When Dale Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People in 1937 he laid the foundation for sales thinking that continues today: find folks with a need, get into a relationship, and tell them about the features, functions, and benefits of your solution in a way that induces them to buy it. But it’s no longer relevant. The industry faces a less-then 5% close rate, a 55% turnover of sales professionals, and 75% of people prefer not to engage sales people at all.

What’s changed? Well for starters, it’s no longer 1937: When Carnegie was king there was no direct way to meaningfully connect with a prospect unless they lived nearby. Phones were party line; travel was with Model T Fords. And the main marketing vehicles were Look magazine and the Sears Catalogue. Your neighbors were your customers and you were a necessary element in their decision: people relied on sales professionals to understand features, functions and benefits of products that could help them.

Those days are gone, but the sales industry continues to apply the same story:

  • just find people (the new art of finding names is a billion-dollar industry)
  • with needs that match what we’re selling (seemingly evident from the biased questions we pose to ‘expose a need’) and
  • provide well-composed (another billion-dollar industry) content using our charming personalities
  • to push solutions (people can find online) onto those we’ve found and they’ll buy.

But they don’t. Yet the industry continues to seek out people with ‘needs that match what we’re selling.’ When they don’t buy we say they’re stupid, ill-informed, seeking a lower price, or….

We’re merely finding the people who were going to buy anyway, the low hanging fruit, at the end of their decision cycle. No one’s noticed the foundational premises we’ve used for close to a century, techniques designed for a different time, are no longer relevant:

  • Folks with a seeming ‘need’ are now dispersed teams, making it difficult for them to understand their full problem set, let alone agree to something they need;
  • Getting into ‘relationship’ with, or gathering information from ‘a prospect’ is moot as there is no longer ‘a prospect’;
  • The features, functions, and benefits of our solutions are posted online, well outside the need for a human to introduce them.

With fewer and fewer buyers, less and less income, and more and more frustration, sellers are leaving their jobs to play musical chairs for jobs with higher earning potential (and commission guarantees) that don’t procure them higher income beyond the guarantee. Because people aren’t buying.

Why aren’t alarm bells ringing? We continue doing what we’ve always done when all rational indicators tell us we’re doing something wrong. The sales industry is suffering from ‘Problem Blindness’: assuming our failures are just ‘the way it is’ as we build more and more tools to fix the very problems they create rather admit failure and change the system altogether.

In this article I will lay out the reasons sales as we’ve known it has become irrelevant, the current struggles of the Buying Decision Journey (a term I coined in 1985), and how sales can reposition itself to become a highly respected and relevant profession. Again.


PART ONE: Why our standard sales thinking no longer works


OUTDATED ASSUMPTIONS

There are several stories here:

  1. Sellers are leaving jobs for similar ones in the hopes they’ll close more sales and earn more money. But without changing the core skills and premises of sales, fewer and fewer people need sellers and close rates will continue to fall. We need a new vision of sales.
  2. Sellers are no longer needed to place solutions; details can be found online. We need a new function that prospects need us for.
  3. Buying decisions involve complex environments and ever-changing norms to be managed. Problem solving is confusing and time-consuming. People need help making their change-related decisions that won’t reverberate back to leadership, job descriptions or the bottom line. These are change management issues that must be resolved before they can consider buying anything.
  4. We treat failure in the industry as if it were inevitable and aren’t attempting to fix it at the source, using the same thinking that cause the very problems they’ve created.

First we must acknowledge there’s a problem: we haven’t progressed beyond using sales as a needs/solution placement tool and face decreasing, and costly, results. Then we must redefine our jobs beyond finding and instigating people to buy and add new tools at the front end to facilitate people through their decision factors.

Right now we’re stuck in a cycle that perpetuates the problem.

Here’s an analogy: Let’s say you open a clothing store with the best cash registers available for efficient transactions, and you’ve overlooked installing fitting rooms, depriving customers of help where they really need help in making a choice. Hmmmmm. Sales keep decreasing! You decide to fix the situation by adding new capability to the cash registers: robots to make transactions even MORE efficient by finding folks in the aisles as they shop. But now, prospective customers feel pursued! Robbed of a way to make their best choice and pursued, they stop shopping in the store altogether. And it’s never occurred to you to bring in fitting rooms.

Sales continues to use the same baseline thinking used since 1937, but now prospects no longer live next door and don’t need anyone explaining features and functions. Yet we continue using what worked for Carnegie, but with sophisticated technology and more manipulation tools, doing the same things over and over again, hoping for different results. All assuming if we can find-em they’ll buy.

We continue thinking of sales tactically. But that’s not how people buy: they buy relationally, and they’re resolving their problems without us. And we’re not helping them where they need help.

I have a question: Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? I assume most sellers would respond ‘Have someone buy’. But that doesn’t seem to be true: using any rational standard, what you’re doing now is failing. Your answer, it would seem, is you’d prefer to sell, regardless of whether or not anyone is buying – which is indeed what’s happening.

Indeed, we haven’t defined the real problem we face as sellers, making it impossible to resolve: instead of finding and providing real support for prospective buyers where they really need our help, we expect them to be where we are looking for them – and blaming them for not being there! Like the joke of the man looking for the lost lug nuts under the lights because he can see better, instead of searching where he lost them.

I have proven out-of-the-box ideas and models that I’ve been teaching in the sales industry for 35 years. They truly serve employees and prospects, find real buyers efficiently, and increase closing rates dramatically in far less time. But they’re not sales! And they don’t equate with anything you’re now doing, so could potentially be rejected. Yet they solve the problems you face. Are you willing to consider doing anything differently?

Before I even introduce you to my new information, the industry must first resolve the core issue: we must stop denying there’s a problem. And then we must stop using sales for prospecting. It was never meant for that.

WHY IS A 5% SUCCESS RATE OK?

When I ran my first Helping Buyers Buy program to KLM in 1987 close rates were 10%. They’re now less than 5% and dropping, an indication that the original thinking is no longer relevant. Yet we accept ‘failure’ as normal for the sales industry. “It’s just the way it is.” But failure is not inevitable. We’re just using the wrong tools for this time in history and bringing on the failure ourselves.

Failure (a 5% close rate is a 95% fail rate) has been accepted as a ‘given’ that’s been normalized and built into the cost of doing business. Sales directors understand this, hire more sellers to make up for the lower closing rates, and do some creative accounting that ignores the real cost of a sale. A sales director recently told me he closes 30%. Thirty percent of what? I asked. Of folks we meet with. What’s the percentage from first prospecting call? Less than 2%. It goes without saying that the prospecting group is listed as a cost center and closed sales are in the profit center.

Let’s get real: Would you go to a dentist with a 95% fail rate? Or get on a plane with a 5% chance of getting you to your destination? You wouldn’t even go to a hairdresser with a 95% fail rate.

Why do we condone and maintain the thinking that leads to a 95% fail rate? Why do we accept the cost of hiring 8x more sales folks who waste most of their work hours chasing people they can’t reach, putting invalid prospects into the pipeline who disappear and won’t take calls, or seeking appointments they can’t get or which don’t end in a sale? Why is it ok to have low close rates and high turnover rates? Why?

Why aren’t these factors a sign that something is wrong? What does the industry need to believe differently so failure is not a ‘given’ and can be rectified?

We are using the sales model for tasks it wasn’t designed to do. It’s a solution placement model, evolved by necessity to include prospecting and qualifying, seeking appointments, and sharing content details – all in the name of making a sale. And for a long time, it worked. But now, in the 21st Century, it’s relevant only in the final stages of a buying decision once people have self-identified as prospects.

REASONS FOR FAILURE

All rational indicators broadcast that what you’ve been doing isn’t working. But until you admit your current practices don’t capture the clients, the revenue, the numbers you seek (i.e. until you admit failure), you will continue selling less, wasting more time, earning less money, having more turnover, and helping fewer people than you deserve.

All the new apps, the new companies that promise to help you close more by finding you names of ‘real’ prospects, are the only ones making money. I recently asked a noted Lead Gen group what the close rate was for the leads they handed over. “I have no idea. That’s not our job. We only send names and have nothing to do with what our clients do with them.”

It doesn’t need to be this way. The sales model as we’ve known it is no longer relevant as the sole tool to make sales. Designed for different times, the originating assumptions capture a tiny subset of people:

  • those who have figured out that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem and worth the risk of change;
  • those situations in which the full set of stakeholders are involved, bought in, and are ready NOW;
  • those who carry the cultural- and values-centric criteria of the full stakeholder team.

Even with a real need, a great solution, and a trusting relationship with a vendor, no purchase occurs until everyone buys into the risk of change; the cost of disruption is too high. And sales just keeps trying to push solutions and determine need before folks are actually buyers, before they’ve assembled the complete Buying Decision Team, before they’ve understood their risk of change.

Sales overlooks the change issues that must be addressed before people decide to bring in an external solution (i.e. buy). It’s here we can add a new tool kit and become relevant.

By breaking a buying decision into two segments – the Buy Side change management process AND the Sell Side solution placement process – we 1. begin by finding those on route to becoming buyers and facilitate their change management process as they morph into buyers extremely quickly, then 2. sell. By then they’re ready, willing, and able to buy, already know they need us and are in relationship with us. Right now we have one tool kit: we rely on our solutions as bait.

By recognizing the two legs of the Buying Decision Journey and save the sales element until the first leg is complete, it’s possible to find real prospects on the first call and reduce the sales cycle by at least half. But it gets better: it’s possible to make sellers a sought-after group who can provide real help during the decision process.

But as I’ve said, first you’d need to acknowledge what you’ve been doing is failing and look at the problem from a different angle.


PART TWO: How Buyers Buy


WHY ISN’T SALES RELEVANT NOW?

Let’s begin at the beginning: Buying is not the first thing anyone does. If your car doesn’t start you don’t go straight to a dealership and buy a new one. If your team isn’t communicating skillfully your first action is not to hire a consultant. No. Before you recognize you need to bring in an external solution you’ve got work to do, things to consider, people to assemble to understand the full scope of the problem and brainstorm with, workarounds to trial.

When people first notice a problem they’ve got internal issues to resolve that carry far-reaching consequences if not delicately handled. And while they might eventually require a purchase – eventually being the operative word – these early steps are not based on buying anything. Hence, the sales model doesn’t work here.

Sales overlooks what people must do anyway: the change management piece. In fact until everyone involved buys-in to any changes caused by fixing/reconfiguring the status quo, folks cannot make a purchase regardless of their need or the value of the solution.

Need and solution value are no longer buying motives: risk avoidance is. And because each prospective buyer lives in unique cultures, they face singular, often hidden, and hard-to-discern risks; the goals, apps, and thinking used for selling don’t apply! In fact, until the risks of change are addressed and managed, people aren’t in the market to buy anything and, again, don’t even self-identify as buyers.

Here is a Truth that must be the foundation of sales thinking:

People don’t want to buy anything, merely fix a problem with the least risk to their system. And the time it takes folks to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

Making a purchase is the last – the last – thing people do, and only then when everyone has bought-in and the cost of disruption is manageable. This is what they’re doing when we sit and wait! And we’re not helping them:

  • figure out how to assemble the right stakeholders (not always obvious and always unique),
  • find the right workarounds that avoid disruption,
  • weigh the disruption/change a new solution will generate,
  • facilitate their journey as they figure out how to inspire buy-in within their culture.

Until these are resolved, folks don’t even self-identify as buyers and will not heed your well-considered content, your charming personality or your great solution.

By avoiding facilitating the journey people must handle on the Buy Side, we’re only finding/closing folks who have determined the cost of change is less than the cost of the status quo and have gotten buy-in for change. Until then they won’t notice, or heed, your efforts as they don’t consider themselves buyers.

PROVIDE THE HELP FOLKS REALLY NEED

A buying decision is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue. And this change management process is a conundrum, filled with confusion, false starts, and unfamiliar options – the reason the sales cycle is so long. Sellers sit and wait, push and lower the price, and refer to this as ‘no decision’. But it’s not ‘no decision’, it’s just ‘no purchase’.

The tasks people must complete are cultural, idiosyncratic, and unique to each group. Using the needs-based, solution-placement sales model, there’s no way to connect until they’ve completed their objectives. Until then what they need is different from what we’re offering. This is why they won’t take an appointment, call us back, or read our marketing materials. They’re not ready.

But it’s here that 40% more real prospects reside, people who WILL buy once they’ve completed their change management steps. And it’s here we can become relevant: we can first help them manage change as a precursor to selling.

But we need different assumptions, goals, and skills: we begin by seeking those on route to change and help them traverse the confusing bits that are risk- and change-oriented. Instead of pushing and hoping they’ll close, we can put on a ‘facilitation’ hat and help them do what they must do anyway.

MY JOURNEY TO THINKING DIFFERENTLY

I learned the differences between the Buy Side decision process and the Sell Side solution-placement process when I went from being a highly successful sales professional to starting up a tech company in London. As a new ‘buyer’ who had just left the sales profession, I now realized why many prospects hadn’t closed: I needed to consider my staff, my investors, the market, our strategies and goals, before we considered (together) the most effective routes to problem resolutions. As a seller I had thought because I could see a need that they were buyers. They weren’t.

As I worked at resolving our problems I took 13 very specific steps. I didn’t even fully understand the ‘need’ until step 7, or realize we needed to go ‘outside’ to buy anything until step 9 when I realized we couldn’t fix the problem inhouse and we all understood the risk, the cost, of change. We finally considered ourselves buyers at step 10 – where the sales model is needed to clearly define how the solution would fit our need. (I describe the steps in my book Dirty Little Secrets).

Here’s a summary of what my team (all teams!) considered on route to fixing our problems with the least risk:

  • All stakeholders must be assembled. This isn’t always easy. Sometimes HR needs to come aboard. Sometimes there’s a hidden influencer (Joe in accounting) who needs to join the decision team. But unless the full complement of folks are onboard, the full fact pattern of the problem cannot be understood. This fact alone takes quite a bit of time. And speaking with one person and assuming a need is just silly.
  • All possible workarounds must be tried: known vendors, other teams.
  • The ‘cost’, the risk, of doing something different must be fully understood as less than the ‘cost’ of the status quo. If the cost is too high – if they must fire people, reorganize, go against policy, etc. – they will continue doing what they’re doing.
  • Once the cost is understood – the new job descriptions and responsibilities, the habits they’d need to change, the new norms – everyone must buy-in.

It’s ONLY when everything plausible to fix a problem has been tried AND the ‘cost’ is manageable that people consider seeking an external solution. And the time it takes to complete this process is the length of the sales cycle. I’m sure you also noticed that none of these steps include a desire to buy anything.

Why not use different thinking and new tools to help? We’ve overlooked serving people where they really could use expert help. It’s here you’re needed now and would be welcomed, so long as you refrain from pushing your solution until they become buyers.


PART THREE: How Sales Can Be Relevant


FACILITATE CHANGE MANAGEMENT FIRST

We must modernize sales by adding new goals and tools to facilitate the Pre-Sales, non-solution-oriented journey people must traverse BEFORE self-identifying as buyers and find – and serve – people during their change management process and on route to buying instead of using our solutions as bait.

During my experience as a buyer, I developed a model that facilitates the change management portion of the Buying Decision Journey. I named it Buying Facilitation®. I trained it to my own staff and we tripled our sales in months. Then I trained it to my tech folks who used it to understand a client’s full problem set upfront and lead them through to their best decisions before they even began programming, and halved their time to complete. And then I trained it to 100,000 sales folks globally with 8x results over the control groups.

Buying Facilitation® finds those people on route to becoming buyers (the 40% actively trying to resolve a problem but haven’t yet self-identified as buyers), helps them assemble real decision makers and define their needs from many viewpoints, figure out the best workarounds to consider, and sanctions the risk. By then sellers are in real relationships with real buyers, with a real need, eager to buy. And as true servant leaders we will rise above the competition.

But it’s predicated on sellers beginning with a wholly different goal: find and serve folks actively involved in resolving a problem in the area your solution can provide support, then lead them through their change management steps to the point they’re ready – and asking! – for a pitch.

Yes, during your facilitation process a percentage of them will discover ways to fix their own problems; these weren’t prospects anyway and you’ll both realize this in ten minutes on your first call. And yes, because of the way you enter a call, with a goal to serve not sell, more people will take your calls.

Once you recognize your real buyer population you’ll sell faster, with no objections and no price issues. The KPMG Partners I trained went from a three year sales cycle to a four month sales cycle for a $50,000,000 solution; working with phone sales at IBM they began making one-call closes that originally took three months. Remember: people are happy to resolve their problems quickly; they just don’t know how.

Here’s one more thought: we must – and this might be difficult for sellers accustomed to having all the answers – trust that each client has their own unique, culturally-appropriate answers. While we are well-versed on product details for our solutions, we truly have no idea what people are going through in their own environments – a boss that won’t approve funds for training, a newly hired director who’s not up to speed.

Let’s help people use their knowledge of their own unique environments as they go through their problem resolution discovery. With our knowledge in our fields that gives us an understanding of the types of change required, we will be recognized as real assets and become a part of the Buying Decision Team. It’s a perfect way to serve, be competitive, and close more sales.

Btw I’m not overlooking the selling function. By the time the facilitation process is complete, the sales process is used for what it was originally intended to do: sell solutions to those who know exactly what they need and are already bought-in to buying. It’s SO much easier! And sales becomes a needed service and relevant again.

DIFFERENT THINKING; DIFFERENT GOAL

It’s possible to make sellers a sought-after group who can provide real help during the decision process. But given the new function and new prospect base, different thinking and assumptions are needed:

1.    Instead of seeking folks with ‘need’ seek out folks in the process of resolving a problem in the area you can potentially provide a solution. This is where folks really need help.

a. They don’t always know the right folks to involve, and until all relevant stakeholders are involved they can’t fully understand the problem to be fixed. Plus, with everyone on board they think, create, decide quicker.

b. They need to be assured they cannot fix the problem themselves and need help determining relevant workarounds.

c. Folks don’t self-identify as ‘buyers’ until they’ve recognized that they can manage the risk of disruption when something new enters (i.e. hypothetically, if they must fire 8 people to buy a new CRM system, the ‘cost’ may be too high.) Sometimes, the status quo is their best option.

2. Instead of assuming the person you’re speaking with has answers, assume they are part of a decision team in the middle of discovery and don’t represent the full fact pattern.

a. You can help this person assemble all the right people who must be on board to assist in decision making, information sharing, and buy in.

3.    Instead of listening to make a pitch, listen for where they need help determining their risk of change.

4.    Instead of trying to make an appointment, use your first call to discover who is actively seeking change, help them assemble the full Buying Decision Team, then lead them through their change issues. (Again, read Dirty Little Secrets where I lay out the decision/change steps.)

5.    Instead of a purchase being the goal, help people recognize the ‘cost’ – the risk to their culture – of bringing in something new.

6.    Instead of posing curiosity-based questions to discover a need, use Facilitative Questions to help them through their unique discovery.

7.    Instead of entering with a goal to place a solution, make your first goal to facilitate change.

This thinking will find people on route to buying – a much higher probability of buying than random names chosen with a mythical ‘needs’ criteria. The hard part will be to make sure you don’t try to slip in a pitch or biased question as you facilitate change. Because if you do, you won’t be trusted and prospects will feel manipulated.

NEW MEASUREMENTS OF SUCCESS

Buying Facilitation® is a Pre-Sales skill set. It’s

  • NOT sales, although it works with sales;
  • NOT based on selling a product, although 8x more products will be sold;
  • NOT ‘needs’ based, although our solution has a high likelihood of handling needs;
  • NOT based on understanding a problem but based on facilitating folks through their change management problems that only they can understand as insiders.

Buying Facilitation® employs an entirely new form of decision-detection question (took me 10 years to invent Facilitative Questions), a new form of listening (not for need!) and facilitates people through their 13 steps of change. And there are different measurements of success:

  1. A much higher close rate – 40% of would-be buyers can be found on the first call using a relevant list.
  2. Minimal turnover as sellers make more commission and face less rejection and frustration.
  3. Uncovers people who are real prospects but haven’t yet self-identified as buyers.
  4. An accurate pipeline.
  5. Fewer price issues.
  6. Prospects request appointments; all stakeholders are present.
  7. Competition shifts to recognize sellers who best facilitate change.
  8. Maintain the client base.
  9. No time wasted following people who will never buy (and sellers know the difference).

Success will be measured by closed sales (I know companies that now pay sellers per visit, assuming if you get an appointment you can make a sale!); by brevity of the sales cycle; by accuracy of the pipeline; number of referrals; ratio of active prospects to closed sales. Even Lead Gen would bring in prospects with a 40% close rate and not merely uncover names of people who agree to hear a pitch.

To make sales relevant again, the sales profession needs to help people where they need help: add a front end to facilitate the Buying Decision Journey. Then prospective buyers will recognize sellers as professionals who can truly serve them and then everyone wins: clients get their problems resolved sooner, you get to close more sales, and everyone is happy. Win/Win. Worth a try, no?

For those wishing more information on Buying Facilitation®, go to: www.sharon-drew.com. Read the section: Helping Buyers Buy. There are several articles linked, plus hundreds more in the blog section. Or contact me with questions: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_______________________________

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

January 9th, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

I was once fired from a Speaker’s Bureau for posing this question to the audience:
Why aren’t you closing all the sales you deserve to close?

“You’re too provocative! No one wants to hear from a disruptor!” was the reason.

When speaking with a friend recently I referred to myself as a Breakthrough Disruptor. “Don’t call yourself a disruptor! No one wants disruption!” he said.

Can these folks be right? Haven’t all new ideas been disruptions? Certainly so much of what seems standard today was initially a breakthrough disruption: our phones and computers, plastics – even knives! Why would disruption be a bad thing? How else can change happen?

DISRUPTION IS NECESSARY

I believe there are several business practices sorely in need of disruption.

  • Beyond the bells and whistles of technology, the sales model is the same as it was – ‘needs’ and solution-placement driven – when Dale Carnegie told us to find a buyer and pitch a product – in 1937. Sales currently experiences a 95% fail rate, even when sellers attempt to be nice about it; it remains wholly biased by the needs of the seller.
  • Change management models use leader-based models that build in resistance and ignore the often hidden, values-based criteria of the stakeholders. Change management currently faces a 85-97% fail rate.
  • Training continues to employ information presentation and practice as the main tools, even though learners don’t permanently absorb the new content. Training experiences an 80% fail rate.
  • Healthcare continues to push Behavior Modification as a healing practice even though almost no patients comply, and the changes made during their behavior modification activities aren’t permanent. Behavior Mod fails 97% of the time.

It’s outrageous that we’ve not only condoned substantial failure rates but built them into our personal habit change activities, causing us to feel shame for not having the ‘discipline’ to succeed, and into our businesses, accepting minimal revenue, needs for additional resource (people, technology), as well as high turnover rates and hiring/training costs as standard practice.

Seems to me a bit of disruption wouldn’t hurt: you can’t change the status quo without disrupting the status quo.

ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS

Below I’ve posed a few questions using a breakthrough (disruptive!) model of questions I developed called Facilitative Questions that eschew curiosity and information gathering to traverse a direct route into a Responder’s brain to often-unconscious values-based answers stored in their brain circuitry.

  • What has stopped you until now from being willing or able to consider doing something differently when your routine practices haven’t been as effective as you’d like?
  • What would you need to see or understand differently to notice if your standard practices could be enhanced with out-of-the-ordinary skill sets? And how would you know that the risk of out-of-the-box tools is worth taking?
  • How would you know in advance (before you really consider doing anything different) that new tools would have a chance to resolve some of the failures you’ve experienced? That an outside disruptor could help AND maintain the values of the original activity?
  • In the areas you might need change – communication, sales, healthcare, leadership, OD, training – what would you need to consider to seek out a resolution beyond your normal routine and add new skills that cause change without resistance?
  • How would you go about bringing together the full set of stakeholders (users, leadership, technology) necessary to design the disruption in a way folks are bought-in from the beginning to make the process creative?

We’ve assumed that offering/knowing details of fixes would prompt success. But you know by now that doesn’t help. Offering new information doesn’t cause change:

– Because of the way our brains take in words/sound waves, people don’t hear new ideas accurately and the resultant distortion and misunderstanding makes resistance inevitable.

– Because of the way biases limit questions to the needs of the Asker, incomplete data is collected, wrong assumptions made, and necessary answers are overlooked.

– Because of the biased assumptions and persuasion/push tactics built into current change models, folks who really need change experience resistance before being willing to consider doing anything differently.

To make a change it’s necessary to know the full set of factors in the status quo that maintain the problem, and have a specific route to change that includes all stakeholders, buy-in, and risk management. Any change must be congruent with the values of the original.

MY DISRUPTIONS

Over the past 40 years, I’ve wrestled with the problems inherent in change and realized that since it’s our brains that instruct our actions, we must resolve the neural issues that cause the behavior problems. Hence I’ve developed unique models that discover and shift the neural circuitry that causes and maintains change, decision making, and choice. The breakthrough innovations I’ve developed

  1. employ mind -> brain, conscious -> unconscious tools
  2. using neuroscience to
  3. lead Others to specific brain circuitry to
  4. discover the source of an incongruence (where they might need change) and
  5. traverse the specific steps needed for congruent change.

Here they are. And note: these are flexible and can be used in coaching, sales, leadership, surveys/questionnaires, AI, healthcare. Take a look and see if any of them trigger some curiosity.

Buying Facilitation® – a change-based add-on to sales that finds folks who will become buyers and facilitates their discovery through the change management issues they must address to recognize if they can withstand the risk of bringing in something new. BF closes 8x more sales because it targets the change and buy-in issues (both largely unconscious) of stakeholders to lead them through their decisions as they self-identify as buyers and the sales model takes over;

Change Facilitation – a servant-leader model that traverses the 13 stages of change to lead folks through their (largely unconscious) beliefs and values; instigates buy-in; and discovers and incorporates possible risks to avoid resistance and garner maximum buy-in and creativity;

Learning Facilitation – a wholly original training model that gets directly into the necessary neural pathways so learners accept new actions, permanently;

How of Change™ – a mind -> brain, conscious -> unconscious model that creates new, permanent cell assemblies for new, permanent behaviors and habits.

Listening without bias – offering choice beyond the automatic, habitual routes sound vibrations take through the brain to instigate accurate interpretation of incoming words.

I understand that most folks prefer to remain within mainstream thinking and employ conventional workarounds for failures. But for those who are willing to go outside the box with tools that cause real change in Leadership, Coaching, Change Management, and Sales, call and let’s figure out a way to install new thinking in a way that’s least disruptive.

_______________________

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

January 2nd, 2023

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

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

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

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

STATUS QUO

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

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

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

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

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

OUR STATUS QUO LIKES STABILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE INTRICACY OF BUY-IN

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

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

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

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

WHY PROFESSIONALS DON’T PROMOTE CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEOPLE CAN ONLY CHANGE THEMSELVES

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

______________________

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

October 10th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

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

WHAT IS FAILURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE STEPS TO FAILING CONSCIOUSLY

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

How of Change

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

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

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

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

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

THE STEPS TO CONSCIOUS FAILING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________

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

September 5th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how hard ‘change’ is so I decided to write an article explaining what’s going on causing the difficulty. Take heart! Change only seems hard because of the way we’re going about it. I’ve been developing systemic brain change models for decades and I’d like to offer my two cents to explain the reasons there’s so much unnecessary failure.

You see, for new, permanent change to occur (new habits, behaviors, decisions, change management initiatives) it’s necessary for the brain to send out different instructions than the ones that instigated the original behaviors. Current change management/ behavior change models omit making the necessary alterations to the brain circuits.

In other words, we’re seeking change but not developing the new brains commands to cause it. Like expecting your bike to ride itself without you peddling, then blaming the bike.

CHANGE MUST COME FROM THE BRAIN

Because all actions (thoughts, behaviors, opinions, habits) are a result – an output – of instructions received from the brain, without modified instructions we continue doing the same thing and getting the same results. Unfortunately, offering our brains reasons to change (as rational as they might be) doesn’t cause new circuit configurations. Let me explain.

While a known fact in neuroscience, most of us don’t realize that behaviors are merely responses – the outward manifestation, or outputs – to signals sent from brain circuits. Speaking physiologically, there’s no way to change a behavior by merely trying to change a behavior: to get a different output, new behavior or choice, it’s necessary to go directly to the source (the brain) and make the changes in the circuits themselves or create new ones.

Current change models try to fix the symptom and ignore modifying the initiation point they emanate from.

I’m currently writing a book (The How of Change) that goes into great detail about the mind-brain connection and how to construct the specific circuitry to generate the choice we desire. In this article I’ll explain the mind-brain connection so you’ll understand how our brains cause change, and why your attempts at permanent change aren’t more consistent.

Since the topic is far too complex for a short article I’ll put in some links at the end for those seeking further knowledge. And I’m always available to chat about it; I’ve spent my life unwrapping the elements necessary for permanent change, so I’m happy to discuss.

CHANGE ISN’T HARD

Sadly, change gets a bad rap. The perceived wisdom believes that ‘change is hard’ and ‘no one likes change’ because of the resistance that results when behavior-based models are used. When approached from the brain, not so much.

We’re a culture dominated by the mind. Information. Data. Content. Stories. Facts. Our minds certainly need data to think with, to learn from and weight decisions with. But it becomes a problem when we want to make a change. You see, information – the mind – doesn’t cause change. Brains do.

We begin with a flawed assumption: we assume we can effect change because we desire it or work at it. But when we neglect to involve the brain we fail: change is a brain thing; information is a mind thing. Changing the brain is the precursor to changing the mind.

The problem is our brain’s laziness. Because of the way our brains process data they prefer to send incoming content to the most used circuits that carry ‘similar enough’ signals for interpretation – and you end up with exactly what you’re trying to change or resistance.

CHANGE IS A BRAIN THING

Instructing outputs is what brains do: there is nothing we see, hear, do, think or feel that hasn’t been instructed from our brains. We rely on our brains for everything – thoughts, understanding from books, behaviors and activities, organ activity, colors, what we hear (sounds and words).

An easy way to realize this is to think about Alzheimer’s disease. My dad died from it; I watched while he lost his memory first, then slowly lost his physical functionality – muscles and organs failed when they stopped receiving instructions from his brain.

We forget this when seeking change. Using conventional change models – Behavior Modification, Cognitive Behavior Change – we attempt change by trying to change behaviors with mind-based mastery like discipline, regulation, rational thinking, habit creation, practice, and training.

But without specific instructions from our neurology, the mind has no way of carrying out our wishes. Attempts to change behaviors without reprogramming the brain will likely fail, regardless of dedication or will. The numbers concur: Organizational Development fails 97% of the time. Training fails 80% of the time. Diets and smoking cessation fail 97% of the time. Sales fails 95% of the time. Even in our own lives: With all the discipline in the world, we have difficulty making behavior changes permanent. Keep weight off? Get organized? Hard to do. Why?

All behaviors, decisions, habits and choices are outputs, end products, generated from instructions sent through specific, historic circuit configurations in our brains.

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

Since so much of what we want to change is behavioral, let’s look at what a behavior is. This will provide insight into how our brains instruct our choices and the problems involved with the way we’re currently addressing change.

behavior, or any sort of action, thought or choice, is an output arising from a string of brain processes. My Morgenism is ‘A behavior is a Belief in action.’

Simply, the mind sends our brain a signal to ‘do something’ (an input) and the brain complies by sending the signals to a ‘similar-enough’ set of existing, normalized circuits that translate the request into instructions for some sort of output.

These signals are mechanical, electro-chemical, and automatic. No meaning or intent involved. Meaning and intent are mind things. Brains, comprised of 86 billion neurons and hundreds of trillions of neural connections and synapses, are unconscious and just do what they’re told via signals; they don’t judge good/bad, right/wrong.

Here’s a simplified explanation of the string of events:

  • All incoming words, directions, ideas, promises, etc.
  • enter our brains as puffs of air (inputs without meaning!) and
  • get transformed into electro-chemical signals that
  • eventually get automatically dispatched to ‘similar-enough’ (historic, existing) circuits
  • for translation into action (outputs, such as new behaviors, decisions, ideas)
  • via our mind.

Again, there is no meaning, no intent, no thinking involved. Mechanical. Electro-chemical. Automatic. Take a look:

Notice that actions are outputswithout inputs, no outputs can exist. So behaviors are a result, an end product and cannot be modified as such.

HOW WE GET RESISTANCE

All outputs that emerge are specific to that circuit: the brain always directs incoming signals/inputs to circuits with matching (‘similar-enough’) signals and will always produce the same output when the same/similar words, directives and thoughts are input. So a machine programmed (input) to make a chair will produce (output) the same chair each time. To make a table you must reprogram the machine.

All this occurs in five one-hundredths of a second. Given there are billions of bits of data coming into our brains every second (most of it unconsciously) our mind ignores, overlooks, forgets, most of it. It only alerts us to obvious changes that are incongruent with our personal belief system.

When we request an action that differs from the similar-enough circuit that receives it, or input wholly new requests that don’t yet have a circuit, we end up getting resistance. It’s why we fail when we try to do something different. Without changing the input we’re trying to turn the chair into a table.

When our brains are asked to do something that they have no circuits to interpret we resist or fail or misunderstand: incoming instructions get converted to a potentially inappropriate existing pathway or get lost in translation, misinterpretation, or assumption.

This is what happens when we decide to go on another diet for example: our brain references the existing DIET superhighway and we get the same results we got previously. Hence the 97% failure rate. We can force the behavior part for a while, and possibly even lose the weight, but we don’t have the circuits to maintain it.

WHY CHANGE ATTEMPTS FAIL

For any action, any change, any new behavior, habit or choice, we need both the mind and the brain: The mind directs requests to, and carries out instructions from, the brain but doesn’t instigate the activity itself. Think of it like a car’s engine: you turn the car on (i.e. the mind) and it moves (the mind) but needs the engine (i.e. the brain) to make it work.

And herein lie the problem. Because our outputs emerge from established circuits (called Superhighways) that have been created and sustained during our lifetime, our choices emerge from whatever we’ve done or believed before regardless of any differences we desire. We do what we do because it’s how our circuitry is programmed, obviously limiting us to choices that embrace our unique histories and mental models and… here is the annoying part… maintains the status quo.

It rules our lives: We live around people of similar political beliefs; our friends share ideas and lifestyles similar to ours; what we read, the TV news we watch, where we take vacations, are largely similar to those in our sphere. Even our curiosity is restricted accordingly. Sadly, we either don’t notice unfamiliar content or have problems accepting ideas foreign to us.

But, in general, this works well for us and keeps us comfortable – until we want to do something ‘different’, or try to change/create a habit, or when we’re involved in a change management process in our companies that requires new activities.

LISTENING AND CIRCUITS

One more bit I’d like to mention: the way brains ‘listen’. The problem begins as soon as we hear requests to change and come up against the way our brains interpret incoming words/sounds/ideas.

The listening process in and of itself causes problems: incoming sound vibrations traverse the same neural pathway as incoming instructions and ideas: the vibrations get turned into signals that eventually get sent to ‘similar enough’ (existing) circuits for translation.

Obviously, this limits what we think was said to what we’ve understood before. (I wrote a book on this and how to fix it.) Our outputs (what we understand or misunderstand) will be skewered accordingly.

Let me say this another way as it’s important. Since words are merely puffs of air with no meaning until our brain translates them, incoming ideas or instructions will be defined by the circuits we’ve used before. In other words, what we think was said is a subjective translation, possibly some degree off the intended message.

Of course that makes communication and understanding difficult: regardless of how carefully we listen, how much Active Listening we use, or how passionately we buy-in to making a change, we listen with ears that interpret what’s said by the circuit configuration that received the input and sort-of matches. And it’s totally, completely, out of our control.

As you know by now, any misunderstanding or confusion that occurs has nothing to do with ‘reality’ and everything to do with subjective, unique brain circuitry. This makes it virtually impossible to understand anyone else fully, especially difficult for those in the helping professions trained to ‘understand’ and advise accordingly: everything Others say and do is received and translated through our subjective filters and circuits. I always suggest people say: ‘I want to make sure I understand you accurately, so I’ll tell you what I think I heard and please correct me where I got it wrong.’

THERE IS NO REALITY

And that brings up another item that causes us to fail: we seem to think there is something called ‘rational’ and we try to do ‘what’s right’. But there is no reality. Basically, our brains – yes, back to the culprit – make up our reality from the lives we’ve lived. As David Eagleman says in The Brain,

“..our picture of the external world isn’t necessarily an accurate representation. Our perception of reality has less to do with what’s happening out there, and more to do with what’s happening inside our brain.” [pg 40]

“Each of us has our own narrative and we have no reason not to believe it. Our brains are built on electrochemical signals that we interpret as our lives and experience… there’s no single version of reality. Each brain carries its own truth via billions of signals triggering chemical pulses and trillions of connections between neurons. [pg 73-74] [bold mine]

Indeed, everything we think, hear, decide, and choose is an output, an interpretation made by, and directed from our brains. We’re not in control.

So one last reminder: Since all activity is an output from directions our brains give our mind, you can’t change a behavior (mind) by trying to change a behavior (mind) as there are no accompanying brain circuits to generate new directives for new outputs.

Got it?

CONCLUSION AND GOING FORWARD

Now that you know exactly why change seems hard, I’ll mention the models I’ve developed to forge a conscious route into the unconscious for permanent and congruent change – great additions to tools given to coaches, docs, leaders, and change agents. It’s taken me decades to identify the elements to include, then create models to apply them.

All of my models hinge on a systems orientation, given we are all systems and systems seek congruence. For any change to occur, for us to do something different and our brain to send out new/different instructions, we must end up congruent (i.e. Systems Congruence and homeostasis). This is how we remain who we are; no matter what want to do, our brains maintain our values. Even our brain’s neuroplasticity is informed by our individual, unique, and systemic norms.

That means any requested change must be at least equal to or less than the cost/risk of staying the same. Too often, when we input directions to make a change, we inadvertently provoke unconscious elements within our systems. This is especially true when change is being requested without collaboration and consultation from initiatives designed and directed by Others.

Here are the models I’ve developed that generate permanent brain circuit change while maintaining our Systems Congruence.

1. Change Facilitation. Often used by sales professionals (i.e. the generic model Buying Facilitation®) this model facilitates the capture and recognition of the appropriate and congruent criteria necessary for new decisions, behaviors, and choices, using

a. Facilitative Questions – A brain-directed facilitation model that uses specific words in a specific order along a very specific sequence to get into the unconscious circuits necessary to recognize the full set of systemic choices for new outputs.

b. 13 steps of change – I’ve unpacked each of the decision stages that all new decision making requires for congruent change.

c. Listening for patterns – Standard listening hears content, but content gets translated into our ears subjectively. To hear what someone intends to say, it’s necessary to listen from a different place in our brain, without the automatic circuits we unconsciously prefer to listen and interpret from that bias incoming data according to existing circuits.

Ultimately, change facilitation is used by influencers, coaches, sellers, change agents, trainers, managers, to enable Others to discover their own answers, using their own criteria, and governing their own systemic change while maintaining Systems Congruence and with no bias from outside.

In sales, my clients close 8x more in half the time using this process as it finds would-be prospects such earlier and serves them around their own change issues rather than through the needs of the sale. I’ve trained Buying Facilitation® to 100,000 sales people, coaches, lawyers, and leaders in many global corporations (i.e P&G, DuPont, KPMG, Morgan Stanley, Kaiser, IBM, GE, ATT, etc.). The model is generic and independent of initiative or product.

Using Change Facilitation in OD and change management, resistance is almost non-existent and the length of the initiative is a fraction of standard change management models as all – all – stakeholders/elements are discovered and included from the start, and systems are set up to avoid potential resistance.

2. The How of Change ™. I’ve decoded the conscious route to getting into the unconscious to either repopulate the internal components of the status quo to enable new/different outputs, or create a wholly new circuit for new choices. It resolves habits people try to break, resistance, and confusion.

I’ve created a 5 session program to lead folks through to brain change and to new, permanent habits and behaviors. Here is a video of the first session with me explaining what the brain does and how it’s possible to get to the unconscious: http://buyingfacilitation.com/blog/courses/the-how-of-change-sample/?lesson=62

The How of Change™ is used by folks seeking to change habits: diets, smoking cessation, routinization (i.e. exercise, organization). I would very much like to get this into healthcare so doctors can use it instead of telling patients what to do (and face resistance and misunderstanding, or non-compliance).

If anyone has interest in designing a model for a change initiative in their company, or licensing the material to train, please contact me.

Here are links to articles/podcasts on change:

The HOW of change

Change Without Resistance

Influencing Congruent, Unbiased Change

You Can’t Change a Behavior by Trying to Change a Behavior.

_____________________________

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

July 18th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

The terms ‘buying’ and ‘buyer’ seem to be defined by sales and marketing to denote purchase-related activities. After almost 40 years of thinking, training, and writing several books on issues related to the Buy Side, I’d like to offer a clarification: buyING is

a process; a set of systemic, procedural, decision making tasks; a possible result following essential change management practices that may lead to fixing a problem with external solutions.

In this article I’ll explain the buyING process and when, why, and how it sometimes leads to folks becoming buyERS – and when it doesn’t I’ll explain why. I’ll also define each step so sellers and marketers can use them to facilitate their route through to becoming buyERS.

As of now, neither sales nor marketing facilitate the systemic progression of change management steps to buyING decisions, instead use solution-placement, and needs-based content that merely engage the low hanging fruit (currently less than 5%) – those who have already self-identified as buyERS and will probably discover your site anyway.

But the buyING decision sequence is very specific and, with different goals, could easily be added to the front end of sales and marketing to reduce and make efficient the decision time needed to accomplish off-line tasks. Obviously this would produce more sales.

WHAT IS A SYSTEM AND WHY THEY’RE IMPORTANT

To explain the buying decision process, I’ll begin with an explanation of systems. You see, buyING is systemic, not needs-based. Hence what I believe to be the main reason it’s been overlooked by sales and marketing.

I define systems as any group of components that agree to the same rules. Systems are necessary for survival: You’re a system. Your group, your company, your family, are systems.

All systems are based on unique norms, identities and beliefs that designate their individuality and maintain the integrity of their relationships and purpose. Google is obviously a different system than IBM: different management styles, different people hired, different marketing and sales processes.

A unique standard of all systems is that they don’t judge themselves even when they appear inappropriate to others. Systems aren’t logical; their identities and beliefs just represent the unique norms that caused their formation. Have you ever noticed friends in a bad marriage and couldn’t understand why they stay together? Their system was configured that way from the start and maintains its normalized trajectory.

It’s only when a system begins to malfunction that a warning is sounded. And because it has operated in a ‘good enough’ way until then, doing anything different is not a foregone conclusion. The status quo is good-enough.

And here’s a trap we all fall into when we think someone’s system must change: one of the goals of systems is to maintain balance (Systems Congruence), maintain the same configuration of rules and norms through time. Any change, any additions or subtractions, risk disruption.

BUYING IS SYSTEMIC

Here is where buyING comes in. When a system (in this case a possible prospect and the alleged problem that needs fixing) exhibits a problem, it will always use the rules of Systems Congruence to resolve it:

  • Everyone involved with the problematic component must help scope out the full fact pattern of the problem and be involved with the solution or there will be imbalance;
  • Every effort is made to resolve the problem from inside (i.e. workarounds) because anything new may not carry the same rules and norms;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘cost’ of the change – the risk to the system – must be known and addressed by the full set of stakeholders;
  • Before any change can be made, the ‘risks’ of the new solution cannot be greater than the risk carried by the known problem/the status quo or the status quo will prevail.

It’s only when all of these issues are handled is the system willing to change. This is what sales and marketing overlook. BuyING is a systemic process, certainly not so simple as having a need or making a purchase. Once the problem is fully defined, AND workarounds are tried, AND there is buy-in, AND the risk is fully understood and managed, THEN they become buyERS.

Sellers and marketers start off assuming their solutions can resolve a problem after posing some very biased questions and without full knowledge of the system of hidden politics, relationships, history, or goals that caused and maintain the problem.

But until the group/person has gone through their unique and systemic change trajectory (I call this change management) to figure out if they can withstand change and still function to meet their goals, they’re not seeking an external solution, don’t consider themselves buyERs and ignore your outreach. They’re not even prospects, need aside.

Indeed, your targeted outreach seeks and uncovers only those who have already become buyERS, thereby limiting your success to those already seeking your solution. Unfortunately, this overlooks those who WILL become buyers once they’ve completed their systemic change work.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT PRECEDES BUYING

Change management is an obligatory part of a buyING decision – the systemic decision making process that results in a congruent resolution and may or may not include making a purchase. Here’s what happens.

When a problem presents itself, people start off trying to resolve it themselves (not as buyERS); they take specific steps (see below) on route to a solution to make sure that the system ends up in balance. This route, these systemic laws, determine the buyING process and outcome – whether or not someone becomes a buyER. It’s only after they’ve gone through this and determined

  • that the ONLY way to resolve the problem is with an external solution,
  • that they cannot resolve it with a known workaround,
  • that the risks are all known and don’t ‘cost’ more than the status quo,
  • there is buy-in from ALL stakeholders who will touch the solution,

that they are buyERS. Until then, they don’t even self-identify as buyERS or notice your marketing or sales outreach. People really don’t want to buy anything, merely resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. Again, buyING is systemic.

Viewing the sales and marketing in this light, it becomes obvious how you restrict your audience: when you offer content directed toward a product or solution, only people who have completed their change process and have deemed the ‘cost’ of a purchase manageable will be interested.

But there are about 80% more potential buyERS who are still in the buyING decision process, haven’t yet gotten their ducks in a row, and can’t buy until they do. You overlook them, mistakenly assuming you can engage them with clever outreach/content or data capture.

But you’re failing, and your closing numbers are diminishing. You call this ‘no decision’, and yet they are making decisions without you, without reading or heading your outreach. And the sales process itself is going the way of the landline.

Why not add a decision facilitation process to serve people where they really need your help?

WHERE BUYING NEEDS SELLING

In 1983 I founded a tech start-up in London. Because I had previously been a very successful sales professional dedicated to discovering ‘need’ and placing solutions, I was surprised at the complexity of making a decision to buy anything. I had to:

  • recognize which stakeholders to include (more than I had assumed!) to even understand the full fact pattern of the problem;
  • garner agreement that something needed to be different (or there was nothing to fix);
  • try workarounds and do all we could to fix the problem ourselves before even considering anything external;
  • fully understand the risk (the ‘cost’) to our status quo before considering buyING/bringing in an external fix.

To my surprise I discovered that my buyING decision had little to do with making a purchase but was a complex set of collaboration processes to facilitate group buy-in and understand the downside of making any changes. Ultimately, all problems had to be resolved with minimal disruption.

As a seller I had been indoctrinated in the normalized thinking of ‘needs-based’ outreach: ‘get in’ to the ‘right’ people with a ‘need’ that matched my solution; write ‘good’ content to engage; make my site compelling to differentiate from the competition, always assuming I could make a compelling case that my solution was the answer.

But as an entrepreneur I discovered that until people were near the end of their decision path they didn’t even seek out or notice content; they might have been in the buyING process, but weren’t yet buyERS. And reading content on a solution I might not need, or my group hadn’t approved of, possibly having only partial facts on how our problem originated or was maintained, or until workarounds were tried, was a waste of time.

Eventually, in 1986, I developed Buying Facilitation® to facilitate the buyING process in my company. I then used the process to double our own sales and have since trained it to over 100,000 people in global corporations such as IBM, Kaiser, Bose, KPMG, Wachovia, Morgan Stanley, DuPont, etc.

Buying Facilitation® is

a generic change management process (used for coaching and leadership also) that makes it possible to execute the decision making steps in a way that leads to a congruent solution and quickly leads those involved in the buyING process to become buyERS where relevant.

In control group studies, used as a front end to sales, it has an 800% increase over using sales on its own. Buying Facilitation® to lead folks through their buyING decisions; sales to help buyERS decide on the purchase. And marketing throughout, although initially focusing on leading each stage until they become buyERS when content-specific data is employed.

To help you understand what goes on in the buyING process, here are the 13 steps in a systemic Buying Decision Path between problem recognition and a resolution (or purchase) that all people must go through as they work at resolving a problem.

It’s quite possible for sales and marketing to enter during these steps, recognize who will be a buyer on the first call (Remember: you’d be wearing a change facilitation hat first, not a sales hat.), and lead them through their buyING steps to become buyERS. Note: these are relevant for any decision making process.

1. Idea stage: Is there a problem? Who needs to be involved to gather the full fact pattern?

2. Brainstorming stage: Idea discussed broadly with colleagues. Begin discerning who to include in ongoing discussions. Begin gathering full fact pattern of problem.

3. Initial discussion stage: Initial group of chosen colleagues begin discussing the problem in earnest to gather full fact pattern: how it got created and maintained; posit who to include on Buying Decision Team; consider possible fixes and fallout. Action groups formed to bring ideas for possible workarounds to next meeting. Invites for new, overlooked stakeholders to join.

4. Contemplation stage: Workarounds (previous vendors, inhouse solutions) discussed for efficacy. People who will touch the solution to discuss their concerns to engage before they resist. More research necessary on possible solutions, ways to determine if workarounds are viable.

5. Organization stage: Group gathers research to determine if a workaround is possible. Discussions of downsides of each. Viability of workarounds determined.

6. Change management stage: If workarounds acceptable, group goes forward to plan to implement. If workarounds deemed unacceptable, group begins broad discussion to consider downsides of external solutions: the ‘cost’ (risk)of change, the ‘cost’ of a fix, the ‘cost’ of staying the same, and how much disruption is acceptable. Broad research to be done for next meeting on solutions that might meet the criteria and ‘cost’ minimal disruption.

7. Coordination stage: Dedicated discussions on research in re risk factors, buy-in issues, resistance. Delineate everyone’s thoughts re goals, acceptable risks, job changes, and change capacity. Once agreement is reached, folks resisting must be heard; group must decide how to include and dismantle resistance. Specific research now needed. Discussions on next steps.

8. Research stage: Discussion on research that’s been brought in for each possible solution. Who is onboard with risk? How will change be managed with each solution? To include: downsides per type of solution, possibilities, outcomes, problems, management considerations, changes in policy, job description changes, HR issues, etc. and how these will be mitigated if purchase to be made – or discussion around maintaining the status quo instead of resolving the problem at all (i.e. cost too high). List of possible solutions now defined; research for each to be ready for next meeting.

9. Consensus stage: Known risks, change management procedures, buy-in and consensus discussed for each possibility. Buying Decision Team makes final choices: specific products and possible vendors are named. Criteria set for solution choice.

10. Action stage: Responsibilities apportioned to manage the specifics of Step 9. Calls made to several vendors for interviews, presentations, and data gathering. Agreed-upon criteria applied with each vendor.

11. Second brainstorming stage: Buying Decision Team discusses results of calls and interviews with vendors and partners, and fallout/benefits of each. Favored vendors pitched by team members among themselves, and then called for follow on meetings.

12. Choice stage: New solution/vendor agreed on. Change management issues that need to be managed are delineated and put in place. Leadership initiatives prepared to avoid disruption.

13. Implementation stage: Vendor contacted. Purchase made. Implement and follow on.

Given these steps, you can see that people aren’t buyERs until Step 9. Before then, they are people trying to fix a problem internally, and aren’t seeking out products or solutions to purchase so there’s no way ‘in’ with traditional sales and marketing. But if you lead folks through their Steps of change, both sales and marketing can influence the buyING so folks become buyERS.

ADDITIONAL SALES AND MARKETING OUTREACH

To help those in the buyING process become buyERS, marketers can write change management-based content with different focus: help them determine the full set of stakeholders; teach them how to engage buy-in etc. Sales can begin each contact by helping them notice where they are in their change process (i.e. instead of need). And once they get to the end of their buyING process, they would be buyERS and ready to purchase and receive relevant content.

I have actually created a Buying Enablement process to help marketers achieve this, complete with titles for content outreach. Note: it’s vital that content do NOT include any product pitches as folks truly are not considering this until the later stages. Of course a great footer and linked articles will lead to solution content.

Folks must go through their decision making/change management process anyway, with you or without you. So it might as well be with you, especially since you’ll know the specific components of each step better than they do.

It’s obvious that with websites and search being what they are, people no longer need sellers or marketers to provide content. But because the buyING process is so much more complex these days, this is where they need the most help. HELP THEM BECOME BUYERS by facilitating them through their buyING process. It’s a win/win folks.

_______________________________

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

March 21st, 2022

Posted In: Change Management

Imagine starting work each day at 7:45 with a 15 minute meditation and working until 3. At your 7-8 pm nightly zoom meeting the team shares new ideas, discusses problems, and sets agendas for upcoming work; follow-on meetings occur at 8-9pm. Your workspace has a corkboard to put up whatever items keep you happy and creative. All memos use She or They pronouns exclusively. Besides vacations, you’re given a week off each year, with full pay and costs covered to take any course in the US that will keep you creative.

Your manager (as are most managers and corporate leaders in your company) is a woman. All salaries and bonuses are published online for transparency. For the annual super bonus, you develop a new product (with a pitch statement explaining how to make money AND make nice) to fit within the decision team’s (all women) criteria around physical, mental, and emotional intelligence. You will trial the idea to your boss during your monthly check-in where she asks about your work-life balance and to make sure you’re doing well. All communication practices are built around win/win, both/and, and Servant Leader thinking. And for help solving problems, you can access the company coach.

In case you haven’t guessed, this might be how a woman-run workplace operates, although women would certainly make sure of an equal ratio of women to men. The hours are set around school hours, with after-dinner time devoted to unfinished work. And sharing feelings, ideas, creativity, happiness, are part of your job. How different work would be.

WHAT WE LOSE

Hundreds of books have been written on the inequities that women suffer in the United States. (The most inclusive and fact-filled is: Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men ). But let’s take a peek at just one industry – the notedly woman-blind tech industry – and see how women fare.

In 2020 $5.1 Billion was raised in venture money by women; men received $58 Billion. In the 1990s, 2% of women got funded. I bet

  • more than that tried to raise money for really good ideas;
  • women’s ideas are at least as revenue-producing as men’s;
  • our internet, keyboards, search tools, websites, games, and apps would be different if created with designs and ideas with 50% involvement from women.

Virtually all technology has been designed and funded by men.

THE 51% MINORITY

In general, women are minimally present in innovation and leadership regardless of the industry. Women receive 10% of the funding (up from 2% in 1996. Um, yay?), far fewer management positions, less pay (Lower salaried women get equal pay; the higher the position, the more discrepancy between women’s remuneration and men’s.). We get underestimated, patronized, overlooked, undervalued, isolated and our ideas get ignored (or taken over to great fanfare by men); we’re kept off creative teams if we’re even hired at all.

We’re certainly left out of upper-management positions and Boards, invisible and not mentored, even as corporations claim to work toward having sustainable and diverse workplaces. Yes, it’s ‘getting better.’ But still nowhere close to equal.

And do you realize that everything you read uses a male (he) pronoun as standard? In my books I alternate pronouns in odd/even chapters. Invariably I get asked why I only use the feminine pronoun; readers don’t even notice the male pronoun used in half the book. Imagine if all books, all articles, were written with only ‘she’.

With proof of excellence, with the knowledge that at least half of all spending dollars are spent by women, with the knowledge that women are better managers and provide better results all around, what’s the problem?

Hmmm. Oh. I know. We have vaginas.

How is it possible that a body part can cause such unfairness and stupidity, such a constraint on creativity and innovation and possibility? The problem is obviously long-standing and systemic – built right into the system.

It touches everyone. A colleague of mine is a trans woman who transitioned in her 50s after she had already achieved great status and pay as a man. She says that once she became a woman she was given less opportunities, less respect, and the possibility of less pay (She put up a helluva fight.) Same person. Same brain. Different genitals. It makes no sense at all.

According to statistics, men working in women-led companies (or teams) are over 50% happier and bring in far more revenue. Google states (bold from Google):

Female-led organizations are more profitable, perform better, and have higher profit margins compared to male-led companies. …these economic benefits translate into profits of up to $1.8 billion globally” and “Companies with more women in management and board positions outperformed their more male-led counterparts.”

And the Boston Globe writes:

“Women — and men — report higher job satisfaction at women-led companies. Companies where women make up more than half the executive team scored higher in key areas: more confident in their employers’ overall goals and strategies; more effective communication and the mission more clearly defined, leading to a greater belief in the company’s product or service; and more autonomy.”

We know this. Really we do. So why aren’t we acting as if we do?

WHERE DO GOOD IDEAS GO IF YOU’RE A WOMAN?

I’ve had to contend with this my entire work life. As a woman inventor, my original thinking is too far outside the box – certainly too far outside mainstream – and sometimes defy conventional givens. But instead of excitement, curiosity, respect or consideration, my concepts are largely ignored or not believed and I’m denigrated. I just heard an erstwhile male colleague say I was ‘One of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. But so irritating!’

And I get overlooked. When Harvard Business Review did a double edition on ‘The Future of Sales’ years ago, I was excluded. Why? As the inventor of Buying Facilitation®, the only new, wholly unique selling model in 100 years, it was quite a surprise, especially when the editor was a think tank colleague! I called him:

SD: Hey, Tom. Nice Job. But since I have the only future-based selling model, and you are familiar with my work, how did you leave me out? You included Dale Carnegie which is 90 years old, not the future, and no longer being used. Why couldn’t you at least have given Buying Facilitation® a mention somewhere?

TS: I thought of it, Sharon-Drew. But you didn’t have the credentials.

Um. Let’s see: New York Times Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity) with six other books and over 500 published articles on the subject; trained 100,000 sales people globally for many Fortune 500 companies with an average of a 600% increase over sales. What credentials am I missing?

The problem first reared its head in 1996. Years before Google, with a new World Wide Web that had no search capability, I developed a search tool that efficiently facilitated site visitors to the exact page(s) they needed. Then, in the Dot Com era where even Joe the Plumber was raising millions, I sought funding. I was offered $15,000,000 by the one woman VC in Silicon Valley IF I could find another million from someone else.

You know where this is going: In an era where investors were hungry for ideas, eager to give away millions to just about anyone who provided a sliver of hope that they could be part of the action, I couldn’t find $1,000,000 from a male investor for a pretty cool idea that was at least worth trialing. I’m going to make a guess that my being a woman had something to do with it.

CASE STUDY OF A WOMAN INVENTOR – MY STORY

As an example of one, I’d like to share my story and ideas. Maybe you’ll also wonder what might have been if I were male.

With a distinct mental vision of brain connections, a visceral insight into systems, accompanied by decades of study with available data, I’ve spent my life designing ways to consciously cause change – the HOW to enable everyone to discover or create their own best answers by generating neural circuits. With the intent to serve Others to discover their own excellence, with the trust that everyone has their own answers, I build a bridge between spirit and business.

Ultimately I design systemic brain change models, ways to consciously (re)configure the brain to

  • discover where best answers are stored/how to retrieve them,
  • develop new circuits that generate wholly new habits and behaviors,
  • listen without bias,
  • learn without resistance,
  • change and decide consciously using the specific steps and sequence all brains take.

My models include:

  • Buying Facilitation® – Helps sellers lead not-quite-yet buyers through Pre-Sales change management steps so 40% more become buyers in half the time.
  • Change Facilitation – Enables intentional creation of new neural circuitry for permanent habit/behavior change.
  • Leadership Facilitation – Leads Others to discover their values-based choices in a resistance-free change management initiative.
  • Facilitative Questions – A new form of question that pulls unconscious criteria, in a specific sequence, from the right places in the brain for efficient and accurate criteria-based decision making.
  • Thirteen Steps to Change – The specific steps all change takes for decision making and resistance-free transformation.
  • The Decider – An app for sales, deal rooms, sites, team decision making, to direct each step, phase, criteria, and consideration to an efficient decision.
  • Learning Facilitation – Facilitates learning by providing neural circuits a path for permanent learning without resistance.

Profound ideas and innovative capabilities for healthcare, sales, leadership, coaching, decision making, change, training, and management. They’ve made their way into the world. Sort of. Stolen in part by men (A recent new ‘partner’ advertised my newest idea (Buying Enablement) as his own, relegating me to ‘trainer.’), the ideas have been minimized (misunderstood, misdefined) to fit mainstream thinking causing me to watch my own ideas, now defined almost beyond recognition, compete with me. At a think tank recently, I discussed my ideas with a Harvard neuroscience who firmly stated that I was obviously a liar as my ideas weren’t possible.

But it doesn’t stop at ‘liar’. I’m seen as: pushy (translation for a man with similar behaviors: A Go Getter!); obnoxious (He’s Got Such An Interesting Personality!); arrogant (He’s So Confident!); eccentric (Great Ideas! Soooo Outside The Box!); without merit due to inadequate education (His Ideas Are Profound! And Self Taught Too! He’s A Genius!) and irritating (She’s So Much Smarter Than Me!).

And yet I wake up every day with hope – hope that at least some of the concepts will be used to enable folks to truly serve one another, for people to consciously change habits permanently, for leaders to enable change without resistance, for doctors to facilitate folks to healthier lifestyle choices, for sellers to facilitate people through change.

Is it possible if I were a man they’d be endemic by now?

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

What needs to happen for helpful, useful, innovative ideas to be shared and distributed regardless of the gender of the creator? I certainly don’t have answers. But I can offer some questions for us all to noodle:

  • What would you need to believe differently to deeply consider the efficacy of ‘different’ ideas regardless of the sex of the innovator?
  • What’s stopped you from using your voice in your company to advocate for more female hires, more women on the Board, and equal pay for women?
  • How many women on your team are heard, backed, and mentored up the leadership chain? And what is stopping you – personally – from doing your part to boost women in management?
  • How would you know if you have unconscious biases that either ignore, avoid, or disparage ideas from women?

It’s time, folks. It’s time to use all the brain power, the heart capacity, the creativity and innovation available, regardless of genitalia. What are you willing to do to help make it happen?

______________________

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

December 6th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management

Trust. The big kahuna. The sales industry seeks it; doctors assume it; couples demand it; change can’t occur without it. But what is it? Why isn’t it easier to achieve? And how can we engender it in relationships?

I define trust as the awareness of Another as being safe, similar, and sane enough to connect with, and occurs when they

  • have core beliefs that align and seem harmonious with mine,
  • feel heard, accepted, and understood by me,
  • feel compatible or safe as a result of our interacting,
  • believe their status quo won’t be at risk when connected to me.

Unless these criteria are satisfied, trust can’t occur no matter how kind, professional, necessary, or well-intended another person or message is. It’s a Belief issue.

BELIEFS DEFINE US

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, developed over our lifetimes to make decisions and act against. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized, unconscious, and unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider.

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim “safety”. The problem occurs when our world views collide.

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and enable us to show up congruently in the world. We even listen through ears biased by our Beliefs.

Beliefs instigate our habits and assumptions, restricting our life choices such as our occupations, politics, values, mates – even our child rearing practices. And our Beliefs are the initiators of our behaviors – behaviors being Beliefs in action.

Sadly, because everyone’s Belief systems are unconscious and idiosyncratic, and because we each view the world through our own Beliefs and perceptions, it’s difficult to accurately perceive Another’s internal world view.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The content they share, or even their unique delivery style, may unwittingly offend the Belief system of the Communication Partner (CP). Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by expecting their ideas to be accepted, but instead cause resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

I’d like to offer thoughts on some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust, then provide some ideas of how to stimulate it.

Relationship Building: We’ve been led to believe that having a relationship encourages buy-in to new ideas. But it’s a conundrum: polite as an interaction appears or how necessary our message, we can’t easily build a relationship with folks with divergent Beliefs, or fight their automatic filters that react to us immediately. In other words, “pushing in” doesn’t work, even if our data and intent are accurate, and even if we think we have a relationship that entitles us to ‘share.’ We might have a superficial connection, but not a relationship; “making nice” does not constitute a relationship, or engender change or trust.

Information: As influencers we often attempt to “get in” with the information we assume our CPs need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). We fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, or how their listening filters translate it for them. With the best will in the world, even with good data to help folks who need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in since people unconsciously defend their status quo. It’s our brain’s fault! Because all incoming data is translated for us automatically by our historic neural circuits, new ideas aren’t always interpreted accurately and run the risk of causing resistance. (See my book on this topic.) So save the information sharing for when a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed.

Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, the “rational/ scientific” data you offer to “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of the medical model, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

Clear Communication: We all think we communicate clearly, yet we’re not as effective speaking in ‘Other’s language’ given our CPs unconscious, biased listening filters that end up preventing our “risky” data from being heard accurately. Certainly we believe we’re choosing the “right” words and approach to convey our intent. Yet our message is heard accurately only by those with similar Beliefs and resisted by the very people who need our information the most.

FACILITATE BELIEF CHANGE FIRST

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do?

As coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate conversations based on them discovering their own excellence, with a goal to match their Belief criteria before offering new ideas. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility that actually creates trust:

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering how their Beliefs instigated their behaviors. Entering with the goal to offer information, or get your question answered, or extract promises of action will automatically engender distrust and resistance.
  2. Ask the type of questions that facilitate and enable internal discovery; conventional questions merely pull data biased by the needs of the Asker. I designed Facilitative Questions (see below) that enable congruent change without bias by leading the CP through their unique route to discovery.
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change for decision making and new habit generation. These promote congruent change by leading Others down their own choice points. Learn the steps, and help your CP traverse the steps to match Beliefs and encourage acceptance prior to mentioning your idea.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers and that she’ll shift toward excellence as appropriate for her. It won’t show up exactly as you’d hoped; but there will be a new opening for collaboration without resistance.
  5. Understand that until or unless your CP can recognize his own incongruences, there is no way he’ll welcome comments from you that sound like you’re saying he’s wrong or insufficient.

In other words, create a Beliefs-based bond that will open the possibility of you offering information later, once they’ve discovered exactly where they need it and how to use it.

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their own internal state. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order, and based on systemic brain change, not information gathering. They also take our CPs into a Witness state, beyond their automatic responses, and from which they can have a neutral, unbiased look at their status quo to notice if it’s operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

Conventional: Do you think it’s time for a haircut? or Why do you wear your hair that way?

Telling someone they need a haircut, or asking them if they noticed they need a haircut, or giving them an article on new types of hair styles – all based on your own need to convince your CP to change – will cause defensiveness and distrust.

Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This leads your CP

  • into a Witness state,
  • beyond their resistance and reaction,
  • outside of their normal unconscious reactions,
  • to notice the exact criteria they need to consider change and
  • to open the possibility for new choices that match their own Beliefs.

By using this type of question we offer a route for the CP to discover their own best answer that aligns with their Beliefs and engenders trust. No push, no need for a specific response. Serving another by helping them discover their own Excellence.

I designed these questions as part of my Buying Facilitation® model, a generic change facilitation model (often used in sales) that enables congruent change. Sounds a bit wonky, I know, and it’s certainly not conventional. But worth researching. I’ve trained large numbers of sales folks and coaches over the past 40 years against control groups and consistently have a 40% success rate. When we facilitate our CPs down their path to conscious choice, we

  • help them discover their incongruencies,
  • help them understand the areas at risk,
  • help them develop their own route to managing risk (i.e. change) and where they can’t do it themselves,
  • enable buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

Until your audience is able to accomplish this in their own way, using their own Beliefs, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you.

Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

____________

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

November 15th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

Because I wanted choice over my actions, I’ve spent a good portion of my life coding the trajectory of change so I could intervene to do something differently. I realized early on that knowing WHAT I wanted to change, WHAT doing it ’right’ entailed, and WHY I wanted to change, didn’t reliably lead me to the HOW of successful change, regardless of my willpower and discipline. Even my attempts at Behavior Modification were unsuccessful.

After studying brains and how they generate behaviors for many decades, and after trying unsuccessfully to try to change some of my own habits, I realized the problem: because behaviors are merely mechanical responses (outputs) to how my brain is programmed (inputs), real change can only come by rewiring my brain. In other words, I’ve been doing it wrong.

Seems by merely trying to change a behavior by ‘doing’ something different – a behavior being the output of a series of brain signals – I failed to change my brain circuits at the place where the behavior is initially prompted.

How is it possible to consciously change our brains, you might ask? I spent decades figuring it out. And I’ve made it possible to generate new circuits whenever you want to change a behavior or habit. Let me explain what’s going on, and then I’ll introduce the program I’ve developed so you, too, can permanently change behaviors at will.

HOW BRAINS GENERATE BEHAVIORS

Brains require a very specific sequence of activity to generate behaviors: First we

  1. send a message to our brains for what we want to accomplish
  2. that gets checked against our risk filters and beliefs that agree, or not, to proceed and
  3. creates signals that seek out similar-enough circuits
  4. which carry the message to an action.

Our behaviors are merely the output of our brain’s signaling system, the response to a set of instructions that travel down a very fixed pathway. They are not stand-alone features, or values-laden actions, but the activity, the output, the response, from a series of electro-chemical brain signals that have no meaning at all.

It’s like putting liquid red rubber into a machine and a red chair emerges. Something inside is programmed in a way that produces ‘chair’. If it were programmed differently, even using the same red rubber, a ‘ball’ might emerge. It’s all in the programming.

These brain signals, this specific circuit that carries out that specific behavior, is hard-wired. And once we have a circuit for a behavior set up in our brains, it becomes a habit. Hence, the problems we all have when we attempt to change an existing behavior.

Indeed, trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior is like trying to get a forward moving robot to go backwards by pushing it: until the programming is changed, until the signals and motivators are reprogrammed to trigger new wiring with different responses, it cannot do anything different than what it was programmed to do. And merely trying to change our behaviors will not alter our existing, programmed, circuits. Hence our difficulty losing weight, or maintaining an exercise regimen.

HOW TO GENERATE NEW BEHAVIORS

The good news is that our brains are more than happy to generate new behaviors when they’re reprogrammed, which we do by developing brand new circuits (neuroplasticity). I’ve spent decades unwrapping the ‘how’ to generate new messaging and circuits and the steps involved, eventually developing a training model of change facilitation that I’ve been teaching in sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, and coaching for 40 years.

Recently I developed a new model to facilitate others through the steps to generate new circuits for their own new behaviors (i.e. transformative change) and ending old habits – not to modify what’s there, but to actually consciously transform their brain’s pathways for permanent behavior and habit change. It includes:

  • why it’s so hard to change a habit [By merely trying to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior we’re unwittingly recruiting the same circuits that caused the habit to begin with.];
  • why we can’t change behaviors by trying to change behaviors [Behaviors are outputs and reside in habituated circuits that unconsciously hook up with what’s already there and normalized, regardless of our desire to change.];
  • why we must develop new signals and circuits to generate new behaviors [Brains will always generate new circuits when they receive new messaging for new circuits that cause new behavior generation.];
  • how our brains enable or prohibit change, habits, and behaviors [Our Beliefs are our traffic cops and react unconsciously to incoming signals, separate from our conscious wishes.];
  • how to build a scalable model to develop new messaging to generate new circuits that to trigger new outputs and choices, from input to output, while avoiding resistance and failure.

Take a look at the program syllabus: http://buyingfacilitation.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/how-of-change-syllabus.pdf

CHART ISOLATING CHANGE ELEMENTS

Here is a chart of the elements of The HOW of Change™ model. It isolates the brain elements necessary to generate new circuits that will create new behaviors, habits, ideas. Certainly our brains are able to generate new circuits (but they cannot get rid of existing ones), but to do so requires very specific elements be included in a very specific sequence. It’s really not as simple as merely doing something different. Take a look at the chart as it explains the trajectory of change:



Let me explain a bit of the chart, and it’s a bit geeky, so hang in.

When your wish (I want to be better organized) enters in the CUE it gets translated into an electro-chemical signal that then gets sent to the CEN which matches circuits that are ‘close-enough’, and behaviors emerge. If you want to do something different than you’ve done before, the Trial Loop (in chart) is instigated (I developed this Trial Loop) to facilitate agreement, buy-in, congruency and risk during a learning process. Watch as I discuss the process in my sample one hour video.

I’m writing a new book on this, and now offer a 5-part video training program available to teach leaders, change makers, coaches to help their clients change. Let me know if you’d like a conversation to learn if the program could help you stop smoking, lose weight, start your exercise regimen, or any other new behaviors you’d like to make habits. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. And watch my sample video, or see the program syllabus, here.

This is a new-type of program, in that it asks you to actually work hard on making your unconscious conscious. It’s not behavior-change based, or information-based, but brain change-based and takes more concentration. It produces permanent change via wholly new circuits. If you’re interested in real change, take a look. And I’m here for questions.

_________________________________________

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.sharon-drew.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

October 4th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

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

Next Page »