By Sharon Drew Morgen

Super QuestionAlexa, Siri, Google, and all programs that answer questions, have mechanisms that determine the answers. If you’re like me, you largely assume they are accurate, without us knowing the reference material or checking further. We actually do this in our daily lives – pose questions to friends, colleagues, and clients, about stuff we’re curious about, and receive responses we don’t check for accuracy or congruence.

Have you ever wondered what a question actually is? Conventionally, questions are posed to elicit a response, to gather data from a Responder, like “How many children do you have?” or “Why are you doing that?” Parents and spouses sometimes use questions to point out insufficiencies or annoyances, as in “Didn’t you notice the dishes haven’t been done?” Sometimes we use them rhetorically to demand fairness in the world, like in “Why is this happening to me??” Sometimes questions are deemed ‘closed’, like in, “What time is dinner?” Sometimes they’re ‘open’, like in, “What do you want to eat?” But there is a unifying feature to all conventional questions: questions are biased by the needs of the Asker to elicit data from the Responder, with the assumption that our questions will extract the information we intend.

Of course, most of the time, conventional questions work just fine. How else could we find out how many acres there are at Machu Picchu, or which movie our spouse wants to see?

But I believe we are underutilizing questions. I believe it’s possible for questions to serve a higher purpose – to collect accurate data, of course, but also to help others discover their own answers and path to decision making and change. What if it were possible to use questions to actually lead people through their unconscious discovery process to uncover their own best answers – without any bias from the Asker?

WHAT QUESTIONS DO

There is a reason questions don’t necessarily unearth accurate data. Using uniquely chosen words and an outcome biased by the curiosity, needs, and assumptions of Askers, influencers extract a restricted subset of data from Responders, all answers being some degree removed from the complete set of available responses. Indeed, questions impose limits that often have some percentage probability of missing the mark, being misunderstood or interpreted badly. There are several reasons for this.

  1. Information: because information is elicited by the needs or curiosity – the bias – of the Asker, real answers may not be captured. The wording, the request, the topic, the intent, and/or the vocabulary may offend or annoy, given differences between the Responder’s and Asker’s beliefs, communication skills, and lifestyles.
  2. Listening: words and meaning are merely our brain’s interpretations of sound waves that enter our ears through our unique neural pathways, guaranteeing we understand what’s been said as per our unconscious biases. Obviously, we often misunderstand or misinterpret the intended message and potentially miss the intent of the question entirely. I wrote an entire book on this (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Given these natural biases, it’s likely that what we think we’ve heard is some degree off of what was intended. Read my article on this: We don’t know how to hear each other.
  3. Biased question formulation: Askers use words that will hopefully elicit good data for a specific goal and outcome, and may not elicit the best responses. Sadly, it’s possible that more accurate answers could have been retrieved with a different wording or intent.
  4. Restriction: questions restrict answers to the boundaries of the question. You cannot uncover data you never asked for, even if it’s available. You cannot elicit accurate data if the question is heard differently than intended. If I ask you what type of summer shoes you wear, you’re not going to explain the foot surgeries you’ve had.

Are you getting the point here? Questions are biased by the Asker in several ways, with so much bias built in it’s a miracle people communicate at all. And the Responder? Well, a Responder is at the mercy of the question.

This is especially disturbing in coaching, healthcare, and leadership situations. Well-meaning professionals believe they’ll instigate a truth from a Responder, exposed by the ‘right’ question; or that the Other will discover the ‘right’ answer if they search their brains in ‘this direction’. Every coach and leader I’ve met deeply believes in their own knack – ‘intuition’ – for posing the ‘right’ question because they have a history of similar situations and ‘know’ where another’s answer most probably lie.

Yet we all have examples where these assumptions have proven false. Sometimes the influencer has control issues and doesn’t trust the Other to have the ‘right’ opinions or ideas and believes they know more; sometimes they pose biased questions that elicit incorrect data, or worded in a way that unwittingly creates resistance to the assumptions built into them. And sadly, when they’re certain their questions are the right ones, blame Responders who don’t comply, or respond with ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘deceptive’ answers. And worse, patients end up keeping bad habits, clients end up not making needed changes, buyers end up not getting what they need.

A NEW FORM OF QUESTION

As someone who has thought deeply, and written, about the physiology of change and decision making for decades, I began pondering this conundrum in the 1980s. I wondered if questions could be used for something other than eliciting information and instead could direct Responders through their brain toward taking congruent action. What if the intent of the Asker was to facilitate Others in discovering their own route to change with no bias, no ego, no personal needs from the Asker for a particular solution – only the trust that Others had their own answers and merely had to discover them?

What if healthcare professionals asked questions that triggered patients to positive, immediate habit change, or coaches knew the exact questions that enabled new habit formation and behavior generation? What if scientists and consultants could elicit the most accurate information? And imagine if it were possible for questions to help advertisers actually inspire action and sellers to generate Buyer Readiness.

What if a question could be worded in a specific way to act as a GPS to lead a Responder through a sequence in their brain to unearth the accurate data? To make it possible to discover the full set of criteria to make a decision from?

I’m going to get a bit wonky here, so hang with me because what I discovered is not obvious. I began studying neuroscience to learn how to sequence the elements involved in personal, systemic change. I recognized that before anyone would make a change, they’d need to make sure it was congruent with their beliefs. One way to get there is to traverse – or be lead – through to the appropriate memory channels or value or data set they needed to consider, and use their own memories, their own beliefs, their own goals, in their own words, to be able to make a change congruent with who they were. It would be necessary for Askers to change their criteria from having answers to being facilitators.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

I eventually came up with a new form of question that I labeled a Facilitative Question. It uses specific words, in a specific order to go to the most appropriate memory channel in the right order to enable discovery without resistance; it includes time; it’s’ neutral; it limits the scope of response so it avoids elements that might spark defense or feelings; it has no bias, and the Asker cannot know the answer; there is no challenge to the underlying status quo. They’re quite different from conventional questions, and I’m happy to discuss more fully should anyone wish to speak with me about them.

With these questions, prospective buyers can be led through change and buying stages; coaching clients can discover their own path to resistance-free change; doctors can elicit behavior change in patients rather than push to try to cause change; and advertisers can trigger interactive responses to normally one-sided push messages. They

  • unlock the means to help Responders discover their own excellence;
  • are non-manipulative and non-biased;
  • offer change agents a new skill to elicit real change without resistance;
  • eschew information exchange and adopt real servant leadership;
  • enable Responders to solve their own problems and be ready to change.

Here is a simple example:

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

This Facilitative Question (FQ) begins by expanding the viewing range to the full set of possibilities (i.e. ‘how would you know’), does not challenge the status quo (i.e ‘if it were time’), enables the consideration of possible change without demanding it or threatening the system (i.e. ‘reconsider’), and limits the area of analysis to a bite sized chunk so the brain isn’t overwhelmed (i.e. ‘hairstyle’). And used in the sequence of how decisions get made (my book Dirty Little Secrets discusses the 13 sequenced steps that all change decisions must traverse), this type of question leads the Responders brain to action. In fact, each FQ demands some form of action when responded to.

A conventional question posed to cover the same area might be:

  • Why do you wear your hair like that?

This conventional question challenges the Responder and attempts to elicit data for the Asker’s use, causing a defensive response (a reply would start with ‘Because’) and keeping the person in a very small, idiosyncratic, and personal response range which may end up not being about hair at all, but might send the person back to a fight with their mother 30 years prior, or a defense against their boss, or whatever. And while the Asker is most likely attempting to elicit a response they can ‘sell’ into, they are out of control. FQs actually define the parameters and give Askers real control.

One of the skills needed to formulate FQs is listening for systems, listening without bias. When we listen with biased ears, we will only hear what we want to hear, or what our brains are set up to hear neurologically. When we can listen without bias (read my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? on this topic) we can hear where the person is along their change cycle and where exactly to pose the next question (again, the 13 steps to change and decision making applies here). A new skill set, a new set of outcomes, and the real belief that everyone has their own answers.

A bit of caution: sometimes people use my examples of FQs and change words, change the sequence, and change the intent. In other words, use a bit of what I suggest to, again, formulate a question to get what they want to get. In other words, it won’t be a FQ. FQs truly demand the Asker give up the need to be the change agent, have or seek ‘the answers’, or be in control.

USES

FQs direct people to the exact spots within their brain – the most appropriate synapses and memory channels – where their accurate answers reside, in the proper order the brain can use them to consider making a change that’s congruent with their lifestyle, while creating an interactive situation. Here’s a few examples that could benefit from FQs.

  1. Healthcare: Intake forms that create an interactive doc/patient experience from the start:What would you need to see from us to know we’re on your team and ready to serve you? [This FQ automatically creates a WE space between patient and provider.]
  2. Advertising, for an ad for a Porsche, for example: How would you know when it was time to buy yourself a luxury car? [This FQ makes the ad interactive and gives a reader time to reflect on personal change.]
  3. Sales:What has stopped you until now from resolving your issue using your own resources? [This FQ enables potential buyers to look at how they’ve gone about solving a problem on their own – necessary before realizing they can’t fix the problem themselves and might need to buy something.]
  4. Coaching:What would you need to see or believe differently to be willing to consider new choices in the places where your habitual choices are more limited? [This FQ gives clients an observer viewpoint, thus circumventing blame, to notice old habits/patterns, and limits viewing to the exact historic behaviors that may not be effective.]

The examples above are merely of single FQs. For most change it’s necessary to formulate a sequenced set of FQs that lead a Responder through their own congruent steps of change. These can be used in advertising and marketing campaigns; healthcare apps that sit on top of Behavior Mod apps and facilitate new habit formation; AI where apps or robots need to understand the route to change and decision making. I’ve been teaching it in sales with my Buying Facilitation® model for 40 years and companies such as DuPont take it into the field for their farmers to use, Senior Partners at KPMG use it with client consulting, Safelight Auto Glass uses it to compete against other distributers, and Kaiser Permanente uses it to engage seniors needed supplemental insurance, to name a few.

If anyone would like to learn the HOW of formulating Facilitative Questions, I developed a primer in a FQ learning accelerator. Or I can teach you the full skill set. Or we can work together to develop or test a new initiative. Given how broadly my own clients have used these questions, I’m eager to work with folks who seek to truly serve their client base.

By enabling Others to discover their own unconscious path we not only help them find their own best answers but act as Servant Leaders to decision making. What would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to add a new questioning technique to your already superb questioning skills? How would you know that adding a new skill set would be worth the time/effort/cost to make you – and your clients – even more successful? Should you wish to add the ability to truly serve others, let me know.

______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of 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?  She is the inventor of Buying Facilitation® which she’s trained to sales people and coaches worldwide since 1985. Sharon Drew is an original thinker, thought leader, keynote speaker, coach, and consultant.

For those interested in learning more about Buying Facilitation® or Facilitative Questions, Sharon Drew wrote about this extensively in Dirty Little Secrets. For those wishing to learn how to use this material, visit her store at www.sharondrewmorgen.com and look up the Guided Study material. Or contact her directly: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

March 18th, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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How 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

March 4th, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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With untold millions of sales professionals in the world, sellers play a role in any economy. While our jobs are nominally to place solutions, we are uniquely positioned to make a difference: as the intermediary between clients and providers, we can make sales a spiritual practice and become true facilitators and Servant Leaders (and close more sales).

The current sales model is a time-waster, restricts success, and is horribly inefficient. We close 5% of our sales and waste 95% of our time (approximately 130 hours a month per seller); our product data is well-represented online so pitches based on product details may be irrelevant; we connect with only those who are ready to buy, and ignore the possibility of facilitating and serving people en route to becoming buyers but quite ready to heed, or respond to, conventional ways of responding to sales situations.

Until people have figured out how any new solutions will infiltrate, change, or disrupt their environment, they will merely attempt to fix their problems themselves and avoid any outside intervention. It’s only when they know exactly how to manage change and not end up in chaos, when they understand that the cost of bringing in something new is lower than the cost of maintaining the status quo, will they seek help through a purchase. People don’t want to buy anything, they merely seek excellence and will buy if they must. And the sales model does not address this, using the time and connection to try to place solutions instead. Hence the 5% close rate and wasted time.

Indeed, the time we spend pushing solutions rather than helping buyers facilitate their change process is misplaced, mistimed, and misguided, leading to the win-lose quality of sales: sales becomes a product/solution push into a closed, resistive, private system, rather than an expansive, collaborative experience between seller and buyer wherein both attain a win-win. And we end up seeking and closing only the low hanging fruit – those ready to buy at the point of contact – unwittingly ignoring others who aren’t ready even though they may need our solutions, or just need to get their ducks in a row before they’re prepared to make a decision.

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

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

Sellers aspire to niceness and relationship; yet their restricted focus on placing solutions all but insures that kindness, respect, and true facilitation are unwittingly overlooked. A major factor is our one-sided communication:

  1. Prospecting/cold calling – driven by sellers to gather needs/information and offer solution details (all biased by the need to place solutions). It ignores the full enigmatic fact pattern of the buyer’s environment and change issues and touches only buyers seeking THAT solution at THAT time at THAT period of readiness, omitting those who could buy if ready or knew how to include the solution congruently into their current plans.
  2. Content marketing – driven by the seller to push the ‘right’ data into the ‘right’ hands at the ‘right’ time according to their biased interpretations of ‘right’, but really only a push into the unknown and a hope for action. Wholly seller-centric.
  3. Deals, cold-call pushes, negotiation, objection-handling, closing techniques, getting to ‘the’ decision maker, price-reductions – all assuming buyers would buy if they understood their need/the solution/their problem.
  4. Real communication involves both Sender and Receiver being equally served; sellers can expand their communication to help buyers traverse their private change management issues, thereby facilitating Buyer Readiness AND closing more sales. Win-win.

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

The model is fraught with guesswork and hope, manipulation and persuasion, white lies and exaggerations – not to mention highly ineffective when the time spent vs sales closed ratio is examined. Not only are we wasting time pushing/chasing folks we’ve deemed prospects (A real prospect is one who WILL buy, not someone who SHOULD buy; the current sales model doesn’t know the difference.), but the global nature of staffing patterns and decision makers in our client’s environments causes closing to take 30% longer. And the very nature of the web makes most pitches and presentations moot. In fact, buyers often know more than sellers.

Sales unwittingly ignores the real problem: it’s in the buying, not the selling. The sales model’s focus on our products (terrific as they are) keeps us from using our positions as knowledge experts and Leaders to facilitate buyers down their own path to excellence.

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

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

  1. Buyers can find our products online. They don’t need us chasing them.
  2. Our solution isn’t the problem – it’s the buyer’s behind-the-scenes timing and change management process that gums up the works.
  3. 80% of prospects will buy our solutions (but not necessarily from us) within two years of our connection.
  4. The lion’s share of the buying decision (9 out of the 13 step decision path) involves buyers traversing internal change with no thoughts of buying anything until there’s consensus.

But we can truly serve clients AND close more sales, by adding a Change Facilitation capability that expands our entry points into the buy cycle, makes the buying decision process much more efficient and makes sales a spiritual practice. Here’s my definition of ‘spiritual’:

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

Different from sales, which

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

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

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

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

If we enter first as Change Facilitators and help buyers efficiently traverse their internal struggles (that we can never be a part of per se), we can help them get to the ‘need/purchase’ decision more quickly and be part of the solution – win-win. Note: buyers need to congruently manage their change issues anyway. They will do this with us or without us, so it might as well be with us. Currently we’re not involved because this occurs before they recognize a need, or haven’t gotten consensus, or completed their change work yet.

We’re wasting a valuable opportunity to share this process with them by only wanting to sell – and then wait and hope, while competitively chasing after those who show up after they’ve completed their internal work without us. If we enter earlier, work with them as Change Facilitators (with wholly different skills and goals) to help them facilitate their change, we can spend our time capturing and serving more real prospects, and spend less time seeking out the low hanging fruit. We can use our time more profitably to develop real buyers, rather than fighting to find those who are ready. Let’s shift gears and enter earlier with a different hat on.

Believe it or not it becomes a very efficient process and great time saver: no more chasing those who will never close; no more turning off those who will eventually seek our solution; no more gathering incomplete data from one person with partial answers. We can enable those who can/should buy to buy in half the time and sell more product – and very quickly know the difference between them and those who can never buy. Win-win. [All the change issues buyers must address are in my book Dirty Little Secrets].

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

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

We are all here to serve each other

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

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

With no disrespect, no push, no information gathering or asking for an appointment, the Facilitative Question merely pointed them to the problem they might have to resolve over time. The results were astounding: against 100 prospecting calls and a control group: 10% appointments vs 27%; 2 closes in 11 months vs 19 closes in 3 months; we facilitated discovery immediately and served. And we expanded the universe of buyers by repositioning the parameters of purchase and only visited those who could close.

There is no right answer

Sellers often believe that buyers are idiots for not making speedy decisions, or for not buying an ‘obvious’ solution. But sales offers no skills or motive to enter earlier where buyers are not at the point of even knowing if – let alone what – they might buy. We must expand the definition of a buying decision (a term I defined in 1985) to include

the route down the 13-step path from the status quo through to congruent change. Includes the people, policies, relationships, and history – the systems issues that insure Systems Congruence – that maintain the status quo and must be addressed before they consider buying anything.

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

No one has anyone else’s answer

By adding decision facilitation, everyone focuses on uncovering the right questions. Collaborative decisions get made that will serve everyone.

Let’s change the focus: instead relegating sales to a product/solution placement device, let’s add the job of facilitation to lead buyers through to their own type of ‘excellence’ through the mire only they can understand: let’s Lead using our industry knowledge. Then buyers make better, quicker, more congruent decisions – with more/quicker sales, less tire-kickers, better differentiation, and no competition, and sales close in half the time.

THE NEW WAY

As a seller and an entrepreneur (I founded a tech company in London, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in 1983), I realized that sales ignored the buying decision problem and developed Buying Facilitation® to add to sales as a generic change management tool. Buyers get to their answers eventually; the time this takes is the length of the sales cycle. Once I developed this model for my sellers to use, we made their process far more efficient with an 8x increase in sales – a number consistently reproduced against control groups with my global training clients over the following decades.

With Buying Facilitation® we can add a new capability and level of expertise and be a part of the decision process from the first call. Make money and make nice.

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

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. She’s the developer of Change Facilitation, a generic change management/decision facilitation model used by influencers to effect congruent change in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, health care, and management. The model includes a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that promotes unbiased discovery, a new form of listening (Listening for Systems) that enables non-biased hearing, and the coding of the sequence of systemic, congruent change. She has trained this material to over 100,000 sales professionals and thousands of senior consultants globally. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and two Amazon bestsellers, Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers don’t buy and sellers don’t sell and What? did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew also coaches teams to encourage buy-in and compliance with buyers, teammates, partners, and patients. Her award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com carries important essays and articles. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

February 25th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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I recently chatted with a VC invested in 15 healthcare apps that use Behavior Modification to facilitate patients through permanent behavior change for enhanced health. He said although many of his apps use it, there’s no scientific evidence that Behavior Modification works. Hmmmm… And the reason you’re still using it is… “There’s nothing else to use.”

I contend that current Behavior Mod approaches are not only faulty, but seriously harmful to a large population of people who need to consider permanent change. You see, Behavior Modification does NOT instigate new behaviors or permanently change existing ones. In diet, smoking cessation, and exercise maintenance alone, there is a 97% failure rate for ongoing adoption of altered behaviors.

Now let’s be honest here. If you’ve ever tried to keep lost weight off, or habituate a new exercise routine, or stop smoking, or… you’ve probably tried to modify your current behaviors by doing the same thing differently, or doing a different thing the same. Diets always work. It’s when we try to return to ‘normal’ that our lost weight returns. The problem isn’t the diet.

This essay is about conscious behavior change. For this, I must take you to the source – into your brain – to not only understand why you behave the way you do or resist new behaviors, but HOW to actually elicit the behaviors you want. Conventional thinking usually explains the WHAT and WHY, but fail to teach the HOW. In this article I’ll lead you through HOW your brain causes your behaviors, and where the inflexion points are so you can intervene and consciously design your own behaviors (or lead your patients and clients through to their best choices). I’ve tried to make the more procedural stuff fun and relatable so you’ll barely notice. Enjoy.

BEHAVIOR

There are two major problems with Behavior Modification:

1. Behavior 2. Modification.

I suspect most people haven’t considered what a ‘behavior’ denotes. Behaviors are our identity, our beliefs, our history/norms/life experience in action, in the service of representing us to the world, to show people through our actions what we stand for. It’s how we show up as ‘us’ every day – the demonstration, the expression, the translation of who we are – the external actions that portray our internal essence, beliefs, and morals. Like an autobiography is the written representation of a life but not THE life. Like going to church represents us practicing our faith but not FAITH. Behaviors are the visible depictions of each of us.

Behaviors don’t occur without a stimulus. Nor do they operate in a vacuum. And they are always, always congruent with our beliefs. You know, without asking, that someone wearing a bathing suit to a church wedding most likely has different beliefs than the other guests. It’s not about the bathing suit.

In our brains, behaviors are the output of physiological signals, much as words and meaning are the output of our brain’s interpretation of electrical signals coming into our ears. In other words, it’s all happening unconsciously through brain chemistry: behaviors are merely the end result of a very specific sequence of chemical signals in our brains that traverse a series of congruency checks that ultimately agree to act.

Below is a summary of the physiology of what happens in our brains – the step by step path – that ultimately leads to behaviors. Here you’ll recognize exactly where and why Behavior Mod fails. For those wanting to skip the brain stuff, go directly to the CASE STUDY below. But don’t forget to peek at the great graphic of the HOW of decision making just below.

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF BEHAVIOR

For those of you who love to learn esoteric stuff, here is an overview of the physiology of our brain’s path to a behavior: from an Input/Cue that starts the process and signals that an action is requested, through our filters and trials that check the signal for risk, through to a STOP or an Output/Behavior. It’s what our brain does to cause us to behave, or not.

SIGNAL/CUE/MOTIVATION/INPUT: We start by giving ourselves some sort of CUE, an instruction or request, to take action, whether it’s to brush our teeth, or move our arm, or eat a salad. This signal traverses a neural pathway to get to the next stage, the CEN.

CEN/BELIEF FILTER: Our Central Executive Network, or CEN, filters all requests through our beliefs, morals, and norms. If the incoming cue is congruent with our beliefs and determined to have no risk, we peruse our lifelong history and trillions (literally) of neural pathways to find an existing behavior we’ve used before that matches the request. If one is found, there’s an immediate GO and you get a CUE –> BEHAVIOR, or in other words, INPUT –> OUTPUT match immediately. This happens when you get into your car and automatically put on your seatbelt, for example.

But if the motivating cue is incongruent with our norms and beliefs there is a STOP or resistance. This happens a lot when people try to do something they dislike, like add working out to their schedules, for example, because they believe they should – and they hate the gym, hate working out, and hate taking the time out of their day. Or something they’ve tried and have failed at. Or something that goes against their beliefs.

For the past 10 years, after decades of unsuccessfully trying to convince myself to get to the gym, I finally created a new habit and now go 8 hours a week – AND I HATE THE GYM. First I changed my cue. I told telling myself that as a healthy person, I believed (CEN) I am fit in mind, body, spirit. Now, if I want to be a slug, I ask myself if I want to be a healthy person today. Thankfully, I do 90% of the time.

The job of the CEN is to let in the good stuff and stop the bad. Behavior Mod doesn’t have the ability to change cues, and address belief filters.

TRIAL LOOP: If the CEN is congruent with the signal and there’s no behavior already in place, the signal goes into a trial loop where it

  • assigns/weights/determines the risk of the new against the beliefs and norms (CEN);
  • seeks new knowledge/learning tools to trial and practice behaviors that conform with the cue;
  • while comparing against the filters in the CEN for congruence;
  • develop a new neural pathway/synaptic connection for a new behavior if congruent (i.e. GO) or
  • STOP a signal if a risk uncovered, and no new behavior is formed.

Obviously our brains are set up to filter out what they believe will harm us. And anything new that has not been bought into, or tested to fit in with our other norms, will be deemed a risk, regardless of the efficacy of the new or need for change.

When our cue gets stopped and doesn’t lead to a behavior it’s because

  1. We’re giving ourselves a cue that’s incongruent with who we are;
  2. We’re trying to use a pathway already developed for a different behavior;
  3. We’re attempting to change a behavior by starting from the output (behavior) end without going through the congruency process of weighting risk and getting Buy In.

Input (signal, cue, stimulus) –> CEN (beliefs) –> trial loop (congruency check) –> output (behavior)

You can see that behaviors are at the end of a chain of physiological events, the final step along the neural pathway between the input cue and action. The end. The response. The reaction. Nowhere do they occur on their own.

THE PROBLEM WITH MODIFICATION

Behavior Mod attempts to effect change at the output where an existing behavior is already in place, hoping that by practicing a preferred behavior over and over and over, different results will emerge. Obviously it can’t work. New behaviors activate and will permanently take hold ONLY once instructed by an input stimulus that has then been approved by your beliefs and weighted for risk and congruence.

In other words, when you try to change a behavior by trying to change an existing behavior, you’re trying to change the output without getting necessary Buy In for change. It’s not even logical. It’s why diets and exercise regimens fail: people try to change their existing habits rather than form wholly new ones with different signals that lead to wholly different – and more successful – routines.

Consider a robot that has been programmed to move forward but you want it to move backward. You tell it why ‘backward’ is best, you pitch it reasons it should want to move backward, you tell it a story about why moving backward is advantageous, and you even try to push it backward. But until you reprogram it, it will not go backward. It’s the same with us. We must create new incoming cues, go through a trial loop that weights risks/tries/fails/tries/fails, gathers necessary data along the way, and gets agreement to develop a wholly new neural pathway to a new action that’s congruent. You cannot change a behavior by changing a behavior.

It’s also impossible to expect permanent change when we omit the entire risk-check element of our Buy In process. The risk to our system of becoming imbalanced by shoving in something foreign into a system that’s been working just fine, is just too great, regardless of the efficacy of the new, and any new inputs will stop behaviors that haven’t been vetted. And Behavior Mod supersedes these tests by trying to push the change from the output end, before it’s been vetted.

HOW TO CHANGE BEHAVIORS PERMANENTLY

Here are three of the key elements involved in how we choose to behave differently. It’s systemic.

SYSTEMS CONGRUENCE. The role of systems here cannot be underestimated because they’re the glue that holds us together. I am a system. You are a system. Your family is a system. Every conglomeration of things that follow the same rules is a system. Every system has its own status quo – its own unique set of norms, beliefs, identifiers that show up, together, and are identified as Me, or My Family, or My Work Team. The system of people working together at Google will be different from the system of people working together at Kaiser Permanente, with unspoken rules that apply to dress codes, hiring practices, working hours, relationships, the way meetings are run.

The job of our status quo is to maintain Systems Congruence (You learned that in 6th grade. It means that all systems, all of us, seek balance, or Homeostasis.) so we can wake up every day being who we were yesterday. And all day, trillions of signals enter into our brains and lead us to behaviors that have met the criteria of systems congruence and safety. These are our habits. Indeed, our brains check all incoming signals for incongruence before behaviors are agreed to, making sure we remain in balance minutely.

Any time you try (and try and try and…) to behave in a way that unconsciously causes imbalance within you – when you push against an existing habit or action and try to get a different behavior – you’ll experience resistance or sabotage. For any proposed change, to maintain congruence, your system must agree, Buy In, in a way that matches your beliefs, identity, and norms. And it’s physiologic, chemical, automatic, and unconscious. Our brains do this for us every second of our lives. Behavior Modification supersedes this process, trying to induce behavior change in a way that risks generating imbalance, or Systems Incongruence – and inaction.

INPUT. Any new input signals will only become a behavior if they are congruent with the beliefs, identity and norms of the person’s system. When you wish to change a behavior, it’s necessary to input the correct message as all that follows is a response to the input cue. I recently asked a friend with a long history of trying to lose weight permanently what she tells herself to begin (her stimulus). ‘I tell myself I’m a disgusting slob.’ Since different inputs will be assessed by the CEN uniquely and each achieve different outputs, being a ‘disgusting slob’ will invite the same behaviors that caused her to be a ‘disgusting slob’ to begin with, and she’ll fail over and over; she’s inputting the same signal expecting a different response, but her brain will only seek/find the old response.

TRIAL LOOP. Because a new input seeking a new output/behavior demands a congruence test in the CEN to assess risk, there’s a trial process that includes

  • adding new knowledge (education, books, coaching, lessons, etc.) to achieve new skills to trial;
  • continual comparisons against the CEN, or against our beliefs and identity, as each iteration progresses, to test for congruence;
  • Buy-In so our CEN, our beliefs and identity, concur with each iteration of trialing and failing as our brains go about weighting any risk;
  • trialing any new behaviors for congruence, that result from adding the new knowledge.

If at any point a risk is determined to put the system out of congruence, it will stop the new behavior. If the input cue is determined safe, it will agree to create a new behavior. Not to kick a dead horse, but Behavior Mod does not address this at all. That’s why it fails so often.

So if my friend wanted to permanently lose weight, she’d input something like “I’m a healthy person”, discover which of her beliefs are connected to that (“As part of my health practice, I eat nutritionally healthful food that works well with my lifestyle.”), and go through a trial loop that would include her doing research and possibly blood tests to see what types of food best align with her being healthy, and end up with a new set of healthful eating behaviors. Ultimately she’d have a lifetime food plan that kept her healthy, congruent with her beliefs about herself and habituated into her life. And her eating would become part of her system and become habituated.

CASE STUDY

I’ll share a recent experience I had using this process with my neighbor. In it I’ll label each element within the Buy In process in the chart above.

My neighbor Maria once came to my house crying. Her doctor had told her she was borderline diabetic and needed to eat differently. He gave her a printed list of foods to eat and foods to avoid and sent her on her way. At my house she told me she’d been trying for months, lost some weight, but finally gave up and went back to her normal eating habits and gained back the weight. But she was fearful of dying from diabetes like her mother did. Apparently the fear of death wasn’t enough to change her eating habits. She asked if I could help, and I told her I’d lead her through to finding her own answers. Here was our exchange.

SDM: Who are you? [RESPONSE TO DOCTOR INPUT/CUE]

Maria: I’m a mother and grandmother. [CEN FILTER, IDENTITY]

SDM: What are your beliefs that go with being a mother and grandmother?

Maria: I believe I’m responsible for feeding my family in a way that makes them happy. [CEN FILTER, BELIEFS]

SDM: What is it you’re doing now that makes them happy? [CEN FILTER, IDENTITY]

Maria: I make 150 tortillas each morning and hand them out to all my children and grandchildren who come over on their way to work and school in the morning. They love my tortillas. But I know they’re bad for me with all the lard in them, even though I eat them. I’ve tried to stop, but since I’m making them for everyone, they are a big part of my diet. When the doctor told me I can’t eat them anymore, it felt like he asked me to not love my family. [NO BUY IN FROM CEN/STOP]

SDM: So I hear that tortillas are the way you keep your family happy but the lard in them is unhealthy for you. Is there any other way you can keep your family happy by feeding them without putting your own health at risk?

Maria: Hmmmm… I could make them corn tacos. They don’t have lard, and my family loves them. [TRIAL LOOP, BUY-IN]

Maria then invited her entire (huge) family for dinner and presented her daughter Sonia with her tortilla pan outfitted with a big red bow. [TRIAL LOOP, NEW BEHAVIOR] She told her family she couldn’t make tortillas any more due to health reasons, and proclaimed Sonia the new “Tortilla Tia”. She could, she said, make them corn tacos whenever they wanted and she would happily try out whatever they wanted so long as they were happy. [TRIAL LOOP, KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION]

That simple switch in her food choices and her handover to Sonia helped her begin a healthy eating plan. It inspired her to research other food substitutions [TRIAL LOOP, KNOWLEDGE ACQUISITION] she could make to avoid having a chronic illness. Eventually, she lost weight and had a food plan more closely aligned with what her doc suggested. And of course, she could still make her family happy with her food and meet her beliefs. [NEW NEURAL PATHWAY, NEW BEHAVIOR]

As you can see, just from entering the problem with a different hat on – helping patients figure out their own route to change and Buy In instead of trying to drive it – using a different curiosity and a different questioning system, it’s quite possible to guide people to discover their own best choices that are congruent with who they are.

FACILITATE BUY IN THEN ADD BEHAVIOR MOD

I realize my ideas aren’t in the mainstream at the moment. But just because Behavior Mod has such a stronghold in the healthcare field doesn’t mean it can’t be reexamined or appended. And just because Behavior Mod has been the accepted model to induce change doesn’t mean it’s successful. Remember when we believed top down leadership was the way to go? Millions of books sold? Billions spent on consultants? I’m offering something new here that deserves consideration.

And it’s not either/or; it can be both/and. You don’t have to throw away what you’ve got, just add a front end to stimulate Buy In. I’ve used this approach to train a large number of sales folks globally to facilitate buying decisions and it was quite successful. And here’s an article I wrote on adding my change facilitation concepts to Behavior Mod, should you have interest.

There are plenty of uses for this add on. Think of enabling patient Buy In for obesity or cardio clinics, to help patients design a work-out regimen for heart health. Or for diabetes sufferers to design a healthful food plan for life. Or athletes trying to change an inferior swing, or develop a new pattern to their feet differently to run faster. What about helping yourself meditate daily or organizing your life. Or to get more sleep.

We can help people alter their behaviors in a way that’s not only congruent with who they are, but helps them make their own best choices. But not with Behavior Modification alone.

Contact me to put you on an advance list for a Buy In program I’m running in June with Learning Strategies. In it you’ll learn how to design your own flow chart from Cue to Behavior to have conscious choice whenever you want to make a change. And if you have any interest at all in testing this model, or just sharing ideas, I welcome the conversation. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com.

______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. She is the author of 9 books, including the New York Times 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? She is also the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model which is used by sellers, leaders, and coaches, to facilitate others through all of the steps of their decision making and change to lead them through their steps to purchase or change. Sharon Drew is a trainer, coach, speaker, and consultant in the areas of sales, healthcare, leadership, and coaching. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

February 18th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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Many learning tools and programs provide tools for Influencers – coaches, sellers, negotiators, leaders, healthcare providers, managers, and consultants – to help Others make the changes they seek. Coaching programs teach how to recognize what the client is ‘really’ saying and offer the best techniques to help. Doctors offer reasons and rationale as to why patients need to change daily regimens. Negotiators seek the BATNA. But all tools have one thing in common: they assume that the Outsider can, and should, be the one leading the change.

I believe we’re focusing on the wrong outcome. I believe that because of everyone’s unconscious, subjective, andnormalized biases and identity-based beliefs, and our inability to know for certain what’s going on in Another’s unconscious, it’s a risk for Outsiders to attempt to effect congruent change in Another; I believe it’s possible to enable people to design their own change, using their own time frame, beliefs, criteria, and unconscious drivers. Instead of Influencers, let’s be Facilitators – neutral navigators who enable Others to discover, and design, their own unique brand of excellence. But we need an additional skill set and focus. Let me explain.

OUR SUBJECTIVITY IMPEDES SUCCESS

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

1. Both client and influencer listen through unconscious, subjective biases and mis-hear, mis-interpret, mis-represent, misunderstand, confuse, resist, and sabotage accordingly. That’s just a fact: our communication partners rarely fully or accurately understand what their communication partner intends. When researching my book on this subject (see What? did you really say what I think I heard?)   I was quite shocked (and annoyed) to learn how little we correctly understand of what our communication partners mean to tell us, regardless of our training, knowledge, intuition, attention, or intent.

Inadvertently, each end of a communication is mired in subjective listening biases and cannot – cannot- hear the Other without some element of partiality. And because our brains don’t even tell us how, exactly, they’ve altered what we think we hear, we have no way of knowing just what we’re missing. I must admit I was quite annoyed to learn this, believing passionately in my ability to ‘really listen.’ Unfortunately, our brains don’t allow it. In his new book, The Undoing Project Michael Lewis says: “…the mind’s best trick…was to lead its owner to a feeling of certainty about inherently uncertain things.” (pg 42) “Confirmation bias is…insidious because you don’t even realize it’s happening” (pg 40). We actually, unwittingly, hear what we want to hear. And this, says Lewis, is especially true of Experts.

2. Because Influencers pose questions according to their subjective biases of what they think should be achieved, they potentially miss huge swaths of necessary information or opposition. Unfortunately, discovery is then determined and biased according to the skills and filters of the Influencer who’s using biased judgment in the form of ‘intuition’ and ‘gut reaction’ – particularly difficult on clients with a different set of beliefs and biases.

3. Our status quo – the internal, unconscious, subjective rules, identity, beliefs, and experience – is systemic and will resist change unless beliefs and long-held unconscious rules shift to incorporate and accept anything new. Regardless of its efficacy, any change – new ideas, advice, behaviors – needs buy-in from the areas within the system that created and maintain the problem we seek to fix (status quo) and will be affected by the change. When systems are asked to change without marshaling belief-based buy-in, they will resist or sabotage (regardless of the efficacy of the change) rather than be disrupted. And don’t be fooled: any change demands a reconfiguration of any number of seemingly unrelated internal issues.

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

5. We all recognize that only people can change themselves. And yet tools Influencers use to ‘understand’ or ‘manage change’ are often based on their ‘intuition’, ‘gut’ feel, historic experiences, and behavioral approaches to address change. But this outside-in approach is successful only when the Other’s system shows up ready, willing, and able to shift – usually not something folks can do when we meet them. By being responsible instead for guiding them through their own systemic change, everyone can discover their own workable (albeit unconscious) answers and congruently shift the structure of their own internal change.

I know I’m stepping on toes here, and many of you are thinking ‘I understand how to help my clients! I’ve been doing this for years!’ I can’t tell you how many hundreds of conversations I’ve had with leaders and coaches and managers who believe everything I’m saying – for another person. But we can’t know what clients mean when they’re not even aware of the role of their unconscious drivers that passionately fight to maintain themselves, or with the best will in the world, try valiantly to ‘do’ (behave) in ways we suggest, only to fall back on old patterns after we’re gone.

Behaviors are the action, and formal representation of, our Beliefs: without reorganizing the intricate system of beliefs, criteria, history, and rules that have created the problem, any behavioral change runs the risk of being temporary or resisted. Having a dialogue or session based on content or need or problem-solving – all behavioral – cannot effect change without causing resistance.

But Behaviors will automatically change once the Beliefs change: When I shifted my Identity to become a Healthy Person, going to the gym (I hate it) became the Behavior that was one of the actions of my Belief; when I want to sleep in I ask myself, ‘Are you a Healthy Person today?’ and if the answer is ‘No’ I happily sleep in. Thankfully, it’s almost always ‘Yes’. If I had started out thinking I needed to go to the gym because my coach and I agreed it was healthy, I certainly would have stopped going after a while because there was no systemic buy-in or unconscious driver. Change comes from the unconscious; Behaviors are merely the manifestation of the change, not the focus. And you can’t permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.

WHAT’S OUR JOB

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

1.   Let’s become Neutral Navigators and help Others get to their own unconscious system to find a route to congruent change that’s acceptable and avoids inadvertent, biased, subjective blocks.

2.   Instead of posing biased questions or gathering data – both of which run the risk of restricting possibility – let’s help Others ask themselves their own most appropriate questions. I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that are systemic, formulated to traverse the route of the brain to engage the unconscious to discern rules, beliefs, resistance, and don’t include content until the system is ready for it.

3.   Since everyone’s status quo is systemic, self-perpetuating and self-maintaining, let’s enable the Other to discover why, how, and when to shift their own rules to buy-in and adopt change. That way we avoid overlaying our subjective biases that might cause them to miss their real inflection point.

4.   By eschewing ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and advice until the Other’s system is ready, we can enable Others to traverse the route to change through her own unconscious system and we can truly serve as healers and Facilitators – without bias. It might not look like we imagined, but change will happen idiosyncratically, permanently, and congruently.

5.   As Facilitators and Servant Leaders, we can enable congruent, permanent, effortless change, and people can be the designers of their own transformation.

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

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

HOW FACILITATION WORKS: CASE STUDY

Facilitators hold different beliefs than Influencers:

  • People can only change themselves. A Facilitator’s job is not to understand or fix, but to enable Others to make their own unconscious, systemic, appropriate change. Nothing is broken: clients only need to find the route to their own best answers and then, only when the system agrees it needs change – and that, my friends, demands a complicated internal unraveling.
  • It’s necessary to listen for systems – for the underlying metamessages – rather than for information or content with is subjective, incomplete and murky. So ixnay your curiosity-based, biased questions to listen for what’s not said. Remember: conventional listening is wholly subjective. The more you listen for what’s said, the less you’ll hear of what’s meant.
  • It’s important to enable Others to go down their own route to change – not yours. They might be slower, or incomplete, or go in a different direction than you’d recommend. But it’s not your call. You’re just there to facilitate their excellence along the route of their own change process.
  • You’ll need a new toolkit. If you aspire to facilitating real change, you’ve got to save your information gathering, or timelines, or any of the tools you’ve been using until toward the end of the exchange once your client has discovered their belief-based, unconscious, drivers. You’ll need to pose systems-based questions that facilitate unconscious discovery, listen for what’s not said, and do a lot of summarizing. I’ve developed a model that does this (Buying Facilitation®) that I’ve been teaching in the sales and coaching field for 35 years. Email me with questions or read some of the articles up on my blog www.sharondrewmorgan.com.

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

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

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

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

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

LOUIS – Thank you. I appreciate it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen has spent her life designing facilitation models for sales, coaching, management, training, healthcare, communication, and influencing. She is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with IntegrityDirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t selland the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Sharon Drew is a speaker, consultant, trainer, and coach, as well as a blogger of one of the top 10 sales blogs: www.sharondrewmorgen.com. She also has trained Buying Facilitation® to over 100,000 Sales and Coaching Facilitators in many global corporations. She can be reached atsharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512-771-1117.

February 4th, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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

And the results aren’t pretty: we end up restricting possibility and creating resistance, conflict, antagonism, or disregard, regardless of the efficacy of what we have to offer. In this article I’ll explain why and how we end up creating the very resistance we hope to avoid, and introduce new skills to enable us to truly serve.

WE CONNECT THROUGH OUR OWN SUBJECTIVITY

Regardless of the situation, when we try to effect change using our own viewpoint or beliefs, our biases and expectations cause us to inadvertently alienate those who might need us. As a result, we ultimately influence only a percentage of those who need our help – those who already basically agree with us. Here’s how we restrict our interactions:

Biased listening: We each listen to Others unconsciously, through unique and subjective filters (biases, triggers, assumptions, habitual neural pathways, memory channels), regardless of our concerted attempts to accurately hear what’s intended. As a result, through no fault of our own, what we think we hear is often an inaccurate translation of what was meant and not what the speaker intended. So our Communication Partner (CP) might say ABC but we actually ‘hear’ ABD (And yes, we often hear something quite different than what was said although it shows up as ‘real’. Read article on how this happens.) and our brains don’t tell us we’re misunderstanding.

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

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

Subjective expectations: We enter into each conversation with expectations or goals (conscious or unconscious) thereby restricting or misinterpreting what’s been said, and often missing avenues of further exploration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately for those of us trying to effect change in Others, it’s important to remember we’re outsiders: as such, we can never fully comprehend the ramifications of adding our new ideas or solution, especially when every group, every person, believes it’s functioning well and their choices are normalized and habituated. Just because it seems right to us doesn’t mean it’s right for another. Sometimes maintaining the status quo is the right thing to do for reasons we can’t understand; sometimes change can occur only when internal things need to shift in ways we cannot assist with.

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

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

We are indeed limiting all of our interactions to helping only those few who are entirely set up to change (the low hanging fruit) and failing with those who might need us but aren’t quite ready.

INFORMATION DOESN’T FACILITATE CHANGE

As influencers, we mistakenly believe that by offering ‘good’ (relevant, accurate, instructive, empirical) information, the Other will not only interpret it the way it was intended, but know how and why to use it. But our CPs can only hear us through subjective filters and may not recognize, or will feel compromised by, what we’re trying to say. Remember: Others will not considering changing in ways that challenge their status quo.

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

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

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

To enable expanded and managed choice and to avoid resistance, we must first help Others recognize how to congruently change their own status quo. They may have buy-in issues or resource issues; maybe their hierarchy of values or goals would need to shift, or their rules. By focusing on facilitating choice/change first we can teach Others to achieve their own congruent change and then tailor our solutions and presentations to fit. Otherwise, our great content will only connect with those folks who already mirror the incoming data and overlook those who might have been able to change if they had known how to do so congruently.

THE SKILLS OF CHANGE

I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model, often used in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and coaching, that offers the ability to facilitate change at the core of where our status quo originates – our internal, idiosyncratic, and habituated rules and beliefs. Developed over 50 years, I’ve coded my own Asperger’s systemizing brain, refitted some of the constructs of NLP, coded the system and sequence of change, and applied some of the research in brain sciences to determine where, if, and how new choices fit.

Using it, Others can consciously self-cue – normally an unconscious process – to enable them to discover their own needs for change in the area I can serve, and in a way that’s congruent with the rules and beliefs that keep their status quo in place. I’ve trained the model globally over the past 30 years in sales, negotiation, marketing, patient relationships, leadership, coaching, etc. Below I introduce the main skills I’ve developed to enable change and choice – for me, the real kindness and integrity we have to offer. It’s possible to lead Others through

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

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

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

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

1.   Conventional Question: Why do you wear your hair like that? This question, meant to extract data for the Speaker’s use, is biased by the Speaker and limits choices within the Responder. Bias/Bias

2.   Facilitative Question: How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? While conventional questions ask/pull biased data, this question sequentially leads the Other through focused scans of unconscious beliefs in the status quo. Formulating them requires Listening for Systems.

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

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

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

___________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic change management model used to facilitate congruent change. She is the author of 9 books, including one NYTimes Business Bestseller (Selling with Integrity), an Amazon Bestseller Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and her newest book What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard?  which unravels the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Sharon Drew has trained Buying Facilitation® to many global Fortune 500 companies; she is a speaker, trainer, and coach. To contact Sharon Drew: sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117 Visit her award winning blog and read original content from an original thinker with 1600 articles: www.sharondrewmorgen.com

January 20th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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Too much information is the problem

Information, used at the wrong time, or when used to influence or sell, advise or share, has cost us untold loss in business and relationships. It actually causes resistance.

INFORMATION CAUSES RESISTANCE

For some reason, we maintain a long-standing belief that if we offer the right people the right information at the right time, presented in the right way, those it’s intended to influence will be duly impressed and adopt it. But that’s erroneous. Just think how often we

  • patiently explain to our kids why something is bad for them,
  • present a well-considered idea to our boss,
  • share an important idea with a friend,
  • offer great data as rationale to lead change initiatives,
  • offer brilliant pitches to prospects to explain how our solution can help them,
  • explain to patients why they need to change habits or diets,

and how often our brilliant delivery and logical (and probably accurate) argument is not only ignored but rebuffed. Certainly the ineffective behaviors continue regardless of the logic of the information we offer. Are they just stupid? Irrational? We’re ‘right’ of course: we’ve got the rational argument and data points; what we have to share is what Others need to hear.

But is this true?

It’s not. And we’re wrong. We’re actually creating resistance, losing business, destroying relationships, and impeding change. Here’s why. When we present rational data, or make arguments based on logic or wisdom or knowledge, and hope it will sway an opinion or get a new decision made to, say, change a behavior, we’re putting the cart before the horse. While the data itself may be important, we are merely using our own biases, needs, control issues, etc. as the motivation to offer it, not to mention our timing may be inappropriate.

We sometimes forget that the organizing system that holds the problem in place – the people, rules, relationships, goals, etc. that make up the status quo and created the problem to begin with – has maintained itself in that same format through time and has developed and normalized it’s own series of biases, habits, assumptions, etc. In fact, the organizing system regards new information as a threat to it’s status quo: until it discovers a way to change so stability is maintained, it will automatically resist anything from outside. You see, until there’s internal buy-in for change, and until the system that holds the problem in place is assured it will not face chaos with change, people have no place to put the new information. The system is sacrosanct, regardless of the need or the efficacy of the solution/information; since it’s functionality has become normalized, it won’t seek, understand, use, or welcome new information.

We believe that part of our jobs as leaders, sales professionals, coaches, managers, or even parents is to be the arbiters of change, with information a main ingredient. And we tend to think that if we offer appropriate data – rational, proven, useful, well-delivered – as the reason for change, the Other will adopt it. But information in and of itself does not teach someone how to change: information promotes knowledge that may not be understood or pursued by that person at that time. Not to mention that people listen through subjective filters and can only hear/understand new information in direct relation to the same beliefs that caused the problem to begin with.

Change requires a systems overhaul. It’s not possible to permanently change behaviors by changing behaviors.

Let me explain. Everyone – people and teams, companies and families – possesses unique internal beliefs, values, histories, biases (representing our status quo, or our unique, personal, unconscious system) that are idiosyncratic and determine our behaviors (behaviors being the translation, the representation of, our unconscious system). Indeed, these internal systems are so clearly defined, habituated, and defended that our lives are actually determined by these: our unconscious listening filters are so subjective that we don’t even know how to listen when information is offered that’s outside our conventional thinking (See my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? about how our brains are organized to listen subjectively and mishear/misunderstand anything outside our norms).

And I cannot say this enough, so please disregard this repetition: Regardless of how important, necessary, or life-saving our information is, it will be resisted until/unless there is internal buy-in for it and an identified route from the problematic status quo, through to buy-in for change, through to execution, is developed in a way that maintains Systems Congruence.

OFFER INFORMATION ONLY WHEN SYSTEM READY FOR CHANGE

It is only when parts of our system seek a new level of excellence and get buy in from the habituated parts of us, that we’re even ready to consider thinking, listening for, and opening our eyes to anything different. There is no direct route between hearing new information and acting on it, unless we’ve already determined that THAT DATA at THAT TIME is worth the disruption of change.

Certainly it’s necessary to figure out how to change without disruption before any sort of change be considered, regardless of our initiatives as outsiders to influence the change. If the system had recognized the need to change and knew how to fix it congruently it would have fixed the problem already.

Here are some specifics. At the point the need for change is considered, even by a small part of the system, the system must get buy-in from everything and everyone that will touch a potential new solution and knows how to change its underlying rules in a way that insures minimal disruption. In other words,

no buy-in/no agreed-upon safe route forward = no change considered = no information accepted.

The new information doesn’t fit anywhere, can’t be heard, can’t be understood. We end up pushing valid data into a closed system that doesn’t recognize the need for it. Information is the very last thing needed once the route of change has been designed.

Telling kids why they should clean their rooms, telling prospects why your solution is better, telling managers to use new software, telling patients to lose weight or exercise, doesn’t create the hoped-for change, regardless of how cogent the information except where the kids, buyers, managers, or patients were already set up to/seeking change and know how to move forward congruently (i.e. the low hanging fruit).

Here are a couple of simple examples.

  1. As you run out the door to get your daughter to school your spouse says, “I think we should move.” Huh! “We’ll speak more tonight,” you reply. On your way home you notice a great house for sale and you buy it. You come home to your family and tell them “Hey. We’re moving next week. I just bought a house!” Do you think the information about the house is relevant to your family at that point (even if it’s the perfect house)?
  2. You and your team are getting ready to launch a new product you’ve been developing for two years. Your boss tells you the company has been bought out and it may affect the launch, certainly effects next year’s budget, your work location, and the makeup of the team. Then a sales person calls selling team building software. Do you think information about the software is relevant at this point?
  3. You’re a consultant hired to lead a team through a complicated company reorganization that will leave the function, output, and relationships in jeopardy. The team has been stable, working successfully together for three years and has enjoyed great productivity and camaraderie. Do you think knowing the reasons behind the reorganization will help the transition be effortless or effective?

It’s not about the need or efficacy: change cannot happen until a system knows:

  • how it will be affected by the new solution and that the new will maintain Systems Congruence;
  • that the new solution will be agreeable to all involved – all the stakeholders that will be effected by a change;
  • the criteria that must be met and how to manage any discrepancies between the new and the old;
  • the parameters for, and route through to, change to ensure minimal disruption;
  • the level of buy-in necessary;
  • the new rules and norms that must be adopted and how they will fit with the status quo.

In my book Dirty Little Secrets I lay out the steps to change and decision making in a buying decision. It carefully details how systems fight fight fight to maintain themselves – homeostasis – regardless of their problems which have been baked in and accepted (i.e. not recognized as a problem); anything that pushes the system out of balance will create resistance (whether the system needs the change or not – remember: the system ‘is’, and gets up daily maintaining itself) as the normalized functioning is threatened.

Giving information too early, before a system can learn how to adopt change so any disruption is integrated, merely causes resistance as the system fights for balance. Not to mention if the new information is well outside of our conventional beliefs or experience, it cannot even be heard accurately.

And so, our brilliant, necessary, cogent information gets ignored, resisted, objected to, or misunderstood and we must handle the ubiquitous objections and resistance that we have created (and sadly miss real opportunities to facilitate change). Hence long sales cycles/lost sales and implementation problems, ignored advice, ill patients not complying with necessary behavior changes, and lost opportunities. So: help people/groups manage change first to set up the agreement, congruency, and buy-in; then offer information.

Conventional sales, marketing, training, coaching, parenting, healthcare, and leadership models use sharing and gathering information as their core, and first, activity, assuming people will be willing to change by being offered rational, necessary, data. But facilitating change goes well beyond information.

I’ve developed a generic Change Facilitation model (called Buying Facilitation® in sales) which works with each step of systemic change to generate buy-in of all elements, people, rules, etc. that will touch the new solution, and enables a system to design it’s own route through to congruent change; information is offered once there is agreement for adoption – and by the time you offer it, there is already eagerness for change and an eagerness to adopt and listen to your information. If you’re a coach, negotiator, seller, purchasing agent, leader, doctor, or implementer add it into your current skills. Then when it’s time to offer information, your clients will be ready for it.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author most recently of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is also the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and 7 other books on how decisions get made, how change happens in systems, and how buyers buy; and the Amazon bestseller Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a facilitation tool for sellers, coaches, and managers to help others determine their best decisions and enable excellence. Her award winning blog sharondrewmorgen.com has 1500 original articles with original thinking on systems, collaboration, buying, leadership, etc. Sharon Drew is a visionary, trainer, coach, consultant, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512-771-1117

 

January 14th, 2019

Posted In: Communication

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questioning-questionsDecades ago I had an idea that questions could be vehicles to facilitate change in addition to eliciting answers. Convention went against me: the accepted use of questions (framing devices, biased by the Asker, that extract a defined range of answers) is built into our culture. But overlooked is their inability to extract good data or accurate answers due to the bias of the Asker; overlooked is their ability to facilitate congruent change.

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

Questions are biased by the expectations, assumptions, goals, unconscious beliefs and subjective experience of both the Responder and the Asker and limit responses accordingly. In other words, questions can’t extract ‘good’ data. They’re certainly not designed to lead Responders through to real change or accurate revelations. (What? Did you really say what I think I heard? offers a broad discussion of bias.) Here are the most prevalent ways we limit our Communication Partner’s responses:

Need to Know Askers pose questions to pull conscious data from the Responder because of their own ‘need to know’, data collection, or curiosity.  An example (Note: all following italicized questions are posed as a mythical hairdresser seeking business) might be: Why do you wear your hair like that?

These questions risk overlooking more relevant answers that are stored beyond the parameters of the question posed – often in the unconscious.

Pull Data Askers pose questions to pull a range of implicating data considered useful to ‘make a case’ in a ploy to obtain their desired results (i.e. sales, leadership, marcom, coaching). Don’t you think it might be time to get a haircut?

These questions run a high risk of missing the full range of, or accurate, responses. Certainly they offer no route to enabling choice, decisions, or collaboration/buy-in. They encourage resistance, partial/missed answers, and lies.

Manipulate agreement/response Questions that direct the Responder to find a specific set of responses to fit the needs and expectations of the Asker. Can you think of a time you’ve felt ‘cool’ when you’ve had short hair? Or Have you ever thought of having your hair look like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Or What would it feel like to have hair like Kanye/Ozzy/Justin? Wouldn’t you say your hairstyle makes you look X?

These questions restrict possibility, cause resistance, create distrust, and encourage lying.

Doubt Directive These questions, sometimes called ‘leading questions’ are designed to cause Responders to doubt their own effectiveness, in order to create an opening for the Asker. Do you think your hairstyle works for you?

These narrow the range of possible responses, often creating some form of resistance or defensive lies; they certainly cause defensiveness and distrust.

Questions restrict responses to the Asker’s parameters, regardless of their intent or the influencer’s level of professionalism and knowledge. Potentially important, accurate data – not to mention the real possibility of facilitating change – is left on the table and instead promote lost business, failure, distrust, bad data collection, and delayed success. Decision Scientists end up gathering incomplete data that creates implementation issues; leaders and coaches push clients toward the change they perceive is needed and often miss the real change needed and possible. The fields of sales and coaching are particularly egregious.

The cost of bias and restriction is unimaginable. Here’s an especially unfortunate example of a well-respected research company that delayed the discovery of important findings due to the biases informing their research questions. I got a call from one of the founders of Challenger Sales to discuss my Buying Facilitation® model. Their research had ‘recently’ discovered that sales are lost/delayed/hampered due to the buyer’s behind-the-scenes change issues that aren’t purchase-driven and sales doesn’t address – and yay for me for figuring this out 35 years ago.

Interesting. They figured this out now? Even David Sandler called me in 1992 before he died to tell me he appreciated how far out of the box I went to find the resolution to the sales problem (He also offered to buy me out, but that’s a different story.). The data was always there. I uncovered this in 1983. But the CEB missed it because their research surveys posed biased questions that elicited data matching their expectations. Indeed, even during our conversations, my Communication Partner never got rid of his solution-placement (sales) biases and we never were able to find a way to partner.

WHAT IS AN ANSWER?

Used to elicit or push data, the very formulation of conventional questions restricts answers. If I ask ‘What did you have for breakfast?’ you cannot reply ‘I went to the gym yesterday.’ Every answer is restricted by the biases within the question. I’m always disappointed when I hear sellers say “Buyers are liars” or coaches say “They didn’t really want to change.” Or therapists or managers or leaders say “They’re resisting”. Askers cause the answers they get.

  1. Because we enter conversations with an agenda, intuition, directive, etc., the answers we receive are partial at best, inaccurate at worst, and potentially cause resistance, sabotage, and disregard.
  2. There are unknown facts, feelings, historic data, goals, etc. that lie within the Responder’s unconscious that hold real answers and cannot be found using merely the curiosity of the Asker.
  3. By approaching situations with bias, Askers can only successfully connect with those whose conscious biases align with their own, leaving behind many who could change, or connect when their unconscious data is recognized. And conventional questions cannot get to the unconscious.
  4. Because influencers are unaware of how their particular bias restricts an answer, they have no concept if there are different answers possible, and often move forward with bad data.

So why does it matter if we’re biasing our questions? It matters because we are missing accurate results; it matters because our questions instill resistance; it matters because we’re missing opportunities to serve and support change.

When sellers ask leading questions to manipulate prospects, or coaches ask influencing questions to generate action, we’re coaxing our Communication Partner in a direction that, as we now recognize, is often biased. Imagine if we could reconfigure questions to elicit accurate data for researchers or marcom folks; or enable buyers to take quick action from ads, cold calls or large purchases; or help coaching clients change behaviors congruently and quickly; or encourage buy-in during software implementations. I’m suggesting questions can facilitate real change.

WHAT IS CHANGE?

Our brain stores data rather haphazardly in our unconscious, making it difficult to find what we need when we need it, and making resistance prevalent when it seems our Status Quo is being threatened. But over the last decades, I have mapped the sequence of systemic change. Following this route, I’ve designed a way to use questions as directional devices to pull relevant data in the proper sequence so we can lead Responders through their own internal, congruent, change process and avoid resistance. Not only does this broaden the range of successful results, but it enables quicker decisions and buy-in – not to mentiontruly offer a Servant Leader, win/win communication. Let’s look at what’s keeping us wedded to our Status Quo and how questions can enable change.

All of us are a ‘system’ of subjectivity collected during our lifetime: unique rules, values, habits, history, goals, experience, etc. that operates consensually to create and maintain our Status Quo; it resides in our unconscious and defines our Status Quo. Without it, we wouldn’t have criteria for any choices, or actions, or habits whatsoever. Our system is hard wired to keep us who we are (Systems Congruence).

To learn something new, to do something different or learn a new behavior, to buy something, to take vitamins or get a divorce or use new software or be willing to forgive a friend, the Status Quo must buy in to change from within – an inside job. Information pulled or pushed – regardless of the intent, or relationship, or efficacy – will be resisted.

For congruent change to occur – even a small one – appropriate elements within our Status Quo must buy into, and have prepared for, a possibly disruptive addition (idea, product, etc.). But since the process is internal, idiosyncratic, and unconscious, our biased questions cause the system to defend itself and we succeed only with those folks whose unconscious biases and beliefs mirror our own.

  1. People hear each other through their own biases. You ask biased questions, receive biased answers, and hit pay dirt only when your biases match. Everyone else will ignore, resist, misunderstand, mishear, act out, sabotage, forget, ignore, etc.
  2. Due to their biased and restricting nature, your questions will not facilitate those who are not ready, willing, or able to manage internal change congruently regardless of the wisdom of your comments or their efficacy.
  3. Without the Responder being ready, willing, and able to change, ACCORDING TO THEIR OWN CRITERIA AND SYSTEMS RULES, they cannot buy, accept, adopt, or change in any way.

To manage congruent change, align the Status Quo, and enable the steps to achieve buy-in – I’ve developed Facilitative Questions that work comfortably with conventional questions and lead Responders to

  • find their own answers hidden within their unconscious,
  • retrieve complete, relevant, accurate answers at the right time, in the right order to
  • traverse the sequenced steps to congruent, systemic change/excellence, while
  • avoiding restriction and resistance and
  • include their own values and subjective experience.

It’s possible to help folks make internal changes and find their own brand of excellence.

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

Facilitative Questions (FQs) employ a new skill set that is built upon systems thinking: listening for systems (i.e. no bias) and Servant Leadership. Even on a cold call or in content marketing, sellers can enable buyers down their route to change and buy-in; coaches can lead clients through their own unique change without resistance; leaders can get buy-in immediately; change implementations won’t get resistance; advertisers and marketers can create action.

Using specific words, in a very specific sequence, it’s possible to pose questions that are free of bias, need or manipulation and guide congruent change.

Facilitative Question Not information gathering, pull, or manipulative, FQs are guiding/directional tools, like a GPS system. Like a GPS they don’t need the details of travel – what you’re wearing, what function you’re attending – to dictate two left turns. They lead Responders congruently, without any bias, from where they’re at to Excellence. How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?

This question is a guiding mechanism to efficiently enable a route through the Responder’s largely unconscious path to congruent change.

Here’s the big idea: using questions directed to help Others efficiently recognize their own route to Excellence, and change as appropriate vs. using questions to seek answers that benefit the Asker. This shift in focus alone creates an automatic trust.

An example is a question we designed for Wachovia to increase sales and appointments. Instead of seeking prospects for an appointment to pitch new products (i.e. using appointments as a sales tool), we designed questions to immediately facilitate discovery of need, taking into account most small businesses already have a banking relationship. After trialing a few different FQs, our opening question became: How would you know when it’s time to consider adding new banking partners, for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need? This question shifted the response to 100 prospecting calls from 10 appointments and 2 closes over 11 months, to 37 invites to meet from the prospect, and 29 closes over 3 months. Facilitative Questions helped the right prospects engage immediately.

When used with coaching clients, buyers, negotiation partners, advertisements, or even teenagers, these questions create action within the Responder, causing them to recognize internal incongruences and deficiencies, and be guided through their own options. (Because these questions aren’t natural to us, I’ve designed a tool and program to teach the ‘How’ of formulating them.).

The responses to FQs are quite different from conventional questions. So when answering How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle?’ the Responder is directed by word use, word placement, and an understanding of systems, to think of time, history, people, ego, comparisons, family. Instead of pulling data, you’re directing to, guiding through, and opening the appropriate change ‘boxes’ within the Responder’s unconscious Status Quo. It’s possible Responders will ultimately get to their answers without Facilitative Questions, but using them, it’s possible to help Responders organize their change criteria very quickly accurately. Using Facilitative Questions, we must

  1. Enter with a blank brain, as a neutral navigator, servant leader, with a goal to facilitate change.
  2. Trust our Communication Partners have their own answers.
  3. Stay away from information gathering or data sharing/gathering until they are needed at the end.
  4. Focus on helping the Other define, recognize, and understand their system so they can discover where it’s broken.
  5. Put aside ego, intuition, assumptions, and ‘need to know.’ We’ll never understand another’s subjective experience; we can later add our knowledge.
  6. Listen for systems, not content.

FQs enable congruent, systemic, change. I recognize this is not the conventional use of questions, but we have a choice: we can either facilitate a Responder’s path down their own unique route and travel with them as Change Facilitators – ready with our ideas, solutions, directions as they discover a need we can support – or use conventional, biased questions that limit possibility. For change to occur, people must go through these change steps anyway; we’re just making it more efficient for them as we connect through our desire to truly Serve. We can assist, or wait to find those who have already completed the journey. They must do it anyway: it might as well be with us.

I welcome opportunities to put Facilitative Questions into the world. Formulating them requires a new skill set that avoids any bias (Listening for Systems, for example). But they add an extra dimension to helping us all serve each other.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and visionary who has developed Servant-Leader models to facilitate change in sales, coaching, marketing, leadership, and negotiating. Her model Buying Facilitation® has been trained to over 100,000 people worldwide. She is the author of 9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Amazon bestseller What? did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach. Her training model matches her beliefs: she enables learners to shift congruently to adding new thinking and skills permanently. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com; 512 771 1117.www.sharondrewmorgen.com

December 17th, 2018

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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I’ve read that there are leaders and project managers who prefer not to collaborate, when engaging in an initiative, because of needs for control. And decision makers who start their information gathering before fully involving those who will implement. What sort of success is possible when one source is driving change and

  • may potentially sabotage a project because of their own biases,
  • restricts outcomes and creativity to a specific set of possibilities,
  • potentially gathers biased or insufficient data from a restricted set of sources,
  • risks alienating those involved with the ultimate fulfillment because there’s insufficient buy-in?

Without:
* real collaboration * gathering data from the best set of sources * consensus and buy-in procedures in place
* understanding the full impact from a proposed decision * front-loading for change management (to avoid failed implementations) we risk falling far short of excellence in our decision making and subsequent execution.

WHY COLLABORATION IS NECESSARY

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

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

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

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

I’ve read that distinctions exist between ‘high collaboration’ (a focus on “understanding needs or managing an implementation”) and ‘low collaboration’ (defined as “putting time or control before people and possibility”, and leading from the top with prepared rules and plans). Since I don’t believe in any sort of top-down initiative (i.e. ‘low collaboration’) except when keeping a child safe, and believe there are systems issues that must be taken into consideration, here’s my rule of thumb: Collaboration is necessary early in the process to achieve accurate data identification and consensus for any sort of implementation, decision, project, purchase, or plan that requests people to take actions not currently employed.

THE STEPS OF COLLABORATION

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

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

These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.

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Sharon Drew Morgen teaches decision making, change facilitation, and collaboration for sellers/buyers, leaders/followers, change agents/groups to corporations such as Kaiser, KPMG, IBM, Wachovia, etc. Her most recent book What? breaks down the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She’s written 7 books on her unique model Buying Facilitation® including the NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell which teaches sellers how to facilitate change and consensus for buyers.
www.sharondrewmorgen.com.
sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

November 19th, 2018

Posted In: Communication

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hand-944306_960_720For years I’ve written about how sales suffer because the sales model, designed to seek buyers and place solutions by information sharing and gathering, ignores the vast opportunity to close more sales by adding the function of facilitating Buyer Readiness (i.e. systemic change). The absence of this capability restricts sales to searching for those ready to buy, and causes objections en route:

You’re getting objections not because of your terrific solution, your professionalism, your lists, your competition, the buyer’s need, or your price (It’s never ever about price.). Nor because buyers are liars (David Sandler once told me he never meant the take-away that that expression has evolved into.), stupid, or connivers.

You’re getting objections because you’re using content push and various methods of information sharing as your main vehicle to selling, before buyers are ready or able to buy, before they know why, or when, or if to hear your message. As a result, you’re getting objections because you end up merely seeking those who SHOULD buy, ignoring the vastly larger group who CAN buy but haven’t yet gotten ready (and who won’t object once they get their ducks in a row).

You’re getting objections because you’re reducing your entry points, and along the way, annoying those who don’t (yet) know how to respond to what feels like an invasion.

Sales is designed to

  • find those ready to buy: the low-hanging fruit – those who have already recognized that making a purchase is the only way to resolve a problem, have the buy-in to proceed, and know how to manage any change a new purchase would demand;
  • seek those who are ready, willing, and able to listen to/hear you;
  • ignore those who haven’t yet decided on bringing in an external solution but will ultimately be buyers (Read my article on the 13 step Buying Decision Path.);
  • make information/content the preferred focus with which to close sales, and as a result,gather needs (as per your biased criteria), understand (as per your biased criteria), pitch/place data (which often overlooks their real internal change challenges), and/or seek appointments (based on who’s willing to spend time with you) to pitch solutions without recognizing an additional entry point might be to find/facilitate far more real buyers through the Pre-Sales, change management portion of their decision path (causing countless wasted appointments with those merely seeking data to use internally, or using your content to try to persuade other team members);

and as a result you’re getting objections. With a function limited to using solution-based information as the route to placing solutions and searching for those who SHOULD buy – and getting objections from those who don’t find relevance in your offering, or may feel insulted or made ‘stupid’ – sales overlooks the possibility of facilitating the far larger group who CAN buy. It’s only when they’re certain they can’t fix the problem themselves AND get buy-in, do buyers consider going ‘external’ for a solution. And objections are merely a reaction to feeling pushed by your content and goal to place a solution.

WHY YOU GET OBJECTIONS

I define ‘buyer’ as a person/group who has discovered they can’t fix a problem internally, traversed their change management issues, and has gotten agreement to seek an external solution. The very last thing buyers need is your solution – literally.

So here, in no particular order, is a list of reasons why you get objections, and why/how the limited solutions-push focus of the sales model merely handles a small fraction of a Buying Decision Path instead of actually enabling buying. And fyi: by adding the functionality to help potential buyers traverse their systemic change management issues first, you’ll never get objections.

  • Selling doesn’t cause buying. Do you want to sell? Or have someone buy? Two different activities and mind-sets.
  • Buying involves both systemic change AND (when there’s no other option) solution choice. Using solution data as the main skill to make a sale restricts possibility, getting you objections from those who don’t know how to hear it (Remember: we all listen through biased filters.)
  • Buyers buy according to their buying patterns, not your selling patterns.
  • Pushing solution data too early causes objections, regardless of need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Until buyers recognize how to solve a problem with maximum buy-in and minimum fallout to their status quo (i.e. when they have their ducks in a row), they aren’t buyers regardless of what you believe to be their ‘need’. If they buy without first managing congruent change, they’ll cause internal disruption.
  • Until buyers are certain they can’t solve a problem themselves with their own resources, they can’t recognize, and don’t have the full data set to understand, what they might need to buy and will resist/object when having seemingly pointless content shoved at them.
  • Sales and marketing pitches use biased language to describe solutions, further restricting the buying audience. Until buyers can handle their change, and know the full extent of internal givens (i.e. personal, systemic) they have to deal with, they don’t know how to listen to your content details effectively, and object when pushed. It’s possible to design unique pitches that facilitate change and Systems Congruence for each stage of their non-solution-based, Pre-Sales Buying Decision Path.
  • By restricting the sales model to finding interest using the solution data, you’re only handing the last 30% (steps 1-9) of the 13-step Buying Decision Path. The first 9 steps (Pre-Sales) are a change management exercise, focused on fixing their problem in a way that minimizes disruption and maximizes buy-in, recognizing a need for an external solution only at step 10. When sellers try to place solutions before they’ve gotten to step 10, buyers object.
  • Sales ignores the possibility of influencing the path of (Pre-Sales) change that is driven by the buyer’s system of unique rules, people, history, etc. that protects itself at all costs (i.e. objects).
  • Your sales and marketing efforts seek those who you’ve determined will have a likelihood of buying (the low hanging fruit), and you’re competing for this small percentage, ultimately closing only 5% of a much broader set of possible buyers.
  • There is an entirely different goal, focus, solution, thought process, skill set, necessary to become part of, and facilitate, the Pre-Sales, systemic, Buying Decision Path that must, as per the laws of Systems Congruence, enable change congruently before any purchase is considered.
  • You’ll avoid objections when you first facilitate and expedite the change that those who CAN buy must handle, and THEN use your information-centric approach to sell to those you’ve helped be ready to buy. The time it takes buyers to get buy-in for congruent change is the length of the sales cycle, regardless of their need or the efficacy of your solution.
  • Pitching, content marketing, presentations, cold calling, etc. get objections because they push solution data into a ‘closed system’ that feels compromised by the push, and must resist until there is systemic agreement to go external for a fix.
  • Judgements regarding the reasons buyers offer objections are subjective, biased interpretations contrived by sellers to make buyers ‘stupid’ when they aren’t getting the outcome they sought. Sellers rarely consider that they’re entering at the wrong time, in the wrong way, for a situation and unique set of internal, systemic dysfunctions they really (really) have no understanding of, or that the buyer is in the early steps of change and hasn’t yet recognized a need to buy.
  • You can accelerate a buyer’s route to decision making by helping them traverse their route to congruent change, but not with a restriction that begins by using solution-based information as the vehicle to influence buying. It’s possible to close five times more than you’re currently closing.

You’re actually causing your own objections. You get no resistance when facilitating prospects through their own steps to congruent change first, get them ready to change, and continue on to placing your terrific solution content with those specific prospects who CAN buy. (Read my article on the Buyer’s Journey that lays out the entire Pre-Sales buying decision process.) But you’ll need to take a different – additional – path through a different lens. You’ll need to understand the change management issues within your industry. And no, you cannot use your current sales skill to accomplish this.

FOCUS ON FACILITATING BUYER READINESS FIRST

Here is the deal. Until now, you’ve waited while buyers do this change stuff: they must do this anyway (with you or without you). So you can continue pushing your content and getting objections, or you can add a new function to your outreach to connect with the right ones sooner: enter their decision path, get onto their Buying Decision Team, and facilitate the ones who CAN buy through to buying. Just recognize the sales model doesn’t do the facilitation portion as it’s solution-placement based.

I designed a new methodology to facilitate the front end of the decision path (Buying Facilitation®). It’s a change facilitation model that works with sales to help buyers congruently and

  1. Recognize all of the elements they must assemble to get appropriate input for problem solving and change;
  2. Figure out if they can/cannot fix it themselves (You can facilitate this on the first call so long as you avoid discussing need or solution.);
  3. Pull together all of the systemic elements that must be in place for any change (i.e. purchase) to happen to ensure a minimal disruption;
  4. Be ready to choose your solution.

Buying Facilitation® is a generic change facilitation skill set, with no content focus, no bias, and is systemic in nature. It involves facilitating change (vs pushing content) with a new form of question (Facilitative Question) that enable systems to recognize their own criteria and manage change congruently; a new form of listening that involves Listening for Systems; and Presumptive Summaries to enable people to move outside of their subjective experience and view the entire situation as an Observer/Coach. I’ve trained it to about 100,000 sales folks globally, in several industries and product price points, and generally get a close rate of 5x the control group.

Right now, you’re closing 5% and wasting a lot of resource to find them. You’re hiring too many people to close too few; ignoring real prospects on route to making an appointment – and then going to appointments with a fraction of the appropriate people present, to push content they don’t know how to listen to, and fighting with competitors for the same restricted group of buyers – when if you could enter differently, with a willingness to add a new skill set, you could find/close more buyers.

There are a lot more REAL buyers suffering from lengthy Buying Decision Path confusions as they fumble through change. They really could use your help. Read Dirty Little Secrets; why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and learn about the systems involved in buying (or any change), and add this to your sales initiatives. You’ll have more clients, shorter sales cycles, meaningful relationships built on trust, and no objections.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is a Change Facilitator, working with sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, buy-in, implementations, and consultants. She has trained sales and management teams in global corporations for 35 years. She is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon best sellers 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 is also a coach, speaker, and consultant. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

November 12th, 2018

Posted In: Communication

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