By Chris Koch - Lead Vocal Consultant in Sydney for The Voice Advisory
An agile organisation is responsive both to employee needs and to the needs of the business - not stuck in bottlenecks stuffed full of paper or ingrained behaviours. It’s flexible, can change direction quickly, and seeks to support productive employees who enjoy their work, their workplace and achieve the innovative, creative results the business needs. Most of us like ‘agile’, and the rest are getting used to ditching print-outs and having meetings standing up, because the benefits are evident.
A free, agile voice is like an agile workplace. It immediately responds to the needs of the audience. It’s free of ingrained unnecessary tension that limits resonance. It’s flexible, dexterously expresses nuance, changes strategy when necessary, and doesn’t silence itself. The free flow of sound is not stuck in our throats, but reaches our listeners without impediment. A neat metaphor, if you like.
So would an agile voice also serve an agile workplace? With such a strong metaphorical resonance between these two structures (an organization, and an individual’s body), surely the answer has to be a resounding ‘Yes!’ Healthy employee voice is obviously a key element in a truly agile workplace, which can’t function if the environment is one where no-one wants to speak up.
To free the voice for this sort of lithe behaviour, an holistic approach is needed which looks at permission, levels of employee satisfaction and comfort, leadership style within the business, the culture of speaking and listening, and organisational support for individual development. Critically, what must also be considered are the practical aspects of working with physical tension, nerves, confidence, personal habit change and their specific effects on the voice and the act of speaking.
As coaches, our background and training at The Voice Advisory is in the Linklater voice methodology, a remarkable progression of exercises which raises awareness of and releases unnecessary tensions that inhibit the voice. It provides in-detail support for nuance, flexibility, strength and range. Now, we’ve decided to augment the integrity of our voice coaching by creating and launching our proprietary Voice of Influence Survey, which will allow us to provide an end-to-end service for organisations, and address problems before they develop.
So, to free up our organisations to be genuinely agile, lets first free our voices.
By Lucy Cornell - CEO and Founder of The Voice Advisory
When we lose our voice, we lose our power and our ability to speak for our rights.
Our voice is at the seat of our power. It is not just the expression of our intelligence and emotional self but of our human spirit. The voice deeply honours its owner. It must. That’s its job.
A primary driver of the voice is survival. When we are born, we voice our needs in order to survive. Then, through the arc of communities and experiences we have in life, it learns to adapt to honour who we are in that place in time.
I like to think that our voice is our champion.
Yet, there are some moments in our lives where our spirit - our power - is challenged so far, that it is safer to be silent. The voice responds. Clever.
Yet in these moments, somewhere in the secret parts of our psyche, the voice whispers, challenges, wonders why is this spirit is being silent. It needs to express. It wants to be heard.
Sadly, some voices stay silent. It is too dangerous to speak.
Remarkably, some voices find a way - a way to step into the danger, to fight for the spirit. When they step into their voice they not only face their own monsters but they fight for all silenced spirits. They assume the role for all of us. They are our warriors who fight for the human spirit’s intrinsic right to be heard, to express - to fight the ultimate fight: light against dark.
By Chris Koch - Leading Voice Coach for The Voice Advisory
‘I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice.’ - Sheryl Sandberg, COO Facebook, author of Lean In.
Surely in an environment where personal branding is the mode du jour, this is a bit radical coming from the COO of Facebook? But she’s not pulling punches. Sandberg’s take is that personal branding commodifies, or turns individuals in to products to be bought and sold. ‘Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand… People are not that simple. We’re not packaged. And when we are packaged, we are ineffective and inauthentic.’
However in Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (a fabulous scholarly treatment of branding), Sarah Banet-Weiser suggests personal branding is not quite the same as commodification. She points out that branding involves creating and consistently communicating an identity and a set of values which attracts and retains customers. Its popularity has to do with the relationship with authenticity, the idea of becoming 'more of who you are'. Hard to see a problem there – and yet it’s also not that simple. Inevitably, even personal branding that genuinely takes the above approach, operates within a branding culture that depends on strong stereotypes and often commodifies the person. So if authenticity is important to us as individuals, personal branding can be useful, but ambivalently so.
Somewhere between these two perspectives, there’s a consistency of values-driven behaviour we’re aiming towards. There’s a good reason for that. At it’s best, that’s what we mean by ‘personal brand’.
But maybe there’s an even more useful focus, which Sandberg is pointing to. No matter how we work on our personal ‘brand management’ to allow for adaptive change, ‘brand’ can never provide us with the mercurial responsiveness that a free voice does.
A free voice is effectively the channel through which our body, mind, feelings, intellect, are expressed accurately, with passion and precision. What better way to ensure true, moment-to-moment authenticity, than to free, and then to rely on our voices.
‘I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice. It is a voice that I used to help build a company. It is a voice that spoke out on women. It is a voice that sometimes gets things wrong. And it’s a voice I now use to talk about grief and try to break some of the isolation I felt. If you think you are building a personal brand, you will not have the career you want because you will not be authentic. Don’t package yourself. Just speak and speak honestly, with some data behind you.’
And if personal branding’s still your thing then let your brand be your own, free, voice, the root of both your personal and your professional authenticity.
To help free your voice get in touch with us atThe Voice Advisory
By Chris Koch - Lead Voice Consultant at The Voice Advisory (formally Voice Coach)
Resilience is being embraced by the top end of business, and it’s inextricably linked to employee voice.
This interview with Dr Monique Crane, Lecturer in Organisational Psychology at Macquarie University and editor of new publication Managing for Resilience looks at how to give your people tools to assist them to better weather storms. We like her emphasis on short, daily, regenerating breaks.
Crane also points out that resilience is a system, and in organisations this means involvement by managers, individuals, and organisational structures – it is not a fixed individual personality trait we have or don't have. It is definitely not about being so tough and problem-free that we don’t need anyone else. It’s about improving, where possible, our ability to live and work in the flow of whatever comes our way. It’s about lifting everyone up.
A free voice is a cornerstone of resilience, and at difficult times, likely to result in an individual having their needs met. A healthy flow of ideas, information and updates, allows the conversation to be alive and ongoing, rather than stuck in the past. Physically, freedom of voice is all about freedom of breath. At a moment-to-moment level, each breath is new, and replenishes not only our ability to make sound vibrations, but our intellectual energy, clarity and decision making. A speaker who is sensitive to the needs of the audience is able to adapt and change in response, to live in the act of speaking, and to sustain their own engagement throughout.
Healthy voice in your organisation requires permission for and the ability of all its people to speak up, keep ideas moving, communicate issues arising, and to inspire each other.
This voice. This spirit.Read More
By Chris Koch - Lead Voice Consultant at The Voice Advisory (formally Voice Coach)
I’m on a train passing Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury River, just off Brooklyn. It seems to sit so calmly mid-stream in its car-free, romantic isolation. A few weeks ago my 3-year old and I saw some kids coming alongside the pier with their mum in their school uniforms, and I could see he was entranced by the idea of going to school by boat. A client told me yesterday of the deep calm he felt when reading poems to his kids on a camping trip on the island, so much that he continued to read out loud after they dropped off to sleep. No cars.
Last weekend for a family birthday we ended up in the Upper Hunter, at Patrick White’s ancestral digs at Belltrees, spending the night in a whitewashed cottage with an open fire, and a stunning wintry landscape with the shallow, rocky river running past. There was no phone coverage. No computers. No TV.
The persistent buzz, distractions, the speedy thoughts that characterize the state most of us spend our lives in at work - what an utter relief when the buzz is gone, suddenly, for one reason or another. Of course it’s not always possible to cut all the cords and head for the hills - but what if we could stop the buzz without leaving town?
I’d argue it’s possible. We only have to look to thousands of years of contemplative practice, across cultures, from Buddhism to the Sufis to Marcus Aurelius, to see that the ability stop, breathe, and focus on purpose is internal to us. And if we look to contemporary science, we can see the remarkable affects of meditation on the brain, the heart rate, the breathing.
So in our working lives, where the buzz of busyness and end-gaining often dominates, let's try it. Before we begin to speak – to the conference, to the meeting, to the interview panel – just stop. Allow breath to happen. Focus on our purpose, our audience. And then begin, deliberately, not the captives of our own out-of-control momentum, but the authors of our own decisions, the ones setting the agenda.
For more inspiration, head to www.thevoiceadvisory.com
It’s easy to watch Todd Sampson in the truly amazing series, "Redesign My Brain" and "Bodyhack". And it's easy to just want to focus on Todd: fit, vital, brave, intelligent. And yet I wonder if that’s all that attracts us.
What strikes me about Todd Sampson is not only his humility, although that’s impressive, in a no-false-modesty, clear, and good-humoured sort of way. The thing that really catches my attention is his willingness. It occurs to me that willingness is one of the most important qualities when we talk about personal and/or professional development, and certainly when we look at something more specific like improving your voice.
Brain plasticity is the raw material, in a sense, and for that to serve us in any way, we have to interact actively: to form something new through our own decisions. We commit to the unknown - unknown states, abilities - and a new stage of development that we can’t yet see clearly from where we are now.
Brain plasticity is also the reason you can change your voice, your presence, and your impact. Don’t doubt it.
Willingness feeds rigour, and both feed real, established change.
Todd reports that his wife’s response to watching footage of him walking the high wire was to turn to him and say ‘I hope you sorted the f*****g insurance’.