Imagine being in a strange country where you don’t understand the mores – and aren’t aware you don’t understand them. Say, waiting for scrambled eggs to show up for breakfast in Tel Aviv (They eat salad for breakfast.), or saying a friendly “Hi” to young indigenous men in the jungles of Ecuador, wondering why they then followed you in a pack (Looking into a man’s eyes means a woman is ready for sex.).
The events can be interpreted by both cultures. But in the case of Aspies, we’re sort of stuck: you Neuro Typicals (NTs) make the rules. And they are crazy.
DIFFERENT STROKES FOR DIFFERENT FOLKS
As an Aspie, my internal rules, my assumptions, my responses, are different from a NTs. My perception of what’s going on is in a different universe. I hear metamessages primarily, content secondarily, and I respond according to what the Speaker intended rather than what my (biased) ears interpret. I think in systems and experience the world in wholes, in circles, in patterns so I experience entirety, not segments of sequences.
From my vantage point, NTs – largely thinking sequentially, in a horizontal world that compares everything against a biased norm – make rules that fit a standard I cannot fathom. Yet somehow, with the majority of humans on the NT scale, there’s agreement that those rules make sense. They don’t.
Why should I reply “Fine, thanks. How are you?” when someone asks how I am? It’s a real question, right? Does that mean they don’t want to know? If they don’t care, why did they ask in the first place? And how did it get agreed that a meaningless exchange is an authentic greeting? I’ll never understand.
Why am I labeled inappropriate when I respond to something differently than ‘expected’? Who says NTs are the ones who understand accurately? Maybe my references and responses are the correct way of seeing and NTs are just following herd thinking. Maybe my references and responses are a great ‘add’ to a conversation that expands the scope of the subject.
Why am I the one being too direct? Why aren’t you being more honest?
Why am I the one who’s deemed too intense? Why are you so superficial?
I recently watched my 7 year old friend throw a small toy across the room where his four younger sibs played on the floor. Stop throwing that, said Dad, afraid the little ones might get hurt. My friend again threw the toy. Stop, or I’ll take it away, said Dad. Again, the toy went across the room. Give me that. No more toy.
I said to my young friend, “Your dad was afraid the toy might hurt your brothers and sister. What were you hoping to accomplish by throwing that toy?”
“I wanted to understand how it was spinning.”
“So next time, tell Dad what you want to do and he’ll let you go outside to throw it.”
THINKING IN SYSTEMS LEADS TO MORE CREATIVITY
My Aspie brain perceives a wholly different culture from the world of NTs, with expectations, referents, assumptions, thinking systems, rules, and different interpretations. I personally have a wholly different understanding of what’s happening – a difference that enabled me to develop new models for conscious choice, so different from making unconscious decisions from long-held biases and assumptions. Indeed, I have devoted my life to unraveling, (de)coding, each step of unconscious systems to make them conscious so everyone can make congruent choices – and then making the new thinking understandable and usable by others in books and courses.
Thinking in systems has made my life rich with creativity. I have the ability to translate, and develop models to scale, how brains make decisions and how systemic change occurs. And while I’ve trained my models to sales folks and leaders in global corporations for decades with highly successful results, I continue to be judged negatively against the norms of the NT world. One noted neuroscientist said my thinking, my models are not possible, although he never asked what they’re comprised of. Somehow, ‘different’ goes with ‘aberrant’ or ‘eccentric.’
How, I wonder, does the world change unless the outliers like me instigate radical change? You can’t do that from the middle. And if more NTs were willing to be curious, look through a different lens, it wouldn’t take people like me decades to instill productive ideas.
RIGHT VS WRONG
So that brings me to my question: How do Aspies end up being the ones who are wrong or on the wrong side of normal? I’ve been shunned at invitation-only conferences of author-colleagues (when I was the only one with a New York Times bestseller), ignored at parties, thrown out of events (by very, very famous people), not invited to an event every other person at the table was invited to – and invited in front of me, while I was the one person obviously, meticulously, excluded.
Why? Because my ideas, my speaking patterns, are different? Because they challenge the norm? Why isn’t that exciting? Or fun? Or interesting?
Geesh – I show up in nice clothes, I’ve got a respected professional reputation, I speak well, wrote a bunch of books and train global corporations in my original models. So I guess I’m a bit smart. I don’t harm anyone, have a decent personality, am generous and supportive. I’m even funny.
And yet. And yet, I say ‘wrong’ stuff, and tell unseemly stories when my brain references something that others don’t reference. And instead of going ‘Cool Beans!’ ‘That was interesting!’ Or ‘That was weird, SD. Where did your brain go on that?’ My work gets overlooked, although it can make an important difference in several fields – sales, healthcare, coaching, management, leadership. What rules am I breaking that aren’t worthy of curiosity? Or kind acceptance? Or humor? Or excitement?
I heard a comic once ask why men were the ones in the wrong for leaving the toilet seat up. Why wasn’t the woman wrong for leaving it down? Same toilet seat. Up. Down. What makes one wrong?
The good news about Aspies is that we’re often pretty smart. Because we think in systems and can see all aspects of something (NTs think sequentially and miss whole swathes of real data – the reason Aspies often think NTs are dumb.), we often are the innovators, the visionaries, who notice, invent, code stuff decades before academics or scientists. Yet folks like Tesla, and Cezanne die without their work having relevance. I read that the only painting Cezanne ever sold was to Matisse who wanted to study the painting to learn how Cezanne did what he did. Why didn’t others recognize Cezanne was to be learned from rather than derided? Why is the easiest route the one that ignores, avoids, derides?
I was running programs for internal sales folks at Bethlehem Steel. After a year of working successfully with Dan at their Sparrows Point, MD group, I was being handed over to the Burns Harbor MI group. Dan invited the new manager to lunch to meet me as a hand over. We all spoke for a bit of time, and as I got up to go to the restroom, I heard the Burns Harbor manager say to Dan, “Is she always like this??” to which he replied, “Oh yes! And you’ll learn to love her.”
In these days of more openness and a real desire to accept minorities, to communicate and live without bias, maybe it’s time that Aspies are acknowledged as well. Maybe when NTs hear someone say something that’s a bit off the mark, or rattle on about a topic that’s interesting albeit a bit long winded (We get SO excited by our topics!), maybe they can just say, ‘Hm. Sounds like an Aspie. I wonder what I can learn here. I wonder if I can be curious about something new.’ Then we, too, can have a voice. And just maybe we can become a welcome addition, add our two cents, and maybe make the world a better place because of our differences. Just sayin’.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, inventor of Buying Facilitation®, Facilitative Questions, 13 steps of systemic change, and the HOW of change. Author of the award winning blog www.sharondrewmorgen.com and 9 books including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, 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 trains, coaches, speaks in several industries, including sales, healthcare, communication, change, Servant Leadership. She lives on a houseboat in Portland OR and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen July 15th, 2019
Whether we’re parents of kids who sometimes need guidance, sellers with great pitches to offer folks who need our solution, coaches helping a client make changes, or doctors offering lifesaving wisdom, we too often sit by helplessly while folks who need our important data ignore us; our brilliant direction, ideas, and advice fall on deaf ears and we fail over and over again to get through to them.
It’s actually our own fault. We’re entering the wrong way, at the wrong time, with the wrong vehicles. Advice, thoughts, recommendations, persuasions – I’ll refer to external data as ‘Information’ – is the very last thing needed. Our communication partners have no idea how to apply it, how to hear it, or what it means to them. To make matters worse our attempts to facilitate change from our own biases and professional beliefs potentially cause resistance and non-compliance where we seek to promote excellence. But let’s start at the beginning.
HOW DO BEHAVIORS CHANGE?
Permanent, congruent change is rarely initiated through the route of changing deficient behaviors. Behaviors are merely the expression of the underlying structure that created and normalized them over time; they can only change once the underlying structure that created and maintains them change in a way that maintains Systems Congruence. It’s a systems problem, as you’ll see. Indeed, actual behavior change is the final element in the change equation.
To help think about this, let’s parallel behaviors with the functionality – the ‘doing’ – of a software app. The functionality of any app is a result of the internal coding; the programming uses lines of code to spell out the specific rules that define and enable specific functionality. To get a function to behave differently – to ‘do’ something different – the underlying programming must change its coding. It cannot change otherwise. Even programs such as Alexa can only behave within the limits of their programming. (And yes, I wish Alexa could wash my windows.)
It’s the same with human behaviors. Behaviors are the ‘function’, the output, the expression, of our mostly unconscious system of beliefs, history, internal rules, culture, goals, etc. – the lines of code – that define our Identity. All of our behaviors have been ‘coded’ by the system to express who we are, just like the function of an app expresses the internal coding. So what we do, how we behave, the choices we make, are defined, regulated, and governed by our system to demonstrate that idiosyncratic set of elements – our personalities, our politics, our job choices, our ethical standards. It’s our Identity. We’re all ‘doing’ who we ‘are’, even when incongruent. Behaviors are how we show up in the world. And it’s impossible to change the functionality via the function.
WHAT IS A MALFUNCTION?
Any problems in our behaviors – our functionality – must be changed by the system that created/maintains them – the programming. When we believe there to be a malfunction in another’s functionality and a behavior change might be optimal, it can’t be fixed by trying to change the place where it’s broken (Hello, Einstein.). Trying to change someone’s behavior, regardless of the need or efficacy of the solution, is a waste of time and in some instances might cause trust issues.
For those of us who influence Others – sales folks, managers, doctors, coaches, consultants – we’ve got to redefine our jobs. Our job as influencers isn’t to push the change we think is needed, but to enable Others to find their own route to their own idiosyncratic, internal congruent change and change their own internal coding.
For that to happen, the internal coding – the entire set of rules that created the current programming malfunction and set of suboptimal behaviors – must shift to reorganize, reprogram itself around a new set of rules that will create a new set of behaviors to match. The problem is that much of this is unconscious and hidden (like in an app), certainly too unique for an Outsider to fully comprehend.
Therein lies the rub: while we may notice (and potentially bias the explanation of) another’s behavioral glitches, it’s not possible to see or understand the underlying coding that caused them or the systemic change issues that would have to be addressed for them to change their programming. I cannot say this enough: It’s not possible to change another’s behavior from the outside; an internal coding change is required from within the person’s system to design different rules that would carry a different expression. We can’t change behaviors: behaviors will change themselves once the program has changed.
How, then, can we, as outsiders, empower Others to make their own changes? Indeed, it’s a both a systems problem and a spiritual one. We can never change another person, but we can serve them in a way to enable them to create congruent change for themselves, using their own brand of Excellence.
OUR INFORMATION CANNOT CAUSE CHANGE
So now we know that Others cannot change their behaviors merely because we (or even they) merely think they should (i.e. the problem with diets, smoking cessation, etc). How, then, can we reconcile the approach we’ve used to effect change? Until now, we’ve used information as our major tool. We offer what seems the most relevant data (a biased process) using our own personal, intuitive approach to influence (a biased process) where we believe the Other needs to be (again, biased by our own beliefs) and wonder why we get push back or noncompliance.
Somehow we believe that if we offer the right data, at the right time, in the right way, it will encourage action. We’ve developed entire professions based on outside ‘experts’ spouting ‘important’ ‘relevant’ ‘rational’ ‘necessary’ data, assuming these brilliant words and rational, sometimes scientific, arguments, carry ‘the answers’. But the information we offer pushes against the status quo, telling the status quo that it’s ‘wrong’, and
The information we offer cannot even be understood, heard, or fully utilized used by those we’re intending it for, regardless of our intent or the efficacy of our solution, until the underlying rules, beliefs – status quo – are ready, willing, able to change congruently and be assured there will be no systems failure as a result of the change (Systems Congruence). This is why people don’t take their meds, or buy a solution they might need, or sabotage an important implementation. We’re asking them to do stuff that may (unconsciously) run counter to their systemic configuration, and not providing a route through to their systemic change, hoping that they’ll behave according to our vision of what their change should look like, rather than their own.
As outside influencers, we must facilitate Others to find their own Excellence by changing their own system; we must stop trying to change, influence, persuade, sway, manipulate, etc. Others using our own biased beliefs to inspire them. [Personal Note: My biggest gripe with sales, coaching, training, management, leadership, etc. is that there is a baseline belief that they have the ‘right’ information that the Other needs in order to be Excellent. I reject that; we can only understand what Others are telling us through our own biases. Not to mention trying to ‘fix’ another is disrespectful and goes against every spiritual law.]. Indeed, as we see by our failures and the low adoption rate, it’s not even possible.
There are two reasons for this: because we filter everything we hear from Others as per our own programming and listening filters (biases, habits, assumptions, triggers, neural pathways, etc.), we can’t be certain that what we think is needed is actually what’s needed; Others can’t understand what we’re trying to share due to their own filters and programming.
Indeed, when we share information before the system has already shifted its internal rules and programming to include a possibility of congruent, alternate choices, it will be resisted and rejected (and possibly shut down the system) as the system has no choice but to defend itself from possible disruption.
THE STEPS OF CHANGE
I have Asperger’s, and part of my life’s journey has included making the personal changes necessary to fit in, to have relationships, to work in conventional business environments without being too inappropriate. To this end, and in the absence of the type of information available now (i.e. neuroscience, brain studies, etc.) I’ve spent decades coding how to change my own brain, and then scaling the process for others to learn. [Personal note: After working with one inside sales group in Bethlehem Steel for two years, I was introduced to the head of another group I’d be working with. Behind me, I heard the new director say to my client: ‘Is she ALWAYS like this??’ to which Dan replied, ‘Yes. And you’ll learn to love her.’ So apparently, I am still a bit odd, although it seems normal to me.]
The steps of change I’ve coded are systemic (i.e. points of activity, not content-based) and are involved in any human change (see below). Each stage is unique, and designate the touchpoints into the unconscious that enables the brain to discern for itself where, if, or how to reexamine itself for congruency. I know there is no referent for it in conventional thinking. But I’ve trained this material, with simultaneous control groups, in global corporations, to 100,000 people and know it’s viable, scalable, highly successful, and useful in any industry or conversations that encourage change. This includes sales, coaching, management, marketing, health care, family relationships and communication, negotiation, leadership.
I start with understanding that I have no answers for Another, as I’ll never live the life they’ve lived; if it’s a group or company, I’ll never understand how the internal system has been historically designed to design the output that shows up. But I trust that when systems recognize an incongruence, they will change (A ‘rule’ of systems is that they prefer to be congruent.). My job as a change agent is to teach a system how to recognize an incongruence and use its own rules to fix itself. I use this thinking to facilitate buyers through their Pre-Sales change management issues, enable coaching clients to determine how to recognize their own systemic elements to change, help leaders obtain buy-in and Systems Congruence (and notice all potential fallout points) before a project.
There are 13 steps to systemic change, all of which must be traversed before a systems is willing/able to change. Here are the 3 main categories of the steps [Personal Note: I explain each step and the navigation of change in Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell]:
1. Where am I; what’s missing. The system must recognize all – all – elements that have created and maintain its status quo so it can determine if/where there are incongruences. Until or unless ALL of the elements are included, there’s no ability to recognize where any incongruence might lie: when you’re standing in front of a tree, you can clearly see the leaves and veins on any particular leaf. But you cannot see the fire 2 acres away. Until the system has an ability to go into Witness/Observer, it cannot assemble the full set of relevant elements, and therefore cannot see the full fact pattern and will continue doing what it’s always done.
RULE: for any change to occur, the system must have a view of the entire landscape of ‘givens’ involved without restriction. To do that it’s necessary for both Influencer and Other to be in Observer – with no biased attachment.
2. How can I fix this myself? Systems are complete as they are and don’t judge ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. They show up every day and re-create yesterday as a way to maintain Systems Congruence. When there is a recognition of an incongruence (as per #1), all systems attempt to fix the problem themselves rather than allow anything new (and by definition incongruent) into the system.
RULE: it is only when a system recognizes it cannot fix an incongruence by itself is it willing to accept the possibility of bringing in an external, foreign solution (i.e. information, advice, new product). First it MUST first figure out how to maintain Systems Congruence and get buy-in from the elements that will be effected.
3. How can I change congruently without disrupting the functionality of the system? What elements need to shift, how do they need to shift, and what needs to happen so the system ends up congruent after change? Using the programming metaphor, the system must understand how it will still end up as a CRM app, or a toaster, if some of the coding needs to change.
RULE: until all elements that will be effected buy-in to any proposed change, the system will continue its current behaviors regardless of its problematic output (After all, that’s the way it ‘is’.)
Once you understand the steps to congruent change, you realize the inefficiency of trying to create change through information sharing, or the impossibility of trying to shift behaviors from outside.
The model I developed is a Change Facilitation model (registered decades ago as Buying Facilitation®) that teaches Others to traverse the steps of change so each element is assembled and handled sequentially. While I often teach it (and write books about it) in the field of sales to enable sellers to facilitate buyers through their ‘Pre-Sales’ steps to change management, the model is generic.
It includes a few unique skill sets that enable Others to recognize unconscious incongruence, and change themselves congruently using their own internal system. They’re different from what’s conventionally used, and need training to learn as we’ve not been taught to think this way. Indeed, there is no referent for these in conventional thinking, and like anything that threatens the status quo, often misunderstood or rejected. I can teach these skills through self-learning (Guided Study for complete knowledge, or Learning Accelerators for spot skills), group or personal training or coaching. I offer a caveat to those who try to add my ideas to their current thinking: when you add any of my ideas on top of what you’re already doing, you’ll end up with more bias, continuing the failure you’re experiencing. Here’s a description of the skills, with links to articles that offer a further explanation:
1. Systems listening: Without listening for systems, and using the conventional listened we’re trained from birth, we can only notice/listen for the content we want to hear. But everything we hear, leading to the assumptions we make, is biased. Indeed, we all speak and listen through biased filters. Always. (When I wrote/researched my book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? I was horrified to realize how little it’s possible to truly hear what others mean due to the way our filters cause us protect our status quo for stability.) Without getting into Witness/Observer to listen for systems, our listening is restricted to our own beliefs and we cannot expand the scope of what’s being said outside of our own systemic belief systems.
2. Facilitative Questions: This is not a conventional question. It does NOT gather data, or use the biases of the questioner, but point the Other’s conscious mind to the specific memory channels that direct the Other to where the most appropriate answers are stored. So:
How would you know if it were time to reconsider your hairstyle? Uses ‘how’ ‘know’ ‘if’ ‘time’ ‘reconsider’ as routes to specific memory channels, create a step back – a Witness overview – that enables the full view of givens and an unbiased scrutiny of the system.
These questions use specific words, in a specific order, to cause the Other to traverse down the steps of unconscious change by putting them into Observer and enabling them to peruse the entire landscape of givens in the order their brains won’t feel pushed or manipulated. It takes my clients about a month to learn how to formulate these. And to do so, it’s necessary to listen differently, since bias is an enemy.
3. Presumptive Summaries: These are one route to enable Others to get into the Witness/Observer stance. Used carefully, they bring our communication partners outside of their own unconscious thinking.
Patient: I just stopped taking my meds.
Doctor (Using a Presumptive Summary): Sounds like you’ve decided that either you’re no longer sick and are now healthy, or you’ve chosen to maintain your status quo regardless of the outcome.
Different from “Why do you do that?” or “But you’ll get sick again.” comments that enlist resistance or defensiveness, Presumptive Summaries just offer a mirror and allow the Other to make conscious what might have been unconscious. These must be used with knowledge and care or they can become manipulative, and will break trust.
4. Traversing the route to change: I pose Facilitative Questions down the steps of change (iteratively, sequentially) so the brain can recognize how, what, when, why, if to change, have no resistance, notice incongruences without defense, and get the buy-in and route design, for congruent change.
All of these require the influencer to have a goal of facilitating their own congruent, systemic change without the biases we usually impart (and get resistance).
I know that most change agents truly want to enable congruent, permanent change. But it’s a crap shoot if you’re using your ‘intuition’ (biased judgment), line of questions (restricting the range of possible answers), biased listening, or ‘professional’ knowledge (biased by the scope of the academic culture) to the change you believe is necessary. It’s truly possible to help Others find their own route to Excellence. It just can’t happen any other way.
If you’re interested in learning how to facilitate congruent change in others – for sales, coaching, therapy, leadership, healthcare, etc. – please let me know. I’d love to help you learn. As I face the aging process, I’m quite keen on handing over this material, developing new apps that use it, designing training, or coaching. Please contact me at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen is a Change Facilitator, specializing in buy-in and change management. She is well known for her original thinking in sales (Buying Facilitation®) and listening (www.didihearyou.com). She currently designs scripts, programs, and materials, and coaches teams, for several industries to enable true buy-in and collaboration. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew has worked with dozens of global corporations as a consultant, trainer, coach, and speaker. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.
Sharon Drew Morgen June 10th, 2019
Our 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
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: email@example.com 512-771-1117 Visit her award winning blog and read original content from an original thinker with 1600 articles: www.sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen June 7th, 2019
Because I wanted choice over my actions, I’ve spent a good portion of my life coding the trajectory of change. I realized early on that knowing WHAT needed to be changed, WHAT doing it ’right’ entailed, and WHY I wanted to change, didn’t reliably lead me to successful change, regardless of my willpower and discipline. Even my attempts at Behavior Modification were unsuccessful. After studying brains and how they generated behaviors, I realized my problem: real change had to be unconscious and automatic, and come directly from my brain; I was trying to ‘do’ something different without somehow changing my brain.
But how is it possible to consciously change my brain? Brains are somewhat hard core. Seems they require a very specific sequence of activity to generate behaviors: First we send a signal to our brains for what we want; the signal meets up with our risk filters that agree, or not, to proceed; it then travels down a fix pathway and may, or may not, end up with the action/behavior we originally signaled. So our behaviors are the output of our brain’s signaling system, the response to a set of instructions that travel down a very fixed pathway. And these signals, this pathway, is hard-wired. That’s right. Once we have a behavior set up in our brains, it’s permanent.
Indeed, trying to change a behavior by changing a behavior is like trying to get a forward moving robot to go backwards by pushing it: until the programming is changed, until the signals and motivators are reprogrammed to trigger new pathways with different responses, it cannot do anything different than what it was programmed to do. And try as we might, we cannot alter our existing, programmed, pathways. Hence our difficulty losing weight, or maintaining an exercise regimen.
HOW TO GENERATE NEW BEHAVIORS
The good news is that our brains are more than happy to generate new behaviors by developing brand new pathways, or synapses. When I learned all of the steps involved, I developed a training model of change facilitation model for sales (Buying Facilitation®), leadership, and coaching, that I’ve been teaching globally for 40 years. And now I have a new program to teach online learners.
When Pete Bissonette from Learning Strategies asked me to design an online program to teach how to generate new behaviors and end old habits, I created an interactive experience that teaches learners not to modify what’s there, but to actually consciously transform their brain’s pathways for permanent change. The program has 5 one-hour sessions and begins June 6 (6, 11, 13, 18, 20). In it you’ll not only walk away with your own scalable model to develop new behaviors and end old habits, but learn:
The new program The How of Change: a hands-on learning through the physiology of transformation offers learners a way to discover and map the unconscious physiology, signals, and motivators that cause their behaviors, and how to develop new synapses for conscious choice. Everyone takes away a scalable chart to generate new behaviors and habits without trying to change what no longer works for them but to transform their brain permanently.
For those who have ever wanted to have full choice over actions without resistance, to stop ‘bad’ habits and start new ones, to help clients make good choices, to coach people through health regimens for good nutrition and exercise plans, join me. I think you’ll like it: new, original thinking; hands-on learning; scalable takeaways to use whenever you want new choices, and lots of fun.
I hope you attend. If you’re like me, knowing HOW to make our unconscious conscious to generate new choice is powerful. So here it is. Please email me with questions. I am quite proud of this, as I really added some bits to the science of change that I think are pretty cool.
The How of Change: a hands on learning through the physiology of transformation
*Using willpower, discipline, visualizations, or behavior mod, you can’t change a behavior by trying to change a behavior.
*You have 1,000 trillion hard-wired synapses that each transmit one idea, one behavior, and cannot be changed. You can’t change old habits, but you can create new synapses and develop new ones.
*There’s no such thing as a bad habit. Behaviors are outputs, the responses to input signals. Change the signal and generate new synapses that change the results.
What if you could program your unconscious brain to enable new behavior generation whenever you wanted, with no resistance?
It’s possible to succeed, to know why you failed, to form a new habit and end an old one. All you need to do is reprogram your brain.
How? That’s the topic of original thinker Sharon Drew Morgen’s newest model: generating change consciously – avoiding resistance, struggle, and failure – to be our best selves, whenever we choose.
All of us are victims of our unconscious brains that instinctively make our choices for us as they send signals through our synapses to the behaviors that show up in response. Often we end up with what we want. But sometimes, especially when we attempt to change habits that no longer work for us, we end up frustrated. But in The How of Change, Sharon Drew makes it possible to:
Our brains are malleable, happy to develop new neural pathways whenever we choose. But they can’t change an existing synapse or an existing behavior: each of our 1,000 trillion synapses carries one idea, one behavior, permanently programmed in our brains as responses – outputs – to input signals we send. So when we try to change a behavior by trying to change a behavior, we’re merely signaling our brains to do what they’ve always done and end up with resistance. This program will enable you to develop new pathways to your own change.
In The How of Change Sharon Drew will lead you through a hands-on learning to reprogram your brain to construct new pathways for anything you want to achieve. Instead of trying to change what hasn’t worked and facing resistance, you’ll learn to use your unconscious patterns, beliefs, and knowledge acquisition practices to create new synapses that generate successful outcomes and get rid of unwanted habits and disappointing behaviors.
Partnering with Learning Strategies, the leader in online learning, Sharon Drew will run an open enrollment, online, 5 session, hands-on learning program starting June 6, 2019 (June 6, 11, 13, 18, 20), and recordings will be available after the session for those who can’t take time out during their days, or miss a session. All sessions begin at 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time (US).
WHO SHOULD ATTEND?
*Anyone wanting a scalable model to change ‘bad’ habits and formulate new ones;
*Anyone seeking to consciously generate congruent change;
* Influencers seeking to guide Others to generate new, permanent behaviors and actions;
* Anyone seeking successful personal change with ease and without resistance or struggle;
* Anyone seeking to have real choice to generate success;
* Managers, consultants, coaches, sellers, healthcare providers, leaders, neuroscientists, seekers;
* People seeking new behaviors that generate buy in for losing weight, maintaining healthcare and exercise regimens, being healthy, stopping smoking.
The How of Change goes beyond conventional thinking to the very root of the HOW of choice. It’s frustrating for most of us when we truly seek change and come up short. This program is for those learners committed to real change. Sharon Drew will lead you to unwrap how you do what you do when it works, how you do what you do when it doesn’t, and how to design a path to your own success. This is NOT a ‘take-away three things’ program, but a real hands on learning.
How often have your change efforts failed? I love reading Sharon Drew Morgen‘s insights, wisdom in this area. In fact, I have found her revenue generating & sales brilliance has incredible broad applicability in the area of change as you think and then behave differently. She is absolutely brilliant and definitely bringing non status quo effective change methods to the table. Be sure to follow and engage Sharon Drew if you truly want impact. – Dr. Thomas Dahlberg
Where has Sharon Drew been all my life? I’ve always tried to change my behaviors by trying to change my behaviors, and now I know why I failed and what to do instead. And after trying to years to lose weight, Sharon Drew taught me how to develop new synapses that make me, and keep me, a healthy person for life at my optimal weight. And I can use the new model to achieve whatever I want. I never realized how much fun I could have reorganizing my brain. Jessica Coons.
I originally resisted trialing this program because Sharon Drew said we’d be working with my unconscious brain stuff and I thought it would be boring. And yes, Sharon Drew took me into my brain. But it was so exciting, and Sharon Drew made it such fun that I couldn’t wait to take the next ones so I could keep learning. I ended up charting my own path through my unconscious so I could generate successful behaviors consciously. Who knew! Kim Swensen
Link to program purchase: https://www.learningstrategies.com/addtocart.aspx?code=2HOCDV&aff=34185
Brief bio for Sharon Drew:
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, visionary, New York Times business bestselling author, speaker, trainer, and coach. She is the creator of Buying Facilitation®, a generic change facilitation model used in sales, leadership, and coaching to facilitate clients through to congruent, permanent change. Her book Selling with Integrity was the first sales book to add Buyer Readiness and change facilitation. As a visionary, she started up a tech company in England and Germany in 1983. Sharon Drew is also the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? (www.didihearyou.com) the first book to strip down our unconscious listening biases to understand how we hear what we hear and how to listen without bias. Sharon Drew has spent her life developing models, writing books, and training large numbers of folks, to promote the skills of permanent, congruent change, and servant leadership – facilitating Others through to their own best answers. She currently lives on a houseboat in Portland, Oregon.
Sharon Drew Morgen May 20th, 2019
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
* 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:
Let me define a few terms (albeit with my own bias):
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:
These suggestions may take more time upfront. But what good is a ‘good decision’ if it can’t be implemented? And what is the cost of a failed implementation? I recently heard of a hospital that researched ‘the best’ 3D printer but omitted the implementation steps above. For two years it sat like a piece of art without any consensus in place as to who would use it or how/when, etc. By the time they created rules and procedures the printer was obsolete. I bet they would have preferred to spend more time following the steps above.Here’s the question: What would stop you from following an inclusive collaboration process to get the best decisions made and the consensus necessary for any major change? As part of your answer, take into account the costs of not collaborating. And then do the math.
Sharon Drew Morgen teaches decision making, change facilitation, and collaboration for sellers/buyers, leaders/followers, change agents/groups to corporations such as Kaiser, KPMG, IBM, Wachovia, etc. She is the author of the NY Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. 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® which teaches sellers how to facilitate change and consensus for buyers.
Sharon Drew Morgen April 8th, 2019
Posted In: Communication
I recently heard yet another excuse as to why a buyer didn’t buy. This one was a hoot – seller/buyer misalignment. Seriously? Because the seller didn’t close a sale (That was expected by the seller? In the mythical pipeline?) there was a relationship problem? Because the buyer didn’t buy (according to the expectation of the seller) there was a bonding problem? No. The problem stems from sellers not understanding what a buyer is. In this case, there was no buyer to be ‘misaligned’ with.
FROM PERSON TO BUYER
A decision not to purchase has very little to do with the seller, the solution, the relationship, or the need. In fact, a purchase is the very last thing a buyer wants. Just because a situation seems like a perfect fit with your solution does not make it a buying/selling opportunity; just because someone really needs your solution does not mean they are ready, willing, or able to buy.
Let me begin by defining ‘Buyer’: a person (or group) who has
and decides to purchase an external solution as their only option.
* it can’t be fixed with known resources or workarounds,
* the cost in resources/change is lower than the cost of fallout,
* a path forward is defined by everyone who will touch the final solution,
that the full scope of a solution is understood. Until then ‘need’ isn’t fully defined. Here is where sellers often get caught thinking there’s a ‘need’ before there is one.
By only listening for clues that lead you to assume a ‘need’ for your solution, by entering into ‘relationships’ based on what you’re selling, by only asking questions to ‘prove’ a need/solution match (too often with only one or two members of the full Buying Decision Team [BDT]), you’re not only biasing the interaction, but limiting your sales to closing those who have gotten to the point when they’re ready, willing, able to change – the low hanging fruit; you’re missing the opportunity to enter earlier, develop a real relationship, and facilitate the path that people who CAN buy must take before they are buyers. The sales model does not facilitate systemic change issues; buyers can’t buy unless this occurs and sellers aren’t helping them, merely waiting for them to show up rather than doing the real job of relationship managers and facilitating through their necessary change issues.
HOW SALES RESTRICTS POSSIBILITY
Because we’ve restricted selling to placing solutions, people with problems we could resolve slowly figure out their own path to change while we sit and wait for those who have completed their process to show up. Prospective buyers, facing confusing choices, would be happy to have help navigating through their Pre-Sales systemic decision/change process and adding a true facilitator onto their BDT.
Right now, you’re seeking out those people you’ve determined SHOULD buy (and getting ignored, misaligned, dropped, etc.) and ignoring ways to facilitate those who CAN buy but haven’t yet become buyers. If you enter with a Change Facilitation focus, it’s possible to find those who CAN buy on the first call, and use your relationship and knowledge to facilitate them through the steps of the change management process first, and THEN be there as they determine the need for your solution.
By adding a Change Facilitation processes to your upfront tools (seller-, marketing-, or software-led) you can enter at any step along the Buying Decision Path and be part of the BDT to help them get their ducks in a row. Then you’ve gotten ahead of the competition, reduce your sales cycle by half, only connect with those who WILL buy, close a helluva lot more sales (my clients close 5x more than the control groups using the same lists), and truly serve the people who need you.
I’ve developed a model (Buying Facilitation®) that uses wholly unique skills (Listening for Systems, Facilitative Questions, etc.) to facilitate the discovery of a congruent route to Excellence. A generic model used for coaching, management, leadership, healthcare, I’ve been quite successful teaching it to global corporations ( i.e. IBM, Kaiser, Wachovia, KPMG, etc.) to increase their sales. Currently you’re now wasting 95% of your time running after those few who have finally arrived at step 10 – the low hanging fruit – ignoring the much larger pool of those who are on route, and fighting for a competitive advantage.
By adding new functionality to your sales model, you can enter earlier, be a Servant Leader, and facilitate congruent change and THEN be on board and accepted as a provider as they go through their buying decision process. It’s NOT sales; it’s NOT selling/purchase-based; it IS change-based. Right now you’re waiting while buyers do it anyway (or merely running after those you THINK have a need but end up fixing the problem in other ways). Why not add a skill set, stop wasting time/effort, and close more. Then you’ll never be ‘misaligned.’
Sharon Drew Morgen is a thought leader in two industries – sales and listening. Her original thinking on facilitating congruent decisions is the basis of apps and experiments.
Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. As the originator of Change Facilitation, she invented Buying Facilitation® for the sales industry; she’s trained over 100,000 sellers globally to diverse industries and cultures. Sharon Drew is the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? Sharon Drew works with individuals and teams as a coach, speaker, trainer, and consultant, in sales, change implementations, healthcare, technology. Her work on listening without bias has been called ‘game-changing’ and is used by corporations globally. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen March 25th, 2019
Posted In: Communication
Sharon Drew Morgen March 18th, 2019
Posted In: Communication
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:
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:
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
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:
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:
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
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).
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:
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;email@example.com
Sharon Drew Morgen March 4th, 2019
Posted In: Communication
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:
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.
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’:
Different from sales, which
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen February 25th, 2019
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.
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
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
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
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.
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. email@example.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. firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Drew Morgen February 18th, 2019