gender neutralAs someone who’s written about communication for decades, I’ve decided to say what it feels like day in, day out, to be at the wrong end of being a person in America. A female. This article offers my personal viewpoint of how our endemic gender communication biases affect me as a woman. I hope it will inspire a dialogue that leads to gender-equal communication.

I don’t want this article to be a ‘scold’; there’s plenty of blame to go around given 1. our cultural norm that assumes a male preference; 2. women have been historically quiet when at the wrong end of gender communication bias (fear of reprisal, exhaustion and impotence from decades of being disparaged). But I deeply long for authentic and respectful styles of speech.

I suspect most men don’t understand what we women have to adjust to even in ordinary daily activities, from small seemingly-insignificant slights to those that cut to the bone; I suspect most men don’t realize how the endemic male bias methodically picks away at our souls. Sitting with a man recently, another man entered the room:

Man: Hi guys.

        SD: Why not say ‘Hi gals?’

        Man, pointing to my friend: Because he’s a man.

        SD: What am I, chopped liver?

Women being referred to with a male term seems to be acceptable, to have crept into the culture as ‘generic’. But to me, given conversations like the above, it’s not. I’d like to think men would be willing to make some alternate choices and refer to me as a woman, with the strength, power, and respect that deserves. And it’s more than just the use of inept terms; it’s the attitude, the inbuilt assumptions that I’m less-than.

In this article I’ll share a few examples of how I’m too-often spoken to and how it makes me feel. Some of you may not understand or identify with what I’m saying (and men, since most of you have no history of being a woman, this might seem funny or slight), and some of you may judge me. But just maybe a few things I say will open a door to awareness so a dialogue can begin and start a conversation so we can heal this thing and come together as equals.

ACCEPTED BIAS

At an event recently, a man walked up to introduce himself. Here was our conversation:

BILL: Oh Hi! You’re the girl with two names!

SDM: Yes, I’m the woman with two names.

BILL: Aw, come on!!! Gimme a break! Get off it, will ya? Woman? Girl? What’s the difference!

SDM: Seriously? Surely by now you’ve been educated by women in your life as to the proper way to refer to an adult female.

BILL: I’ve been educated!!! Believe me! A lot! I know what I’m supposed to do! Very well!

SDM: So what’s stopping you from doing it?

Bill went quiet. We stood quietly looking at each other. He then said, in a very soft voice:

BILL: You’re right. It’s an old habit, and I’m embarrassed I spoke without thinking. I mean no disrespect. I do realize you’re an adult. I’ll work harder at it. Thanks for reminding me.

Why did he have to fight so hard to be wrong? Why was it easier to try to diminish me rather than apologize?

Let me begin with the very easiest question and annoyance: Why do some men still not know the difference between a child and an adult? It’s a no-brainer: There are two categories of people: child people and adult people. Children are boys and girls. Adults are men and women. Simple. It’s a respect thing. I suspect most men over 25 wouldn’t be happy constantly, daily, being referred to as boys.

WHAT’S IN A WORD?

Just curious: how can it seem right to use the same vocabulary for an adult woman as you do a 7-year-old female child? Being called a ‘lady’ is not ok either. Just last night, in 2022, I was told by a man “Lady, girl, woman, what’s the difference? I mean no harm by it. Why don’t you just get over it?” He doesn’t realize being referred to as a child devalues my power as a fully fledged adult. Don’t use alternative terms for me! I’m a grown-ass woman!

Do we women really have to fight for the right to be referred to as adults? It’s not a small thing: it sets the tone of the underlying thinking. And yet it has persisted for eons. In line for a movie once in 1980, I heard one man tell another: “When a woman hears the word ‘girl’ she doesn’t hear the rest of the sentence.’ 42 years ago, yet the problem remains. And as a woman facing so many other slights, when you refer to me as a child, my rights, my intelligence, my sexuality, my power is diminished.

Another problem frequently ignored is the cultural acceptance of conforming to a male bias – male being seen as ‘neutral’. As per my story above, I’m curious: how did ‘guys’ become the ‘gender neutral’ term? Why didn’t the term ‘gals’ become the norm? Sounds funny right? Why? Why not use Folks (more inclusive) as the gender neutral term?

Every time – every time – I am amongst women and someone calls us ‘guys’, I look around to see where the men are and wonder why I’m being excluded. What about ‘all men are created equal’? or ‘manpower’ and ‘mankind’? that are accepted as gender neutral, but the term ‘feminism’ (is defined as ‘equality between the sexes’) remains a term to be avoided because it’s ‘about women’?

And how did wearing pants become gender neutral? Generally, men don’t have an option to wear skirts – i.e. if conforming company attire for, say, McDonalds or the USPO, would be that everyone wore skirts? See what I mean? The assumption that ‘male’ equals gender neutral stops us from creatively discovering something new that’s both/and.

What about pronouns in books. Why are they almost always male? Do men realize what it’s like to read only masculine pronouns in books, newspapers, articles? Every time I pick up something to read – every time – I have to adjust. Dammit! I’m not a HE, or isn’t this book for me?

In my own books I alternate pronouns between odd and even chapters. A reader once wrote me to ask why all the pronouns in the entire book were female. “Such a good book otherwise,” he wrote. “Very annoying.” He was so annoyed by half the chapters with ‘she’ that he didn’t even notice that the other half were ‘he’. And yes, we refer to doctors and other professionals as ‘he’ although law schools, medical schools, etc. enroll 51% women.

This presumption that male is preferred overlooks women of every profession. It’s been proven in books, scientific research, for decades that women managers provide better results; women directors, artists, consultants, negotiators, bring an emotional honesty and innovation that doesn’t exist with men. And the patients of women doctors get healthy more quickly with fewer relapses. Why is this still a thing?

What is it that makes someone with a penis automatically better, smarter, more trustworthy, more creative or worth more money? Don’t even get me started on why having a vagina means we don’t like getting paid for our work, or look forward to unwanted sexual advances.

TO SAY OR NOT TO SAY

From my earliest memory – certainly in the decades I’ve been an adult – I’ve had to find ways to manage the disrespect, the condescension, the belittlement, I often feel from men when in conversation, especially when I share feelings. Recently a man ended a partnership with me when I told him I was annoyed and felt disrespected because he canceled four meetings (FOUR!) within an hour of the start time! I doubt that would have occurred had I been male.

Should I shut my mouth and stay silent (the route most women take given it’s such a frequent occurrence), express my annoyance, or turn off my feelings so the disrespect doesn’t get to me? Do I say something in the hopes that it will make a difference – that the dolt speaking to me might not do it to the next woman – and risk being put down? My self-talk sounds like this: “Idiot. Does he realize he just insulted me? Is he mean? or just stupid? Is he worthy of my energy to share my feelings and maybe teach him something or if I do, will he recognize what he’s done? or be a jerk and put me down?” Until now, I’ve walked away and ended our connection.

It’s a sad commentary that the baseline, endemic assumption is that women will bend to a man. And if she doesn’t like it and says something about it, she gets shunned, made fun of, tattled on, put down, beaten, berated, excluded, called a nasty name; men prefer to defend their actions rather than think they might have harmed someone, or be wrong.

But I’m done with making excuses for men. If someone hurts my feelings or offends me, I now say something. Silence has been our enemy. I am silent no more. I now speak my truth directly, without blame: the good ones say ‘Sorry’. The rest, I don’t need.

I think the tide may be shifting. Women are speaking up now and many men are listening. But the male bias is deeply, deeply built in to our culture, relationships, child care (How many men know their kids’ shoe size? Their kid’s upcoming school trips?), our work lives.

Here’s an exemplary story: While hiking in Bend, OR recently I came upon a family who had stopped to look at the view. On the right stood a woman, two teenage daughters, and a dog. About 15 feet away was the man. The woman stopped me and asked if I’d take a picture of the family. Sure. At which point this conversation ensued:

MAN turning to his family members: Hey, why don’t you all come over here?

SDM at the point in my life when I say what I want: You’re entire family is over there. Why don’t you just move yourself over to them? Why should they all move over to you?

DAUGHTER: Right on, sister.

MAN in utter confusion, seriously: What??

WIFE: I’ll explain it to you later, Joe. Ma’am, he has a hard time when he’s not the center of everything. And after all these years we’ve been married, and all the conversations with the women in his life, I have no idea why he still thinks he is. Men are just a different species.

They’ve had that conversation many times, and yet there it is still. The expectation, beyond all logic, that an entire family – and dog! – would move 15 feet because the person ‘over there’ was male.

How sad that so much creativity is lost, so many relationships damaged, so many works of art and innovations and services that never get created; so much possibility of learning and growing and caring and supporting each other through this maze of life because of our culturally ingrained assent that all things male are the standardized choice.

WHAT DOES RESPECTFUL COMMUNICATION SOUND LIKE?

For those of you who may not be aware of some of the things that might make the women in your life feel less-than, I will share some of the comments and questions I regularly hear. And note: I lived in Europe for six years where men spoke to me with egalitarian, respectful, authentic communication.

I was shocked on return at the level of condescension, the use of words of mistrust, skepticism and degradation that’s built into – and accepted! – our daily communication. I had lived with it so long that it had become part of my life experience. Only with six years away did my ‘new’ ears hear the disrespect. When I told my seatmate on the plane coming back that I had started up a tech company and an international non-profit he replied, “Yeah? You and who else?”

Even now, as a well-known, well-respected author of several bestsellers, inventor, entrepreneur, etc. my intelligence and ability are regularly questioned. Here are a smattering of phrases I hear regularly:

Do you really think you can do that? or Don’t you think you need help with that? or Are you sure you don’t need help? * Did you do it yourself? * That dress really makes you look sexy.* Just scroll down and hit ‘enter’ – it’s right there in front of you.* That’s pretty good – did you come up with that yourself? * Calling you a girl is a complement – chill out! * You took it the wrong way; get over it.* Here you go, young lady (Spoken by much younger man: my response is always “I’m neither.” I’m not young, and who the hell wants to be a lady?) * We didn’t forget you – we just thought you might not be interested in that sort of thing and we knew John could catch you up. You don’t mind, right? * Oh! You know about boats/math/science/computers… etc.! Huh! * Seriously? You can do that? – and what is your background? * You write books? Do you write them on your own, or do you have a ghost writer? * Where are your footnotes…what do you mean ‘original thinking’ – that’s impossible.* It’s all in your head. * You won’t go out with me??? Dyke. * You look a bit tired; do you need a break? * I hope you don’t mind that I used your term – I’m sure you don’t mind if there’s no attribution. * I know you think your way works, but let’s use the conventional format, shall we?

Women live with this daily. There’s this all pervasive, underlying, endemic assumption that we’re not creative or smart, not to be believed, trusted, or acknowledged, that we don’t know/can’t know, or that we won’t care if we’re left out, ignored, made small, or paid less. Why is it still a thing to pay women less? Why?

There hasn’t been a day in my life that I haven’t had at least one conversation that would never have occurred if I were a man. The language is different, the tone might be snide or pejorative, the assumptions patronizing even if the men mean well.

One man actually went out of his way recently to send me an email re an article I wrote on some of my original thinking: “Well, you’re just full of yourself, now, aren’t you!” My answer, of course, was ‘Yup.’ I doubt he would have sent that note to a man. He might have thought it, but wouldn’t have sent it. Does possessing a vagina mean that I don’t mind being insulted?

COMMUNICATION

For too long our tribal norms have normalized condescension and sexuality: assumptions of inequality has been built into our culture. I believe men aren’t speaking this way purposefully, and the majority of men trust and respect women. But it’s time to change the language to reflect this. Let’s start with how conversations should sound and what we should aspire to:

  1. A collaborative communication – what I call a WE Space – between both Communication Partners (CPs) that has no leader, no follower. Both/And. No right or wrong, better or worse, smarter or dumber. Both and neither partner are in control. Everyone is equal. No put-downs or slights. Every exchange includes the feelings of the Other. A Recognition and openness to emerging ideas, feelings, problems without defense should something need resolving. No fault – just willingness to get it right for both CPs. Everyone enters the conversation with no goal other than to be collaborative and serve the other. And if something specific needs to emerge from the conversation, it must be agreed to by all parties at the beginning of the conversation. [NOTE: I teach this in corporations. It’s astounding how many men, even CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, aren’t aware of their communication biases. And yes, it’s changing. But it remains a struggle.]
  2. Listening biases that assume a positive outcome, not an assumed conflict that starts with an ear readied to be ‘right’ if challenged by a woman. Men: women very often feel conversations include words and attitudes that make us wrong, weak, or silly, giving men permission to step in with disparaging demeanor, words, insults, and be ‘right’. It’s inherent in language and attitude choices and often not obvious to you. It’s all been normalized – but we women always, always notice.
  3. The belief that everyone is equal, that everyone’s ideas are valid, that everyone’s work is meaningful, that people are generally honest.
  4. The time between exchanges to notice a shift in voice, tone, tempo, volume that might connote a problem that creates a pulling away from engagement.
  5. The ability to check yourself if thoughts of intelligence, sexuality, competition arise.
  6. The willingness to ask if there’s a problem, or apologize when necessary.
  7. The willingness to not get your individual needs met if the conversation takes a different turn than expected.

I believe that behaviors are merely a translation of our beliefs. Since our language is one form of behaving, I’d like to pose a few questions to men to help begin considering change:

  • What would you need to believe differently to be willing to examine your own unconscious attitudes in case you might be harboring some imbalances? How will you know (given your normalized and habituated communication) there’s a problem?
  • In case your internal exploration shows no problems, would you be willing to request feedback from 3 women as per your communication patterns?
  • What would collaborative, respectful conversations sound like? And what, specifically, might you need to change to achieve this?

Play with listening filters. Using these 5 words – Why Did You Do That – ‘listen’ to them in your head as if they were said by 1. A close female – wife, partner; 2. A female colleague; 3. Your mother; 4. A male colleague; 5. Your father. What are the differences in tone, expectation, assumed meaning, feeling? If you notice any, write them down. [NOTE: in my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I have many fun exercises to highlight listening biases and assumptions.]

Thinking about entering conversations with women:

  1. What are your expectations re your own takeaways going in to the call/conversation? Expectations such as being collaborative, or getting your own objectives met, etc. Write them down.
  2. Listen for shifts in a colleague’s speech patterns. When a shift occurs following something you’ve said, stop the conversation and ask your Communication Partner if something happened, and if there was something you inadvertently said that needs to be examined.
  3. Go into a Starbucks, or other coffee shop, and overhear a few conversations that you can hear well enough to mentally code. Notice the flow, the words, the tone; notice when shifts occur in topics. See if you can tell if there were shifts that might have been initiated by male-dominated biases built in. Listen to conversations between women only, men only. And mixed. What are the differences between types of words used, underlying and unspoken messages, between the three.

Here are some easy phrases to use:

That dress is pretty. It suits you.

I am so excited to learn you know how to do that! I’d love to learn how at some point.

Your ideas are so profound! Well done! I’d love to hear more. Given some of my ideas are more traditional, I’d like to ask some questions so I can add to what I already know.

Oh my! I hadn’t meant to speak in a way that you find patronizing. I apologize. Would you mind telling me exactly what it was you heard and tell me how I can say it differently so I can learn to not do it again? Thanks.

Seems you’re not able to get X up on your computer. There should be a ‘submit’ button near the bottom somewhere. It might be hidden on your screen. It’s up there somewhere I think.

My bias is that we communicate kindly and respectfully, that women get treated like capable, creative humans, that men are merely the other gender – not better or worse, smarter or dumber. I believe we’re all here to serve each other, life being what it is. Let’s not use our gender to separate us. And men, if you’re not sure what to say, here’s the rule: they only barometer for acceptable is integrity.

_____________________________

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

September 19th, 2022

Posted In: Communication

2 Comments

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

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

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

WHAT IS FAILURE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE STEPS TO FAILING CONSCIOUSLY

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

How of Change

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

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

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

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

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

THE STEPS TO CONSCIOUS FAILING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________________________

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

September 5th, 2022

Posted In: Change Management, Communication

The only time I ever stole anything I was 11 years old. A group of us girls pledged to do the very naughty thing we knew we weren’t supposed to do and steal one item from the local pharmacy. To this day I remember sidling up to the lipstick counter, putting my right arm behind me, looking around to make sure no one would notice my dastardly deed, then grabbing whatever my hand landed on – a $2.98 lipstick.

Once the deed was done and we were outside, we compared our bounty.  The other newly-minted thieves seemed quite proud of themselves. They were now, after all, officially Bad Girls. Me? I felt so guilty that when I got my first babysitting money years later I ran into the store and left three crumpled one-dollar bills on the counter and ran out.

I never even wore the lipstick. I’ve never even liked lipstick! Hated the feel of it on my lips – like a sheet of rubber. Ewwww. So I never wanted to wear it. My friends thought I was crazy. It was a sign of maturity, after all. Grown-up women wore lipstick, and of course we all wanted to be grownups. Even my mother got into the act when I was 16 going to proms and parties, telling me I wasn’t ‘finished’ without it.

THE ONE

Over the decades, I’ve amassed hundreds – drawers full – of once-used lipsticks, always seeking the ONE I could tolerate. But no matter the price, the brand, the color, they all felt like rubber.

And then I found it. THE ONE perfect lipstick: perfect color, stayed on forever no matter what I ate, was light and didn’t feel like leather. Perfect. Finally, a finished face my mother would love.

But for the last month it’s not been available. Nowhere, no how. Online. Every store. Nope. I was frantic. What if they were going to remove this from their line? I finally got accustomed to having a finished face!

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE EVER

Yesterday, walking downtown Portland, I decided to go into a Target and give it a try. And there it was!!!! OMG. Such happiness! HAPPY!!!! I brought the three they had and went to the cash register. Here was the conversation:

SD: I’M SO HAPPY I FOUND THESE I HAVEN’T BEEN ABLE TO FIND THEM ANYWHERE I’M SO HAPPY!

CLERK: I’m so glad we had what you needed. Let me do a price check and see if I can make you even happier.

SD: But I’m already REALLY happy! So happy!

CLERK: And I can make you REALLY REALLY happy because I can save you $2.00 on each! So glad you could make ME really happy today!

I must admit the frustrated month I spent trying to find the lipstick was worth it just for this exchange. And it brought up some questions. Why didn’t other cashiers in other stores take this extra initiative? Did Target know she was saying that?

I’ve never had that experience in other Targets. Was it just this woman who took this initiative? With just me or with everyone? Was she trained to do that? Why aren’t all customer-facing folks trained to do this sort of thing? Do employers even know what their employees are saying to clients and customers? It leads me to wonder:

  • How many of our customer-facing staff want to make customers really REALLY happy?
  • How many of our customer-facing staff are ready and willing to go out of their way to truly serve a customer when their job isn’t dependent on it and no one will know if they do or not?
  • Do we really know what our client-facing, customer-facing employees are saying to our clients and customers?

Indeed. Are the employees serving clients? Or getting caught up in their own personalities and might not be serving the company? Are we losing business and actually harming people because some sellers or customer service reps are being less than helpful?

THE LOBOTOMY CAUGHT ON TAPE

Most managers have no idea what their employees say. After being hired, folks are generally trusted to say the right thing, to represent the company professionally. But do they?

During the course of my Buying Facilitation® training I have learners tape conversations and send them to me. Some have been pretty shocking. I played one particularly inexplicable one to a client as a seller went on (and on and on) about how she needed a lobotomy, how it would certainly improve her memory and probably make her a nicer person. She was selling phone services! The manager’s response was chilling: “My God, I have no idea what my sellers are saying to clients.”

So how, exactly, are your sellers, your customer service reps, the help desk folks, the cashiers, your admin, speaking to your customers? What are they saying? And how will you know?

___________________________

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.

August 15th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, Listening

With untold millions of sales professionals in the world, sellers play a role in any economy: sellers are uniquely positioned to make a difference. As the intermediary between clients and providers, sales can be a spiritual practice, with sellers becoming true facilitators and Servant Leaders (and close more sales).

WHAT’S WRONG WITH SALES?

The current sales model is a time-waster, restricts success, and is horribly inefficient. Sellers close 5% of prospects and waste 95% of their time (approximately 130 hours a month per seller); product data is well-represented online so pitches based on product details may be irrelevant; sellers connect with only those who are ready to buy, and ignore the possibility of facilitating and serving people en route to becoming buyers.

Until people have tried, and failed, to fix their problem themselves, and then figured out how to manage any disruption that a new solution might cause their environment,  they aren’t buyers. It’s only when:

  • they know exactly how to manage and recognize any change that bringing in something new creates,
  • they’ve tried to fix the problem themselves and failed,
  • they get buy-in from whomever will touch the final solution,
  • they’ve calculated that the cost of bringing in something new is lower than the cost of maintaining the status quo,

will they seek help through a purchase. Indeed, buying is a change management problem before it’s a solution choice issue.

People don’t want to buy anything, they merely seek to resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ (risk) to their system. And the sales model, using eyeballs, content, price, and needs assessments seeks to place solutions, ensuring that the only people they find are the low hanging fruit. Indeed: selling doesn’t cause buying. Sales focuses on only the final steps of a buying decision and overlooks the change process necessary for would-be prospects to even self-identify as buyers.

In fact, even if folks eventually need a seller’s solution, until they understand how to manage the change a new solution would generate, they won’t heed our outreach, regardless of their need or the efficacy of the solution. As a result, sellers with needed and worthwhile solutions end up wasting a helluva lot of time being ignored and rejected.

It’s not the solution being sold that’s the problem, it’s the process of pushing solutions rather than first helping those who will become buyers facilitate their necessary change process that’s mistimed and misguided, leading to the win-lose quality of sales: sales becomes a product/solution push into a closed, resistive system, rather than an expansive, collaborative experience between seller and buyer wherein both attain trust and a win-win.

As a result, sellers end up seeking and closing only those ready to buy at the point of contact – unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready yet, may need our solutions, and just need to get their ducks in a row before they’re prepared to make a decision.

Imagine having a product-needs discussion about moving an iceberg and discussing only the tip. That’s sales; it doesn’t facilitate the entire range of hidden, unique change issues buyers must consider – having nothing to do with solutions – before they could buy anything. Failure is built in.

But when sellers begin conversations at the point where people are considering change, and lead them through change management before selling, sellers can truly facilitate them through all of the issues they must resolve (even those that aren’t obvious), have all stakeholders in the loop from the start, and help them figure out how to address the disruption of bringing in a new solution. Then sellers become true servant leaders, inspire trust, and close more sales.

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

Seller’s restricted focus on placing solutions, listening for needs (which cannot be fully known until the full change management process is complete) rather than for ability to serve, all but insures that kindness, respect, and true facilitation are unwittingly overlooked. A major factor is the one-sided communication based on the needs of the seller:

  1. Prospecting/cold calling – driven by sellers who pose biased questions to allegedly gather information as an excuse to offer solution details. It ignores the unique behind-the-scenes change issues each prospect faces and enlists only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who will buy – real buyers! – once they’re ready. Wholly seller-centric.
  2. Content marketing – driven by the seller to push the ‘right’ data into the ‘right’ hands at the ‘right’ time according to their biased interpretations of ‘right’, but really only a push into the unknown and a hope for action. Wholly seller-centric.
  3. Deals, cold-call pushes, negotiation, objection-handling, closing techniques, getting to ‘the’ decision maker, price-reductions – all assuming buyers would buy if they understood their need/the solution/their problem, all overlooking the real connection and service capability of addressing the person’s most pressing change issues. Wholly seller-centric.
  4. Real communication involves each communication partner, in this case a buyer and a seller, being equally served; sellers can facilitate buyers through their private change management issues first as they travel towards a purchase thereby facilitating Buyer Readiness, AND developing a win/win connection, AND closing more sales. Win-win.

I’ve been a seller, trainer, consultant, and sales coach since the 1970s, been a buyer as founder of a tech start up 1983-1988, and have personally worked with dozens of global corporations and untold thousands of sellers. I see sales as a near-predatory job: sellers spend their time seeking and following, pitching and positioning, networking and calling to find those few set up to buy something, and ignoring a large population of potential buyers who merely aren’t ready, but could be with true facilitation.

Selling is fraught with guesswork and hope, manipulation and persuasion, white lies and exaggerations – not to mention highly ineffective when the time spent vs sales closed ratio is examined.

Not only are we wasting time pushing/chasing folks deemed prospects (A real prospect is one who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy; the current sales model doesn’t know the difference.), but the nature of the client’s environments causes closing to take 30% longer. And the ubiquitous nature of the internet makes most pitches and presentations moot. In fact, buyers often know more than sellers.

Sales unwittingly ignores the real problem: it’s in the buying, not the selling. The sales model’s focus on placing solutions keeps sellers from using their positions as knowledge experts and Leaders to facilitate buyers down their own path to excellence.

Truth is, sellers can never know all the elements that have created and maintained a prospect’s status quo, or what needs to happen internally for them to be ready to make a purchase. And here is where sellers can truly serve. Sellers can facilitate the buying decision/change management path to help folks discover what a congruent fix looks like, and in the process create trust, respect, and serving.

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

Indeed, the job of ‘sales’ as merely a solution-placement vehicle is short-sighted.

  1. Buyers can find products online. They don’t need sellers to understand the features and benefits.
  2. The solution isn’t the problem – it’s the buyer’s behind-the-scenes timing, buy-in from those who will touch the solution, and change management process that gums up the works.
  3. 80% of prospects will buy our solution (but not necessarily from that particular seller at that moment in time) within two years of our connection.
  4. The lion’s share of the buying decision (9 out of the 13 step decision path) involves buyers traversing internal change with no thoughts of buying (they don’t even self-identify as buyers!) anything until there’s consensus.

It’s possible to truly serve clients AND close more sales, by adding a Buying Facilitation® capability that leads the steps of change, expands entry points into the buy cycle, makes the buying decision process much more efficient and makes sales a spiritual practice (that closes dramatically more sales in a fraction of the time). Here’s my definition of ‘spiritual’:

  • the whole is greater than the parts;
  • we’re all here to serve each other;
  • everyone has their own unique excellence;
  • no one has an answer for someone else.

Different from sales, which

  • purpose to be win/win but often is ‘win-lose’,
  • believes the parts might be greater than the whole,
  • causes buyers to feel pushed with content and contacts,
  • considers their solution the ‘right’ answer,
  • only addresses the tail end of a larger (and unknowable to outsiders) system of rules, internal politics, relationships, and status quo.

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

Win-win means both sides get what they need in equal measure. Sellers believe that placing product or resolving a problem offers an automatic win-win but that’s not wholly accurate.

Buying isn’t as simple as choosing a solution; buyers first must resolve the entire system that created and maintains their problem (problems never occur uniquely). The very last thing they want is to buy anything, regardless of their apparent need. As outsiders sellers can’t know the tangles of people and policies that hold a problem/need in place. The time it takes them to design a congruent solution that includes buy-in and change management is the length of their sales cycle. Buyers need to do this anyway; it’s the length of the sales cycle.

If sellers begin by finding those on route to buying and help them efficiently traverse their internal struggles, sellers can help them get to the ‘need/purchase’ decision more quickly and be part of the solution – win-win.

Sellers waste a valuable opportunity to facilitate buying by only wanting to sell. If we enter earlier, work with them as Buying Facilitators to help them facilitate their change, sellers can capture and serve more real prospects, and spend less time trying to convert those who aren’t yet buyers.

Believe it or not it becomes a very efficient process and great time saver: no more chasing those who will never close; no more turning off those who will eventually seek our solution; no more gathering incomplete data from one person with partial answers.

Sellers can find and enable those who can/should buy to buy in half the time and sell more product – and very quickly know the difference between them and those who can never buy. Win-win. [All the change issues buyers must address are in my book Dirty Little Secrets].

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

  • The buyer and the system the buyer lives in, including people, policies, job titles, egos, relationships, politics, layers of management, rules, etc. that no one on the outside will ever understand and are focused on excellence, not on buying anything. It’s never as simple as just changing out the problem for a new product; their focus is to have the best situation possible and will buy a solution only when they’re certain they can’t fix their own problem.
  • Resolving the problem needs full internal buy-in from the system before being willing to change (i.e. buy) regardless of the efficacy of the fix. A purchase is not necessarily their best solution even if it looks like a fit to a seller.
  • The ability of the buyer to manage the disruption that a new purchase would incur on the system, people, and policies. A fix, or purchase, might be worse than the problem.
  • The seller and the seller’s product may/may not fit in the buyer’s environment due to idiosyncratic, political, or rules-based issues, regardless of the need.
  • The purchase and implementation and follow up that includes buy-in from all who will experience a potentially disruptive change if a new solution enters and shifts their job routines.
  • The sum of these parts is the whole; seller and buyer can work together to facilitate systemic change first. Surprisingly, this is a very quick process, uncovering real prospects almost immediately. Win-win for all.

We are all here to serve each other

Sellers understand enough about the systems in their areas of expertise to help buyers traverse their change route that could lead to a sale. With an entry point of systems excellence rather than solution placement, buyers immediately recognize the benefits from a collaboration with the seller and are happy to invite sellers onto their decision team and not seek other competitors. Win-win. The Facilitative Question I developed for Wachovia’s Small Business Banker’s cold calls helped prospects immediately realize a problem they had to resolve rather than say ‘No’ to an appointment request:

“How are you currently adding banking resources to the bank you’re currently using for those times you seek additional support?”

With no disrespect, no push, no information gathering or asking for an appointment, this Facilitative Question above (as one of several asked in a specific sequence, using specific words) merely pointed to the problem they might have to resolve over time. [Note: I invented Facilitative Questions to lead brains through to change, rather than conventional questions that elicit biased data.] The results were astounding: against 100 prospecting calls and a control group: 10% appointments vs 27%; 2 closes in 11 months vs 19 closes in 3 months; we facilitated discovery immediately and served: we actually helped folks figure out their own configuration for change. And we only visited those who could close.

One more note: people are happy to buy in a short time frame once they know, and figure out how to manage, the full set of change issues they’ll have to deal with (Fire a team? Retrain users? Get rid of software they’ve used for years?). As I’ve said above, they must do this before they can buy. And sellers’ aren’t helping them. But they could. And truly serve them in the process.

There is no right answer

Sellers often believe that buyers are idiots for not making speedy decisions, or for not buying an ‘obvious’ solution. But sales offers no skills or motive to enter earlier where buyers are not at the point of even knowing if – let alone what – they might buy. Let’s expand the definition of a buying decision as the route down the 13-step path from the status quo through to congruent change. Includes the people, policies, relationships, and history – the systems issues that ensure Systems Congruence – that maintain the status quo and must be addressed before they consider buying anything.

Once buyers figure out their congruent route to change, they won’t have objections, will close themselves, and there’s no competition: buyers are the ones with the ‘right answer’; sellers facilitate change management first and then sell once everything is in place. No call backs and follow up and ignored calls. Win-win.

No one has anyone else’s answer

By adding Buying Facilitation®, everyone focuses on uncovering the right questions. Collaborative decisions get made that will serve everyone.

Let’s change the focus: instead relegating sales to a product/solution placement endeavor, let’s add the job of facilitation to first find people en route to becoming buyers, then lead them through to their own type of ‘excellence’ through their internal change process first, and then using the sales model when they’ve become buyers. Then buyers make better, quicker, more congruent decisions – with more/quicker sales, less tire-kickers, better differentiation, and no competition, and sales close in half the time.

THE NEW WAY

As a seller and an entrepreneur (I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in 1983), I realized that sales ignored the buying decision problem and developed Buying Facilitation® to add to sales as a Pre-Sales tool.

Buyers get to their answers eventually; the time this takes is the length of the sales cycle, and selling doesn’t cause buying. Once I developed this model for my sellers to use, we made their process far more efficient with an 8x increase in sales – a number consistently reproduced against control groups with my global training clients over the following decades.

Buying Facilitation® adds a new capability and level of expertise and becomes a part of the decision process from the first call. Make money and make nice.

Sellers no longer need to lose prospects because they’re not ready, or cognizant of their need. They can become intermediaries between their clients and their companies; use their positions to efficiently help buyers manage internal change congruently, without manipulation; use their time to serve those who WILL buy – and know this on the first contact – and stop wasting time on those who will never buy. It’s time for sellers to use their knowledge and care to serve buyers and their companies in a win-win. Let’s make sales a spiritual practice.

____________

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.    

August 8th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

What if most of our viewpoints, interpretations and assumptions are so unconsciously biased that we unwittingly restrict our ability to accurately understand, or act on, incoming information? And what’s accuracy anyway?

Our brains are the culprit, as they set the stage for the way we make sense of the world. With historic and automatic circuits that instruct our thoughts and actions, we don’t question what our brains tell us, what seems to be reasonable or wrong.

Responding from our historic personal norms and beliefs, we instinctively assume our perceptions, actions, interpretations, are based on reality. But we invent our own reality. As David Eagleman says in The Brain,

 

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

Our brains actually restrict us to hearing, understanding, and learning what’s comfortable and acceptable, causing deep seated biases. Our subjectivity maintains us. At all costs.

SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY

As a result of how our brains instruct our actions and thoughts and interpret incoming data, we live our lives subjectively, based on our personal, unique, and idiosyncratic beliefs, assumptions, and norms. We think we’re making good choices when we choose or consider one thing vs another, when we easily reject something because it makes no sense or annoys us. Or worse, when it’s ‘obvious’ to us that one thing should be valued differently than another.

We like to think we’re able to be objective. I’m here to tell you, we’re not.

The Wikipedia definition of objectivity is “… the elimination of subjective perspectives and … purely based on hard facts.” And “a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice.” But is this possible? What are ‘hard facts’ when our brain rejects them as faulty? When our brains determine what ‘reality’ is? I suggest that objectivity is only slightly less biased than subjectivity.

Indeed, it’s pretty impossible to experience or interpret most anything without bias. We act, make decisions and choices, communicate with others, raise children and have friends, all from a small range of favored, habitual mental models that we’ve spent a lifetime culling and assume are accurate.

  • We hear and understand through our brain’s existent neural pathways, causing incoming information (incoming via electrical and chemical signals devoid of meaning) to flow down historic brain routes developed through a lifetime of beliefs, norms, experiences. Regardless of how ‘factual’ it is, when incoming data doesn’t jive with our existing beliefs, our brains ‘do us a favor’ and resist and re-interpret whatever falls outside of what we ‘know’ to be true. Obviously, anything new has a good chance of not being understood accurately. Bias is just cooked in; we don’t even think twice about trusting our intuition or natural reasoning.
  • Whether we’re in a conversation, listening to media, or even reading, we listen through biased filters, and hear what our brains tell us was said – likely to be X% different from the intended message. Unless we develop new neural pathways for the new incoming data, we will only hear what our brains are already comfortable with.

Indeed, our worlds are very tightly controlled by our unconscious and habituated biases, making it quite difficult to objectively hear or understand new idea-based incoming information that is different. It takes quite a bit of work to act beyond our perceptions.

WHY CAN’T WE BE OBJECTIVE?

Each of us interpret incoming messages uniquely. Have you ever spoken with folks who believe that ‘9/11’, or the moon landing, was a hoax or conspiracy? What about people who smoke, and interpret the health data uniquely, believing that because their grandfather smoked until he died at 95 that it’s not going to happen to them? Objectivity is not, well, objective. Here’s what happens: Sometimes

  • the way the new information comes in to us – the words used, the setting, the history between the communication partners, the distance between what’s being said and our current beliefs – cause us to unconsciously misinterpret bits of data;
  • we have no natural way of recognizing an incongruity between the incoming information and our unconscious thoughts;
  • our brain deletes some of the signals from incoming messages when they are discordant with what’s already there, without giving us the deletions to let us know what we missed (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?explains and corrects this problem.);
  • our beliefs are so strong we react automatically without having enough detachment to notice;
  • what we think is objective is often merely a habitual choice.

We each live in worlds of our own making. We choose friends and neighborhoods according to our beliefs and how our ears interpret ‘facts’, choose professions according to our likes and predispositions, raise our kids with the same norms and beliefs that we hold. In other words, we’ve created rather stable – certainly comfortable – worlds for ourselves that we fight to maintain regardless of how our biases may distort.

When communicating with others, ‘objective facts’ might get lost in subjectivity. In business we connect with different viewpoints and attempt to convince other’s of our ‘rightness’, and either they don’t believe us or they feel we’ve made them ‘wrong’. Our children learn stuff in school that we might find objectionable regardless of its veracity, or we might disagree with teachers who have different interpretations of our child’s behavior. What about the ‘fake news’ claims these days? What, exactly is true? I contend the difference between ‘fake news’ and factual reporting is in our perceptions. Either can be objective or subjective given our underlying biases, and separate from the ‘reality’ of facts.

And of course, most scientific facts we deem ‘objective truth’ may just be opinions. Folks like Curie, Einstein, Hawking, and Tesla were considered to be cranks because their ideas flew in the face of objective science that turned out to be nothing more than decades and centuries of perceived wisdom/opinions.

The problem shows up in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes there’s no way to separate out objective fact from subjective belief, regardless of the veracity.

I remember when my teenage son came home with blue hair one day. Thinking of what his teachers would say (This was in 1985!) or his friend’s parents, I wanted to scream. Instead I requested that next time he wanted to do something like that to please discuss it with me first, and then told him it looked great (It actually was a terrific color!). But his father went nuts when he came to pick him up, screaming at both of us (“What kind of a mother lets her son dye his hair blue!!!”), and taking him directly to the barber to shave his head. For me, it was merely hair. Objective reality.

CASE STUDY IN OBJECTIVITY VS SUBJECTIVITY

I once visited a friend in the hospital where I began a light conversations with the elderly orderly helping her sit up and eat. During our chat, the orderly asked me if I could mentor him. Um… Well, I was busy. Please! he begged. Not knowing what I could add to his life and having a bias that folks who asked me to mentor them just wanted me to give them money, I reluctantly, doubtfully, said ok.

He emailed me and invited me to dinner. Um… well, ok. I’d donate one night. He lived in a tiny room in a senior living center, on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. It was very clean and neat, and he had gone out of his way to prepare the best healthy dinner he knew how to offer. Shrimp cocktail. Nice salad. Hamburger and beans. Ice cream. During dinner he played some lovely music. Just lovely. I was transfixed. Who is that playing, I asked.

“It’s me. I wrote that piece, and I’m playing all the instruments. I have several CDs of music I’ve composed and self-produced. Can you help me find someone who might want to hear it and do something with it? I’ve never met anyone who could help me.” I helped him find folks who helped him professionally record at least two of his compositions.

By any ‘objective’ measure, using my own subjective biases and ignoring the objective truth that we’re all equal and everyone is capable of having talent, I didn’t initially consider that someone ‘like that’ (old, black, poor, uneducated) had the enormous talent this man possessed, regardless of my advocacy of non-bias and gender/race equality.

Unwittingly, we seriously restrict our worlds the way we process incoming data. We live subjective lives that restrict us. And as a result, we end up having arguments, misunderstandings, failed initiatives; we end up having a smaller pool of ideas to think with and don’t see a need for further research or checking; we make faulty assumptions about people and ideas that could bring benefits to our lives. I personally believe it’s necessary for us to remove as many restrictions as possible to our pool of knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO COMPENSATE

To recognize bias and have a new choice, we must first recognize the necessity of noticing when something we believe may not be true, regardless of how strong our conviction otherwise. It’s quite difficult to do using the same biases that caused us to unconsciously bias in the first place.

Here’s a tip to help expand your normalized perception and notice a much broader range of givens, or ‘reality,’ to view an expanded array of options from a Witness or Coach or Observer position on the ceiling:

  1. Sit quietly. Think of a situation that ended with you misinterpreting something and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Replay it through your mind’s eye. Pay particular attention to your feelings as you relive each aspect of the situation. Replay it again.
  2. Notice where your body has pain, discomfort, or annoyance points.
  3. As soon as you notice, intensify the feeling at the site of the discomfort. Then impart a color on it. Make the color throb.
  4. Mentally move that color inside your body to the outer edges of your eyeballs and make the color vibrate in your eyes.
  5. When you mentally notice the color vibration, make sure you sit back in your chair or stand up. Then move your awareness up to the ceiling (i.e. in Witness or Observer position) and look down at yourself. From above you’ll notice an expanded range of data points and options outside your standard ones, causing you to physiologically evade your subjective choices.

Since the difference between subjectivity and objectivity is one of perception, and in general our brains make our determinations unconsciously, we must go to the place in our brains that cause us to perceive, and make it conscious. Only then can we have any objective choice. And next time we think we’re being objective, maybe rethink the situation to consider whether new choices are needed.

___________________________

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

July 11th, 2022

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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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


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

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.

______________________________________

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

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