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Clearview® Performance Systems brings you ... ® ... a Culture of Results & Engagement®

Here's the next in our series of weekly managerial TIPS (Techniques, Insights, and Practical Solutions)
to help you better engage your team in the activities that lead to higher performance.

CORE Bites Issue #111
(February 9, 2021)

Be the VOICE ... not the ECHO!

As a teenager, one of my favorite spots for weekend fun was Bon Echo Park (in Eastern Canada). For those of you not familiar with the French language, "bon" means "good" ... so, translated, this park was aptly named "Good Echo" because of the fabulous echoes we could generate by simply using our voices.

An echo is merely a reflection of sound coming back to the listener after an initial sound is made. But the physics must be pretty precise for the mysterious (almost eerie) phenomenon of an echo to take place. The sound must first travel the right distance; it must then hit a smooth flat surface perpendicular to the source of the sound; the surface it hits must be the type of material—such as a rock wall, a canyon cliff, or the water in a well—that doesn't absorb sound but, instead, reflects (bounces) the sound back to the source. There are numerous well-known places around the world where conditions are perfect for hearing echoes.

However, one of those well-known places shouldn't be inside your organization!

As a behavioral engineer, much of my work within organizations entails working with leadership teams. One of the concerning trends I'm witnessing—and this is much more predominant now that most of our meetings and collaborative sessions are virtual—is the impact of corporate politics and the accepted 'normative' patterns of the organization, division, or even the department, on the creative talents, and—the subject of this week's CORE Bites—on the 'voices' of formal and informal leaders. What's concerning me is how often I see 'voices' stifled into an expected pattern of behavior; how often 'voices' acquiesce to retain the status quo, go with the flow, and not make waves; how often 'voices' remain quiet instead of speaking up.

Now, I'm not suggesting that it would be better to be an insubordinate, outspoken, opinionated, unfettered contrarian. No, that wouldn't be a healthy career move.

What I'm acknowledging here is your Voice is your very visible brand. While important, your Voice is less about tone or speaking style; it also has little to do with volume or projection. But Voice is extremely powerful—it carries a message and, most importantly, it becomes a reflection of who you are, the values you honor, and what you stand for. People come to know your Voice by how you handle conflict and differences of opinion; by how you encourage collaboration; by how you reinforce employees; by how you deliver feedback; by how you handle stress and pressure.

From an early age, our unique personalities are evident. As we mature, our values, assumptions, beliefs, and expectations (VABEs) are fully formed. These qualities form the core of how we think and define our communications style—our Voice. But many people, at the start of their leadership journey, find themselves eager to please and a little unsure of just how to share their true perspective without stepping on toes. They may even feel a little uncomfortable being a dissenting voice.

In the absence of a specific and concerted effort to develop your Voice, you're at risk—even if you have something valuable to say—that what is said won't come out quite right and may not be heard, be appreciated, or be taken seriously.

Finding your leadership Voice involves evaluating and embracing what is most important to—and unique about—you. The principles in the HVAs that follow can be applied to any situation, and in any facet of life. Be the VOICE!

High Value Activity (HVA) Action Steps

This week, starting today, observe every interaction you have with your team, your peers, other colleagues, your boss, and those at the senior levels of the organization. Look for (appropriate) places to insert your Voice. The HVAs listed below can help you prepare for those situations:

  • Find Voices that You Admire: Once you've got a general idea of what kind of leadership Voice you want to have, you need to look for examples. Notice I said "examples" (plural) because you don't necessarily need to have only one role model. In fact, the opposite is desirable. In addition, don't be insular; look in different places outside of your own organization. Once you've selected the people who best emulate your preferred Voice, study the characteristics that allow these leaders to be heard. The 'when' they speak and the 'how' they speak and, especially, how they insert themselves into the conversation should be your focus.
  • Seek Out 'Voices' of Experience (Mentors): Mentors are helpful resources for developing your leadership Voice. Using our Competency-Explicit Mentoring short-term model, make your intentions well-known to any mentor you work with. Share with him or her situations that challenge your leadership abilities and especially when you struggle to find the right Voice or when you feel that your leadership Voice falters.
  • When You Steal the Struggle ... You Deny the Growth: Your leadership Voice will never develop to its full potential without the courage to try new things. Developing your leadership Voice takes practice. Work with your boss and/or mentor and offer to take on a new project at work. Or, volunteer at a nonprofit, community organization. Volunteering for new projects or initiatives will help grow your skills, stretch your leadership Voice and develop confidence. Remember, it's a process. No one will create a leadership Voice overnight. Continually evaluate, iterate and improve on your leadership Voice as you advance in your career.
  • Become an Ambivert: Introverts are directed inwards. They derive their energy by reflecting before making decisions; by being introspective; by being self-aware. They value thinking before acting. Extroverts, on the other hand, direct their interest outwards. They are frequently outgoing and speak more; they're action oriented and make decisions quickly so their Voice is frequently heard more often. If you're slightly more introverted (as I am), it's time to become an Ambivert (the best of both worlds). You may find that as you're reflecting on the various options to address a specific situation, that someone else may already have started discussing a solution. To allow your voice to be heard, use what I call "Back-Pocket Starters" which are statements that I pull out of my "back pocket" to alert the group that I have something to say (which also gives me time to complete my thought before speaking). Something like "Would it be worth considering a second look at another option here?" can be effective at queuing up the conversation and allowing your Voice to be heard.

I'd love to hear how these HVAs work for you!

Neil Dempster, PhD, MBA
RESULTant™ and Behavioral Engineer

Quote of the Week

"Speak with intent so that you can lead with vision."

— Paul Larsen —