Listen to Sharon-Drew Morgen being interviewed about creating leaders. Making Change Work!
and ensuring the people issues are handled in a way that achieves creativity, buy-in, and participation, and the leader and followers share in the decision making process. The territory is deceptively simple. There’s the leader, the led, and some sort of change involved: someone (the leader) finds some way to get followers (the led) to do something – a new activity, new behavior, new work ethic – they hadn’t been doing (the change). Fromstart to finish it involves communication, trust, respect, hubris, collaboration, decision making, inspiration, and a solid knowledge of systems. INFLUENCING BUY-IN FOR CHANGE Leaders have myriads of skill sets to get people to discuss, collaborate, and see the value in a proposed change. Happily, most people will just buy-in and participate. But here is where the unconscious rears its ugly head: those whose beliefs end up being insulted, or whose job history has left scars, or whose personalities may not easily mesh with the new initiative, or or or…will resist. Unfortunately, regardless of our intent, we too often end up with less success than we’d like. People would like to do what is asked of them. And leaders prefer that their intent, their hearts, and the strength of their initiatives will lead people to follow them anywhere. But we know that doesn’t always happen and the path is strewn with sabotage, resistance, and non compliance. We are asking people to change, after all. The elephant in the room is the difficulty in getting buy-in: until or unless everyone who touches the solution knows how to change without major disruption (to their job, their sense of self, their beliefs) they will have some form of resistance to being led. And being a well-meaning guide with a terrific goal will not overcome this problem. Indeed, our current leadership models don’t reach the unconscious human issues that are so difficult to influence – the digee down deepee stuff that controls our choices and sanctions resistance. Hence, we aren’t getting the results we’d prefer. Practically speaking, it’s a systems issue. If we look at our internal beliefs, family history, religious beliefs, and ego issues, for example, as a unique system that makes us who we are, it’s easy to understand why we resist when a requested change threatens our system. We learned about this – homeostasis – in sixth grade. The culprit is information. THE ROLE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS As part of our skill set as leaders, we are taught to collect, offer, share information. We know
- what needs to happen,
- the actions that will get us there,
- how to present the rational facts,
- how to extract objections,
- how to influence discussions.
But these don’t get to the core, unconscious issues of the followers: the information we offer sometimes, albeit unconsciously, unwittingly pushes against the systems causing the very resistance it is intended to avoid. Information is the last thing people need to buy-in to change; the trick is to begin by opening up the system to accept something new and only then, when there is buy-in from the core at the beliefs level, introduce the information. I was writing an article on decision making and interviewed the CEO of a well-known stationary store that was just about to merge with a well-known courier. I asked him how he led his troops to a willingness to let go of their brand and be co-branded, work alongside of strangers, and make the myriad of changes necessary when different companies merge people and identities. He said it was easy. He and the COO traveled the country for six months with their multimillion dollar dog-and-pony show to the 30,000 employees, spouting the new message.SDM: How did it work? CEO: It was terrific. They loved it. Excited by it. SDM: No one objected? Got annoyed? Scared? CEO: Oh, sure. About 10% resisted. But that was to be expected. SDM: What happened to them? CEO: They became a retention issue. SDM: You fired 3,000 people because they didn’t like your dog and pony show? CEO: Yup. But it wasn’t a major problem. They were the ones that had been around for 18-20 years and had to go anyway.
What happened here is a good example of why information is an inadequate guide. While some might say that losing only 10% of their folks during a change of this magnitude is a great outcome, think about it: The only way he knew to get buy-in was to be a charismatic leader and offer a multi media presentation, trusting trust that the excitement and rational of it would rule the day, causing unconscious resistance from the folks he needed most. With all the choices in the world, this group – the very backbone of the company and folks whose buy-in would have strengthened the change – would not be the 10% he would have wished to lose. It was possible to manage buy-in before attempting to garner excitement, or certainly once resistance reared its head. If they’d asked the resisters: What is stopping you from being comfortable with the merger? How would you know that even with this change, your job will be secure and we’d be working with customers with the same level of integrity we are now? What would you need to know or believe differently to be able to accept the merger and be a part of the buy-in team? How would you like to be involved with the merger in a way that would enable you to have a say in that area of concern that most affects you? the 10% could have been part of the change rather than fired. We never know how someone hears or interprets the information we offer, regardless of its import or rational or how charismatic we are, as we are not privy to their historic biases, assumptions, and listening filters. If we first help folks recognize the unconscious beliefs attached to any proposed change, and manage any fear, bias, or ego issues, the information can be accepted without resistance. It’s a great way for leaders to ensure buy-in and participation. When information is used as the arbiter of change before the human system has made room for it within our internal system, the information itself will be misheard, misunderstood, or resisted. FACILITATING BUY-IN Leaders can use a new skill set to help people recognize and manage their unconscious issues right at the beginning of the initiative and help those who might resist have control over their internal choices. For years I wrote books on, and consulted in, the buyer’s decision making end of sales, teaching sellers a new facilitation tool to lead Buying Decision Teams through their unconscious, systemic issues to quickly enlist everyone as a decision maker and change agent. The same skill set can be applied to leadership. Buying Facilitation® is a generic decision facilitation model that manages and sequences the unconscious beliefs that create and maintain our status quo and uncover and shift the unconscious issues that would be affected during change…the bits that resist…so change can occur without disruption. Using a new form of question (Facilitative Question) and a systemic choice model, it’s possible to teach people how to recognize their biases and resistances and discover alternative options that allow for change without harming the baseline identity. By using Buying Facilitation® I salvaged a client project with a well-known global bank. I was called by the sales group that had won $50,000,000 proposal, and after two years (with the money already budgeted) the implementation hadn’t begun. Seems the President was creating frequent and unnecessary bottlenecks that caused my client’s on-line banking initiative to be held up, costing the bank $1,000,000,000 (that’s Billion) in lost revenue. None of us, including the President himself, recognized the instigating problem. The bank President and I had a conference call. Working with Buying Facilitation® he uncovered unresolved (unconscious) issues with a past Board member and Union. Once unearthed, a consultant came in to address the problems; the implementation started two months later. Of course the President – certainly not a stupid man – would never have put the bank at risk if he had known how to make other choices. But it’s a great example – and a typical ‘sales’ or ‘implementation’ scenario gone awry for unknown reasons – of how the unconscious plays tricks in ways that go beyond the rational, and how it’s possible to quickly facilitate the issues that get in the way of either a change or a purchase. I suspect that the entire arc of the project might have been different if his values-driven decision criteria were elicited on the first call. Leaders can enlist buy-in, encourage creativity and collaboration, and develop internal leaders by supporting change management from the birth of the initiative – and then gather/share information and lead change from the inside out with no resistance. In other words, by addressing the change at the systemic level where change occurs, leaders can truly lead with integrity.
Sharon-Drew Morgen is a NYTimes Business Bestselling author of 8 books, and the developer of Buying Facilitation®. She offers programs, consulting, and technical tools to help sellers, coaches, leaders, and consultants assist their buyers, followers and clients, unlock their unconscious and enable new decisions by matching closely led values. She is available to coach, train, consult, and develop with those seeking integrity in communication. She has worked with clients in technology, banking, insurance, health care, global consulting. Contact Sharon-Drew at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more at www.facilitatingbuyin.com and www.sharondrewmorgen.com.