By Sharon Drew Morgen

Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

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

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

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

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

NEED FOR CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________

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

September 13th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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

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

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

NEED ISN’T WHY PEOPLE BUY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LET’S BE BUYERS

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

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

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

–      –   –   –

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

Problem detection and gathering stakeholders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fixes and workarounds

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

Jim sends the team a questionnaire:

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

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

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

Team buy-in

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

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

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

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

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

Time to buy

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

–      –   –   –

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

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

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

THE BUYER’S JOURNEY

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

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

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

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

BUYING FACILITATION®

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________________________

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

August 30th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PROBLEM WITH BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION

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

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

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

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

DIFFERENT THINKING REQUIRED

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEUROLOGICAL PATHWAY FROM INPUT TO OUTPUT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE NEED FOR VALUES-BASED CONGRUENCY

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

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

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

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

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

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

CREATING NEW PROGRAMMING, NEW SIGNALS, NEW BEHAVIORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE HOW OF CHANGE

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

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

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

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

_______________________

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

July 19th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

One Comment

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 they set up an internal focus group 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 part of who we are as humans is the 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 our 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:

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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

June 7th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

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A few years ago,  Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, was interviewed as he discussed their new Customer Focus initiative: prioritizing Customer Centricity over revenue by putting their customers first. He said something like, ‘The money will come. Let’s take care of the customer!’ I haven’t noticed many companies, including Bank of America, who’ve actually done the work of re-organizing around customers; to be Customer Centric means you must put rules, staff, tasks, websites and customer interfaces in place to, um, put People first.

DEFINITION CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

My long-held ideas and questions on what a true Customer Centric company would look like begins with an admonition: stop making it so hard on your customers. They purchased something from you. That automatically puts them in a relationship with you (And probably in a leadership position, since if customers don’t buy anything you’re not in business at all.). They paid the price you set and trusted your promises enough to believe they’d get what they paid for. If they have problems, questions or needs, their resolution and your kindness are a representation of your promise, must be a part of the relationship, and cannot be separated from the purchase.

You claim you want ‘relationship’ with customers, yet you create rules that disrespect, offend, ignore, insult, and frustrate them. Your customers have bought-into being on your team; don’t make it so hard on them. All that does is cause customers to complain to their 1000 closest friends, damage your reputation and give your competition the competitive edge. You forget that your customers are your competitive advantage.

‘Putting the customer at the center’ means having rules, procedures, hiring and training practices, and baseline values that use a People filter. It demands a customer lens through which to view every aspect of your company. It demands that your customer be the heart and soul of your company.

Corporate identity: Since behaviors and rules are translations – the daily actions – of your foundational identity and values, a Customer Centric company has the commensurate People values and ethics at its core. I always ask myself, after being hung up on, or ignored, or disrespected by a contact with a company whose solution I’ve purchased, what the foundational beliefs of that company must be: That I’ve made a purchase from the wrong provider – a company that doesn’t care about me. That my problems and needs are secondary to profit. That I’m not worthy of care once I’ve made my purchase.

It must begin with an identity of ethics and integrity. How you accomplish this will take the work of change – assembling and assessing the broken elements, getting buy-in for change from each of the broken parts, addressing disruption and confusing implementations. There are lots of decisions to be made that will ripple through the company.

Stakeholder alignment: All stakeholders, all company employees, all managers and Board Directors, must share, exemplify, and communicate the exact same beliefs and values. Your marketing and customer service must portray your kindness and respect; you’ll hire people with values that match. There used to be a legend that Nordstrom had a one line customer service rule: “Use your best judgment.” Imagine how hiring practices, management, and training shift if such rule is in place.
With a People orientation, everything and everyone has one goal: to keep a customer happy. Then, a lower level rep would feel free to make this sort of adjustment on her own:

So sorry this is happening. Please accept my apologies on behalf of X company. What would make this right for you? And I’ll be your Team Leader to make sure your problem gets handled, including speak to whoever I need to speak with on my side and get back to you with a resolution.

not this rule-based, disrespecting flip-off that we all suffer time and time again:

This is not something I can take care of. I’m transferring you (and transferring you, and transferring you, and…).

With a Customer Centric filter, each rep, each internal stakeholder, each person who touches a customer, owns the problem and resolution. This will change your rules.

One more thought here: your employees are your first customers. Don’t ever forget that.

Proximity to customer: With ‘Customer’ in the center, organization is based on the proximity to the customer, giving the most importance (and training) to help desk and sales groups who directly touch customers, and Senior Management, the Board and CEO at the far end with the job of coming up with the ideas and maintaining the foundation of values and vision.

ORGANIZING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY FROM INSIDE OUT

In order of customer proximity, here are some thoughts on the organization of a truly Customer Centric company. Again, each customer touch point must have a criteria of putting the focus on People first, with Task, Rules and Profit Margin second.

First touch point:

  • Customer service (questions, needs, problems): Reps whose job is to give product service and support must be client advocates. They must have a very strong People filter and be passionate about ensuring each customer gets their needs met. That should be their only criteria and have the right tools and skills – listening skills are especially prone to biased filters –  at their disposal to do so.

I’ve been told by customer service reps that they’re only allotted a short time frame – minutes – to handle a problem and then get on to the next customer on the cue. One rep called me back on his own cell phone because he didn’t want to ‘get in trouble’ (his words) for taking too long with a customer. Seriously?! Of course this means you’d need to train your team differently. And yes, you’ll need to hire more reps to get them off ‘the clock’ and into ‘relationship.’ Keep thinking: People vs Task. Which will it be? Here are two conversations I had with different AT&T reps, 5 minutes apart, when I called to change my billing address. I bet you can tell which one has a People filter:

Rep #1: You don’t have your password? Sorry. I can’t help you. I know you only want to change your address. But call back when you find your password….. (And then she hung up on me).
Rep #2: You don’t have your password? Hm… Let’s use your social security number to start with. Then we can change your address, and then I’ll send you a link to reset your password so you have it for the next time you call.

Same company; but one rep was Task/Rules-bound with no criteria re taking care of me and just wanted to get me off the phone quickly; one was Customer Centric and got creative so I was cared for. Both had the same customer screen in front of them when I called but one had a People hat on. And btw, who the hell was supervising that first Rep? Why was that ok? Do companies even KNOW what their representatives are saying to customers?

I urge you to consider having whoever answers the phone ‘own’ the customer’s problem. This way customers don’t get hung up on, and don’t get shuffled between departments to explain their issue over and over again – only to be disconnected after 45 minutes and on maybe the 6th person! The initial rep must take the customer’s phone number, give them a case number, and a call-back number that connects directly TO THE PERSON THEY SPOKE WITH so there is a continued process. How much will that cost? Compare that with the amount of business and reputation you’re losing now from NOT doing it, from complaints against your company showing up on social media, from customers cancelling service because they can’t take it anymore.

Website: Your site is often the first (and sometimes only) connection with a customer and it can go a long way to making sure customers feel cared for. Here is where a lot of companies fail. Almost all sites are strictly Rules, Company, Profit, Product driven. There’s no way to talk to anyone, and lots of hoops to go through before it’s even a vague possibility.

Few sites have their phone number available. What’s the deal with that? How much business are you losing because a customer or prospect can’t ask a simple question, or get directed to their best resource? What is the cost? I buy only from companies whose sites offer a phone number so I know I’ll have fewer hoops to go through if there’s a problem.

And what’s the deal with ONLY having the sign-in boxes in the Contact area? You’re soliciting their data for your marketing lists and reducing their ability to make contact only according to YOUR terms? You want something precious from them and you’re not willing to offer something in return? What percentage of real buyers won’t fill out those things? I have never, ever filled out one of those damn things. I want my vendors to take care of ME, not me take care of THEM, especially when it might involve me receiving tons of unsolicited email.

And while I’m on a rant, how ‘bout including a real time Customer Tweet roll bar on your home page? Invite customers to Tweet their thoughts, questions, and feelings to make it a living dialogue. Too scary you say? Well, if you focus on a customer, and all your rules are similarly focused, you should hear nothing but good things, no? And where there’s a negative comment, it will exhibit how quickly and accurately you handle the situation. After all, these folks are going onto social media to complain about you anyway; you might as well hear it straight and deal with it immediately and show other customers your fallible, but trustworthy.

This is your first line of contact. You can use your site as a good representation of your brand’s promise. You’re blowing it.

  • One more idea. With a People focus, online communication tools like Live Chat/Bot must abandon their Rules/Task focus and use vocabulary that is helpful soothes disgruntled people, and finds ways to take responsibility for supportive dialogue. It’s beyond infuriating. I found myself recently having a fight with a Live Chat person (Well, 3 actually, because I kept asking to speak with a supervisor.) for 2 hours (with horrible NameCheap) and finally SCREAMED in frustration at this invisible ‘person’ who kept explaining ‘rules’ that didn’t correspond to my questions; I actually wrote I HATE YOU YOU’RE A TERRIBLE COMPANY AND YOU CHEAT PEOPLE AND I’M GOING TO TELL EVERYONE NOT TO EVER USE YOU YOU’RE CHEATS. I became a tantrumy teenager as I felt more and more disrespected, misunderstood, and thwarted by invisible rules that didn’t seem to match my issue. Turns out not ONE of these folks heard me or resolved my problem. Don’t do this to your customers. They deserve better.

Second touch point:

  • Sales – Sellers are the intermediaries between you and customers. Stop relegating them to a ‘content push’ orientation. Make them the arbiters of true customer focus. Instead of being focused on pushing/placing solutions, using a facilitation model such as Buying Facilitation® (a model I invented for sales and marketing that gives sellers tools to facilitate Buyer Readiness at each stage of their Pre-Sales Buying Journey) it’s possible to use your connection to become industry leaders and become true Servant Leaders. Stop pushing! They can find your solution data on your site! Use your sales team to build and enhance customer relationships based on THEIR needs for excellence, not YOUR needs for profit. This is a place you can truly differentiate yourself from your competition.

Customers don’t need you for the details of your solutions until they’ve decided they cannot fix the problem themselves, what sort of a solution everyone agrees to, and how to manage any change that will occur when they do buy. [A purchase is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue; a prospect is someone who CAN buy, not someone who SHOULD.] Your site might be one of their steps toward deciding on whether or not to buy anything. Help them. It will not only differentiate you, but you’ll have vast amounts of data to bring back to other groups in your organization to help them be more Customer Centric, including R&D, customer service, manufacturing, billing. All areas of your company will shift according to the voices of real customers and their needs and problems – so long as the focus is on serving, not selling. Remember: People filter, not Task. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities.

Third touch point:

  • Day-to-day Management: These folks are in leadership positions for employees nearest the customer. Instead of pushing pushing pushing staff to close a sale, or get off the phone, continually find ways to connect, to respond in ways that make, and keep, customers happy. That means you’ll not only need to hire a people-oriented management staff, but the employees will need new types of training, especially additional listening skills. Currently, each group listens through their own Task filters and agendas: sellers listen for signs of ‘need’, help desk reps listen for easy solutions so they can stick to their 2 minute (or whatever) time limit.

Have managers sit alongside of reps and coach them for hours during a week, to check their skills real time. You could even design a Customer Service Check List to hand out to managers for their phone coaching hours. Obviously you’ll have to employ new hiring practices to hire People oriented people rather than Task oriented people. Like the AT&T story above, we all know to keep calling back until we get a ‘good’ rep. How much does that cost you?

Question for you: how will you know that the front-line staff are congruently representing your values? What is it costing you to have reps who hang up on paying customers? Or transfer transfer transfer to the point of madness because no one owns the problem? Why are managers acceding to this practice? What is it costing you?

Fourth touch point:

  • Marketing: your current focus remains selling something; your marketing efforts push product data, with no visible sign of Customer Centricity regardless of your lofty terms. What if you used your marketing to enter along the customer’s decision path to help them manage each aspect of their route to choosing you? They can get solution details on your site so add elements of facilitating the decisions that will make site visitors into customers.

Add a People/Customer filter to your marketing: send out content marketing that helps them make sense of those decisions they need to make as they figure out if they even want to make a purchase. It’s possible to create staged marketing to address each of the 13 stages of a buying decision. Because people aren’t buyers until a purchase is their only viable option to solve a problem, you’re missing entering earlier in their decision cycle and only focusing on those relative few who have already decided to buy (at the end of the buyer’s journey). Make it easier for those who CAN/WILL buy.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Here are some questions you need to ask yourself moving forward:

What is the soul of your company? How can you operationalize that? Hint: Make sure you’re not a ‘financial company that serves customers’, and be a ‘customer centric company that offers banking services’. People first; it changes everything.

What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to make People your priority? How would that change your staffing? Sales? Marketing? Leadership? Training? Management?

What is the cost? What is the cost if you don’t?

How would you know it would be worthwhile to use a People filter over a Task/Rules filter? Would you need to have a pilot group with specific tracking capability re customer retention, or surveys, or increased revenue, etc.? [Call me. I’ll help you set it up.] A new Mission Statement?

Where do Integrity and Ethics factor in to your customer touch points?  Or is that not part of your equation? Do you have defined values? Do the rules you’re currently using match your company values? Why not? And don’t tell me it’s time or money – rescale if you need to. Your success depends on this. Amazon.com has an impressive focus on the customer. Takes me one minute to get a problem resolved, including them giving me my refund BEFORE they even get the product back – and often they tell me just to throw it away, or keep the extra item. They make it easy for me and actually less time consuming for them. I always feel trusted and valued, and I’ll never go to any of their competitors.

How do your current rules restrict Customer Centricity? Evaluate your current rules. What new rules would need to be in place to be Customer Centric – and what does that mean for how you run your company?

How would Customer Centricity change your hiring practices? Training? HR? Management?

How will you know in advance that it will be worth the time/effort to tackle this? Because if you don’t, your competition will. Remember: your customer is your competitive advantage.

What skills training would need to occur? Listening, certainly.

What would need to change within your company culture? How people speak to each other? The symbols of success, expectations, agreements?

How are you currently communicating your values to customers? Take a look at your site, your rules, your reps. What you see IS a representation of your corporate values.

What promises are you making to customers who buy your solution? How does this differ from what a customer thinks you promised them?

How would your technology need to change to embrace a Customer Centric mentality? In 1996 (before Google), I designed a new search tool named Hobbes based on helping a site visitors get to the exact page they needed using 3 simple questions that highlight their choice criteria. I got an offer from the VC Heidi Roisen for funding if I could find one other funding source. I could not. And to this day, no one is using my search tool; seems tech folks never understood why sorting with human criteria is necessary.

I hope I’ve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?

How would Customer Centricity change your hiring practices? Training? HR? Management?

How will you know in advance that it will be worth the time/effort to tackle this? Because if you don’t, your competition will. Remember: your customer is your competitive advantage.

What skills training would need to occur? Listening, certainly.

What would need to change within your company culture? How people speak to each other? The symbols of success, expectations, agreements?

How are you currently communicating your values to customers? Take a look at your site, your rules, your reps. What you see IS a representation of your corporate values.

What promises are you making to customers who buy your solution? How does this differ from what a customer thinks you promised them?

How would your technology need to change to embrace a Customer Centric mentality? In 1996 (before Google), I designed a new search tool named Hobbes based on helping a site visitors get to the exact page they needed using 3 simple questions that highlight their choice criteria. I got an offer from the VC Heidi Roisen for funding if I could find one other funding source. I could not. And to this day, no one is using my search tool; seems tech folks never understood why sorting with human criteria is necessary.

I hope I’ve inspired you to begin thinking about this issue and started a conversation. I believe that becoming Customer Centric will be your competitive edge moving forward. But that also means change. What is it worth to you?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader in Change Facilitation, and developed of a collaborative facilitation model used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and implementations. She began keynoting in the 1990s on topics such as Make Money by Making Nice, Spirituality and Sales, the Caring Company. Her books – NYTimes business bestseller Selling with Integrity; Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell; and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? – focus on the skills to facilitate collaboration, respect, communication, and integrity. Sharon Drew has trained her process to over 100,000 people globally. She currently consults, trains, coaches, and keynotes. Sharon Drew currently lives on a floating home on the Columbia River in Portland OR.

May 17th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management

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Note: This article introduces the teachings in my new, transformative How of Change™ video course for folks seeking real behavior change.

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.sharondrewmorgen.com She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

October 28th, 2020

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

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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

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 is that when trying to connect with another, we’re at the effect of their unconscious filters that immediately signal “risk” when there is a perceived misalignment between our Beliefs.

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 are the glue that enables 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, we can’t accurately perceive Another’s internal system of rules, values, history, habits, experiences etc.We choose our friends according to matching Beliefs; it gets problematic when we need a trusting relationship to accomplish our goals and we’re not clear how to achieve it.

For those folks whose jobs are to influence, there’s an immediate problem. The stories, content, data they seek to share, or their one-sided agenda, may 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 pushing their ideas, expecting us to accept them, but instead unwittingly causing resistance and distrust.

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

Here are some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust.

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 build a relationship with folks with divergent Beliefs, or fight their automatic filters that react to us immediately, regardless of the efficacy of the information. 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: Our chosen vehicle to “get in” is often with information that we believe they need, without accounting for how it will be perceived. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, our brilliant attempt to share the “right” data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). When we try to motivate, push, share, persuade, etc. we fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, as well as how their listening filters translate it for them, regardless of its efficacy. So with the best will in the world, with folks who might really 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, as everyone is pretty protective of their status quo and fears the new information carries the risk of disruption. So save the information sharing for when there’s a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed, and then offer the information in a format that matches Beliefs. Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, offering “rational/scientific” data that “prove” climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of doctors, 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 as we think 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 only by those with similar Beliefs and resisted by the very people who need our information the most.

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? Instead of entering conversations wanting them to act according to our needs, why not facilitate them through their Beliefs to discover if they are in Excellence, and if not, what would they need to do to find it. In this way we can help our CPs open up new possibility in ways that don’t feel invasive but actually create trust. But they have to do it themselves.

BELIEFS RULE

Every one of us has Beliefs unique to us, and comprises our status quo. Our Beliefs are the norms and rules we live by, rules that we have 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; as coaches, sellers, and leaders, we must carefully initiate relationships and conversations with a goal to match their Belief criteria before considering offering new ideas.

When we wish to engender trust with our CPs it’s possible to use languaging in a way that puts us on the same side of the table as our partners:

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering Beliefs and 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. So instead of gathering data for themselves, these questions are directive to the ‘other’ to discover their own Beliefs attached to change.
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change for decision making a new habit generation. These that enable change facilitators to promote congruent change in others by leading them 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. 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.

Here’s a story. During a training program, a student showed everyone pictures of his 2-year-old twin daughters (adorable) and his beautiful wife. Once outside during the first break, he lit up a cigarette. It was hard to believe that he hadn’t heard that smoking wasn’t a healthy choice, but there was some Belief that kept him smoking and information hadn’t enabled him to quit. My job became helping him reprioritize his Hierarchy.

I went over and posed a Facilitative Question:

“What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to be alive and healthy by the time your daughters graduate university?”

He threw his cigarette, and the entire pack, away; he called me 6 years later to tell me he still wasn’t smoking. That one Facilitative Question brought him to his Witness place and enabled him to use his own criteria for discovery and change and put his children high up in his conscious thinking. By enabling him to observe himself to find his own unconscious drivers, I helped him make his own change. If I told him cigarettes were unhealthy, I’d be challenging his Identity about his choices and trying to shove information into an unknown Hierarchy, certainly to meet with resistance.

Once people discover their own incongruence they’re happy to change. But offering data doesn’t accomplish this. 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 down the steps of internal change, 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.

But take care: these questions take a few weeks to learn to formulate. They use an entirely different belief system, different goals, different outcomes; they need specific words in a very specific order to capture specific parts of the CPs brain; they need a knowledge of memory channels. In other words, they are quite complex. Many folks have attempted to ‘borrow’ a few of my Facilitative Questions, rework them a bit, and try to use them in the same way actual Facilitative Questions are used. But it merely causes distrust; taken out of context, used out of sequence or employing words in the wrong order, they become highly manipulative and off-putting. For those wishing to learn to formulate them, here is a learning accelerator.

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 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, 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®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty 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.

June 1st, 2020

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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What are decisions?While the perceived wisdom defines decision making as the process used to select new actions among several possibilities, I see decisions as more complex: I believe they represent change management problems, and current decision making often overlooks the full set of actions necessary to achieve optimal results. After all, unless a new decision can be implemented without resistance, and stands the test of time, it can be seen as a flawed judgment.

Because we forget that decisions don’t reside in a vacuum, we often restrict ourselves to weighting facts and uncertainty, or gathering information, and overlook the need to use unbiased thinking, facilitate buy-in from the relevant stakeholders (or synapses) and figure out how a new decision would effect the status quo.

Decision making based on comparative choice between ‘best’ or ‘rational’ or ‘good data’ is incomplete. Unless a new choice is adopted, accepted, and recognized as a fit to the beliefs and rules of the status quo, it won’t be adopted, regardless of its relevance. And no new action – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, change a habit – will occur otherwise.

GOOD DATA IS NOT ENOUGH

With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and a path in place for integration and adoption, a path that includes buy in and excludes resistance nothing will change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be. Any new decision, any new choice, requires compliance with the norms of the entity making the change.

Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky originally said that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that led to it.”

If rational action were all we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. We each have plenty of data showing us  that even with right on our side, even with the best data, the most necessary outcome, we can end up making ‘bad’ decisions.

To make sure a decision will be successful, it’s necessary to plan a route to stakeholder buy in and change management before even considering weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’ (all restricted by our unconscious biases that limit our search and curiosity).

HOW SUBJECTIVE BIAS SABOTAGES US

Our current decision making process limits the full range of possible outcomes. We must learn to question our intuition and assumptions, and begin by managing our systemic, unconscious, subjective biases.

Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions).

When considering choices, a lot is happening unconsciously. And this is where we need to add conscious choice because we’re always comparing the new consideration against the status quo. Without factoring in our internal assessments to ensure anything new will match our hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious), a decision to do anything different runs the risk of resistance and non compliance.

Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to adopt anything new. In other words, even if it would behoove us to make a new decision, if we’re comfortable with our status quo we won’t seek change.

This is particularly costly when teams seeking new choices restrict the range of possibilities: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against accepted industry norms; and value structure of the status quo seems to be the authority on what’s acceptable.

Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.

WHAT’S OUTSIDE OUR CONSCIOUS CHOICE

Without first uncovering our unconscious drivers during a decision making process, we end up biasing our outcomes before we barely begin:

  • we only consider as relevant, or sanctioned, a tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering and baseline metrics severely;
  • we dismiss, ignore, restrict, and resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values, beliefs, biases, and internal status quo, regardless of its relevancy;
  • we define ‘rational’ according to our own beliefs, thereby biasing results;
  • our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data when our subjective filters interpret information.

As humans living in our personal, idiosyncractic worlds, we work hard to maintain our mental models and our synapses, synaptic connections, and neural pathways that keep them in place. Sadly, we seek to maintain our status quo regardless of the facts, the need, the relevance, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.

Make no mistake: regardless of what we decide, our unconscious is always making what it believes to be its best choice for us. I don’t believe there is such a thing as an irrational decision; it’s always rational to our unconscious.

Think about this: Have you ever said to yourself “I think I’ll make an irrational decision”? ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs and standards. I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!

Using a new type of question I developed (Facilitative Questions) to enable discovery, I once helped a friend decide on what to do with her attic. For years she fought herself on different types of wood and floor plan/design and couldn’t form a decision to take action because of her confusion. When we got to her unconscious she realized she hated her house, but hadn’t wanted to admit that to herself because moving would uproot her family. She had unconsciously delayed her decision, consciously focusing on entirely different issues to avoid dealing with a much larger problem. She was stuck considering the ‘wrong’ decision criteria for 3 years.

When we ignore our unconscious, we either delay a decision because it doesn’t feel right, gather data from insufficient sources, use partial data and miss the full picture or possibilities, or face a lack of buy-in, sabotage, or resistance. To get a good decision, we need to expand our scope of possibility. We can never get it ‘right’, but we can get it ‘righter.’

IS IMPLEMENTATION NECESSARY?

One of my beliefs is that without achieving a congruent output that’s acceptable to all and fits with the norms and values of the status quo, a decision will fail regardless of the accuracy of the facts. This is quite prevalent in among the Decision Scientist community. After keynoting to 200 Decision Scientists on Facilitating Decision Making a few years ago, I sat with them afterword and listened to them loudly bemoan the 97% implementation failure rate (Sadly, a common problem in the field.) they face. Here was part of our Q&A.

SDM: How do you prepare for a smooth implementation, or encourage buy-in?

We provide the best options as per our research. It’s their problem if they can’t implement. Our job is to find the right solutions and hand them over.

SDM: How do you acquire accurate criteria to design your research?

    We speak with folks who want the decision.

SDM: If you’re only speaking to a subset (influencers, superiors, clients) of users, how can buy-in be achieved – even with good data and rational choices – if the full set of facts are possibly not being considered? Aren’t you limiting your fact-gathering to a predisposed subset? Aren’t you moving forward without consideration of those who may be involved at some point, have unique goals and data, and resist implementing decisions well outside their value structure?

     Not our problem.

SDM: How can say you’re offering a ‘good decision’ if some of those who need to use the decision aren’t ready, willing, or able to adopt it because their reality was excluded from the initial data gathering?

We gather criteria from the folks who hire us, from recognized sources, and weight the probabilities. We give them good data. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Rational data is rational data.

They wouldn’t even consider that by doing initial fact-gathering from as large a set of people involved as possible, they’d not only acquire a larger set of identified goals, understand the foundational beliefs and values necessary to uphold the status quo, they’d set the stage for follow-on buy-in.

When we restrict the possibilities and people needed to define the criteria for a decision,

  • we can’t gather the full data set decide with,
  • alienate those would benefit from the outcome of the decision,
  • cede control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious.

How can we take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?

WHAT DOES OUR UNCONSCIOUS WANT?

In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance.

Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

What are my gut thoughts about what a new result would look like, act like, achieve? Am I comfortable with a change? Am I willing to contain/expand the parameters of the status quo? What would cause me to resist?

How far outside of my own beliefs am I willing to go to make sure I have as expansive a range of possible data as possible? Or must I maintain my current parameters (beliefs, or external mandates) regardless of the restrictions this poses on the outcome?

Should I add to what I already know? Or am I willing to explore what’s outside of my knowledge base that may make me uncomfortable? Where would I find acceptable resources to explore – and what would I find unacceptable?

What do I need to believe to be willing to consider data that I don’t ordinarily trust…and what, exactly constitutes trust?

Is there an inclusive idea that’s a ‘chunk up’ from my starting place that might encourage expansive consideration? I.e. if resistance is apparent, is there an idea, an outcome, which encapsulates the proposed change that doesn’t cause resistance? If everyone is fighting over house ownership in a divorce, maybe everyone can agree that a house is necessary for everyone’s well-being and move forward from there.

STEPS TO BETTER DECISION MAKING

There is a point when gathering data is necessary. But when? Here are steps to knowing when it’s time:

  1. Make sure all stakeholders, influencers, and unconscious drivers are involved in the initial problem description, data gathering and outcome-setting.
  2. Get internal (personal or team) agreement for the beliefs, norms, and values that a final solution should/shouldn’t entail.
  3. Make sure all stakeholders understand the upsides and downsides to all potential outcomes.
  4. Elicit concerns, fears, beliefs that any change would bring.
  5. Elicit hopes and viewpoints as to best outcomes, goals, and options.
  6. Everyone involved do research on data sources, studies, comparative projects, possible problems (or personally, research all brainstormed possibilities) using agreed-upon resources for data gathering, testing, parameters for results.
  7. Make sure a plan is in place to manage any disruption that the New will bring,
  8. Reach consensus, then begin a typical decision analysis/weighting.

With this approach, your testing and data gathering will have the possibility of being more reliable and complete, will reach the broadest parameters of choice, possibility, agreement, and will encourage buy-in for action. You’ll also be in place for implementing without resistance. Again, the final decision may not be ‘right’ because no decisions ever are, but it will certainly be ’righter.’

*For those wishing an expanded discussion/explanation of how to generate unbiased choice, read Chapter 6 of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. I’ve also coded the sequential steps the brain travels en route to choice, and developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that facilitates decision making and congruent change, for use in sales, coaching, negotiating, and leadership.

_________________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a breakthrough innovator and original thinker, having developed new paradigms in sales (inventor Buying Facilitation®, author NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty 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.

March 16th, 2020

Posted In: Change Management

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

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

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

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

WRAP UP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGE FACILITATION

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

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

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

____________

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

October 28th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management

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Leaderdhip followersI’m a dancer. When I studied the Argentine Tango there was a foundational rule that I believe is true for all leaders: The leader opens the door for the follower to pass through, and the leader then follows. If anyone notices the leader, he’s not doing his job. The goal is to showcase the follower.

Much of what is written about leadership falls into the category I call ‘trait-centered leadership’: someone deemed ‘at the top’ who uses his/her personality, influence, and charisma to inspire and give followers – possibly not ready for change – a convincing reason to follow an agenda set by the leader or the leader’s boss. Sounds to me like a mixture of Jack Welch, Moses, and Justin Bieber.

What if the leader’s goal overrides the mental models, beliefs or historic experiences of the followers, or the change is pushed against the follower’s values, and resistance ensues? What if the leader uses his/her personality as the reason a follower should change? Or has a great message and incongruent skills? Or charisma and no integrity? Adolf Hitler, after all, was the most charismatic leader in modern history.

IF YOU CAN’T FOLLOW, YOU CAN’T LEAD

Whether it’s for a group that needs to perform a new task, or someone seeking heightened outcomes, the role of leadership is to

1. facilitate congruent change and choice,
2. in accordance with the values, skills, and ability of the follower,
3. enabling them to shift their own unique (unconscious) patterns,
4. to discover and attain new behaviors congruently and without resistance,
5. within the parameters of the required change.

It demands humility and authenticity. It’s other-centered and devoid of ego, similar to a simple flashlight that merely lights the existent path, enabling followers to discover their own excellence within the context of the change sought. It’s an inside job.

Being inspirational, or a good influencer with presence and empathy, merely enlists those whose beliefs and unconscious mental models are already predisposed to the change, and omits, or gets resistance from, those who should be part of the change but whose mental models don’t align.

This form of leadership has pluses and minuses.

* Minuses: the final outcome may look different than originally envisaged because the followers set the route according to their values and mental models.
* Pluses: everyone will be enthusiastically, creatively involved in designing what will show up as their own mission, with a far superior proficiency. It will more than meet the vision of the leaders (although it might look different), and the followers will own it with no resistance.

Do you want to lead through influence, presence, charisma, or rationality? Or facilitate the unique path to congruent change? Do you want people to see you as a guide? Or teach them how to congruently move beyond their status quo and discover their own route to excellence – with you as a GPS system? Do you want to lead? Or enable real change? They are opposite constructs.

POWER VS. FORCE

Here are some differences in beliefs between trait-centered leadership and more facilitative leadership:

Trait-centered: Top down; behavior change and goal-driven; dependent on power, charisma, and persuasion skills of a leader and may not be congruent with foundational values of followers.

Facilitation-centered: Inclusive (everyone buys-in and agrees to goals, direction, change); core belief-change and excellence-driven; dependent on facilitating route between current state and excellence, leading to congruent systemic buy-in and adoption of new behaviors.

Real change happens at the belief level. Attempting to change behaviors without helping people change their beliefs first meets with resistance: the proposed change pushes against the status quo regardless of the efficacy of the change.

New skills are necessary for facilitation-centered leadership:

1. Listen for systems. This enables leaders to hear the elements that created and maintain the status quo and would need to transform from the inside before any lasting change occurs. Typical listening is biased and restricts possibility.
2. Facilitative Questions. Conventional questions are biased by the beliefs and needs of the Questioner, and restrict answers and possibility. Facilitative Questions enlist the unconscious systems and show them how to adopt change congruently.
3. Code the route to systemic change. When asking folks to buy-in, build consensus, and collaborate, they don’t know how to make the necessary changes without facing internal resistance, regardless of the efficacy of the requested changes. By helping people move from their conscious to their unconscious back to their conscious, and facilitating buy-in down the line, it’s very possible to avoid resistance.

If you seek to enable congruent change that captures the passion and creativity of followers, avoids resistance, and enables buy-in, open the door and follow your followers.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen has designed a servant leader-based Change Facilitation model, using the process in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching and leadership, and communication, all enabling others to congruently change themselves. She is the author of several books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew helps the health industry achieve buy-in between providers and patients; helps coaches and leaders enable lasting change with clients; helps sales folks facilitate the entire buying decision path from Pre-Sales to close. Her award winning blog has hundreds of articles that support change (www.sharondrewmorgen.com). She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. 512 771 1117.

August 26th, 2019

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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