Use your inside voice? That sounds a bit strange for leadership advice. I know for those of you who are parents, this phrase sounds very familiar but in a different context. When your kids are talking too loud indoors the common request is to ask them to “use their inside voice.” Who would think that would be advice for effective leadership!
In my personal and professional experience over the years, I’ve known 2 types of leaders; those you who have an internal infrastructure that dictates how they live and lead and those who seem to be guided and directed from whatever is going on outside them at the time. And for many, neither of them are aware of what’s really directing them in why and how they do what they do. So in that piece there is little distinction.
What is the distinction is that those who have developed and work from that infrastructure tend to be the stronger, more effective leaders.
So what is the role of that infrastructure? Well, in my experience and observation here is a partial list:
provides internal strength
provides ongoing motivation
an integrity guide
a boundary moderator
guidance regarding values and beliefs
a source of inspiration
a sense of their unique place in the world
a sense of mission and purpose
personal security – “comfortable in their own skin”
Of course there is more and I invite you as you consider this post in assessing your own leadership to add to the list.
All of those items listed I consider to be a composite of the “inside voice.” That voice is formulated in childhood and then as we grow into adulthood that voice and all that it comprises, is challenged, tested or confirmed by outside forces. The results can be many. The voice is strengthened, perhaps modified, and for some weakened or sadly even snuffed out completely. Ever heard the expression, “a shell of a man”?
How that voice is impacted by the tests and challenges is all continually expressed through one’s personal and professional life. But it is uniquely expressed through the leadership role. You see leadership — particularly leadership in business — involves power, people and the need for profits. These compelling and pressing forces are ever present, demanding of us to react and respond. Without all the pieces of the internal voice alive, active, sure footed, ready and willing to engage with those forces, leadership will only look like a flag flapping in the breeze a top a flag pole for all to see — behaving in a way that is dictated by however the force of the wind is blowing at any one give time.
I don’t know about you but being whipped about like a flapping flag can be plum exhausting! What to increase and strengthen your leadership effectiveness? — continually connect with, anchor and shape your inside voice so that it can be strongly and successfully expressed on the outside no matter the strength of the prevailing winds. It seems like such important and obvious advice right? Yet it’s not a common leadership practice for a variety of reasons. The main one, which I want to address in this post, is time.
In order to develop your inside voice, you will need to take the time to do it and do it in a way that will create the most impact: Here are some suggestions:
1. Set a specific time in your schedule that is non-negotiable to be alone. Yep that’s right be alone.
2. Go to a place that is quiet.
3. Calm and close out the relentless mental chatter (which is just the outside stuff inside your head). This will probably take some practice!
4. Begin to “tune into” your personal voice and just listen to what it’s saying. If things are being said you don’t like, don’t edit or judge it, just let it speak. (This voice is different from the mental chatter — you’ll know it when you hear it.)
5. Check inside regarding areas of beliefs and values, how you’ve handled situations lately, anything that has been challenging, characteristics or skills you’d like to develop…etc.
I recommend you record what you’re hearing, contemplating or discovering. By the way, recording in real-time with a pen and paper I believe is a bit more impactful than typing. So disconnecting from electronics should be part of the plan! One caveat, vocal recording is an interesting experience. Hearing your voice externally has a sensory impact that is helpful as well.
So, do you need to use your inside voice more? Does it need to be developed and or strengthened? Then make a commitment and a plan for yourself and/ or for your leadership team to nurture this essential leadership resource. Remember — use your inside voice!