Free Voice vs Personal Brand

By Chris Koch - Leading Voice Coach for The Voice Advisory

Sheryl Sandberg KIRBY_CAROUSEL.jpg

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.

 Sandberg again:

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



The Voice of Resilience

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. 

Contact The Voice Advisory to find out about our new Voice of Influence survey tool for assessing the vocal resilience of your organisation at

Beyond Adrenalin

By Chris Koch (Lead Coach in Sydney for Voice Coach)

Roger Federer, Christina Koch, Voice,

In the few days after the epic, history making Australian Open Men’s Final between Federer and Nadal, I found myself talking about Federer and his qualities repeatedly while coaching clients. 

Then a friend sent through the following video:


Commentators always talk about how Federer plays ‘aggressive’ tennis. I’m not sure that what he does - setting the agenda, making interesting offers that the other player has to respond to – is best described in this way. I think that he takes responsibility for initiating the play, and generating new and inventive strategies. It looks to me like a creative process.

Physical instinct, purpose and drive, in the same package as rational practicality, creative strategy (proactively implemented), graciousness, perspective, clear-sightedness and non-attachment to outcome:

"I try to push myself not to get upset and stay positive, and that’s what my biggest improvement is over all these years. Under pressure I can see things very clearly."

What we’re looking at is a fabulous demonstration of how it’s possible for all of those things to exist simultaneously, in the one personal identity.

We don’t have to lose our vulnerability, our passion, our dignity and graciousness in the workplace, no matter how competitive. It’s not a given. There are reasons that can happen, and explanations, but ultimately none of them are really satisfactory. And if we look to Federer’s example, it’s clear that retaining these qualities doesn’t have to mean we lose our focus, our drive, our competitive edge, or our purpose.

Federer speaking with typical humility after his euphoric win at the Australian Open, said a few days ago: "When I heard Andy [Murray] and others speak about the magnitude of the importance of this match, I actually said:

‘All out, I’m embracing this thing. I understand - it’s important to you guys - and its important to me too but… I still have the mindset: I have nothing to lose. And I think I was able to shuffle all those things around in my head and believed to the very end of the match that I could turn it around, and the last four or five games were just epic so… I couldn’t be happier of course.’

Then he proceeded to answer the European journalists’ questions in fluent French (he is multilingual too - sigh).

At Voice Coach we can't turn you into a tennis champion. If, on the other hand, you’d like to speak with the graciousness, clarity of purpose, and perspective of a Federer, we can help.  

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