By Sharon Drew Morgen

Conversation

In these trying times, one thing has become clear: the biases we live with restrict our choices. Certainly no one ever wants to harm anyone. And yet, because of the unconscious nature of them, we are too often unaware that we even have them. It’s not our fault, but we must learn to take more responsibility for them.

Our biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs and life trajectory become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem made up of our habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend or the gangs we join introduce us to the way our world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to allow us to comfortably maintain our norms.

These norms – unique for each of us – create the status quo we make unconscious choices from. Net net, our lives are inspired by our unconscious biases, causing us to live and work, marry and spend time with, people whose norms, interpretations, and beliefs are very similar to ours.

Our normal skill sets aid and abet us: we listen through biased filters and hear and respond to, basically, what our biases tell us was said (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? ); we play and read and watch according to what we already believe and rarely venture far afield; we notice what we notice in response to our nucleus of personal norms, values, and learned habits. All our decisions, actions, choices, are ruled, restricted, and biased by our unique predispositions.

Indeed, we trust our unconscious biases and interpretations, and the resulting responses, so thoroughly that we are often unaware that our actions – built in, normalized and habituated, accepted by our family, peers, and profession – may harm others.

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

We believe, with certainty, that what we see, hear, and feel is ‘real’ because it IS our reality; we restrict our lives accordingly, making it difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand another’s reality. What we might hear as powerful might be heard as insulting by another person; an incident might be noticed by one person, ignored by another, and an excuse for violence by another. We cannot help but judge others according to our reality.

I, for one, never lock doors. My car is always unlocked. My house is always open even when I travel. Many people would find this unthinkable. I find it safe. As an incest survivor and a rape victim, I always need a quick way in and out. If a door is locked around me, I hyperventilate. Terrifying. My choices, of which locks on doors are only a subset of the aftereffects of my early life, have affected my communication, my lifestyle, my choice of friends and mates, my political views, my unconscious triggers, and my choice of professions even after decades of therapy. There is no way you can understand my interpretation of anything, or the resulting behaviors I exhibit, unless you’ve lived in my shoes. And yet my differences might cause you to judge my actions against your own and find them wanting.

And herein lie the problem. When we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs, we may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand; we may wrongly misinterpret their intent; we may judge them against our own standards which they could never understand. Certainly we may not notice we’ve harmed someone with our actions or words and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm another.

I believe that most people don’t intend to harm anyone. But without common ground, the best we can do is act from our habituated interpretations and assume because we ‘mean well’ that we’re not causing harm.

NEED FOR CHANGE

Historically, we’ve done a bad job caring about resolving the problems of inherent bias that may ultimately harm others. I think this might be changing. Companies and public servants are now taking unconscious bias seriously and requiring unconscious bias training in the hopes of giving people new choices and eradicating harm. Good. But I have a concern.

As someone who has spent decades coding and scaling the stages of how human systems change, I know it’s not possible to push change from the outside; each individual must find a way to evaluate and reconsider their own core norms and biases to make any necessary corrections that only they can make, from within (i.e. inside/out). I don’t believe we’re doing that.

Current training approaches are based on helping folks recognize and change behaviors by offering information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc. from the outside (outside/in), hoping to create new triggers, new behaviors, and new awareness. This approach cannot fix the problem permanently because it:

  • doesn’t get to the root of someone’s unconscious, and very subjective, biases;
  • demonstrates subjectively chosen hypothetical situations believed (from the outside) to trigger bias and may miss specific issues and habituated norms of an individual;
  • has no way of knowing if the offered visuals or stories or trial experiences address the full range of potential biases within each individual learner;
  • doesn’t teach how to transcend someone’s habituated ‘unconscious triggers’ that go off in real situations;
  • fails to install permanent, instinctive, alternative, appropriate behaviors.

Current unconscious bias training assumes people can change if they understand the ‘good, rational’ reasons behind it. The training offers videos, discussions, practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. showing examples of unconscious bias, hoping this creates the awareness to recognize a problematic situation as it’s happening and know exactly what behaviors need changing – and what to change them to!

In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we want it to tell itself ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Don’t think that. Stop responding that way. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training offered. For real change to occur it’s necessary to get to the root of the bias: beliefs. And unfortunately, as you’ll see, information doesn’t teach anyone how to change, even it attempts to explain the reasoning behind the need to do something different. Sharon Drew’s rule: change cannot occur because of any outside rational, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

WHAT IS BIAS? AND WHY IS IT SO HARD TO CHANGE?

Bias is the unconscious, habitual, involuntary, and historic reaction to something deemed ‘different’ (skin color, gender, lifestyle choices, etc.) that negatively triggers someone’s largely unconscious beliefs and values – going against what the person deems ‘right’ or ‘good’ – causing an automatic feeling of, and defense against, some sort of violation.

Our reactions to external stimuli are unconscious and automatic, and follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. In other words, we do what we do, react the way we react, in a split second as per our historic responses logged permanently into our brain circuitry.

To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by merely trying to change behaviors. Offering behavior-based training that merely offers examples and experiences of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviors, and expecting people to undo their habituated triggers because they ‘admit’ to, or recognize ‘bad’ behaviors, uses the wrong thinking.

Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved, within the system that created it. I’ll lay the problem out for you piece by piece, then introduce a solution for permanent change. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.

WHAT IS A SYSTEM, AND WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO ADDRESS IN BIAS TRAINING

A system is a conglomeration of (historic, unique) elements (consisting of our norms, culture, history, beliefs, dreams, etc.) that we hold largely unconsciously and are a foundation of who we are. They are formed during our lifetimes starting from birth, and as in all systems, are made up of elements (values, cultural norms, ethics, morality, etc.) that operate from the same set of rules. Indeed, we live our lives in cities alongside others of similar political beliefs, marry people of similar education, and even listen with biased filters that keep out uncomfortable ideas.

Systems are congruent (Systems Congruence) entities that always seek stability (Homeostasis); they define our politics, our mate selection, even where we live and how we listen to others. Because systems seek to maintain congruence, they avoid situations that make them uncomfortable or they find incongruent. Attempting to shift them, to change in any way, causes resistance because they seek to override the norms of the system that hold them in place, without getting buy-in.

As a result, trying to change from the outside in, by trying to change behaviors without getting the necessary buy-in, threatens stability. As a result, by attempting to push change without the system’s agreement, we’re threatening the system’s internal congruency, regardless of the seeming need to do something different or the efficacy of a new/better solution. In other words, our status quo shows up every day to maintain itself and we will do whatever it takes to maintain it. It’s who we are.

For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be exhibited and chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered. Current bias training uses methods don’t facilitate this change:

  • Listening: our habituated listening filters and neural pathways automatically bias whatever anyone says to us; we set up our lives to avoid discomfort, and uniquely interpret differences in what has been said so our brains can keep us comfortable. When information is offered as evidence, our historic, habituated, biased listening filters kick in and uniquely interpret incoming data, often differently than the intended meaning. Indeed, it’s not even possible to hear anyone without bias; when what we hear (or see, or feel) makes us uncomfortable, we react historically.
  • Questions: all normal questions are biased by the Asker’s subjective curiosity, thereby restricting the Responder’s replies to the interpretation of what was heard, and potentially overlooking real answers.
  • Historic: biases are programmed in from the time we’re born. Every day we wake up with the same biases, kept in place by our choice of friends, TV, neighborhoods, professions, reading materials, etc. To permanently shift our biases, we’d have to change our historic programming.
  • Physiological: who we ‘are’ is systemic; our beliefs and norms, character and values have been programmed in and become our Identity, creating the behaviors and responses that will unconsciously maintain our status quo in everything we do and every action we take.
  • Triggers: because of our lifetime of inculcated beliefs, values, norms and outlook, our brains react chemically, unconsciously, and automatically when there is an untoward activity.
  • Information: our training programs typically tell, show, explain, offer stories, videos, etc. etc. using the biased choices- languaging, presentation style, chosen information – of the trainer in hopes that their information triggers a new response. But since people can’t even listen without bias, they can’t accurately make sense of whatever we’re telling them: they have no brain circuitry already set up to listen through, and the process of ‘telling’ does not develop new circuitry. All it will do is get misinterpreted or misunderstood according to historic beliefs already in place.
  • Behaviors: as the expression and execution of our beliefs and status quo, behaviors translate our core systemic beliefs and norms into daily action. Behaviors represent us; they are not ‘us’. And since behaviors are merely outputs, they are fixed by the time they show up. Change must happen at the input, at our beliefs.

And herein lie the problem. Because of the complexity and sophisticated combination of the elements above, merely doing something different because we are told to, or even want to, won’t change our behaviors or our systems permanently. It’s the equivalent of trying to get a forward moving robot to move backwards because we tell it it needs new options, or think it would be better if it did, or show it pictures of other robots who do move backward. To change behaviors permanently it’s necessary to change the system, the programming, which created them to begin with. And this cannot be accomplished by trying to change the output of the problem itself. Remember Einstein? Trying to change behaviors with the system that created them won’t permanently change behaviors.

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

Change is the alteration of something that has existed in a certain way, using specific and accepted norms, in a specific configuration, for a period of time. To amend our responses to bias, we must first recognize, then modify, the specific triggers (historically produced for a reason) that have been developed to operate unconsciously as the norm.

It’s basically a systems problem: for permanent change to occur, we must reconfigure the system that has created and maintains the status quo, and has operated ‘as is’ for some amount of time. Anything new coming in to our system (any problem to fix, any new information that creates disruption, any new activity) demands changing the status quo. Indeed, any new decision is a change management problem. The way we are addressing the problem of changing people’s unconscious biases is not enabling permanent change.

Change means that a system (by definition stable) must go through a process to become something different:

  • a trigger alerts the status quo that something may be awry;
  • a careful examination by all elements within the status quo must occur to find any incongruence;
  • agreement within the system (rules, stakeholders, identity, etc.) that change is necessary and that a fix won’t cause permanent disruption;
  • an initial attempt to fix anything missing (using the same elements that created the problem to begin with);
  • the realization that the problem cannot be fixed from within the system;
  • an examination by everything that created the problem of any new possibilities that will create Systems Congruence;
  • an understanding and acceptance of the downside and disruption of a change (i.e. if politics change, how do we speak with family? If same-sex relationships, what happens with our church group?);
  • a fix is found that is agreeable, with full knowledge of how to circumvent any disruption it will cause;
  • new habits, new triggers, new neural pathways, etc. are developed in a way that incorporate the ‘new’ with the old to minimize disruption.

Does any element of the original need to be kept in place? How will the system know? How would any change effect the whole? How will the bits that need change shift while still maintaining its core values? The system will fight to maintain itself.

If all of the above aren’t managed, the system will fill in the blanks with something comfortable and habituated (regardless of its efficacy). In other words, if there is not systemic agreement, no known way to resolve the problem using its current givens, no known way to incorporate something new to the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

Indeed, you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior. And all of the current bias training involves a focus on getting behaviors changed without addressing the source that created the behaviors and triggers to begin with.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

Current Bias Training attempts to get behaviors changed by using ‘rational’ means: showing learners biased situations, offering data and research, and playing videos to learn what bias looks like. In other words, offering Information: showing and telling people what’s wrong with what they’re doing and what ‘right’ would look like – all of which can be misinterpreted, misread, or objected to, regardless of our intent.

While it certainly can make people more aware, and might, if remembered, offer different choices of actions, these attempts will not cause permanent change: they develop no new habituated triggers or neural pathways to set off a new response to a stimulus. Let’s delve into this a bit.

If asked in a vacuum if we want to harm anyone, few of us would want to. And yet in small and large ways, our unconscious behaviors too often end up unjustly ignoring, being mean to, or harming someone because of their gender, or race or or… I once heard Malcolm Gladwell, who is bi-racial, say that when tested for unconscious racial bias, he came up biased.

We all carry some biases. The question becomes 1. Do we notice when, or before, problems occur, and if not what would we need to know or believe differently to notice, and 2. Once we notice (or not) can we have choice over our actions and avoid biased behaviors or make adjustments at the time, or just before, they occur. To permanently change a behavior, a system must:

  • shift the core beliefs that inform any habituated, unconscious bias and develop additional beliefs, assumptions and triggers;
  • create new neural pathways to the brain that lead to choosing more respectful outputs, habits, behaviors;
  • listen with a different listening filter than the habituated ones;
  • enable the person to change themselves, using their own unconscious system of norms to design new behaviors that won’t offend the system;
  • interpret another’s actions in a neutral way that doesn’t offend our own beliefs – or change our beliefs.

To change our unconscious, automatic responses that cause us to respond defensively, the system that has created and maintains the status quo must be reconfigured to produce alternate outputs while still maintaining Systems Congruence. And unfortunately, information-based training (showing, feeling, telling, explaining) is ineffective because it only seeks to change behaviors.

CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS

Offering any sort of information before the system knows why, how, when, or if to do anything different – a belief change – will only inspire resistance as the system won’t know how to apply it as it’s ‘just fine, thanks.’ It’s a belief change issue. We’re asking the system to repopulate its status quo that created the problem to begin with, design new behavioral responses, and develop a new set of triggers to tell the system it’s time to behave differently. Initially the system doesn’t know what it doesn’t know and has no inherent desire to do anything different.

As per my robot example, if you think the robot should have the option of moving backwards, telling it when and how to know when or if to move backward, giving it scientific data as to why it should move backward, or pushing it backward, will not cause the robot to change. The programming must be changed. And so it is with all of us: when we change our habituated beliefs and norms (our programming), our behavior will automatically change.

Real change demands a systemic shift to create new triggers, new assumptions, new neural pathways, and ultimately, as an outcome, new behaviors. No one, no information, no person, from outside is able to go into someone’s unconscious to (re)create all these things. And permanent change will not happen until it does.

The goal is not to train someone to rid themselves of unconscious bias; it’s to teach the system itself how to discover where its beliefs are restricting understanding and teach it how to add new beliefs to decide with and facilitate it through to new behaviors a way that maintains the foundational norms of the system.

Basically, to alter the foundation that will develop new behaviors, the brain must change itself. Over the past decades, I’ve coded the 13 steps that constitute the route to systemic, human change so people can make their OWN internal changes that will lead to new choices, i.e. new behaviors. I’ve taught this model in sales as Buying Facilitation® to global corporations (KPMG, Morgan Stanley, IBM, P&G, Kaiser, etc.) for over 30 years, and written several books on it. The book that details each of the stages is Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

We must become Facilitators, not Influencers. We must teach folks to create and habituate new neural pathways and filters.

  1. Listening: We must avoid habituated neural pathways when listening to others. In your mind’s eye put yourself on the ceiling and listen from above. From above, you can observe what’s going on without bias or reaction. I have a whole chapter on this in What?. Not difficult – you just need to want to do it and develop triggers that will alert you to the need to do something different.
  2. Questions: I developed a new form of question that doesn’t interrogate and is not biased by the needs of the questioner, but instead acts like a GPS to guide people through their own unconscious. These Facilitative Questions are systemic, use specific words, in specific order, that traverse through the steps of change sequentially so others can note their own incongruencies. So: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to spend time with me so we could both learn, together, how to listen from a ‘different ear’?
  3. Beliefs: by shifting the focus from changing behaviors to first changing beliefs and systems, we end up with permanent core change, new triggers and habits.
  4. Information: we make several types of information available for the learner to choose from, to fit their own learning criteria and styles.

I’ve developed a new way to train that facilitates self-learning and permanent change from within the system. For those wishing a full discussion, I’ve written an article on this that appeared in The 2003 Annual, Volume 1 Training (I’m happy to send you a more specific discussion of this if you’re not already bored) Just note: my process leads people, without any bias, to those places in their brains, into their system of beliefs and cultural norms, which made the decisions to employ their biased behaviors to begin with, and teaches them how to reconfigure their system to adopt something new (so long as its aligned with their beliefs). We are making the unconscious conscious and developing more appropriate triggers and behaviors.

How will you know that by adding systemic change elements to your training that you can enable more people to make more appropriate behavioral choices around their bias?

If you would like my help in designing a program that resolves unconscious biases permanently, I’d love to help. I believe it’s an important task. I believe it’s time we had the tools to enable learners to permanently change and become non-judgmental, accepting, and kind. And above all, cause no harm. All of our lives depend on it.

_____________________________

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

September 13th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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Buying and selling are two different activities. The Buy Side: People don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to their system and become buyers when they’ve determined the expenditure to be less than the status quo. The Sell Side: Sellers seek to place solutions by finding those with a ‘need’ and having, promoting, and placing great content.

I suspect these differences cause some of the frustration sellers face when they strongly believe a prospect has a need but they’re not buying. Because the off-line journey people take on route to becoming buyers is change-based, not ‘need’ specific or buying-based yet, the sales model overlooks this portion of the Buying Journey at great cost.

I think we’re wasting a monumental opportunity to sell more, make more money, make more people happy, have fun at work, and truly serve our customers.

NEED ISN’T WHY PEOPLE BUY

Think about it: we sellers spend our time chasing ‘need’ – seeking a need, pushing data into an alleged need, and following up this mythical need – assuming ‘need’ drives buying. But just because someone has a need doesn’t mean:

  1. They want to resolve it.
  2. They want to resolve it now.
  3. They want to resolve it with our solution.
  4. They can’t resolve it on their own.
  5. They have the buy-in necessary for any resultant change management issues.

I joke that most of us need to lose 10 pounds or should eat healthier. But we don’t. Need has nothing to do with it.

And then there’s the perpetual assumption that a solution – when presented properly! – should be purchased if there’s a ‘need.’ Content marketing, intention marketing, demand marketing, are all based on pushing content because of this assumed need.

But there’s no uptake on the outreach regardless of seeming ‘need’ unless people have already determined they’re going to buy something. Usually we connect with them when they’re doing research along their route to discovery and change, and haven’t gotten all their ducks in a row yet. Until they do, there’s no way for us (or them!) to know if they’ll end up as buyers.

Indeed, with a need/solution-placement focus, it’s hard to distinguish between a real prospect and someone who appears to have a need but don’t buy. It certainly doesn’t convert people into becoming buyers. My motto has been: selling doesn’t cause buying.

I think it’s time sales includes an additional focus, an extended game plan. Think with me for a moment. We think and create techniques and apps for the Sell Side; we rarely consider the change and systems stuff (people, timing, policies) happening on the Buy Side that folks must address and have nothing to do with buying but could be influenced. I contend we’ll close a lot more by facilitating the Buy Side first.

People, as I said above, only want to resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. What if we helped them do what they need to do before we do what we want to do?

They have to do it anyway as we sit and wait and hope and cogitate about what we should say on our 4th voice mail. Instead of looking looking looking for that 5% who show up exactly when and where we’re looking for them, why don’t we join those who WILL be buying and facilitate their journey!

LET’S BE BUYERS

To help you better understand the Buy Side, I’ve written a case study that follows a typical tech buyer as he seeks to increase sales by possibly buying a new CRM system.

As you read it, notice how different the Buy Side is from the Sell Side and how murky it is when a ‘need’ filter is assigned. And notice how many of his activities, decisions, meetings, a seller can never be a part of but are necessary – hence the answer to the age-old question: Where do they go?

The buying decision, a ‘Buying Journey’, begins amidst the change and management issues needing resolution. Note that sellers can’t be part of this journey because Sell Side activities don’t match. There is, however, a way to join them on the Buy Side to facilitate them efficiently through their journey. But let’s start with Jim. Enjoy.

–      –   –   –

Jim is the manager of a sales team of 12 who use a two-year-old CRM system. Over lunch one day, he complained his sales were lagging. His colleague suggested he look into the new CRMs, that their functionality – tracking, organizing, prioritizing, segmenting – allegedly improved sales.

Problem detection and gathering stakeholders

Taking his friend’s advice, Jim invests time in online research seeking CRM systems that would match his team’s values. He fills out a few contact forms to get more data about them, maybe even a trial.

Jim calls a team meeting to discuss his frustration with the poor sales and asks them if they’d find a new CRM system helpful to sell more. Hmmm. Mixed: some like the one they’ve got, some want an upgrade with more functionality, and two don’t care so long as it’s easy to use and they wouldn’t need training.

As a follow up, Jim asks them each to send him a note about what functions on the current CRM they use most and why, which parts they don’t use and why, and what they would find beneficial if they could add functionality.

When the notes come back two weeks later Jim notices an interesting mix of uses. Some use the system to manage data, while others keep notes and track conversations. He wonders if the folks would use it more if it organized data differently, or maybe had more automatic tracking capabilities if there even was such a thing.

The responses bring up a question: would fixing the use of a CRM system actually improve his sales? Maybe a CRM system isn’t the answer. Maybe the folks need sales training, or communication training, even possibly supervision. He’s not even sure what’s missing. The team had hit their target numbers for so many years that Jim hadn’t noticed the problems now cropping up.

During his discovery process, Jim receives several emails (almost daily) from CRM companies sending him data and offering him deals. Three of them have already called him to pitch. But he has no idea what he needs yet and can’t even ask the right questions. He’s told them he’ll get back to them, but that hasn’t stopped their emails or follow up calls. He’ll probably begin ignoring the ones who are so persistent. Gosh, he sure would appreciate it if they were able to help him think through all the issues he must address.

Fixes and workarounds

Jim has just realized how many issues must be resolved and how little understanding he has of the full set of problems causing the lag in sales. He now needs specific data points. Maybe he’ll discuss this with the company’s inhouse tech guys in case they could be part of the fix. That certainly would be simpler.

Jim sends the team a questionnaire:

  1. What would new CRM capabilities enable you to do that you’re either not doing now, or doing some other way that takes more time?
  2. For those not using the current system much now, what’s stopping you? If you had different functionality would you use it more? Or do you just not like using a CRM system at all?
  3. Would you be open to learning a wholly unfamiliar CRM and start from scratch if new functionality will make it possible to sell more? Or would you prefer to have our tech guys upgrade the one you’ve got?
  4. Name two additions in functionality that would make your current CRM more effective for you. What would you be able to do better because of it?
  5. If our inhouse tech guys could provide new functionality in a decent time frame, would you be open to sitting down with them to find out what they could provide?
  6. Do you think a CRM system with more functionality would provide you the most helpful tool to increase sales? Or would you like sales training? Or communication skills training? Please write down your thoughts and suggestions.

Once he receives the responses, Jim meets with the team again to discuss. So many choices. Certainly new CRM capability is part of a mix of fixes. But when to upgrade? Until he understands the entire picture he can’t really make any decisions.

As he’s thinking and researching and meeting, Jim is now actively avoiding taking calls from the CRM folks. But honestly, he would welcome help thinking through his issues and calculating a possible timeline. The sooner he figures this out the sooner he can increase sales.

Team buy-in

Jim decides to let the team choose their options so there will be more buy-in to whatever new solution they come up with. He apportions research tasks among team members:

  • two will research different types of sales training;
  • three will look into different types of CRM systems;
  • three will make a list of the functionality the team would want in a CRM;
  • two will meet with inhouse tech guys in case reprogramming the current system is an option in a timely way;
  • two will research communication skills training.

When the team meets, they discuss the information gathered and consider:

  • which type of training would most efficiently improve their sales;
  • favorite additional functionality for the CRM system;
  • three favorite CRM systems;
  • three favorite sales trainings and communication skills trainings;
  • time frame of training program vs new CRM capability;
  • time frames and capability of inhouse techs to upgrade current CRM.

At the meeting the team decides they want listening training first, then sales training. The plan is to trial these new skills for two months after the training, then factor the resulting changes against their current CRM and see if adding anything is necessary.

Time to buy

Jim places calls to training vendors to make appointments to meet him and the team. He would have preferred to take action sooner, but he needed to muddle through all the issues involved or face resistance and non-use.

–      –   –   –

Jim’s journey led him to a solution he never would have considered at the start when he first noticed his sales problem. Not only that, the whole team is involved with the solution, surely a great sign that they’re committed to excellence.

One thing is clear to him: if he’d gone ahead with his initial idea to purchase a new CRM system without knowing the team’s real issues, he wouldn’t have discovered their need for further training, or a full understanding of usage issues, or the buy-in from the team for any change.

Some of the folks would have resisted anything new – certainly not used it – and sales would not have increased, not to mention he would have risked the trust his folks have in him as a leader. The way he’s gone about it they’re all on board with anything they decide.

THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

I assume that you recognize the difference between the ‘Buying Journey’ on the Buy Side, and how the sales profession views the ‘journey’ from the Sell Side. Notice how sales only sells to those who’ve completed their Buy Side activities which are at the end of their change management and decision journey.

In other words, the last thing people do is buy. These are the only folks who heed our efforts. Unfortunately we waste gobs of time trying to convince those who just aren’t ready when in fact they rarely notice, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution.

I contend it’s possible to recognize who will be a buyer before they identify as buyers, then facilitate the Buy Side first with a change/decision facilitation focus and leave the ‘need’ and solution placement bits once they’re buyers. Saves a lot of time and resource wastage. And by starting with the need for change (i.e. rather than the ‘need’ for your solution) you’ll close 40% instead of 5% because you’re selling to those who have done their true discovery and buy-in work already and identify as buyers already.

And I’ve developed a model that actually does this and a book that explains it.

BUYING FACILITATION®

In 1985 I developed Buying Facilitation® to facilitate the Buy Side journey to Buyer Readiness when, as a successful sales professional-turned-entrepreneur, I realized that selling didn’t cause buying. Buying Facilitation® includes:

  • a new form of question (a Facilitative Question) that facilitates discovery (People don’t have the full data set until the end so gathering information too early doesn’t help either prospect or seller);
  • a stepped approach that facilitates people to through change and discovery to becoming buyers;
  • a model to listen for patterns rather than listen for ‘need’;
  • a way to enter a conversation as a decision facilitator first before a sales person.

After all, until people figure out what they need to figure out they’re not even buyers, and the time it takes them is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of their need or the efficacy of our solution. People prefer to resolve problems in less time, but they can’t ignore the issues they must manage, or face disruption.

With Buying Facilitation® we can find those who WILL be a buyer on the first call and facilitate them through their decision and change issues and then sell – in one quarter the time. Imagine a seller saying this on a first call to Jim:

Hi. I’m Sharon-Drew with CRM Quality responding to your online query. You wrote that you’re seeking a new system to bring in more sales. Before I get into answering questions, I’m wondering how you’re currently addressing the change issues involved with giving your folks additional functionality or new skills?

Notice how this one Facilitative Question helps him understand you’re there to serve, avoids getting stuck in pitch mode, helps him actually begin to think through what he’d need to consider anyway, gives you a competitive advantage, and positions you as a true relationship manager as the two of you begin to traverse his change journey. And you’re not starting with sales because Jim is not starting with ‘need’. He is certainly not a buyer when he fills out online forms initially.

When we assume ‘need’ and send content, or pitch too soon, we can only attract those few at the very end of their process (the low hanging fruit) once all of the decisions get made. By then we’ve lost an enormous opportunity to discover and serve real buyers.

Discussing our content and following up (and following up) before folks have become real buyers is a great resource waste. The sales model ignores the real buying journey, causing us to close only that small percent who have completed it. It’s the reason we’re only closing 5%, when Buying Facilitators close 40% of the same population selling the same solution. So here’s the question:

What would you need to know or believe differently to begin selling wearing a decision facilitation hat to find folks early during their change/discovery phase and lead them through their decisions as they become buyers?

Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? You know what happens when you sell. Maybe it’s time to get on to the Buy Side help buyers buy. Call me and I’ll help you figure out if it’s an idea your team can run with. Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

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

August 30th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

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What Makes A Decision Irrational?

After spending 30 years deconstructing the inner processes of how people decide, and training a decision facilitation model I developed, I’m always amused when I hear anyone deem a decision ‘irrational’.

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

We all make the best decisions we can at the moment we make them. It’s only when someone else compares the decision against their own subjective filters and standard, or using some academic/’accepted’ standard as ‘right’, or judging the decision against a conclusion they would have preferred, that they deem it ‘irrational’. I always ask, “Irrational according to who’s standards?” Outsiders don’t have the same data set, criteria and beliefs, or life experiences the decision maker uses to evaluate.

Indeed, there is no such thing as a decision maker making an irrational decision. The decision maker carefully – partially unconsciously – weighs an unknowable set of highly subjective factors including 1. Personal beliefs, values, historic criteria, assumptions, experience, future goals; 2. Possible future outcomes in relation to how they experience their current situation.

There is no way an outsider can understand what’s going on within the idiosyncratic world of the decision maker, regardless of academic or ‘rational’ standards, the needs of people judging, the outcome as viewed by others.

CASE STUDY OF AN ‘IRRATIONAL DECISION’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BP: Oh. I could have done that.

While a simple example, it’s the same in any type of personal decision: each decision maker uses her own subjective reasoning regardless of baseline, academic, or conventional Truths.

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

And, although I’m calling this a personal decision process, anyone involved in group decision making does the same: enter with personal, unique criteria that supersede the available academic or scientific information the group uses. This is why we end up with resistance or sabotage during implementations.

STOP JUDGING DECISIONS BASED ON OUR OWN NEEDS

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

  1. ask what criteria the person was using and discuss it against our own;
  2. communicate in a way that enabled win-win results;
  3. ensure all collaborators work with the same set of baseline assumptions and remove as much subjectivity as possible before a decision gets made.

Of course, we would have to switch our listening skills. We’d need to become aware of an in congruence we notice and be willing to communicate with the ‘irrational’ decision maker. My new book What? explains why/how we hear others with biased ears, only understanding some percentage of their intent. Because if we merely judge others according to our unique listening filters, many important, creative, and collaborative decisions might sound irrational.

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

August 16th, 2021

Posted In: News

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Until relatively recently, the United States Post Office (USPO) was a universal communication hub. It delivered birthday greetings and Dear John letters (For you youngsters, those were break-up notes – like you use text these days, only nicer.). It transported legal letters, work agendas, and Christmas gifts. It was how we moved information and communication between people and places.

Now we use the internet and social media for most of our communication. And the USPO? It became a relic of a time never to return, used now to send commercial ads and fliers, inundating us, invading us, with the originator’s needs to push data, separate from our need to utilize it. Superfluous to our lives, we discard these, even if the products they’re introducing are respectable.

SALES NO LONGER NEEDED FOR BUYERS TO BUY

The sales model is drifting down the same route. Until relatively recently, sales was universally accepted as a support and service model, representing expertise and products buyers needed. Sellers used their skill and product knowledge to help resolve problems; prospects actually sought meetings to get help figuring out how to improve their environments. And certainly, sellers knew their competition well and positioned themselves accordingly.

Those standards no longer apply.

  • People can now choose our solutions without any involvement from us: much of the information buyers need is immediately accessible online – our websites, content marketing, and outreach efforts thoroughly explain our offerings, making a seller’s product knowledge expendable.
  • Outside agencies – Google, social media – rate us independently, without our input, enabling customers to share their experiences of our products, accuracy aside.
  • Our global competitors are at our door, at the touch of a button and shipped in days, often with lower prices.
  • Buying decisions get made amongst large groups of stakeholders, some residing in other countries, often with no direct involvement with day to day operations and certainly well outside our scrutiny or touch points.

The sales model as we’ve known it has gone the way of the USPO – largely irrelevant; buyers now have a more extensive buying decision path that defies our standard practices, guaranteeing much is out of a seller’s control.

And yet we continue using the same prism to sell through, the same techniques we used in earlier times, even though our closing rates, now less than 5% for face-to-face and 0.0059% of tech-based sales, consistently decline. Our decades-long focus of placing solutions merely finds the low hanging fruit.

Here are some sales techniques we use that are problematic to the buying experience:

  • Pushing, offering, promoting content is secondary until all the right people are on board there’s agreement they can’t resolve the issue internally, and  any change issues/downsides that a new incoming solution will cause are addressed. Constant receipt of our marketing outreach becomes annoying and we’re blocked and ignored, regardless of the efficacy of our solutions.
  • Gathering information is useless if offered before all stakeholder agreement. Our questions, biased by our need to match what we guess might be their requirements to our solutions, have little relevance to the complexities of their problem (that we cannot fully understand, as outsiders) and the intricacies of what a chosen solution must include. People buy only what is agreeable to the full set stakeholders (who we can never know, as outsiders); resolving their problem is secondary to staying stable or they would have resolved it already. Net net, they won’t have accurate answers to our questions.
  • Our research into demographics and need doesn’t necessarily find buyers. Sure, we can uncover ‘target markets’ that would have a propensity to be buyers. But they’re not opening our correspondence and not open to connecting until they are ready, willing, able to become a buyer – someone who has addressed all complexities of bringing in a new solution and has gotten agreement from all internal stakeholders. Continuing to base our research and dissemination on our product assures we only close the low hanging fruit. Because a buying decision is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue, we can add the ability to facilitate buying to our goals and reach/convert a larger number of prospects.
  • Our ‘conversion’ rates are based on a small percent of the total population of would-be buyers, yet we use these to try to convince ourselves that our efforts, our resources, our cost expenditures are relevant. We are not converting potential buyers who haven’t yet become buyers but who will buy once they manage their change. But they are easy to recognize and convert if we shift our prism. Indeed, I’m always curious what those ‘conversion’ numbers represent. Who we seek to ‘convert’ is merely a percentage of those who will/can eventually buy (I hate to keep saying this, but the low hanging fruit.) We miss over 80% of those who will eventually buy: they don’t heed our messages. When you see conversion percentages, ask how much of the potential buying population is being represented. Current conversion numbers are specious.
  • The focus on ‘understanding needs’ is necessary only once buyers understand their own needs – at the end of their change processes: finding a route through to stability among the stakeholders and company/personal norms (Is the disruption from bringing in a new solution worse than living with the problem?) is paramount to buying anything. Until that’s resolved, they will not buy due to potential disruption. If you woke up tomorrow and decided you wanted to move, the first thing you’d do would NOT be to buy a house. You’d discuss with your family, looking at all sides from each perspective, organizing the full set of criteria that would keep the family stable first. A seller’s historic ‘need to understand’ (especially when using questions biased by our need to place a solution) is moot: until all stakeholders are on board with the specifics of how adding something new will affect them, there is no defined ‘need’, a seller’s biased questions aside.
  • Our push to make an appointment is stupid: who is the person we seek to meet with? Why are they taking the time to meet with us? Does this person represent ALL stakeholders or just the few trying to push internal change? How does the person we meet with present our data to others? And at what point in the buying decision process? We’re so busy following the norms of selling that we haven’t stopped to think this through. We get rejected for an appointment not because of our solutions, but because they haven’t yet gotten the full Buying Decision Team onboard, because they’re still trying to fix the problem themselves, because they haven’t determined if it’s worth an external fix due to the disruption that might result. Looking through our biased prism of placing a solution, sellers aren’t looking at the entire picture that people must address en route to resolving a problem.
  • We have a faulty assumption that our solution, data, convincing strategies, etc. will capture a buyer. What is it about the horrific close rates that isn’t registering? Why do we continue to believe if we just have better, faster, improved, advanced content dissemination that we will sell more when it’s a fact that we’re closing less? Why do we continue to assume that with great data, the ‘perfect’ solution, people will buy because WE think it will match what WE consider to be their need? And why is a 5% close rate (i.e. a 95% fail rate) acceptable? Isn’t it obvious there is a problem?

Everything about the selling effort is skewered to finding ways to place our solutions. But we miss the bigger opportunity: we can use our time, our skill, to facilitate Buyer Readiness. That means, leading people through the confusing stages they must – must – manage before they are buyers, before they have needs, before they know if, when, what they’ll buy. We wait on the sidelines while they go through this process; the sales model is not set up to influence this.

I have watched, over the past 35 years, as sales has drifted closer to my beliefs as it attempts to take into account the buying decision and the buyer. But because sales continue to consider buyers ONLY in relation to placing solutions, sales only reaches the low hanging fruit: people in the process of considering how to manage disruption will not have interest (yet) in our content. We haven’t accounted for the entire fact pattern of what goes into a buying decision (i.e. need, problem resolution, and product choice are the final considerations) and overlook the largest portion of buyers: those who will buy but aren’t ready yet.

People really don’t want to buy anything, they merely want to resolve a problem. And the problem is so much bigger than purchasing something. It involves

  • getting all – all – the stakeholders and influencers identified and on board (often not obvious);
  • trying to find a fix for the problem that’s familiar, and minimally disruptive;
  • stakeholder agreement that the cost of a fix is smaller than the cost of maintaining problems (not always obvious) and that they need to go outside for a solution;
  • recognizing/managing the challenges of melding something new as it replaces the old (not always obvious).

People issues. User issues. Tech issues. Human issues. Culture issues. All unique. As outsiders we can never understand the totality of what’s going on. And yet until all internal factors are managed to assure the least disruption, they are not even buyers.

It’s only when they are out of options AND get buy in AND manage potential fallout, do they become buyers. Making our solutions the focus relegates us to being noticed by those at the end of their change process – order takers – and robs us of our ability to enter at a stage that helps them become buyers.

Indeed, buying is the last thing people and groups do, and only then when there is agreement that an outside fix is their only option and have figured out how to manage fallout from bringing in something new in a way that avoids disruption.

You can’t buy a house without family agreement, regardless of how wonderful the house or how big the need. You can’t bring in a new CRM system unless the users are on board and are willing to use it, unless the tech folks know how to incorporate it into what they’re already using, until they’ve tried to fix what they’ve got, until a user training is developed and scheduled. It’s not about the house. It’s not about the CRM system. It’s about the change process.

So long as we focus on solution placement, we will only find those who have figured it all out. We could be helping them by shifting our focus to first connect via managing their change. Instead, buyers do all this change stuff without us as we wait and call and hope and call and send and hope and wait.

The sales industry has finally figured out that success has at least as much to do with ‘buying’ as it does selling. But it continues to use the prism of placing solutions even here: it has not gone so far as using new skill sets that help buyers manage the change.

SALES HAS A VERY LIMITED SCOPE

For goodness sakes, it’s time to stop focusing first on placing solutions. Why not help those who WILL buy be ready! And believe it or not, once we take off our ‘selling’ blinders and use a prism of facilitating the steps to change, it’s quite easy to use a different skill set to recognize people who WILL buy on the first call.

For this we enter with a different type of question  (Facilitative Question) and a different goal: to recognize those who seek change in the area we can support them in, and facilitate them through their Pre-Sales change management activities they must complete before they become buyers.

Buying is a change management issue before it’s a solution choice issue – a process, part of systemic change, not an event. People become buyers only at Step 10 of a 13 step decision process that addresses the elements of recognizing and managing change. Until this is complete, buyers can’t buy and we are wasting a valuable opportunity to facilitate them, of entering earlier where we are now ignored. Let’s recognize that due to the complexity of change, selling doesn’t cause buying:

  • Our information, website, marketing materials – information – is terrific. Our brand is well positioned, and quality. But from online sales we’re closing 0.0059%. We don’t know why site visitors come to our site. Our wonderful, expensive, information-rich, and creative site is not encouraging anyone but the low hanging fruit to buy.
  • Our sales folks are well trained in content, relationship management, closing and pitching techniques. But they’re closing less than 5%. Why is this waste of expensive resource ok?
  • Our marketing folks know how to target the ‘right’ audience, but less than one half of 1% even open our emails.
  • The only folks who heed our great content are folks at the point of buying and we’re competing with global competitors for the same low hanging fruit.

We have chosen to sit back and wait while they go through their non-solution/buying-related steps. But we can enable Buyer Readiness. The sales model as we’ve known it is insufficient as a stand-alone model. It’s a Tier 2 model. Think about this:

1.    People don’t want to buy anything– they merely want to resolve a problem and the last thing they do is bring in something new. People live in environments – systems, if you will – and try to resolve their own problems. It is ONLY when they cannot, AND they have the buy-in from the full set of stakeholders AND can manage any change that a new solution would incur, that they are willing to make a purchase.

When sellers push solution information before people recognize the complexities of the environment they’re seeking to change – they waste an opportunity to facilitate change (which has nothing to do with buying anything). Again, think of that junk you now get in your mailbox.

Buyers don’t even notice our content it until they seek out a solution that will match the intricacies of their buying decision and environment – at the point they are ready to change/buy. It will NOT convince them to buy something they haven’t yet determined they cannot fix themselves. The last thing they do is seek information. In other words, it will be ignored by those you wish to reach, no matter how accurate your demographic data. It’s about the buying, not the selling.

2.     Until or unless everyone who touches a new solution is on board with whatever change will occur with a new solution, there will be no purchase. Talking to that one person who claims she has a need does NOT give us the necessary information to know what’s going on. We cannot ever know the internal dynamics. Ever.

3.    There is a very specific process that everyone (buyers) goes through before they do anything different (change, decide, buy). It involves the 13 steps to all change, a purchase is a change management decision. The sales model only enters at step 10 when it’s agreed by all that the status quo cannot resolve the problem and everyone is ready to change. Hence, we do nothing more than find the low hanging fruit – and then we all fight over the 5%.

The time it takes for everyone who will touch the new solution and processes that come from it is the length of the sales cycle. Buying Facilitation® starts at the beginning and leads folks through each step, with sales taking over once they’re ready – and already buyers.

4.    People become buyers only if they have a route to manage change. The sales model overlooks the change management piece of the equation, although sellers blame buyers for being ‘stupid’ or ‘not understanding they have a need.’ It’s not about the solution or the information or the buying. It’s about change. So long as sellers focus their interactions on placing solutions, they will merely take orders when people are ready to call in and buy.

The folks who use my Buying Facilitation® model enter all new conversations seeking who is ready, willing, and able to change. The prism is CHANGE, not NEED. Until all the elements of change are managed, people don’t even know what their need entails.

5.    Until everyone buys in to change, the environment will prefer the status quo; whatever is happening now is baked in to the norm. Need has nothing to do with who buys. The prime focus is to maintain the environment. Until they know how to do that, they won’t buy, regardless of need or solution relevance.

6.    We assume that people will understand they need us if we ask the right questions and create the right content, and that folks will wake up and notice of their need as soon as they read it!

We restrict our potential buyers to those who seek that specific information, overlooking their need to integrate information with unique circumstances, their status quo and rules, making much information provided conjecture. Not to mention we could easily reposition the way we discuss the content to meet real needs.

The sales model was designed to place solutions. That’s it. By entering early with a different mindset and skills, we can be closing 40% more sales.

A WHOLLY DIFFERENT SKILL SET

I have written extensively, and trained large numbers of global sellers, around this issue. In Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell I introduce a buying-based model (Buying Facilitation®) that explains the 13 steps all people and groups take (even for small individual purchases) on route to becoming buyers. Since the first 9 of them have nothing to do with buying anything but with managing change, it involves a different set of skills – facilitating the right people through their change to buy sooner.

No longer do we begin trying to ‘understand’ buyers, or make appointments, push our solutions, we first find folks who will become buyers and lead them efficiently through their change, and then – only then – offer solution details.

We can’t know anything about the person we’re speaking to, and if they haven’t yet gone through their entire change management process they certainly can’t answer questions about ‘need’.

By knowing each step of change, we can hear where they are along their decision path. Have they collected the full set of stakeholders or are they just beginning? Do they recognize the downside to their environment of a purchase? Are they still trying to fix the problem themselves? Change is complex. People don’t even understand themselves. Here is where we can help. We can facilitate people through the steps of change and convert more people into buyers now.

To shift the focus from selling to facilitating change and the buying decision process, Buying Facilitation® employs different skills:

  • since our normal questions are biased by our needs, I developed Facilitative Questions to help Others figure out their own change process;
  • Presumptive Summaries that help them recognize what they’re missing in their thinking;
  • Listening for Systems as a way to truly hear what’s being said outside of our own biases;
  • and the 13 steps of change, to lead them through each of the steps they must, must address en route to change.

The entire process is laid out in Dirty Little Secrets.

It’s not a sales process, but works as the front end of selling to help people recognize the elements in their own process that precedes seeking an external solution and teaches them how to become buyers. Because we seek out folks who CAN change rather than seek those who SHOULD buy, we enter their buying decision path and lead them through each step of change – helping them help themselves.

It’s a Servant Leader model that facilitates change, not a sales model that influences solution placement. It’s a very different mindset. I often ask: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? They’re two different activities. And sales ignores one of them.

THE COST OF NO CHANGE

The sales industry is like one of those buyers we disparage for not understanding they need us. Since 1987 when I ran my first Buying Facilitation® program at KLM (titled Helping Buyers Buy), I’ve trained about 100,000 sales folks, beginning with pilot programs that always ran alongside a control group selling the same product. Here’s a calculation of the typical results, regardless of industry or price:

  • The groups I trained generally close between 6x-8x more than the control group.
  • Buying Facilitators have a very good idea on the first call who will be a buyer, regardless of complexity of sale, eradicating the need to chase folks who will never buy and concentrate their time on facilitating the buying decisions of those who will.
  • Marketing materials are created in stages of information that match the needs of each stage of change necessary prior to people becoming buyers.
  • Buying Facilitators don’t try to make appointments and yet quickly are invited to meet with the full stakeholder/buying decision team.
  • Prospects begin trusting sellers early due to their ability to help gather all stakeholders and figure out how to resolve the problem internally first.
  • Buying Facilitators don’t discuss their solutions, ask needs based questions, until people have recognized themselves as buyers, usually in 1/8 the time of normal sales.

Kaiser Permanente: went from 110 visits and 18 closed sales to 27 visits, 25 closed sales.

KPMG: selling a $50,000,000 solution, went from a 3 year sales cycle to a 4 month sales cycle.

Boston Scientific: had a 53% increase in close rates and a one call close rather than months of follow up.

IBM: I personally sold $6,400,000 worth of business as I spoke directly with existing clients during the coaching portion of my onsite Buying Facilitation® training.

Sales professionals have told me my results aren’t possible. And I agree: using the sales model, the beliefs and skills of selling, it’s not possible.

SALES CAN MAKE A BIG CONTRIBUTION – BUT NOT THE WAY IT’S BEING USED NOW

With the skills they possess, sellers and marketers can have a vital role in facilitating people through their steps of change to becoming buyers. First they must understand the differences between selling and buying. Here’s what buying entails:

A buyer is someone (or group) who has tried to resolve a problem using their own known resources (People never, ever, start out to buy something first!), has gotten buy in from everyone who will touch the solution, and knows and manages any fallout that the new will cause. A buying decision is a change management problem first, a solution choice issue second. 

Instead of assuming a buying decision is a solution choice issue and continuing as it has for millennia to push content, instead of assuming our job is still persuade folks to take action on our content, or place solutions (It’s not. It’s to facilitate buying.), sellers can facilitate the folks who CAN/WILL buy through the steps of change they must manage – and that we sit and wait for them to accomplish. I have written extensively on this. Here are some articles to peruse.

Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy?

What is Buying Facilitation® and what sales problem does it solve?

The Real Buyer’s Journey

Recognize Buyers on the First Call

Influencing Congruent Change

Plus, get ahold of my book Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. It introduces each step of the buying decision process, along with how my Facilitative Questions lead prospective buyers, step by step, through to being actual buyers. It’s time to add the ability to facilitate the full buying decision journey into our sales efforts.

________________________________________________

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

August 9th, 2021

Posted In: News

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inside-curiosityCuriosity is a good thing, right? But what is it? Wikipedia defines curiosity thus: a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and animal species.

What, exactly, does this mean? What’s ‘inquisitive thinking’? Does it matter that everyone’s inquisitiveness is subjective, unique, and limited by their biases? ‘Evident by observation’? Evident to whom? And by what/whose standards? And ‘observation’? Really? We all see, hear, feel the world through our subjectivity – so what standards, what criteria, are the observer using – or doesn’t it matter? And what makes one piece of information the correct answer – or a wrong answer?

The problem is that our natural curiosity restricts our ability to acquire a complete data set to little more than an extension of our current knowledge and beliefs: the way we seek, accept or dismiss incoming information may glean only a subset of the knowledge available due to

  • the nature of our subjective viewpoint, biases, and intractable Status Quo,

  • our own conscious/unconscious existing beliefs and existing knowledge about the subject,

  • the direction, word choice, hidden agenda and prejudice built into our queries.

Sure, we’re told to ‘be curious.’ But how do we know that the information we seek, find and retrieve is accurate, complete, or the most useful data available? How do we know that found learning is important, even though it ‘feels’ uncomfortable and we dismiss it? How do we know the best source to use to get answers? Who or what to believe? Can we supersede our biased judgments (or intuition, as some would call it) that restrict/influence the standard all is compared against?

The limits of our curiosity define our results: the broader the range of possible answers the higher the likelihood of an accurate outcome. And herein lie the problem: we unwittingly severely restrict the range of possible, acceptable answers because of our existing beliefs while continuing to believe we’re Intuitive, Investigative, and Clever. Hence, I pose the question: can we really ever be entirely curious?

Once during a conversation with a colleague, he complained that he had just gotten a cold, and that now he’d be ‘down’ for 2 weeks. How did he know it would be 2 weeks? As a doctor himself, he’d been to doctors over the years and followed protocol: lots of rest and liquids, and wait two weeks. The following conversation ensued:

    SD: I hear your conclusions about a cold cure come from parameters set by your medical colleagues and that you’re comfortable restricting the full set of possible treatments accordingly. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to expand your parameters to some that may be outside your current comfort zone, in case there might alternate, reliable cures you’re not aware of?

    H: Hm… I’ve always used the medical model as my choice criteria. Well, I guess I’d need to believe that the source of the new data was trustworthy.

    SD: I have useful data that has helped me and my family cure a cold in 2 days, but it’s very far outside the conventional model. How would you know it would be worth trying, given it doesn’t fit within your medical criteria?

    H: That’s sort of easy, but scary. I’ve known you a long time. I trust you. If you have a different cure, I’d love to hear it.

I offered him a simple vitamin-based remedy (large quantities of Vitamin C and simultaneous Zinc lozenges). He used it; he called 2 days later to tell me his cold was gone. And, btw: this man is a famous Harvard McArthur Genius. See? Even geniuses restrict their curiosity according to their biases.

WHY ARE WE CURIOUS

There are several different reasons for curiosity:

  1. Need to know something we don’t know. Sometimes we need to know something we have no, or skimpy, knowledge about. How do we know the difference between the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ answer? How do we know the most effective resources? How do we know that the way we position our query will lead to the broadest range of answers?

  2. Desire to expand current knowledge. We need more data than we possess. How will we recognize when the available, additional data is the appropriate data set? How do we pose an inquiry that offers the broadest range of relevant knowledge? How can we keep from resisting new data if it runs counter to our beliefs (given that any new data gets compared against our unconscious judgments)?

  3. Achieving a goal. Our brain is missing data to achieve a goal. How can we know the extent of what we’re missing if we can’t be certain of the full range of possibilities?

  4. Interest in another person’s knowledge. We suspect someone has knowledge we need, yet it’s not possible to find data we don’t know how to look for. How do we know it’s accurate data? Or how to adopt/adapt it so it doesn’t face internal resistance? How can we position our inquiry to avoid limiting any possibilities?

  5. Complete internal reference points. Influencers (coaches, leaders, consultants, sellers) seek to understand the Other’s Status Quo so the Influencer can formulate action points. How can we know if our ‘intuition’ (biased judgment) is broad enough to encompass all possibilities – and be able to go beyond it when necessary?

  6. Comparator. We want to know if our current knowledge is accurate, or we’re ‘right’. But we pit our query and accept responses against our subjective experiences, running the risk of acquiring partial data or blocking important data.

We just can’t seek, find, or receive what we don’t know how to consider:

  1. Resistance: By the time we’re adults, our subjective beliefs are pretty much built in and determine how we organize our worlds. When we hear something that goes against our beliefs – whether or not it’s accurate; whether it’s conscious or unconscious – we resist. That means whatever answers we find will be accepted in relation to what we already know and believe, potentially omitting important data.

  2. Restricting data: What we’re curious about is automatically biased and limited by our subjective experience, ego needs, history, and current data set. We have no way to know if we’re posing our search query in a way that will include the full range of possible answers.

  3. Restricting knowledge. Because our subjectivity limits the acceptance of new knowledge to what fits with our current knowledge and acceptable expectations (we’re only curious about stuff that is tangential to current knowledge), we automatically defend against anything that threatens what we know. So we choose answers according to comfort or habit rather than according to accuracy.

  4. Intuitive ‘Red Flag’. When our egos and professional identity causes us to ‘intuitively’ have curiosity about answers we assume or expect, we’re limiting possibility by our biases. How do we know if there aren’t a broader range of solutions that we’re not noticing or eliciting?

CASE STUDY

I just had an incident that simply exemplifies some of the above. I’ve begun attending life drawing classes as an exercise to broaden my observation skills. I took classes 30 years ago, so I have a very tiny range of skills that obviously need enhancing. Last session I had a horrific time trying to draw a model’s shoulder. I asked the man next to me – a real artist – for help. Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hey, Ron. Can you help me please? Can you tell me how to think about drawing his shoulder?

Ron: Sure. Let’s see…. So what is it about your current sketch that you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: If I put a gun to your head, what part would you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: You’ve done a great job here, on his lower leg. Good line. Good proportion. That means you know how to do a lot of what you need on the shoulder.

SDM: I do? I didn’t know what I was doing. So how can I duplicate what I did unconsciously? I’m having an eye-hand-translation problem.

Ron: Let’s figure out how you drew that leg. Then we’ll break that down to mini actions, and see what you can use from what you already know. And I’ll teach you whatever you’re missing.

Ron’s brand of curiosity enabled me to make some unconscious skills conscious, and add new expertise where I was missing it. His curiosity had different biases from mine. He:

  • entered our discussion assuming I already had all of the answers I needed;

  • only added information specifically where I was missing some;

  • helped me find my own answers and be available to add knowledge in the exact place I was missing it.

My own curiosity would have gotten me nowhere. Here was my Internal Dialogue:

How the hell do I draw a twisted shoulder? This sucks. Is this an eye/hand problem? Should I be looking differently? I need an anatomy class. Should I be holding my charcoal differently? Is it too big a piece? I can’t see a shadow near his shoulder. Should I put in a false shadow to help me get the proportions right?

Ron’s curiosity – based on me possessing skills – opened a wide range of possibilities for me. I never, ever would have found that solution on my own because my biases would have limited my curiosity to little more than an extension of my current knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO EXPAND YOUR CURIOSITY

In order to widen curiosity to the full range of knowledge and allow our unconscious to accept the full data set available, we must evolve beyond our biases. Here’s how to have a full range of choice:

1. Frame the query: Create a generic series of questions to pose for yourself about your curiosity. Ask yourself how you’ll know

a. your tolerance for non-expected, surprising answers,
b. what a full range of knowledge could include,
c. if your answers need to be within the range of what you already know or something wildly different,
d. if you’re willing/able to put aside your ‘intuition’, bias, and annoyance and seek and consider all possible answers regardless of comfort,
e. if you need to stay within a specific set of criteria and what the consequences are.

2. Frame the parameters: Do some Google research. Before spending time accumulating data, recognize the parameters of possibility whether or not they match your comfortable criteria.

3. Recognize your foundational beliefs: Understand what you believe to be true, and consider how important it is for you to maintain that data set regardless of potentially conflicting, new information.

4. Willingness to change: Understand your willingness to adopt challenging data if it doesn’t fit within your current data set or beliefs.

5. Make your unconscious conscious: Put your conscious mind onto the ceiling and look down on yourself (and whoever is with you) from the Observer position.

6. Listen analytically: Listen to your self-talk. Compare it with the questions above. Note restrictions and decide if they can be overlooked.

7. Analyze: Should you shift your parameters? Search options? What do you need to shift internally?

Curiosity effects every element of our lives. It can enhance, or restrict, growth, change, and professional skills. It limits and expands health, relationships, lifestyles and relationships. Without challenging our curiosity or intuition, we limit ourselves to maintaining our current assumptions.

What do you need to believe differently to be willing to forego comfort and ego-identity for the pursuit of the broadest range of possible answers? How will you know when, specifically, it would be important to have greater choice? We’ll never have all the answers, but we certainly can expand our choices.

_______________

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

August 2nd, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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When I asked a clerk at Walmart recently if I needed to wear a mask to enter, he responded: “Do whatever you want. Frankly, they don’t pay me enough to care.”

The implications of this statement sent my mind reeling and I had some questions:

The implications of this statement sent my mind reeling and I had some questions:

  • What if it mattered to a company that their employees cared about customers, that customers could potentially become ill because of an employee’s judgment?
  • Is Walmart (or any company, frankly) so cash-strapped that they can’t afford to pay employees enough to care? To build customer care into their job descriptions and only hire folks who comply? To teach new hires that customer-caring criteria are a big part of their jobs?
  • What sort of hiring and supervision practices make it possible to hire folks who won’t do their jobs – or does ‘customer care’ not show up on their job descriptions?
  • Do companies understand that customers are the secondary victims of bad hiring practices and inadequate pay?
  • What is the value of employee and/or customer happiness?

I strongly believe companies are one of the propagators of happiness for employees and customers. In this article I’ll examine people, pay, respect, and responsibility so we can begin to think about ways to make money AND make nice.

Given the size of the topic, in this article I’ll merely pose some questions to inspire interest and create a foundation for a fair equation. Ultimately, I’d like to think that companies are in business to serve.

PEOPLE

  • How can we compensate employees to make sure they earn enough to take care of their families AND incorporate caring for clients as part of their job?
  • What is an operational equation between gross corporate revenue, fair profit margin, employee pay, product pricing, and vendor profit?
  • How do we choose new hires that are people-oriented, who understand their job is to serve both customers and each other, to understand that customers provide their income?
  • How do companies design an equation for employees and customers in which everyone walks away getting what they need? How do we factor in ‘people-respect/happiness’ and put it high on our criteria – for hiring, for job descriptors, for client care?

PAY

  • What is the fair equation between CEO pay and employee pay? Between profit margin and a living wage?
  • How does respect – for employee/colleague/customer treatment – get imbedded, compensated, supervised, tracked as part of a company culture?
  • What does pay represent? Is it job specific, outcome specific, paid as per responsibility/job description, ability to bring in income, degree of customer happiness, amount of customer churn?
  • How can customer facing jobs – sales, customer service, help desk support – be fairly/equally compensated given they hold the key to maintaining customers?
  • How can corporations reward all employees in a way that reflects minimizing customer churn? Maybe an annual bonus for all depending on what percent customers remain from last year? A bonus for customer-facing employees dependent on customer retention?
  • Why do some jobs – i.e. sales, ‘C’ level officers – receive such an inordinate amount of pay when other jobs that are client facing – outside field techs, customer support folks – and actually lessen customer churn get paid less?
  • Why is nabbing new clients more highly paid than keeping clients? It’s now built in that some jobs are more highly compensated but shouldn’t be if the churn rate is high and much business gets lost annually due to bad customer service bad customer service?
  • What if sellers got paid according to customer retention rather than new sales?

RESPECT

  • How does respect – for clients/customers, for employees – get compensated?
  • How do folks get hired and trained as per respect, and how is it built into their job description?
  • How do customer-facing folks get paid to respect clients? To have the time to provide what customers need to be happy and satisfied rather than paid per X number of minimal minutes per customer?

RESPONSIBILITY

  • What is our responsibility as a company? To our employees? Teams? Vendors? Clients? The environment? How does this get built into the company culture?
  • Who are companies responsible for/to? How do we imbed this into daily work?
  • What does ‘responsibility’ look like on a daily basis – for our employees? clients?
  • What are sales folks responsible for? They currently waste 90% of their time pushing solutions and chasing those who will never buy rather than facilitating buying and closing actual sales? (Hint: it’s possible to close 8X more prospects by facilitating buying than pushing solutions – but not by using the sales model solely.)
  • What are managers responsible for? How can they be held accountable for facilitating teams who create outcomes that ultimately enable mental, physical, spiritual well-being within the company culture, or for clients? And how does this get compensated?
  • How can responsibility to the environment get factored in to company identities?
  • How can the corporate environment encourage learning opportunities with courses, peer coaching, rotating leadership roles?

WHO, EXACTLY, ARE WE?

Some say that companies are in business to create products to sell. What if our companies are vehicles to serve? What if it were our main priority to not only produce great solutions but to responsibly and ethically care for our employees and customers and the environment? To create reward traditions that are fair and equitable for all?

I believe we’re short-sighted by focusing on profits. This ends up making us greedy and numbers-driven rather than people- or serving-driven.

So I pose the question: what do we need to believe differently to run companies that have heart, that care about all involved – customers, employees, vendors, and the earth. With such a large canvass, I bet we can make a difference.

_______________________________

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

July 26th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Sales

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I recently got a call from a noted venture capitalist of healthcare apps.

DH: I heard you have a model that facilitates permanent behavior change. I wonder if it would work with any of the 15 healthcare apps I’ve invested in.

SD: I do have a model that does that. And it certainly could be used as a front end to conventional behavior change apps to enable users to develop permanent habits. What are you using now to help folks change behaviors permanently?

DH. Behavior Modification, but it doesn’t work. There’s no scientific evidence that it works and our analysis concurs. But there’s nothing else to use. Can you help?

It’s a known fact that Behavior Modification has a 3% success rate over time. Sure, people initially lose weight with a behavior-based plan to eat differently. Certainly people stop smoking or get to the gym for a few weeks. But because these new behaviors haven’t been accepted by, or made permanent in, the brain, they cannot succeed over time. And repeating the new in hopes that THIS time it will stick obviously doesn’t work.

Permanent change is a very achievable goal. But not the way we’re going about it; we’re approaching the problem from the wrong angle. In this essay I will explain what a behavior is, what change is, how our brains govern them both, and introduce the steps needed to form habits. Believe it or not, it’s mechanical.

THE PROBLEM WITH BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

Lately I’ve heard several Behavioral Scientists on the radio, all offering Behavior Modification techniques to habituate new behaviors by, well, habituating new behaviors. They ‘remove barriers’, suggest ‘momentum’, offer ‘promoting forces/restraining forces’, and propose ‘behavioral interventions’ such as keeping weights at your desk so you can ‘lift’ during Zoom calls. All meant to motivate behavior change – through behavior change. I suspect Einstein might have something to say about that.

The problem is the premise. Behavior Mod’s core assumptions are actually contrary to brain science. It assumes that by merely repeating a behavior over and over (and over and over), permanent brain change will result that can be maintained over time. But it doesn’t. And it can’t.

Certainly we’ve all tried. Gone on a ‘different’ diet that we’d get ‘serious’ about this time. Or promised ourselves we’d always write up a schedule for the next day before ending work so we’d be up and running in the morning. But we’ve failed.

We’ve learned the hard way that we can’t lose weight permanently by trying to lose weight. Or stop smoking by trying to stop smoking. Somehow we forget that we have to remember to keep doing it, so we promise ourselves we’ll be disciplined ‘this time’. But we don’t. And we don’t know what else to do.

DIFFERENT THINKING REQUIRED

The reason it’s not possible is pretty simple once you understand what a behavior is and how our brains generate them. The problem isn’t our lack of discipline. We’re ignoring the brain chemistry and neural pathways that prompt behaviors to begin with.

I’ll start with an analogy. Let’s say you purchase a forward-moving robot, use it for a while, then decide you want it to move backward. You tell it why a ‘backwards’ functionality would enhance it, show it slides and presentations of other robots that move backwards, and attempt to push, cajole, and offer rewards for days on end. Nope. It won’t move backward. But if you program it differently, it will.

What about changing a chair into a table. You put red plastic into a machine that is programmed to spit out a red plastic chair. Once the chair is produced, you can’t make it a table. But you can create a table if you program the machine appropriately at the start.

Changing habits by trying to change habits is merely attempting to change the outcome, what’s already occurred – the output, the habit, the behavior – but failing to reprogram the brain with different instructions.

Sounds obvious. But that’s not what behaviorists are trying to do: Behavior Mod tries to get the robot to move backward by pushing it (and pushing it and pushing it) on a regular basis assuming the repetition will cause permanent change. It’s just not possible to maintain over time without changing the core input instructions to the brain.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

To understand the full scope of the problem it’s helpful to understand what, exactly, a behavior is. They don’t just arise haphazardly, like coincidences that seem to occur by chance, or stand-alone features.

Behaviors are merely the activity, the output – the forward-moving robot – of our brain’s signaling system, the response to input instructions that travel down a fixed neural pathway and hook up with a set of circuits that generate a behavior.

Where do behaviors originate? Behaviors are Beliefs in action, tangible representations of our core identity factors. Our politics represent our Beliefs. The way we dress, talk; the professions we choose; where we travel and who we marry. Everything we do represents who we are. As the foundational factor, Beliefs determine our actions and must be factored in when considering change or forming a new habit. Current Behavior Mod approaches try to circumvent Beliefs and therein lie the problem.

There is actual science on how behaviors get generated and why we automatically repeat behaviors even when we don’t want to. Here’s a quote from noted Harvard neuroscientist Richard Masland in We Know It When We See It to set the stage:

Our brain has trillions of cell assemblies that fire together automatically. When anything incoming bears even some of the characteristics [of operational circuits], the brain automatically fires the same set of synapses. (pg 143)

I’ll now offer a simplified version of the specifics of how to convince the brain to make the changes that lead to new habits: the science, the neurology, of how messages travel through the brain to become a behavior. It’s only slightly wonky, so hang with me. Once you ‘get it’ you’ll understand how behaviors occur and where change comes from.

NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAY FROM INPUT TO OUTPUT

Generally, each behavior starts off as an input – an idea or command, thought or story – that enters our brains as a meaningless puff of air, an electrochemical vibration (a ‘message’). To keep us congruent, the input gets evaluated against our Mental Models and Beliefs before going further. Is this input a risk? Is it congruent with values?

If the idea goes against who we are, it gets rejected or resisted and does not end up becoming a permanent pathway. Did you ever try to convince someone of a different political persuasion, regardless of the strength of your argument? Nope. We’re not talking rational here, we’re talking electrochemical neurology.

If the vibration is accepted, it gets turned into signals that then seek out similar-enough circuits that translate them into action or output – a behavior. So:

  1. Receive input vibrations (from conversations, thoughts, reading, ideas) and
  2. Compare/test against foundational Beliefs, norms, and history
  3. Get turned into signals that get
  4. Matched with the closest, habituated brain circuits
  5. That translate them into output/action/behavior.

In more scientific language, it looks like this in our brains:

Data/Input -> Risk/Congruence check -> CUE creates signals -> CEN (Central Executive Network) generates/chooses circuits -> Output/behavior.

Or simply stated: Input -> Relevance check -> Programming -> Output

The time it takes a message to go from an input to an output takes 5 one-hundredths of a second. It’s pretty automatic.

THE NEED FOR VALUES-BASED CONGRUENCY

The next important piece is why repetition won’t cause new (permanent) habits. To understand this, it’s important to understand the strength and responsibility of the neural pathway between the input and the output.

All outputs, behaviors, are initiated by signals that trigger them in the first place. Since input messages become signals only AFTER a relevance check and found to be risk free, any potential new habits must go through the same safeguards. There’s a reason why.

One of our brain’s guiding principles is Systems Congruence, or the need to be stable. This need for stability creates our habits that enable us to brush our teeth when we get up in the morning, and take a left turn without major thought. For this reason, our brains seek well-traveled pathways – doing what we’ve always done – regardless of their current efficacy, because they matched our Beliefs at some point and are now habituated and unconscious.

If our Beliefs change and new outputs are required, our system just needs to go back to the drawing board with new inputs, new relevancy check, new signals and new circuits. Otherwise there is no reason for our brains to consider changing. Remember that we’re dealing with brain activity, vibrations, that offer no good/bad judgment on their own. If it was ‘good to go’ at one point, and the brain has no reason to reconsider this, it just keeps on keepin’ on.

Sadly – and the reason new activity fails when Behavior Mod is attempted – if anything tries to change the status quo without being checked for relevance, our brain discards the new input because it may carry risk! The new isn’t sustainable. Ultimately, trying to create new habits without sending wholly new belief-based input instructions – i.e. new programming – cannot cause permanent change because there are no new circuits to administer it!

The good news is that the brain is always willing to create new circuits for new behaviors. It’s called Neurogenesis.

CREATING NEW PROGRAMMING, NEW SIGNALS, NEW BEHAVIORS

To change behaviors permanently, start with new, Belief-based input messages that result in wholly new circuits and outputs:

  • create a new belief-based input/message that
  • generates new signals which
  • create or discover a different arrangement of (existing) circuits
  • leading to new/different behaviors.

Let me tell you a story. A friend said, “I’ve been telling myself I’m a Fat Cow recently. That means it’s time for me to go on another diet.” Obviously this input would lead her to the same circuits (and results) that it used for past diets that she failed at. But if she changed her input signal and told herself instead:

‘I am a healthy person who will research best nutrition choices for my body type and lifestyle and have the discipline to eat the best foods for the rest of my life.’

she would end up with a different set of circuits and different output/behaviors.

Our outputs, our behaviors, are merely responses to inputs that our brain has checked out as congruent with who we are. So change the incoming messaging to one that is Belief-based and takes into account all the elements (Mental Models, history, norms, experience) that might cause risk to the system. Once it’s approved, it will automatically generate new circuits and new, habituated, behaviors.

THE HOW OF CHANGE

I’ve been studying, unpacking, and writing about Choice and Change for over 50 years. It’s been exciting and frustrating: exciting because I continue to learn as new discoveries in brain science emerge, frustrating because science largely studies outputs without curiosity re where, how, or why a signal gets created or chosen to begin with. The concept of Beliefs, or Systems Congruence, is omitted. And yet science now says it understands change comes from Beliefs – but doesn’t know how to get there. I do. It just takes different thinking.

In 2019, I spent a full year unpacking the science of neural pathways and adding some of my understanding about change and congruence into the mix. From this, I developed a 5-hour program program to guide folks through the step-by-step activity of consciously designing permanent habit formation. I’ve trained it to a few hundred people who have had great results. Here you can watch me deliver the first, introductory, hour of the How of Change™ program.

I am passionately interested in enabling people to consciously design new signaling instructions for their brains to output any new habits they seek. My wish is to work with healthcare providers and apps for exercise, healthy eating, meditation and decision making to aid folks seeking to achieve greater health and success. It’s quite possible to add the How of Change capabilities to the front end of Behavior Mod apps so users first change their brains to be ready for permanent change.

If you want to collaborate, or have questions, contact me to discuss ways we can engage those seeking permanent change. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_______________________

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

July 19th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

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We all know the importance of listening, of connecting with others by deeply hearing them share thoughts, ideas, and feelings, by being present and authentic. We work hard at listening without judgment, carefully, with our full attention. But are we hearing others without bias? I contend we’re not.

WHAT IS LISTENING?

From the work I’ve done unpacking the routes of incoming messages in brains, I believe that listening is far more than hearing words and understanding another’s shared thoughts and feelings. Listening is actually a brain thing that has little do to with meaning. It’s about puffs of air.

There are several problems with us accurately hearing what someone says, regardless of our intent to show up as empathetic listeners. Generally speaking, our brains determine what we hear. And they weren’t designed to be objective. There are two primary reasons:

  1. Words are meant to be semantic transmissions of meaning, yet they emerge from our mouths smooshed together in a singular gush with no spaces between them. Our brains then have the herculean task of deciphering individual sounds, individual word breaks, unique definitions, to understand their meaning. No one speaks with spaces between words. Otherwise. It. Would. Sound. Like. This. Hearing impaired people face this problem with new cochlear implants: it takes about a year for them to learn to decipher individual words, where one word ends and the next begins.
  2. When others speak, their words enter our ears as puffs of air without denotation – sound vibrations that have no meaning at all. None.

This second note is confounding: our ears hear what they’re set up to hear, not necessarily what a speaker intends to share.

Just as we perceive color when light receptors in our eyes send messages to our brain to translate the incoming light waves (the world has no color), meaning is a translation of sound vibrations that have traversed a very specific brain pathway after we hear them.

As such, I define listening as our brain’s progression of making meaning from incoming sound vibrations.

HOW BRAINS LISTEN

I didn’t start off with that definition. Like most people, I had thought that if I gave my undivided attention and listened ‘without judgment’, I’d be able to hear what a Speaker intended. But I was wrong.

When writing my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was quite dismayed to learn that what a Speaker says and what a Listener hears are often two different things.

It’s not for want of trying; Listeners work hard at empathetic listening, of caring about the Speaker and the conversation, of responding collaboratively and caringly. But the way our brains are organized make it difficult to hear others without bias.

Seems everything we perceive (all incoming sensory) is translated (and restricted) by the circuits already set up in our brains. If you’ve ever heard a conversation and had a wholly different takeaway than others in the room, or understood something differently from the intent of the Speaker, it’s because listening isn’t based on words or intended meaning; it’s because our brains have a purely mechanistic approach to translating signals. Here’s what our brains do:

Input (vibrations from words, thoughts, sound, feeling, sight)

CUE (turns incoming vibrations into electro-chemical signals)

CEN (Central Executive Network finds existing ‘similar-enough’ circuits to interpret into meaning)

Output (meaning)

Here’s a simplified version of what happens when someone speaks:

– the sound of their words enter our ears as mere vibrations (puffs of air with no meaning),

– get turned into electro-chemical signals (also without meaning) that

– get sent to existing circuits

– that have a ‘close-enough’ match (but may not match fully)

– previously used for other translations,

– and then discards the overage – whatever doesn’t match

– causing us to ‘hear’ the messages translated through circuits we already have on file!

It’s mechanical.

The worst part is that when our brain discards the ‘overage’ signals, it doesn’t tell us! So if you say “ABC” and the closest circuit match in my brain is “ABL” my brain discards D, E, F, G, etc. and fails to tell me what it threw away!

That’s why we believe what we ‘think’ we’ve heard is accurate. Our brain actually tells us that’s what was said, regardless of how near or far that interpretation is from the truth.

In other words, we ‘hear’ only what our brains translate based on our historic circuits – or, our biased, subjective experience.

With the best will in the world, with the best empathetic listening, by being as non-judgmental as we know how to be, as careful to show up with undivided attention, we can only hear what our brain allows us to hear. Being unwittingly restricted by our past, just about everything we hear is naturally biased.

IT’S POSSIBLE TO GET IT ‘RIGHTER’

The problem is our automatic, mechanistic brain. Since we can’t easily change the process itself (I’ve been developing brain change models for decades; it’s possible to add new circuits.), it’s possible to interfere with the process.

I’ve come up with two ways to listen with more accuracy:

  1. When listening to someone speak, stand up and walk around, or lean far back in a chair. It’s a physiologic fix, offering an Observer/witness viewpoint that goes ‘beyond the brain’ and disconnects from normal brain circuitry. I get permission to do this even while I’m consulting at Board meetings with Fortune 100 companies. When I ask, “Do you mind if I walk around while listening so I can hear more accurately?” I’ve never been told no. They are happy to let me pace, and sometimes even do it themselves once they see me do it. I’m not sure why this works or how. But it does.
  2. To make sure you take away an accurate message of what’s said say this:

To make sure I understood what you said accurately, I’m going to tell you what I think you said. Can you please tell me what I misunderstood or missed? I don’t mind getting it wrong, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page.

Listening is a fundamental communication tool. It enables us to connect, collaborate, care, and relate with everyone. By going beyond Active Listening, by adding Brain Listening to empathetic listening, we can now make sure what we hear is actually what was intended.

______________________________

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

July 5th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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kindness-clipart-famille-32

Recently people have been discussing ‘kindness’ as a business strategy. I’m so pleased.

Kindness – not a word historically associated with corporations, those bastions of male verve – is now being equated with the bottom line. How times have changed. In the 90s when I gave a keynote titled ‘Sales as a Spiritual Practice’ I would get asked: “Yes, but how would we make money?”

Imagine embracing the desire to be helpful and considerate, compassionate and generous as part of accepted business practice. We all know what happens when it’s ignored. We know how workplace issues grind people down, and how infrequently those below the top tier get asked their opinions. We know we lose more good employees to feelings of disrespect than to pay issues. We know that 70% of buying decisions are made by women.

And yet we continue assuming the bottom line is about minimizing costs and maximizing profit and putting rules before people.

HOW KINDNESS CAN EFFECT OUR BOTTOM LINE

The costs of degrading and ignoring employees and making customers conform to our money-saving practices, the cost of treating customers merely as numbers that get crunched, cost us high turnover, a paucity of fresh ideas and new leaders, a loss of customers and reputation, a loss of revenue, and the need to hire more supervisory managers and do more ‘reputation management’ to handle the fallout.

I intimately know a company with a reputation for treating employees so punitively that only naïve out-of-towners apply for the many available jobs. Without kindness, everything suffers, and in this day and age, clients, customers, staff, have vehicles for their complaints.

Research has shown kindness actually increases our bottom line:

  • When employees are asked their opinions, treated respectfully, given jobs that enable them to exhibit excellence regardless of their pay scale, they are more creative, responsible, and loyal. They adopt leadership roles, put in longer hours, and have fewer sick days.
  • When we treat our clients kindly we keep them longer, hear about problems (rather than lose them to competitors), are offered new ideas to monetize, and have brand ambassadors to offer free marketing to connections who may become clients.
  • When we value people we make more money and have less turnover.

Here are a few of my personal experiences of monetizing kindness:

1. Kindness with customers:

a. When first moving to Portland, I couldn’t locate my correct bus stop. I called the Transit help line and a person answered! And he stayed on the line until I got to my destination! I also had an issue with the local gas company causing very minor damage to my countertop. They called, apologized, and immediately sent me a check for $500 for recompense (It cost $100 to fix.).

Takeaway: the random acts of kindness I found throughout Portland have led me to move there.

b. After not receiving my NYTimes for four Sundays, I made two angry calls. The first woman said I would need to speak with a supervisor on Monday; the second woman not only called my local delivery folks, she called back to tell me when the paper would be delivered, called again to make sure I got it, and then left me her cell number in case the problem occurred again.

Takeaway: I won’t cancel my subscription.

2. Kindness with employees:

a. In the 80s I started up a tech support company in London with 48 tech folks and about a dozen management staff. It was my delight to create an infostructure that respected, and was kind to, my employees. For starters, I gave each of my managers $2000 annually to take a paid week off to attend any course they wanted (photography, cooking) to feel renewed. I also didn’t give them specific vacation days: I said: “You’re an adult. You’re tired? Take time off, so long as you cover your responsibilities and give the rest of us a heads up.” What happened was lovely: I actually had to fight with them to take time off! I also required my managers to take off one day a month to do volunteer work. And at least four times a year I went to the field tech’s job sites (and they were not my direct reports), took them to lunch, and picked their brains on ways we could do better for them and for our clients. Their ideas were terrific. And monthly, I met with them all for a game of darts (which I always lost) in a local pub. I ran into competitors at conferences who said they tried to hire my folks away yet couldn’t pry them from my grip. “What are you doing to those folks?” I was just respecting them.

Takeaway: there was no turnover in 4 years; the tech folks called us from their sites whenever they heard rumors of new business and I was in place by the time the vendor delivered the product. And I had very little turnover, creating a very stable and respected workforce.

b. I hired a full time ‘make nice’ guy whose job it was to visit staff and clients on site to make sure the relationships and programming worked efficiently, nipping problems in the bud. With no fires to fight I had nothing to do but grow my company.

Takeaway: revenue doubled annually; I had a 42% net profit – in an environment with no computers, no websites, no email.

THE HOW OF KINDNESS: LISTENING SKILLS ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS

I believe the process of listening is one of the skills that enable us to be kind. Not only do we need to set up client Listening Conferences and staff Listening Hours, we must hear what’s being said between the lines using a ‘kindness ear’. My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains whatever we listen for is one of the determinants of what we hear.

Our biases, as I learned while researching the book, determine what our brains tell us was said, actually deleting anything outside of our own belief/value/need system. So rather than merely listen for problems, we must listen for the patterns in the problems: Lots of turnover? Complaints about small stuff? We’re ignoring something we don’t want to handle.

Bottom line decreasing due to competition? Maybe we’re ignoring what’s really going on and just blaming competitors when we need an all-hands-on-deck brainstorming session. Are we hearing that clients aren’t happy or want additions to our solution? Maybe our solution isn’t robust enough and we need to get a group of clients in to talk to them and find out.

Through the years, with clients and staff, coaches and colleagues, I have found the biggest obstacle to authentic communication is how imperfectly we hear others. Far too often we enter conversations with biases, assumptions, triggers, and filters, all based on our own intent and beliefs, and miss what’s being conveyed that falls outside the range of expectation. Imagine if we approach our conversations with the bias of kindness:

  • An employee is perpetually late with work assignments: is there something going on in the department, with other employees, with her work load, that is causing the problem? What could we do to make it easier for her?
  • Customer service folks must recognize patterns in complaints and become leaders in resolving problems rather than maintaining the status quo. I recently heard a rep say: “I’ve had lots of complaints about this. But there are no plans to fix it.”

So many folks want to be leaders. Kindness and caring for employees and clients is a good way to start.

THE HEART OF KINDNESS

As individuals we all think we’re kind. Yet in our business lives, sometimes we put rules, expectations, and the bottom line before we put kindness forgetting that happy employees make profitable companies. We’re often kind to clients to keep/get their business, kind to employees over holidays. And the rest of the time, we fear that being kind – supporting real people with real lives and real problems – will diminish our bottom line.

Let me say that being kind – giving employees maternity/paternity enough time off, extending small loans with no interest, designing good working conditions and job titles that are creative and exciting, asking employees regularly what type of training programs they’d benefit from – always brings in more money.

Not to mention when employees are treated kindly they

  • treat our clients kindly, giving us a differentiator over competitors who don’t;
  • listen, commiserate, have compassion, and seek creative ways to help them;
  • are willing to take criticism from clients as part of their Servant Leadership, and to learn from;
  • put people/clients over rules and make sure each conversation is a win-win.

In other words, kindness will increase sales.

Let’s speak about this. I believe it’s a necessary conversation. Here’s the question: How can we monetize kindness with staff and clients? It’s possible to make money AND be kind.

________________

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

June 28th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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Is your team communicating effectively? Are you all on the same page and reach goals without resistance? Are there subgroups that (unwittingly) restrict the outcomes? Are all voices included during brainstorming to assure the full fact pattern and set of possibilities emerges? How are communication breakdowns handled?

I thought of these questions during a recent client chat and remembered a situation I had with Los Alamos Labs in New Mexico some years back. While the tale is a bit outdated, it will serve as a starting point for my belief that teams aren’t doing enough to make sure their communication and collaboration is as effective as it should be.

The cost of failed team communication is higher than you’d like to admit and happening more often these days with new-forming teams, remote relationships, and distance meetings. And it’s not a difficult problem to fix with a few new skills.

Here’s my Los Alamos Labs case study that might provide a few thoughts. I’ll follow it with ideas and suggestions.

LOS ALAMOS LABS

Case study

In the 1990s, Los Alamos Labs had a mailroom [Yes! We used snail mail in those days!] that sorted and delivered incoming mail – contracts, client letters, invoices, etc. It took them 6 days (6 days!) to distribute it; leadership wanted it done in one.

After months of failing to shorten the time line, leadership decided to contract out the work and fire the 26-person mailroom team. Before they took that drastic step, they brought me in to see if I could solve the problem with a team-building training program.

Speaking only to the client who hired me (Big mistake, it turned out) I created a nifty program. I arrived at the client site an hour early to observe the team in action before delivering the training. But immediately I noticed much larger problems than merely team issues.

To begin with, the racial disparity was glaring: as the company was in New Mexico (a largely Hispanic population), there were 24 Hispanic people and two Anglos; it was quite obvious they didn’t speak to each other. The two Anglos stayed to themselves, never connecting in any way with the other 24 in the hour I watched them.

Next, there were cliques that operated in sort of a ballet, connecting, speaking, moving within their small groups with none of them going outside their cliques for questions, discussions, or sharing. So either their jobs were unique to each person, or there was massive inefficiency.

Didn’t seem like my team building program was an answer. I promptly threw away the program, went into the assigned training room down the hall, and put two facing chairs in the middle of the room with the rest of the chairs in a circle facing the two middle ones.

When the group came in, I told them I noticed some communication issues that I found disturbing, so before we did the real ‘training’ I wanted any personal issues resolved.

I invited whoever was having a personal issue – a grudge, an annoyance, a distrust – to sit in one of the middle chairs and invite their colleague to sit in the other and discuss the problem. I sat on the floor between the two chairs as the interpreter.

Nothing happened for 15 minutes. Silence. Then I stood up and announced I’d sit there all day if need be, but maybe the manager should begin. Surely he was annoyed with someone!

Roberto reluctantly came and sat on one of the chairs and said that instead of sharing his annoyances, he invited anyone annoyed with him to sit across from him and share their feelings.

After a few minutes, a young Hispanic woman came and sat down.

Theresa: I thought so hard about the delivery problems we were having and came up with what I thought was a great idea. But you gave me five minutes and basically didn’t listen. I’ll never bring in any new ideas again. And now we might all get fired because nothing has changed. I tried.

Roberto: I was annoyed too because I thought you were complaining about…

I stopped him so I could translate what she was actually saying:

SD: I heard Theresa say she’s having trust issues because she spent time and care presenting ways to try to resolve the problem and felt you ignored her. As the manager your job is not only to make sure your folks trust you but acquire as many ideas from your team as possible. Try a different response.

Roberto: OK! Um. Theresa: I’m so sorry I didn’t hear you as you deserved to be heard. And I’m sad I’ve not heard all your other ideas. I’m sure they were all good and certainly worth discussing. I sometimes am focused on other issues going on and don’t listen properly. What can I do to regain your trust? And can we set a time later this week to discuss any ideas you have that might help the group be more efficient?

After Theresa came one of the two Anglo people saying he felt the group had a racial bias against him. (Note: racial bias in New Mexico was a long-term cultural issue that affected everyone. I lived in Taos for 11 years and bear the scars.) Again, Roberto started off defending himself, but with my intervention opened up a race-based dialogue that continued most of the day. In fact, by the time everyone was finished on the chairs discussing angers, annoyances and biases, it was 11:30 at night.

To their credit, there was great authenticity, honesty, and quite a few tears and hugs. Ideas were shared, brainstormed, listened to by all. When there were misunderstandings people were asked to clarify. Ideas seemed to have wings, flying around the room. Everyone was listening attentively and respectfully. We even had a few laughs (A few in-jokes of course, but mostly I was the ‘butt’ of the jokes for sitting so long on the floor. No idea why I didn’t sit on a chair for god’s sakes!).

On Day Two, I led the newly-formed collaboratory through ideas and plans for better communication, more productivity, sharing, and task efficiency. Within days after our time together they brought the 6-day delivery time down to one day and kept their jobs. Problem solved.

One more thing: the team took those 2 chairs and put them outside their manager’s office. Every time there was a confusion or disagreement, the people involved went to the chairs: “Let’s discuss this. Meet you at the chairs at 2:00.” The next year they sent me a photo of all of them next to the chairs. On one of the chairs sat a Malcolm Baldrige Excellence Award. They were holding a banner that said, “THANK YOU SHARON-DREW!”

Ahhhhh. I love my job. Although next time I used that strategy I did sit on a chair. 😊

Take Aways

I’d like to think that the skills involved with the final excellence were ones any team could adopt.

  1. Willingness to be honest and authentic regardless of the ‘politically correct’ rules of social conversation.
  2. Willingness to be vulnerable, admit wrong-doing and apologize.
  3. Willingness to be honest about racial issues and hold Truth above feelings or fears.
  4. Willingness to look at the problem and recognize what was working, what responsibilities they had to take to make it right, and willingness to fix it.
  5. The necessity of the whole team being present as witness and judge, through discomfort and exhaustion. There was no place to hide – everyone knew the truth, and it had to be spoken for the greater good, separate from roles or personalities.
  6. Patience to sit for 14:30 hours to resolve all the issues.

The role I played as translator was also vital. It took the sting out of any blame and played a role in a meta understanding, away from unconscious human/racial biases or personal traits. Because I didn’t know any of these folks, I was not tangled in any past relationship, role, or status issues. I suspect that another outsider, from another department maybe, could have done the job. But bringing in a consultant isn’t a bad idea when an impartial eye/ear is needed.

SELF-CORRECTING TEAMS

This team was so comfortable with their long-standing cultural norms that it hadn’t realized their communication problems that led to ineffective work habits.

How many companies face the same problem? How many groups just keep on keepin’ on in ignorance or denial, making excuses and playing the blame-game with their resultant failures? How many groups only collect data from a chosen few and omit the entire population that would yield imaginative ideas that conventional leadership seems to ignore?

The cost of doing nothing is high:

  1. A minimization of good ideas. Client-facing employees are often omitted from company change and problem-solving because they’re not ‘on the leadership team.’ Yet they have great ideas that leadership can’t think of. Use these folks. You hired them each for a reason. Put their ideas into action. Your employees are your competitive edge.
  2. A minimization of collaboration and job effectiveness. With cliques, lack of diversity, teams bound by job descriptions and hierarchies, there’s no opportunity to pollinate new ideas, try new actions, make new norms. And without these, the company dies from its core.
  3. A continuation and exacerbation of problems. Accepted communication practices get factored in to the culture and become built in forever, taking failure along for the ride and causing fall-out to become normative. A well-known global software company I worked with saw no problem with treating staff and clients from a win/lose position. “I need to have control and make people do what I want. I was told to do this on my first day here.” It was endemic. Brought in to get the leadership team to work from integrity, I mentioned that Win/Win was the goal. They were confused when I said Win/Lose equaled Lose/Lose, which cost them trust and creativity and ultimately business. “But what do I need Win/Win for? I’m the one in control. They have to do what I say regardless”.
  4. A colossal time waste. I recently went through a review of my state taxes due to a glitch in the system from 1994. There were 6 departments involved, and none of them spoke to the others. If I didn’t call the other 5 when something occurred, I got caught up in the lag between departments, dates, paperwork. By the time we were done we all hated each other. They asked what the rush was, that it usually took 6 months not 6 weeks (I bet!) and I just didn’t understand their system. Nope. I did not. Talk to each other! Make sure there are systems set up so everyone has the same data at the same time. In 2021 that’s simple, no?
  5. Unnecessary resistance:Without everyone’s buy-in, without everyone who touches the proposed solution having a say in the outcome, there will be resistance that costs unknown time, money, personal fallout. With proper communication up front, everyone is on board and has a stake in the success of the project. There is absolutely no need for resistance. If you’re getting resistance, you’re doing it wrong.
  6. Dimished results. Until or unless
    • the full set of facts are known and gathered from the full spectrum of resources,
    • the full complement of possible ideas are tried,
    • the downsides are factored in before completion,

a project will not be successful. Nothing else to say.

THE TOOLS YOU NEED

Here are the necessary skill sets for effective team communication:

Unbiased Listening. This sounds much easier to do than it is. Let me start by saying that nothing has meaning – no words, no dialogues, no sounds – until our brains translate it. Like the earth has no color – color is a function of the rods and cones in our eyes translating incoming vibrations – words have no meaning until the incoming sound vibrations get translated within our neural circuitry (I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?).

In other words, we only understand what someone says according to the existing circuits in our brains. Listening is a neural/brain thing: none of us can hear others without bias.

For those who are curious, sound enters our ears as vibrations without meaning (i.e. not words!). They become signals that seek out ‘close enough’ circuits already existing in our brains from some prior experience and get translated accordingly.

In other words, everything we hear gets translated by our subjective experience. Sad but true. And we think we listen attentively, but can only hear/understand what our brains listen for. Obviously this is where misunderstanding and miscommunication come from. People DO listen. They just hear what their brains interpret for them.

The easiest way to fix this problem is to say during a conversation:

I want to make sure I understood what you said. I will say what I think I heard, and ask that you please correct me so I can get it right.

This way you can take away an accurate understanding without guesswork, even if you initially thought what you heard was accurate.

Gather data from every person or you’ll not have the full fact pattern. Too often we gather data from the folks we consider ‘obvious’. not necessarily the full set of stakeholders who are part of the problem and hold some very necessary data.

So many customer service initiatives are developed without the input of the customer facing folks and omit addressing real customer needs. How many times are HR folks omitted because, well, why use HR (except that the initiative will transfer, fire, reorganize people)? Think of everyone who will be touched by the final solution and bring them in at the start.

Ask the right questions. This one is a head scratcher because conventional questions are meant to gather data, – and in most cases, the data being requested is biased by the needs, language choices, and goals of the Asker and gather very restricted data points from the Receiver.

To manage this problem, I’ve invented a new form of question (took me 10 years!) I call a Facilitative Question. Different from a conventional question that seeks answers for the Asker, FQs lead Others into their brains to discover a much, much broader set of possibilities beyond the biases of the Asker. It takes a while to learn to formulate as specific words in specific sequences are used so the brain peruses its unconscious. But once you learn how it changes the arc of all conversations.

Do a congruence check. Are all team members contributing? If not, there’s a reason. Are they feeling unheard, that their ideas aren’t ‘big’ enough? Do they feel powerless? Do they feel any gender, race, or ability bias?

All voices are necessary. Bring them in or you risk restricting all that’s possible, not to mention setting up the initiative for failure and resistance.

Only hold meetings if ALL members are present! Do not hold a meeting if someone is ill or can’t make it. It biases the outcome, causes resistance, and leaves out important ideas.

IS YOUR COMMUNICATION WORKING?

I have some questions for teams to consider:

  • Is your team is functioning optimally? What would suboptimal communication look/sound/act like?
  • Do you have any vehicle in place to take a meta stance and discover problems without biases or defense?
  • What do you have in place to ensure you’re not operating with any racial, gender, or ability prejudice? It’s inherent and unconscious. How do you test it?
  • Do you regularly get resistance – either from your own team or during client initiatives? What are you willing to do to develop strategies that enable group buy-in from the full set of stakeholders (i.e. including ‘Joe in accounting’)?
  • If you regularly notice dysfunction, during an initiative or with less-than-steller results, what are you doing about it?

I believe this is a problem that needs focus, especially with so much change occurring in our organizations now. Make it a priority. Your productivity, creativity, stability and integrity depend on it.

____________________________________

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

June 21st, 2021

Posted In: News

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