How to find your voice as a leader

You don’t use your ‘work voice’ at home, so why use it at work, asks executive performance coach Diana Theodores.

Many people admit that when they hear recordings of their voices they feel disappointed. They say things like ‘Is that what I sound like?’  

It’s surprising that you use your voice as your primary instrument for communication, for speaking up, presenting, pitching, participating in meetings, and engaging in all manner of conversations – virtual and in person – and yet your voice is unfamiliar to you. What you’re really saying is that it’s uninspiring to you.  

If this is your experience it could be because when you walk through the door of the office you step into your default zone – that mindset, body and voice you habitually slip into that is shaped by your organisational culture. These cultures have their own language, work-speak jargon and invisible rules that say, ‘This is the way we do things around here’. Is it any wonder that messages go stale, flat and unprofitable (to quote Hamlet)?  

Let’s leave the office for a moment and go into your other life, the one you leave outside the door when you come to work: When you read a fairy tale to a child at bedtime do you rush through it? Do you speak in bullet point format? Do you stay in one tone throughout? I’d hope not.

You use different voices for different characters, you slow down and create magic and suspense, and you speak loudly and softly. When you watch a sports event live, supporting your team, do you do a lot of shouting and cheering? Singing your heart out while driving to your favourite song? Reading something from the newspaper out loud to your partner with righteous indignation or amazement (‘You’ve got to hear this!’)? And I don’t expect you sound boring in that domestic argument that keeps repeating.

All these circumstances show what a wide-ranging, dynamic, expressive, contoured voice you have. Your work voice – the one that’s damped down, rushed or monotone – is just a habit. 

To break the habit just set clear intentions for what you are talking about and why, by asking yourself ‘how do I need to show up here?’ Your voice is ready to perform as needed. You’ve got everything you need to influence, convince and inspire with the voice power from your life. 

Dr Diana Theodores is an executive performance coach, speaker and Director of Theatre4Business. Her new book Performing As You: How to have authentic impact in every role you play is out now 

Image credit: Getty Images Keystone / Stringer/ Getty Images

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