By Sharon Drew Morgen

ConversationOur biases have been developed through the stories of our lives. From birth, our parent’s beliefs become part of our unconscious, very personal, ecosystem; the cultural norms of our youth create our habits, behaviors, and identity; the schools we attend or the gangs we join introduce us to the way our world works and how to behave accordingly; our professions are chosen to allow us to spend our days within the confines of environments that comfortably maintain our norms. Net net, our lives are inspired by our unconscious biases, causing us to live and work, marry and spend time with, people whose norms, interpretations, and beliefs are very similar to ours.

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

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

WE CANNOT UNDERSTAND OTHERS

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

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

And herein lie the problem. When we run into others with different lifestyle choices, or communication styles, or education, or assumptions, or race, or political beliefs, we may not have the skills to connect with them in ways they understand; we may wrongly misinterpret their intent. Certainly we may not notice we’ve been triggered and behave automatically in ways that inadvertently harm another.

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

NEED FOR CHANGE

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

As someone who has spent decades coding and scaling the stages of how human systems change, I know it’s not possible to cause change from the outside; each individual must find a way to evaluate and reconsider their own core norms and biases to make any necessary corrections that only they can make, from within (i.e. inside/out). I don’t believe we’re doing that. Current training approaches are based on helping folks recognize and change behaviors by offering information, practice, scientific data, videos, etc. from the outside (outside/in), hoping to create new triggers, new behaviors, and new awareness. This approach cannot fix the problem permanently because it:

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

Current unconscious bias training assumes people can learn enough from videos, discussions, ‘practicing ‘real’ situations, etc. what unconscious bias looks like to create awareness to recognize a problematic situation before or while it’s happening (have you ever tried to do that?) and know exactly what behaviors need changing – and what to change them to!

In other words, just when our brains are unconsciously registering ALERT, we want it to tell itself ‘Nope. Wrong thinking. Don’t do that. Don’t think that. Stop responding that way. Do something different. NOW!’ just as it’s occurring. It’s possible to do so, but not with the training offered.

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

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

Our reactions to external stimuli are unconscious and automatic, and follow our brain’s historic and habituated neural pathways whenever our unconscious triggers go off. To alter these, it’s necessary to go to the source; it’s not possible to permanently change behaviorsby merely changing behaviors. Offering training that merely offers examples and experiences of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviors, and expecting people to undo their habituated triggers because they ‘admit’ to, or recognize ‘bad’ behaviors, uses the wrong thinking. Changing core biases permanently is not a behavior change issue; it’s a core Identity/Belief problem that must be resolved at the source, within the system that created it. I’ll lay the problem out for you piece by piece, then introduce a solution for permanent change. Basically, this level of change is a systems problem.

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

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

Systems are congruent (Systems Congruence, Homeostasis) entities that always seek stability; they define our politics, our mate selection, even where we live and how we listen to others. Because systems seek to maintain congruence, they have a finely tuned unconscious organizational structure of filters that seek out, and avoid, situations that make them uncomfortable or they find incongruent. Attempting to shift them causes resistance as this level change causes the system to be incongruent, regardless of the seeming need to do something different or the efficacy of a new/better solution. In other words, our status quo shows up every day to maintain itself and we will do whatever it takes to maintain it. It’s who we are.

For permanent change to occur, for new behaviors to be exhibited and chosen, there must be a change in core beliefs before new skills or situations are offered because anything ‘new’ would have no place to fit in our largely automated ‘system’. Current bias training uses methods don’t facilitate this change:

  • Listening: our habituated listening filters and neural pathways automatically bias whatever anyone says to us; we set up our lives to avoid discomfort, and uniquely interpret differences in what has been said so our brains can keep us comfortable. When information is offered as evidence, our historic, habituated, biased listening filters kick in and uniquely interpret incoming data, often differently than the intended meaning. Indeed, it’s not even possible to hear anyone without bias; when what we hear (or see, or feel) makes us uncomfortable, we react historically regardless of how far the intended meaning is from our interpretation.
  • Questions: all normal questions are biased by the Asker’s subjective curiosity, thereby restricting the Responder’s replies to the Responder’s reaction and interpretation of what was heard, and potentially overlooking real answers.
  • Historic: biases are programmed in from the time we’re born. Every day we wake up with the same biases, kept in place by our choice of friends, TV, neighborhoods, professions, reading materials, etc. To permanently shift our biases, we’d have to change our historic programming.
  • Physiological: who we ‘are’ is systemic; our beliefs and norms, character and values have been programmed in and become our Identity, creating the behaviors and responses that will unconsciously maintain our status quo in everything we do and every action we take.
  • Triggers: because of our lifetime of inculcated beliefs, values, norms and outlook, our brains react chemically, unconsciously, and automatically when there is an untoward activity.
  • Information: our training programs typically tell, show, explain, offer stories, videos, etc. etc. using our biased choices, in our favored formats, in our languaging, in hopes that our information triggers recognition, or new behavior adoption to people who may not process what we’re telling them in the way we would prefer. They may not interpret, or know how to recognize a need for, or understand, how to make sense of whatever we’re telling them.
  • Behaviors: as the expression and execution of our beliefs and status quo, behaviors translate our core systemic beliefs and norms into daily action. Behaviors represent us; they are not ‘us’.

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

CHANGE IS A SYSTEMS PROBLEM

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

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

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

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

Does any element of the original need to be kept in place? How will the system know? How would any change effect the whole? How will the bits that need change shift while still maintaining its core values? The system will fight to maintain itself. If all of the above aren’t managed, the system will fill in the blanks with something comfortable and habituated (regardless of its efficacy). In other words, if there is not systemic agreement, no known way to resolve the problem using its current givens, no known way to incorporate something new to the existing system so the system doesn’t implode, no change will happen regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution.

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

WHAT IS A BEHAVIOR?

Current Bias Training attempts to get behaviors changed by using ‘rational’ means: showing learners biased situations, offering data and research, and playing videos to learn what bias looks like. In other words, offering Information: showing and telling people what’s wrong with what they’re doing and what ‘right’ would look like – all of which can be misinterpreted, misread, or objected to, regardless of our intent. While it certainly can make people more aware, these attempts will not cause permanent change: they develop no new habituated triggers or neural pathways to set off a new response to a stimulus. Let’s delve into this a bit.

Behaviors are what we do – transactions automatically initiated by our core system of beliefs, norms, and experience, to act out and express, who we are. We all develop behaviors that ‘be’ who we are, to represent us. Behaviors are the output, the forward movement of the robot, the actions others see.

If asked in a vacuum if we want to harm anyone, few of us would want to. And yet in small and large ways, our unconscious behaviors too often end up unjustly ignoring, being mean to, or harming someone because of their gender, or race or or… I once heard Malcolm Gladwell, who is bi-racial, say that when tested for unconscious racial bias, he came up biased. We all carry some biases. The question becomes 1. Do we notice when, or before, problems occur, and if not what would we need to know or believe differently to notice, and 2. Once we notice (or not) can we have choice over our actions and avoid biased behaviors or make adjustments at the time, or just before, they occur.

To permanently change a behavior, a system must:

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

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

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

In pursuit of excellence, people need some sort of stimulus to begin a process. It’s only during this process the holes in their knowledge become clear: what’s the distance between its current norms and something new and why isn’t the status quo good enough; between what’s been working and what’s now accepted as not working; the old behaviors and responses and designing new ones.

It’s only in the distance between here and there, one set of givens vs another, a known against an unknown, is there’s a desire to change something. And here is where it needs information. If it’s believed that all is well, regardless of any evidence otherwise, the system will not seek out, or pay attention to, any information, regardless of its efficacy.

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

CHANGING BEHAVIORS DOESN’T CHANGE BEHAVIORS

Real change demands a systemic shift to create new triggers, new assumptions, new neural pathways, and ultimately, as an outcome, new behaviors. No one, no information, no person, from outside is able to go into someone’s unconscious to (re)create all these things. And permanent change will not happen until it does. The goal is not to train someone to rid themselves of unconscious bias; it’s to teach the system itself how to discover where it is designating the bias and facilitate it through to new behaviors a way that maintains the foundational norms of the system. It’s using the old to trigger the new. Both/And, not Either/Or. I know this is a lot to understand. Call me and I’ll discuss. 512 771 1117.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, change agent, author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity), and two Amazon bestsellers (Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard?). She is the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® method that gives sellers the tools to help buyers navigate through their Pre Sales change management issues (an area of the buy cycle that sales overlooks), and has trained over 100,000 sales people and leaders internationally. She also developed a listening capability that enables all communicators to hear others without bias. Sharon Drew’s award winning blog (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) has original, thought leader articles on the skills of change, negotiation, questions, sales, buy-in, and negotiation. She is a coach, speaker, trainer, consultant, and inventor. Reach her at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

October 8th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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decisionUntil a decision gets made – to adopt an idea, buy something, agree to negotiation terms, choose one thing over another, or take action in any way – there can be no completed transaction. With the most accurate data, the most efficient solution, or the very best idea or moral righteousness, until or unless there’s agreement and action, nothing new occurs and there is no change. We can be right, smart, efficient, and moral – and buy-in can elude us regardless of how ‘right’ or ‘rational’ or necessary the new decision would be.

Every decision, after all, is a change management problem. Whether it’s a personal decision or the result of corporate, scientific, or professional judgments, a decision represents an addition to, or subtraction from, something within the status quo that would be effected by new or different information. So making a decision is not merely about the actual facts, input/output, risks, uncertainty, or acquired information, but about the process of acceptance, buy-in, and flexibility of the system to adopt to change.

I realize that much of the decision making field focuses on ‘good data’, ‘rational decisions’, or ‘reducing bias’, but the subjective, systemic portion of decision making is typically omitted: Until or unless there is a route to adoption that is acceptable to the status quo – regardless of the efficacy of the results – decision making is incomplete.

GOOD DATA IS NOT ENOUGH

Too often we assume that ‘good data’ is the lynchpin for ‘rational’ action. But if that were all that we needed, there’d be a lot less failure. How does it happen that even with right on our side we can end up wrong? By shifting the focus from rational decisions, odds, data, risk, and probabilities – the best outcome – to a focus on enabling our subjective biases to expand the parameters of the search, adoption, and possibility, decision making can be more effective.

We’ve studied decision making for millennia, with a consistent focus on a ‘rational’ outcome based on ‘facts’. Weighted averages and data/accuracy seem to be the most used organizing principles. We always, it seems, associate decision making with ‘good data‘ good choices, risk, and tasks to be completed. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky say that people make ‘casino decisions’: they gather probabilistic possibilities and calculate the best route between them. But after years of trial and error they found the focus on helping people make ‘good’, ‘rational’ decisions to be of “limited success”. According to Michael Lewis’s new book The Undoing Project, Kahneman said it was necessary to evaluate a decision “not by its outcomes – whether it turned out to be right or wrong – but by the process that let to it.”

I believe the problem lie on the personal, subjective end of decision making. Before we even get to the weighted criteria, data, or ‘rational facts’, our largely unconscious beliefs have restricted the range of possible outcomes by limiting our search criteria, restricting our curiosity and goal-setting, and reducing adoption. In other words, our process limits the full range of possibilities. We’re not even curious about whatever may lie outside the parameters of what we ‘know’ in our guts, or in our intuition, to be true. Our unconscious sabotages our decisions. We must shift the focus away from data and the statistically correct answer, and concentrate on managing our systemic, subjective bias.

HOW SUBJECTIVE BIAS SABOTAGES US

Let me explain my shift in focus. As humans, we make hundreds of small and large decisions a day. Most of them are quick, simple, and vary on a continuum between conscious and unconscious: which jacket to wear, where to go on vacation, whether or not to say something or keep quiet. When we think something is missing or incomplete and seek a different outcome, we weight and consider facts or givens against our personal criteria (beliefs, values, history, knowledge, assumptions). All options get assessed according to how closely they match our internal, weighted hierarchies of beliefs and values (usually unconscious). Indeed, it’s only when we’re convinced that our current data or status quo seems lacking and the new choices feel either more accurate or comfortable, are we willing to shift our status quo to adopt new information.

Teams or companies seeking good decisions for new choices do something similar: facts get researched and weighted according to the goals of a limited group of leaders and the most acceptable sources; assessments get made against the status quo and accepted industry norms; and change is meant to happen according to some acceptable value structure.

But whether personal or corporate, the human side of decision making is often ignored: separate from the facts, the weighting, the ‘rational’ or the optimal, our subjective biases – sometimes referred to as our ‘intuition’, instinct, or our ‘gut’ – restrict what’s possible. Indeed, long before we determine possible options for choices we give ourselves over to our unconscious beliefs and subjective biases that create the parameters of possibility in the first place. If we don’t believe climate change has a human component, for example, we won’t feel the need to decide on which recycle bin to purchase, and will find ‘rational’ reasons not to believe a scientific argument filled with proven facts, regardless of its efficacy.

WHAT’S OUTSIDE OUR CONSCIOUS CHOICE

All new decisions must comply with our internal balance, (Systems Congruence): our unconscious, subjective, belief-based criteria is personal, historic, idiosyncratic, and identity based – separate from any external data available or outcome sought. We even seek references that match our beliefs: with an infinite range of data points available, we only consider that tiny portion of available data that makes sense to us, thereby restricting our data gathering severely; we dismiss, ignore, or resist any incoming data that runs counter to our values and internal status quo. With our subjective filters interpreting information, our unconscious biases take in, or leave out, potentially important data. You see, if we don’t maintain our current beliefs, rules, and status quo we face a potentially disruptive change in our systemic structure, regardless of the facts, or the weighted averages or the ‘rational’ choice.

In other words, our decisions are restricted by our subjective biases and need for Systems Congruence, whether they are personal decisions or family/business-related ones, whether they lead to ‘rational’ decisions or not. Indeed, who exactly judges what’s ‘rational’? We each consider our decisions ‘rational’ as they comply with our own belief structure and knowledge at the time we’re making them. Imagine saying to yourself, “I think I’ll make an irrational decision.” ‘Irrational’ is a subjective term used by outsiders judging our output against their own beliefs (and what they consider to be ‘objective’ or ‘rational’ standards). I always ask, “Irrational according to who?” After all, science is merely a story in time, and ‘facts’ change (Remember when eggs were bad? Or when making an online purchase was a risk?), and there are oh-so-many to choose from!

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

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

IS IMPLEMENTATION NECESSARY?

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

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

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

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

We speak with folks who want the decision.

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

  Not our problem.

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

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

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

When we use a subset of possibilities and people to define the objective criteria for a decision and exclude the available personal criteria, and when we use our instinctive judgements as out lens, we face the possibility of gathering insufficient data and alienating those would might benefit from the outcome of the decision; we are ceding control to our very subjective, and biased, unconscious. How can we willingly take action if it goes against our unconscious drivers, regardless of the efficacy of the available information? How can we know where to gather data from if we only pursue a biased segment of what’s available? How can we know if our decisions will be optimal if we’re being unconsciously restricted by our subjective biases and do not gather data from, recognize, or realize that we are restricting the full set of possibilities?

WHAT DOES OUR UNCONSCIOUS WANT?

All of us pit our unconscious drivers – our beliefs and values, expectations and biases – against our ability to change (And I repeat: any decision is a change management problem. To adopt something new, something old must be replaced or added.). To focus merely on external facts defies logic. In order to make our best decisions we (even teams and families) must integrate our conscious with our unconscious and find a route that expands scope and possibility without provoking resistance. Here are some questions to ask ourselves:

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

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

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

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

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

STEPS TO BETTER DECISION MAKING

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

  1. Make sure all users – all – and influencers (or personally, brainstorm yourself for all surrounding data points of possibility, regardless of how outlandish) are involved in the initial data gathering and outcome-setting.
  2. Get internal (personal or team) agreement for high level beliefs, values, and outcomes as to what a final solution should/shouldn’t entail.
  3. Elicit concerns, fears, beliefs that any change would bring.
  4. Elicit hopes and viewpoints as to best outcomes, goals, and options.
  5. Everyone involved do research on data sources, studies, comparative projects, possible problems (or personally, research all brainstormed possibilities) using agreed-upon resources for data gathering, testing, parameters for results.
  6. Reach consensus on 5, then begin a typical decision analysis/weighting.

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

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

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor, trainer, and consultant. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a generic change management/decision facilitation model that give leaders, decision analysists, coaches, and sellers the tools to help other make their own best decisions based on their own values and beliefs. She works with global clients to enable them to listen without bias, pose Facilitative Questions that enable Others to recognize and act on their own best answers, and help buyers buy. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com512 771 1117.

August 27th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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blind_buyer-166x2501Buyers want to solve a problem in a way that causes the least disruption; the last thing they want to do is bring in something new into their environment that will disrupt. But until the stakeholders (decision makers, influencers, appropriate managers) agree that making a purchase (rather than finding a workaround, using a familiar fix, or maintaining the status quo) is the only way to get where they want to end up, and all of the people that will touch the new solution buy-in to altering the status quo, they will not make a purchase or a change: they will continue the dysfunctional behavior even when an ideal solution is available.

While you might see your solution as offering a better alternative to what they are doing now, buyers have systemic issues to handle when they bring in something new. Making a purchase, or doing something different, means

  • some sort of change management to ensure that the new and the old work together,
  • helping folks who touch the current practices be willing and able to change,
  • understanding and diminishing any fallout that will ensue.

Bringing in something new into an existent system – whether it’s a purchase or an implementation – is a change management problem. And the sales model does not manage change. Indeed, selling doesn’t cause buying.

A BUYING DECISION IS A CHANGE MANAGEMENT PROBLEM

Sales, marketing automation, and the new telemarketing field, ignore the change management aspect of what buyers must accomplish and instead focus on figuring out how and what and to whom to pitch and sell their solution. Let me back track a bit. Givens:

  1. sales manages the needs assessment and solution placement portion of the buyer’s decision.
  2. neither sales nor marketing are equiped to enter the environment/culture in which the buyer lives to help facilitate the systemic, non-solution-focused internal political or relational issues buyers must address to get the buy-in and make the adjustments to their culture that change demands .
  3. buyers don’t know their route through, or implications to, change when they begin to think about resolving a problem.
  4. the time it takes buyers to get the appropriate buy-in from all who will touch the solution is the length of the sales/change cycle. Until they figure this entire process out, they cannot buy. This is considered the pre-sales process.

These are the issues we come smack up against as sales folks: having spoken to only a fraction of the full Buying Decision Team, and having no way to know the political and personal discussions going on internally (and without us), we try to push a solution into a group that haven’t progressed through their entire change management path; we get objections and time delays as buyers figure it out. And we are so dedicated to finding ways to present our solution that we are blind to the buyer’s needs to first manage change. I often ask my own clients where their prospects are in their change path at the point they want to pitch. They have no idea; sales people don’t think about faciltiating change; the sales model as it is, is not equiped to facilitate the systemic change management issues that must be resolved in order for people to become buyers. It’s just far more complex than having a ‘need’ or a problem.

A SOLUTION CAN’T COMPROMISE THE STATUS QUO

Buyers have 13 steps they must take from first idea to making a purchase. It’s not until step 10 that they they actually become buyers, i.e. recognize they have a problem they can’t resolve with their own resources AND is worth fixing AND they have buy-in to buy something. Sales enters and manages steps 10-13. Steps 1-9 are the pre-sales process that focuses on change and determining if a purchase is necessary or a workaround is possible: assembling the right people, understanding the effects that solving a problem will produce, getting buy-in for a course of action – and then, determining if/what/why they want to buy. Unfortunately, as outsiders we can never understand what’s going on – nor do we need to. We just need to help them do it themselves. I have written an entire book to explain this problem: Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell.

When we enter too early with a solution-placement goal, we potentially speak to the wrong person/people, at the wrong time, using biased questions to gather data we use to sell with – and then we sit and wait. We are holding a hammer, waiting for the time when they are ready with a nail. But there is a much more efficient way to do this: we need to help them facilitate change first before beginning the actual sales process. We sit and wait while prospects do this anyway – all the while hoping, calling calling calling – and overlook a real opportunity to become part of the Buying Decision Team and sell to those who will buy. Buying anything is the last thing people do; before that they cannot hear you, understand they need you, and don’t even consider themselves buyers. And by focusing on solution placement, we are short-circuiting the buying decision process, entering at the end, and overlook the real opportunity to facilitate the entire Buying Decision Path. To do this, however, requires a skill set different from sales.

I actually developed a pre-sales model that facilitates a buyer’s change management process called Buying Facilitation®. Although a change facilitation model, not a sales model per se, it works with sales and employs a wholly different skill set (Facilitative Questions, Dissociative Listening) that actually shows buyers how to discover and manage the systemic change they will face when purchasing a solution or bringing something new in to their status quo. It not only teaches buyers how to get the requisite buy-in so their daily functioning won’t be compromised – managing the people, policies, technology, and old vendor, etc. issues – but shows them how to pro-actively manage the change that will happen once the new solution is on board. After using Buying Facilitation® THEN it’s time to use the sales behaviors you’ve grown accustomed to. I’m not taking away sales; I’m just employing it at the right time, once the buyer is ready, willing, and able to buy. After all, if purchasing your solution would cause more harm than good to the prospect’s environment – regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution – they won’t buy. And the time it takes them to figure all this out is the length of the sales cycle.

If the tech guy doesn’t want to outsource work; if the sales and marketing folks are not talking to each other; if the “C” level person has a favored vendor from 3 years ago; if there is already something in place that cost a bundle and the buyer merely wants to tack on yet another fix – if anything political or relational is going on internally that would compromise the system, the buyer will not buy: they will not buy if the system itself would be at risk.

Let’s teach buyers first how to buy – how to manage their change so they are ready for you to sell and place your solution. Use Buying Facilitation® first to facilitate the Pre-Sales change management issues all buyers must manage, help them get ready to change, and turn them quickly into buyers.

_____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions. Sharon Drew is the author of Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell  to introduce the buying decision stages. She is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  She can be reached at; sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.comwww.didihearyou.com;www.sharondrewmorgen.com

July 9th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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change-2696395_960_720How do we manage change in our organizations? Not very well, apparently. According to statistics, the success rate for many planned change implementations is low: 37 percent for Total Quality Management; 30 percent for Reengineering and Business Process Reengineering, and a whopping 97% for some software implementations. Regardless of the industry, situation, levels of people involved, or intended outcome, change seems to be sabotaged in unknown ways, causing the real possibility of failure:

 

  • Internal partners fail in attempts to promote and elicit proposed change initiatives across departments.
  • Leaders get blindsided by unknowns, creating more problems or becoming part of the problem when attempting to find a fix.
  • The system gets disrupted during the change process, unwittingly harming people, relationships, and initiatives.
  • Improper, or non-existent, integration between developers and users cause lack of buy-in and resistance.
  • The change doesn’t get adopted as conceived, with financial and personal fallout.

Is it possible that our approach is causing some of the problems? I submit that we’re omitting some of the foundational elements to congruent change, change that can be successful in:

  • its comfortable transitions between phases;
  • its ease of buy-in;
  • enabling all participants to embrace leadership roles and be a part of designing and developing the Rules and Beliefs that will define the emerging, new system;
  • reducing fallout and cost;
  • eliminating resistance,
  • encouraging creativity.
 But we’ll need to do something different from what we’re currently doing.

THE SYSTEMS ASPECT OF CHANGE

Let’s begin at the beginning with my definitions of change and systems.

CHANGE: Change is a new set of choices within a system that cause the elements of the system to exhibit altered Behaviors while still maintaining homeostasis. No change can occur unless the system reorients (i.e. re-organizes, re-prioritizes etc.) itself in a way that incorporates and maintains its core accepted norms (i.e. homeostasis, Systems Congruence). In other words, all change must include a way for the elements to ultimately buy-in to, and incorporate, new functioning while maintaining the rules and Beliefs of the status quo.SYSTEM: Any connected set of elements that comprise a homeostatic entity, held together by consensual rules and Beliefs that then generate a unique set of Behaviors that exhibit its unique identity. All systems must maintain Systems Congruence or they lose their identity and become something else. Because change represents the disruption of the status quo in unknowable ways, systems defend themselves by resisting when feeling threatened. In order to facilitate congruent change, it’s necessary to get the agreement, and a recognized path forward (There are specific, sequential steps in all change processes.), of all of the bits that will be effected by the final solution to ensure it maintains its core identity, Beliefs, and rules.

As a lifelong student of systems thinking and theorizing (50+ years), I’ve recognized that change is often approached with an eye on altering activity and Behaviors without addressing the vital need for the core system to maintain homeostasis. And when we tie our understanding of the functionality of a system to its Behaviors and attempt to push Behavior change before eliciting core Belief change, we

  • overlook the ability to facilitate the system down its own path through to it’s own version of congruent change
  • are relegated to managing the fallout when the stable system reaches Cognitive Dissonance and is forced to defend itself.

Herein lie the problem: until or unless the full complement of relevent elements (that not only created the problem but holds it in place daily) agrees to congruently alter, and get buy-in from, the elements that caused the problem and will be effected by any change, it will resist change regardless of the underlying problem that needs fixing. The system is sacrosanct. And it applies whether trying to get a teenager to pick up his socks, a diabetic patient to exercise, a team to work harmoniously, or a person to figure out if/when she needs to buy something. In general, outsiders cannot effect congruent change because they cannot know the core elements that have created and maintain the status quo, nor how to re-orient them congruently around any proposed change. It’s an inside job.

With our focus on changing Behaviors, we’ve overlooked the need for a system to maintain Systems Congruence – the foundational rules, Beliefs, relationships, etc. that define the system. Outside influencers – regardless of their initiatives or rationality or persuasiveness or authority – can never understand a system they’re not a part of. Change must begin by teaching the system how to change itself. I’ve written this article to:

  • Explain how current approaches to change management lead to resistance,
  • Introduce the elements of change and need for buy-in,
  • Introduce a route to change that can achieve goals without resistance while maximizing leadership and creativity through buy-in and congruent change.

In my forthcoming book (tentatively titled Facilitating Change) I’ll explore this topic thoroughly. In this article I’ll introduce the important elements and lay out my thinking. And I look forward to your feedback.

ALL PROBLEMS START WITH SYSTEMS

Most influencing professions (leadership, coaching, consulting, sales etc.) begin with a goal to be met, adopt an outside-in approach that uses influence, advice, ‘rational’ scientific ‘facts’, and various types of manipulation to inspire change – while ignoring the fact that anything new, any push from outside the system, any dissimilar element not already within it, represents disruption and Cognitive Dissonance. We put the cart before the horse, attempting to change Behaviors and elicit buy in before the system is certain it won’t be compromised and knows how to make sure it survives. Until the necessary steps of change are completed and the system knows it will maintain Systems Congruence, the identified problem will continue as is: it’s already built into the system:

  • The full complement of elements and that created the problem and represent the status quo must be assembled and recognized [Note: this applies to making an individual decision since each of us is an individual system.];
  • Everyone/everything within the system must accept that it’s not possible to fix the problem with known resources;
  • All of the elements (people, policies, rules, relationships, etc.) that will be effected by a new solution – i.e. change – must begin by understanding, buying-in to, and accounting for, the ways they’d be changing to ensure the path they design for better funtioning leads them to homeostasis.

Until all that happens the system will resist change (or buying, or learning, or eating healthy or or) regardless of the level of need or the efficacy of the solution. And because of the unconscious, historic elements involved, for congruent change to occur, those inside the system must design their own route to acceptable change. And as outside influencers we actually cause our own resistance by pushing our agendas, when we can actually lead Others through to their own change.

By assuming a Behavior addition/subtraction is ‘rational’ or necessary, without accounting for whatever workaround the system has already adopted and built in to its daily functioning, we end up with far more failure and resistance than we should have given the efficacy of our solutions. Indeed, it’s necessary to elicit buy-in for each element that will be changed: to maintain congruence throughout the change process, systems must

  • Maintain Functional Stability. Systems must maintain homeostasis. Their current functioning, even when problematic, has been finely honed over time, waking up every day maintaining the Behaviors, rules, goals, etc. that created the problem to begin with. Change is not so simple as shoving in a new Behavior. Remember: a system doesn’t judge itself as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It just is. And it keeps ticking over the same way day after day.
  • Achieve Buy-In. Whether consciously or unconsciously, a system will resist anything from outside that threatens the status quo, regardless of the efficacy of the change. For successful change to occur, the system must recognize exactly what fallout will occur when anything shifts or is added, and how each affected element must modify itself in a way that maintains the integrity of the system (i.e. Systems Congruence). I can’t say this enough: the system is sacrosanct, quite separate from whatever reasons an influencer uses to change it.
  • Maintain Underlying Rules and Beliefs. Great data or solutions, important needs or dangerous consequences do not influence the change if they run counter to the system’s homeostatic Beliefs and rules, overt or covert. (It’s why your Uncle Vinny still smokes with lung cancer, and why training doesn’t cause new behaviors.) Note when we attempt change a set of Behaviors without changing the underlying Beliefs that created those Behaviors to begin with, we cause resistance. And here’s a tip: when you start from inside out, from eliciting any change within a system’s Beliefs and rules (i.e. rather than ‘Eat your broccoli,’ start with ‘I’m a Healthy Person.’), new behaviors will automatically accompany them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the other way ‘round: when we attempt to push a new Behavior into the system – say, asking a heart patient to change her diet or exercise program – before eliciting Belief change from the entire (and largely unconscious) system, we will achieve resistance as it may be seen as a threat. It cannot be otherwise.

The issues are the same regardless of the focus, whether it’s a company resisting reorganization, a patient refusing meds, a user group resisting new software, a buyer who hasn’t figured out when, if, how to buy, or a group not taking direction from company leadership. As outsiders we too often push for our own results and actually cause the resistance that occurs.

It’s possible to use our positions as outside influencers eschew our bias and be real Servant Leaders and teach the system how to traverse each step of its own change.

CASE STUDY: SYSTEMS ALIGNMENT

Here is a case study that exhibits how to enable buy-in and congruent change management by facilitating a potential buyer through her unique systems issues en route to a purchasing decision. Note: All change situations (whether coaching, leadership, software implementations, family problems, healthcare initiatives, etc.) must go through a series of steps to change to achieve buy in. Until now, we’ve left Others to manage the route through to the steps of change on their own as we push, advocate, advise, influence, manipulate for our own agendas and then we blame them when they resist – not to mention potentially not even reach their own internal route to change.

I was with a client in Scotland when he received a call from a long-standing prospect – a Learning and Development manager at a prodigious university with whom he’d been talking for 11 months – to say, “Thanks, but no thanks” for the product purchase. After three product trials that met with acclaim and excitement, an agreed-upon price, and a close relationship developed over the course of a year, what happened? The software was a perfect solution; they were not speaking to any other providers; and price didn’t seem to be a problem.

At my client’s request, I called the L&D manager. Here is the conversation:

SDM: Hi, Linda. Sharon Drew here. Is this a good time to speak? Pete said you’d be waiting for my call around now.
LR: Yes, it’s fine. How can I help? I already told Pete that we wouldn’t be purchasing the software.
SDM: I heard. You must be so sad that you couldn’t purchase it at this time.
LR: I am! I LOVE the technology! It’s PERFECT for us. I’m so disappointed.
SDM: What stopped you from being able to purchase it?
LR: We have this new HR director with whom I share a leadership role. He is so contentious that few people are willing to deal with him. After meeting with him, I get migraines that leave me in bed. I’ve decided to limit my exposure to him, discussing only things that are emergencies. So I’ve put a stop to all communication with him just to keep me sane. He would have been my business partner on this purchase.
SDM: Sounds awful. I hear that because of the extreme personal issues you’ve experience from the relationship, you don’t have a way to get the necessary buy-in from this man to help your employees who might need additional tools to do their jobs better.
LR: Wow. You’re right. That’s exactly what I’ve done. Oh my. I’m going to have to figure that out because I’ve certainly got a responsibility to the employees.
SDM: What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to work through the personal issues and figure out how to be in some sort of a working relationship with the HR director for those times your employees need new tools?*
LR: Could you send me some of these great questions you’re asking me so I can figure it out, and maybe use them on him?

I sent her a half dozen *Facilitative Questions to both teach her how to design a route to her own sanity and a path to healthy collaborative partnership with the HR Director. Two weeks later, Linda called back to purchase the solution. What happened?

1. While the university had a need for my products solution, the poor relationship between the HR director and the L&D director created hidden, ongoing dysfunction. The information flow problem could not be resolved while the hidden problem remained in place – details not only hidden from the sales person (outsider) but used as a deterrent by Linda (who didn’t know how to resolve the problem other than to walk away because her own internal system had been violated). So yes, there was a need for the solution and indeed a willing partner, but no, there was no systemic buy-in for change.

2. I stayed completely away from attempting to resolve the problem by sharing, gathering, pitching information or my reasons why change (i.e. buying my solution) was necessary. (Not only is information not needed until the system knows what information it needs – if you haven’t figured out what type of car you want to buy there’s no need to hear a pitch about a Lamborghini – but the bias involved in sharing it and gathering it restricts success. There’s plenty of time to offer our solutions when we can pitch it relevantly, according to the way the system is set up to use it.). The only viable route was to help her figure out her own route to a fix.

3. This was not a sales problem (It’s always a ‘systems change’ problem, rarely a ‘coaching’ problem or an ‘implementation’ problem) – the Behaviors/outcomes were merely representing a broken system. I had to facilitate the change by enabling Linda to resolve her own system. This is how current change management models fail: they attempt to rule, govern, constrict, manage, influence, maintain the change, rather than enabling the system to recognize and mitigate its own unique (and largely unconscious) drivers and change itself congruently.

4. There was no way for the system to fix itself as long as the L&D director – merely one piece of the systemic puzzle that created the problem to begin with – didn’t know how to develop additional choices for herself. Her choice to do nothing was an ode to Systems Congruence.

5. In Linda’s unconscious decision to forgo a problem fix to maintain her own personal homeostasis, she unconsciously weighted her personal criteria above her criteria for doing her job. In order to buy the solution, she’d need to find a way to ensure personal Systems Congruence.

Linda was willing to separate her work-related decision from her personal issues and reevaluate her choices once she realized there was a way to maintain her internal homeostasis AND fix the problem.

Rule: Until or unless people grasp how a solution will match their underlying criteria/values, and until there is buy-in from the parts that will be effected from the change, no permanent change will happen regardless of the necessity of the change, the size of the need, the origination of the request, or the efficacy of the solution.

Current change management models assume that a ‘rational’, information/rules-based change request and early client engagement will supplant the system’s need for homeostasis.

Focusing instead on effecting Behavior change as per the route, goal, assumptions, needs of the influencer. Indeed, even when change agents attempt to include clients into the software design or change implementations, their questions and info sharing strategies are largely biased by their personal outcomes and unwittingly overlook the interdependency of core Beliefs, historic roles, unspoken rules and relationships, and unconscious drivers within the user’s unconscious system.

Rule: Whether it’s sales, leadership, healthcare, coaching or change management, until or unless the folks within another’s system are willing to adapt to, and adopt, the requested change using their own rules and Beliefs, they will either take no action or resist to maintain the homeostasis of the system. The system is sacrosanct. And information push, rational argument, leadership directives, or any outside-in model threatens the system.

HOW BELIEFS, BEHAVIORS, AND BUY-IN EFFECT SYSTEMIC CHANGE

Fortunately, it’s possible to highlight each pivotal element of change and get buy-in before attempting a change initiative. It requires an understanding of what, exactly, is a Behavior, and why starting by attempting to change the Behaviors/output of the system can only cause resistance.

Behaviors are merely Beliefs in action – the physical transaction that exemplifies the underlying rules and values of the system. In other words, they’re the means a system uses to operate and perform its purpose – the end point, and certainly an ineffective place to begin change.

Think of it this way. If you want your forward-moving robot to go backwards you might tell it why moving backward is beneficial, order it to move backward, offer scientific proof why moving backward is best, or push it. But until the internal programming is changed from the core, it cannot change regardless of how you position your request or push the robot backwards. Indeed, you might even break the robot in your attempts to get it to behave the way you want it to behave.

Since it’s not possible for an outsider to lead from inside, we must teach the system how to lead itself, much like a GPS system leads a driver to a destination without actually being in the car or noticing the landscape. Like a GPS system, we begin by leading the system through its own idiosyncratic route to design its own change (i.e. like I helped Linda figure out her core issues (i.e. not our products) and how to communicate with the HR director) to ensure Systems Congruence, buy-in and leadership from within. Here are my rules to facilitating congruent change and buy-in:

1. Enter with no bias. Help the system define the elements that created the status quo and must buy in to the change. These include anything – jobs, people, initiatives, relationships, departments – that the new solution will touch. Rule: Entering the decision-navigation portion of the change experience with bias or a personal outcome will impede the process and create resistance. Change agents must listen for systems without a biased ear (see my new book on this topic – What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and eschew attempting to introduce information until the system is set up to change, knows what it needs to know (usually quite different from what we think it needs) and has achieved buy-in.

2. Help the system recognize all of the parts – the people, rules, relationships, presuppositions, workarounds – that created and maintain the status quo. Rule: Until or unless the system recognizes all of the factors, knows how they have contributed to the problems in the status quo, and ensures that they buy in to the change, it will not be able to give agreement.

3. Help the system figure out how to reorganize around the new change so it will not face disruption and will have all of the pieces in place to accommodate the change. Rule: The change cycle is the time it takes for the system to figure out its own trajectory so there will be minimal disruption during the change process.

BUY-IN: A REAL WORLD EXAMPLE

Joseph, a coaching client of mine, was a CMO in a small company (around 150 employees) had a problem: He wanted to implement a new customer-service initiative but had just joined the company and was fearful of making waves. He initially wanted to design the project, issue edicts, and fire those who didn’t comply with the initiative. After casually speaking with a few people about it, he got huge resistance.

He called me in when he realized he had to choose between enforcing the Behaviors and outcomes he had in mind, or creating the structure and teaching the employees how to become creative leaders who would design their own congruent process. I helped him build a creative structure for congruent change, which meant giving up some of the details of his plan while maintaining the congruence of what the outcome looked like. Joseph put together a list of his baseline criteria and then left open the financials, job descriptions, activities, and other decisions:

1. Maintain the company’s integrity, professionalism, and level of service;

2. Design a mix between technology and human interaction;

3. Provide customers with better access to more data, have ease of use for any information they needed, and meet their needs more proactively;

4. Create award-winning service that would differentiate the company from all competitors and keep customers over time.

He called a meeting with the entire company – even groups that the change process wouldn’t necessarily touch – and told them that he was thinking about expanding the customer service operations. He asked everyone to take a few hours to discuss, think about, and brainstorm what it could look like if they had an unlimited budget (which they didn’t have, but it would eliminate the money piece from their brainstorming), and said he’d meet with them the next week to get their ideas.

He told them that this process was highly important, and he wanted it to be part of people’s daily discussions over the next week. He asked that each group have a spokesperson and historian to keep track of all ideas.

The next week, Joseph met with employees again and asked for their input. He captured the ideas by audio and put them all up on an interactive website for the new ideas and told people to add their thoughts. He then sent them back to consider the ideas offered and generate even more.

At the next meeting, he asked workers to take all of the ideas now floating around and use them to brainstorm what the new initiative would look like, who might do what, what would have to change, and what the change would look like for those involved. He asked them to consider:

1. What jobs would change? What jobs would be added/subtracted – and what would happen with the people whose jobs might be affected?

2. What needed to stay the same internally, no matter what? And how could this be included in the new initiative?

3. What might be the possible fall-out from the staff and from customers?

4. What could get in the way of a successful change initiative?

Eventually, employees got into teams and developed solid implementation plans. Those folks who had to change jobs or had their work significantly restructured in a way that might cause resistance joined a management team or focus group and became part of the solution. And throughout the process, I listened carefully to hear points of discontinuity so we could stop and go through their internal examination of their steps to change.

Did Joseph get everything he wanted? Well, yes and no. The new organization ended up far exceeding anything he had conceived. It had more creativity and leadership. It also cost more than he realized (time and money) to put everything in place. But it elicited buy-in from everyone: there was no resistance because everyone had bought in to the idea and made it their own. And over a short amount of time, the change paid for itself.

This is only one method of facilitating change and avoiding resistance. I’ve developed a Change Facilitation model, used often in sales as Buying Facilitation®, that uses a unique skill set to enable core change. I’ve trained this to Senior Partners at recognized consulting firms, farmers in Iowa, tech people in Hong Kong, coaches in Kansas. It’s a generic model that influencers can use to elicit real change. I’m happy to discuss it with you (Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com).

Conclusion

Before introducing any change initiative, give up the need to push the change, listen without bias, and enable Others to traverse their route to discovery:

  • what elements created and maintain the status quo,
  • who needs to be included (often a larger group than anticipated),
  • recognize what would get in the way of success and what needs to happen to mitigate that interference,
  • figure out how to manage the workarounds in place that attempt to mitigate the problem,
  • notice levels of buy-in and help those who resist shift their personal criteria to become part of the group,
  • get agreement, steps, criteria, and Behaviors for an intact, non-resistant, functioning system that welcomes the new initiative. Then introduce the change.

Until now, we’ve assumed that resistance is a normal part of the change process. But we’ve effectively been pushing our own biased needs for change into a closed, hidden system. We’ve ignored the rule of systems and forgotten that the change we are suggesting will encounter a status quo that is trying to maintain homeostasis. But as we’ve explored above, it is possible to get buy-in without resistance. We don’t have to throw out the many wonderful change models out there. But we first need to get buy-in, and then the change will be welcomed rather than spurned or sabotaged.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, systems theorizer, and developer of a change facilitation model used in sales as Buying Facilitation®. She is an award-winning blogger (www.sharondrewmorgen.com), and the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets
and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has trained Buying Facilitation® to coaches, leaders, healthcare providers, in many global corporations such as KPMG, Wachovia, Bose, Kaiser, Morgan Stanley, IBM. She is currently working on a new book tentatively titled: Facilitating Change: the route to congruent decision making, buy-in, and compliance.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com;  sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

May 14th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Listening, News

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coding-3I wasn’t diagnosed with Nonverbal Learning Disorder – NLD, similar to Asperger’s – until I was 61. For most of my life it’s felt like I live in a quarantined room with glass walls, watching people live seemingly normal lives on the other side, but unable to touch them. But my world, although far less social, is rich; every day I awake filled with curiosity and visions of possibility, with ideas to write about and share so others can use; every day my heart aches with the need to use my abilities to make a difference and help everyone have the tools to be all they can be.

Since I was a kid I’ve had to navigate social situations that render me confused and obnoxious: expected social norms are often incomprehensible to me (I’ll never understand why strangers ask “How are you?” when it’s such a personal question.). My listening skills, apparently, aren’t conventional either: I hear, and respond to, the meaning behind words rather than those spoken. [Note: Like many Aspies, I hear whole circles/systems when spoken to, and often respond to the metamessage intended instead of the words spoken. It gets to the heart of any communication quickly. Clients love it, friends tolerate it, strangers mock it or call me ‘rude’.]. The world’s just different for me.

As a kid my grades suffered until someone figured out I should be given essays instead of multiple choice tests (Then I got A’s). I couldn’t make friends (no sleepovers, or parties, either in high school or college!) even though I was a cheerleader, the school pianist, and editor of the school paper. And everyone, including my confounded parents, tried to make me ‘normal’ when I did something ‘odd’ or ‘bad’. [In those days there was no diagnosis]. Why couldn’t they see/hear/feel me and appreciate my ideas and heart? Why didn’t anyone just accept and encourage me? I knew I was smart and kind. It confused me that others couldn’t see me because I was different.

I prayed to be normal, to understand what responding ‘appropriately’ meant. I longed to join the world, to fit in when I wanted to, but didn’t want to lose my authenticity or ideas. I was determined to figure out how Others made choices, how I made mine, and note the differences. I remember telling myself that since I was in trouble all the time anyway I might as well be in trouble for doing what I thought was right, so long as I knew the difference. This formed the foundation of my life’s work: figuring out how people could make new, congruent choices. In retrospect, I cannot imagine what made me think I could accomplish this. But I did. I just did it my way.

HOW DO WE CHOOSE WHAT WE CHOOSE?

Starting at age 11 I stole away to a large, flat rock in a nearby reservoir to think. From 1957 – 1963 I filled notebooks with ideas, drawings and doodles, and fantasized possibilities: how do people choose? What exactly, is choice, and how do people know when to choose to do something different? Do one thing over another? These questions have filled my entire life. [No Google, no computers, no neuroscience or behavioral science or Daniel Kahneman. Just me, a rock, some paper and pen, and intense curiosity.] It became my ‘topic’: What caused people to think, and act, differently from each other, sometimes with the same set of ‘givens’? Could people be taught when, if, or how to make different choices? Could I change? Could anyone?

I also wrote down conversations – with my parents, and those I overheard – noting similarities and differences in words, responses, and intent; I noted when Others’ behaviors and dialogues were confusing, and when I got in trouble for not making the right choices. I wrote down my own internal dialogue when I was apparently out of step, and noted the social situation when I noticed others said something different than they meant.

It was obvious that people reacted differently to the same stimulus. Seemed everyone’s subjective experience (I call it a system of unique rules, norms, beliefs, experience, history etc.) creates the unconscious biases that cause their habitual choices.

1. Everyone’s choices come from their unique, historic, subjective internal realities (their ‘system’) and are largely unconscious.

I collected data in my jobs: From 1975 – 1979 I ran pre-discharge groups and family therapy in an in-patient state psychiatric center giving me an invaluable opportunity to learn about group communication, hidden agendas and veiled meanings, and the vulnerability of maintaining the status quo. 1979-1983 I was a stockbroker on Wall Street. From 1983-1989 I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart and had the opportunity to negotiate and have clients/staff from different countries and cultures. I’ve run Buying Facilitation® training programs in 5 of the 7 continents. I founded a Not-For-Profit around Europe that helped kids with my son’s disease get the resources to lead functional lives. Then, and to this day, I have mapped communication, choice, and belief-based decision making.

HOW WE MAINTAIN OUR STATUS QUO

One of my persistent bewilderments was why people behaved in destructive ways even when they had relevant data suggesting they try something else. As I got better at mapping the elements behind my own decision making process and matching it to what I noticed in Others, I realized the complexity of the problem: there’s a broader set of considerations involved than just ‘fixing’ it, or weighting choices. Seems there are iterative, sequential steps that must occur internally before any system is ready for change (Read Dirty Little Secrets for a complete discussion.) including:

2. A. assembling the full, unique data set that comprises the status quo. Includes rules, values, goals, relationships/people, history, events, etc.;
    B. a recognition of anything and everything missing in the status quo that might lead to a problem or a lack [omitting anything causes incomplete, possibly inaccurate data; attempting to push anything in prematurely causes resistance to avoid system destabilization.].

Given the subjectivity and sophistication involved in this process, any change we each to through obviously must be initiated, defined, and accepted from within our indvidual systems; change being pushed from outside gets resisted because it potentially offends the system. Our human systems are sacrosanct.

3. Change must come from within the elements of the system that created the problem to ensure the status quo is maintained.
4.  Any potential change must be agreed upon (i.e. buy-in) by the system of rules, experiences, history, people, values (etc.), that hold the initiating problem in place.

Here is the question that has ruled my thinking for decades: How could I, or anyone (given we’re each operating from unconscious subjective biases), facilitate change in Others if their change factors are unconscious and fight to maintain the status quo?

PUSHING CHANGE VS FACILITATING CHANGE

In the mid-1980s I discovered NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP – the study of the structure of subjective experience) and studied for three years (Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and a unique Beyond/Integration year) because I found their unwrapping of human systems cogent and important. While it’s not scientifically accepted,  NLP is quite important as a way to unpack how/why we do what we do and is the most important communication tool of the twentieth century. I loved the depth of the discovery process through their codified systems of human criteria. Unfortunately, like other influencer models (sales, leadership, coaching, healthcare etc.) the NLP practitioner is trained to use this knowledge to push change from outside, when it’s far more consistent, relevant, accurate and integrous to enable Others to traverse, repair, and integrate the route of their own change; NLP practitioners, like doctors and sales folks, attempt to cause change (obviously using their own personal biases), rather than trusting that people must elicit their own change to remain congruent.

5. Until the system determines how to garner buy-in and consensus in a way that’s congruent with its own rules, and make room for something new in a way the system won’t face disorder, change will be resisted rather than threaten the status quo.

In the late 1980s I discovered the books of Roger Schank who said questions could uncover unconscious criteria. Really? Conventional questions were biased, restricting responses to the bias of the Asker. Since change is an inside job, how could questions enable choice?

I played with this problem for a year and eventually developed a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that uses specific words, in a specific order, in sequenced steps, as an unbiased directional device (much like a GPS, with no bias), giving Outsiders (influencers) the ability to efficiently and congruently help Others traverse the route to change, and make quick decisions and shifts in ways that their system deems tolerable. In other words, a form of question that can be used by doctors, sellers, coaches, leaders – anyone who seeks to enable change in others. An example:  ‘How will you know if it’s time to reconsider your hairstyle?’ instead of ‘Why do you wear your hair like that?’ – leading Others  directly to the route down their own unconscious change criteria, rather than manipulating the change sought by the Questioner. After all, an Outsider can never fully understand the makeup of someone else’s unique, unconscious system. Why not lead them through to their own change steps?

6. As neutral navigation devices, Facilitative Questions direct the Other’s unconscious down the sequence of change without bias, enabling consensus from the system, congruent to their own norms. In others words, influencers can help people make permanent, congruent change, so long as they eschew leading from their own biases.

Used in sales, coaching, negotiating, leadership, healthcare, decision making, and management, these questions help the Other get straight to the heart of their own decisions, enabling influencers to quickly determine how – or if – to proceed with integrity, collaboration, and authenticity. {In sales, Facilitative Questions quickly eliminate those who would never buy, discover and teach those with a need (initially recoznized or not) AND an ability to buy, and close sales in half the time. Buyers need to take these steps (Pre-Sales) prior to any buying decision anyway, and usually make them behind-the-scenes while sellers wait.}

In the 80s and 90s, I found the books of Benjamin Libet and Maurice Merleau-Ponty who confirmed my early theories that behavior comes from subjective experience. I’ve met with, and read close to a thousand books and papers from, communication experts, behavioral scientists, neuroscientists. I even interviewed for a PhD in Behavioral Sciences, but was told my work was 20 years ahead of the current research at the time so I couldn’t use my own work as my PhD thesis. I did begin an experiment at Columbia with a behavioral scientist on the criteria people used to make decisions with (behavioral vs belief), but our funding got cut as we were set to begin. And in all of my sales/Buying Facilitation®  training programs, we have a pilot group compared with a control group.

THE BIRTH OF BUYING FACILITATION®: WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Putting all of my learning and ideas together, it presents a very different picture than the one we currently use to influence, lead, or serve others. Here’s a recap.

1. Everyone makes decisions based on their own unique, unconscious subjective biases. External data will be resisted, accepted, misunderstood accordingly, regardless of the need or efficacy of the information.
2. Everyone, and every team, exists within a system of idiosyncratic rules that create and maintain the status quo, and will resist change (buying anything, shifting behaviors) until the system has bought-in to shifting congruently.
3. Conventional questions are biased by the Questioner, and lead to restricted data collection and responses. Facilitative Questions lead the system through it’s own path to assembly, and change management so it can make its own best decisions and discover its own type of Excellence. 
4. People can only hear/listen according to the parameters of their internal biases, and will misunderstand, mishear, forget, filter any data that is not aligned. I wrote a book on this: What? Did you really say what I think I heard?
5. Change can only happen from the inside, regardless of the external ‘reality’ or need.
6. Information cannot teach anyone how to make a new decision; all change/choice comes from shifts within the existent, systemic beliefs. Information is only useful once all elements of change are in place; otherwise it gets misheard, misinterpreted, or ignored.
7. Until a system knows how, if, when, where to change congruently, no change will occur regardless of any external reality.
8. It’s possible to facilitate Others through congruent change, be part of their decision making process, potentially expand their choices, and work with those who are ready, willing, and able. This enables influencers to truly serve rather than depend on ‘intuition’ or their own biases.

I know we spend billions creating pitches, rational arguments, data gathering, questionnaires, training, Behavior Modification, etc. But this only captures the low hanging fruit – those who have gotten to the place where new ideas, solutions, training’s fit. People who

  • think differently,
  • have rules, expectations or beliefs that run counter to the offered information (but can be recalculated), or
  • have not yet reached the realization that they need what you’ve got on offer (but do need it)

will either mishear, misunderstand, or resist when presented with any outside push or data. That means we’re offering our solutions before the system is set up for change, finding only the low hanging fruit who have already determined their route to change. Conventional models that push/offer/pull information – rational or otherwise – cannot do better than be there when the fruit’s ready to fall. But by adding some skills that first facilitates change readiness, it’s possible to become part of the decision process and a place on the Buying Decison Team.

My core thinking remains outside of conventional thinking because it’s not academic (although it’s more accepted these days). But after 60 years of study and mistakes, 35 years of training clients and running control groups, I’ve accomplished my childhood goal. My generic facilitation model (Buying Facilitation®) has been taught globally since 1985; it does just what I always wanted to do: offer scalable skills to anyone seeking to truly serve others by facilitating their own brand of excellence. In other words, I can teach influencers to help Others know how, when, if to make new choices for themselves. It’s an unconventional model, and certainly not academic. But it’s been proven with over 100,000 people globally.

These days, I continue to learn, read, study, and theorize. Should anyone in healthcare, sales, leadership, OD, or coaching be interested in learning more, or collaborating, or or or, I’m here.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, healthcare, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters.

Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively. To learn Buying Facilitation® contact sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117 and visit www.newsalesparadigm.com

 

March 5th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Listening, News

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Why systms work for businessAs a Change Facilitator, I often get asked about the nature of decision making, change and buy-in. Since my responses seem surprising in their laser focus on systems, I thought it might be an interesting conversation to start among influencers: what role do systems play in change? To that end, I’ve jotted down a few of my favorite ‘laws’ of systems that might help explain my intense respect for them, and provide you with baseline truths of how our status quo rules our behaviors, how our beliefs and decisions are tied together, and why it’s so difficult to change anyone’s mind.

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

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

WRAP UP

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

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

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

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

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

Conventional practices include posing conventional (biased) questions asked to elicit answers as per the Asker’s needs and curiosity, filtered through their biased listening, directed toward behavior change (rather than belief change) that they want to see occur and use biased content to convince/influence/rationalize the system to acquiesce. In other words, the approaches we’re now using won’t affect systemic change unless the system was already poised to do so.

Change only happens when the system has already agreed, and knows how to manage any change so there is no disruption (or there will be automatic resistance); change cannot happen when the system believes it will become unstable as a result.

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

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

CHANGE FACILITATION

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

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

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

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and the developer of Change Facilitation, used in Healthcare and Behavior Modification, and sales with Buying Facilitation®. She has written 9 books, including the acclaimed NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets and What?. Sharon Drew is a consultant, speaker, trainer, and coach specializing in sales, change management, and listening without bias. Visit her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com. She can be reached at 512 771 1117 or sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

February 12th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management

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

I define trust as the awareness of another (or situation) as safe, similar, and sane enough to connect with, and occurs when they

 

  • have core beliefs that align and seem harmonious,
  • feel heard, accepted, and understood in their own right,
  • feel compatible or safe as a result of interacting,
  • believe their status quo won’t be at risk when connecting.

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

BELIEFS DEFINE US

We gravitate to, and trust, folks with similar foundational Beliefs and world-views that match well-enough with our own to proclaim ‘safety’. The problem is that when trying to connect with another, we’re at the effect of their unconscious filters that immediately signal ‘risk’ when there is a perceived misalignment between our Beliefs. 

Largely unconscious, illogical to others and hard to change, our Beliefs have been created during the course of our lives; they regulate us, define who we are and are the glue that enables us to show up congruently in the world. They sit at the core of the normalized habits and assumptions that maintain our behaviors, choices, and actions daily, restricting our life choices such as our occupations, politics, values, mates – even our child rearing practices. And our Beliefs are the initiators of our behaviors – behaviors being Beliefs in action.

For me, the most damaging restriction caused by Beliefs is to our listening: we hear only what our Beliefs sanction, regardless of what our Communication Partner (CP) intends. When researching my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I was surprised at the extent our Beliefs cause us to bias, misunderstand, assume, and filter in/out what others say. And since our brains do their filtering unconsciously and instinctively, without telling us what they added or subtracted, we can’t even know for sure the meaning that our CP intended. We actually might hear ABL when our CP said ABC – and our brains don’t inform us they omitted D, E, F, G, etc.There is no way to know if what we think was meant is accurate unless we recognize a discrepancy. But by then, the damage has largely been done since we respond based on what we think had been said/meant (and indeed often getting it wrong).

DRIVERS FOR TRUST

Sadly, because everyone’s Beliefs systems are idiosyncratic, we (and often they, themselves) can’t understand how anyone’s internal system of rules, values, history, habits, experiences etc. is structured or what drives it. This becomes problematic when we need a trusting relationship to accomplish our goals and we’re not clear how to achieve it. Bad news for sellers, coaches, managers, etc. who attempt to promote change or buy-in by pushing ideas and content, unwittingly causing resistance and distrust, especially when the ideas promote our own Beliefs (even in the name of ‘helping’ others) potentially at the expense of triggering our CPs. Here are some of the ways we fail when trying to engage trust.

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

Information: Our chosen vehicle to ‘get in’ is often with information that we believe to be rational and appropriate, without accounting for how it will be perceived by the filters our CPs hear it through. Sometimes, with the best will in the world, our brilliant attempt to share the ‘right’ data inadvertently tells our CP that they’re wrong (and we’re right). When we try to motivate, push, share, persuade, etc. we fail to realize that our CPs only understand our intent to the degree it matches their Beliefs, as well as how their listening filters translate it for them, regardless of its efficacy. So with the best will in the world, with folks who might really need what we’ve got to share, we aren’t heeded.

In fact, information is the last thing needed to facilitate change or buy-in, as everyone is pretty protective of their status quo and fears the new information carries the risk of disruption. So save the information sharing for when there’s a clear path to mutual Beliefs and trust has been developed, and then offer the information in a format that matches Beliefs. Think about it: if you’re an environmentalist, offering ‘rational/scientific’ data that ‘prove’ climate change won’t persuade those who disagree; if you’re a proponent of doctors, you won’t use alternate therapies to manage an illness no matter how strong the data for changing your nutrition.

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

Since our great ideas and eager strategies don’t engender trust in folks with different Beliefs, and without trust we can’t change minds, what should we do? We can help our CPs redefine and reconfigure their Hierarchy of Beliefs and open up new possibility in ways that don’t feel invasive but actually create trust. But they have to do it themselves.

OUTSIDE IN VS INSIDE OUT

Every one of us has a Hierarchy of Beliefs that’s unique to us, and comprises our status quo. So ‘Don’t kill others’ may be higher on the scale than ‘Be polite’; need for consistency/honesty/authenticity in a relationship may be a Belief that’s a precursor for trust in all relationships.

Here’s the problem: as outsiders we can’t use our data to cause our CPs to change because anything outside their norm causes resistance; yet it’s quite difficult for our CPs to reprioritize their Hierarchy on their own as it has become incorporated into their status quo, and their reactions follow habitual neural pathways. Right or wrong, everyone’s Beliefs are normalized.

We can facilitate them from outside, but without bias or intent, i.e. no information, opinions, scientific data, etc. Everyone’s Hierarchy is unique, certainly unknowable to an outsider; so we must carefully initiate new thinking by facilitating them through to their own brand of congruent change.

Let’s say I have a very strong Belief that no one should ever be allowed to kill anyone else. But I learn that someone will be coming to my home to kill all my family members. Will I be willing to kill the intruder and save my family? Maybe, or maybe not. But I certainly will make sure ‘Keep Family Safe’ is ranked higher than ‘Never Kill Another’ and make my decision from there.

In order for our CPs to shift their Hierarchy of Beliefs to expand congruent choice and engender trust we must enable our CP to fit anything new into their current structure so the ‘new’ matches the values, traditions, rules, and system of the status quo.

  1. Enter each conversation with the goal of assisting your CPs in discovering the elements of their own unconscious status quo that maintain their Beliefs and behaviors. Entering with the goal to promote change, offer information, or extract condemning admissions will automatically cause all of the CPs alarms to go off and engender distrust and resistance.
  2. Ask the type of questions that facilitate and enable internal discovery: conventional questions are biased by both the Asker and the Responder. I designed Facilitative Questions (see below) that enable congruent change without bias. Questions that begin with:  How would you know that… or What would you need to know or believe differently…
  3. There is a specific series of steps that change entails. I’ve spent decades coding the steps of change, that enable change facilitators to promote congruent change in others by leading them down their own choice points. Learn the steps, and help your CP down the steps to acceptance prior to mentioning your idea.
  4. Trust that your CP has her own answers and that she’ll shift toward excellence as appropriate for her. It won’t show up exactly as you’d hoped; but there will be a new opening for collaboration without resistance.
  5. Understand that until or unless your CP can recognize his own incongruences, there is no way he’ll welcome comments from you that sound to him like you’re challenging his status quo and ultimately sound like you’re saying he’s wrong or insufficient.

In other words, information ‘in’ before the person has figured out they’re willing or able to change will shut your CP down.

FACILITATING TRUST THROUGH QUESTIONS

I’ve developed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that teaches others to scan their internal state to consider if it’s important to potentially reprioritize their hierarchy. These questions are unbiased, systemic, formulated with specific wording, in a specific order, down the steps of change. They also take our CPs from defending their status quo into a Witness state to take a neutral, unbiased look at the status quo to notice if it’s still operating excellently, and consider change if there might be a more congruent path.

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

I went over and posed a Facilitative Question: ‘What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to be alive and healthy by the time your daughters graduate university?’ He threw his cigarette, and the entire pack, away; he called me 6 years later to tell me he still wasn’t smoking. That one Facilitative Question brought him to his Witness place and enabled him to use his own criteria for discovery and change. I helped him shift his Hhierarchy to and move ‘Be healthy for kids’ up on the scale. By enabling him to find his own unconscious drivers, I helped him make his own change. If I told him cigarettes were unhealthy, I’d be challenging his Identity about his choices and trying to shove information into an unknown Hierarchy, certainly to meet with resistance. Note: this process is obviously far more substantial in a client/team/implementation process.

Sometimes ineffective behaviors become normalized to match a different criteria, and new criteria is necessary for change to occur. [Again, as outsiders, we can never understand how another’s Hierarchy maintains itself.] Once people discover their own incongruence, and can incorporate the change to maintain Systems Congruence, they’re happy to change. But offering data doesn’t get to this. Take a look at a conventional question vs a Facilitative Question:

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

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

A Facilitative Question might be

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

  • This brings your CP to
  • their Witness state, beyond their resistance and reaction,
  • outside of their normal unconscious reactions,
  • notice the exact criteria they need to match to consider congruency for change (Systems Congruence) and
  • open the possibility for new choices that match their own beliefs

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

I designed these questions as part of my Buying Facilitation® model, a generic change facilitation model (often used in sales) that enables others to reconfigure their Hierarchy of Beliefs, and enable congruent change. Sounds a bit wonky, I know, and it’s certainly not conventional. When we facilitate our CPs down their path to conscious choice, we

  • help them discover where their incongruencies,
  • help them understand the areas at risk,
  • help them develop their own route to managing risk (i.e. change),
  • enable buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

Until your audience is able to accomplish this, they will hear you through biased ears, maintain their barriers, and engender trust only with those who they feel aligned with – omitting a large audience of those who may need you. Stop using your own biases to engender trust: facilitate your CPs in changing themselves. Then the choice of the best solution becomes a consequence of a system that is ready, willing, and able to adopt Excellence. And they’ll trust you because you helped them help themselves.

____________

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

January 29th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Listening

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time for changeWhy do people prefer behaviors that obviously lead to less-than-stellar results, especially when our sage advice, rational evidence, well-considered recommendations, and expert knowledge can offer them more successful choices?

Whether we’re parents of kids who sometimes need guidance, sellers with great pitches to offer folks who need our solution, coaches helping a client make changes, or doctors offering lifesaving wisdom, we too often sit by helplessly while folks who need our important data ignore us; our brilliant direction, ideas, and advice fall on deaf ears and we fail over and over again to get through to them.

It’s actually our own fault. We’re entering the wrong way, at the wrong time, with the wrong vehicles. Advice, thoughts, recommendations, persuasions – I’ll refer to external data as ‘Information’ – is the very last thing needed. Our communication partners have no idea how to apply it, how to hear it, or what it means to them. To make matters worse our attempts to facilitate change from our own biases and professional beliefs potentially cause resistance and non-compliance where we seek to promote excellence. But let’s start at the beginning.

HOW DO BEHAVIORS CHANGE?

Permanent, congruent change is rarely initiated through the route of changing deficient behaviors. Behaviors are merely the expression of the underlying structure that created and normalized them over time; they can only change once the underlying structure that created and maintains them change in a way that maintains Systems Congruence. It’s a systems problem, as you’ll see. Indeed, actual behavior change is the final element in the change equation.

To help think about this, let’s parallel behaviors with the functionality – the ‘doing’ – of a software app. The functionality of any app is a result of the internal coding; the programming uses lines of code to spell out the specific rules that define and enable specific functionality. To get a function to behave differently – to ‘do’ something different – the underlying programming must change its coding. It cannot change otherwise. Even programs such as Alexa can only behave within the limits of their programming. (And yes, I wish Alexa could wash my windows.)

It’s the same with human behaviors. Behaviors are the ‘function’, the output, the expression, of our mostly unconscious system of beliefs, history, internal rules, culture, goals, etc. – the lines of code – that define our Identity. All of our behaviors have been ‘coded’ by the system to express who we are, just like the function of an app expresses the internal coding. So what we do, how we behave, the choices we make, are defined, regulated, and governed by our system to demonstrate that idiosyncratic set of elements – our personalities, our politics, our job choices, our ethical standards. It’s our Identity. We’re all ‘doing’ who we ‘are’, even when incongruent. Behaviors are how we show up in the world. And it’s impossible to change the functionality via the function.

WHAT IS A MALFUNCTION?

Any problems in our behaviors – our functionality – must be changed by the system that created/maintains them – the programming. When we believe there to be a malfunction in another’s functionality and a behavior change might be optimal, it can’t be fixed by trying to change the place where it’s broken (Hello, Einstein.). Trying to change someone’s behavior, regardless of the need or efficacy of the solution, is a waste of time and in some instances might cause trust issues.

For those of us who influence Others – sales folks, managers, doctors, coaches, consultants – we’ve got to redefine our jobs. Our job as influencers isn’t to push the change we think is needed, but to enable Others to find their own route to their own idiosyncratic, internal congruent change and change their own internal coding.

For that to happen, the internal coding – the entire set of rules that created the current programming malfunction and set of suboptimal behaviors – must shift to reorganize, reprogram itself around a new set of rules that will create a new set of behaviors to match. The problem is that much of this is unconscious and hidden (like in an app), certainly too unique for an Outsider to fully comprehend.

Therein lies the rub: while we may notice (and potentially bias the explanation of) another’s behavioral glitches, it’s not possible to see or understand the underlying coding that caused them or the systemic change issues that would have to be addressed for them to change their programming. I cannot say this enough: It’s not possible to change another’s behavior from the outside; an internal coding change is required from within the person’s system to design different rules that would carry a different expression. We can’t change behaviors: behaviors will change themselves once the program has changed.

How, then, can we, as outsiders, empower Others to make their own changes? Indeed, it’s a both a systems problem and a spiritual one. We can never change another person, but we can serve them in a way to enable them to create congruent change for themselves, using their own brand of Excellence.

OUR INFORMATION CANNOT CAUSE CHANGE

So now we know that Others cannot change their behaviors merely because we (or even they) merely think they should (i.e. the problem with diets, smoking cessation, etc). How, then, can we reconcile the approach we’ve used to effect change? Until now, we’ve used information as our major tool. We offer what seems the most relevant data (a biased process) using our own personal, intuitive approach to influence (a biased process) where we believe the Other needs to be (again, biased by our own beliefs) and wonder why we get push back or noncompliance.

Somehow we believe that if we offer the right data, at the right time, in the right way, it will encourage action. We’ve developed entire professions based on outside ‘experts’ spouting ‘important’ ‘relevant’ ‘rational’ ‘necessary’ data, assuming these brilliant words and rational, sometimes scientific, arguments, carry ‘the answers’. But the information we offer pushes against the status quo, telling the status quo that it’s ‘wrong’, and

  • causes resistance and a tightened grip on the behaviors that continue to express the coded, accepted, and maintained, functionality (even when it’s problematic),
  • threatens habitual behaviors that have functioned ‘well enough’,
  • leaves a breach in functionality,
  • offers no new programming/coding to replace the beliefs, rules, etc. that capture the current ‘code’,
  • cannot shift the unconscious rules that caused the current functionality.

The information we offer cannot even be understood, heard, or fully utilized used by those we’re intending it for, regardless of our intent or the efficacy of our solution, until the underlying rules, beliefs – status quo – are ready, willing, able to change congruently and be assured there will be no systems failure as a result of the change (Systems Congruence). This is why people don’t take their meds, or buy a solution they might need, or sabotage an important implementation. We’re asking them to do stuff that may (unconsciously) run counter to their systemic configuration, and not providing a route through to their systemic change, hoping that they’ll behave according to our vision of what their change should look like, rather than their own.

As outside influencers, we must facilitate Others to find their own Excellence by changing their own system; we must stop trying to change, influence, persuade, sway, manipulate, etc. Others using our own biased beliefs to inspire them. [Personal Note: My biggest gripe with sales, coaching, training, management, leadership, etc. is that there is a baseline belief that they have the ‘right’ information that the Other needs in order to be Excellent. I reject that; we can only understand what Others are telling us through our own biases. Not to mention trying to ‘fix’ another is disrespectful and goes against every spiritual law.]. Indeed, as we see by our failures and the low adoption rate, it’s not even possible.

There are two reasons for this: because we filter everything we hear from Others as per our own programming and listening filters (biases, habits, assumptions, triggers, neural pathways, etc.), we can’t be certain that what we think is needed is actually what’s needed; Others can’t understand what we’re trying to share due to their own filters and programming.

Indeed, when we share information before the system has already shifted its internal rules and programming to include a possibility of congruent, alternate choices, it will be resisted and rejected (and possibly shut down the system) as the system has no choice but to defend itself from possible disruption.

THE STEPS OF CHANGE

I have Asperger’s, and part of my life’s journey has included making the personal changes necessary to fit in, to have relationships, to work in conventional business environments without being too inappropriate. To this end, and in the absence of the type of information available now (i.e. neuroscience, brain studies, etc.) I’ve spent decades coding how to change my own brain, and then scaling the process for others to learn. [Personal note: After working with one inside sales group in Bethlehem Steel for two years, I was introduced to the head of another group I’d be working with. Behind me, I heard the new director say to my client: ‘Is she ALWAYS like this??’ to which Dan replied, ‘Yes. And you’ll learn to love her.’ So apparently, I am still a bit odd, although it seems normal to me.]

The steps of change I’ve coded are systemic (i.e. points of activity, not content-based) and are involved in any human change (see below). Each stage is unique, and designate the touchpoints into the unconscious that enables the brain to discern for itself where, if, or how to reexamine itself for congruency. I know there is no referent for it in conventional thinking. But I’ve trained this material, with simultaneous control groups, in global corporations, to 100,000 people and know it’s viable, scalable, highly successful, and useful in any industry or conversations that encourage change. This includes sales, coaching, management, marketing, health care, family relationships and communication, negotiation, leadership.

I start with understanding that I have no answers for Another, as I’ll never live the life they’ve lived; if it’s a group or company, I’ll never understand how the internal system has been historically designed to design the output that shows up. But I trust that when systems recognize an incongruence, they will change (A ‘rule’ of systems is that they prefer to be congruent.). My job as a change agent is to teach a system how to recognize an incongruence and use its own rules to fix itself. I use this thinking to facilitate buyers through their Pre-Sales change management issues, enable coaching clients to determine how to recognize their own systemic elements to change, help leaders obtain buy-in and Systems Congruence (and notice all potential fallout points) before a project.

There are 13 steps to systemic change, all of which must be traversed before a systems is willing/able to change. Here are the 3 main categories of the steps [Personal Note: I explain each step and the navigation of change in Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell]:

1. Where am I; what’s missing. The system must recognize all – all – elements that have created and maintain its status quo so it can determine if/where there are incongruences. Until or unless ALL of the elements are included, there’s no ability to recognize where any incongruence might lie: when you’re standing in front of a tree, you can clearly see the leaves and veins on any particular leaf. But you cannot see the fire 2 acres away. Until the system has an ability to go into Witness/Observer, it cannot assemble the full set of relevant elements, and therefore cannot see the full fact pattern and will continue doing what it’s always done.

RULE: for any change to occur, the system must have a view of the entire landscape of ‘givens’ involved without restriction. To do that it’s necessary for both Influencer and Other to be in Observer – with no biased attachment.

2. How can I fix this myself? Systems are complete as they are and don’t judge ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They show up every day and re-create yesterday as a way to maintain Systems Congruence. When there is a recognition of an incongruence (as per #1), all systems attempt to fix the problem themselves rather than allow anything new (and by definition incongruent) into the system.

RULE: it is only when a system recognizes it cannot fix an incongruence by itself is it willing to accept the possibility of bringing in an external, foreign solution (i.e. information, advice, new product). First it MUST first figure out how to maintain Systems Congruence and get buy-in from the elements that will be effected.

3. How can I change congruently without disrupting the functionality of the system? What elements need to shift, how do they need to shift, and what needs to happen so the system ends up congruent after change? Using the programming metaphor, the system must understand how it will still end up as a CRM app, or a toaster, if some of the coding needs to change.

RULE: until all elements that will be effected buy-in to any proposed change, the system will continue its current behaviors regardless of its problematic output (After all, that’s the way it ‘is’.)

Once you understand the steps to congruent change, you realize the inefficiency of trying to create change through information sharing, or the impossibility of trying to shift behaviors from outside.

CHANGE FACILITATION

The model I developed is a Change Facilitation model (registered decades ago as Buying Facilitation®) that teaches Others to traverse the steps of change so each element is assembled and handled sequentially. While I often teach it (and write books about it) in the field of sales to enable sellers to facilitate buyers through their ‘Pre-Sales’ steps to change management, the model is generic.

It includes a few unique skill sets that enable Others to recognize unconscious incongruence, and change themselves congruently using their own internal system. They’re different from what’s conventionally used, and need training to learn as we’ve not been taught to think this way. Indeed, there is no referent for these in conventional thinking, and like anything that threatens the status quo, often misunderstood or rejected. I can teach these skills through self-learning (Guided Study for complete knowledge, or Learning Accelerators for spot skills), group or personal training or coaching. I offer a caveat to those who try to add my ideas to their current thinking: when you add any of my ideas on top of what you’re already doing, you’ll end up with more bias, continuing the failure you’re experiencing. Here’s a description of the skills, with links to articles that offer a further explanation:

1. Systems listening: Without listening for systems, and using the conventional listened we’re trained from birth, we can only notice/listen for the content we want to hear. But everything we hear, leading to the assumptions we make, is biased. Indeed, we all speak and listen through biased filters. Always. (When I wrote/researched my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I was horrified to realize how little it’s possible to truly hear what others mean due to the way our filters cause us protect our status quo for stability.) Without getting into Witness/Observer to listen for systems, our listening is restricted to our own beliefs and we cannot expand the scope of what’s being said outside of our own systemic belief systems.

2. Facilitative Questions: This is not a conventional question. It does NOT gather data, or use the biases of the questioner, but point the Other’s conscious mind to the specific memory channels that direct the Other to where the most appropriate answers are stored. So:

How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? Uses ‘how’ ‘know’ ‘if’ ‘time’ ‘reconsider’ as routes to specific memory channels, create a step back – a Witness overview – that enables the full view of givens and an unbiased scrutiny of the system.

These questions use specific words, in a specific order, to cause the Other to traverse down the steps of unconscious change by putting them into Observer and enabling them to peruse the entire landscape of givens in the order their brains won’t feel pushed or manipulated. It takes my clients about a month to learn how to formulate these. And to do so, it’s necessary to listen differently, since bias is an enemy.

3. Presumptive Summaries: These are one route to enable Others to get into the Witness/Observer stance. Used carefully, they bring our communication partners outside of their own unconscious thinking.

Patient: I just stopped taking my meds.

Doctor (Using a Presumptive Summary): Sounds like you’ve decided that either you’re no longer sick and are now healthy, or you’ve chosen to maintain your status quo regardless of the outcome.

Different from “Why do you do that?” or “But you’ll get sick again.” comments that enlist resistance or defensiveness, Presumptive Summaries just offer a mirror and allow the Other to make conscious what might have been unconscious. These must be used with knowledge and care or they can become manipulative, and will break trust.

4. Traversing the route to change: I pose Facilitative Questions down the steps of change (iteratively, sequentially) so the brain can recognize how, what, when, why, if to change, have no resistance, notice incongruences without defense, and get the buy-in and route design, for congruent change.

All of these require the influencer to have a goal of facilitating their own congruent, systemic change without the biases we usually impart (and get resistance).

I know that most change agents truly want to enable congruent, permanent change. But it’s a crap shoot if you’re using your ‘intuition’ (biased judgment), line of questions (restricting the range of possible answers), biased listening, or ‘professional’ knowledge (biased by the scope of the academic culture) to the change you believe is necessary. It’s truly possible to help Others find their own route to Excellence. It just can’t happen any other way.

If you’re interested in learning how to facilitate congruent change in others – for sales, coaching, therapy, leadership, healthcare, etc. – please let me know. I’d love to help you learn. As I face the aging process, I’m quite keen on handing over this material, developing new apps that use it, designing training, or coaching. Please contact me at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

If you wish further reading: Practical Decision MakingQuestioning QuestionsTrust – what is it an how to initiate itResistance to GuidanceInfluencers vs Facilitators.

__________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a Change Facilitator, specializing in buy-in and change management. She is well known for her original thinking in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and listening (www.didihearyou.com). She currently designs scripts, programs, and materials, and coaches teams, for several industries to enable true buy-in and collaboration. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has worked with dozens of global corporations as a consultant, trainer, coach, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117

January 8th, 2018

Posted In: Change Management, Communication, Listening

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parentingGiven what’s going on in the world these days, I thought we all might need a bit of Sweet. Enjoy. SD

In 1981, I was a single parent of a young disabled son, working a full time job, living in Park Slope Brooklyn. Given my constant state of overwhelm, I decided to get a group of parents together to see if we could find ways to parent without nagging, or threatening, or cajoling, and maybe even free up time for us to enjoy our kids. I doubted I was the only parent in overwhelm mode. I put together a bit of a program design and convinced the local library to give me a room one night a week for 8 weeks for a Parenting with Integrity program. They gave me a room, coffee, and advertising. They were terrific.

About 10 parents showed up (although it grew) – mainly families from the police force and city workers, couples and single people. Agreeing how deeply we respected the individuality of our kids, and taking our jobs as parents seriously, we began with a core value to avoid the nasty ‘parent’ stuff of cajoling, punishing and threatening. We formulated our agenda: develop thinking that led to enabling our kids to safely, ethically make and recognize their own best choices, with life lessons imbedded.

One of the women had 5 kids aged 8-16. Susan complained that her mornings were hell trying to get them all dressed and fed and out the door. By the time she got to work, she said, it took her an hour to recover from the yelling and screaming and chasing and reminding and name calling and… We put our heads together and came up with a plan.

Over dinner the next night, Susan told the kids how their chaotic mornings left her unhappy and frazzled. So to make sure she got to work happy, and make sure their days would start off nicely, she was going to change a few things starting the next morning: She would announce when it was 7:00 a.m. and say it loudly to make sure everyone could hear; then, as she got herself dressed and prepared breakfast, she’d give them 5 minute updates until they all left the house at 7:45. She would no longer fight with them over getting up, eating breakfast, clothes or misplaced items. She assumed they would awake with either her voice or their alarm clocks, and eat breakfast if they were hungry. She assumed that whatever they were wearing at 7:45 when they left the house were the clothes they wanted to wear that day. And she wouldn’t wait for any of them: if they weren’t at the door at 7:45, they’d have to find their own way to school.

And she was hilariously, fiercely, deadly serious.

The next morning, Susan cheerfully chirped “It’s 7:00 a.m. Morning everyone!” Then again at 7:05. ”Hi kids. It’s 7:05. Hey, did you see that the trees are beginning to bud? Take a look later. Pretty.” 7:10: “I have pancakes for everyone on the table for whoever’s hungry.” And so on, until 7:45 when she got to the front door to leave. Indeed, there were 5 children waiting. And 3 of them actually had clothes on. The other 2 wore pajamas. Without saying a word, Susan cheerfully got them into the car, put on her favorite CD and sang all the way to their schools. During the drive not a word was spoken.

Two principals called her that day. Here was her conversation with one of them: “Did you know your daughter is wearing her pajamas today?” Yup. That’s what she wanted to wear. “Um. OK. Just checking. I think the kids are making fun of her. But I’ve seen worse. Good luck.”

At 7:45 the next morning, all 5 kids were ready and dressed. She never had another bad morning.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we always knew how to create the circumstances that enable each other be our best selves?

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the thought leader behind Change Facilitation. Used in sales (Buying Facilitation®, coaching, leadership, and any type of buy-in, her original models enable people to go beyond bias to creativity, integrity, and excellence – all with collaboration and involvement. Sharon Drew is the author of nine books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestseller’s Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Her award winning blog carries thought pieces and practical essays on helping buyers buy, enabling ethical collaboration and communication, and why mainstream thinking doesn’t always cause success. Sharon Drew is a speaker, consultant, coach, and trainer.

December 4th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management

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customer-service-1641724_960_720Charlie Rose interviewed Brian Moynihan, the CEO of Bank of America, recently as he discussed their new Customer Focus initiative: prioritizing Customer Centricity over revenue by putting their customers first. He said something like, ‘The money will come. Let’s take care of the customer!’ I haven’t noticed many companies, including Bank of America, who’ve actually done the work of re-organizing around customers; to be Customer Centric means you must put rules, staff, tasks, websites and customer interfaces in place to, um, put People first.

DEFINITION CUSTOMER-CENTRIC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ORGANIZING A CUSTOMER CENTRIC COMPANY FROM INSIDE OUT

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

First touch point:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second touch point:

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

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

Third touch point:

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

Have managers sit alongside of reps and coach them for hours during a week, to check their skills real time. You could even design a Customer Service Check List to hand out to managers for their phone coaching hours. Obviously you’ll have to employ new hiring practices to hire People oriented people rather than Task oriented people. Like the ATT story above, we all know to keep calling back until we get a ‘good’ rep. How much does that cost you?

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

Fourth touch point:

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

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

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 6th, 2017

Posted In: Change Management

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