Leaders tend to be fantastic at understanding how the behaviour of others are impact their team but without an intentional focus in developing their own self-awareness, leaders often undermine their own influence by not understanding the difference between how they are speaking and how they are being heard. When someone is courageous enough to speak with a leader about how their words are being received differently than perhaps being intended, you as a leader have a decision to make: Will you stick to your guns, asserting that what was said must have been misinterpreted? Or will you bring a level of humility to listen, understand, and place yourself in the shoes of the person who is giving you a glimpse into what it’s like to be on the other side of you?
Everyone has a leadership voice, and the more you can become aware of how your voice is being heard, the more influence you will carry as a leader. It’s a common refrain when I am with my kids, but “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it!” can be equally true for leaders at senior and executive levels. You may feel very confident in the words you are saying, the messages you are communicating, and the information you want those you lead to know from you. But if you are unaware of how your voice is being heard and how your message is being interpreted, you will undermine your own influence to the point where the gap between what you are saying and what is being heard is quite significant.
When leaders take a posture of wanting the best for their team and looking to serve those around them, one of the first things you can address is how you relate in direct conversation with the people you lead. Learning the power of your voice allows you to leverage every conversation as a way of communicating clearly what it is you want the other person to hear. Remember, there is always a gap between what you say and what is heard. By learning more about what it’s like to be on the other side of you, there is the opportunity to adjust your communication to become even more effective in inspiring and motivating your team.
To help you learn the distinctive features of your leadership voice, we use a tool called 5 Voices. Through an assessment, you will learn about your voice as a leader and the typical characteristics of that particular voice. As leaders, each one of us speaks primarily through one of 5 Voices: Nurturer, Creative, Guardian, Connector, or Pioneer. Each voice brings with it a certain volume level in the way that voice is heard around a table in a group of leaders. Each voice also champions different aspects of organizational behaviour and the people involved. Voices are not distributed evenly across the population, so understanding the commonality of voice distribution among your team is also important in bringing awareness to how decisions are made and the kind of perspective each person on the team carries with them in different conversations.
Learning your leadership voice isn’t about putting you into a box and restricting what you can or can’t do. Learning your voice profile isn’t about labelling any particular good or bad. Knowing your leadership voice also doesn’t identify any specific change you need to make. This is about awareness, this is about learning more about who you are, and really understanding more of what it’s like to be on the other side of you. As your awareness grows, your ability to communicate in ways which are heard by those around you will skyrocket. Taking your influence to a new level through actively serving those you lead is a powerful outcome of the 5 Voices process.
As you think about this kind of tool:
- What is your emotional response to the idea that what is being said and what is being heard may not be the same thing?
- How do you feel about position yourself as the leader in a way which serves those around you?
- Have you ever been confronted with someone’s experience of you being much less ideal than what you had intended?
- What changes, if any, did you make out of that interaction?