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Many learning programs provide tools for Influencers – coaches, sellers, negotiators, leaders, healthcare providers, managers, and consultants – to help clients make the changes they seek. Coaching programs teach how to recognize what the client is ‘really’ saying and offer the best techniques to help. Doctors offer reasons and rationale as to why patients need to change daily regimens. Negotiators seek the BATNA. But all tools have one thing in common: they assume that the Influencer controls the change.
I believe something different: I believe that because of everyone’s unconscious, subjective, historic, normalized biases and identity-based beliefs, there is no way to know what’s going on in Another’s unconscious. In other words, it’s a risk for Influencers to be the arbiters of congruent change in Another.
I believe all elements of change must be discovered and maintained by our clients themselves. I believe we must take on a wholly different job: instead of influencing change, I suggest we lead others through to their own route to change via their relevant brain circuitry, time frames, beliefs, criteria, and unconscious drivers and develop new neural circuitry for new, permanent behaviors.
Instead of Influencers, let’s be Facilitators – neutral navigators who enable Others to discover, and design, their own answers, their own unique brand of excellence. But we need an additional skill set and focus. Let me explain.OUR SUBJECTIVITY IMPEDES SUCCESS

The problem with outside Influencers is twofold: our subjectivity causes potentially erroneous outcomes (1-4 below); the outside-in approach runs the risk of stripping our clients of their own capability and self-leadership (5).

1. Both client and influencer listen through unconscious, subjective biases and mis-hear, mis-interpret, mis-represent, misunderstand, confuse, resist, and sabotage accordingly. That’s just a fact: our communication partners rarely fully or accurately understand what’s been said, regardless of the importance of the message or our intent at clarity.

When researching my book on this subject (see What? did you really say what I think I heard?)   I was quite shocked (and annoyed) to learn how little we correctly understand of what our communication partners mean to tell us, regardless of our training, knowledge, intuition, attention, or intent.

Inadvertently, each end of a communication is mired in subjective listening biases and cannot – cannot- hear the Other without some element of partiality because our thoughts and ideas come from, and are restricted by, our historic brain synapses and pathways. And because of the speed and unconscious nature of how words are interpreted in our neural circuitry, our brains don’t even tell us how, exactly, they’ve altered what we think we hear. Net, net we end up with no way of knowing just what we’re missing.

I must admit I was quite annoyed to learn this, believing passionately in my ability to ‘really listen.’ Unfortunately, our brains don’t allow it. In his new book, The Undoing Project Michael Lewis says: “…the mind’s best trick…was to lead its owner to a feeling of certainty about inherently uncertain things.” (pg 42) “Confirmation bias is…insidious because you don’t even realize it’s happening” (pg 40). We actually, unwittingly, hear what we want to hear. And this, says Lewis, is especially true of Experts.

2. Because Influencers pose questions according to their subjective biases of what they think should be achieved, they potentially miss huge swaths of necessary information embedded in a client’s brain and not necessarily retrievable with a standard question. Unfortunately, discovery is then restricted and biased according to the chosen words and filters of the Influencer who’s biased judgment (‘intuition’ and ‘gut reaction’) may overlook clients with a different set of beliefs and biases.

3. Our status quo – the internal, unconscious, subjective rules, identity, beliefs, and experience – is systemic and will resist change unless beliefs and long-held unconscious rules shift to incorporate and accept anything new.

Regardless of its efficacy, any change – new ideas, advice, behaviors – needs buy-in from the areas within the (brain) system that created and maintain the problem we seek to fix (status quo) and will be affected by the change.

When systems are asked to change without marshaling belief-based buy-in, they will resist or sabotage (regardless of the efficacy of the change) rather than be disrupted. And don’t be fooled: any change demands a reconfiguration of any number of seemingly unrelated internal issues.

4. Information, requests, facts, don’t teach a system how to change and potentially reroute our client toward our biased goals, potentially missing their own. Our advice, ideas, new activities, etc. become little more than a push against a system designed to maintain itself. And of course, it’s resisted.

5. We all recognize that only people can change themselves. And yet tools Influencers use to ‘understand’ or ‘manage change’ (i.e. conventional questions) are often based on the Influencer’s ‘intuition’, ‘gut’ feel, historic experiences, and behavioral approaches to address change.

But this outside-in approach is successful only when the Other’s system shows up ready, willing, and able to shift – usually not something folks can do when we meet them.

By being responsible instead for guiding them through their own systemic change, lead them consciously through the neural circuitry that causes their choices and behaviors, everyone can discover their own workable answers and congruently shift the structure of their own internal change.

I know I’m stepping on toes here, and many of you are thinking ‘I understand how to help my clients! I’ve been doing this for years!’ I can’t tell you how many hundreds of conversations I’ve had with leaders and coaches and managers who believe everything I’m saying – for another person.

But no Outsider, no coach or doctor or influencer, can know what clients mean when the Influencer can’t be aware of the role of the client’s unconscious drivers that passionately fight to maintain the very actions they caused. Sure our clients will try valiantly to ‘do’ (behave) in ways we suggest, only to fall back on old patterns after we’re gone.

WHAT ARE BEHAVIORS?

Behaviors are the action, and formal representation of, our Beliefs – our Beliefs in action, as it were: without accounting for and reorganizing the intricate system of beliefs, criteria, history, and rules that have created the problem, any requested behavioral change that isn’t a direct output from the brain runs the risk of being temporary or resisted. Having a dialogue or session based on content or need or problem-solving – all behavioral – cannot effect change without causing resistance.

But Behaviors will automatically change once the Beliefs change. As a very simplistic example, I reorganized my input messaging and changed my resistance to going to the gym. When I shifted my Identity to become a Healthy Person, going to the gym (I hate it) became the Behavior that was one of the outputs, the actions, of my Belief; when I want to sleep-in I ask myself, ‘Are you a Healthy Person today?’ and if the answer is ‘No’ I happily sleep in. Thankfully, it’s almost always ‘Yes’. If I had started out thinking I needed to go to the gym because my coach and I agreed it was healthy, I certainly would have stopped going after a while because there was no systemic buy-in or unconscious driver. I’ve actually developed a How of Change™ model that teaches how to reorient our brains for new outcomes.

Change comes from the unconscious, from neural circuits and 86 billion neurons that have stored our history, our ideas, our behaviors, since birth and have ready circuits they prefer. Behaviors are merely the manifestation of the change, the output, not the focus. And you can’t permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.

I suggest Influencers instead become Facilitators, Facilitators who trust that Others have their own answers.

WHAT’S OUR JOB

Facilitators can help Others make their own unconscious changes that are permanent, congruent and happily accepted. Let me respond to the original list above:

  1. Let’s become Neutral Navigators and help Others get to their own unconscious system to find a route to congruent change that’s acceptable and avoids inadvertent, biased, subjective blocks.
  2. Instead of posing biased questions or gathering data based on our own assumptions – both of which run the risk of restricting possibility – let’s help Others ask themselves their own most appropriate questions and lead their brains to where their answers are stored. I’ve developed a new form of question I call Facilitative Questions that are systemic and formulated to traverse the route of the brain to engage the unconscious in the exact right places.
  3. Since everyone’s status quo is systemic, self-perpetuating and self-maintaining, let’s enable the Other to discover why, how, and when to adopt their own type of change. That way we avoid overlaying our subjective biases that might cause them to miss their real inflection point.
  4. By eschewing ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and advice until the Other’s system is ready, we can enable Others to traverse the route to change through her own unconscious system and we can truly serve as healers and Facilitators – without bias. It might not end up looking like we imagined, but change will happen idiosyncratically, permanently, and congruently.
  5. As Facilitators and Servant Leaders, we can enable congruent, permanent, effortless change, and people can be the designers of their own transformation.

I know that Influencers take pride in understanding another’s needs. But let me suggest that no matter how good you are, you’re not good enough for every situation: your current skill sets only work on those who show up with beliefs, values, ideas, and change-capability similar to yours, and whose unconscious is readily accessible; those whose beliefs differ or cannot get to their unconscious drivers won’t achieve long-term success. This is where/how you lose clients, or your implementations fail.

People can’t accept information that doesn’t match the way their unconscious system functions. Let’s teach them how to recognize and recalibrate their own system so it can be congruent, adaptive, and seek excellence.

HOW FACILITATION WORKS: CASE STUDY

Facilitators hold different beliefs than Influencers:

  • People can only change themselves. A Facilitator’s job is not to understand or fix, but to enable Others to make their own unconscious, systemic, appropriate change. Nothing is broken: clients only need to find the route to their own best answers and then, only when the system agrees it needs change – and that, my friends, demands a complicated internal unraveling. Otherwise, we take away their power.
  • It’s necessary to listen for systems – for the underlying metamessages – rather than for content which is subjective, incomplete and murky. So ixnay your curiosity-based, biased questions. Remember: conventional listening is wholly subjective. The more you listen for what’s said, the less you’ll hear of what’s meant.
  • It’s important to enable Others to go down their own route to change – not yours. They might be slower, or incomplete, or go in a different direction than you’d recommend. But it’s not your call. You’re just there to facilitate their excellence along the route of their own change process.
  • You’ll need a new toolkit. If you aspire to facilitating real change, you’ve got to save your information gathering, or timelines, or any of the tools you’ve been using until toward the end of the exchange once your client has discovered their belief-based, unconscious, drivers.

I’ve invented a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that leads people through their brain circuitry to find their unconscious answers. These, along with listening for systems and assuming Others have their own answers, will go a long way to truly serving.

  • I’ve developed a generic model that does this (Buying Facilitation®) that I’ve been teaching in the sales and coaching fields for 35 years. Read some of the articles up on my blog www.sharon-drew.com.

Here’s a simple case study. I recently got a call from a coach friend Joe who works with companies to help their staff be ‘better’. Joe’s client Susan retained him to help Louis who, with a long history as a terrific employee, couldn’t seem to do his newly assigned job although he knew he’d be fired if he didn’t comply. She wanted Joe to coach Louis in an attempt to save his job.

After 3 months of working together, Joe had the same non-compliance problems with Louis – he’d promise to do something and then not do it – and before getting him fired he figured we’d talk to see if there was anything he missed. We agreed to do a role play, with him playing Louis. I asked that he take on Louis’s personality using the data he’d gleaned from their coaching, and use his best guesses as to how Louis would respond if I posed different questions than his. Here was our role play.

SDM – Hey Louis. Before we begin, I’d love to know how you feel about Susan assigning me to coach you without your consent. [Note to Influencers: having clients who are prisoners, who have not agreed to the process, sets up automatic resistance.]

JOE/LOUIS – Well, I would have loved to have chosen my own coach, but I’m aware Susan is unhappy with me, and I’d like to keep my job, so I’m happy to comply. I realize everyone wants to help me.

SDM – If you find you don’t like working with me let me know and we’ll find you someone you’re more comfortable with.

JOE/LOUIS – Thank you. I appreciate it.

SDM – So I hear that Susan asked you to take on some new tasks that you’ve agreed to but so far haven’t yet achieved successfully. [Presumptive Summary] And given your history of being an excellent employee, I’m sort of surprised. What would you need to know or believe differently to find it easier to do this new job or discovery clarity where you find yourself resistant? [Facilitative Question that avoids blame, confines the two ends of the possibility spectrum, points him specifically to where to seek the corresponding beliefs and unconscious drivers in his brain, begins to get him into his Witness place to see the situation from above without bias, and avoids judgment.]

JOE/LOUIS – I’d need to know what success would look like. I don’t feel any resistance – I’m happy to do it, but no one has shown me what it would look like if I was achieving success as well as I do in my current job. I was hired originally to do X because I do it well. Now they’re asking me to do stuff I can’t do as well. What if I fail? I’m not competent in this new job. They say it doesn’t matter for a while, but what does that mean? What if I take too long? Plus will the person taking over my current job do it as well as I do it?

SDM – It sounds like you’ve made promises to do the new job without understanding what doing them at your preferred level of excellence would look like, or what failure looks like. And I hear how important an excellent job performance is to you – especially your discomfort at leaving your current job to someone who might not do it well. And you certainly don’t know the expected timeline for you to be excellent. [Presumptive Summary.]

JOE/LOUIS – Right. I guess when I promised to do the new job I meant it. But I just realized I have no picture of what ‘good job’ looks like, or the time frame I’ve got to get good. [The problem is his lack of vision of excellence and fear of failure, not willingness.]

SDM – And it sounds to me like this is not a conversation you’ve had with Susan or I’m sure she would have happily complied. [Presumptive Summary] What has stopped you from telling Susan you’d need to better understand what ‘excellence’ looks like, her expectations for your learning curve, and how to leave your current job in good hands? Or even to ask for someone who now does the new job excellently to coach you through your daily activities? [Facilitative Questions mixed with summary statement and information he needs.]

JOE/LOUIS – If I ask her what a good job looks like and her expectations of my learning curve, tell her I’m afraid I won’t initially be as good at the new job as I am with my current job, and my need to have my current job handled well, we could set up stages of learning and timelines for me and I’d be comfortable moving forward and possibly failing.

This dialogue would have occurred as our first coaching session and might have only needed a quick follow up. Joe was surprised at the outcome, and the differences between our outside-in/inside-out approaches. He certainly was surprised at how much data he had unconsciously gleaned from Louis during his conversations but hadn’t known to use.

“I concentrated on helping him ‘do’ what Susan wanted him to do, and never considered helping him figure out how to manage the problem his own way. The answers I found myself giving you were a surprise to me, even though I suspect they were pretty accurate.”

In his session, Joe had concentrated on finding out why Louis wasn’t compliant and creating timelines of activity – the doing – without helping Louis recognize and manage his own unconscious beliefs and drivers which biased his behaviors. But I didn’t need to know why or why not he didn’t do what he promised – it’s all subjective, and ultimately a guess. I enabled him to find the place where he made decisions to act/not act – the real problem – and then lead him through to his own action plan that he would obviously be congruent with.

Here’s the question: do you want to lead the change? Or enable the change to happen congruently? You’d need to trust that the best outcome would be achieved – most likely different from the one you envisage – and put aside your ego, your need to be The Problem Solver and professional tools for a bit. If you want to truly serve, help Others discover their own path.

Serving Others is an honor. Let’s use our position to enable Others to change in their own ways and be their own Teachers. They do indeed have their own answers if we can help them find where they are stored. We might think we have an answer for them, and sometimes we do. But that’s not the point. Let’s become Servant Leaders.

____________

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

May 23rd, 2022

Posted In: Communication

3 Comments


I’ve read that some leaders and project managers prefer not to collaborate when engaging in a new initiative because they fear losing control. I even know decision makers who start their information gathering before involving the full complement of those who will implement.

What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change without the express buy-in from the group? Without the full group providing vital input? I believe that until there is true collaboration and buy-in, and everyone understands the implications of any change, the group

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases, causing
  • outcomes and creativity restricted to a specific set of possibilities that may not meet the full group’s criteria,
  • work from biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources, and
  • risks alienating those involved.

WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY

To ensure the best data is available to make decisions with, to ensure all risk issues get managed, to ensure consensus throughout the process, we must have these questions in mind:

  • How will we share, collect, and decide on the most appropriate ideas, choices, and alternatives? How will we know we are working with the most relevant data set?
  • How can a leader avoid prejudicing the process with her own biases?
  • How are collaborators chosen to ensure maximum representation? Are some stakeholders either absent or silent? How can we increase participation?
  • How can we recognize if we’re on the path to either a successful outcome, or the route that sabotages excellence? What markers should we be looking for along the way?

Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):

  1. Collaboration: when all parties who will be involved in a final solution have a say in an outcome:
    a. to offer and share ideas and concerns to discover creative solutions agreeable to all;
    b. to identify and discern the most appropriate data to enable the best outcome.
  2. Decision making:
    a. weighting, choosing, and choosing from, the most appropriate range of possibilities whose parameters are agreed to by those involved;
    b. understanding and agreeing to a set of variables or decision values and knowing how these will effect the ongoing functioning of the system.

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on facilitating an agreeable route to the most congruent solution) and ‘low collaboration’ (leading from the top with rules and plans that match the needs of some).

Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary among all involved in order to identify accurate data gathering and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.

THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION

Here are the steps to excellence in collaborative decision making as I see them:

  1. Assemble all representative stakeholders to begin discussions. Invite all folks who will be affected by the proposed change, not just those you see as obvious. To avoid resistance, have the largest canvas from which to gather data and inform thinking, and enhance the probability of a successful implementation, the right people must be part of the project from the beginning. An international team of Decision Scientists at a global oil company recently told me that while their weighted decisions are ‘accurate,’ the Implementation Team has a success rate of 3%. “It’s not our job. We hand them over good data. But we’re not part of the implementation team. We hear about their failures later.”
  2. Get buy-in for the goal. Without buy-in we lose possibility, creativity, time, and ideas that only those on the ground would understand. Consensus is vital for all who will touch the solution (even if a representative of a larger group lends their voice) or some who seem on board may end up disaffected and unconsciously sabotage the process later.
  3. Establish all system specifics: What will change? Who will manage it? What levels of participation, disruption, job alterations, etc. will occur and how it be handled? What are the risks? And how will you know the best decision factors to manage all this? It’s vital to meld this knowledge into the decision making process right up front.
  4. Specify stages to monitor process and problems. By now you’ll have a good idea of the pluses and minuses. Make a plan that specifies the outcomes and probable fallout from each stage and publish it for feedback. Otherwise, you won’t know if or where you’ve gone wrong until too late.
  5. Announce the issues publicly. Publish the high-level goal, the possible change issues and what would be effected, and the potential outcomes/fallout. Make sure it’s transparent, and you’re managing expectations well in advance. This will uncover folks you might have missed (for information gathering and buy-in), new ideas you hadn’t considered, and resisters.
  6. Time: Give everyone time to discuss, think, consider personal options, and speak with colleagues and bosses. Create an idea collection process – maybe an online community board where voices are expressed – that gets reports back to the stakeholder team.
  7. Stakeholder’s planning meeting. By now you’ll know who and what must be included. Make sure to include resisters – they bring interesting ideas and thinking that others haven’t considered. It’s been proven that even resisters are more compliant when they feel heard.
  8. Meet to vote on final plans. Include steps for each stage of change, and agree on handling opposition and disruption.
  9. Decision team to begin gathering data. Now that the full set of decision issues and people/ideas/outcomes are recognized and agreed to, the Decision Making team is good to go. They’ll end up with a solid data set that will address the optimal solution that will be implemented without resistance.
  10. Have meetings at each specified stage during implementations. Include folks on the ground to weigh in.

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.

Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.

____________

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

May 16th, 2022

Posted In: Communication

52 Comments

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

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

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

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

I then realized there were three problems with the current (1996) search capability:

  1. Site visitors had only a haphazard method of finding what they wanted;
  2. People occasionally didn’t recognize their unconscious criteria for resolving their query, even if they could find what they initially thought they wanted;
  3. Sites could only meet the search criteria imagined by the site designers, sometimes overlooking criteria sought by visitors.

In other words, if people were happy with the information they were able to find on a site, they were satisfied. For those folks not entirely clear what they needed, couldn’t find the page matching their search criteria, or had needs outside the obvious, there was a probability they couldn’t find what they really needed and would leave the site.

MY SEARCH INVENTION DEFIED THE NORM

I decided to create a tool to help site visitors become aware of the unconscious criteria (i.e. not just the information, but the subconscious, essential criteria they needed met) they needed and be led directly to the page(s) that offered the exact answers they sought. And in 1996, no one else was thinking this way.

Enter Hobbes. With a few sequenced Facilitated Questions (a new form of question I invented that directs brains to specific circuits that hold their unconscious criteria), a simple backend tree, and carefully culled choices of criteria-based options, my search tool Hobbes helped site visitors discover their real criteria and led them to the one or two site pages that met their needs.

For those who chose to use Hobbes, this would keep them on the site and help them become buyers or satisfied visitors. It would also cause companies to do their homework to learn what visitors truly needed and add those responses to their sites.

Of course, this was way outside of normal, especially for 24 years ago – 3 years before Google search came out. Yet 54% of site visitors on my site used it.

I tried to get funding for it and was offered $15,000,000 by the only woman VC in Silicon Valley IF I could find $1,000,000 from someone else (a man). Nope. Only 1% of women were receiving funding in those days.

Not to mention I kept hearing that no one needed a search tool for ‘criteria’. Silly idea, I was told countless times. No one makes decisions from criteria.

And the concept died.

PERCEIVED WISDOM REIGNS

You all know what happened next. Google search entered and the rest is history. But about 15 years later, the folks at Bing called, saying they’d heard about Hobbes and could they buy it. I shared the original site design. Yay! Loved it. ‘We could start using this immediately! What a great idea to help people uncover their unconscious criteria and help them make decisions quicker.’

But then I got a call back the next day: the team hated the concept. ‘Why would anyone want to use a search tool that didn’t seek out information the way Google did?’ It was the accepted norm and ‘no one would want to do anything different’.

And so the perceived wisdom has prevailed, and now the whole world accepts the one way we’ve been offered to search the net. Imagine if we had choices.

WHO AM I? AND WHY DOES CRITERIA MATTER?

Before I continue my story, let me stop for just a moment to give you a thumbnail sketch of who I am.

When I was age 11 I recognized that I think differently than others (I was diagnosed with Asperger’s when I was 61, explaining why my way of making sense of the world – in systems – provided me a more holistic understanding than folks with standard brains who think sequentially.). By experiencing several ‘strands’ of awareness simultaneously, it was obvious that to make a decision on anything required a prioritization of my brain’s hierarchy of values, my criteria.

Wanting to show up as normal, I began what would become my life’s work: coding the systems involved with how brains cause us to make choices; I figured out how to sequence the sequence steps of decision making that match our unconscious belief-based criteria, and cause us to do what we do and think what we think.

Since then, I’ve used my understanding of brains, systems, and decision making to develop several original models that fac ilitate systemic brain change:

  • I invented (and wrote the NYTimes Bestseller Selling with Integrity on) a wholly new model Buying Facilitation® for sellers to use to facilitate the Pre-Sales, change management end of buying decisions that closes 8x more than using sales alone;
  • a new way to listen that avoids bias;
  • a new form of question that leads brains to unconscious criteria for efficient decision making;
  • a model for coaches and leaders that leads people through the steps their sequenced steps of decision making to make change efficient;
  • a way for folks seeking permanent behavior change to change their brain circuits.

All of my models are outside the box, outside of mainstream, and provide innovations in several fields. And as with Hobbes, because they go against perceived wisdom, I’ve often struggled to find folks willing to adopt them even when they prove, in controlled studies with major corporations, to be more successful than the standard models.

Success, it seems, is not the criteria. Innovations – as wonderful as they’re made out to be – are not accepted readily: they buck the system, go against the norm.

WHAT IS PERCEIVED WISDOM AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

My Hobbes story provides a background for my newest grumble about innovation and how normalized thinking limits our worlds, rules our assumptions and restricts creativity.

I’ll begin with my definition of perceived wisdom. PW is another way of saying ‘the norm’, the accepted myths, practices, ideas that constitute the immediate assumptions we make without questioning them. It’s the accepted convention, the ideas we’ve used to set up our lives, our thinking, our work environment – our internal, idiosyncratic systems or rules and history and expected behaviors.

PW is perpetuated in every sphere of our lives. We learn it as infants and it permeates our education, cultures, religions, what we buy and wear, who we marry and where we live.

Our thinking, our behaviors are often based on accepted norms that have become ubiquitous: * Do you avoid white after Labor Day? (Silly) * Do you feed a cold and starve a fever? (Wrong) * Calories-in determines weight (proven false). * Behavior Modification works to help you lose weight, exercise, change habits, yadayada. (There’s no scientific evidence anywhere that it does, plus you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior) * Do you fail to display a contact number on your site to collect names for marketing outreach – assuming people will fill out your form and accept your spam? (Thereby turning away folks with real interest who refuse to fill out those things.) Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. I once asked my mother if she nursed me. ‘I would have, but everyone said it would harm you. And now I’m sad about it.’

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

PW keeps us locked in. Our language, our conventional assumptions, keep us like gerbils, going round and round the same ideas and conventions regardless of their success or failure. So

  • in sales, a 5% success rate is acceptable, and the matching 95% failure rate is not even mentioned – folded in to the costs as a ‘given’ because the model itself is flawed and hasn’t been reconceived in a century;
  • in leadership and coaching, the assumption that the person ‘in charge’ has the knowledge that Others must conform to, and their resistance is something to be managed, resulting in a 97% failure rate;
  • in training, that continues to use information-in – a model that doesn’t integrate with brains and causes an 80% failure rate.

Even great Harvard thinkers like Chris Argyris and Howard Gardner have written books on managing resistance, using the baseline assumption that all change involves resistance. Nonsense. Another faulty fact we’ve normalized and have cost us dearly.

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

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

THE PERCEIVED WISDOM OF CURRENT SEARCH CAPABILITY

How PW restricts our worlds is a huge topic, involving our health and healthcare system, our financial system, the environment, education, privacy – the list goes on. But because the topic is so important, I’m going to show you how limited we are in one sector – internet search – and how our worlds get shoved into tiny vessels as a result.

To begin, PW has kept our search use hamstrung, a vehicle to monetize our use and restrict data. PW assumes, even expects, our personal data will be extracted to send spam.

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

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

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

Surely we should care about accurately nourishing our curiosity without fear of spam and Robo calls.

THE MISSING VOICE ON THE INTERNET

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

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

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

WHAT COULD BE DIFFERENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our perceived wisdom is faulty. And until we begin thinking differently and stop acting as if PW is true, it cannot change and we will not readily accept innovation.

WHY GO BEYOND PERCEIVED WISDOM?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 25th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, News

disconnect

As influencers we aim to help Others achieve their own brand of excellence, using their own unique values and standards. Sadly, too many of us – coaches, leaders, sellers, consultants, doctors, parents – try to get Others to accede to our viewpoints and suggestions, believing we have information or solutions that offer ‘better’ choices than the ones they’ve made. We’re telling them, net, net, that we’re smarter, that we think our ideas are better than their own.

It’s not our intent, but due to the way we engage with others, and the way brains work, we inadvertently end up restricting possibility and creating resistance, conflict, antagonism, or disregard, regardless of the efficacy of what we have to offer.

In this article I’ll explain how we end up creating the very resistance we prefer to avoid, and introduce new skills to enable us to truly serve.

WE CONNECT THROUGH OUR OWN SUBJECTIVITY

Regardless of the situation, when we try to effect change using our own viewpoint or beliefs (even if they are valid), our unconscious biases and expectations cause us to inadvertently alienate those who might need us. As a result, we ultimately influence only a percentage of those who need our help – those who already basically agree with us.

I’ll explain, below, how we restrict our interactions and then offer new ways to approach influencing to enable others to find their own best solutions:

Biased listening: We each listen to Others unconsciously, through our brain’s unique and subjective filters (biases, triggers, assumptions, habitual neural pathways, memory channels), regardless of our concerted attempts to accurately hear what’s intended. As a result, what we think we hear is often an inaccurate translation of what was meant and not what the speaker intended.

So our Communication Partner (CP) might say ABC but we actually ‘hear’ ABD (And yes, we often hear something quite different than what was said although it shows up as ‘real’. Read my article on how this happens.) and our brains don’t tell us we’re misunderstanding. Unfortunately, it works both ways and Others also wittingly misconstrue what we’ve said.

I wasn’t fully aware of the extent of this until I researched my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? on how to hear others without bias. With the best will in the world we end up only accurately hearing, and thereby responding to, some percentage of the message our CPs intend. It’s outside of our conscious awareness. But it’s possible to remedy by listening with a different part of our brain. More on this later.

Fact #1. We hear Others through our subjective biases, assumptions, triggers, habituated neural pathways, and beliefs, causing us to unintentionally misinterpret the message intended, with no knowledge that what we think we’ve heard is mistaken. Obviously this effects both sides of a communication (i.e. Speakers and Listeners).

Subjective expectations: We enter into each conversation with expectations or goals (conscious or unconscious), often missing avenues of further exploration.

Fact #2. Entering conversations with very specific and self-oriented goals or expectations (conscious or unconscious) unwittingly limits the outcome and full range of possibility, and impedes discovery, data gathering, and creativity.

Restricted curiosity: Curiosity is both triggered and restricted by what we already know, i.e. you can’t ask or be curious about something you have no familiarity with to begin with. Using our own goals to pose questions that are often biased, assumptive, leading, etc. we inadvertently reduce outcomes to the biases we entered the conversation with; our subjective associations, experiences, and internal references restrict our ability to recognize accurate fact patterns during data gathering or analysis.

Fact #3: We enable Others’ excellence, and our own needs for accurate data, to the extent we can overcome our own unconscious biases that restrict the range and focus of our curiosity.

Cognitive dissonance: When the content we share – ideas, information, advice, written material – goes against our CPs conscious or unconscious beliefs, we cause resistance regardless of the efficacy of the information. This is why relevant solutions in sales, marketing, coaching, implementations, doctor’s recommendations etc. often fall on deaf ears. We sometimes unwittingly cause the very resistance we seek to avoid when we attempt to place perfectly good data into someone’s idiosyncratic, habituated belief system that runs different to our own.

Fact #4. Information doesn’t teach Others how to change behaviors; behavior change must first be initiated from beliefs, which in turn initiates buy-in.

Systems congruence: Individuals and groups think, behave, and decide from a habitual system of unconscious beliefs and rules, history and experience, that creates and maintains their status quo. We know from Systems Theory that it’s impossible to change only one piece of a system without effecting the whole. When we attempt to offer suggestions that run counter to the Other’s normalized system, we cause Others to risk incongruence and internal disruption. Hence, resistance.

Unfortunately for those of us trying to effect change in Others, it’s important to remember we’re outsiders: as such, we can never fully comprehend the ramifications of adding our new ideas, especially when every group, every person, believes it’s functioning well and their choices are normalized and habituated.

Just because it seems right to us doesn’t mean it’s right for another. Sometimes maintaining the status quo is the right thing to do for reasons we can’t understand; sometimes change can occur only when internal things need to shift in ways we cannot assist with.

Net net, we pose questions biased by our own need to know, offer information and solutions that we want to be adopted/accepted, and focus on reaching a goal we want to reach, all of which cause resistance: without buy-in and a clear route to manage any fallout from the potential change that a new element would cause (regardless of the outsider’s belief that change is necessary), congruent change can’t occur. When the ‘cost’ of the change is more than the ‘cost’ of the status quo, people will maintain the status quo.

Fact #5: Change cannot happen until there appropriate buy-in from all elements that will be touched by the change and there is a defined route to manage any disruption the change would entail.

Due to our standard questions and listening skills and assumptions that our terrific information will help, we end up helping only those few whose brains are set up to change (the low hanging fruit) and failing with those who might need us but aren’t quite ready.

INFORMATION DOESN’T FACILITATE CHANGE

We can, however, shift from having the answers to helping others achieve their own type of excellence (regardless of whether or not it shows up looking like we envisioned). In other words, we can help our CPs change themselves. Indeed, by thinking we have the answers, by driving our own outcomes, we lose the opportunity to serve, enable real change, and make a difference.

Don’t take the need to maintain the status quo lightly. Even patients who sign up for prevention programs have a history of non-compliance: with new food plans, or recommendations of exercise programs that challenge the behaviors they have habituated and normalized (for good or bad), they don’t know how to remain congruent if they were to change. (Note: as long as healthcare professionals continue to push behavior change rather than facilitate belief change first, non-compliance will continue.)

It’s possible to facilitate the journey through our CPs own hierarchy of values and rules, enable buy-in and agreeable change, and avoid resistance – but not by using conventional information gathering/sharing, or listening practices as they all entail bias that will touch only those with the same biases.

To enable expanded and managed choice and to avoid resistance, we must first help Others recognize how to congruently change their own status quo. They may have buy-in issues or resource issues; maybe their hierarchy of values or goals would need to shift, or their rules.

By focusing on facilitating choice/change first we can teach Others to achieve their own congruent change and then tailor our solutions and presentations to fit. Otherwise, our great content will only connect with those folks who already mirror the incoming data and overlook those who might have been able to change if they had known how to do so congruently.

THE SKILLS OF CHANGE

I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model, often used in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and coaching, that offers the ability to facilitate change at the core of where our status quo originates – our internal, idiosyncratic, and habituated rules and beliefs.

Developed over 50 years, I’ve coded my own Asperger’s systemizing brain, refitted some of the constructs of NLP, coded the system and sequence of change, and applied some of the research in brain sciences to determine where, if, and how new choices fit.

Using it, Others can consciously self-cue – normally an unconscious process – to enable them to discover their own needs for change in the area I can serve, and in a way that’s congruent with the rules and beliefs that keep their status quo in place.

I’ve trained the model globally over the past 30 years in sales, negotiation, marketing, patient relationships, leadership, coaching, etc. Below I introduce the main skills I’ve developed to enable change and choice – for me, the real kindness and integrity we have to offer.

It’s possible to lead Others through

  • an examination of their unconscious beliefs and established systems
  • to discover blocks, incongruences, and endemic obstructions
  • to examine how, if, why, when they might need to change, and then
  • help them set up the steps and means (tactically) to make those changes
  • in a way that avoids system’s dysfunction
  • with buy-in, consensus, and no resistance.

For those interested in learning more, I’m happy to chat, train, and share. Or feel free to use my thoughts to inspire your own model.

Listening for Systems: from birth we’re taught to carefully listen for content and try to understand the Other’s meaning (exemplified by Active Listening) which, because of our listening filters, often misses the underlying, unspoken Metamessage the speaker intends. By teaching the brain to disassociate and listen broadly rather than specifically, Systems Listening enables hearing the intended message at the root of the message being sent and supersedes all bias on either end. For those interested, read my article on how our listening restricts our worlds.

Facilitative Questions: conventional questions, used to gather data, are biased by the Speaker and interpreted in a biased way by the Responder. The intent of Facilitative Questions (FQ) is to lead listeners through a sequential discovery process through their own (often unconscious) status quo; not information focused and not biased, they are directive, and enable our CPs to discover for themselves the full range of elements they must address to achieve excellence. Here is a simple (out of sequence) example of the differences between conventional questions and FQs. Note how the FQ teaches the Other how to think:

  1. Conventional Question: Why do you wear your hair like that? This question, meant to extract data for the Speaker’s use, is biased by the Speaker and limits choices within the Responder. Bias/Bias
  2. Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? While conventional questions ask/pull biased data, this question sequentially leads the Other through focused scans of unconscious beliefs in the status quo. Formulating them requires Listening for Systems.

Using specific words, in a specific order, to stimulate specific thought categories, FQs lead Others down their steps of congruent change, with no bias. Now we can be part of the process with them much earlier and use our desire to influence change to positive effect. We can actually help Others help themselves.

Steps of change: There is a habituated, idiosyncratic hierarchy of people, rules, values, systems, and history within each status quo. By helping our CPs navigate down their hierarchy they can discover and manage each point necessary to change without disruption or resistance. Until they know how to do this – and note, as outsiders we can NEVER understand this – they can take no action as their habitual functioning (their status quo) is at risk. Offering them our information is the final thing they’ll need when all of the change elements are recognized.

To me, being kind, ethical and true servants, being influencers who can make a difference, means helping Others be all they can be THEIR way, not OUR way. As true servant leaders and change agents we can facilitate real, lasting change and then, when Others know how to change congruently, our important solutions will be heard.

____________

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

February 21st, 2022

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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

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

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

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

HOW BRAINS GENERATE BEHAVIORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW TO GENERATE NEW BEHAVIORS

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

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

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

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

CHART ISOLATING CHANGE ELEMENTS

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



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

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

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

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

_________________________________________

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

October 4th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

Conversation

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

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

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

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

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

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

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

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

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

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

NEED FOR CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____________________________

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

September 13th, 2021

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PEOPLE

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

PAY

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

RESPECT

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

RESPONSIBILITY

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

WHO, EXACTLY, ARE WE?

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

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

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

_______________________________

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

July 26th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Sales

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

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

WHAT IS LISTENING?

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOW BRAINS LISTEN

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

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

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

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

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

CUE (turns incoming vibrations into electro-chemical signals)

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

Output (meaning)

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

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

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

– get sent to existing circuits

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

– previously used for other translations,

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

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

It’s mechanical.

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

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

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

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

IT’S POSSIBLE TO GET IT ‘RIGHTER’

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

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

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

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

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

______________________________

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

July 5th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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