My friend Jack’s boss recently visited his team berating them for the output of their year-long project undertaken at his behest – and then walked out. Feeling disrespected and unmotivated, the team became despondent. As a senior manager Jack was left with the responsibility of re-incentivizing and inspiring the team and getting them back on track. But no one was there to incentivize him. After several such situations he began putting his creative energies into a beloved personal project.

I asked Jack what happened once he’d had a private word with the boss to discuss how his actions impeded the team’s creativity. Nope. No discussion. Jack said it happens all the time and he would have faced rebuke had he mentioned it.

Jack would have been the one censured?? Why would an upper manager wittingly disincentivize the team? Why would an entire culture be willing to disincentivize their employees? Why was disrespect condoned?

I believe that employees are a company’s first customer; why would companies prefer to not serve their employees as respectfully as they served paying customers?

WHY?

No one takes a job thinking they’ll experience verbal abuse that causes

  • Impeded creativity
  • Diminished loyalty
  • Reduced innovation
  • Anger and resentment
  • Distrust for management
  • Disincentive to learn and grow.

Indeed, we spend a large chunk of our lives working; we choose jobs where we can be our happiest, most creative and engaged selves. And yet here is one of the world’s great tech companies systematically mistreating the very people they hired to help them grow and carry their brand as global innovators.

Not only is this morally offensive, it’s profoundly stupid, akin to shooting your sled dogs for an infraction during the Iditarod. Why would you want to damage your lifeline to success?

Of course this isn’t the first company that treats their employees like scrap. But for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would want to disrespect an employee (or anyone, for that matter).

The cost is so high, engendering less innovation, more turnaround and higher hiring/training costs (if anyone even wants to work for them once word gets out), bad press, and unhappy employees that go on to inadvertently treat the company’s customers with less respect as natural fallout. Not to mention they eventually fall behind companies with Servant Leader practices that work on win/win, respect, and integrity.

In the 1980s I set up my tech company so everyone could explore their dreams, ideas, and the excitement of possibility. And except for moving, no employees left during the 5 years I was there. Competitors told me at conferences that they offered to pay my folks double but they wouldn’t leave. “What’s your secret? What are you doing over there?” they’d say.

What I did was pretty simple: I took care of them. I respected them. I removed ‘vacation days’ and told them to take off the time they needed to stay refreshed (I had to make them leave a few times a year – I couldn’t get them to take time off.). As per company policy, everyone took one day off a month to do volunteer work; anyone wanting a newly created leadership role got a 2 week trial run to see if they wanted the job before I hired in a stranger (Most folks went back to their job so they’d have more time with their families.); I took the field techs to a pub monthly to keep connected; I hired a ’make nice guy’ to make sure the outside team had a dedicated person for both technical and client relationship support.

And it was part of the culture to be as creative as they liked so long as they got my help 3 feet before falling over the edge. I remember my surprise (We’re doing WHAT?) when my training director signed a one-year lease for 1,000 sq ft of extra space to create a new set of programs that became so popular we doubled our training business in a year. They even got me to train a management course! I would never have thought of it. My employees were Customer #1 and I trusted their ideas.

CONDONING DISRESPECT? DENIAL?

So it makes no logical sense to me why companies condone disrespect when they depend on their employees for their success. Maybe:

  • Weak leadership from the top;
  • Fear of upsetting the status quo;
  • Denial;
  • Ego;
  • A good-enough culture;
  • Normalization of disrespect among the leaders themselves;
  • Old-fashioned top-down power dynamics.

There’s just no ‘win’ in it. Years ago I was hired by a franchise owner to visit 11 of his companies around Europe to see what was going on. When I returned with my 75-page report, he had a check ready for me saying the job was done. But given the problems I unearthed, we had loads of work to do. What happened?

Peter: See that pond out there? Before you left the water was sparkling. Since your visits and the questions you posed to the companies, I can’t even see the water anymore. All the junk that was on the bottom is now on top.

SD: And your choice is to clean it up or get rid of me and let it sink back down so it goes back to being hidden.

Peter: Correct. It’s all been working well-enough, and I can’t tolerate what it would take to fix these problems.

SD: You really need to read my report because you’ve got a few serious problems. Paul is methodically stealing all your customers.

Peter: I’m sure it will be fine. I’ve been Paul’s mentor for years. He wouldn’t steal from me.

Six months later he went bankrupt when Paul took the customers. I assume Peter never read the report. Ego. Denial. Status quo. No ‘win’ in it at all.

NO, REALLY. WHY?

For a corporate culture to maintain standards that allow the sort of maltreatment that disincentivizes staff and decreases output, the entire leadership team must buy-in to abuse.

Given that people (employees!) thrive on kindness, respect, and positive attention – my goodness, even our brains experience increased well-being with the raised oxytocin from positive attention – why would a company prefer to continue discouraging the very people they need for success?

No, really. Why?

I’m going to pose some questions here in the hopes that companies make sure they notice and minimize any sort of practices that are less than encouraging, inspirational, supportive, and honest:

  • How will you know when anyone on the management team is lacking the skills to truly serve their reports in a way that inspires them to thrive? What is going on within the culture that protects managers who are less than respectful or inspirational?
  • What rules or standards are built into the company culture that give people permission to be less than respectful and supportive?
  • What is the risk if you create a culture that serves all and makes it undisputable that disrespect is not tolerated? What laws/rules must you put in place to foster respect, collaboration, and true leadership? And how do you encourage buy-in of these laws/rules?
  • How do you encourage whistleblowers and make sure they get heard without retribution? So folks understand that breaking the rules of respect and integrity will prompt quick dismissal?
  • How can you make sure that integrity is built into your hiring practices? Into supervisory skills?

I don’t have answers here, folks. I have no place in my brain that would understand why anyone would want to do that to another person, let alone a senior manager with reports he’s dependent on to expand their brand.

For now, let’s just think about the questions and start a conversation. Let me know your thoughts: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_____________________________

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

February 28th, 2022

Posted In: News

I hate unrequested ‘feedback’. Personally, when I want to better myself, I seek feedback from folks whose opinions I trust. But sometimes, when I do something that annoys someone else, they take it upon themselves to offer me ‘feedback’ to tell me what I did ‘wrong,’ too often based on beliefs we don’t share.

Given we could all benefit from positive feedback once in a while, I would like to propose ways to offer respectful feedback as part of a servant-leader model.

I’ll begin with a story. I recently shared an annoyance with a group of friends and was quite surprised to be met with silence. I did get one helpful comment afterwards:

“If the time comes you ever want to learn how to get the group’s attention in a way that they can hear and respond, I’d be happy to offer suggestions. I’ve been a member of the group for a long time and they have a certain pattern to their sharing. I’m here if you need me.”

To me, that’s great feedback. Gives me information and choice, not to mention a great resource to learn from; no blame, no insult, no assumptions, no bias. And he trusted me to discover my own timing for learning. Win/Win/Win.

SOMEONE IS MADE WRONG

These days it seems acceptable for one person (the Giver) to tell another (the Receiver) how to improve when acting in a manner deemed ‘unacceptable’ to the Giver. Indeed, books on feedback explain how Receivers can ‘overcome’ their ‘lack of perspective’ – obviously a biased, insulting judgment that assumes

  • the Giver is right (and the Receiver wrong),
  • the Giver has the moral entitlement to judge the Receiver,
  • the Giver’s viewpoint is accurate (and the Receiver should heed it),
  • the Giver has THE answer (based on his/her idiosyncratic beliefs),
  • the Giver uses the best verbiage to be understood accurately, without incurring resistance or hurt,
  • there is no bias involved,
  • the Receiver doesn’t have the tools, skills, or understanding to do what’s ‘right’ on their own.

Everyone has the right to speak their mind of course. But I don’t know anyone who welcomes what might be spurious comments based on Another’s biases.

The idea of someone telling Another that they have a problem and the Giver has THE answer, assumes it’s ok for the Giver to use their own biases to try to convince the Receiver they’re wrong and they need to change. And that is well outside of my personal, moral beliefs.

I’m aware that often a boss needs to help an employee make adjustments, or a parent needs to modify a teenager’s unsuccessful choices. But the baseline remains the same: No one has the right to proclaim a moral high ground, to expect anyone else to change because of personal feelings, biases, and assumptions, to assume the Receiver has no say, no unique judgment, no relevant thought process that could become part of an agreeable solution.

TWO MINDS BETTER THAN ONE

Of course, because nobody is perfect (although we each think we are), we sometimes need a reality check. For those times, there’s a way Givers can create feedback that will enable win/win conversations and excellence. Here are several issues that must be overcome:

BIAS: The assumption that feedback is needed is often based on a Giver wanting a Receiver to change as per the Giver’s unique beliefs and values. Sure, if there is a danger involved, a Receiver must ultimately choose new behaviors. But in general, when a Giver assumes the ‘right’ road without identifying a path to partnership, or recognizing there might be a specific reason the Receiver made their choices, any discussion becomes win/lose.

WRONG ASSUMPTIONS: Too often a Giver’s feedback assumes the Receiver is wrong, or doesn’t possess the skills or tools to do it better, and goes forth pushing their own agendas. With these assumptions, any feedback will most likely be ignored, especially if it offends, insults, or in some way harms the Receiver. This certainly doesn’t set in motion a path to positive behavior modification.

RIGHT VS WRONG: What makes one person right and one person wrong? Just asking. While it might be clear in the Giver’s mind, it’s often up for interpretation.

WRONG LANGUAGING: How does the Giver know for certain that their approach to instigate change is the best approach? My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? discusses how brains misunderstand, mistranslate, and misinterpret incoming information based on the listener’s mental models and brain synapses – nothing whatsoever to do with the facts or content coming in. Unfortunately, we all assume our speech is ‘easily understandable’ and others should hear what we mean. Nope.

ME VS YOU: Why should I listen to you, or make changes in my normal behavior patterns, when I don’t agree with you and you make no sense to me?

WHO’S OUTCOME IS IT?: Sometimes the Giver is working from different, hidden, or unconscious outcomes. Why would the ‘offender’ heed the feedback if s/he is meeting her own outcomes? And how can a Giver understand differences between them with a goal or bias that restricts the ability to listen or be flexible enough to go through discovery together?

Are you getting the point here? Feedback is biased; people are all doing the best they can do at any given moment; the only people who will be compliant are those who are already on the same page (and those folks don’t usually need feedback) or those fearful of consequences. And fear is a poor motivator.

WHAT TO DO

Before you offer feedback, consider the distance between what someone is doing/saying vs what you believe should be done/said. Is it merely an opinion they should do something different, or will it actually resolve a problem? Is there a way to mutually discover a solution to accomplish this without causing fear, distrust, and annoyance?

When a problem occurs that needs to be fixed, a collaborative discussion will enable the Receiver to discover their own route to change.

1. Enter the conversation with curiosity:

I noticed X was occurring and find it problematic (for the job, for our relationship, for the outcome). Would you be willing to discuss it with me to figure out if there is actually a problem or there’s another way to look at the situation?

2.  Be prepared to drop biases, expectations, needs, and opinions and clearly state intentions. There’s no place in a collaborative communication for any offense:

I find I’m having reactions to what happened, but come with an openness to finding the best route to excellence. If you feel like I’m being biased or disrespectful, I’d like to hear your thoughts so we end up on the same page with the same goal. It’s not my intent to disparage you in any way. I just want to find the best way to both feel comfortable going forward.

3.  Tell your side of what you feel about the incident, without further commentary, and clearly state your need for the conversation:

When X happened, it seemed to me your reaction caused [a bigger problem/unexpected fallout, etc.] and it scared me. I wonder if we could discuss both our needs and assumptions and see if there is a path to end up with something we can both live with and neither of us considered.

4.  Listen without bias. Make sure you repeat what you think you heard as it’s quite possible your brain might have misinterpreted what was said:

Let me see if I heard you accurately. I heard you say X. Did I get that right? Or am I misunderstanding something? Please correct my interpretation. I want us to be on the same page.

5.  Discuss your needs in relation to what you heard, and begin creating a plan:

Sounds like you and I have similar outcomes but different ways of expressing it. That’s what I had the problem with, but now see your choices were just different from mine. What do you think about doing X as a middle path? I think that might meet the goals. What do you think? Do you have any other ideas to suggest?

6.  Put it all together:    

I think we’ve reached a route that we’ll both benefit from. Is there anything you need from me going forward to make sure we collaborate through to excellence?

I recognize there are times when the Giver is a boss, a parent, a leader needing specific results. But if there’s no collaboration, if there’s bias about right and wrong, if there’s no way to hear each other, neither Giver or Receiver can be the driver toward excellence. Use feedback as a route to excellence.

__________________________

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 14th, 2022

Posted In: News

As someone with Asperger’s, I’ve always experienced the world from a different set of rules than those used by ‘normal’ people (neurotypicals (NTs)). Occasionally I get in trouble, even with friends. I remember once my neighbors Gus and Randy came over to watch TV and brought an ugly (ugly!!), cheap glass ashtray as a ‘visit’ gift – a gift to watch TV? The next day I brought it back.

SD: I’m never going to use this, and I hate it. Maybe give it to someone who will appreciate it.

Gus: (Laughter) You’re returning a gift!?

Randy: (Silence. Anger. Annoyance.)

SD: Randy, are you mad at me because I returned this? Do you want me to keep it? You seem to be mad at me. I don’t understand why.

Randy: (Silence. Silence. Silence.)

Gus: Oh, come on, Randy! It’s a cheap ashtray! We can use it as a Secret Santa gift.

Randy: (Staring at me with intense eyes. Silence. Staring.) WHO DOES THAT!!!!

SD: I do.

Because I experience the world so differently, I often neglect assumed, and apparently innate, conventional social rules. For survival, I developed others that make more sense to me. The good news is that using my own atypical rules and reasoning, I’ve spent my life resolving curiosities about choice and decision making that didn’t seem to have answers in standard thinking and yet make a difference.

With my atypical brain, I’ve invented values-based systemic brain change models (used in sales, decision making, leadership, habit formation, behavior change) that I’ve trained world-wide and have written several books on.

The bad news is that because my ideas have no precedent, the path to adoption is challenging. And yet, I’ve mostly figured it out.

In this article I offer what I’ve learned to help those troublemakers out there with great ideas that go against convention. After all, without troublemakers nothing changes.

RIGHT RULES DON’T CAUSE INNOVATION

At the start, I’d like to say that my innate rules aren’t wrong, they just operate from a different mindset than the perceived wisdom, enabling me to create out-of-the-box concepts. I don’t even realize they’re outside the box until I get pushback.

Eventually, the right people show up with curiosity and excitement. Once I was training my change model with a graphic on systemic brain change that took me 3 months to figure out. A woman raised her hand. “Where did you get that graphic? I’m a neuroscientist and that part is missing from the field. Where did you get it! Can I use it?” Music to my ears.

I’ve always known my ideas are to be shared and used by others. But how could I disseminate them when such a high percent of a reading audience uses more traditional thinking? To learn how, I had to learn the principles of ‘normal’ discourse and expectations. I had already learned that using my own unique communication process, the ideas got rejected out of hand.

Early on I recognized I had to show up as ‘normal’ if I wanted to share new thinking. When I was 11 I began taking notes of normal conversations; eventually I noticed patterns that offered new rules I could teach myself. I had to learn basics, stuff most two-year-olds know, like saying ‘Fine, thanks, how are you?’ when asked ‘How are you?’ To this day I don’t understand why that’s a valid response.

By now, and armed with probably half a million rules in my brain, I show up as NT most of the time, albeit a bit ‘charming’. I still get people annoyed when I over-share or interrupt even when I announce at the beginning of a conversation that I’m an Aspie.

But I’ve learned some rules that helped me share my models and innovate change.

10 RULES FOR INNOVATORS

To start, because my ideas are different from the perceived wisdom, folks who seek convention are initially opposed and I get ignored, or worse. But I’ve learned it’s just what happens to folks who break the rules. Rule #1: don’t expect to fit in. Be willing to be overlooked or ignored.

Over time, I’ve figured out who to share new ideas with; mainstream isn’t the place for me to start. Certainly, early adopters are more curious, accepting, and less judgmental.

So that brings up a few questions: who do I share my ideas with so they’ll garner acceptance and adoption? How much am I willing to dumb down a new concept to help it be understood? Should I just seek folks who easily understand? Am I targeting the right audience? How can I test my message so I don’t frustrate those who might understand with just a bit of help? Rule #2: choose who to share the ideas with.

I always work hard to understand the rules in a particular environment so I’ll have an idea which ones I’m breaking. It makes it easier to know where rejection will come from: if I don’t know where I’m at, I can’t get where I’m going (I’ve got a bunch of fun one-liners in Morgenisms you can enjoy.). But given I’m offering wholly new thinking, I understand I may first be ignored, made wrong, or not believed. Indeed, according to the norms, I AM ‘wrong’! Rule #3: don’t take it personally, it’s part of the process.

It’s important for me to know if an idea is worth spending time on. For the times I have a ‘wonderment’ (like in, “Hmmm. I wonder why people can’t hear each other accurately?” which was the start of my book on how to listen without bias), I’ve created a trigger to alert my brain to a circuit I’ve labeled ‘Wonderment’ where I have unfettered curiosity. Once I find myself immersed in questions, and in the middle of confusion, I know I’m on the right track. Rule #4: choose ideas that seem endlessly stimulating and you’re willing to devote a lot of time and energy on.

Frustration, curiosity, dead ends… during my process everything changes, even when it takes years; there are no ready answers and limitless places to look for new ones. I don’t even know all the questions to pose until I’m finished. So I keep stimulating my brain for just a smidge of a thought, a slice of a wonderment.

I make sure new inspirations flow in: Books. Podcasts. Plays. Hiking. I stay away from talking heads with conventional ideas that promise if you do X you’ll be successful. I just read a book on how New York City sanitation trucks get scheduled! I read ezines on topics I have no knowledge of. I travel to unusual places with unknowable rules to learn new patterns: I’ve spent a week with the Shuar Indians living in a mud hut with creepy things crawling up the walls (Pretty, but ewwww). I’ve spent a week in Uruguay living on a sheep farm failing badly at training a Border Collie.

I never know when new ideas will emerge but keep my brain stimulated to spark them. Rule #5: be infinitely flexible.

Time to think is crucial. I schedule specific hours every week to do nothing but think. I keep 20 pads of paper and pens scattered around the house to catch idea. I collect them at the end of the week to see what I’ve got. I never know what will work or what new ideas will go with what. So I try and try, fail and fail, scribble, and fail, and try, and…. Until one Eureeka moment when I know I’ve got it, when all feels settled. Rule #6: make ‘thinking’ a tool of your profession and devote specific time for it.

Get your brain in shape as if you were an athlete. I get plenty of sleep, no longer drink (sometimes a beer on a Saturday) because it muddles my brain. I remove drama as much as possible. I work out (walk 2 miles a day, one hour of weights in the gym 2x/week) and eat really healthy. With no exercise and bad food, I get logy. Rule #7: get yourself in brain-shape so you have the clarity necessary to innovate.

Mistakes are wonderful things. I make loads. And sometimes I revamp something that took me months or years to design. You must be ok with getting it wrong often. If you’re a perfectionist or need to be ‘right’ all the time, breaking rules and developing new ideas isn’t for you.

But each failure, each error, each dead end, eventually opens a path to an answer. There’s a lot of passion, self-trust, and self-discipline involved. I just have to keep going even when it’s a mess, when I’m confused, when it seems all wrong and going nowhere. After all, if there were a place I could learn it, it wouldn’t be anything new. So I’ve learned to trust the process.

It took me 10 years to create a new form of question. I began with wondering how it was possible to get into my brain to find stuff when I kept thinking just one way and I knew there were others. Eventually I developed Facilitative Questions that enable brains to discover where their best answers are stored. I’ve taught these to about 100,000 people! Rule: #8: be humble; failure and confusion are part of the process.

For me, I get impaled with an idea that I cannot shake and it rumbles around my brain every waking moment, even in my dreams. When you’re new at this, be stubborn: don’t acquiesce to the thoughts of Others who tell you you’re doing something impossible, or you’re wrong. You ARE! Get over it and keep going. Rule 9: be stubborn; being wrong is right.

The persistent problem is how to message the new ideas so they’re accepted. Left to my own devices, I can explain a concept in a sentence or two. But no one would understand me, so I’ve learned to incorporate industry idioms, styles of speech, regularly used phrases, and accepted knowledge.

The biggest challenge is inspiring curiosity instead of rejection. It’s a brain thing: incoming sounds (including words) get translated into meaning only when they’ve been sent through habitual, unconscious brain circuits (neuroscience books call words ‘puffs of air’). So people automatically think according to their historic assumptions.

The trick is to help trigger folks from an assumption to a curiosity. Some people automatically become curious when an incoming idea seems confusing; most people ignore it or reject it out of hand when it goes against a belief.

We’re never told that information, in and of itself, doesn’t cause new thinking unless it’s being sought (i.e. there’s a place in the brain waiting for that specific data); unless I get my ducks in a row and choose the right message to the right people and generate new brain circuits, I’m wasting my breath.

So how can you initiate curiosity so your new ideas get accepted? Just because you’ve got a great idea doesn’t mean it will be heard or accepted. But you must figure it out. Rule #10: Try several approaches to sharing new ideas, including questions, storytelling, personal examples, initiating sharing to understand Another’s thought process; develop outreach to fit the messaging to the audience.

So it’s a process. A very humbling process.

GETTING NEW IDEAS HEARD

What would you need to know or believe differently to begin your own wonderment program? To believe that your ideas are worth disseminating? That you can make a difference?

With so much change occurring – in business, technology, media, management, climate change, etc. – we’re all going through shifts in thinking and are open to change. It’s the perfect time to break rules and develop new models, new ways of working and thinking and communicating.

Obviously with your new ideas in hand, you must get them accepted and disseminated. So how? Do you want to make a difference in your personal sphere – for yourself or your family? Do you want to make a difference in the world? In your company?

The big hurdle to get over is how to help Others understand you; they have no brain circuits to translate your ideas. What will you figure out to resolve this problem?

It’s the problem all innovators and inventors must solve. Tesla never figured it out. Neither did Cezanne. Did you know he only sold one painting during his life – to Matisse who wanted to learn from him? Did you know it took 40 years for broad adoption of the telephone after it was invented? People continued using Morse Code to communicate! And remember how long it took folks to believe the world was round? Had nothing to do with the science, or truth.

It’s a complex issue. To break the rules in a way they’ll be adopted, you must not only change your own beliefs but facilitate others in changing theirs. Without belief change new ideas aren’t accepted. To break rules, you’ll need to help folks supersede their comfortable, automatic beliefs and message the new in a way that doesn’t offend.

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, he didn’t explain the engineering or coding; he used a huge screen with visuals, showing each component and simply showing the functionality of that component. Suddenly those things you secretly wanted were at your fingertips and had a name. He used what you already knew and believed and took it to the next logical step.

Breaking the rules to generate new innovations is a dark and lonely road. But it’s possible, and it’s necessary. The question is: are you willing to make a difference?

____________________________

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

January 31st, 2022

Posted In: News

It’s time for a rant. After decades of writing books and articles explaining why we close such a small percentage of prospects and how, exactly, to facilitate the Buy Side to close much more, I’m going to say what I really think.

I’ll begin with my surprise: why do sales and marketing largely ignore the change management component of the Buy Side even in the face of very low (<5%) close rates? That the 95+% of prospects NOT buying (even in the face of the massive efforts) indicates that a focus on need or solution/product placement is imperfect? That maybe pitching/pushing content is the wrong strategy? My goodness, you wouldn’t even go to a hairdresser with a 95+% failure rate, let alone get on a plane or go to a doctor. Isn’t it clear that something is wrong?

DO YOU WANT TO SELL OR HAVE SOMEONE BUY?

For me the answer is obvious: both sales and marketing ignore the path folks take to become buyers and overlook a group of highly probable prospects who actually need support handling their unique change management issues. Because they’re not buyers yet, you’ve overlooked them. But you’re ignoring a huge opportunity to serve, differentiate yourself, and close more.

Here’s my question: Do you want to sell? Or help someone buy? Your answer is obvious: ‘I want to sell and I don’t care whether anyone buys.’  That’s what you’re doing! Selling, even though such a small percentage are buying! It’s the wrong answer. If you really wanted people to buy you’d be doing something different.

Both marketing and sales ignore the Buy Side, focusing on solution placement/product sale, while restricting the purchasing audience to those relative few – the low hanging fruit – who finally show up. And making a purchase is the very last thing people do. Before then, they’re merely people trying to figure out their best route to solving a problem.

People don’t want to buy anything, merely solve a problem at the least cost to the system. And until they understand the ‘cost to the system’ (how their culture and norms will be affected) they can’t buy. They don’t even recognize a ‘need’ until then. They certainly aren’t seeking an external solution; nor do they consider themselves buyers! Hence they pay no heed to your selling or marketing content. And yet you persist on doing the same thing even in the face of failure.

It’s possible to recognize folks who WILL be buyers on the first call, then facilitate them efficiently through their Pre-Sales (i.e. Pre-Buying) change management steps. But not with the current solution placement/product sale model.

Sales and marketing were designed to sell solutions. But sticking to the historic solution placement/product sale focus, they ignore the real Pre-Sales buying decision journey folks take first and overlook the possibility finding folks who will soon be buyers but don’t self-identify as such yet.

Sales and marketing overlook the much larger group of folks on route to becoming buyers but not ready yet, focusing instead on anyone – anyone with a name that shows up somewhere, anyone who will sit still long enough to read or listen, anyone who has any semblance of a ‘need’ as per a biased interpretation. Anyone.

FACILITATE BUYING BEFORE TRYING TO SELL

Sales can begin by recognizing, finding, and leading people through their team– and culture-based detection and buy-in activities; marketing can use change-focused content to guide folks through their unfamiliar steps of change. All it takes is a focus on facilitating change – the necessary steps involved with ‘buying’ – as the first activity rather than beginning with selling. And by ‘facilitating buying’ I mean the process of change, nothing product-purchase related.

By overlooking the change folks must take before identifying as buyers, you’re limiting your audience to those relative few who completed their internal decisions and have their ducks in a row; you’re missing a huge opportunity to beat your competition and be a change facilitator – a role folks really, really need you – as one aspect of your sales and marketing strategy.

With a shift in perspective to first find folks seeking change in your area of expertise and facilitating their necessary change management Pre-Sales Change Path BEFORE trying to sell, you’ll find folks very early in their decision journey (before they even recognize they might be buyers) and use your new change management thinking to help them figure out what they need to figure out. Then more will be ready to buy, and buy quicker.

Here’s an example of two responses to a Facilitative Question I posed to begin a prospecting call. Notice that they both have ‘need’ but only one is a real prospect [Hint: the willingness to change is the identifier.]:

SD: How are you and your decision team adding new sales skills to their already successful strategies, for those times you’re seeking to shorten sales cycles?

Response #1: every year I read 6 popular sales books. I choose my favorite, buy 1500 copies for the teams, then have the managers discuss one chapter a month. I’ve been doing it for years and my folks love it.

SD: Sounds like you are happy with your strategy.

#1: Love it.

Response #2: every year I offer some type of sales training. But I must be doing something wrong – it doesn’t seem to help and our close rates and the sales cycles don’t seem to change much.

SD: sounds frustrating.

#2. It has been. But I don’t despair. I keep seeking a way to fix this problem. Shouldn’t be so hard.

Both #1 and #2 need to learn my Buying Facilitation® model. But only #2 is actively seeking change and actually bought my training 2 weeks later. When starting by seeking folks on route to change (instead of seeking those with need), you’ll find people with a good chance of becoming buyers once they’re ready.

SALES IS AN OUTDATED MODEL

When designed 100 years ago, sales and marketing only needed a reliable product, a charming personality (Have you ever met a seller who wasn’t charming?) and folks with a need. Easy. Even buyers had an easier time: with a simple buying process, far fewer solution choices, and fewer bits and pieces to organize, buying involved maybe two or three available solutions; marketing content provided data they couldn’t get anywhere else; sales reps were a necessary and accepted part of a buying decision.

Times have changed but neither sales nor marketing have changed with them. Close rates have gone from 8% when I began selling in 1979 to well under 5% now (closer to 3% if tracked from first call). When I told someone recently that the sales model closed less than 5%, he disagreed:

F: We’re closing 15%

SD: Starting from where?

F: Starting from a visit! (Question: how many not-yet-ready-buyers did he get ‘nos’ from as he attempted to get an appointment?)

SD: How many would you close if you started counting when you get a name?

F: Less than 2%.

Isn’t this an indication that something is wrong? That you must do something different? A <5% close rate is 95+% failure! And yet it’s called success! But what if you said, “Hmmmm. Such a small percentage close rate is failure, especially after all that effort and outreach. What are we missing here?”

With fewer people needing your help to make a purchase, more folks involved in a buying decision, and more people buying online, why are you using the same process, the same thinking, you’ve always used? With a blank slate and all possibilities available, even the new apps continue the same failed thinking!

With technology to organize a seller’s time, grab names from unpredictable searches, cause company names to come up in search engines, push out content, combined with the separation of the technology into cost centers that hide the real cost of a sale, the only people making money are the groups selling these new technologies to salespeople!

It’s time to consider first finding folks on route to change and facilitating their non-buying change management process before trying to sell.

DOING THE SAME THING IS INSANITY

The continued belief that with the ‘right’ content/message, the ‘right’ technology, the concept ‘if you find them they’ll buy’ is a foundational flaw.

Think with me here: You’re spending more and more money to find more and more names and spending more and more time on folks not even real prospects. The hope, the promise – that once people notice you, appreciate your solution, believe they need your solution, and trust/like you, they’ll buy – is moot. There are several issues involved;

The focus on solution placement/product sale, and finding folks with ‘need’, misses the real opportunity:

  1. the unique process each person/group people goes through before becoming buyers;
  2. when, why, how people become buyers (Seriously. I’ve trained 100,000 sales folks and not one – not one! – knows their market’s Pre-Sales buying decision/change management process!);
  3. the role of change in the buying process;
  4. the possibility of finding folks on route to becoming buyers on the first call;
  5. how to facilitate folks through their preliminary non-solution change decisions;
  6. how to use marketing to progress the buying decision path.

By restricting sales and marketing to solution placement/product sale, the real process people go through on route to becoming buyers has been overlooked. Think about it for a moment. If you want to convince your spouse to buy a 2-seater $350,000 Lamborghini, would you want them to sit down with a decision facilitator or a Lamborghini sales rep?

What would you need to believe differently to begin your sales/marketing outreach with a change management criteria?

The industry presuppositions as to targeting ‘buyers’ are specious:

Please read the remainder of the article here.

For a printout of the entire article, click here.

________________________________

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

January 17th, 2022

Posted In: News


What, exactly, is the job of a manager these days? With folks now working between office and home, meetings with people in different venues, one third of all adults suffering from depression, and work-life imbalance from our new work situations, our jobs as managers need an upgrade.

Until now, a manager’s job was akin to the job of a Chief of Staff where people, tasks, timelines, and outputs were determined by the company culture. Now the culture must address both emotional issues and leadership coming from within instead of top-down.

Managing is no longer as simple as being a good leader; it now holds the key to a company’s success and strategy. Certainly a factor in inspiring creativity and supporting well-being.

Are you noticing any issues showing up for any of your staff? Do folks need support coping with health issues? Emotional crises? Work-life balance? Are they doing the same level work they did pre pandemic? Are they as creative? Reliable? Happy?

I suspect there might be subtle differences showing up given the havoc we’ve been through. Here are a few ideas to help.

SKILLS TO SERVE

Given the new givens, folks might be a bit off balance. Here are a few ideas to help you serve them:

Enhanced listening

Because work has generally been a ‘doing’ place not a ‘being’ place, folks may gloss over what’s going on for them personally. But that doesn’t mean you should. How do you include the personal? Should there be separate meetings for those with work-life balance issues? For folks dealing with depression? What is the best approach to personal sharing so the group can serve each other and still do the business at hand?

Folks can seem ‘fine’ – put on a happy face, tell the Zoom group all is well – but listening with an unbiased ear will highlight the unspoken stuff, notice differences between their normal communication patterns and disparities showing up now.

But listening without bias is easier said than done; our brains weren’t set up to hear what someone actually means. When writing my book on how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard (WHAT?) I discovered an alarming fact: we have little chance of accurately understanding what’s said to us!

It seems all sounds (including words) enter our ears as meaningless vibrations, or ‘puffs of air’ as they’re called in science books. Through a series of very fast (five one-hundreds of a second) electro-chemical calculations in our heads, these vibrations eventually get translated into meaning according to ‘similar enough’ historic, automatic brain circuits that we’ve uniquely created during our lives and represent our mental models. Obviously, there’s a chance they might not be ‘similar-enough’ to the intended message!

And it gets worse: our brains discard some of the incoming signals that don’t match the existing ones! So I might say ABC and your brain tells you I said ABL – it never tells you it deleted D, E, F, etc. – and your brain never tells you the difference!

In other words, if there are no circuits to accurately translate what someone is saying to you, it’s possible that you may not be understanding the message according to their intent.

Put it all together and what you think was said is some percentage different from the intended message. Use my Listening Assessment to monitor your own patterns.

Meaning aside, it’s possible to hear differences between someone’s historic communication patterns and current ones. Physiologically, there might be an edge in their voice, shorter words used, a lower tone, distracted communication. To make sure you get it right, check with them: “I think I hear you say X/I think I’m noticing Y. Is that accurate?”

Here are guidelines to consider:

  • Notice differences – differences in voice, tone, volume; differences in content sharing. Does the person seem distracted? Quieter/more talkative than normal?
  • Listen for how the group handles personal issues. Is it open to adding the personal? How will you address this going forward?
  • Are some folks hearing more accurately? How will you intervene if you hear biases?
  • When something important is said, make sure to say: “I want to tell you what I heard to make sure I’ve got it right. Please correct me where I got it wrong.”

Once the team is alerted to listen for differences, set up norms going forward to help those in need. Ignoring is not an option.

Group process

How’s the group doing? When they’re in different settings are they working together effectively? Anything obvious showing up? Differences in working relationships? Is work being done efficiently? Are there communication issues? Is creativity at the same level it’s always been? Is the personal accepted? How will you handle those in the group who stick to tasks and ignore the personal?

Set up a discovery meeting. Here are a few questions to pose:

  • How can we be most efficient when not all folks in the same place?
  • How can we make sure all information is available to everyone? (Hint: this is bigger than merely sending out emails. Sometimes ‘water cooler’ chatter is important and omitted from the group discussions. How can you compensate for this?)
  • How do we ensure that everyone has what they need for each meeting, each initiative? That all information – personal and professional – is shared so everyone is working from the same data set?
  • How do we include personal issues in our meetings? Does the agenda change? Is there a time set aside?
  • How can we make sure everyone who should be involved is involved? Or share necessary data that only two people have discussed?
  • How can we discover fallout before it becomes a problem?

Until everyone who should be involved is in the meeting, no action can go forward congruently; no ideas or strategies can be complete.

I suggest meetings be rescheduled if someone can’t make it – their unique voice, feelings, creativity and observations are necessary. Without doing this, plans end up needing to be reconfigured; egos might be bruised and relationships compromised; good ideas will go unspoken. Meetings must include the full stakeholder team or there will be glitches, resistance, or non-compliance going forward.

Information Gathering/Idea Generation

Given people may not be in the same room, or they’re distracted as per their time/health/childcare issues, getting information collected and brainstormed might be untidy. But it’s important everyone is on board and buys in to actions and goals.

  • How will meetings be led and advanced? Will one person always do it? Will there be a rotation?
  • Who sets the meeting agendas? Can anyone add to them?
  • Who will supervise the collection of data, drive initiatives, follow up?
  • How will the group know when it’s collected the full data set, when there is buy-in for a new idea, when all ideas have been considered?

Managers have done a lot of this work, but with folks dispersed and communication potentially compromised, with leadership, strategy and new ideas coming from the teams, it might make sense to update old meeting styles.

Supervision

Must people be in person to be supervised? There has been a prevailing belief that face-to-face is best. But there might not be a choice now. How will you manage this? I suggest you sit down with each report and figure it out together:

  • What is the best way for me to supervise you now? What type of flexibility do I need to best serve you?
  • What should I be looking for in case you’re going through a bad patch and don’t notice you need some support?
  • What would my support look like for you? What would I be doing, saying, not saying, offering, to help?
  • Is there anyone on the team who might have your back if there’s a work promise you can’t complete on time?

Your job is to serve your folks. Figuring out what this looks like must be collaborative.

Peer Coaching

Since you’re not always around, but folks on teams often connect with each other, set up peer coaching so everyone has a buddy and someplace to go if they need extra support. Especially in these times when emotions might be present, it’s important to set up ways for folks who know each other to serve each other.

It’s time for new skills to serve, new ways to think. The job of the manager now is a pivotal one: help get our folks through this confusion we face. Success and excellence depend on it.

I’m a fervent believer that people have their own answers when they’re going through stuff. Even if they tell us of a problem, we can’t know all the issues involved or how, specifically, the person is really coping. But we can help them find their answers so long as we stay away from trying to resolve them.

If your company seeks any support to help your managers recognize and learn new skills, I’d love to help. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

________________________

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

January 10th, 2022

Posted In: News

I live on a floating home in the Columbia River in North Portland, OR. Daily life is just like living anywhere else, except occasionally my services are a bit wonky. For example, for the past months I’ve had issues with my cable/internet provider Comcast and thought maybe it was because my cable lines are under water.

Turns out that wasn’t the problem; it was a case of bad customer service. Seems me and my provider have two different definitions of what constitutes good customer service.

THE STORY

After 10 calls and tech visits in the last three months to get the same problem fixed, Comcast tech David Peters showed up. This time I was particularly annoyed because I had no cable, no internet, no tv, from Saturday til Monday. I love to read, walk, kayak. But geesh – Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic were playing and I missed them!

David was the last in a long line of young men (yes, all men) to show up. But this time there was a difference.

“I noticed how many people have been here to fix the problem. Seems they all did something different but each tried just one thing. But I’m going to fix it permanently. I’m going to think about your problem as a system. I’m going to change out the cabling from the source, give you all new switchers (Did he say routers??), and then check the frequencies to see where there are glitches. By the time I’m done the problem will be resolved.”

David was here for hours – apparently he defied the management calls he received telling him he’d exceeded his allotted customer interval (and most likely one reason my problem was never resolved to begin with, just sayin) – and was quite diligent.

He did it all: came into the house to check all internal lines, got a ladder and checked outside connections, went to his home office to get new cable, and actually got a special tool to remove the deck where the cable lines initiated under the water! And he fixed it! No more problems! Then he came and found me and asked me to check his work to make sure I was satisfied.

I told him he gave me great customer service and asked if Comcast ever requested ideas from him as to how to best serve customers, or on patterns he noticed in the field that the management could correct from their end.

“One would think they’d come to us, no? Hahahaha. But they don’t. Instead they send these bot calls to ask if you’d choose Comcast again because of the field tech’s work. That makes no sense! It’s an annoying, pointless question with no answer. Why not ask me? Why not ask me what they could do differently? Or ask what I need from them to give customers I’m visiting great service? I am not convinced they really want to resolve any problems.”

His response was spot on. But this makes me curious: how many companies really (really!) care about fixing problems from their end to make customers happy?

WHAT IS A CUSTOMER?

Best I can tell, companies don’t understand how, or even why, to put customers first. I recently read this sentence on a customer service site (Revechat): “With increasing evidence that customers are the backbone of businesses….” Do we really need evidence that customers are the backbone? Without customers we’re not in business.

The best service I ever received was in the health-food store Cyd’s in Taos, NM. He started each day with a staff meeting, asking “Who pays your salary?” and they yelled out in unison: “Our Customers!”

And who is a customer anyway? I believe our employees are our first customers. When I keep my team happy they keep clients happy. Remember the old myth that the Nordstrom customer service rule book was one line: Use your best judgment. Once you require employees to use best judgment, you must hire employees you can trust. And then you must trust them.

THE CUSTOMER VS THE COMPANY

The biggest misunderstanding companies have is that it’s about them. To truly care about customers, they must actually put the customer at the very center and TRUST that their service, their reputation, and the resultant customer acquisition will pay off the resource expenditure.

Most companies are rule-bound and tech heavy to save money, time, and resource. I was once called back by a customer service rep on his own phone, during his break. He wanted to make sure I got my problem fully resolved because there wasn’t time within the 3 minutes he was allowed per call to take care of me. That’s just wrong. They hired the right guy but gave him the wrong rules.

Companies must regulate at the values level and stop trying to police staff and clients at the rules level. It harms everyone and you lose just as many good employees as you do good customers.

I was recently hired by a well-known multinational to find out why they had such high turnover. I spoke with 30 department heads and middle managers. 4 of them cried (literally!) when recounting feelings of being disrespected and ignored. They had even stopped complaining because they felt the management didn’t care.

The company was paying them well above industry standard, so they just collected paychecks and no longer offered ideas, creativity, or enthusiasm. Most of them admitted they were looking for other jobs. And from their comments, sounded like they weren’t taking such good care of their customers either.

THE TRUTH BEHIND CUSTOMER SERVICE METRICS

Personally, I believe that most metrics in this area (CSAT, NPS, CES) are designed to gather specious, meaningless data. Frankly I have no idea why they are a ‘thing’. They certainly do not offer companies ideas with which to improve.

The NPS score is short term and merely highlights results following a single interaction, albeit in a distorted way. Indeed it’s spurious: if a customer has a good interaction they’ll provide a higher score, a bad interaction a bad score. How do I rate a poor call from a good company? Or… Useless. There’s no way to know what, exactly, worked or didn’t work, or what to do differently.

The CSAT score only tracks people who respond, obviously a biased sampling. It certainly misses any specificity of what a company can do to become better.

CES score is devious. While a customer might ignore a company they find difficult to work with, they won’t necessarily choose a company that’s easy. Not to mention ‘ease’ is not necessarily an indicator of good customer service. What, exactly, is being measured?

And save me from those chatbots! They don’t work, get people annoyed, and everyone I know figures out how to avoid them. A colossal waste of time, effort, and money. Maybe in 10 years when bots know how to have real conversation and show concern.

REAL METRICS

To have good data to improve your company, I’d create a wholly different type of scoring system based on surveys and questionnaires that provide the data to be better. Might not be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. Questions like:

  1. What would you need to see from us to be willing to continue working with us?
  2. What has stopped you from getting the best experience from us – the type of experience you deserve?
  3. What would we be doing differently for you to continue, or return to, using us?
  4. What would you prefer we add to our outreach to keep you happy over time?
  5. What could we do better to help you decide to buy from us going forward?

The answers will provide companies specific ways and ideas to improve and let customers know they are cared about and their ideas are respected. So much more specific than ‘happy’ or ‘easy’.

Current metrics don’t give companies the data they need to improve. But I’ve got some ideas. Since I believe that happy employees lead to happy customers, I’d take the company pulse first.

How much staff turnover are you experiencing?

A high turnover means unhappy employees and most likely unhappy clients.

Then, I’d look at customer retention/customer churn. Happy customers don’t leave, even if there’s a better price elsewhere:

How many customers are leaving? Do you know why?

I’d also want to know how long it takes, and how many contacts, for a customer to get their needs met. I personally believe it should be a first-contact resolution. It not only saves a customer’s frustration, but saves time and money and effort with staff:

Whoever answers the phone owns the problem or takes responsibility. This person will ask the appropriate questions and do whatever is necessary to solve the problem and get back to the client. It saves a company so much time, saves on hiring and training the folks down the line who quit due to customer frustration (After speaking with 7 people, repeating their problem over and over, and being on hold for countless hours, customers are not happy communication partners). The customer does not get served, the staff don’t get treated well, it’s lose/lose.

To provide good customer service, respect and serve your customers! Make it easy for them. They bought your service along with their purchase. Take care of them!

CUSTOMER LOYALTY AND RETENTION

As business owners, we are responsible for serving people – staff and customers. Our companies are the vehicles with which we serve. We must trust that by serving people we will profit and grow.

Here are my thoughts for improving loyalty and retention:

  • HAVE ENOUGH REPS Current customer service has been created for the ease and cost savings of the company. Long hold times? Hire more reps! It’s not the customer’s responsibility to be patient because you don’t hire enough support staff! Best Buy kept me on hold once for 13 hours! When the guy finally called it was 3:10 AM! When I answered he said, and I kid you not, “So how are you today?”. When I groggily said, “Not so happy to start my day at 3:00 in the morning with this phone call after waiting 13 hours” he hung up on me. 13 hours. That’s just wrong.
  • OWN THE PROBLEM The ‘not my job’ syndrome is endemic. Whoever answers the phone should own the problem! So many companies keep me on hold, then pass me along to many (many!) reps – each with long hold times – as part of the ‘not my job’ syndrome. It’s wrong. It IS your job.
  • NO MORE CONTACT FORMS Get rid of those damn contact forms on your websites. No one wants to fill them out because we know you’re merely capturing my name to send me spam. Give me an email address connected with someone who will take care of me and solve my problem.
  • STOP WASTING CUSTOMER TIME Most processes are set up to save companies money, not to take care of customers. We’ve all spent hours and hours trying to ‘get through’ to phone companies or tech companies or government groups. Why is my time less important than your time? To save you money? I’m the customer! I paid your salary for goodness sakes.
  • RETURN CONTACT WITHIN 24 HOURS How many days, on average, does it take to get a return call to solve a problem? I don’t know. I haven’t figured it out. Certainly more than three. Again, it’s just wrong. Makes me never buy from that company again.

Customer loyalty and retention are the same. When you put customers first they are loyal. And it’s never a price issue. Make customers feel cared for and they’re yours.

______________________

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

January 3rd, 2022

Posted In: News

Most of us believe we accurately hear what’s been said. But given our historic brain circuits that translate incoming sound vibrations subjectively and out of our awareness, it’s difficult to be certain that what we think we heard is accurate. It is possible, however, to at least know what our tendencies are. When I wrote my book WHAT? I discovered that words don’t enter brains as anything more than ‘puffs of air’ that go from sound vibrations into signals that get translated automatically by electro-chemical circuitry: what our brains tell us was said is merely our brain’s translation of historic signals. Unwittingly, we end up interpreting meaning according to we’ve interpreted before and new incoming data often gets misunderstood or mistranslated because there aren’t appropriate circuits to translate it. Obviously, there’s a good chance we’re biasing a lot of what we hear. To help you understand how, if and when you uniquely (and unwittingly) bias what you hear, I’ve developed an assessment tool. Once you have a baseline knowledge of your unconscious choices you’ll know what areas to pay specific attention to and if you need to add new skills.

_________________

PART 1: When do you take extra steps to ensure you accurately hear what your Communication Partner (CP) intends? Directions: Check off any that apply. Relationship-related

 _When I’m with my partner/spouse (i.e. all the time).

_When I’m having a disagreement with my partner/spouse.

_When I’m trying to clean up a problem/misunderstanding.

_Only when it’s someone I care about.

_I don’t take extra steps. I just assume I hear the message as intended.

Circumstantial

_When something important is at stake in my life and I need to know the Other’s takeaway.

_When I’m aware I don’t understand someone.

_When I have a message I want to impart and want to make sure I’m being understood as I prefer.

_When communicating with someone of a different culture, background, and I’m not certain we’re mutually understanding each other. But I sometimes do nothing about it because I don’t know what to do differently.

Are there times it’s especially important to ensure you hear what your CP intends to convey?

_When the conversation is going badly.

_In all business-related, profit-related conversations, or where I’m getting paid.

_ In all/some conversations related to my spouse or family.

_No. I prefer to accurately understand what’s said in every conversation and am usually successful.

_I prefer to accurately understand all of my CPs but not sure that I do.

Take a moment to think about your responses in all of the above and answer the following questions, in writing, as a summary.

  •  Are there specific times you regularly take responsibility, take extra steps, to make sure you hear your CP accurately?
  •  Why are you more comfortable with your natural listening skills in some situations than in others? Are there patterns to when you have misunderstandings?
  •  Are you fully aware of the outcomes of all of your conversations, and generally assume that everyone understands each other accurately?
  • How do you know if you’ve accurately understood someone?

PART 2: Do you know your communication biases? Directions: assess your predispositions as a communicator on each of the following. Check off the ones that apply: When I enter into a conversation, I enter with

_An ‘ear’ that listens according to my history with that person.

_An unconscious/conscious agenda of what I want from the conversation.

_ A need to be perceived in a specific way or to impart the message I want.

_An ability to enter each conversation without bias, with a mental ‘blank slate’.

_The needs of the Other in mind at the expense of my own.

_My beliefs about what this person might need from me given his/her background.

_An understanding that my unconscious biases might keep me from fully understanding so I regularly check that me and my CP are on the same page.

_ No conscious thought. I just assume I’ll hear what’s intended and respond appropriately, regardless of how different my CP might be from my own cultural experience.

During a conversation I

_Might get annoyed by something said due to my own preconceptions and history.

_ Assume I have the skills to recognize when there’s a misunderstanding and make things right if there is a problem.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and say something to get us on the same page.

_Notice when my CP is responding differently than I intended and I say nothing.

_Don’t notice if my CP is responding differently from the message I’m sending and don’t know if I’ve hurt/annoyed them.

_Work hard at maintaining a ‘blank slate’ in my brain to listen through.

_Just be me, because I know I’m not biased and I listen accurately.

_Am aware I may not be speaking, listening, or responding in ways that regard the differences of my CP but don’t do anything to speak, listen, or respond differently than normal.

_Would prefer I’m not saying anything disrespectful, or hearing with unconscious biases, but I’m not sure if I know how to do this.

_Would prefer I’m respecting my CP but have done nothing to learn new skills to be able to speak or listen to match another’s unconscious cultural assumptions.

PART 3: Do you have the choices you need for an unbiased communication? Directions: Please write down the answers to these: If you don’t consider how accurately you hear what others intend to say (as distinct from what you think you hear) during a conversation, what you would need to know or believe differently to make this part of each communication? To think specifically if responses are congruent, if communication lines are balanced, if both CPs speak about the same amount of time and follow the same topic? If you don’t know for certain if you’re hearing without bias, or if you’re listening with a ‘beginner’s mind’ to lessen your unconscious biases, what has stopped you until now from taking steps or learning new skills to listen without bias? If you don’t know for certain if something you think you heard is inaccurate, what do you do to check? What stops you from stopping the conversation and asking? How can you tell if your CP is understanding YOU accurately and without bias? Do you have the skills you need to monitor and manage this? PART 4: Whose responsibility is a shared understanding? Directions: Answer Yes or No for each of the following: Beliefs

_I believe it’s the Sender’s responsibility to send her message properly to match the needs of the Receiver.

_I believe there’s a shared responsibility between CPs to understand each other; both are equally at fault if there’s a misunderstanding.

_I believe it’s the Receiver’s responsibility to hear what the Sender is saying, and tell the Sender when there is confusion or misunderstanding.

Responding

_I formulate a reply as soon as I hear something that triggers a response in my head, regardless of whether or not the person has finished sharing their ideas.

_I know I’ve been heard when someone responds according to my expectation.

_I know I’m hearing another’s intended message accurately when I feel comfort between us.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue, I interrupt or show my disagreement without asking for an explanation.

_If I disagree with my CP’s dialogue I allow her to complete her message before sharing my disagreement.

_I try to listen without my biases and respond to what has been said, but I’m aware I probably can’t understand because of our differences. But I’ve not taken steps to learn how to listen without biases.

_If I have an idea to share that’s different from my CP’s topic, I just change topics.

_When I don’t understand my CP’s response to what I said, I just keep going or try to say something better.

_My responses conform to what I think I heard and I don’t check.

_I respond to what I think was said and don’t consider I might have biased and misinterpreted what I heard.

Understanding the message

_When I don’t understand someone, I can tell immediately and ask for clarification.

_I rarely think it’s me when there is confusion during a conversation and take no action, assuming it will work itself out.

_I can tell I’ve misheard/misunderstood when I get a negative reaction or a confused look.

_I can tell I’ve misheard only when I hear my CP say ‘WHAT?’ or ‘I don’t understand’ after my response.

_I cannot tell if I’ve misunderstood or misheard, and respond according to what I think I heard.

_I don’t know how to listen differently to people who are different from me and just respond like I do in any conversation.

_I assume I understand Others who speak English, regardless of our differences.

Communication problems

_As soon as I realize I have misunderstood someone, I ask her to repeat what she said so I can understand her message.

_When I realize I’ve misunderstood, I assume they aren’t being clear.

_When my CP tells me I misunderstood him I know it’s not my issue because I know I hear accurately.

_When my CP tells me she thinks I misheard, I ask what I missed so I can get it right.

_I can’t tell if I’ve misunderstood someone, and aren’t aware if there are negative consequences to my repsonses.

_I use my normal communication skills in all conversations regardless of cultural differences.

When you’re done, please write a paragraph on what you discovered. Now, write a paragraph on this whole assessment experience. What did you take away? What do you need to do differently? Write down a plan to move forward in a way that will help you hear what others say with the least possible bias. How did you do? Are you willing to make changes where you need them? Do you know how to make changes? Did you find areas you’d like to have more choice? Were you able to notice your predispositions? It’s important to notice where you find yourself resisting change as those are the exact areas in which you might occasionally mishear or misunderstand. Determine if you want to continue your current patterns and don’t mind the cost of being wrong some of the time. For those of you seeking more understanding on how our brains hear, check out my book: What? Did you really say what I think I heard? or call me to train your group: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

_______________

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

December 20th, 2021

Posted In: News

Ask more questions! sellers are admonished. Ask better questions! leaders and coaches are reminded. Questions seem to be a prompt in many fields, from medicine to parenting. But why?

There’s a universal assumption that questions will yield Truth, generate ‘real’ discussion topics or realizations, or uncover hidden gems of information or important details. Good questions can even inspire clarity. Right?

I’d like to offer a different point of view on what questions really are and how they function. See, I find questions terribly subjective and often don’t get to the Truth.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

Let me start with Google’s definition of ‘question’: a grouping of words posed to elicit data. Hmmmm…. But they don’t often elicit accurate data. Here’s my assessment. Questions are:

  • posed according to the needs, curiosity, goals, and intent of the Asker;
  • interpreted uniquely and unconsciously, according to a Responder’s world view;
  • potentially ignore more important information outside the Asker’s purview.

Here’s my reasoning:

  1. Language: Questions are posed using words and languaging unique to the Asker. Using their own (subjective) intent and goals, their own idioms and word choices, Askers assume Responders will accurately interpret them and respond along expected lines. This expectation is most easily met between folks who are familiar with each other, but less successfully with those outside the Asker’s sphere of influence. Too often Responders interpret a query quite differently than intended, offering responses far afield from the Asker’s intent.
  2. Listening/brain: All incoming words enter our ears as meaningless sound vibrations (see my book on this topic), “puffs of air” that eventually get translated according to historic circuits based on our mental models that have been set during our lifetimes. In other words, and similar with the language problem, Responders may not accurately translate incoming questions according to the intent of the Asker. The way Responders hear and interpret the question is at the mercy of the Responder’s brain circuits.
  3. Curiosity: Often an Asker seeks data, thoughts, according to his/her desire for knowledge. It might be for research, interest, or ego – to exhibit their intelligence or prove their commitment. Yet given the way information is stored and retrieved in the brain, the question may capture some degree of applicable data, or a whole lotta subjective, unconscious thoughts that may or may not be relevant.

As you can see, the stated goal of questions – to extract useful, relevant data – has a reasonable chance of failure.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS

Here’s my opinion on a few different forms of question:

Open question: To me, open questions are great in social discussions but there’s no way to get precise data from them. What would you like for dinner? will prompt an enormous variety of choices. But if the fridge only has leftovers, an open question won’t work, and a closed question “Would you like me to heat up last night’s dinner or Monday night’s dinner?” would. Open questions cause brains to do a transderivational search that may unearth responses far afield from the Asker’s intent and the Asker is out of control.

Closed question: I love these. They are perfect when a specific response is needed. What time is dinner? Should we send answers now or wait until our meeting? Of course they can also be highly manipulative when only limited responses are offered for potentially broad possibilities.

Leading question: Don’t you think you rely on conventional questions too much? That’s a leading question. Manipulative. Disrespectful. Hate them.

Probing question: Meant to gather data, these questions face the same problem I’ve mentioned: using the goal, intent, and words of the Asker, they will be interpreted uniquely as per the Responder’s historic stored content, and extract some fraction of the full data set possible.

Given the above, I invented a new form of question!

FACILITATIVE QUESTION

When I began developing my brain change models decades ago, I realized that using conventional questions would most likely not help me achieve my goal of facilitating Others through their brains to discover their own best answers. Knowing that our brain’s unconscious search for answers (in 5 one-hundredths of a second) leads to subjective, historic, and limited responses along one of the brain’s neural superhighways, I spent 10 years figuring out how to use questions to help people find where their unbiased answers reside.

Since incoming words get translated according to our existing neural circuits, the trick was to use specific words in a specific order so the brain would be led to find the best existing circuits. This proved especially helpful in

  • data gathering to discover a more expanded range of choices,
  • decision making to uncover each element of consideration as matched with values and outcomes,
  • habit/behavior change when seeking to understand and modify the patterns and neural circuitry underlying the current behaviors,
  • leadership, sales, coaching when leading others to discover routes to new choices.

One of the main problems I had to resolve was how to circumvent a brain’s automatic and unconscious preferences to make it possible to notice the broadest view of choices.

Language to create objectivity

Since questions (as words) are automatically sent down specific neural routes, I had to figure out a way to use language to broaden the parameters of routes the brain could choose from, expand possibility, and circumvent bias as much as possible – a difficult one as our natural listening is unwittingly biased.

To this end, my Facilitative Questions use specific types of words to facilitate distancing the Responder from the emotions and biases. Let me show you how an objective viewpoint differs from a subjective one and why it’s preferred for decision making: See yourself having dinner with one other person. Notice the other person across from you (the Self/automatic/subjective/unconscious modality). Then mentally put yourself up on the ceiling and see both of you (the Observer/objective/conscious modality).

If you’re having an argument with your dinner partner, where would you rather be – ceiling or across the table – to understand the full data set of what was going on so you could make personal adjustments?

On the ceiling, where you’d see both of you. From this meta position, you’d be objective, free from the feelings and biases that guided the argument along historic circuits. From Observer you’d have the best chance to make choices that might resolve your problem. Try it for yourself! Don’t forget to go back down to Self to communicate warmly. My clients walk around saying ‘Decide from Observer, Deliver from Self.’

So when developing Facilitative Questions, I had to put listeners into Observer. I played with words and found that these cause Responders to unconsciously step back (i.e. meta) to take an unbiased, less subjective, and broader view.

  • how would you know if…
  • what would you need to understand differently…

Change the goal

I also had to change the goal of a question, from my own curiosity and need to elicit data to helping the Other discover their own answers.

“Why do you wear your hair like that?”

is a conventional question puts the Responder directly into Self, while

“How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?”

enables the Responder to step back, look at current and past hairstyles, note their situation to see if it merits change, and have a more complete data/criterion set with which to possibly make a change – or not. This not only provides a full set of unbiased possibilities, but it encourages trust between Asker and Responder and doesn’t push a response.

Questions follow steps to change

The biggest element I had to figure out was the sequence. I figured out 13 sequential steps to all change and decision making and I pose the Facilitative Questions down the sequence. Here are the main categories:

  • Where are you and what’s missing? Responder begins by discovering their full set of givens, some of which are unconscious.
  • How can you fix the problem yourself? Systems don’t seek change, merely to resolve a problem at the least ‘cost’ to the system. To minimize any ‘cost’ involved, it’s best to begin by trying to fix the problem with what’s familiar.
  • How can you manage change without disruption and with buy-in? Until it’s known what the fallout of the ‘new’ will be, and there’s agreement, no change will occur.

I’ve trained these questions globally for sales folks learning my Buying Facilitation® model to help prospects become buyers, and for coaches and leaders to help followers discover their own best answers.

If your job is to serve, the best thing you can offer others is a commitment to help them help themselves. Facilitative Questions can be used in any industry, from business to healthcare, from parenting to relationships as tools to enable discovery, change, and health.

It takes a bit of practice to create these questions, but the coaches, sellers, doctors, and leaders I’ve taught them to use them to help Others discover their own excellence. I encourage you to consider learning them. And I’m happy to discuss and share what I know. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com My hope is that you’ll begin to think about questions differently.

___________________________

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

November 22nd, 2021

Posted In: News

As an influencer, how often do say to yourself “Why doesn’t she understand me?” or “If he understood me better this decision would be a no-brainer.” It’s natural to assume Others will understand – and comply with – your suggestions. Have you ever wondered what’s happening when they don’t?

As influencers, part of your job is to change minds. But how? In general, you’ve likely used different forms of information (story, article, pitch, etc.) to ‘hook, grab, engage, guide,’ assuming your words carry the meaning you intend to convey. But do they?

Sometimes people misinterpret you and your audience is unintentionally restricted to only those who naturally understand your message. Sometimes people ignore you, regardless of how important your message or how engagingly you deliver it or how badly they need it.

What if ‘changing minds’ was easier without content or information? Or that it was the last thing needed? I’d like to begin by explaining how brains interpret language and how this facilitates decision making.

OUR BRAINS ARE THE CULPRIT

Thinking about using information as a persuasion strategy, let me share a confounding concept: words have no meaning at all! According to John Colapinto in his fascinating book This is the Voice,

Speech is a connected flow of ever-changing, harmonically rich musical pitches determined by the rate at which the phonating chords vibrate, the complex overtone spectrum is filtered by the rapidly changing length and shape of the mouth, and lips, interspersed with bursts of noise…It is our brain that turns this incoming stream of sonic air disturbances into something meaningful. (pg 54)

Indeed, it was only when researching my book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard that I discovered words have no inherent meaning until our subjective brains define them.

Here’s a greatly simplified explanation of how brains translate incoming words. Seems words enter our ears as meaningless sound vibrations. These ‘puffs of air’, as many books call the vibrations, soon become signals that our Central Executive Network, or CEN, dispatches to what it deems an historic ‘similar-enough circuit’ (one among 84 billion) for translation.

People understand us according to the existing circuits the incoming signals are sent to, regardless of meaning, or of how different these circuits are from our intended message.

And where the signals don’t match the existing circuitry, a listener’s brain kindly discards the difference!

In other words, people don’t hear us according to the messages we send but by what they already know and believe, potentially outside of our intent.

Unfortunately, because this brain activity is electro-chemical and automatic, neither Speaker or Listener understands how far from accurate the translation is. Listeners assume their brains tell them exactly what’s been said; Speakers assume they’ve been heard accurately. Turns out these assumptions are false; communication potentially ends up biased and subjective.

THE INFORMATION PROBLEM

The misinterpretation problem gets exacerbated when your words get sent down Other’s circuits that unwittingly incur resistance. If my brain tells me you said ABL it’s hard to convince me you said ABC. I’ve lost friends and partners that way and didn’t understand why until my book research. And sadly, because it all takes place outside of conscious awareness, we have no control over it.

This possibility of misinterpreting incoming information makes the case for providing information when it can be most accurately translated: when the Listener knows exactly what they are listening for, the brain will have a more direct route to the right circuits.

But by shifting your goal there’s a way to get your message to invoke change: lead Others to where their brains seek new data and then share the information to fit! In other words, help Others figure out the information they need from you then supply content that will be heard accurately.

One of my clients said that instead of shooting an arrow to hit a bullseye I taught him to first shoot the arrow then draw the bullseye where the arrow lands! I’ll discuss how I figured this out.

After 60 years of studying, and developing models for, systemic brain change and decision making, I’ve realized that information is the very last thing anyone needs when considering doing something different (i.e. buying, changing habits, etc.). And yes, it goes against most conventional thinking. But hang with me.

As a kid, my then-undiagnosed Asperger’s caused me to act differently than people around me. I was in trouble often, and never understood why. I began reading voraciously – dozens of books! – on how to change my behaviors: how to visualize, to motivate myself, make plans. But they were all based on trying to fix my seemingly automatic actions. And I failed repeatedly to make any of the changes permanent.

After trying unsuccessfully for decades, I realized my brain was the culprit and began developing neural workarounds to create new brain pathways to new behaviors. I know, I know. It’s odd, and there was lots of trial-and-error. But eventually I figured it out.

It proved so powerful I dedicated the rest of my life to developing, writing about, and teaching systemic brain change models. Thankfully, my concepts caught on in sales, coaching, leadership, and change management.

My facilitation models help people orchestrate their own change; in sales, my Buying Facilitation® model teaches people on route to fixing a problem how to traverse their change management steps to become buyers. I enable people to discover, and act on, their own excellence and as needed, influencers then supply the information or skills.

CHANGE FACILITATION

For those of you whose job is to get others to do something you want them to do, let’s look at it from the Other’s side – the people on route to change, those who have discovered a problem they want resolved. Once you understand what goes on between the status quo and doing something differently, it’ll be easier to facilitate change. Here are some points to consider:

Conform to norms: Change is more than doing something different, but a reconfiguration of the status quo that must end up conforming with the norms on which it was developed. And it’s only when something has gone wrong that something different from the status quo is required. Obviously the timing is dependent on the changee, regardless of when an influencer wants change to occur.

Cost: It’s not until the ‘cost’ (resource, results, disruption) of a fix is identified that anyone knows whether a problem is worth fixing. Unfortunately, as I’m sure you’ve recognized, no one naturally seeks out change if all seems fine, regardless of the problem or the efficacy of the solution.

Disruption: Because our internal systems seek balance (homeostasis), we avoid disruption. And the time it takes us to change in a way that avoids disruption is the length of time it takes us to buy, change, or decide.

Personal: For change to be sought, the Other must discover their own route to change and maintain control over their own criteria, not to mention ensure their underlying system ends up matching the Identity and Beliefs of the original configuration. The status quo does not like being altered!

It only takes a shift in thinking and a focus on helping Others first discover how to handle their own change issues. Here’s a situation where I used a carefully crafted sentence to direct a friend’s thinking to where her choice points lie.

I have a lovely young friend who, to me, had serious energy problems. Some days she had difficulty getting out of bed, even with 5 children. Some days she didn’t have the energy to cook or work. And she’d been having this issue for decades. After knowing her a year I finally said, “If the time ever comes that you wish for additional choices around your store of energy to be more available for your kids, I have a thought.”

By shifting the context to her children, by giving her control over her choices and not trying to change her, by leading her to each of her decision points, her system didn’t feel threatened. She welcomed my thoughts, got help (My naturopath discovered she was actually dying from a critical lack of vitamin B12.) and now is awake daily at 5:30 a.m. with endless amounts of energy.

No matter what the problem or solution may be, if a system is adjusted to the status quo and can’t do anything different without major disruption, if the cost is too high, it won’t consider doing anything different. So how can we help Others find their own excellence?

13 STEPS TO CHANGE

You must begin by trusting Others have their own criteria for change and that as an outsider, you can’t know it. But as you lead them through their steps to excellence, they’ll notice where they can’t accomplish it on their own and know exactly what they need from you. Then they’ll be ready to hear your information. And as you’ve already helped them help themselves, they’ll come to you for their needs and trust has been established.

The facilitation model I developed leads them through to excellence. It involves 13 specific steps that follow the sequence all brain change takes as a precursor to behavior change. It provides the tools to help the Other figure out their own steps to change so you can then offer the information at the point they needed it:

  • recognize the full set of givens involved;
  • identify all stakeholders and get them involved early;
  • try workarounds to fix the problem internally if possible;
  • understand what the change/fix involves if getting help needed;
  • get buy-in to adopt the new.

It’s not so simple as an outsider gathering information or posing questions to help the influencer understand. Because until they know that the cost change will be equal to or less than their status quo, they will not take action.

Historically, I’ve taught this facilitation process successfully to 100,000 sales professionals and coaches. But with the new technology, it’s quite possible to use it in marketing for Deal Rooms, ABM discussions, and Sales Enablement.

Recently I’ve developed a new Buying Enablement practice to enable marketers to first facilitate the buying decision process and remain a thought leader during the customer life-cycle.

So as you consider delaying your storytelling or pitching until you’ve facilitated change, ask yourself:

  • Would you rather speak or be heard?
  • What is your job – to serve Others through to their own form of excellence or get your point across to anyone who can listen?
  • Do you seek a quick hit or a long-term relationship?
  • Would you rather be a servant leader or an information hawker?

You decide. It’s possible to serve Others and be available with information when and as they need. Sellers can first facilitate buying, coaches and facilitate permanent change, and marketers can develop content that leads people through to brain change. I’m here if you have questions. Or go to www.sharon-drew.com to learn about my facilitation and brain change models.

_______________________

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

November 8th, 2021

Posted In: News

Did you ever wonder why training fails more often than not? Why important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time when they have the opportunity to learn something new to be better?

The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner but a problem with both the training model itself and the way brains learn. In this article, I’ll explain how to design training to facilitate learning.

HOW WE LEARN

Learning is a systems/change problem, and our brain is in charge. It unconsciously translates incoming messages automatically as per our history, which doesn’t include the new content. And herein lie the problem.

We all operate out of unique, internal systems comprised of mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices. Our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will.

Because anything new is a potential threat to our habitual and carefully organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ and automatically resist when there’s no buy-in.

Indeed, to maintain system’s balance (homeostasis), our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy of the required change. With the best motivation in the world, learners may not be able to congruently make the change the new information requires.

The other problem is a pure brain thing. Because the new doesn’t enter with an infrastructure, our brains have no place to store it uniquely. Hence learners practice well during the experiential portions of a program, but they can’t continue their proficiency after they leave.

But there’s a way to design training programs that incorporates change with new neural circuits. Let’s begin by examining the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The design of most training is information-transfer based and potentially poses problems when

  • learner’s brains don’t recognize the need for anything new,
  • the new material opposes long-held beliefs.
  • there are no existing circuits that accurately translate the incoming information.

The current training model assumes that if new material is important and useful, offered in a logical, informative, interesting way, and offers experiential learning, learners will accept it. But this assumption is faulty.

At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign (i.e. new knowledge) into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is. While new, incoming data might be adopted briefly, if it opposes our habituated norm, if it flies in the face of the beliefs and values that represent the status quo, the new will show up as a threat and be resisted.

The unconscious system that holds our beliefs, values and habits in place must be ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material be permanent. Effective training must change the existing system.

LEARNING FACILITATION

Training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system and status quo;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change;
  3. the system to develop new circuitry to ‘translate’ and hold the new material so it will be available when called upon

before the new material is adopted and available for habitual use.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm, I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field.

My job was to help learners first recognize that their habitual skills were insufficient and higher success ratios were possible by adding (not necessarily subtracting) new ones.

Since change isn’t sought out until the system finds an incongruence, I had to help learners self-recognize where they had gaps in their automatic choices, then try to resolve the problem with their current skills, and then seek out new learning as their best option if they couldn’t first fix the problem themselves.

I called this training design Learning Facilitation and have used this model successfully for decades. (See my paper in The 2003 Annual: Volume 1 Training [Jossey-Bass/Pfieffer]: “Designing Curricula for Learning Environments Using a Facilitative Teaching Approach to Empower Learners” pp 263-272).

Here’s how I design courses:

  • Day 1 offers exercises and self-study questionnaires that help learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying skills necessary for greater excellence: specifically, what they do that works and what they do that doesn’t work, and how their current skills match up with their unique definition of excellence within the course parameters. Once they learn exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they know exactly what they need to learn.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route to supplement their current skills then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then do new behaviors get introduced and practiced.

Courses are designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example because ‘information’ is the last thing offered, Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, no computers, no phones, and no lectures. I teach learners how to enlist and expand their unconscious to facilitate buy-in for new material, then when there are new circuits in place, offer the new information.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities. To enable learning, it’s necessary to first facilitate brain change before offering content. I’m happy to discuss my training model or help you develop training programs that enable learning. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

____________

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

November 1st, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News

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