Many learning tools and programs provide tools for Influencers – coaches, sellers, negotiators, leaders, healthcare providers, managers, and consultants – to help Others make the changes they seek. Coaching programs teach how to recognize what the client is ‘really’ saying and offer the best techniques to help. Doctors offer reasons and rationale as to why patients need to change daily regimens. Negotiators seek the BATNA. But all tools have one thing in common: they assume that the Outsider can, and should, be the one leading the change.I believe we’re focusing on the wrong outcome. I believe that because of everyone’s unconscious, subjective, and normalized biases and identity-based beliefs, there is no way to know what’s going on in Another’s unconscious. In other words, it’s a risk for Influencers to be the arbiters of congruent change in Another.
Because the basis of decisions are beliefs, and often personal beliefs are unconscious, I believe to facilitate change we must take on a wholly different job: I suggest we facilitate others to their own change via their unconscious drivers to help them develop new, permanent behaviors.
I suggest we consider ourselves Facilitators – neutral navigators who enable Others to discover, and design, their own answers, their own unique brand of excellence. But we need an additional skill set and focus. Let me explain.
OUR SUBJECTIVITY IMPEDES SUCCESS
The problem with outside Influencers is twofold: our subjectivity causes potentially erroneous outcomes (1-4 below); the outside-in approach runs the risk of stripping clients of their own capability and self-leadership (5):
1. Both client and influencer listen through unconscious, subjective biases and mis-hear, mis-interpret, mis-represent, misunderstand, confuse, resist, and sabotage accordingly. That’s just a fact: our communication partners rarely fully or accurately understand what their communication partner intends.
When researching my book on this subject (see What? did you really say what I think I heard?) I was quite shocked (and annoyed) to learn how little we correctly understand of what we hear regardless of our training, knowledge, intuition, attention, or intent.
Inadvertently, each end of a communication is mired in subjective listening biases and cannot – cannot- hear the Other without some element of partiality because our thoughts and ideas come from, and are restricted by, our historic brain pathways. In other words, we’re all naturally biased. And because of the way our brain interprets incoming words, we have no indication that what we think we’ve heard may be inaccurate. Net, net we end up not knowing what we’re missing and have no idea what we might have misunderstood or mistranslated.
I must admit I was quite annoyed to learn this, believing passionately in my ability to ‘really listen.’ Unfortunately, our brains don’t allow it. In his new book, The Undoing Project Michael Lewis says: “…the mind’s best trick…was to lead its owner to a feeling of certainty about inherently uncertain things.” (pg 42) “Confirmation bias is…insidious because you don’t even realize it’s happening” (pg 40). We actually, unwittingly, hear what we want to hear. And this, says Lewis, is especially true of Experts.
2. Because Influencers unwittingly pose biased questions according to what they think should be achieved, they may potentially miss information necessary to develop a strategy, or understand a full problem set. In other words, discovery and success might be restricted and biased by the Influencer’s judgment (‘intuition’ and ‘gut reaction’) and may overlook capturing data from clients with a different set of beliefs and biases.
3. Our status quo – the internal, unconscious, subjective place that holds the problem to be solved – is systemic: we will resist change unless the new matches the underlying beliefs that maintain it. Any proposed change – new ideas, advice, behaviors – needs buy-in from the system that created and maintains the problem we seek to fix (status quo) and areas that will be affected by the change.
When systems are asked to change without buy-in, they will resist or sabotage (regardless of the efficacy of the change) rather than be disrupted. And don’t be fooled: any change demands a reconfiguration of any number of seemingly unrelated internal issues.
4. Information, requests, facts, questions, potentially reroute our client toward our biased goals, potentially missing their own. Our advice, ideas, new activities, etc. become little more than a push against a system designed to maintain itself. And of course, it’s resisted.
5. We all recognize that only people can change themselves. And yet Influencers try to ‘understand’ or ‘manage change’ (i.e. conventional questions) based on their ‘intuition’, ‘gut’ feel, historic experiences, and behavioral approaches.
But this outside-in approach is successful only when the Other’s system shows up ready, willing, and able to shift. Instead, it’s possible to guide them through their own change.
WHAT ARE BEHAVIORS?
Behaviors are the action, and formal representation of, our Beliefs – our Beliefs in action, as it were: without reorganizing the intricate system of beliefs, history, and rules that have created the problem, any requested behavioral change runs the risk of being resisted. Having a dialogue based on need or problem-solving – all behavioral – cannot effect change without causing resistance.
But Behaviors will automatically change once the Beliefs change. As a very simplistic example, when I began seeing myself as a Healthy Person, I began going to the gym on a regular schedule, even though I hate it. If I had started out going to the gym because my coach suggested it was healthy, I would have stopped going because there was no buy-in. I’ve actually developed a How of Change™ model that teaches how to permanently change habits and behaviors from the underlying Beliefs.
Change comes from the unconscious, from neural circuits and 86 billion neurons that have stored our history, our ideas, our behaviors, since birth. Our brains actually consider behaviors as meaningless expressions of a set of neural calculations. And you can’t permanently change behaviors by trying to change behaviors.
WHAT’S OUR JOB
Facilitators can help Others make their own unconscious changes that are permanent, congruent and happily accepted. Let me respond to the original list above:
- Let’s become Neutral Navigators and help Others get to their own route to change that avoids inadvertent, biased, subjective blocks.
- Instead of posing biased questions or gathering data on our own assumptions let’s lead Others to where their answers are stored. I’ve developed a new form of question I call Facilitative Questions that direct the brain to the precise circuits to find them.
- Since everyone’s status quo is self-maintaining, let’s enable the Other to discover why, how, and when to change. That way we avoid overlaying our subjective biases that might cause them to miss their real inflection point.
- By waiting to offer ideas, suggestions, recommendations, and advice until the Other is ready, we’ll then be heard without resistance, and new will be accepted and bought into. It might not look like we imagined, but change will happen idiosyncratically, permanently, and congruently.
- As Facilitators and Servant Leaders, we can enable congruent, permanent, effortless change, and people can be the designers of their own transformation.
Let me suggest that no matter how good you are, your current skill sets only work on those who show up with beliefs, values, ideas, and change-capability similar to yours; those whose beliefs differ or cannot alter their unconscious drivers won’t achieve long-term success. This is where/how you lose clients, or your implementations fail. Let’s teach them how to recognize and recalibrate so any change they require can be congruent, adaptive, and excellent.
Facilitators hold different beliefs than Influencers:
- People can only change themselves. A Facilitator’s job is not to understand or fix, but to enable Others to make their own unconscious, systemic, appropriate change. Otherwise we take away their power.
- It’s necessary to listen for systems – for the underlying metamessages – rather than for content which is subjective, incomplete and murky. So ixnay your curiosity-based, biased questions. Remember: conventional listening is wholly subjective.
- It’s important to enable Others to go down their own route to change – not yours. You’re just there to facilitate their excellence along the route of their own change process.
- You’ll need a new toolkit. If you aspire to facilitating real change, you’ve got to save your information gathering, or timelines, or any of the tools you’ve been using until toward the end of the exchange, once your client has discovered their belief-based, unconscious, drivers.
I’ve invented a new form of question (Facilitative Questions) that leads people through their brain circuitry to find their unconscious answers. These, along with listening for systems and assuming Other have their own answers, will go a long way to truly serving.
- I’ve developed a model that does this (Buying Facilitation®) that I’ve been teaching in the sales and coaching field for 35 years. Read some of the articles up on my blog www.sharon-drew.com.
HOW FACILITATION WORKS: CASE STUDY
Here’s a simple case study. I recently got a call from a coach friend Joe who works with companies to help their staff be ‘better’. Joe’s client Susan retained him to help Louis who, with a long history as a terrific employee, couldn’t seem to do his newly assigned job although he knew he’d be fired if he didn’t comply. She wanted Joe to coach Louis in an attempt to save his job.
After 3 months of working together, Joe had the same non-compliance problems with Louis – he’d promise to do something and then not do it – and before getting him fired he figured we’d talk to see if there was anything he missed. We agreed to do a role play, with him playing Louis. I asked that he take on Louis’s personality using the data he’d gleaned from their coaching, and use his best guesses as to how Louis would respond if I posed different questions than his. Here was our role play.
SDM – Hey Louis. Before we begin, I’d love to know how you feel about Susan assigning me to coach you without your consent. [Note to Influencers: having clients who are prisoners, who have not agreed to the process, sets up automatic resistance.]
LOUIS – Well, I would have loved to have chosen my own coach, but I’m aware Susan is unhappy with me, and I’d like to keep my job, so I’m happy to comply. I realize everyone wants to help me.
SDM – If you find you don’t like working with me let me know and we’ll find you someone you’re more comfortable with.
LOUIS – Thank you. I appreciate it.
SDM – So I hear that Susan asked you to take on some new tasks that you’ve agreed to but so far haven’t yet achieved successfully. [Presumptive Summary] And given your history of being an excellent employee, I’m sort of surprised. What would you need to know or believe differently to find it easier to do this new job or discovery clarity where you find yourself resistant? [Facilitative Question that avoids blame, confines the two ends of the possibility spectrum, points him specifically to where to seek the corresponding beliefs and unconscious drivers in his brain, begins to get him into his Witness place to see the situation from above without bias, and avoids judgment.]
LOUIS – I’d need to know what success would look like. I don’t feel any resistance – I’m happy to do it, but no one has shown me what it would look like if I was achieving success as well as I do in my current job. I was hired originally to do X because I do it well. Now they’re asking me to do stuff I can’t do as well. What if I fail? I’m not competent in this new job. They say it doesn’t matter for a while, but what does that mean? What if I take too long? Plus will the person taking over my current job do it as well as I do it?
SDM – It sounds like you’ve made promises to do the new job without understanding what doing them at your preferred level of excellence would look like, or what failure looks like. And I hear how important an excellent job performance is to you – especially your discomfort at leaving your current job to someone who might not do it well. And you certainly don’t know the expected timeline for you to be excellent. [Presumptive Summary.]
LOUIS – Right. I guess when I promised to do the new job I meant it. But I just realized I have no picture of what ‘good job’ looks like, or the time frame I’ve got to get good. [The problem is his lack of vision of excellence and fear of failure, not willingness.]
SDM – And it sounds to me like this is not a conversation you’ve had with Susan or I’m sure she would have happily complied. [Presumptive Summary] What has stopped you from telling Susan you’d need to better understand what ‘excellence’ looks like, her expectations for your learning curve, and how to leave your current job in good hands? Or even to ask for someone who now does the new job excellently to coach you through your daily activities? [Facilitative Questions mixed with summary statement and information he needs.]
LOUIS – If I ask her what a good job looks like and her expectations of my learning curve, tell her I’m afraid I won’t initially be as good at the new job as I am with my current job, and my need to have my current job handled well, we could set up stages of learning and timelines for me and I’d be comfortable moving forward and possibly failing.
This dialogue would have occurred as our first coaching session and might have only needed a quick follow up. Joe was surprised at the outcome, and the differences between our outside-in/inside-out approaches. He certainly was surprised at how much data he had unconsciously gleaned from Louis during his conversations but hadn’t known to use.
“I helped him ‘do’ what Susan wanted him to do, and never considered helping him figure out how to manage the problem his own way. The answers I found myself giving you were a surprise to me, even though I suspect they were pretty accurate.”
In his session, Joe had concentrated on finding out why Louis wasn’t compliant and creating timelines of activity – the doing – without helping Louis recognize and manage his own unconscious beliefs and drivers which biased his behaviors. But I didn’t need to know why or why not he didn’t do what he promised – it’s all subjective, and ultimately a guess. I enabled him to find the place where he made decisions to act/not act – the real problem – and then lead him through to his own action plan that he would obviously be congruent with.
Here’s the question: do you want to lead the change? Or enable the change to happen congruently? You’d need to trust that the best outcome would be achieved – most likely different from the one you envisage – and put aside your ego, your need to be The Problem Solver and professional tools for a bit. If you want to truly serve, help Others discover their own path.
Serving Others is an honor. Let’s use our position to enable Others to change in their own ways and be their own Teachers. They do indeed have their own answers if we can help them find where they are stored. We might think we have an answer for them, and sometimes we do. But that’s not the point. Let’s become Servant Leaders.