By Sharon Drew Morgen

DiversityDiversity is vital, yet often difficult to attain due to barriers of communication and biases, making assimilation complicated. We know that by diversifying our companies, our schools, our neighborhoods we’re capable of creating all that’s possible; without diversity we limit who gets heard, who gets to lead, what knowledge we deem important, what we teach our children, what creativity looks like. Indeed, misrepresenting and under representing categories of people cost an unimaginable price in money, possibilities, and life. And yet our unconscious biases seem to restrict our choices.

People much smarter than I have evaluated the high cost of the lack of diversity and offered behavioral approaches to change. But I’d like to offer a modest way to begin the process of overriding our biases: we can shift how we listen.

BIASES ARE SILENT, STEALTHY EXECUTIONERS

While researching my new book (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) I learned that the listening process involves 1. our ears collecting and funneling the sounds of words spoken, then 2. our brain (filtering meaning subjectively through our own unique, cultural, and historic beliefs, values, rules, etc.) interprets meaning from the sounds. In other words, every one of us hears, interprets, understands, and biases an incoming message uniquely, through our personal subjective filters, regardless of the accuracy. The problem is compounded when our brain filters what’s been said, it forgets to tell us what it omitted from a Speaker’s meaning, causing us to believe that we’ve heard accurately. Our biases and assumptions potentially lead us to misinterpretations, or worse. And we sometimes aren’t even aware it’s happening.

The way our filters work, the job of our biases and assumptions is to notice ‘differences’. As a result, we may unconsciously, and quite quickly, deem a person ‘unsafe’ (judged against our status quo), causing automatic prejudice outside conscious awareness. I heard Malcom Gladwell, the noted author of Blink say in an interview that when tested for unconscious racial bias, his results revealed something like a 53% bias against African-Americans – and he’s half black. And because these historic prejudices become part of our automatic thought process, we end up living and thinking in bubbles of our own making. The ideas, the capability, the innovation that gets lost is unimaginable.

At a dinner party once a man at my table discussed what I knew to be a naïve idea in my area of expertise. I ‘kindly’ explained to him the error of his ways. He merely smiled and ignored me, while everyone else at the table seemed to be annoyed. I was confused. After all, I was ‘right’! Afterwards I learned that I had been admonishing a Nobel Laureate (in a different field than mine). Had I known that, I might have listened to his ideas as merely different or even interesting. Ditto if he knew I was a noted expert on the topic. Maybe together we could have changed the world in a unique and wonderful way. Instead, we listened to the other with biased, judging, ego-filled ears. What would we each have needed to believe differently to be able to hear each other without restriction?

On another occasion my biases potentially kept the world from glorious music. Visiting an ill friend at a nursing home recently I chatted with the orderly on staff. Whatever he heard me say motivated him to ask me to mentor him. I’m embarrassed to admit I declined. Thankfully he persisted. I went to his place for a lovely dinner, serenaded by a CD of his wonderous compositions! I coached him going forward, to find funding to make his music available to the public. But I almost missed that opportunity because I immediately judged him negatively.

LISTEN WITHOUT BIAS

A bit of the problem in judging others as ‘different’ lies with how we interpret what we hear. We can take steps to recognize when we are judging, biasing, or assuming, and then supersede our brain’s natural tendencies and listen neutrally:

  • Enter conversations with a bias of listening for all that’s possible.
  • Notice when we begin hearing differences or an internal judgment, and return to concentrating on what’s really being meant.
  • When our internal voice begins judging, reducing, disparaging, or condemning, pose the question to your internal self: What would I hear if I only heard what this person wants to share with me?

If we can at least aspire to hearing what others have to share, we can be further along the path of diversity and avoiding limitations. It’s not easy, as our brains automatically delete and misrepresent the intended meaning of what was said when the message goes against our comfort zone. The problem gets compounded when our brain doesn’t let us know what it omited during its translation process, leaving us to believe what we think we hear was what was said; our interpretations are often inaccurate, regardless of how hard we try to hear accurately. It’s neurological, and not our fault, but this process unfortunately puts us out of choice.

I’ve actually developed tools for those who wish to have choice to listen neutrally – without bias, assumptions, or triggers, and how to do Dissociative Listening that supersedes our habituated listening filters. First read What? Did you really say what I think I heard?. Then go to the Learning Tools on www.didihearyou.com and get the Assessment Tool to identify your biases and the Study Guide to learn how to listen without filters. Or contact me, and we can discuss ways your team can gain new skills for meetings, implementations, sales, HR, or diversity training. It’s time, folks. We need to hear the uniqueness of everyone.

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Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books on Change Facilitation, including how buyers buy (including Dirty Little Secrets – why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell) and how congruent change occurs. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. Her award winning blog: www.sharondrewmorgen.com

March 11th, 2019

Posted In: Listening

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

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

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

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

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

IS SELLING PREDATORY?

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

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

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

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

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

SALES IS SHORT-SIGHTED

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

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

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

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

Different from sales, which

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

To elaborate:

Aspiring to a win-win

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

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

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

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

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

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

There are several pieces to the puzzle here.

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

We are all here to serve each other

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

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

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

There is no right answer

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

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

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

No one has anyone else’s answer

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

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

THE NEW WAY

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

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

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

____________

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

February 25th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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

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

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

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

BEHAVIOR

There are two major problems with Behavior Modification:

1. Behavior 2. Modification.

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

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

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

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

THE PHYSIOLOGY OF BEHAVIOR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE PROBLEM WITH MODIFICATION

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

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

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

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

HOW TO CHANGE BEHAVIORS PERMANENTLY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CASE STUDY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACILITATE BUY IN THEN ADD BEHAVIOR MOD

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

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

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

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

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

______________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker and thought leader. She is the author of 9 books, including the New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell, and What? Did you really say what I think I heard? She is also the inventor of the Buying Facilitation® model which is used by sellers, leaders, and coaches, to facilitate others through all of the steps of their decision making and change to lead them through their steps to purchase or change. Sharon Drew is a trainer, coach, speaker, and consultant in the areas of sales, healthcare, leadership, and coaching. sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

February 18th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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kindness-clipart-famille-32

I’ve recently heard people discussing ‘kindness’ as a business strategy. I’m so pleased.

Kindness – not a word historically associated with corporations, those bastions of male verve – is now being equated with the bottom line. How times have changed. In the 90s when I gave keynotes titled ‘Sales as a Spiritual Practice’ I would get asked: “Yes, but how would we make money?”

Imagine embracing the desire to be helpful and considerate, compassionate and generous as part of accepted business practice. We all know what happens when it’s ignored. We know how workplace issues grind people down, and how infrequently those below the top tier get asked their opinions. We know we lose more good employees to treatment issues than to pay issues. We know that 70% of buying decisions are made by women.

And yet we continue assuming the bottom line is about minimizing costs and maximizing profit and putting rules before people.

HOW KINDNESS CAN EFFECT OUR BOTTOM LINE

The costs of degrading and ignoring employees and making customers conform to our money-saving practices, the cost of treating customers merely as numbers that get crunched, cost us high turnover, a paucity of fresh ideas and new leaders, a loss of customers and reputation, a loss of revenue, and the need to hire more supervisory managers and do more ‘reputation management’ to handle the fallout.

I intimately know a company with a reputation for treating employees so punitively that only naïve out-of-towners apply for the many available jobs. Without kindness, everything suffers, and in this day and age, clients, customers, staff, have vehicles for their complaints.

Research has shown kindness actually increases our bottom line:

  • When employees are asked their opinions, treated respectfully, given jobs that enable them to exhibit excellence regardless of their pay scale, they are more creative, responsible, and loyal. They adopt leadership roles, put in longer hours, and have fewer sick days.
  • When we treat our clients kindly we keep them longer, hear about problems (rather than lose them to competitors), are offered new ideas to monetize, and have brand ambassadors to offer free marketing to connections who may become clients.
  • When we value people we make more money and have less turnover.

Here are a few of my personal experiences of monetizing kindness:

1. Kindness with customers:

a. In Portland, I couldn’t locate my correct bus stop. I called the Transit help line and a person answered! And he stayed on the line until I got to my destination! I also had an issue with the local gas company causing very minor damage to my countertop. They called, apologized, and immediately sent me a check for $500 for recompense (It might cost $100 to fix.).

  • Takeaway: the random acts of kindness I found throughout Portland have led me to move there.

b. After not receiving my NYTimes for four Sundays, I made two angry calls. The first woman said I would need to speak with a supervisor on Monday; the second woman not only called my local delivery folks, she called back to tell me when the paper would be delivered, called again to make sure I got it, and then left me her cell number in case the problem occurred again.

  • Takeaway: I won’t cancel my subscription.

2. Kindness with employees:

a. In the 80s I started up a tech support company in London with 48 tech folks and about a dozen management staff. It was my delight to create an infostructure that respected, and was kind to, my employees. For starters, I gave each of my managers $2000 annually to take a paid week off to attend any course they wanted (photography, cooking) to feel renewed. I also didn’t give them specific vacation days: I said: “You’re an adult. You’re tired? Take time off, so long as you cover your responsibilities and give the rest of us a heads up.” What happened was lovely: I actually had to fight with them to take time off! I also required my managers to take off one day a month to do volunteer work. And at least four times I year went to the field tech’s job sites (and they were not my direct reports), took them to lunch, and picked their brains on ways we could do better for them and for our clients. Their ideas were terrific. And monthly, I met with them all for a game of darts (which I always lost) in a local pub. I ran into competitors at conferences who said they tried to hire my folks away yet couldn’t pry them from my grip. “What are you doing to those folks?” I was just respecting them.

  • Takeaway: there was no turnover in 4 years; the tech folks called us from their sites whenever they heard rumors of new business and I was in place by the time the vendor delivered the product.

b. I hired a full time ‘make nice’ guy whose job it was to visit staff and clients on site to make sure the relationships and programming worked efficiently, nipping problems in the bud. With no fires to fight I had nothing to do but grow my company.

  • Takeaway: revenue doubled annually; I had a 42% net profit – in an environment with no computers, no websites, no email.

THE HOW OF KINDNESS: LISTENING SKILLS ENHANCE RELATIONSHIPS

I believe the process of listening is one of the skills that enable us to be kind. Not only do we need to set up client Listening Conferences and staff Listening Hours, we must hear what’s being said between the lines using a ‘kindness ear’. My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains whatever we listen for is one of the determinants of what we hear.

Our biases, as I learned while researching the book, determine what our brains tell us was said, actually deleting anything outside of our own belief/value/need system. So rather than merely listen for problems, we must listen for the patterns in the problems: Lots of turnover? Complaints about small stuff? We’re ignoring something we don’t want to handle. Bottom line decreasing due to competition? Maybe we’re ignoring what’s really going on and just blaming competitors when we need a all-hands-on-deck brainstorming session. Are we hearing that clients aren’t happy or want additions to our solution? Maybe our solution isn’t robust enough and we need to get a group of clients in to talk to them and find out.

Through the years, with clients and staff, coaches and colleagues, I have found the biggest obstacle to authentic communication is how imperfectly we hear others. Far too often we enter conversations with biases, assumptions, triggers, and filters, all based on our own intent and beliefs,and miss what’s being conveyed that falls outside the range of expectation. Imagine if we approach our conversations with the bias of kindness:

  • An employee is perpetually late with work assignments: is there something going on in the department, with other employees, with her work load, that is causing the problem? What could we do to make it easier for her?
  • Customer service folks must recognize patterns in complaints and become leaders in resolving problems rather than maintaining the status quo. I recently heard a rep say: “I’ve had lots of complaints about this. But there are no plans to fix it.”

So many folks want to be leaders. Kindness and caring for employees and clients is a good way to start.

THE HEART OF KINDNESS

As individuals we all think we’re kind. Yet in our business lives, sometimes we put rules, expectations, and the bottom line before we put kindness forgetting that happy employees make profitable companies. We’re often kind to clients to keep/get their business, kind to employees over holidays. And the rest of the time, we fear that being kind – supporting real people with real lives and real problems – will diminish our bottom line.

Let me say that being kind – giving employees maternity/paternity enough time off, extending small loans with no interest, designing good working conditions and job titles that are creative and exciting, asking employees regularly what type of training programs they’d benefit from – always brings in more money.

Not to mention when employees are treated kindly they

  • treat our clients kindly, giving us a differentiator over competitors who don’t;
  • listen, commiserate, have compassion, and seek creative ways to help them;
  • are willing to take criticism from clients as part of their Servant Leadership, and to learn from;
  • put people/clients over rules and make sure each conversation is a win-win.

In other words, kindness will increase sales.

Let’s speak about this. I believe it’s a necessary conversation. Here’s the question: How can we monetize kindness with staff and clients? It’s possible to make money AND be kind.

________________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling With Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy including Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. Sharon Drew is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 40 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did you really say what I think I heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com. 512 771 1117 www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmogen.com

January 28th, 2019

Posted In: Listening

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

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

WE CONNECT THROUGH OUR OWN SUBJECTIVITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INFORMATION DOESN’T FACILITATE CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

THE SKILLS OF CHANGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

___________________

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

January 20th, 2019

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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As a Buddhist, I don’t understand why anyone would want to take another’s life or how it’s even an option. Yet so many in our country are feeling disempowered and ignored, targeted and disenfranchised and we haven’t yet created a dialogue to heal. In fact, we don’t even know how to hear each other. During this time of racial, class, political, gender, and education divide, of distrust and blame and victimhood, of killing and guns and violence, our inability to deeply hear each other is heartbreaking and costly.

I’m not going into the moral issues of Right/Wrong here. But I can offer my bit to make it possible to find solutions.

THE PROBLEM: HOW OUR BRAINS LISTEN

During the 3 years researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous our challenge is: the distance between our subjective experiences and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Indeed, words can’t be correctly translated when the intended meaning gets lost in another’s unfamiliar mind-set, culture, and history; the possibility of finding collaboration and reconciliation gets lost in our communication.

Heartfelt intent and tears aside, we’ve not been taught how to listen without bias. From the individual spots we each stand in, with our restricting viewpoints and hot-buttons, we pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may have similar foundational beliefs that we just don’t know how to recognize.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or inflammatory or habitual or or… and doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent. So we actually hear ABL when our CP said ABC and we have no reason to think what we we’ve ‘heard’ is faulty. I lost a partnership this way. During a conversation, John got annoyed at something he thought I said. I tried to correct him:

“That’s not what I said.” I told him.

“I know what I heard! Don’t try to get away with anything here!

“But I didn’t say that at all!

“John, I was sitting right here. She’s right. She never said that,” said his wife.

“You’re both lying!!! I’m outta here!!” And he stomped out of the room, ending our partnership.

It’s pernicious: our brains select a translation for us, reducing whole conversations and categories of people to caricature and subjective assumption. But to distinguish what’s meant from what we think we hear, to experience what others want to convey when it’s out of our experience, we must recognize when it’s time to make a new choice.

HOW TO DO HOW

We need a way forward to choose behaviors that maintain our Beliefs, Values, and Identity AND find common ground to listen to each other and come to consensus with action steps to help us all heal. I’m going to offer some steps for us to dialogue and reach win/win consensus. But first I’ll a few foundational truths:

  • Everyone’s experience and history is valid, unique, and guides their choices.
  • Others cannot see or feel what you see or feel.
  • Everyone has a right to the same basics: health, a living wage, good work, safety for our families, education.
  • All change, including adopting new ideas, is threatening to the status quo and will cause resistance unless there is buy-in at the level of beliefs.

We must

  • recognize common beliefs and values we can buy-in to without impairing our individual values,
  • feel safe in conversations when it feels like we’re speaking with enemies,
  • override our resistance and biases to find common intentions, compassion and outcomes,
  • be able to hear another’s intended message without overlaying our biases, assumptions, and habits.

I’ve put together a few action steps to begin to dialogue with those we’ve historically sat in opposition to. I also recommend that our conversations must work toward win/win. I call this a We Space.

Get agreement for a dialogue: It’s likely that you and your CP have different goals and life experiences. Begin by agreeing to have a conversation to do nothing more than find common ground.

  • “I’d like to have a dialogue that might lead to us to an agreeable route forward that meets both of our goals. If you agree, do you have thoughts on where you’d like to begin?”
  • “I wonder if we can find common goals so we might possibly find some agreement to work from. I’m happy to share my goals with you; I’d like to hear yours as well. ”

Set the frame for common values: We all have similar foundational values, hopes and fears – they’re just different. Start by ‘chunking up’ to find agreement.

  • “I’d like to find a way to communicate that might help us find a common values so we can begin determining if there are places we can agree. Any thoughts on how you’d like to proceed?”
  • “It seems we’re in opposite mind-sets. What might be a comfortable way forward for us to discover if there is any agreement at all we can start from?”

Enter without bias: With limiting beliefs or hidden agendas, there’s no way to find commonality. Replace emotions and blame with a new bias, just for this conversation: the ‘bias’ of collaboration.

  • ‘I’m willing to find common ground and put aside my normal reactions for this hour but it will be a challenge since I’m so angry. Do you want to share your difficulty in this area, or are you ok with it and can help me? How do we move forward without bias?’

Get into Observer: In case you have difficulty overcoming your biases and filters, here’s a physiological ‘How-To’ that comes straight from NLP: in your mind’s eye, see yourself up on the ceiling, looking down on yourself and your CP. It will virtually remove you from the fray, and offer an unbiased view of your interaction – one step removed as it were. One way to do this is to walk around during the conversation, or sit way, way back in a chair. Sitting forward keeps you in your biases. (Chapter 6 inWhat? teaches how to do this.)

Notice body language/words: Your CP is speaking/listening from beliefs, values, history, feelings, exhibited in their body language and eye contact. From your ceiling perch, notice how their physical stance matches their words, the level of passion, feelings, and emotion. Now look down and notice how you look and sound in relation to your CP. Just notice. Read Carol Goman’s excellent book on the subject.

Notice triggers: The words emphasized by your CP hold their beliefs and biases. They usually appear at the very beginning or end of a sentence. You may also hear absolutes: Always, Never; lots of You’s may be the vocabulary of blame. Silence, folded arms, a stick-straight torso may show distrust. Just notice where/when it happens and don’t take it personally – it’s not personal. Don’t forget to notice your own triggers, or blame/victim words of your own. If their words trigger you into your own subjective viewpoints, get yourself back into Observer; you’ll have choice from the ceiling. But just in case:

  • “I’m going to try very hard to speak/listen without my historic biases. If you find me getting heated, or feel blame, I apologize as that’s not my intent. If this should happen, please tell me you’re not feeling heard and I’ll do my best to work from a place of compassion and empathy.”

Summarize regularly: Because the odds are bad that you’ll actually hear what your CP means to convey, it’s necessary to summarize what you hear after every exchange:

  • “Sounds to me like you said, “XX”. Is that correct? What would you like me to understand that I didn’t understand or that I misheard?”

‘I’ statements: Stay away from ‘You’ if possible. Try to work from the understanding that you’re standing in different shoes and there is no way either of you can see the other’s landscape.

  • “When I hear you say X it sounds to me like you are telling me that YY. Is that true?”
  • “When I hear you mention Y, I feel like Z and it makes me want to get up from the table as I feel you really aren’t willing to hear me. How can we handle this so we can move forward together?”

Get buy-in each step of the way: Keep checking in, even if it seems obvious that you’re on the same page. It’s really easy to mistranslate what’s been said when the listening filters are different.

  • “Seems to me like we’re on the same page here. I think we’re both saying X. Is that true? What am I missing?”
  • “What should I add to my thinking that I’m avoiding or not understanding the same way you are? Is there a way you want me to experience what it looks like from your shoes that I don’t currently know how to experience? Can you help me understand?”

Check your gut: Notice when/if your stomach gets tight, or your throat hurts. These are sure signs that your beliefs are being stepped on. If that happens, make sure you get back up to the ceiling, and then tell your CP:

  • “I’m experience some annoyance/anger/fear/blame. That means something we’re discussing is going against one of my beliefs or values. Can we stop a moment and check in with each other so we don’t go off the rails?”

Get agreement on the topics in the conversation: One step at a time; make sure you both agree to each item, and skip the ones (for now) where there’s no agreement. Put them in a Parking Lot for your next conversation.

Get agreement on action items: Simple steps for forward actions should become obvious; make sure you both work on action items together.

Get a time on the calendar for the next meeting: Make sure you discuss who else needs to be brought into the conversation, end up with goals you can all agree on and walk away with an accurate understanding of what’s been said and what’s expected.

Until or unless we all hold the belief that none of us matter if some of us don’t; until or unless we’re all willing to take the responsibility of each needless death or killing; until or unless we’re each willing to put aside our very real grievances to seek a higher good, we’ll never heal. It’s not easy. But by learning how to hear each other with compassion and empathy, our conversations can begin. We must be willing to start sharing our Truth and our hearts. It’s the only real start we can make.

___________

Sharon Drew Morgen has been coding and teaching change and choice in sales, coaching, and leadership for over 30 years. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation®, a generic decision facilitation model used in sales, and is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity. Sharon Drew’s book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? has been called a ‘game changer’ in the communication field, and is the first book that explains, and solves, the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. Her assessments and learning tools that accompany the book have been used by individuals and teams to learn to enter conversations able to hear without filters. Sharon Drew is the author of one of the top 10 global sales blogs with 1700+ articles on facilitating buying decisions through enabling buyers to manage their status quo effectively.

She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com or 512 771 1117.

January 7th, 2019

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Servent LeadershipI became enamored of the concept Servant Leadership in the 1980s. Developed by Robert Greenleaf, it’s defined thus: a philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Greenleaf says, “The servantleader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve.”

Such an important concept, yet the skills to practice it elude us. I’d like to help change that.

THE BIAS PROBLEM

As a Buddhist, I deeply believe that serving one another is a necessary aspect of our lives. But the communication skill sets inherent in our culture don’t make it easy for influencers to truly serve:

  • Conventional questions are little more than interrogations based on the needs/biases of the Asker. They pull information to enable the Asker to create an approach that will generate specific results, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses to fit more closely with the needs of the interrogator. The real answers might lie outside the scope of the questions, potentially causing flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships. Certainly an enhanced opportunity for failure.
  • Normal listening practices listen for content, ensuring we hear mainly what our brains want us to hear as per our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly. (See What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) In other words, we hear some portion of the full data set – and it’s biased, at that. This problem is exacerbated when our brain doesn’t tell us what it discarded or misrepresented during the ‘listening’, leaving us to act on what we believe we’ve fully understood – but is most likely some degree of wrong, a problem for both Asker and Responder.
  • Information – regardless of its accuracy, importance, or presentation – cannot be accepted or accurately interpreted when it flies in the face of the Other’s Beliefs. Information when used as a convincer strategy will succeed only when the listener already agrees with it. Our brilliant stories, pitches, rational data, and advice will not convince Others that change is necessary until the Other has already discerned how to make the appropriate changes internally, to ready themselves for the disruption a new idea might bring to the status quo. It’s just not possible for an outsider to elicit permanent change by pushing information of any kind, regardless of its efficacy.
  • We tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely the transaction of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Change occurs at the unconscious Belief level which when happens, will cause new Behaviors to emerge automatically. Think of it this way: a robot that only moves forward will not move backward if you tell it to, or explain why it should change, or provide a scientific reason why walking backward is best, etc. The only way the robot will walk backward is by changing the programming. And so it is with our approach: once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • As influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.), we believe it’s our responsibility to cause Others to change in the way we believe they must. We find best methods to push our agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to lead, influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few. But we’re never taught to trust they can – they must – design and discover their own best answers and route to change. We fail to fully understand that no one, no Outsider, can ever understand another’s unconscious system.

With our current skill sets, we end up pushing our own agendas (in the name of the Other, of course), according to our subjective needs, beliefs, and goals (using our ‘professionalism’ and ‘intuition’ to tell ourselves we’re ‘right’) and restrict the full set of possibilities – even potentially causing a rift in the relationship. We assume that because we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable (or necessary, or dictated by above, or rational, etc.) the only missing piece is ‘how best’ to get Others to do what we think they should do. I once ran a Buying Facilitation® training for The Covey Leadership Center. They staunchly believed that because they were teaching The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, they were above manipulation and ‘healers’ who had the right to push and manipulate. And they absolutely believed that because they were ‘right’ they got to use any strategies they need to convince.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers, and taking on the job of making sure the Other does what’s ‘right’, we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. Not to mention it’s quite impossible to understand Another’s unconscious, that whatever they are doing has been part of their normal operating system and used habitually during the course of their lives.

Regardless of the efficacy of what we offer, our approach threatens the Other’s status quo. Our biased questions, the Other’s inability to hear us outside of their habituated listening filters (and our inability to hear them accurately), and the existing rules and Beliefs that have put the current (problematic) behaviors in place, will resist us. We are causing the resistance we receive and blaming them for their resistance – prospects who seem ‘stupid’, and patients who ‘don’t care’ about their health, students who ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients who ‘won’t listen’ to us.

WHY WE CAN’T CHANGE OTHERS EVEN WITH GOOD MOTIVES

We know someone needs to stop smoking, or eat differently. We are certain the environment is in trouble. But we don’t seem to have the ability to get someone to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. And yet they persist. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution, and yet they persist with failing results rather than buy.

What is going on? Why would anyone prefer to maintain failure rather than change? Seems that way, but it’s not entirely accurate. Everyone would prefer Excellence, but using conventional practices, change runs the risk of permanent disruption in our comfortable habits and status quo; outside-in push/behavior change approaches do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in, and accomodate for, any change. Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. The reasons we fail mount up:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviours we think need to be changed enable us to show up as who we are. We wake up daily, and maintain whoever we were yesterday without judgement. Our system just IS, good or bad, right or wrong. And it will fight to the death to maintain itself. Literally.
  2. Change Behaviors: Behaviors are merely the translations of, the action of, the underlying system of Beliefs that initiated them to begin with. They allow us to wake up every day and show the world who we are. When we try to change the Behavior, we push against the entire system they represent. Regardless of the efficacy of our solution or their dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system and the system is reorganized around the ‘new’, it will be resisted.
  3. Information doesn’t get heard: Our brains/ears hear subjectively, filtering out and misconstruing what’s not comfortable all on its own, failing to tell us that what we think we hear is most likely some fraction off of what the Speaker intended.
  4. Ignore the steps to change: As outsiders, we too often use our own intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the Other must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: the system would need to find a way to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

So our entire approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote the changes we think should occur in a way that challenges Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that whatever ‘new’ comes into an existing system must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected rather than be disrupted. We don’t realize we’re actually causing the resistance we receive.

And resist they do – not because our data or goals aren’t worthy or necessary, and not because they don’t want to change per se, but because our good will, shared information, and ‘push’ tactics conflict with the Other’s unconscious system that protects itself from unknowable disruption. Indeed, any modifications to the status quo would have to be performed in a way would leave the system congruent. The system would rather be fine, as it is, than not exist. And the time it takes for the system to accept and make room for the ‘new’ is the length of time it takes for adoption. With the best will in the world we challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the full set of skills to do more than attempt to cause change, rather than elicit it. We don’t naturally possess the skills of Servant Leadership.

GIVE UP INDIVIDUAL NEEDS

True Servant Leadership enables others to elicit their own congruent change. Since our current skill sets won’t get us there, we need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers. We must change the trajectory of our efforts. There is a route to facilitating Another’s change that is congruent, highly successful, and offers real leadership with no resistance.

I’ve spent my life coding the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve often written about, and trained it, in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover and own their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with the rules and history of their own Beliefs, an Excellence that can be eagerly, joyously adopted because it operates from within their status quo.

Servant Leadership assumes:

  1. Others have their own answers and routes to their own destination, and are the only ones who can enter their unconscious system to effect change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system that has defined them. It’s possible to facilitate Others to their own state of Excellence, using their own route to congruent change. Our responsibility is to lead them through the pathway to change themselves.
  2. We only have questions for Another, not answers. And since conventional questions are biased interrogations (biased by the wording, the intent, the direction, and the goal of the Asker) that may miss important, hidden, elements necessary for the Other to elicit their change criteria, I’ve designed a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that, with specific wording in specific order, acts as a directional device to lead Others through their own systemic, unique trajectory of change. These questions teach Others to peruse persue their own unconscious to sequentially discover their own answers, in a way that causes new understanding and decision making.
  3. There is no way for an outsider to have THE ANSWERS. Often influencers are self-serving, using  their ‘intuition’ (a subjectively biased guess), professional knowledge, or best wishes, to push another to where they want them to be, having no knowledge of the systemic elements that created and maintain the problem and that must buy-in to any change.
  4. To listen without bias or missunderstanding, we must practice Dissociative Listening to avoid the filters, bias, assumptions, and triggers that are part of our normal listening. [Note: for those interested in learning Dissociative Listening, read Chapter 6 in What?.]
  5. We get credit for serving. That’s it.

Decades ago, I mapped the sequential steps of systemic choice, change, and decision making enabling people to discover their own best choices that match the rules and values of their internal system. These steps traverse a pathway from the unconscious, where their habituated behaviors and status quo originates through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted, without disruption.

I have taught these skill sets to influencers in business, coaching, leadership, and healthcare to assist in facilitating permanent, congruent change: to help buyers buy, to help coaches, leaders, and doctors elicit congruent, permanent change, to help learners learn permanently – eliciting the core of the unconscious HOW to facilitate Another’s excellence their own way – to find their own answers.

So what would you need to know or believe differently to be willing to begin interactions as a Servant Leader rather than a coach, parent, seller, leader? How can you know, given the skill sets and foundations are so different, that it’s worth taking the time to add new skill sets to the ones you already use? Imagine having the skills that truly enable Others to find their own Excellence. Imagine being a true Servant Leader.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, thought leader, and subject matter expert, as well as the author of 9 books, including the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity, and the Amazon bestsellers What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. Sharon Drew speaks, trains, coaches, and consults in sales, healthcare, coaching, and leadership. She is the originator of Buying Facilitation®, a Change Facilitation model that offers influencers the tools to facilitate congruent change in Others via Servant Leadership.  She can be reached at sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com

December 24th, 2018

Posted In: Listening

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

WHAT IS A QUESTION?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS AN ANSWER?

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

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

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

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

WHAT IS CHANGE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FACILITATIVE QUESTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

____________

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

December 17th, 2018

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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How to Listen to be successful

The problem with accurately hearing what others mean to convey is not that we don’t hear their words accurately. The problem is in the interpretation. During the listening process, our brains arbitrarily filter out, or reconfigure the uncomfortable, unknown, or confusing, to make what’s been said match something we’re more familiar with. And it fails to inform us of its creative editing.

As a result, we’re left understanding some fraction of what our Communication Partner(CP) meant to convey. So if I say ABC and your brain tells you I’ve said ABL, you not only have no way of knowing that you’ve not understood my intended message, but you’re thoroughly convinced you heard what I ‘said’. Obviously, this interpretation process puts relationships and communication at risk.

CASE STUDY OF PARTNERSHIP LOST

While at a meeting with co-directors of a company to discuss possible partnering, there was some confusion on one of the minor topics:

John: No, SDM, you said X.
SDM: Actually I said Y and that’s quite a bit different.
John: You did NOT SAY Y. I heard you say X!!!
Margaret: I was sitting here, John. She actually did say Y. She said it clearly.
John: You’re BOTH crazy! I KNOW WHAT I HEARD! and he stomped out of the room. [End of partnership.]

As our brains haphazardly and unconsciously interpret for us, we naturally respond according to what we think we heard rather than what’s meant, restricting creativity, collaboration, and relationships.

How, then, do we have unrestricted conversations? Find ways to expand possibilities? Hear what others mean to say? Know how to take appropriate action, or negotiate creatively? I found the topic so interesting that I wrote a book on the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, the different ways our brains filter what’s been said (triggers, assumptions, biases, etc.), and how to supersede our brain to hear accurately (Read First 2 chapters of What Did you really say what I think I heard?).

CASE STUDIES OF PROSPECTS LOST

One way our brains restrict our conversations happens when we enter with a preset agenda and unconsciously tell our brains to ignore whatever doesn’t fall outside the category. So when sellers listen only for ‘need’ they miss important clues that would exclude or enlist the CP as a prospect. A coaching client of mine had this conversation:

Seller: Hi. I’m Paul, from XXX. This is a sales call. I’m selling insurance. Is this a good time to speak?

Buyer: No. it’s a horrible time. It’s end of year and I’m swamped. Call back next week and I’ll have time.

Seller: ok.iwanttotellyouaboutourspecialsthatmightsuityourbusinessandmakeyoumorerevenue.

And the prospect hung up on him. Because the Seller used the traditional Buying Facilitation® opening for a cold call which welcomes prospects into a collaborative conversation, the prospect was willing to speak. But he lost interest when the Seller ignored his invitation and switched to taking care of his own needs with a pitch.

SDM: What happened? He told you he’d speak next week. And why did you speak so quickly?

Paul: He had enough time to answer the phone, so I figured I’d try to snag him into being interested. I spoke fast cuz I was trying to respect his time.

And this is a very simplistic example. Here is another one:

Halfway into a sales call, my client got hooked on his own agenda and didn’t hear reality:

Prospect: Well, we don’t have a CRM system that operates as efficiently as we would like, but our tech guys are scheduled 3 years out and our outsourcing group’s not available for another year. So we’ve created some workarounds for now.

Seller: I’d love to stop by and show you some of the features of our new CRM technology. I’m sure you’ll find it very efficient.

And that was the end of the conversation. He should have heard his intent and replied:

Wow. Sounds like a difficult situation. We’ve got a pretty efficient technology that might work for you, but obviously now isn’t the time. How would you like to stay in touch so we can speak when it’s closer to the time? Or maybe take a look at adding a few bells and whistles now to help out a bit while you wait?

By hearing and respecting the prospect’s status quo the seller would have created a ‘We Space’ where they both shared the same goals, and kept them speaking over time. Not to mention it would have been respectful. But the sellers, in both instances, only listened for what they wanted to hear and misinterpreted what was meant, and followed their own agenda at the cost of a real prospect.

We restrict possibilities when we enter calls with an agenda. We:

  • Misdefine what we hear so messages mean what we want them to mean;
  • Never achieve a true collaboration;
  • Speak and act as if something is ‘true’ when it isn’t and don’t recognize possibilities;
  • Limit our reactions and never achieve the full potential.

Here is a short list of ways to alleviate this problem (and take a look at What? for more situations and ideas):

  1. Enter each call as a mystery. Who is this person you’re calling? What’s preventing her from achieving excellence?
  2. Don’t respond immediately after someone has spoken. Wait a few seconds to take in the full dialogue and its meaning.
  3. Don’t go into a pitch, or make an assumption that a person has a need until they have determined they do – and that won’t be until much later in the conversation.
  4. Don’t enter a call with your own agenda. That leaves out the other person.

Prospects are those who will buy, not those who should buy. Enter each call to form a collaboration in which together you can hear each other and become creative. Stop trying to qualify in terms of what you sell. You’re missing opportunities and limiting what’s possible.

____________

Sharon Drew Morgen is the NYTimes Business Bestselling author of Selling with Integrity and 7 books how buyers buy, including Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell. She is the developer of Buying Facilitation® a decision facilitation model used with sales to help buyers facilitate pre-sales buying decision issues. She is a sales visionary who coined the terms Helping Buyers Buy, Buy Cycle, Buying Decision Patterns, Buy Path in 1985, and has been working with sales/marketing for 30 years to influence buying decisions.

More recently, Morgen is the author of What? Did You Really Say What I Think I Heard? in which she has coded how we can hear others without bias or misunderstanding, and why there is a gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She is a trainer, consultant, speaker, and inventor, interested in integrity in all business communication. Her learning tools can be purchased: www.didihearyou.com. She can be reached at
sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com 512 771 1117 www.didihearyou.comwww.sharondrewmorgen.com

December 3rd, 2018

Posted In: Listening, News

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I started up a tech company in London in 1983. I never meant to. And I certainly didn’t know what I was doing.

I was brought across the pond by a tech company as a sales director. But after a few days and a few conversations with my husband Ben (brought over by the same company to do contract tech work), I realized there was a far greater opportunity than just selling services for the first Fourth Generation Language (4GL) Database Management software FOCUS we supported: programming support, of course. But what about users? Since it was a user-focused tool, and users weren’t techies, I envisioned two problems: they might not have the knowledge to cull, organize and manage their data; they might not have the skills to communicate effectively with the techies they had to collaborate with. (As a non-techie married to a techie, I was well aware of the communication challenges of different types of brains.) What if we could be a decision support group that provided a broad range of services for users?

I somehow convinced my new manager to let me ‘go’ with my ideas. But truth be told, I didn’t know what I was talking about. That wasn’t a problem: because I think in systems, I had a high-level understanding of the problems but none of the details. In other words, I understood the structure but not the content (and it’s always easy to find the right content once you’ve got the structure). Never occurred to me I wouldn’t succeed.

None of us were smart enough to know what we didn’t know, although they must have known something: I became their most successful group, bringing in 142% of the gross profit of their 5 companies. Me? I ended up an entrepreneur, starting a tech group (which became its own company) in two countries (UK, Germany), with no experience; making a whole bunch of money for me and my investors; serving a large, diverse client base; traveling extensively around Europe; having full expression of my creativity; and living in London. But it didn’t start that way.

As I share my experiences, I’d like you to consider that this was the early 1980s: there was no internet, no Google, no email, and no websites with phone numbers and names. It was necessary, in general, to call Information to get a phone number, and they needed the address before they gave you the number. True story. Computers weren’t even used for much – think Commodore, with floppys; Macs weren’t even introduced until 1984; Google not until 1996. So in the pre-internet,pre-information age, selling and marketing were decidedly different than today. And yet I found a way, in a country strange to me, in an industry I knew nothing about, selling a product I didn’t understand, to be quite successful. Just a bit of old-timee caring, trust, and integrity. Let me begin.

WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW

I’d never been an entrepreneur. With only 5 years as a successful salesperson (and 12 years prior as a social worker and journalist), I had no idea what ‘business’ meant. In fact, I didn’t know:

  1. How to hire anyone.
  2. How to find anyone – to hire, to sell to.
  3. The rules: of tech, London, business, corporate politics, start-ups. Nothin’.
  4. What was going on in the field, what the field was comprised of, the nature of my competition.
  5. What I was selling – what my service provided, what it did differently than my competition.
  6. What clients needed, how they took care of the problems without my solution, why they would buy anything rather than keep doing what they were doing.
  7. How to explain, pitch, or present what I was selling (because I didn’t understand it).
  8. How to run a business – the jobs needing to be done, how they got apportioned.
  9. How to manage staff; how to recognize when I needed to hire/fire staff.
  10. What success or failure looked like and how to know in advance if either was happening.
  11. How to put together a budget, how much money I needed to run a company (I didn’t know I could run on a loss, so I thought I’d need to earn money before spending it.)
  12. Expectations, time frames, problems, problem resolutions.

I was ignorant. But I did understand people, systems, structure, hard work, risk-taking, communication, and integrity. And I knew who, what, and why to trust. I was on my way.

I began in a tiny, tiny office (Obviously once a closet, it was so narrow I had to move the chair so the door would open; the ‘desk’ was a plank of wood attached to the wall.) in a group office space. I sat, that first day, and stared at a British phone not even knowing how to dial out or get Information. I had to hire people, obviously. But for what? And how did I find them? I had to get revenue, but from who? This was in 1983 before the ‘tech’ boom. No one knew what was going on; I had no one to even ask these questions to.

Should I start selling first to bring in revenue? or hire support staff? Should I hire techies to go into client environments – for when I made a sale? But how could I hire anyone before I knew what prospective clients needed? What criteria should I use to hire techies – since the 4GL was for users, techies needed both tech skills and people skills, no? What percentage of each was necessary? How would I know what to pay them?

It was a conundrum. I couldn’t pay anyone until I was getting revenue; I couldn’t get revenue until I got clients; I couldn’t get clients until I had people to do their work. Where to begin? I could design a path forward once I figured out the elements. And as I later realized, starting with no expectations, no biases, no knowledge, and no comparators, was a blessing. I was given a clear road on which to travel, using any means of transport I could develop within a miasma of confusion, to get wherever I wanted to go. Best fun ever.

EMPLOYEES RUNNING THE COMPANY

I took on all the tasks concurrently: afternoons interviewing techies and hiring staff, mornings on sales calls. I decided to be my own salesperson so I could learn the components of the underlying system and understand the full range of givens going forward. I needed to know where I was at so I could get where I was going. (Did you ever try to get directions when you didn’t know the address where you were?)

I solved the ‘which comes first’ problem by initially hiring contract techies (who I later made permanent). This also solved my cash flow issue so I needn’t lay out money until I landed a client. But who was a good hire? I had Ben design a tech test I could score myself using an overlay with answers; I personally added some client service questions to understand their people skills. Between this test and the interview, I knew exactly the pluses and minuses of each person.

To hire staff, I had to determine the job scope and potential outcome that each hire would offer, certainly hard to do when I had no way of knowing what jobs were necessary; it was a year before we realized we needed a training group, for example. So I made a lot of (mostly good but not always) guesses. Before our interviews, I told prospective hires to determine how much they wanted to earn (I trusted people knew how much they were worth; I sure didn’t.) bring a P&L (Someone said I needed that. No idea what it was.) to the interview with a plan to illustrate how they could earn their salary, cover their costs, and make a profit. The ones who came in with creative ideas were hired. I didn’t know until years later what a crazy idea this was. But not that crazy, turned out.

Since I didn’t know the difference between a cost center and a profit center, I hadn’t realized ‘obvious’ things, like you can’t make Reception a profit center. But I didn’t know I couldn’t, so I did. A bit more about that in a moment. Suffice it to say, by making each person their own profit center, everybody ran their own companies and became wholly committed to being successful because that’s how they got paid. Plus they were having such fun creating. Sounds silly now, but it worked: I hired people who wanted to be creative, take responsibility, and work from the same parameters of ‘excellence’ that I wanted the company to exemplify:

  1. Take whatever risks you deem necessary, so long as you stay within the parameters of integrity and have a good shot at succeeding.
  2. Always trust clients, care for their well-being, never never never lie.
  3. Always do what you say you’ll do.
  4. Never leave clients compromised, regardless of time or situation. And always stay on top of how clients are doing.
  5. If you’re going to fail, tell me before you fall so I can get involved; if you are already failing, there’s nothing I can do but watch you fall. Note: my team always, always told be well before a potential failure, and together we always fixed the impending disaster. We didn’t mind making mistakes.
  6. I don’t believe in giving people X weeks vacation. If you’re running your own company, you take the time off as needed to be healthy, creative, and happy. Ultimately, I had to pry folks from their seats to get them to take time off. Sometimes I had to call their wives (and they were all men, except the sales team), tell them to send the kids to Grandma, and keep the tired husbands in bed for a few days. I even sent meals to the house so no one had to cook. This small thing alone kept my folks loyal enough to not take other job offers of twice the salary. I really cared about them.

So now I knew how to hire staff and techies when I needed them. But that was the tip of the iceberg.

SELLING AN UNKNOWN

Because I had a successful history of taking on challenges without knowing anything, I didn’t think twice about selling something I didn’t understand. And truly, although I had very general knowledge, I knew nothing of the specifics – what I was selling, who used it, the need for it, or the buying environment for it. I didn’t even know how to get phone numbers or company names (1983, remember? No Google, no information ‘online’. Think about it.). Reception gave me a phone book to look up American companies that I knew had offices in London and who possibly might be using FOCUS. But it was all a guess; I was flying blind. My first call was to the Receptionist at American Express:

SDM: Hi. I wonder if you could help me. This is a sales call, and I have a product that will help the folks using a new Fourth Generation Language get better reports. But I’m new in London, and new in the business, and haven’t a clue what groups are using this or who to ask for. Do you have any ideas for me?

REC: Interesting. I’ll give you the names of a few group heads and you can call and see if they fit. If these don’t work, call me back and I’ll keep digging. My name is Ann.

First on her list was Jim. No idea what he did or his title; I just had a name and extension number.

SDM: Hi Jim. My name is Sharon Drew Morgen. Ann gave me your name and suggested you were a good person to speak with but neither of us was sure. This is a sales call. I’m selling support services for the Fourth Generation Language FOCUS, and I wonder if you’re using the language or need any help. Is this a good time?

JIM: How refreshing! Thanks for telling me it’s a sales call. Can you tell me more about what you offer (No idea.) because we are using FOCUS but because it’s so new I don’t know what I don’t know (Hahahaha. That made two of us).

SDM: (I was in trouble here. My only option was to keep putting the focus on him.): I have an idea. Rather than me tell you what I can do for you, tell me exactly how you’re currently using the software, what your target goal is and if you’re reaching it, where you’re not, and I’ll put it all together in my head (with Ben’s help!) and see if there is anything I can do to support you, then get back to you if I can. I do have a curiosity: what’s stopping you from knowing more than you do about using the software to its fullest capability? (This was curious to me. As a systems thinker, I always want to know the parameters of any problem. What was going on that Jim didn’t know them?)

JIM: Wow. I should know more, right? Let me tell you how I’m using it (and so began my learning!) and we can schedule another call once you’ve had time to think. And if you don’t mind, I’m going to give you the names and phone numbers of my colleagues so we can all be on the same page here. I also havea friend at DEC with the same problems I’m having, so I’ll give you his number as well. I suspect you can help us all.

And so began my journey to success. Helping people figure out how to take care of their own needs first, and then helping where I could add something, was so much easier than pitching what I thought would be meaningful, especially since I had no earthly idea how to discuss a product I didn’t yet have.

GROWING THE COMPANY WITH PEOPLE

I soon began selling contract services for systems engineers, programmers, project leaders, and managers. When visiting them in the field at their new jobs, I began to understand the ‘need’ not only for technical support but as I had originally guessed, for ‘communication management’ within their teams and with the users who had no clue how to manage or direct techies. I quickly realized that merely putting techies into client teams wouldn’t keep the core communication issues, inherent in this first report tool, at bay.

I needed to hire someone with tech skills, communication skills, and people skills. A tall order that few could do. But unless someone could take that on, I could foresee plenty of innate problems that could crop up and cause fires and lost time and business.

Thankfully, I found John to hire as a ‘Make Nice Guy’. John had it all; I paid him a fortune (around $100,000, which in 1984 was a huge salary – just about broke the bank) and gave him this job description:

  1. Make sure the code in every program, on every client site, is good so there are no systems failures. A shut down at any time of day or night, at any site, would be his to fix;
  2. Make sure our techies fit into the client teams and the relationships were smooth. If our techies stayed in their position for the length of the contract John got a bonus;
  3. Make sure the client is happy, and check to see if they need additional help on other teams;
  4. Find other groups on client sites bringing in FOCUS before the vendor sent in their own contract team. (I had a team already sitting and waiting to begin as the vendor implemented the new software before they even pitched their consulting services.)
  5. And oh – take as much holiday time you need, so long as I have no fires.

I never wanted my phone to ring with problems; I had a company to grow. John’s job was to run all operations. And he was so good at everything that our projects almost always got done ahead of schedule and under budget, causing clients to keep us around for far longer than the initial contract as their trust grew. And because we were so reliable, clients began giving us whole projects to do on our own, freeing up their own people for more creative work. We were in Bose, British Airways, Amdahl, DEC, for years, causing me to hire more and more tech staff. We grew to about 43 techies in under 4 years. And there was very little ‘beach’ time.

I had very high criteria around keeping staff happy; without them, I didn’t have a business. Since so many folks were in the field and I couldn’t see them regularly, I called each and every techie at least once a month to check in, discuss birthdays and holidays, share gossip. I offered current staff a new job opening before seeking anyone from outside to fill it. I let them trial the job for 3 weeks, and if they wanted it and we all agreed, it was theirs. And because I thought it important that those in the field didn’t feel isolated, once a month I treated the whole team of techies and staff to a darts night with a few pints at a local pub. I always lost. I still can’t play darts.

As we grew, my growing group of employees were coming up with their own ideas, certainly better than mine. One of the running jokes became the ability to get me to say “WE’RE DOING WHAT?????” When I said those words, someone would gleefully shout out, “SHE SAID IT! SHE SAID IT!” It was never little stuff either. They sure took risks.

SDM: Hey Harold. Nice seeing you. I’ve not seen you for days. Where’ve you been?

HAROLD: We needed to expand our training programs so I was scouting out new venues. I’m just getting ready to sign a contract to rent about 1000 feet of space in an adjoining office.

SDM: WE’RE DOING WHAT????”

Damn if he didn’t rock out. He’d put together user training, tech training, and even a manager training that he somehow got me to teach (I’M TEACHING WHAT????). Harold figured that since I did such a good job managing techies with no technical experience myself, I could teach user managers how to work with techies. He was right. And it was a very popular program. Who knew!? All I had to do was do what I was told.

The other prominent wish I heard from the managers was an admonishment: “Please, please don’t sell anything we don’t have today please!” Yeah, right. As a salesperson, I always can think of things I can sell someone when I hear what I think is a need. And once I knew how flexible our services were, I could promise something could be delivered. Immediately.

STAFF PERSON SEEING MY FACE AS I RETURNED TO MY OFFICE: She’s done it again!!

SDM: [as the team hustled into my office, arms crossed, scowling, knowing]: I couldn’t help it. Sorry guys. It’s not a big deal. We only need to do X. Won’t be bad.

STAFF: And when did you promise we’d deliver this?

SDM: Monday.

STAFF: BUT IT’S WEDNESDAY!!!!! We’ll need to work all weekend!!!! My wife will kill me!!!!

SDM: I’ll run the Xerox machine, keep you in Pizza and Coke, edit while you’re writing. I’ll buy the beer! I’ll help you!

And so we stayed up to the minute in our offerings and program designs and had a steady flow of new solutions. What a blast we had, albeit a missed birthday or two. Sorry kids.

One more fun thing. The technical training guy wanted to be able to see into the work the students were doing at their desks and correct their errors from his front computer. He needed a computer with a large screen, capable of connecting to, and viewing, multiple computers at once. You might shrug at this now, but in 1985, no one had ever heard of such a thing. Julian made a bazillion calls and actually found a man in Amsterdam to come over, raise our training room floor to organize all the cables, and built Julian the computer he wanted. Done and done.

THE PROFIT CENTER RECEPTION AREA

I promised you this story. And it’s quite wonderful. Shows what can happen when you really trust your staff.

I hired a woman named Anne-Marie as the receptionist. She had run a car dealership and was accustomed to dealing with aggressive men, without an ounce of need for any social relationships.

Anne-Marie’s pitch to me during our interview for the job of Receptionist was that she wanted a percentage of our net profits (and this was in 1984!); for this, she would create an environment run like a well-oiled machine, with everyone intent on taking care of customers with nothing getting in the way. I didn’t know what that meant; I just trusted her.

She was imposing in every way: very tall – about 6 feet – and wore very tidy, officious, crisp suits. She wore bright red, severe lipstick; she walked with lowered eyes, with a sort of strut; her brown hair was tied up in some 1920s hairstyle that increased our perception that she knew what she was doing. And I can’t say often enough that she was terrifying. It was like having a dictator around all the time, watching, watching. We did whatever she said. Seriously. No one, no one, messed with her. We didn’t even want to find out what the ‘or else’ was.

Anne-Marie figured out what needed to be done within a month on the job. As the person in the front, Anne-Marie overheard staff gossiping about each other, obviously taking time away from their work and her profit; she noticed phones being unanswered, which didn’t serve customers; she overheard people saying they ‘didn’t know’ something, which didn’t serve customers either. She wasn’t having it.

She put us to work. EVERY DAY Anne-Marie made us write up what was going on with our clients, problems with our job and caseload, our conflicts with each other. We had to leave these pages on her desk before we left at night, and she would come in early and distribute them by 7:00 A.M. She wanted everyone to have all the knowledge necessary to serve clients and each other, every day.

She called these things TOADS. Take what you want and destroy…. I don’t remember what the blasted acronym was, but trust me, I still have nightmares. Those bloody TOADS. We hated them. EVERY DAY we all had to stay an extra hour at night to write the damn things – and remember, there were no computers and many of the staff couldn’t type on the typewriters, so mostly we wrote them by hand. Pages. They went on for pages. And in addition to staying late EVERY NIGHT to write the dratted things, we had to come in early every day to read the ten or twelve sets of TOADS that Anne-Marie left on our desks from our teammates. One of the things I did when designing our new offices was to install glass walls so we could all see each other (Open plan offices weren’t a Thing yet.). We would glumly look up from our writing at 6:30 or so at night, see each other sitting there writing, give each other grim smiles, chuckle, and put our heads back down to write. We suffered together.

What happened was astonishing. All internal conflicts stopped, since everyone knew, and aired their grievances. Office communication became more intimate. Staff knew each other’s challenges and shared resources and ideas, creating a collaborative environment filled with new possibility. We all got a much deeper appreciation of our clients and their challenges. And any time a phone rang, whoever was closest picked it up.

Oh Hi, Mr. Jones. I’m SO sorry that happened to Martin! How’s he doing! Jane isn’t here now, but is there something I can help you with? I know our folks are just finishing up your project. Is there a problem?

We fixed problems immediately. We all had all the information we needed to see a problem coming and fix it before it happened. Clients trusted us even more and gave us more business. She’d accomplished her goal: customers were happy, and we all made money. Between Anne-Marie taking care of the inside, and John taking care of the field, I had absolutely nothing to do but grow my company.

HAPPY CUSTOMERS, SAD COMPETITION

But in truth, my clients grew my company for me. I did whatever it took to keep them satisfied. And this became my brand. One month in 1986 or so, I decided to place a full-page ad in The Financial Times of London. Very expensive. But I wanted to be on record as a company with a commitment to serve. Instead of writing copy, I left the page blank except for these words written right in the middle of the empty page:

The Quality Is Free

and at the bottom of the page, in small print, my company contact details. One day after submitting the copy, I got a surprise visit from the Times Editor. He brought with him a page of copy that he’d written for me (He assumed I wasn’t smart enough to write my own copy?).

EDITOR: You can’t have just an empty page. But don’t worry. I wrote you some content.

SDM: Naw. I’m good, thanks. Want some tea?

An hour after he left, I got a call from the big big boss in the States who suggested I take the Editor’s offer for content (The Editor went around me to call the big boss? Awwww what a silly woman! Obviously she needs a man! With brains! Awwww.).

SDM: I got a better idea

Geoff: Why not fly over, take my job, and you can do anything you want. No? You don’t want that? So what else would you like to discuss. How the hell are you?

In those days, Brand Marketing wasn’t a thing. I certainly had no idea what it was. I just wanted potential customers to know what we stood for and elevate my brand in the larger market. One thing I quickly learned: let the people who knew what they were doing ‘go’ and learn whatever I could from them. My wonderful team, my lovely customers, taught me everything. They certainly all had their own answers so long as I helped them figure out how to figure it out. In fact, this process of helping others figure out their own answers was the foundation of my Buying Facilitation®model that I’ve taught to 100,000 sales folks globally since 1987. How naïve I was as a salesperson before that to ever think I had an answer for prospects.

Ultimately, our customers were so happy the following resulted:

  1. We captured 11% of a field with 26 competitors. You do the math.
  2. Our pricing was much higher than any of our competitors; clients never minded because we were known to be meticulous. (Price is never a selling point. My pricing actually put me into my own market, which obviously changed our competitive standing. After I left the company I heard that my nickname was Sharon Drew Blood J)
  3. Remember Mr. Make Nice Guy? What a good job he did! We avoided user, programming, and relationship problems. Hiring us was problem-free for clients.
  4. We had a revenue of $5,000,000 in just under four years. Remember: no email marketing, no websites, no social media. Just good work and lots of referrals. And gobs of integrity and care.
  5. We had a 42% net profit. Anne-Marie was very happy. See? Reception as a profit center!
  6. I didn’t have to send tech resumes to clients. I was able to carefully listen to what they needed after asking the right questions, and say something like:

I can send you someone with those exact specifications in seven weeks, or I you must have someone sooner, I can send someone with the X skill set but not the Y skills, and you’d need to get that part covered yourself.

I never ever lied or hyped and my track record was perfect. Clients trusted us. I even had situations where our team got to a new client site to begin a project and the client was on vacation (“Dave where are you???” “Sharon Drew, your folks are so good they’ll figure it out. Talk in two weeks when I’m back.”). I once got a call from someone who said, “What, no resume? You’re going to tell me who I need, and you think you’re going to get it right?” Yup.

My revenue doubled every year. I lost no staff in four years even though they were approached regularly from my competitors and offered higher salaries. I was as successful in Germany as I was in England. And I learned a lot: how to run a company; how to choose staff – and let them do their thing and get out of their way; to trust that clients had their own best answers; to trust my ignorance to find the most integrous route to a solution.

CONCLUSION

My years in London gave me the ability to exercise my own creativity, serve a bunch of people, and get paid for it (difficult for a woman to achieve in America still). And I never had so much fun in my life. One more personal note: while in London I also started up a non-profit (The Dystonia Society) that served kids with my son’s disease. I set up local support groups around the United Kingdom and Europe and raised money for mobility implements. By day I was an entrepreneur, by night I ran a non-profit, and on weekends Ben and I traveled around Europe (and simultaneously brought in a bunch of new clients) and hiked in the Lake District.

After I left my company in 1988, I was contracted by the vendor of FOCUS to get the business back that I had taken from him. True story. In England, that was called ‘Getting money for old rope.’

And after I left my company, it went downhill. During my years there, the big boss regularly tried to get me to lower my prices so I’d be ‘competitive’. “But I’m not IN a price competition, I’m in a quality competition.” Didn’t stop him from haranguing me: “You’d get a lot more business if your prices were reasonable.” He was thinking mainstream, but I wasn’t running a mainstream company. Different rules. When I left, he not only put up blinds on the glass walls so no one could see each other, stopped the ‘time wasting’ TOADS and dart games, and fired John Make Nice Guy because of his ‘exorbitant’ salary, AND he lowered our prices.

Guess what happened. You got it. In a short time, the company actually became mainstream like the others: From having our own 11% market share to sharing the market equally among the 27 competitors – each company getting their 4%. Lesson: when the magic sauce has a recipe, don’t change it.

I then moved back to the States to a ranch in Taos, N.M. After sleeping for a year (Seriously.) and traveling a bit, I wrote my first book (Sales on the Line) published in 1992 followed by 8 more (one, on the NYTimes Business Bestseller’s list called Selling with Integrity, one on the Amazon bestseller’s list called What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), and developed my Change Facilitation model Buying Facilitation® that I’ve trained globally to sales folks, coaches, and leaders ever since. And while many of my coined terms have become part of mainstream sales thinking (buy cycle, buying patterns, buyer’s journey, helping buyers buy, buying decisions – coined to define the change management steps necessary before people become buyers) I’ve done it all my own unique way, never trying to be, or compete against, the mainstream.

I hope that my story offered some ideas to budding entrepreneurs. And I do realize the environment is different in 2018 than it was 35 years ago. But maybe parts of it are not that different.

Receive Sharon Drew’s original articles and essays on Mondays: http://sharondrewmorgen.com/subscribe-to-sharon-drew-morgens-award-winning-blog/

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Sharon Drew Morgen is an original thinker, and 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 the developer of Change Facilitation, used in sales (Buying Facilitation®), coaching, leadership, and management – any influencing situation in which integrity, ethics, and collaboration are involved. Sharon Drew is a speaker, trainer, consultant, and coach for sales and listening. She can be reached atsharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com; her award-winning blog has thoughtful articles on change, systems, decision making, and communication. www.sharondrewmorgen.com

November 5th, 2018

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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