By Sharon Drew Morgen

inside-curiosityCuriosity is a good thing, right? But what is it? Wikipedia defines curiosity thus: a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning, evident by observation in human and animal species.

What, exactly, does this mean? What’s ‘inquisitive thinking’? Does it matter that everyone’s inquisitiveness is subjective, unique, and limited by their biases? ‘Evident by observation’? Evident to whom? And by what/whose standards? And ‘observation’? Really? We all see, hear, feel the world through our subjectivity – so what standards, what criteria, are the observer using – or doesn’t it matter? And what makes one piece of information the correct answer – or a wrong answer?

The problem is that our natural curiosity restricts our ability to acquire a complete data set to little more than an extension of our current knowledge and beliefs: the way we seek, accept or dismiss incoming information may glean only a subset of the knowledge available due to

  • the nature of our subjective viewpoint, biases, and intractable Status Quo,

  • our own conscious/unconscious existing beliefs and existing knowledge about the subject,

  • the direction, word choice, hidden agenda and prejudice built into our queries.

Sure, we’re told to ‘be curious.’ But how do we know that the information we seek, find and retrieve is accurate, complete, or the most useful data available? How do we know that found learning is important, even though it ‘feels’ uncomfortable and we dismiss it? How do we know the best source to use to get answers? Who or what to believe? Can we supersede our biased judgments (or intuition, as some would call it) that restrict/influence the standard all is compared against?

The limits of our curiosity define our results: the broader the range of possible answers the higher the likelihood of an accurate outcome. And herein lie the problem: we unwittingly severely restrict the range of possible, acceptable answers because of our existing beliefs while continuing to believe we’re Intuitive, Investigative, and Clever. Hence, I pose the question: can we really ever be entirely curious?

Once during a conversation with a colleague, he complained that he had just gotten a cold, and that now he’d be ‘down’ for 2 weeks. How did he know it would be 2 weeks? As a doctor himself, he’d been to doctors over the years and followed protocol: lots of rest and liquids, and wait two weeks. The following conversation ensued:

    SD: I hear your conclusions about a cold cure come from parameters set by your medical colleagues and that you’re comfortable restricting the full set of possible treatments accordingly. What would you need to believe differently to be willing to expand your parameters to some that may be outside your current comfort zone, in case there might alternate, reliable cures you’re not aware of?

    H: Hm… I’ve always used the medical model as my choice criteria. Well, I guess I’d need to believe that the source of the new data was trustworthy.

    SD: I have useful data that has helped me and my family cure a cold in 2 days, but it’s very far outside the conventional model. How would you know it would be worth trying, given it doesn’t fit within your medical criteria?

    H: That’s sort of easy, but scary. I’ve known you a long time. I trust you. If you have a different cure, I’d love to hear it.

I offered him a simple vitamin-based remedy (large quantities of Vitamin C and simultaneous Zinc lozenges). He used it; he called 2 days later to tell me his cold was gone. And, btw: this man is a famous Harvard McArthur Genius. See? Even geniuses restrict their curiosity according to their biases.

WHY ARE WE CURIOUS

There are several different reasons for curiosity:

  1. Need to know something we don’t know. Sometimes we need to know something we have no, or skimpy, knowledge about. How do we know the difference between the ‘right’ or the ‘wrong’ answer? How do we know the most effective resources? How do we know that the way we position our query will lead to the broadest range of answers?

  2. Desire to expand current knowledge. We need more data than we possess. How will we recognize when the available, additional data is the appropriate data set? How do we pose an inquiry that offers the broadest range of relevant knowledge? How can we keep from resisting new data if it runs counter to our beliefs (given that any new data gets compared against our unconscious judgments)?

  3. Achieving a goal. Our brain is missing data to achieve a goal. How can we know the extent of what we’re missing if we can’t be certain of the full range of possibilities?

  4. Interest in another person’s knowledge. We suspect someone has knowledge we need, yet it’s not possible to find data we don’t know how to look for. How do we know it’s accurate data? Or how to adopt/adapt it so it doesn’t face internal resistance? How can we position our inquiry to avoid limiting any possibilities?

  5. Complete internal reference points. Influencers (coaches, leaders, consultants, sellers) seek to understand the Other’s Status Quo so the Influencer can formulate action points. How can we know if our ‘intuition’ (biased judgment) is broad enough to encompass all possibilities – and be able to go beyond it when necessary?

  6. Comparator. We want to know if our current knowledge is accurate, or we’re ‘right’. But we pit our query and accept responses against our subjective experiences, running the risk of acquiring partial data or blocking important data.

We just can’t seek, find, or receive what we don’t know how to consider:

  1. Resistance: By the time we’re adults, our subjective beliefs are pretty much built in and determine how we organize our worlds. When we hear something that goes against our beliefs – whether or not it’s accurate; whether it’s conscious or unconscious – we resist. That means whatever answers we find will be accepted in relation to what we already know and believe, potentially omitting important data.

  2. Restricting data: What we’re curious about is automatically biased and limited by our subjective experience, ego needs, history, and current data set. We have no way to know if we’re posing our search query in a way that will include the full range of possible answers.

  3. Restricting knowledge. Because our subjectivity limits the acceptance of new knowledge to what fits with our current knowledge and acceptable expectations (we’re only curious about stuff that is tangential to current knowledge), we automatically defend against anything that threatens what we know. So we choose answers according to comfort or habit rather than according to accuracy.

  4. Intuitive ‘Red Flag’. When our egos and professional identity causes us to ‘intuitively’ have curiosity about answers we assume or expect, we’re limiting possibility by our biases. How do we know if there aren’t a broader range of solutions that we’re not noticing or eliciting?

CASE STUDY

I just had an incident that simply exemplifies some of the above. I’ve begun attending life drawing classes as an exercise to broaden my observation skills. I took classes 30 years ago, so I have a very tiny range of skills that obviously need enhancing. Last session I had a horrific time trying to draw a model’s shoulder. I asked the man next to me – a real artist – for help. Here was our conversation:

SDM: Hey, Ron. Can you help me please? Can you tell me how to think about drawing his shoulder?

Ron: Sure. Let’s see…. So what is it about your current sketch that you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: If I put a gun to your head, what part would you like?

SDM: Nothing.

Ron: You’ve done a great job here, on his lower leg. Good line. Good proportion. That means you know how to do a lot of what you need on the shoulder.

SDM: I do? I didn’t know what I was doing. So how can I duplicate what I did unconsciously? I’m having an eye-hand-translation problem.

Ron: Let’s figure out how you drew that leg. Then we’ll break that down to mini actions, and see what you can use from what you already know. And I’ll teach you whatever you’re missing.

Ron’s brand of curiosity enabled me to make some unconscious skills conscious, and add new expertise where I was missing it. His curiosity had different biases from mine. He:

  • entered our discussion assuming I already had all of the answers I needed;

  • only added information specifically where I was missing some;

  • helped me find my own answers and be available to add knowledge in the exact place I was missing it.

My own curiosity would have gotten me nowhere. Here was my Internal Dialogue:

How the hell do I draw a twisted shoulder? This sucks. Is this an eye/hand problem? Should I be looking differently? I need an anatomy class. Should I be holding my charcoal differently? Is it too big a piece? I can’t see a shadow near his shoulder. Should I put in a false shadow to help me get the proportions right?

Ron’s curiosity – based on me possessing skills – opened a wide range of possibilities for me. I never, ever would have found that solution on my own because my biases would have limited my curiosity to little more than an extension of my current knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO EXPAND YOUR CURIOSITY

In order to widen curiosity to the full range of knowledge and allow our unconscious to accept the full data set available, we must evolve beyond our biases. Here’s how to have a full range of choice:

1. Frame the query: Create a generic series of questions to pose for yourself about your curiosity. Ask yourself how you’ll know

a. your tolerance for non-expected, surprising answers,
b. what a full range of knowledge could include,
c. if your answers need to be within the range of what you already know or something wildly different,
d. if you’re willing/able to put aside your ‘intuition’, bias, and annoyance and seek and consider all possible answers regardless of comfort,
e. if you need to stay within a specific set of criteria and what the consequences are.

2. Frame the parameters: Do some Google research. Before spending time accumulating data, recognize the parameters of possibility whether or not they match your comfortable criteria.

3. Recognize your foundational beliefs: Understand what you believe to be true, and consider how important it is for you to maintain that data set regardless of potentially conflicting, new information.

4. Willingness to change: Understand your willingness to adopt challenging data if it doesn’t fit within your current data set or beliefs.

5. Make your unconscious conscious: Put your conscious mind onto the ceiling and look down on yourself (and whoever is with you) from the Observer position.

6. Listen analytically: Listen to your self-talk. Compare it with the questions above. Note restrictions and decide if they can be overlooked.

7. Analyze: Should you shift your parameters? Search options? What do you need to shift internally?

Curiosity effects every element of our lives. It can enhance, or restrict, growth, change, and professional skills. It limits and expands health, relationships, lifestyles and relationships. Without challenging our curiosity or intuition, we limit ourselves to maintaining our current assumptions.

What do you need to believe differently to be willing to forego comfort and ego-identity for the pursuit of the broadest range of possible answers? How will you know when, specifically, it would be important to have greater choice? We’ll never have all the answers, but we certainly can expand our choices.

_______________

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

August 2nd, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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We all know the importance of listening, of connecting with others by deeply hearing them share thoughts, ideas, and feelings, by being present and authentic. We work hard at listening without judgment, carefully, with our full attention. But are we hearing others without bias? I contend we’re not.

WHAT IS LISTENING?

From the work I’ve done unpacking the routes of incoming messages in brains, I believe that listening is far more than hearing words and understanding another’s shared thoughts and feelings. Listening is actually a brain thing that has little do to with meaning. It’s about puffs of air.

There are several problems with us accurately hearing what someone says, regardless of our intent to show up as empathetic listeners. Generally speaking, our brains determine what we hear. And they weren’t designed to be objective. There are two primary reasons:

  1. Words are meant to be semantic transmissions of meaning, yet they emerge from our mouths smooshed together in a singular gush with no spaces between them. Our brains then have the herculean task of deciphering individual sounds, individual word breaks, unique definitions, to understand their meaning. No one speaks with spaces between words. Otherwise. It. Would. Sound. Like. This. Hearing impaired people face this problem with new cochlear implants: it takes about a year for them to learn to decipher individual words, where one word ends and the next begins.
  2. When others speak, their words enter our ears as puffs of air without denotation – sound vibrations that have no meaning at all. None.

This second note is confounding: our ears hear what they’re set up to hear, not necessarily what a speaker intends to share.

Just as we perceive color when light receptors in our eyes send messages to our brain to translate the incoming light waves (the world has no color), meaning is a translation of sound vibrations that have traversed a very specific brain pathway after we hear them.

As such, I define listening as our brain’s progression of making meaning from incoming sound vibrations.

HOW BRAINS LISTEN

I didn’t start off with that definition. Like most people, I had thought that if I gave my undivided attention and listened ‘without judgment’, I’d be able to hear what a Speaker intended. But I was wrong.

When writing my book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I was quite dismayed to learn that what a Speaker says and what a Listener hears are often two different things.

It’s not for want of trying; Listeners work hard at empathetic listening, of caring about the Speaker and the conversation, of responding collaboratively and caringly. But the way our brains are organized make it difficult to hear others without bias.

Seems everything we perceive (all incoming sensory) is translated (and restricted) by the circuits already set up in our brains. If you’ve ever heard a conversation and had a wholly different takeaway than others in the room, or understood something differently from the intent of the Speaker, it’s because listening isn’t based on words or intended meaning; it’s because our brains have a purely mechanistic approach to translating signals. Here’s what our brains do:

Input (vibrations from words, thoughts, sound, feeling, sight)

CUE (turns incoming vibrations into electro-chemical signals)

CEN (Central Executive Network finds existing ‘similar-enough’ circuits to interpret into meaning)

Output (meaning)

Here’s a simplified version of what happens when someone speaks:

– the sound of their words enter our ears as mere vibrations (puffs of air with no meaning),

– get turned into electro-chemical signals (also without meaning) that

– get sent to existing circuits

– that have a ‘close-enough’ match (but may not match fully)

– previously used for other translations,

– and then discards the overage – whatever doesn’t match

– causing us to ‘hear’ the messages translated through circuits we already have on file!

It’s mechanical.

The worst part is that when our brain discards the ‘overage’ signals, it doesn’t tell us! So if you say “ABC” and the closest circuit match in my brain is “ABL” my brain discards D, E, F, G, etc. and fails to tell me what it threw away!

That’s why we believe what we ‘think’ we’ve heard is accurate. Our brain actually tells us that’s what was said, regardless of how near or far that interpretation is from the truth.

In other words, we ‘hear’ only what our brains translate based on our historic circuits – or, our biased, subjective experience.

With the best will in the world, with the best empathetic listening, by being as non-judgmental as we know how to be, as careful to show up with undivided attention, we can only hear what our brain allows us to hear. Being unwittingly restricted by our past, just about everything we hear is naturally biased.

IT’S POSSIBLE TO GET IT ‘RIGHTER’

The problem is our automatic, mechanistic brain. Since we can’t easily change the process itself (I’ve been developing brain change models for decades; it’s possible to add new circuits.), it’s possible to interfere with the process.

I’ve come up with two ways to listen with more accuracy:

  1. When listening to someone speak, stand up and walk around, or lean far back in a chair. It’s a physiologic fix, offering an Observer/witness viewpoint that goes ‘beyond the brain’ and disconnects from normal brain circuitry. I get permission to do this even while I’m consulting at Board meetings with Fortune 100 companies. When I ask, “Do you mind if I walk around while listening so I can hear more accurately?” I’ve never been told no. They are happy to let me pace, and sometimes even do it themselves once they see me do it. I’m not sure why this works or how. But it does.
  2. To make sure you take away an accurate message of what’s said say this:

To make sure I understood what you said accurately, I’m going to tell you what I think you said. Can you please tell me what I misunderstood or missed? I don’t mind getting it wrong, but I want to make sure we’re on the same page.

Listening is a fundamental communication tool. It enables us to connect, collaborate, care, and relate with everyone. By going beyond Active Listening, by adding Brain Listening to empathetic listening, we can now make sure what we hear is actually what was intended.

______________________________

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

July 5th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening

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kindness-clipart-famille-32

Recently people have been 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 a keynote 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 feelings of disrespect 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. When first moving to 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 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 a year I 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. And I had very little turnover, creating a very stable and respected workforce.

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

June 28th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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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.

____________

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

May 3rd, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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What if most of our viewpoints, interpretations and assumptions are so unconsciously biased that we unwittingly restrict our ability to accurately understand, or act on, incoming information? And what’s accuracy anyway?

Usually, we don’t question what our brains tell us, what seems to be reasonable or wrong. Responding from our personal norms and beliefs, we instinctively assume our perceptions, actions, interpretations, are based on reality. But what if we’re actually restricting ourselves to what’s comfortable and acceptable, and not accounting for our deep seated biases?

Our subjectivity maintains us. At all costs.

SUBJECTIVITY VS OBJECTIVITY

Subjectivity is based on personal, unique, and idiosyncratic beliefs, assumptions, and norms. We’d think we’re making good choices when we choose or consider one thing vs another, when we easily reject something because it makes no sense or annoys us. Or worse, when it’s ‘obvious’ to us that one thing should be valued differently than another.

We like to think we’re able to be objective. I’m here to tell you, we’re not.

The Wikipedia definition of objectivity is “… the elimination of subjective perspectives and … purely based on hard facts.” And “a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice.” But is this possible? What are ‘hard facts’ when our brain rejects them as faulty? I suggest that objectivity is only slightly less biased than subjectivity. It’s our brain’s fault.

Indeed, it’s pretty impossible to experience or interpret most anything without bias. We act, make decisions and choices, communicate with others, raise children and have friends, all from a small range of favored, habitual mental models that we’ve spent a lifetime culling and assume are accurate.

  • We hear and understand through our brain’s existent neural pathways, causing incoming information (incoming via electrical and chemical signals devoid of meaning) to flow down historic brain routes developed through a lifetime of beliefs, norms, experiences. Regardless of how ‘factual’ it is, when incoming data doesn’t jive with our existing beliefs, our brains ‘do us a favor’ and resist and re-interpret whatever falls outside of what we ‘know’ to be true. Obviously, anything new has a good chance of not being understood accurately. Bias is just cooked in; we don’t even think twice about trusting our intuition or natural reasoning.
  • Whether we’re in a conversation, listening to media, or even reading, we listen through biased filters, and hear what our brains tell us was said – likely to be X% different from the intended message. Unless we develop new neural pathways for the new incoming data, we will only hear what our brains are already comfortable with.

Indeed, our worlds are very tightly controlled by our unconscious and habituated biases, making it quite difficult to objectively hear or understand new idea-based incoming information that is different. It takes quite a bit of work to act beyond our perceptions.

WHY CAN’T WE BE OBJECTIVE?

Each of us interpret incoming messages uniquely. Have you ever spoken with folks who believe that ‘9/11’, or the moon landing, was a hoax or conspiracy? What about people who smoke, and interpret the health data uniquely, believing that because their grandfather smoked until he died at 95 that it’s not going to happen to them? Objectivity is not, well, objective. Here’s what happens: Sometimes

  • the way the new info comes in to us – the words used, the setting, the history between the communication partners, the distance between what’s being said and our current beliefs – cause us to unconsciously misinterpret bits of data;
  • we have no natural way of recognizing an incongruity between the incoming information and our unconscious thoughts;
  • our brain deletes some of the signals from incoming messages when they are discordant with what’s already there, without giving us the deletions to let us know what we missed (My book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?explains and corrects this problem.);
  • our beliefs are so strong we react automatically without having enough detachment to notice;
  • what we think is objective is often merely a habitual choice.

We each live in worlds of our own making. We choose friends and neighborhoods according to our beliefs and how our ears interpret ‘facts’, choose professions according to our likes and predispositions, raise our kids with the same norms and beliefs that we hold. In other words, we’ve created rather stable – certainly comfortable – worlds for ourselves that we fight to maintain regardless of how our biases may distort.

When communicating with others, ‘objective facts’ might get lost in subjectivity. In business we connect with different viewpoints and attempt to convince other’s of our ‘rightness’, and either they don’t believe us or they feel we’ve made them ‘wrong’. Our children learn stuff in school that we might find objectionable regardless of its veracity, or we might disagree with teachers who have different interpretations of our child’s behavior. What about the ‘fake news’ claims these days? What, exactly is true? I contend the difference between ‘fake news’ and factual reporting is in our perceptions. Either can be objective or subjective given our underlying biases, and separate from the ‘reality’ of facts.

And of course, most scientific facts we deem ‘objective truth’ may just be opinions. Folks like Curie, Einstein, Hawking, and Tesla were considered to be cranks because their ideas flew in the face of objective science that turned out to be nothing more than decades and centuries of perceived wisdom/opinions.

The problem shows up in every aspect of our lives. Sometimes there’s no way to separate out objective fact from subjective belief, regardless of the veracity.

I remember when my teenage son came home with blue hair one day. Thinking of what his teachers would say (This was in 1985!) or his friend’s parents, I wanted to scream. Instead I requested that next time he wanted to do something like that to please discuss it with me first, and then told him it looked great (It actually was a terrific color!). But his father went nuts when he came to pick him up, screaming at both of us (“What kind of a mother lets her son dye his hair blue!!!”), and taking him directly to the barber to shave his head. For me, it was merely hair. Objective reality.

CASE STUDY IN OBJECTIVITY VS SUBJECTIVITY

I once visited a friend in the hospital where I began a light conversations with the elderly orderly helping her sit up and eat. During our chat, the orderly asked me if I could mentor him. Um… Well, I was busy. Please! he begged. Not knowing what I could add to his life and having a bias that folks who asked me to mentor them just wanted me to give them money, I reluctantly, doubtfully, said ok.

He emailed me and invited me to dinner. Um… well, ok. I’d donate one night. He lived in a tiny room in a senior living center, on the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. It was very clean and neat, and he had gone out of his way to prepare the best healthy dinner he knew how to offer. Shrimp cocktail. Nice salad. Hamburger and beans. Ice cream. During dinner he played some lovely music. Just lovely. I was transfixed. Who is that playing, I asked.

“It’s me. I wrote that piece, and I’m playing all the instruments. I have several CDs of music I’ve composed and self-produced. Can you help me find someone who might want to hear it and do something with it? I’ve never met anyone who could help me.” I helped him find folks who helped him professionally record at least two of his compositions.

By any ‘objective’ measure, using my own subjective biases and ignoring the objective truth that we’re all equal and everyone is capable of having talent, I didn’t initially consider that someone ‘like that’ (old, black, poor, uneducated) had the enormous talent this man possessed, regardless of my advocacy of non-bias and gender/race equality.

Unwittingly, we seriously restrict our worlds by the way we process incoming data. We live subjective lives that restrict us. And as a result, we end up having arguments, misunderstandings, failed initiatives; we end up having a smaller pool of ideas to think with and don’t see a need for further research or checking; we make faulty assumptions about people and ideas that could bring benefits to our lives. I personally believe it’s necessary for us to remove as many restrictions as possible to our pool of knowledge and beliefs.

HOW TO COMPENSATE

To recognize bias and have a new choice, we must first recognize the necessity of noticing when something we believe may not be true, regardless of how strong our conviction otherwise. It’s quite difficult to do using the same biases that caused us to unconsciously bias in the first place.

Here’s a tip to help expand your normalized perception and notice a much broader range of givens, or ‘reality,’ to view an expanded array of options from a Witness or Coach or Observer position on the ceiling:

  1. Sit quietly. Think of a situation that ended with you misinterpreting something and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Replay it through your mind’s eye. Pay particular attention to your feelings as you relive each aspect of the situation. Replay it again.
  2. Notice where your body has pain, discomfort, or annoyance points.
  3. As soon as you notice, intensify the feeling at the site of the discomfort. Then impart a color on it. Make the color throb.
  4. Mentally move that color inside your body to the outer edges of your eyeballs and make the color vibrate in your eyes.
  5. When you mentally notice the color vibration, make sure you sit back in your chair or stand up. Then move your awareness up to the ceiling (i.e. in Witness or Observer position) and look down at yourself. From above you’ll notice an expanded range of data points and options outside your standard ones, causing you to physiologically evade your subjective choices.

Since the difference between subjectivity and objectivity is one of perception, and in general our brains make our determinations unconsciously, we must go to the place in our brains that cause us to perceive, and make it conscious. Only then can we have any objective choice. And next time we think we’re being objective, maybe rethink the situation to consider whether new choices are needed.

___________________________

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

April 12th, 2021

Posted In: Communication, Listening, Sales

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BIG IDEA: Buyers can’t buy until they’ve handled all of their internal stuff and everyone involved agrees they’re ready, willing, and able to bring in something new. With a solution-placement focus, sales and marketing limit us to finding only those who have completed those tasks and deem themselves ready to engage – the low hanging fruit.

PROBLEM: The problem is not in getting our solution sold; it’s in getting our solution bought. Buyers have Pre-Sales work to do that doesn’t involve the content we spend a lot of resource trying to push on them. Our sales and marketing efforts are set to seek ways to ‘get in’, get read, or determine ‘need’, ignoring the buyer’s need to figure out how to do their real change work: to assemble the most appropriate people, get consensus, try workarounds, and manage change. Because of the selling biases in our listening and questioning, we extract partial data, from people who don’t have the full fact pattern yet; promised dates get ignored; people disappear; there is no buy-in. We waste our time pushing content and waiting, hoping they’ll buy, instead of entering earlier to facilitate the change with them.

PROBLEM: The flaw in the sales model: designed to place solutions, sales starts selling before buyers are ready/able to buy, restricting success to those who deem themselves ready- the low hanging fruit (5%). Indeed, buyers don’t want to buy anything: they just want to solve a (business) problem with the least disruption.

PROBLEM: The status quo is preferred and is the basis of decision making. Regardless of a buyer’s real need, or the relevance of our solution; regardless of relationship or pitch/content/price; it is only when there is buy-in for systemic change, and an action plan that manages disruption, will buyers investigate the most agreeable solution. This holds true regardless of type or price of solution.

SOLUTION: Buying Facilitation® is a unique consulting model that facilitates change and decision making. Used with the sales model, it enters the buyer’s buying decision process to facilitate excellence, teaching buyers how to manage all the systems/change stuff they must do: recognize and manage all of the back-end, idiosyncratic, internal issues they must address before they can consider a change in the area our solution can help in (i.e. you’re not helping them determine if they need new software if you sell leadership training.). It can be used with small personal products, cold calls, help desks, complex sales, and marketing.

A non-biased change management model, BF uses a new form of listening (Listening for Systems) and a new form of direction-driven/non-biased question (Facilitative Question) to facilitate our buyer’s journey through the steps of change only they can make – change that would include our solution for those ready. Once BF has supported buyers through the steps of their decision making, we are already in place, on their team. Makes it much easier to sell.

A buying decision is a change management problem. Buyers must handle stuff, with us or without us: we’ve always sat and waited (and called, sent, called, pitched, prayed, waited) while they do this themselves. If we can collaborate with them as consultants (change facilitators, not solution providers – and this is an important distinction), we’ll serve them from the beginning, making the process more efficient for those who are the real prospects, eliminating the rest immediately, and being on board when they’re ready. [Read my book on this: www.dirtylittlesecretsbook.com]

CASE STUDY USING BUYING FACILITATION®

Let me lead you through one simple case study from a group of small business bankers I trained for one of the 3 major US banks. Their numbers after the training were quite impressive compared to the control group:

A. Control group Sales: 100 calls, 10 appointments, 2 closed sales in 11 months.
B. Buying Facilitation®: 100 calls, 37 appointments, 29 closed sales in 3 months.

While this might sound high, remember: interactions proceed differently using Buying Facilitation® because the focus isn’t to sell/push product/find a buyer (A) but to facilitate the entire buying decision path (B). We began immediately by helping them determine how they’d add a resource such as ours when they needed it:

“Hi. My name is John and I’m a small business banker from X bank. This is a sales call. I’m wondering: How are you currently adding new banking resources for those times your current bank can’t give you what you need to keep your business operating optimally?”

Here’s the thinking: Given all small businesses have some banking relationship, the only businesses who would want to meet to discuss new banking services were; 1. those who weren’t happy with their current bank, or 2. had bankers who might not be able to provide what they might need. Attempting to get an appointment because ‘we want to understand your needs’ or ‘show you our new solutions’ etc. to prove we’re “better”, or to try to convince them to change suppliers, meant we would seem to be attacking their current vendors and current relationships. Not to mention pitching into a closed environment, leaving us hoping that the spaghetti would stick somewhere. That approach got a 90% refusal to even meet. Nope. No need to meet. We’ve got a bank, thank you.

By focusing on helping them determine how they’d manage if they needed more than their current providers could supply, and by helping them figure out where they could add a new resource without disrupting current working relationships, we vastly expanded the field of possible buyers and instantly eliminated those who would never buy. It proved a winning tactic: 37 made appointments just from that opening question (up from 10). During the field visit we helped them get buy-in and consensus to bring in an additional vendor – us. Win/win. Collaboration. True facilitation.

CONCLUSION: Buying Facilitation® is not sales, not a solution placement tool, not an information gathering tool, and not a persuasion tactic. It’s not content-driven, and sellers don’t try to understand a buyer’s needs until the time when the buyers 1. have the complete set of ‘givens’ they need in order to consider all of the elements of change (including, but not limited to, buying something); 2. are ready to adapt to change and there is consensus. There’s no manipulation, no persuasion, no influencing. It’s a win/win collaboration, servant leader model: we actually facilitate buyer readiness. I can’t say this enough: buyers go through this anyway, without us. We can push stuff at them while we wait for them to show up, or we can facilitate them through the length of it. It can be your competitive edge.

We can teach people how to change/buy; we can shorten the time to buy by making their change process efficient; we are helping them determine how, and when, they need us. It’s a facilitation, not a push. And we end up with real prospects who we’ve helped get ready to buy. Not to mention the collaboration, trust, respect, and integrity built into the interaction creates lasting relationships when used throughout the relationship.

The good news is that you can still sell – but use your time to sell to those who are indeed ready willing and able, rather than waste 90% of your time trying to manipulate, pitch, persuade, push, ‘get through the door’, network, write content, etc. You can help those who CAN buy get their ducks in a row and quickly eliminate those who will never buy because it will become obvious to you both. I’m not suggesting you don’t sell; I’m merely suggesting you spend your selling time only on those who WILL buy, and set that up by first facilitating prospective buyers down their own buying decision path.

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

March 29th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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Servent Leadership

I 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 Quaker, 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, thereby restricting the full set of possible responses. Obviously this causes flawed data gathering, missed opportunities, resistance, loss of success, and damaged relationships.
  • With our subjective listening filters, biases, assumptions, triggers, and habituated neural pathways, normal listening restricts us to hearing mainly what our brains want us to hear. Obviously, our range of understanding is restricted accordingly.
  • 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. It’s just not possible for information gathering or sharing to elicit permanent change, regardless of its efficacy.
  • Influencers tend to focus on Behavior Change, forgetting that Behaviors are merely translations of our Beliefs – Beliefs in action if you will. Once we enable Others to change their own unconscious Beliefs, their Behavior will automatically change. And we will have served them.
  • Too many influencers (coaches, parents, sellers, leaders, etc.) seek methods to push their agendas using convincing, manipulating, explaining, advising, etc. strategies meant to influence, manipulate, modify, correct, what we think Others should do, causing resistance in all but a few.

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, ignoring the Other’s unique choices.

We assume that we have the moral high ground, that because our intention is honorable, 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 had the right to push and manipulate.

We forget that by assuming we have Another’s answers we end up taking their power away, assuredly biasing the direction of their growth journey, and not serving them at all. And this actually causes the resistance we receive, and then we blame them – prospects seem ‘stupid’, patients ‘don’t care’ about their health, students ‘don’t want’ to learn, and clients ‘won’t listen’ to us – for resisting.

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 Others to change. We provide all the scientific evidence, relate a story of someone who has died, or offer different approaches to stop. We know that a company or group really, really needs our solution. And yet they persist with failing results rather than change.

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 conventional practices do not effectively manage the unconscious that would need to buy-in to, and accommodate for, any change.

Let’s start with our attempts to have Another change a behavior. Our failures are due to the ways our brains have created and maintained our status quo:

  1. Threatening the system: Our status quo – our Mental Models, our unique ‘system’ of rules, Beliefs, values, experiences, culture, etc. – has become habituated and normalized over time. This system that has developed the Behaviors we think need to be changed but which actually 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 Beliefs in action. When we try to change nothing but the Behavior, we push against the entire system. Regardless of the efficacy of a different solution or a dire need, unless the change comes from the within the system (i.e. not an outsider’s brilliant suggestions) 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, 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 intuition and professed knowledge to push the change we want. But for any change to occur, for the Other’s Beliefs to shift in a way that causes Behaviors to change, the system must take specific, albeit unconscious steps: to include the change into normal operating procedures, end up with minimal disruption, and achieve buy-in for any new behavior change.

Our current approach leads to a high degree of bias, resistance, and failure as we promote changes that challenge Another’s status quo. We don’t realize that anything ‘new’ must fit with the status quo or it gets rejected. 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 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 our suggestions challenge their Systems Congruence.

And unfortunately, as doctors and sellers, trainers and consultants, parents and coaches – as influencers – we don’t have the skills to do more than attempt to cause the change WE think is needed, 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. We need new skills that facilitate Others, and a switch in perspective to enabling Others to discover their own answers by facilitating Another’s change, offering real leadership.

I’ve spent my life coding and training the unconscious route through to choice and change. Although I’ve used it in the sales industry (Buying Facilitation®), it’s actually a generic Change Facilitation model that offers the tools to enable Others to discover their own Excellence, an Excellence that complies with 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 are the only ones who can effect their own change. An outsider (regardless of intent, need, or efficacy of message) can never, ever, fully understand the inner workings of Another’s unconscious system. 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, 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 lead Others through their own trajectory of change to 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 for Another. They have 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 misunderstanding, 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?.]

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 through to buy-in and Systems Congruence so change is comfortably adopted.

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

March 15th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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training

Did you ever wonder why training fails so often? When important material, meant to improve or educate, is not learned or acted upon? Why perfectly smart people keep doing the same things that didn’t work the first time?

The problem is the training model. Current training models are designed to offer and present data, not help folks learn. Let me explain.

Using conventional training models, only those who are predisposed, only those who have beliefs aligned with the new material will learn. Others may endeavor to learn during their classroom study but may not permanently adopt it. The problem isn’t the value of information or the eagerness of the learner: It’s a problem with both the training model itself and the way learners learn. It’s Learning is a systems/change problem.

HOW WE LEARN

We all live our lives, stabilized and congruent because of our unique, internal systems, ruled by our mental models (rules, beliefs, history etc.) that form the foundation of who we are and determine our choices, behaviors and habits.

Indeed, our behaviors are the vehicles that represent these internal systems – our beliefs in action, if you will. So as a Buddhist I wouldn’t learn to shoot a gun, but if someone were to try to kill my family I’d shift the hierarchy of my beliefs to put ‘family’ above ‘Buddhist’ and ‘shooting a gun’ might be within the realm of possibility. Obviously, without shifting my beliefs, I would resist information about guns.

Because anything new is a threat to our unconscious, habitual and carefully organized internal system (part of our limbic brain), we instinctively defend ourselves against anything ‘foreign’ that might seek to enter.

I have spent decades unpacking change and the learning change entails. I’ve realized that learning doesn’t start from outside, from knowledge or information. For real change (like learning something new) to occur, our system must buy-in to the new or it will be automatically resisted – not because it’s wrong or bad, but because there is no ‘system’ in place in our brains to make sense of it.

And here is where current training models fail to engage learning. Our brains are programmed to maintain our status quo and resist anything new regardless of the efficacy or importance of the new material. Much like a sales pitch, training offers good data – and learners, like buyers, may not be able to congruently make the brain change the new information requires.

But there is another way to go about training that incorporates real, systemic change. Let’s begin by examining the training model itself.

HOW WE TRAIN

The current training model assumes that if new material

  • is recognized as important, rational, and useful,
  • is offered in a logical, informative, interesting way,
  • allows time for experience and practice,
  • offers enough experiential learning,

it will become accepted and habituated. But these assumptions are faulty. At an unconscious level, this model attempts to push something foreign into a closed system (our status quo) that is perfectly happy as it is: it might be adopted briefly, but if it opposes our habituated norm, it will show up as a threat and be resisted. This is the same problem faced when sellers attempt to place a new solution, or doctors attempt to change the habits of ill patients.

Until or unless the unconscious system that holds our beliefs and values and habits in place is ready, willing, and able to adopt the new material, any change will not be permanent and learners will resist. Effective training must change beliefs first.

LEARNING FACILITATION

To avoid resistance and support adoption, training must enable

  1. buy-in from the belief/system status;
  2. the system to discover its own areas of lack and create an acceptable opening for change

before the new material is offered.

I had a problem to resolve when designing my first Buying Facilitation® training program in 1983. Because my content ran counter to an industry norm (sales), I had to help learners overcome a set of standardized beliefs and accepted processes endemic to the field. To accomplish this, I developed a learning model to begin the process of changing core, unconscious, beliefs.

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

  • Day 1 helps learners recognize the components of their unconscious status quo while identifying areas where new skills would be necessary for greater excellence. Once they recognize exactly what is missing among their current skill sets, and they determine what, specifically, they need to add to achieve excellence, then they are ready to learn. I do not begin by offering the new information; I begin with facilitating brain change. After all, if learners don’t have a place, don’t have neural pathways and circuits to adopt anything new, they won’t learn new information.
  • Day 2 enables learners to create a route in their brains – a new neural pathway – to congruently supplement their current skills, then tests for, and manages, acceptance and resistance. Only then does new knowledge get introduced and practiced.

Course material is designed with ‘learning’ in mind (rather than content sharing/behavior change), and looks quite different from conventional training. For example Day 1 uses no desks, no notes, and no lectures and focuses on brain acceptance. I teach learners how to enlist their unconscious to facilitate unconscious buy-in for new material.

Whether it’s my training model or your own, just ask yourself: Do you want to train? Or have someone learn? They are two different activities.

____________

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

February 15th, 2021

Posted In: Listening, News

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Being Right

While researching my book What? I discovered that when listening to others, we naturally assume we understand what’s meant and don’t question that assumption. But due to the way sound vibrations enter our ears, we actually only accurately hear some unknowable percentage of what is being said.

Here’s what happens that makes accurate understanding so difficult:

  1. We only retain words we hear for approximately 3 seconds, and since spoken words have no spaces between them, our brains must also listen for breaks in breath, tone, and rhythm to differentiate words and meaning.
  2. Throughout our lives, the neural pathways we use when hearing others speak become habituated and normalized, limiting and biasing what we hear as per our comfort and beliefs.
  3. When listening, our brain automatically and haphazardly deletes incoming ideas that are foreign to our beliefs.
  4. After deleting the vibrations that don’t match our historic circuits, our brains fail to tell us what’s been deleted.
  5. Whatever is left after deletions is what we adamantly assume we have heard.

A simple example of this just happened today when I was introduced to someone:

Joe: Hey V. I’d like you to meet my friend Sharon Drew.

V: Hi Sharon.

SDM: Actually, my first name is Sharon Drew.

V: Oh. I don’t know anyone who calls themselves by their first name AND last name.

SDM: Neither do I.

V: But you just told me that’s how you refer to yourself!

Because a double first name was foreign to her, her brain used a habituated pathway for ‘name’, deleting both how Joe introduced us and my correction. She exacerbated the problem by then assuming – as per her habituated knowledge about names – I offered first and last name, again ignoring my explanation. She went on to further assume she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her. Curiosity wasn’t an option. She believed what her brain told her, and acted on the assumption that she was ‘right’.

ASSUMPTIONS RESTRICT AUTHENTIC COMMUNICATION

We all do this. Using conventional listening practices, using our normalized subjectivity that we’ve finely honed during our lifetimes, it’s pretty difficult to accurately hear what’s meant without making assumptions; although we prefer to hear accurately, our brains are just set up to routinize and habituate most of what we do and hear – it makes the flow of our daily activities and relationships easy.

But there is a downside: we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff when we believe we’ve heard accurately deeming any correction ‘wrong’.

So: our brain tells us what it wants us to hear and doesn’t tell us what it left out or altered, potentially getting the context, the outcome, the description, or the communication, wrong.

Sometimes we assume the speaker meant something they didn’t mean at all and then act on flawed information. In business it gets costly when, for example, implementations don’t get done accurately, or people are deemed prospects’ and put into the sales pipeline when it could be discovered on the first call that they were never prospects at all.

Assumptions cost us greatly, harming relationships, business success, and health:

  • Sellers assume prospects are buyers when they ‘hear’ a ‘need’ that matches their solution and end up wasting a huge amount of time chasing prospects who will never buy;
  • Consultants assume they know what a client needs from discussions with a few top decision makers while potentially overlooking some unknown influencers or influences, causing resistance to change when they try to push their outcomes into a system that doesn’t yet know how to change;
  • Decision scientists assume they gather accurate data from the people that hired them and discount important data held by employees lower down the management chain, inadvertently skewering the results and making implementation difficult;
  • Doctors, lawyers, dentists assume problems that may not be accurate merely because some of the symptoms are familiar, potentially causing harm – especially when these assumptions keep them from finding out the real problems; they also offer important advice that clients/patients don’t heed when the patients themselves assume their own ability to take care of themselves;
  • Coaches assume clients mean something they are not really saying or skewering the focus of the conversation, ending up biasing the outcome with inappropriate questions that lead the client away from the real issues that never get resolved;
  • Influencers and leaders assume they are ‘heard’ when offering reasons or rational behind behavior change activities, and blame the Other for resisting, ignoring, or sabotaging, when if approached from a Change Facilitation format first, people will be happy to behave in their best interests.

Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. The belief that sharing, pushing, presenting, offering ‘good’ (rational, necessary, tested) information will cause behavior change has proven faulty time and time again, across industries.

LISTEN IN OBSERVER/COACH TO AVOID ASSUMPTIONS

It’s possible to avoid the pitfalls of assumptions and hear what’s being meant by taking the Observer/Coach role (listening dissociatively from the ‘ceiling’ for the metamessage, not the story). From this witness position, it’s actually possible to notice the reality of a situation without most of the biases.

It’s the difference between being in front of a tree and noticing veins on the leaves (listening for content) while failing to notice a fire 2 acres away, vs being on a nearby mountaintop (listening dissociatively for the metamessage) noticing a fire in the forest, but not seeing the veins on the leaves. Both content and metamessage listening are necessary, of course, but at different times in a communication.

I contend we listen first in a dissociative way when new information, a new relationship, collaborative dialogues, or fine data gathering is necessary. Doing so makes it possible to listen in a part of the brain that doesn’t have the habituated neural pathways and filters that our normal listening involves. In other words, we won’t need to make assumptions.

In my book What? there are chapters devoted to explaining how we make the assumptions we make, and how to resolve the problem. It’s an important skill set that we all could use. I don’t know about you, but I personally get so annoyed with myself when I make an assumption that proves wrong, and I lose the possibility of what might have been.

____________

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

January 18th, 2021

Posted In: Listening

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During the three years I spent researching and writing a book on closing the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, I learned how ubiquitous listening challenges are: we have a hard time understanding each other.

It’s not because we don’t try, or because we don’t care. It’s because we can’t. Our historic personal experiences, mental models, and cultures makes it almost impossible to accurately hear others outside of our own ingrained biases, assumptions, and triggers. Of course we want to, and we certainly try. But our brains actually keep us from translating another’s words accurately.

OUR BRAIN CIRCUITS INTERPRET FOR US

Here’s the deal: our brains won’t let us listen without bias. With our restricting viewpoints and hot-buttons, histories and assumptions we communicate using the only baseline we have – our world views. This causes us to pose biased questions and make faulty assumptions, overlooking the possibility that our Communication Partner (CP) may not have similar references and can’t translate our messages accurately. For some reason, we all assume that using the same words implies we’re defining them the same way. But that’s not true at all.

Unfortunately, our brain causes the problem. It translates what’s been said into what’s comfortable or habitual for us regardless of how different the translation might be from the speaker’s intent.

Here’s what happens: Words enter our brains as meaningless vibrations (literally puffs of air) and get sent to synapses and circuits that are close-enough miracles. When there is any type of mismatch, our brain doesn’t realize it has misunderstood, or mistranslated the Speaker’s intent and actually discards the difference between what was said and how our unconsciously selected circuits interpret it! As a result, we might 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. The resulting misunderstandings, misinterpretations, and flawed presumptions cause communication and relationship problems throughout our working and personal lives.

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 the error, and make a concerted effort to connect. This begins with asking:

Did I hear you accurately? I’d like to repeat what I think I heard, and please tell me if it’s accurate or correct me. Thanks.

The next step is to make sure there is common ground. And here is where it gets tricky: how is common ground possible when folks are from different cultures and backgrounds? How is collaboration and mutual understanding possible, especially with folks outside of our normal personal or professional tribes?

HOW TO DO HOW

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

December 14th, 2020

Posted In: Listening, Sales

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