The Big Push: why sellers, doctors, coaches, and leaders, don’t affect permanent change
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The Big Push: why sellers, doctors, coaches, and leaders, don’t affect permanent change
by: Sharon Drew Morgen
How many times have you tried to sell an idea to a colleague, only to have it
be misunderstood or ignored? Or offered important knowledge in a marketing piece
or sales pitch meant to encourage or educate a prospect to buy, only to have it
overlooked? Why don’t patients follow new healthcare regimens prescribed by
doctors they trust, to heal an illness they know they have?
I began thinking about this recently when I heard a noted leader in healthcare
say: "There is a persistent consensus that insufficient evidence exists that
behavior can be modified." Hmmm. And yet the industry is throwing hundreds of
millions of dollars researching Behavior Modification (without a parallel model
to test it against! So much for the scientific method.). This is similar to my
own aphorism, after decades of facilitating prospect buy-in in the sales
industry: “Selling doesn’t cause buying.” Both recognize that the outside-in
push method for causing compliance isn’t an effective way to elicit permanent
change. Indeed: as outsiders, we’re trying to cause behavior change, rather than
The common thread behind both is the enduring belief (even with a 5% success
rate in sales, and a only fraction of patients complying with necessary
health-based regimens) that with the ‘right’ idea and the ‘best’ data, offered
by someone who is ‘trustworthy’ and ‘credible’, written, offered, or spoken in a
way that ‘inspires’ action, that people will act as they ‘should’ and make the
‘right’ choices we’re ‘certain’ they need to make.
But they’re not. And instead of recognizing that maybe we’ve got it wrong, that
maybe we’re looking at the problem from the wrong angle while doing the same
thing over and over hoping to get the results we want, we’re calling THEM
irrational?? Seems to me we’re the very definition of insanity.
Is it any wonder people aren’t compliant? Pushing OUR ideas, OUR beliefs, OUR
biases, OUR assumptions, onto another, in the format WE'VE chosen, assuming
because we’re right, or smarter, or caring, or ‘scientific’ or or or, that
they’ll do what WE want them to do! And then we’re surprised at the paucity of
We know this doesn’t work. For decades, if not centuries, sellers, coaches,
leaders, and now healthcare providers, have bemoaned the lack of success we’ve
achieved (even building failure into our expected results) with our push
methods. And yet we continue, hoping that we’ll say it right this time, or offer
impeccable research data, or use terrific apps, or pitches, or marketing that
will instigate permanent change or decisions in our favor. Has it never occurred
that just maybe outside-in push doesn’t work? Or is it just that we don’t know
what else to do?
THE FAILURE OF PUSH
Selling doesn’t cause buying. Good content creation doesn’t cause action.
Behavior Modification doesn’t cause behavior change. Do you see a pattern here?
As reflected in our failed attempts across industries and time, an external push
– regardless of how trustworthy, or researched, or ‘rational’, or necessary as
it may be – cannot cause another person to change permanently.
As outsiders, we forget: change is an inside job. Yet our activity – all sales
models and healthcare apps, coaching models and leadership trends – focuses on
attempting to cause change from the outside. With our reports and regimens,
proof and advice, stories and examples, we try to convince others to change
before teaching them how to, and then complaining they’re not listening to us.
Let me offer the reasons it’s not possible for people to change merely because
we offer them terrific reasons why they should.
- Subjective Listening: This is the main hurdle with information push: people
don’t hear the intent of a message, when it falls outside of their conditioned,
subjective listening filters and habituated neural pathways, regardless of the
efficacy of the information offered. When our clients, or children, or patients,
'mis-hear' us, it's not their fault; their brains actually tell them something
different from what was intended.
We all listen unconsciously, through our biases, assumptions, triggers, habits,
and normalized neural pathways. I’ve written a book about the gap between what’s
said and what’s heard (What? Did you really say what I think I heard?) and it’s
formidable: our brains ‘kindly’ keep us comfortable and safe by hearing what
they want, discarding bits of meaning and intent at will, without letting us
know that what we end up ‘hearing’ is highly subjective and some unknowable
percentage removed from what the speaker (or article, or app) intended. Try as
we might – the best wording, or clever text/apps – whatever we say will be
interpreted uniquely and not necessarily as we wish it to be interpreted; we’ll
be heard more accurately only by those who already think exactly as we do.
So: information-in will probably not be heard as intended and translated
according to some unconscious filtering that we outsiders cannot control. And
this is compounded by our assumption that because we believe we’ve said
something clearly it should be understood, i.e. ‘they’re not listening’. They
are. To the very best of their unconscious ability. And it's a good reason to
not rely on sharing information as the way to influence change.
- Status Quo: Every day we wake up being who we were yesterday. We live our
lives and make decisions according to our unique Identity, our personal system
of rules, experience, hopes, goals, culture, education, etc. developed over a
lifetime, that cause us to operate in the world uniquely. This is how we wake up
knowing how to brush our teeth and drive our cars, vote the way we prefer, and
love who makes us happy – all regardless of the way others would like us to be.
When any change is required of us our entire habituated, unconscious
system/status quo faces disruption: to be willing and able to change, we must
find a way for our personal system to buy-in to the new, get rid of the old, and
find a way to maintain the habits and beliefs that keep us stable. Indeed, when
we ask someone to change, regardless of the need, benefits, or the efficacy of
the solution, we are asking people to unravel their status quo and do something
different before they know if change would threaten who they know themselves to
be. Their system, their status quo, is sacrosanct, and we are asking them to
risk who they are.
- Trust: When we assume we have answers for another, we are basically
telling them we know more than they do, that we’re ‘right’ and they’re wrong,
that we don’t trust them to find their own best route to excellence. So with the
best will in the world, we push against their personal, habituated, normalized
system (and yes, it’s the same system that caused the problem in the first
place), and get… wait for it… resistance. And then we call them ‘stupid buyers’
or ‘non-compliant patients’. By not trusting our clients, by not enabling them
to traverse their OWN route to congruent change, by assuming we have their
answers and working at getting them to comply, we’re causing the very resistance
we blame them for.
- Beliefs: For some reason, outsiders attempt to change someone’s behaviors
without realizing that behaviors are merely the transactions of our beliefs.
It’s like trying to get an app to do something it’s not meant to do without
changing the underlying programming. This is why Behavior Modification largely
fails: it seeks to cause behavior change; only belief change, and systems
buy-in, can elicit behavior change.
- Bias: Even when accurately assessing another’s needs and have solutions
that could resolve problems, our own needs for specific results bias our
interactions. We’re outside the Other’s system, using our own preferred languaging, our own biased choices of stories and examples, our own approaches,
posing biased questions meant to pull the data we want to understand (often
regardless of how the Other uses or hears language i.e. biased) and assuming
we’ll be heard and heeded! By choosing the words and story line we adhere to, by
choosing activities or making requests according to our own need to get our
suggestions recognized, we’re unintentionally biasing our interactions and
restricting success to those who think, act, assume like we do.
So with the best will in the world, with solutions that can actually save
lives and fix problems, we’re inhibiting success. We must stop pushing the
change WE want to have happen, and begin facilitating others through their own
behavior change, from within. We must elicit change rather than attempt to cause
change. We must trust that everyone has their own answers and lead them through,
and design, their own route to discovery and change, within their own norms and
identity, so they remain congruent.
We’ve not been given the tools to facilitate permanent change, depending instead
on many ways to push information/change in. Yet information – heard through
subjective filters, chosen, offered and presented in formats designed by biased
do-gooders - doesn’t teach someone HOW to change congruently, from the inside.
Inside-out. Pushing data in merely causes resistance. Here are the skills
necessary to facilitate others through permanent, congruent change from the
- The Steps of Change: There is a specific set of sequential steps that human
systems follow unconsciously en route to change, starting with enabling Others
to rise above the weeds, into an Observer position, so they can get into an
unbiased and disassociated state to begin dispassionately noticing, assembling
and assessing the elements that caused the systemic problem to begin with.
[Note: information-in, and push models, cause people to dig in and defend.] I’ve
coded the steps of change that every human system – i.e. every person, group,
etc. – must traverse sequentially to remain congruent through change. Change
will not occur until a person recognizes
- all of the elements of how they got where they’re at and the systems that hold
them in place;
- they know without a shadow of a doubt that they cannot fix the problem with
their known resources;
- that any proposed change could be factored into the existing system without
fallout – i.e. the status quo would buy-in to change and be willing to do
something different because it recognizes it won’t be harmed.
It’s possible to lead people down their own steps of change to make their
unconscious beliefs conscious and enable them to consider if it’s time to
change. No one, no one, from outside can ever, ever understand what’s going on
in other’s personal system.
- The Direction of Change: People think in habituated patterns; to find the
elements that maintain their status quo they must go beyond their habituated
thinking to seek out bits of their unconscious that aren’t necessarily obvious.
How to do this? By being Neutral Navigators, Change Facilitators, that guide the
brain to its own answers. I’ve been thinking about this problem since 1980,
understanding that conventional questions are biased by the Asker, and responded
to accordingly. Repeat: any time we ask a question of another, it’s biased by
our own need to know and word choices, and will be heard with biased ears.
To overcome bias, to help people find their own answers, and knowing that
conventional questions are biased by the Asker, I’ve developed Facilitative
Questions that actually direct the brain sequentially, through its own givens,
to discover best answers (often unconscious) and avoids the bias of influencers
who net/net seek answers/pull information THEY think relevant. (Definition:
Facilitative Question – a systemic, action-based, directive question, (not
information-pull) that uses specific words, in a specific order, to lead people
through sequential steps of discovery and buy-in without bias.) These questions
can be used in surveys, questionnaires, and research to elicit 'good'
information, without bias. I know this is a bit outside of mainstream thinking,
but I’ve been successfully teaching the formulation of these questions for
decades, in sales with Buying Facilitation®, coaching, and leadership – any
place congruent change is required. Sometimes new ideas are needed, right?
- The Who of Change: By taking on the mantel of Change Agents, Facilitators,
Influencers regardless of field (i.e. in apps, in sales, in coaching), we must
begin by trusting Others to discover and design their own change, not attempt to
cause change with wizzy content, Behavior Mod approaches, pricing ‘deals’ or any
other outside-in push techniques. They don’t work – hence a 95% failure rate in
sales, and patients regularly not completing regimens that would help them heal.
Once people recognize how to change themselves in a way that’s congruent with
their personal system, they will then need outsiders to supply relevant
information. First facilitate change for Others; then supply necessary data
according to THEIR needs.
- Testing for Change: By only doing research on Behavior Mod or other
behavior change approaches, we’re ignoring the real problem and not helping
people make permanent change. Let’s begin doing research on Change Facilitation
practices in side-by-side experiments with behavior change approaches. Then
we’ll have real answers.
For those who want to think about the inherent problems of pushing change from
the outside, below I’ve summarized the baseline beliefs in this article so you
can begin thinking of why an inside-out approach is the only way to elicit
successful change (Note: I’ve designed a Change Facilitation approach to handle
this; design your own, or call me to discuss.):
- We can never have answers for others, regardless of their need or the
efficacy of their solution. Think about how you can enable others to address
their internal beliefs to come up with their own answers that will normalize and
habituate a new, more beneficial, habit pattern.
- People (or groups, etc.) won’t change until they can go beyond their
habituated patterns, recognize that their current unconscious system is flawed
and they cannot resolve a problem themselves; bringing in a ‘foreign’ solution
is initially avoided as it would disrupt the status quo.
- Systems (i.e. people’s status quo) won’t change if the cost of the change is
higher than the fallout from continuing the problems in the status quo. The
system must discover this itself; telling only gets resistance.
- If offered information or activities run counter to the existent beliefs and
entrenched, normalized habits within the system, they will be resisted,
regardless of efficacy.
- Information is unnecessary, not understood, ignored, not accepted, until or
unless the system has recognized it’s ready, willing, and able to change and
knows exactly what it needs to assist it - and can hear the intended message
without bias or resistance. That’s why we have success only with the low hanging
fruit – those who have already gone through their own internal change process.
So information last, Change Facilitation first. By asking them biased questions
based on our need for information, by offering them our regimens, pitches,
stories, reasons, proof, etc., we restrict success to those who need that
specific piece of information at that moment, and ignore those who may need to
change but otherwise resist.
- There is a sequence of change that all systems go through unconsciously to
open a place for congruent change that avoids resistance. It is not information
based, but belief-change. Focus first on leading patients and prospects through
discovery before offering data.
It’s possible to develop healthcare apps that first enable Others to be ready
for change prior to offering Behavior Mod. It’s possible for sellers to first
facilitate prospect buy-in, notice those who WILL buy and are ready for change
on the first call. It’s possible to facilitate coaching clients through
permanent change. And I know that influencers like to be the pivot point, the
arbiter of change. But if an outside-in line of questioning or directing is
used, only people who have done their own change work first will be compliant.
Let’s elicit change; let’s stop pushing.
I’m happy to discuss the above with anyone, and seek situations to test, use,
offer my stuff to enhance excellence. Sharondrew@sharondrewmorgen.com
Sharon Drew Morgen is the visionary behind Buying Facilitation® - a change
management model that includes learning how to Listen for Systems, formulating
Facilitative Questions, and understanding the steps of systemic change. For
those of you wishing to learn more, take a look at the program syllabus. Please
visit www.dirtylittlesecrets.com and read the two free chapters. Consider
reading it with the companion ebook Buying Facilitation®
Sharon Drew is the author of the NYTimes Business Bestseller Selling With
Integrity, as well as 6 other books on helping buyers buy. She is also the
author of the Amazon bestseller What? Did you really say what I think I heard?
Sharon Drew keynotes, trains and coaches sales teams to help them unlock
situations that are stalled, and teaches teams how to present and prospect by
facilitating the complete buying decision process. She delivers keynotes at
annual sales conferences globally. Sharon Drew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
512 771 1117
Contributor: Sharon Drew Morgen
Published here on: 04-Mar-18
Classification: Sales, Change