40 years and companies such as DuPont take it into the field for their farmers to use, Senior Partners at KPMG use it with client consulting, Safelight Auto Glass uses it to compete against other distributers, and Kaiser Permanente uses it to engage seniors needed supplemental insurance, to name a few.

If anyone would like to learn the HOW of formulating Facilitative Questions, I developed a primer in a FQ learning accelerator. Or I can teach you the full skill set. Or we can work together to develop or test a new initiative. Given how broadly my own clients have used these questions, I’m eager to work with folks who seek to truly serve their client base.

By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to decision making. What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful? Should you wish to add the ability to truly serve others, let me know.

______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative Questions, Sharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at www.sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

December 2nd, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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A coach’s job is to facilitate potential change, usually done by asking questions to identify the components of the problem, choosing between solutions to discuss, and offering ways to make, and keep, any changes while maintaining a trusting relationship.

To achieve the excellence that all coaches seek, it’s vital they avoid the ear’s natural, unconscious listening filters that could prejudice an interaction, such as:

Bias. By listening specifically for issues – problems, hopes, missing skills or motivation – a coach will merely hear what s/he recognizes as missing. This causes a problem for a client: if there are unspoken or omitted bits, if there are meta patterns that should be noticed, if there are unstated historic – or subconscious – reasons behind the current situation that aren’t obvious, the coach may not find them in a timely way, causing the coach to begin in the wrong place, with the wrong timing and assumptions, leading to suggestions that may be inappropriate, potentially creating mistrust (best case) or harm (worst case).

Assumptions. If a coach has had somewhat similar discussions with other clients, or historic, unconscious, beliefs are touched that bring to mind specific questions or solutions, coaches too often offer clients flawed or inadequate suggestions.

Habits. If a coach has a client base in one area – say, real estate, or leadership – s/he may unconsciously enter the conversation with many prepared ways of handling similar situations and may miss the unique issues, patterns, and unspoken foundation that may hold the key to success.

And it’s all unconscious. None of us, especially coaches who truly care about their clients, ever mean to harm anyone. As I write in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? the problem lie in our brains. Once we listen carefully for ‘something’, consciously or un-, we restrict all else that’s possible to hear as our brains interpret the words spoken according to our bias (led by the electrical/chemical signals sent to our historic neural pathways), often missing the client’s real intent, nuance, patterns, and comprehensive contextual framework and implications.

To have choice as to when, whether, or how to avoid filtering out possibility, we must disassociate – go up on the ceiling and look down – and remove ourselves from any personal biases, assumptions, triggers or habits, enabling us to hear all that is meant (spoken or not).

In What? I explain how to trigger ourselves the moment there is a potential incongruence. For those unfamiliar with disassociation, try this: during a phone chat, put your legs up on the desk and push your body back against the chair, or stand up. For in-person discussions, stand up and/or walk around. [I have walked around rooms during Board meetings while consulting for Fortune 100 companies. They wanted excellence regardless of my physical comportment.] Both of those physical perspectives offer the physiology of choice and the ability to move outside of our instincts. Try it.

For companies wanting a one-day program on listening to ensure teammates hear each other accurately, to help customer-facing staff to hear clients better, let me know. For those individuals seeking to listen without bias, read What? and take the guided learning that leads you through exercises in each chapter, to teach you how to notice, and get rid of, your listening bias.

_______________

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

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

November 25th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, News

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Why does it seem so hard to change a habit or a behavior? Why do we drag our feet when buying a replacement appliance or car? Why do our teams go through disruption when going through a merger? Why do we resist changing our diets or adding exercise to our day when we know it’s good for us?

The oft-repeated myth claims people hate change, that change is hard. But that’s not true. People like the results of change; they just fear the process, the disruption and disorientation that change seems to cause. But the problem isn’t the change; it’s the way we’re approaching it.

The very skills we use to instigate change cause the resistance, struggle, failure to change, and conflict that occur when we initiate doing anything outside of our habituated norm. With a different skill set we can not only avoid resistance altogether, but change in a way that’s pain free, creative and expansive. In fact, change can be a pleasure.

In this article I’ll briefly discuss the topics necessary to consider painless change, and link to five 30-minute podcasts I taped a while ago with Nathan Ives of Strategy Driven Magazine. Since I recorded these podcasts, I’ve since developed a How of Change program that actually teaches how to isolate the exact elements in the brain to consciously generate new neural pathways to stimulate easy change. As always, I’m here to discuss.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Change means doing/thinking something different than our status quo – our internal system that has been accepted, habituated, standardized, and normalized through time – potentially replacing it with something unknown, untried, and therefore risky.

And therein lie the problem: because our change methods don’t take systems into account, anything we do to effect change potentially causes a destabilizing effect and puts our system at risk. This fact alone causes disruption, pain and confusion. We’re trying to push an as-yet unaccepted element into a fully/long-functioning stable system that hasn’t agreed to alter itself, and it’s defending itself.

To do anything different, we need approval and a route forward from our unconscious system; to change congruently, we must consciously facilitate our normalized, unconscious internal structure to design new and acceptable rules for any additions.

Once the ‘new’ is acceptable, seen to be nonthreatening, recognized as having the same rules, norms, values as the status quo, it will be easily adopted. Note: regardless of the efficacy of the new, or the problems inherent in the status quo, change is not acceptable until the status quo, the system, the group of norms and beliefs that have been good-enough, recognizes a way to normalize itself with the new included.

#1 What is Change? and Why is Change so Hard?

WE IGNORE THE SYSTEM: HOW BIAS AND INFORMATION PUSH CAUSE RESISTANCE

Historically, we have approached change through information sharing, traditional problem-solving methods, personal discipline and behavior modification, and strong leadership, assuming by pushing new information – new activities, new ideas, new rationale, requests for different behaviors – into the status quo it will be sufficient. But it’s not. We’re ignoring the system, causing it to resist to maintain itself.

Why are systems so important? Systems are our glue. Our lives are run by systems – families, teams, companies, relationships. Each of us individually is a system. Systems are made up of rules and norms that everything/everyone buys in to and that maintain the beliefs and values, history and experience, that make each system unique and against which everything is judged against.

And each system holds tightly to its uniqueness as the organizing force behind the activities, goals, and output of our behaviors. Change any of the elements and we change the system; try to push something new into the system, and it will defend itself. We learned in 6th grade that systems seek homeostasis (balance), making it unlikely we can pull one thing out of a system and shove something else back in without the system resisting.

Currently, our attempts at change (sellers, coaches, negotiators, or diets, exercise programs, etc.) are little more than pushing a new agenda in from the outside and assuming compliance will follow because the new is ‘better’ or ‘rational’. But because the new most likely doesn’t match the unique, internal norms already in residence, we get implementation problems in teams, closing delays in sales, resistance to changing eating and exercise habits, modification problems in healthcare and coaching. Indeed, all implementations, all buying decisions, all negotiations, all new behavior generation, are change management problems.

It’s possible to introduce change in a way that does not cause resistance – from the inside out, by teaching the system how to reorganize along different lines, in accordance with its own rules and values.

For lasting change, it’s necessary to enlist buy-in from the system. Any reasoning or validation for needed change will be resisted because the system fears disruption. Hear how systems are the organizing principle around change – and what to do about it.

#2 What are Systems and How Do They Influence Change

WHAT IS RESISTANCE?

The universally held concept is that resistance is ubiquitous, that any change, any new idea, will engender resistance. University programs teach it how to manage resistance; Harvard professors such as Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have made their reputations and written books on it; consultants make their livings managing it. Yet there is absolutely no reason for resistance: we actually create the resistance we get, by the very models we use to implement change.

The underlying problem is, again, systems. As per homeostasis, a system will fight to continue functioning as it has always functioned, regardless of how impractical or non-efficient it is or how compelling the new change might be. And by attempting change without an agreement from the system, without designing any implementation of the new around the inherent beliefs, values, and norms of the status quo, we’re causing imbalance.

Systems just are. They wake up every day maintaining the same elements, behaviors, beliefs, they had yesterday, and the day before. They don’t notice anything as a problem – the problems are built in and, well, part of the givens. When anything new attempts to enter a system and the system has not reorganized itself to maintain systems congruence, it is threatened (Indeed, we are threatening the status quo!) and will defend itself by resisting. Hence, we always define and create our own resistance.

It’s possible to avoid resistance by beginning a change process by first facilitating the system to re-think, re-organize, re-consider its rules, relationships, and expectations, and garner buy-in from all of the elements that will touch the final solution, while matching the introduction of the new accordingly. Believe it or not, it’s not difficult. But we do need a new skill set to accomplish this.

#3 If Decisions Are Always Rational, Why Are Changes Resisting?

WHY BUY-IN IS NECESSARY AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT

As sellers, change agents, coaches, doctors, parents, and managers, we seek to motivate change. Whether it involves a purchase, a new idea, a different set of behaviors, or a team project, all successful change requires

  • matching the new with the values and norms of the status quo,
  • shifting the status quo to adapt to something new,
  • facilitating buy-in from everyone who will touch the new addition,
  • working from inside out by aligning with the core values and norms of the system.
[Note: I teach this change process as Buying Facilitation® to sellers to facilitate Pre-Sales buying decisions, and coaches as a tool to generate permanent change.] Until this is accomplished, resistance will result as the system attempts to defend itself.

#4 Why is Buy-in Necessary and How to Achieve It

HOW TO AVOID RESISTANCE, DISRUPTION, AND FAILURE

Until now, we have approached change by starting with a specific goal and implementation plan and seeking buy-in to move forward successfully. While we take meticulous steps to bring aboard the right people, have numerous meetings to discuss and manage any change or disruption possibilities, our efforts are basically top-down and outside-in and end up causing resistance and disruption.

Starting from the inside begins with an explicit goal that everyone agrees to, but leaving the specifics – the Hows – up to the people working with the new initiative, an inside-out, bottom-up/top-down collaboration. While the result may not end up exactly like imagined, it will certainly meet the objectives sought, and include far more creativity and buy-in, promote leadership, continue through time, and avoid resistance and disruption – and potential failure.

#5 A Radical Approach to Change Management, Real Leadership

Change need not be difficult if we approach it as a systems problem. I’ve developed models for sales, leadership, coaching, and healthcare that facilitate systemic, congruent, values-based change. I’m happy to help you think this through or implement it. To learn more about systemic models for decision making, change, and sales, go to http://sharondrewmorgen.com/ or contact Sharon Drew at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

Here’s a link if you wish to have copies of the entire series Making Change Work.

_______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, author, and the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model, a decision facilitation and change management model often used in sales to help sellers facilitate the change issues buyers must address before they can make a buying decision. She’s written 7 books on the topic including NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew has trained many Fortune 500 hundred companies to help people become buyers, to help staff change and be motivated, to give leaders the tools to lead effectively without resistance.

Sharon Drew also tackles listening, and closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her book on how to hear others without bias, What? Did you really say what I think I heard?, is used by several organizations to enable them to hear each other, and clients, accurately.. See www.sharondrewmorgen.com for a range of articles on change, buying decisions, and hearing others. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

November 18th, 2019

Posted In: News

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Training Your Team, Training In BusinessDid you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? When important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time? The problem is the training model.

Current training models are designed to offer and present data, not help folks learn. Let me explain.

Current training models successfully educate only those who are predisposed to the new material. Others may endeavor to learn during their classroom study but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility

Because anything new is a threat to our habitual and carefully (unconsciously) organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted.

The design of most training programs poses problems for learners, such as when

– learners are happy with their habitual behaviors and don’t seek anything new,
– fear they might lose their historic competency,
– the new material unconsciously opposes long-held beliefs
– the new material may butt heads with a learner’s long-held beliefs, ego, or knowledge base.

Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy of the required change. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not know they need it or be able to congruently make the change the new information requires. But there is another way to go about training that incorporates change. Let’s begin by examining the beliefs inherent in the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The current training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,
  • offers enough experiential learning,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is: it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients.

Until or unless the unconscious system that holds our beliefs and values and habits in place is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material, any change will not be permanent and learners will resist. Effective training must change beliefs first. And beliefs can only be changed by the learner making internal shifts, separate from the new information provided.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the unconscious system of beliefs, habits, rules and history;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. Learners would have to first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones.

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

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

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ and belief change in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

 __________

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. 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. Sharon Drew has recently developed 3 new programs for start ups.
She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com  512-771-1117

November 11th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, News

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For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.
  • You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix.

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

For some reason, it’s an accepted norm that presenting details of an idea or solution will prompt action. It goes something like this: you want someone to buy or do something, or fund you; you want a team to organize in a certain way, or a teenager to change behaviors. In other words, you want someone to do something they’re currently not doing. You decide on a story, a pitch, a tactic, a presentation, that will influence them to change their current behaviors to do what you want them to do. So you

  • formulate the ‘right’ message, in the right way – according to their demographics or personal characteristics – that (you assume) represents their ‘needs’ and will motivate action;
  • develop the ‘right’ supplemental materials or stories;
  • pitch, present, tell a story, offer indisputable research and superlative references that prove your value.

You then assume your ‘relationship’ with the listener – your status, brand, assumed expertise, history – offers you authority to be granted what you ask for. And then you wait. And then…nothing.

In case you’re wondering why you’re not getting the results you deserve, it’s because it’s all based on you.

WHAT – PITCHES CAN’T BE HEARD

Just because you may be ‘right’, have the essential information and capability to fix a problem, your message won’t be heard unless the listener recognizes they want to change, that they cannot resolve their own problem using familiar resources, and they’re ready to seek an external fix. 

Indeed, until they know precisely when, why, what, and how to change their current thinking and behaviors, until they recognize that the ‘cost’ of adopting a solution from outside the status quo is lower than the cost of maintaining the problem, there’s a case to be made that your suggestions will be ignored or resisted.

Here’s the problem. Your pitches and stories:

  1. try to persuade others according to your needs and goals (As a listener, if don’t think I have a need, why should I listen?);
  2. are misunderstood and mistranslated as per unconscious listening biases (As a listener, if I misinterpret what you’re talking about, what is my takeaway? And how will I know what I think I hear isn’t what you’re saying?);
  3. provide an answer according to what you believe is needed (As a listener, I’m offended when you think you know more than me about what I need.);
  4. use biased verbal and graphic forms to represent the message you think will be effective (As a listener, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t think that way.);
  5. reflect your need for them to take action NOW (As a listener, I haven’t figured out if I need to change anything. So why are you pushing me to take action?);
  6. probably don’t resolve the potentially broken internal rules and historic choices that created and maintain the problem (As a listener, I know I need to resolve this, but it’s always been this way and so many things are dependent upon it. What will break if I try to do something different?).

Notice it’s you and your biases determining:

  • the information you’re sharing – which may not be the best set of facts for that listener;
  • the particular words, graphics, presentation used – which may not be the best for the listener’s understanding;
  • the assumption that the problem needs to be fixed – and fixed the way YOU think it should be fixed;
  • that YOU are the one (an outsider with no true knowledge of the full data set of what’s going on internally) who has THE content to fix them – and aren’t recognizing any possible avenues for them to fix themselves;
  • the intended outcome YOU believe needs to be met – which may not be the same outcome or agenda the listener condones.

In other words, with no accurate idea of how your information is being received OR the actual underlying fact pattern that has both created and maintained the status quo, with no ability to understand the historic, systemic issues that keep the status quo functioning well-enough to not have considered change, you’re trying to tell folks to do what you want them to do using your own criteria for them to change.

You certainly have no control. You have no way of knowing the rules, relationships, background, of what you can only see parts of from outside the system. You have no idea how you’re being heard, or if your chosen languaging and presentation is what the Other will respond to. Indeed, you have no way of knowing that your message is ‘right’ for that person at that time.

I contend that by entering a conversation fraught with your own biases, goals, needs, and limited understanding, you’ll only succeed with those who already believe the way you do, are seeking change, and are looking for exactly what you’re presenting. And those who really might need your message will ignore it if it’s mistimed, runs counter to the current operating rules or agreements, or uses the wrong languaging.

This can be amended. You can prepare listeners to accurately hear and be motivated to act on what you want to share; you can language your information according to the best chances to be heard, at a time when the listener is ready, willing, and able to hear. But you need to add a new mindset.

WHY – CAN’T YOUR PITCH/STORY BE HEARD?

Right now it seems your listeners are ignoring you, or resisting; that they misinterpret or forget on purpose. But that’s not the case. They just cannot respond to what you are telling them. The way they hear you is a big part of the problem.

Simplistically, brains take in spoken words through your ears as chemical and electrical signals devoid of meaning. These signals

  • travel down neural pathways
  • seeking similar-enough signals
  • that match with the incoming signals
  • to an unknowable (greater or lesser) degree,
  • and may have a different meaning
  • that’s some degree ‘off’ the incoming message,
  • but matches historic decisions and beliefs
  • that have been built in to current choices, status quo, and accepted norms.

In other words, there’s a high probability your intended message will be misheard, misunderstood, or mistranslated as per the meaning attached to the neurons and synapses a listener’s brain automatically chooses to match with your words; you have no idea what others hear when you speak, your clarity, personality, and messaging aside.

Those with no interest at all, and regardless of your attempts to inspire attention, may notice only a fraction of what you offer and certainly won’t care if they’re getting it wrong. For those who are trying to listen, they don’t know what parts of your message they’re missing or misinterpreting. Their brains won’t tell them they’ve got it wrong.

In fact, people can’t know that they DON’T accurately hear what you’re saying. As per above, their brains don’t tell them which words or concepts were omitted or mistranslated during their normal brain/listening process. So if I say ABC, you might actually hear ABL and your brain won’t tell you it haphazardly discarded E, F, G, etc. during its signal matching process. I actually wrote a book on this called WHAT? Did you really say what I think I heard?.

In other words, even if people try to hear you, even if you’re messaging is terrific, all listening is unconsciously biased by your listener’s brains regardless of what you say. And using normal conversation, or pitching/storytelling, you have no control. When you merely pitch

  • what you want them to hear
  • AND your listener has not heard what you intended them to hear
  • AND your listener is not in agreement or
  • doesn’t know how what they think they heard relates to their situation,

there’s a good likelihood you’re unwittingly fostering resistance and resentment.

But when listeners have agreed they want new knowledge, when they know how to manage any disruption that would result from bringing in something new, their brain will connect with the correct neural pathways to listen through and accurately hear what you’ve got to say.

Your first job is to get them ready to hear you. I can’t say this enough: regardless of how much Others need to hear what you’ve got to say, no matter what problem it will resolve, no matter how urgently they need the information you have, they cannot, cannot hear you accurately unless they unconsciously match what you’re saying with their unconscious listening biases.

WHEN – SHOULD YOU SHARE INFORMATION?

Begin by getting on the same page as your listener. That means your normal pitch, your normal presentation materials or deck, may need to be amended to include factors on THEIR side of the table. Do research with current clients. Come at this from the standpoint of the listener, the buyer, the funder:

  1. recognize it’s your responsibility to help the listener hear you accurately; their brains won’t know what’s accurate.
  2. create the path to ensure listener buy-in before mentioning your idea.
  3. assume you will be resisted if what they hear doesn’t match their current beliefs and historic rules about the subject.

I continue to be shocked that I rarely meet a marketer OR a seller who knows exactly how their buyers buy: the types of internal change issues they must manage before they can do anything different; the possibilities they have of fixing their own problems; the relationship and power and buy-in issues going on amongst stakeholders that influence (in)action. Or folks seeking funding: what criteria will funders use to choose you over the competition? It won’t be based on your pitch – they’ve heard it before. Or influencers: what historic actions or cultural norms are fixed in the status quo that would need to shift for them to buy-in to change?

Until you know this, there’s no way for you to be certain the proper technique to use to pitch, and you’ll only be successful with the low hanging fruit. I wrote a book on this that will teach you all of the stuff going on behind the scenes: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. But make sure you do research. Or let me know and I can help you gather the right data and give you a report.

Once you understand the ‘lay of the land’ behind the scenes, your conversation must begin by engendering trust so they’ll begin to turn off their guarded ear and open up a bit. And the only way you’ll engender trust is to really care about them. They will have no need to care about you unless you do. Something like this:

I have something I’d like to share. But I’m not sure if you need to hear it. How are you currently thinking about X right now?

This lets the listener know they have their own valid viewpoint and you won’t foist your beliefs on them; pushing your data too soon encourages resistance and resentment. Continue with some of these:

I hear you currently believe X? Did I hear correctly?

If there is a time when you consider change, how would you plan on handling X?

I notice that you didn’t mention X. Do you have any thoughts on how you might incorporate any needed new choices? I have a solution/idea that would offer new thoughts on this subject should you want to consider new choices.

The hard part is to keep yourself from talking if their responses seem to naturally lead to them adopting your solution: until they have agreed to add something new or consider change, until they realize they might be missing a piece, you’ve got nothing to say.

How many times have you walked through booths at conferences and heard folks wasting their breath pitching pitching pitching, hoping hoping hoping their message will be heard by someone?!?! Well, there’s a good chance you’re doing the same thing. Stop wasting your breath; save it for those who want to hear it and then language it according to their listening patterns.

Wait until you’re certain your listener wants to learn/do something different before pitching. Even for you folks seeking funding: before you pitch, help them determine the criteria they’ll use to choose someone to fund and then match that criteria. For parents seeking to change a teen’s habits: what’s stopping them from implementing what they promised? For sellers: what do they need to do internally to get the buy-in for any proposed change? How will they determine if an outside fix is less costly than maintaining the status quo? What can they do to fix the problem themselves first?

Until people know if they’re ready/able to do anything different, that the ‘cost’ of change is manageable, they aren’t available to listen to what you have to say. When you begin with a pitch, you’re restricting your audience to those who have already decided to change – the low hanging fruit. Until people know how to listen without bias you can’t be heard accurately. Sorry.

HOW – SHOULD YOU PITCH?

Of course it’s necessary to share specific details when needed:

  • to take action (The space for the desk is 8 feet long.);
  • to recognize a fit between items (We will be serving fish, so bring white wine.);
  • to explain penalties (If you come home after midnight, you’ll be grounded.);
  • when someone seeks you out to answer their curiosity (How do you cook that?)
  • to know what to do when an action has been agreed upon (Our first action will be to…);
  • to know content details (I now recognize I cannot solve a problem myself, know how to manage the fallout from bringing in something new, and have the buy-in to learn, buy, think, add something new).

It’s necessary to language your pitch so you’re understood when information is needed. Once the listener has shared what they already believe to be true about the topic you’re discussing, use their words, their beliefs, and what they think is missing, to populate your pitch. Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re selling email organization software.

You: How are you currently organizing your email?
Prospect: I use my folders in my email software.
You: I assume that’s working fine for you or you would have added new capability before now.
Prospect: I know I should do it, but I can’t get my head around adding any new software than I already have. I’m overwhelmed.
You: I know. All of us are. I sell an email organizing product that’s simple to install and seamlessly works with most existing software. If you want, we can discuss it if your stakeholders would consider adding the organizing capability to what you’ve got now.

Notice when it was time to speak I focused my pitch to only the comments my listener mentions. If I used my entire pitch, I’d be breaking trust.

I’ve spent decades training sales folks, another decade as a life/business coach, and more recently as the developer of a unique change model that enables folks to generate congruent behavior change. I developed an entire generic change management model (Buying Facilitation®) that teaches sellers how to facilitate any buying decision, coaches to facilitate congruent change, and helps leaders and parents expedite requests and promises. And I also developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions (above) that help others discover their own answers with no bias from the questioner other than a facilitated direction for brains to find answers.

I understand how difficult it is instigate change in others. Remember that when you’re pitching, or sharing a story to initiate another to take action, you’re asking them to change. Please consider the problem from a different angle. Help your listeners change by helping them change their brains. Stop thinking your brilliant content will be enough; serve them by helping them figure out how to use what you’ve got to say to become better.

_______________________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation® and Facilitative Questions, trainer, coach, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including NYTimes Business bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew can help you develop, perfect, and present your message for optimal success.

November 4th, 2019

Posted In: News

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Why systms work for businessAs a Change Facilitator, I often get asked about the nature of decision making, change and buy-in. Since my responses seem surprising in their laser focus on systems, I thought it might be an interesting conversation to start among influencers: what role do systems play in change? I contend that unless we understand systems we can’t hear others without bias, can’t pose pitches or try to influence others, can’t effectively design or implement projects and project teams, and can’t effectively maintain relationships.

To that end, I’ve jotted down a few of my favorite ‘laws’ of systems that might help explain my intense respect for them, and provide you with baseline truths of how our status quo rules our behaviors, how our beliefs and decisions are tied together, and why it’s so difficult to change anyone’s mind.

Here are my thoughts on how and why systems are not only central to change, but the glue that makes the status quo so substantial and change so difficult; at the end, I offer an approach to enable congruent, inside-out, permanent change.

  • A system is a conglomeration of elements that represent the status quo and have agreed to the same rules and beliefs which are then expressed through behaviors. All behaviors represent and express the beliefs and rules inherent in the system.
  • A system has created its status quo, with a set identity and Hierarchy of Beliefs that govern it. It’s largely unconscious and historic, designed to maintain itself as is, perpetuated by the historic rules that recreate it daily, and defends itself at all costs. It can be said that all systems are complex in their own way.
  • A system always makes choices that enable it to maintain itself with minimal disruption. Regardless of how others interpret the decisions or choices made by the system, our take-aways as Outsiders are always subjective.
  • A system just IS. Systems always act upon the givens, rules, beliefs, etc. that define it, and are congruent onto itself.
  • No one from outside the system can ever understand why it does what it does (i.e. behaviors) due to its idiosyncratic nature. While it may appear to Outsiders to be ineffective, unstable, etc, (all judgments seen through an Outsider’s subjective filters) a system has developed operational behaviors, created the rules and elements of the status quo that maintains itself daily, and will not allow itself to be disrupted.
  • When Outsiders attempt to push their own agendas through advice, information, ideas, content (i.e. sales, coaching, healthcare, marketing, trainingleadership, management) they are pushing against a closed, fixed system that must resist external influence in order to maintain Systems Congruence.
  • No change can occur unless a system makes room for the new (systemic reorientation) in a way that maintains the rules of the system (Systems Congruence). The system is sacrosanct, regardless of its downsides.
  • All elements within a system that would be touched by a proposed change must agree to changing its rules, and buy-in to all of the elements that will change. This is the only way to ensure Systems Congruence. Otherwise there will be rejection, sabotage, lost relationships, misunderstanding, failed implementations, delayed sales cycles, etc. In other words, attempting to create or influence change (aimed at the behavioral level) will fail unless the system has already reoriented itself to seek and adopt change because it is convinced it cannot fix a problem itself, and has a specific path forward that is congruent and avoids disruption.
  • All decisions are change management problems. Decisions are prompted by changes in the Hierarchy of Beliefs, and get made only when there is internal alignment to ensure continued congruency.
  • To influence change, decision making, and buy-in, influencers should focus on the origination points (in beliefs) that designed the behaviors to begin with.
  • Successful change can occur only when the system has assembled, and gotten buy-in from, all of the elements in the status quo that would be modified as a result.
  • Before change can happen, there must be a systemic understanding within the system of the downside of change, and it must be compensated for congruently or there will be fallout as it fights to maintain stability. 
  • Before change can happen, the system must know with certainty that it cannot fix a problem on its own. The last thing a system wants is to accept an external fix, or change. 
  • Information does not teach a system why, when, if, or how to change. Information is necessary at the end, once there is buy-in for change, and only to fill in the necessary gaps when the system gets to the point when it recognizes it cannot fix itself, has gotten the go-ahead (buy-in) from each of the affected elements and knows how to remain congruent while doing something differently.
  • Before change can happen, systems must figure out how to re-organize, re-prioritize, enhance, or devalue, the elements that define so it continually maintains Systems Congruence.
  • There are 13 steps included in all change decisions, regardless of whether it’s one person buying a toothbrush, or a global team deciding to implement new software. The steps may be iterative or unconscious, but they all must be addressed for congruent change to occur and for the components to design, buy-in to, and support, the change.
  • All change must be initiated, and adopted, at the belief level. When content or influencing procedures are used to drive change, it’s too often aimed at changing behaviors, causing systemic resistance. Note: behaviors are merely the expression, the transaction, of a belief and are not the cause of change, but the response to it.
  • Influencers can use their positions as Servant Leaders to enable people, teams (i.e. human systems) to traverse their own unconscious steps to change, so long as they avoid biased questions, biased listening, or content sharing, etc. and stick to facilitating the system through their own discovery and down their own steps to congruent change. Then it will be obvious the type of information required to enable change that’s non-disruptive.

WRAP UP

Systems are the core – the foundation, the status quo – of congruent human structures (people, teams, companies, families) and are based on every element within them agreeing to the same rules and beliefs that specify the operating rules for behaviors. (It’s obvious. Do you think IBM and Google and Uber all operate out of the same foundational rules and operational beliefs?).

This system gets up every day and replicates itself so it not only recreates the status quo, but maintains it. All systems resist, and potentially misinterpret, anything from outside that threatens it. Until or unless there is a systemic understanding that there will be no/minimal disruption – certainly no change without buy-in from the elements – change will not occur.

Each system (each family, each person) is unique and idiosyncratic, unknowable to an outsider due to its unconscious nature, history, patterns, and Hierarchy of Beliefs and rules.

For those of us in sales, coaching, healthcare, leadership, consulting, or any type of change management, we often use content/information (initiatives, information, Behavior Modification, education, pitches, marketing, advice, etc.) or our own intuition and needs for the Other as the means to invoke change, assuming that offering the right data, in the right format, will teach someone to do something differently.

Yet change doesn’t happen as a result of information, regardless of how critical it is, unless the system has already determined its willingness and ability to change congruently, with buy-in from all effected elements. Change only happens systemically, when the foundational beliefs are ready, willing, and able to change. Until or unless the system learns how to facilitate and incorporate new congruent choices, or reprioritize the existing Hierarchy, change cannot occur.

Conventional practices include posing conventional (biased) questions asked to elicit answers as per the Asker’s needs and curiosity, filtered through their biased listening, directed toward behavior change (rather than belief change) that they want to see occur and use biased content to convince/influence/rationalize the system to acquiesce. In other words, the approaches we’re now using won’t affect systemic change unless the system was already poised to do so.
Change only happens when the system has already agreed, and knows how to manage any change so there is no disruption (or there will be automatic resistance); change cannot happen when the system believes it will become unstable as a result.

A good rule of thumb: no one, and nothing from outside the system can change it so long as conventional questions and curiosity, biased content or convincer strategies, are used. Systems must change themselves from within. This is the reason why sales closes such a small percentage of prospects, why coaches have permanent success with so few clients, and why 97% of all implementations fail. I’ve written an article on why ‘push‘ doesn’t work. 

And this is why change appears to be so hard. It’s not. We’re just going about it ineffectively. By merely attempting to change behaviors, we actually cause the resistance we get, only capture those who are ‘ready’ (the low hanging fruit), and miss an opportunity to facilitate and enable those who CAN change.

CHANGE FACILITATION

I’ve developed a Change Facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) that manages congruent change through a unique skill set, including Listening for Systems and formulating Facilitative Questions (using specific words, in a specific order; directive and action inducing, not information driven or biased) that enable a system to discover its own route through to congruent change and its own brand of excellence. Different from conventional sales, coaching, etc. that run the risk of pushing change, facilitators enable the system to change itself, with no bias from the influencer, and results of greatly enhanced success.

Over the last 35 years, I’ve trained the model globally to corporations and teams in sales, healtcare, coaching, leadership, consulting, and communication (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). It’s a generic model that can be used in any industry (clients include banking, consulting, insurance, tech, project implementations, wellness (doc/patient buy-in), real estate, research, travel, etc.) in any format (i.e. sales pitches, marketing articles, websites, questionnaires, customer service, team building, doctor/patient relationships, buy-in, etc.) and enables congruent buy-in and Change Readiness.

For those ready to add a new capability to their current influencing practices, I’ve designed several approaches, from self-guided study, to learning programs, to coaching. Let me know of interest.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and the developer of Change Facilitation. She has written 9 books, including the acclaimed NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® a change facilitation model that works with sales to facilitate Buyer Readiness to use with sales. She is a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach. Visit her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com. She can be reached at 512 771 1117 or sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

October 28th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management

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A friend of mine delivers leadership training in police departments. On the first morning, he has the partners dance with each other, taking turns for an hour at a time as leader and follower. As most of them are men, they start off very uncomfortable as the ‘follower’, usually a woman’s role in dance. But follow they must; he tells them if they can’t follow, they can’t lead.

As leaders with specific goals we’re responsible for, we operate from the assumption we’re in charge. But what, exactly, are we in charge of? I believe our job is to set the tone, and enable our followers to create a path to a successful goal. As they say in Argentine Tango, if you notice the leader, he’s not doing his job.

WHAT IS OUR JOB

With unconscious blinkers, limited by our biases and assumptions, leaders often begin with a plan, an idea, a fantasy if you will, of how to achieve an outcome. We then work at creating and driving the path to execute it. But this strategy faces several unknowns:

  1. We really have no way of knowing beforehand if it could succeed.
  2. We don’t know the follower’s unspoken beliefs, creative capabilities, or dynamics, how their process factors in, or the range of ideas they might come up with if encouraged.

Even with an aim to be inclusive, we too often carry our plan into the initial sessions with the group and, maybe unconsciously, try to persuade them to adopt the path we imagine. This route might yield resistance at best; at worst, it restricts the full range of possible outcomes.

I recently heard Presidential Candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar say: “I haven’t gone on TV for interviews much before now. But my team told me I needed the exposure. So here I am.” Was she the follower? Or the leader? While smart enough to be considered to be leader of the free world, she didn’t have the foresight of her team to expand her publicity. That makes her the leader AND the follower.

I contend that as leaders using our own assumptions, ideas, and expertise, it’s not possible to achieve an optimal result: until followers develop their own values, vision, and voices; until the group discovers a path through their own group dynamics; until the group works collaboratively to develop creative outcomes that they can all buy into; there’s no condition for success as the outcome will be restricted.

So here’s the question: do you want to facilitate a route through to the best result? Or drive the path to the result you’ve imagined? You can’t do both.

  • What would you need to believe differently to trust you can achieve the best outcome if it’s driven by the followers?
  • What is your role if the followers are in charge of the route to a successful outcome?

I believe that leading and following are two sides of the same coin. And I believe it must be an interdependent process.

CONTROL

I once trained a group of executive leaders at a company with a reputation of having values. They were the most manipulative group I’ve ever trained. Getting them to consider any form of leadership that didn’t involve them having total control was a herculean task. Seeing my frustration one of them said: “But our message is values-based. Of COURSE it’s our job to convince them to do it our way! It’s the RIGHT way.” Having a great outcome does not give license to push our agendas to get it done OUR way.

As leaders, we must give up our egos, our needs for control, our perceived value of being ‘right’, of being The One to exert power and influence. We obviously need to have some sort of control given we’ve got a job to do. But control over what?

There are two components to our job: reaching a goal, and getting there; we cannot control both unless we do it alone. To work with a group of followers, I suggest we manage the goal and supervision of the journey through change; the process of getting there, the details and actions along the route, must be managed by the followers. It’s an interdependent process. On a day-to-day basis that means the leader

  • controls the space that will enable all voices to be heard, giving rise to creativity, collaboration, and mutual responsibility for planning and delivery;
  • leads the group through forming, failure and resistance, discovery and confusion, trials and success;
  • guides the group through the route they designed and helps them maintain equilibrium.

Here I’m reminded of another great Argentine Tango expression: The leader opens the door; the follower dances through using her own unique steps; the leader follows.

STRUCTURE VS CONTENT; CONTEXT VS COMPONENTS

I contend that we must assure results, but hand over the control of the journey to the followers.

Let’s look at the two components, the goal and the route, from a systems perspective. Considering the result we seek to achieve from the viewpoint of the structure – the context, the boundaries that define the goal – the goal is clear and unadorned. The structure is the headline that identifies what’s within, so a headline that reads: Sandals are Worn in Summer, would have an article about shoes, not recipes for spaghetti.

I refer to the components within the structure as the content – the details, the story line, the items that fit within the parameters of that specific structure. Using the above headline, the content might include different types of sandals, shoes worn in summer vs those worn in winter.

Another simple example would be the structure defines the size and use of a room, while the content includes the size and type of furniture that will fit into it; so an 8’ by 10’ room to be used as a bedroom would not hold a 12’x12’ living room couch.

The structure strictly limits, controls, defines, and identifies the content. Any content is acceptable so long as it fits within the confines of the structure.

If leading a team through an initiative to enhance customer service, for example, the leader is responsible for ending up with happier customers and supervising the journey to get there, while the followers are responsible for

  • the route taken to get there,
  • the choice of the components of the new services,
  • what these services will do, the planning to get there, and the rules that will maintain them,
  • what each team member will do,
  • how it will be delivered.

Here’s the deal: we can only have real control over a single factor – the structure OR the content. Sadly, leaders too often try to control both. The real control and power is in controlling the structure:

  • By controlling the structure, any components that fit would be acceptable so long as they clearly meet the goal’s criteria. By controlling the structure, we’re a problem seeking a solution. If we have a 3 foot box, we can choose whatever we want to put into it – balls or bananas – so long as it fits. Improved customer service might mean more reps, better phone coverage, more focused email responses, year-end gifts, better website access. Humana offers televisits for patients who can’t get to a doctor’s offices. Whatever fits, whatever the group agrees to within the parameters of the structure, is up for discussion. The content will correspond with the structure.
  • By controlling the content, by focusing on the components, it’s necessary to find a structure that confines them. We become a solution looking for a problem – obviously limiting the field of possibilities. With 12 green 10” balls, we need a very specific-sized box. Using our example, we might train reps to answer phones by the third ring and lower prices; then must define a goal to match that. And of course the full range of options for improving customer service would be overlooked. Obviously, starting from the components, the content, is the less flexible, less creative route.

It’s by controlling the structure we can plant a stake in the ground with the rules and criteria for success that all else emanates from. Our job then becomes to maintain the tone and vision; how we get there is the job of the followers, tasked with creating the content.

When followers control the content, they create a collaboration amongst themselves, use their combined imaginations to develop a set of behaviors and outcomes that will fit within the rules and structure, and take ownership of the process and journey to success. Each follower is a leader who buys-in to the change and process, owns the solution, manages any resistance, and takes responsibility for implementation. The leader then maintains the space the followers created.

STARTING UP A COMPANY AS A LEADER/FOLLOWER

I’d like to share a story of my own journey as an entrepreneur of a tech start up in London. I began with no knowledge of business and even less of technology (Those were early days, remember?). I was smart enough to know my range of content knowledge – nil. So I wrote an outline of what I wanted to achieve (the structure):

  • a company that would take great care of the needs of customers in the area of 4th Generation Languages (Really early days!) with integrity, honesty, and win/win values;
  • be seen as a premier provider by charging high prices and great service expertise;
  • have my staff be as happy and cared for as my clients;
  • make money and have fun.

That was my structure. I had no idea what would be in the content. I did my best to research, speak with people, read a few books. Then I realized that it would be best if I hired good people who designed their own jobs. My hiring process included asking applicants to bring in a P&L that included their salary and the route, within the confines of their job and the structure I put forth, to getting their salary AND bringing in a profit for the company. We ended up providing programming, training, and consulting services to users and teams. But I didn’t know that when I started.

The applicant for the job of receptionist was quite creative. Ann Marie wanted a small salary and a percentage of the gross income. For this, she would make sure the company ran efficiently and staff and clients would be thoroughly taken care of to the point they wouldn’t want to go anywhere else and would have the time to do their best job. Wow. I hired her. And she did exactly what she said. She made us write these daily TOADs – I don’t remember what the acronym stood for…something like Take what you want And Destroy the rest… but it took us an extra hour each night to write them up (No computers in daily use in the early 80s, remember?). Each morning we found the full set of everyone’s TOADS on our desks when we arrived. They involved current initiatives, our frustrations, any good/bad issues with clients and prospects, any good/bad issues we had with each other.

As a result of us all knowing ‘everything’, on any given day, if a phone would ring and the person wasn’t there to answer, anyone could answer it and be able to help. As the receptionist, Ann Marie would take the time to make kind comments to whoever was calling, making every caller feel wanted and comfortable. Office squabbles and gossip didn’t have a way to fester as we knew who was mad at who and the argument dissipated. Team members helped each other by coming up with creative solutions, or sharing resource. We had the knowledge to introduce clients to each other for follow-on partnerships. Frankly, Ann Marie terrified me. Tall, officious, unsmiling, we all did what she told us to do (Talk about leaders!). And she walked away with pockets full of money as she helped the business double each year.

I hired John as a ‘Make Nice Guy’ to bridge the divide between technical and people skills. He wanted a $100,000 salary (in 1985!) to make sure techies, their code, and how our contractors maintained relationships with the teams they worked with, all ran smoothly. That was a no brainer. With John taking care of all outside stuff, I was left with no fires, no problems, no crashes, no personality issues, no client problems, and I could grow my business. He even found out when a client was buying new software that we could support well before it arrived on site; when the vendor came to install it, my folks were there waiting, well before the vendor tried to sell their services.

The team worked hard to get me to say “We’re doing WHAT??” I was once walking down the hall and ran into my Training Manager. When I asked where he’d been hiding since I hadn’t seen him in days, he told me he was busy scouting out extra office space for the new training programs being developed. “We’re doing WHAT??” And fill the seats he did, bringing in new clients and new programs. Including me as a trainer. “I’m doing WHAT??” Apparently, the team believed I supervised techies so well as a non techie that I should teach other non-techie managers how to supervise their techie staff. I would never have thought of that myself. So they got me to run monthly programs which were always packed.

As part of my commitment to creativity and growth, I told the management team to take risks but to let me know if a disaster was imminent at least three feet before they fell off the edge (If they waited until they were already off the cliff there wouldn’t be a thing I could do but wave). And they did. As a result they created unique programs, processes, and initiatives that I could never have dreamed of. And they mostly got it right.

By setting a tone of authenticity, I regularly discussed my failures and got input from the team as to how to make things better. This obviously opened the door for us all to discuss failures as part of our job. Also my maintaining control of the structure, by trusting the staff and enabling them to be leaders and innovators, I was able to double the company income every year. With no computers, no internet, no email, no websites, we had a $5,000,000 revenue (and 42% net profit) within four years. Everyone made money, loved coming to work, and grew individually. We controlled 11% of the market (the other 26 competitors shared the other 89%), had loads of fun, and we changed the landscape of what was possible.

TRUST

I could never, ever have been that successful if I hadn’t trusted my followers to create their jobs. I controlled the structure. They controlled the content. Win/win. Interdependent. Trust. Respect. Their joke was that they were the ones with the brains, and I was the one with the mouth. Cool beans. I opened the door, they danced through it, and I followed.

Leadership is an interdependent process with followers and leaders working together from the inside and outside simultaneously to inspire trust and reach the best possible outcome. Here are the givens:

  • The process is always transforming and dynamic, rendering pockets of success, confusion and failure, creativity;
  • There’s no way to know until the end what the trip will include so it’s necessary to build in trust, collaboration, and openness;
  • The result will be what everyone wants. The process will not be what the leader envisaged;
  • The process will proceed according to the values, creativity, and needs of the followers;
  • The leader will be respected so long as s/he uses her/his power to shepherd the process;
  • Failure is part of the process and can be used to inspire creativity;
  • Resistance will be visible and managed by group with no fallout;
  • The result will be the best amalgam of everyone involved bringing their values and hearts.

A real leader enables their followers to operate interdependently, using their own values, their own creativity, their own vision. As leaders we must stop trying to exert influence over the entire process, and begin trusting followers to lead us.

THE HOW

If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you know that I always include a ‘how’ so readers can use the ideas I espouse. In this case, my suggestions will be a bit challenging: the necessary skills to implement this style of leadership includes rethinking and enhancing two skills we all believe we’re good at and take great pride in – our listening and our questioning.

The reality is that no matter how professional, how fair, how honorable, how impartial we believe ourselves to be, when we use our conventional questioning and listening skills there’s a high probability we’ll be (unconsciously, unwittingly, automatically) biased by our words, ideas, needs, beliefs, and history. I’ve developed ways to listen and question that avert bias and indeed facilitate transformation and expanded possibility. I train these skills to leaders when I train in organization

1.    Listening. The biggest problem is that it’s just not possible to listen without bias no matter how hard we try to show up as good listeners, or how carefully we listen to every word. We just cannot separate our intent from our physiology.

Words, as sounds, come into our ears as electrical/chemical signals, devoid of meaning. Simplistically, these signals go down neural pathways in our brains to find the nearest synapses that carry similar signals – assumed, sometimes wrongly, to be a match, regardless of the accuracy of the underlying meaning. So our brains might find a match with ABL when the speaker actually said ABC. Listeners actually hear ABL with no recognition that there’s a misunderstanding; our brains don’t tell us it omitted D, E, F, G… Net net, we unwittingly listen with biased ears and ‘hear’ what our brains tell us has been said…often some degree ‘off’ of the speaker’s intended message.

There is a way to mitigate this. (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? teaches how.) By listening in Observer/Coach, on “the ceiling” we supersede our normal neural pathways and enable our brains to find a more accurate match. Using normal listening, it’s only possible to hear what is most comfortable and habitual. For those who don’t get a chance to read the book and learn how to listen to whole conversations without bias, I suggest you at least take this shortcut and say: “I want to make sure I understand you accurately. I’m going to tell you what I think I heard; can you please tell me if I’ve got it right and correct me where I’m wrong?” That will keep the conversation on track.

2.    Questioning. Conventional questions elicit information as per the Asker’s curiosity. Of course given our unconscious biases, our curiosity is restricted by our beliefs and life histories, resulting in questions limited to what we think we need to know (certainly not the full universe of available information). It goes without saying that there’s no way an outsider can know what’s going on within someone else’s life experience. It’s even more difficult within a group setting. Hence, normal questions can only gather information that’s some fraction of what we need, and an unknown level of accuracy.

Of course often people need information to act from, and normal questions are necessary. But for those times change is part of the process, people/followers need to understand their own motivation, values, and beliefs to act from. For this I invented a new form of question called a Facilitative Question that makes it possible to enable Others to mentally (unconsciously) aggregate their own values and needs to make their own best decisions, define their own outcomes, recognize their own success criteria, and chart their own next steps, with no bias or influence from the leader.

So: Why do you wait for six rings before answering the phone? would be replaced with What would need to be willing/able to answer an incoming call by the third ring? Instead of gathering information, facilitate people through to their own actionable answer and non-resistant choice, using their own criteria. Used in a group setting this process enhances creativity and responsibility for action.

For those wishing to learn how to formulate these questions, read this article, and take a look at this learning module I developed. Formulating Facilitative Questions employs listening for systems, understanding word usage and word placement, and the sequence of decision making in the brain. A much different process than posing normal questions.

As leaders, our job is to facilitate a collaboration with our followers to interdependently create a successful goal. It demands that leaders enter with a different outcome, a different mindset, and a different tool kit. But it’s worth it. We’ll end up with the real power of spearheading harmony, integrity, creativity, and excellence. And have a greater success than we ever could have achieved alone.

____________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader, original thinker, consultant, trainer, and speaker. Sharon Drew trains leadership teams and sales forces. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew’s award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries original articles on topics such as sales, leadership, decision making, questions, collaboration, and values.

Sharon Drew is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® the first new paradigm that gives sales people, healthcare professionals, leaders, and managers, the tools to enable others to generate real change based on their own internal beliefs, rules, systems, and vision. She has spent her life decoding how brains decide and how to generate real change at the core neurology of synapses and neural pathways. She has also designed innovative training models to facilitate learners in producing permanent change. Sharon Drew lives on a houseboat in Portland OR.

October 21st, 2019

Posted In: News

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