Posts

Sharon Drew Morgen

The Business of Kindness

Lately, while listening to an NPR program, I heard a group of business people discussing kindness.

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

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

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

How Kindness Can Effect Our Bottom Line

The costs of degrading and ignoring employees and making customers conform to our money-saving practices cost us high turnover, a paucity of fresh ideas and new leaders, and the need to hire more supervisory managers to handle the fallout. I know a company here in Austin with a reputation of treating employees so punitively that only naïve out-of-towners apply for the many available jobs.

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.

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

1. Kindness with customers:

a. In Portland recently, 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!

  • Takeaway: the random acts of kindness I found throughout Portland have led me to prepare 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 ran a tech support company in London with 48 tech folks. Annually, I gave them $2000 to take a week off to renew themselves by attending any course they wanted (photography, cooking). I also required them to take off one day a month to do volunteer work. And at least four times I year went to their 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. As a side note, I often 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 whenever they heard rumors of new business and I was in place by the time the vendor delivered the product.

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

  • Takeaway: revenue doubled annually; I had a 42% net profit.

The How of Kindness: Using Listening Skills Enhance Relationships

I believe the process of listening is one of the skills that will 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. My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard? explains whatever we listen for determines what we hear. So rather than merely listen for problems, we must listen for the patterns in the problems: Lots of turnover? What are we ignoring that can be resolved? Bottom line decreasing due to competition? What are clients telling us that we haven’t been listening for?

Through the years, with clients and staff, coachees and colleagues, I have found the biggest obstacle to authentic communication is how imperfectly we hear others. Far too often we enter conversations with a bias 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?
  • 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.”

How can we monetize kindness with staff and clients? It’s possible to make money AND be kind. Let’s begin the conversation.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? www.didihearyou.com explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]

Sharon Drew Morgen

Speaker or Listener: Who’s Responsible For Misunderstandings?

There’s been an age-old argument in the communication field: who’s at fault if a misunderstanding occurs – the Speaker communicating badly, or the Listener misunderstanding?

Let’s look at some facts:

  1. Speaking is an act of translating what’s going on internally into communication that enables others to understand an intent – choosing the most appropriate words for that particular listener in that particular situation. But the act of choosing is unconscious and may not render a full or accurate representation of what is meant.
  2. Listeners translate what they hear through a series of unconscious filters (biases, assumptions, triggers, habits, imperfect memory) formed over their lives by their:
    • world view,
    • beliefs,
    • similar situations,
    • historic exchanges with the same speaker,
    • biases on entering the conversation (like sellers listening exclusively for need).

    What a listener hears is fraught with so much unconscious filtering that their ability to hear accurately what’s meant is untrustworthy, except, possibly, when speaking with someone known over time.

  3. According to David Bellos in his excellent book Is That a Fish In Your Ear?, no sentence contains all of the information we need to translate it. As listeners, are we translating accurately? What parts of what we hear are biased?
  4. Unfortunately, too often we expect listeners to understand us when we believe we have spoken clearly. Listeners might accurately hear the words spoken (depending on many unconscious factors and filters), but it’s another story when listeners attempt to understand what’s meant because our brains don’t tell us what it has unconsciously left out or interpreted subjectively. So while a speaker might say ABC, we might think ABL was said, and adamantly, stubbornly believe we’re correct when we’re not.

    Since communication involves a bewildering set of conscious and unconscious choices on both sides, accuracy becomes dependent upon each communication partner mitigating bias and disengaging from assumptions; the odds of communication partners accurately understanding the full extent of intended meaning in conversation is unlikely. It’s quite a complicated mess of factors and can cause lost business, failed projects, and mangled relationships.

    My new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?  focuses on listening: how we mishear, misunderstand, and otherwise misinterpret, and where and how the gap between what’s said and what’s heard occurs. I even came up with ways to avoid misunderstanding altogether.

    While researching and writing the book (which took me 3 years)  I realized that the responsibility for effective communication is heavily weighted in the court of the listener. If listeners don’t have skills to catch or prevent their biases or unhook from their unconscious, subjective filters, or at least realize when they might have misinterpreted what’s been said, the speaker’s words and intent are  moot: they may be misconstrued regardless of their accuracy or how ‘clear’ a speaker thinks she is.

    The listener is the wild card given the number of biases he brings to the table. So as a rule, after a speaker speaks, she must then become an alert listener herself to make sure the response received is within the bounds of acceptability. Or check in with her communication partner to agree on mutual understanding. Given there are so many subjective, unconscious filters on both sides, it’s amazing we communicate at all.


    About the Author

    Sharon Drew Morgen is a visionary, original thinker, and thought leader in change management and decision facilitation. She works as a coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant, and has authored 9 books including the NYTimes Business BestsellerSelling with Integrity. Morgen developed the Buying Facilitation® method (www.sharondrewmorgen.com) in 1985 to facilitate change decisions, notably to help buyers buy and help leaders and coaches affect permanent change. Her newest book What? www.didihearyou.com explains how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard. She can be reached at [email protected]

Sharon Drew Morgen

Assumptions: Why Being Right Is Wrong

While researching my new book What? I discovered that when listening to others, we naturally assume we understand what’s meant and don’t question our assumption. Yet the filters our brain uses to hear what others mean to convey preclude accuracy, leading to faulty assumptions. Essentially, here’s what happens that makes accuracy so difficult (for more detail and research references read my free digital book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?):

  1. We only retain words we hear for approximately 3 seconds.
  2. On direct listening, our brain automatically and haphazardly deletes portions of what is foreign to our typical thinking.
  3. Our brain then takes what’s left over after the initial deletion and seeks an historic match (from a prior conversation our brain deems similar), and deletes whatever is divergent from that match.
  4. Our brain then takes the remainder from that deletion and filters it through our beliefs, values, filters, habits and memory.
  5. Whatever is left after deletions in steps 2, 3, 4 is what we adamantly assume we have heard.

A simple example of this just happened today. I was introduced as ‘Sharon Drew’ to a friend’s friend followed by this dialogue:

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, she put it in an accustomed category, deleting how she heard the introduction, and then wrongly assumed a typical a first name/last name configuration. She exacerbated the problem by then assuming she was right and I was wrong when I corrected her.

Assumptions Restrict Authentic Communication 

We all do this. Using conventional listening practice, it’s pretty difficult to hear what is meant without making assumptions. As a result, we end up restricting, harming, or diminishing authentic communication, and proceed to self-righteously huff and puff about what we believe is ‘right’, potentially getting the context, the outcome, the description, or the communication, wrong. Or we assume the speaker meant something they didn’t mean at all. In business it gets costly when we wrongly assume a task we were never asked to perform.

I recently got a reproaching note from an annoyed colleague when, among several faulty assumptions he made that were far, far from my intent (and in one case making an assumption about my behavior that in fact was a direct response to something he did!), I didn’t behave according to his beliefs: I had asked if he wanted to ‘preview’ my new book before it came out, and he felt my subsequent behaviors insufficient given my request that he ‘review’ the book. When I pointed out his faulty assumption he got quite bumptious until I sent him back to the original email. It cost us both a possible business collaboration.

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 ignoring some of the important influencers, causing resistance 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, layers, dentists assume foundational, standard certainties that may not be true in any unique patient/client situation and don’t get to the real issues, potentially causing harm;
  • 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.

Using normal listening habits we can’t avoid making assumptions. But we can supersede our brains by taking the Observer/Coach role and listening for the metamessages – patterns, system, structure – of what is said rather than the story line or content (which is what our brains use to acquire the assumptions).


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.

Sharon Drew Morgen

Getting To Agreement

We all theoretically recognize that everyone has the right to their own beliefs. But in situations where we have great passion (or the moral high ground, as we would like to believe) we have difficulty being generous with those who disagree with us. Wouldn’t it be nice to persuade others to see the world as we see it? What’s causing the disparity between ideas, goals and convictions?

Beliefs

People’s viewpoints, values, and world view come from their core beliefs, acquired through the experiences of our lives: from parents and education; religion and what we do for a living; what our parents taught us (implicitly and explicitly) and what we learned from friends. The conglomeration of these experiences create our political views, who we marry, how we raise our children, how we view the world, how we behave in relationships and where we live. I remember in 2000 I called my then-28-year-old son – living in the swing state of Colorado – on election day. I casually asked him what he was doing that day. He replied:

“You wouldn’t be calling me to ask who I’m voting for, would you?”

“Um, well, maybe.”

“Mom: You dragged me to rallies and marches, made me hold signs and go to sit-ins, and had activists over for dinner who became our friends. How could I vote differently than you?”

Our beliefs become the foundation of how we decide/act/live/socialize daily, making it so endemic that it’s hard to fathom that anyone would think differently. As a result of our orientation, anything said outside our beliefs gets runs the risk of being disrespected, disregarded, and discounted, and we often disenfranchise those who don’t believe or act as we do. Those of us who have strong beliefs about the environment, for example, may become angry when others don’t believe we are harming the earth. But if it were so obvious to everyone, if everyone shared the same beliefs, we would all be in agreement.

And so we attempt to persuade those who haven’t yet ‘seen the light’ to agree with us. But getting into agreement with folks whose ideas run counter to our beliefs is difficult: regardless of how rational our argument or the source of data we share, we are heard through biased ears.

Hearing Agreement

It’s possible that by pushing our own agendas and not focusing on what might be common values and consensus, we are perpetuating harm and causing others to defend their beliefs. Isn’t there a middle road to agreement?

Change needs consensus: win-win is key (we know there is no such thing as win/lose). To enable change and facilitate agreement, we must discover common beliefs. NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP) does this by ‘chunking up’ – looking at a broader view beyond biases to more generic beliefs. So instead of focusing on Global Warming, for instance, a chunk up might be discussing ways to diminish natural disasters so less people will be harmed.

A key elements to facilitating agreement is hearing without bias. I’ve just published a book called What? Did you really say what I think I heard? that explains how difficult it is to effectively hear others without the filters, biases, assumptions, and triggers that maintain our world view.

What if we enter conversations listening for common values instead of the typical focus on differences? What if we live with Ands and not Buts? What if we listen for words or ideas that would enable working collaboratively, or finding win/wins? If all we change is how we can hear each other to enable agreement somewhere, we might just be able to discover places of agreement and help us all make the world a better place.

But listening without bias isn’t natural or easy. Hence I’ve made What? free to enable everyone to share the material and begin discussing how we can disengage from our listening biases and wend our way to agreement. Get the book on www.didihearyou.com. For a more robust solution, contact me at [email protected] and we can discuss how to use the learning tools I’ve developed to both assess and guide you and your colleagues through change and choice.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.

Sharon Drew Morgen

Avoiding Resistance

Every year, with the best will in the world, we make New Year’s resolutions to make some sort of change, like exercising more or eating healthier. We start off with great gusto and determination, yet by February we begin making excuses to avoid the gym, or convince ourselves pizza would be great for dinner. What happens? We’re approaching change in the wrong way. But we can easily make it right.

Beliefs Define Behaviors

Here’s the problem. Within each of us are long-held rules and principles, created and maintained by our idiosyncratic belief structure. I call this internal, unconscious collection our system, and (as explained in my new book What? Did you really say what I think I heard?), this system determines our behaviors (including how we respond to/hear others, how we choose friends, our politics and religion) and our behaviors are our beliefs in action. We rarely behave, communicate, or decide in ways that offend our beliefs because we would then be incongruent.

It all operates effortlessly until we attempt to drive a behavior that runs counter to our beliefs – and then we get resistance as our system attempts to maintain balance. [I’ve written about it exhaustively in Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.] This is why people and teams won’t execute good decisions, users don’t use new software, and why implementations fail: we are ignoring our accepted practice and pushing unapproved behaviors into a system that must resist to maintain it’s status quo and balance.

Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

New Year’s resolutions seek behavior change with no accompanying belief change, potentially causing their own resistance. When my coaching clients seek change, we begin by understanding the systemic baseline beliefs and getting agreement from the system to add acceptable behaviors that will match those beliefs. Here’s a personal example: I’m a healthy person and strongly believe one of my modalities toward health is exercise. But I hate hate hate the gym (Did I say I hate the gym?). I hate it so much I count the steps backward from my house to the gym, and backward again until I’m eventually home. Thankfully I found several classes that are somewhat non-objectionable, and do sweaty country-swing dancing a few times a week. So I get 10 hours a week of exercise and remain congruent with my beliefs: I am a fit, healthy person. And when I find myself making excuses for going to the gym, I remind myself that if I don’t go I won’t be a healthy person. I decide from my beliefs, and act from my behaviors.

I’m aware that there are many models that show how to work with resistance, or behavior change. Yet it’s possible to avoid resistance altogether by first enabling agreement from our beliefs and only then adding behaviors – working from within first, and avoiding ‘push’ from the outside. Then we can maintain our New Year’s resolutions.

If you want some personal or team coaching to manage congruent change, or wish to work with clients in a way that avoids resistance (for sellers, coaches, consultants, negotiators, and decision scientists) contact me at [email protected] to set up a time to pursue possibilities.

To learn more about What? Did you really say what I think I heard? and how to close the gap between what’s said and what’s heard, go to www.didihearyou.com where the digital book is available for free.


About the Author

Sharon Drew Morgen is founder of Morgen Facilitations, Inc. (www.newsalesparadigm.com). She is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation®, the decision facilitation model that enables people to change with integrity. A pioneer who has spoken about, written about, and taught the skills to help buyers buy, she is the author of the acclaimed New York Times Business Bestseller Selling with Integrity and Dirty Little Secrets: Why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.

To contact Sharon Drew at [email protected] or go to www.didihearyou.com to choose your favorite digital site to download your free book.