In this Is This Mic On? blog we tackle the question of “How do I find my leadership voice?” Read on to hear what we had to say about owning your career decisions, getting out of your head and into the conversation, and yes, honing your leadership voice.
My two mentors at work, my manager and a senior colleague, BOTH put in their notice recently (hello darkness my old friend…). Honestly, they’re the only reason I haven’t left myself. They saw my potential, pushed me, advised me, and protected me from the bureaucratic BS.
This is by no means my dream job, so I was ready to follow suit. But in our final 1:1, my manager told me I should stay. Said I should see this as an opportunity to establish myself as a leader within the team and develop a stronger voice. Voice? I’m a nervous wreck of a human. I can barely speak when I’m called on in a meeting. I blackout when I present. I’ve rewritten this very email five times. Hell, just recently, a cashier said, “the receipt is in the bag” and I replied, “you too”…a moment I’ve been replaying in my head for WEEKS.
Deep down, I know she’s right. Deeper down, this scares the shit out of me. What should I do?
First: you make your own career decisions.
Just as your manager makes their own, and just as your colleague made their own. While there are lots of data points that lead up to making the decision to move on (seeking a change in role, function, geography, challenge, company, industry, and sure, let’s be pragmatic and say salary), someone else’s career decision can’t predicate yours.
You own your decisions. Just as you own your voice. If we’re all just mimicking what other people do, or repeating someone else’s ideas for fear of sharing our own…the world is going to become a very boring place.
So yes, find your leadership voice. Your team, your manager, and your company need it.
You have an opinion. You have a point of view. You have a suggestion that might make that one little part of that one process even better. Or you have a recommendation that might influence an entire strategic arm of the company. It’s all of those words and ideas that swim around in your head during a meeting, as you listen to an all-hands, and as you decompress from the day.
But we all have opinions. What sets the leader apart is their ability to articulate their ideas clearly and confidently.
So we’ve just spent 209 words underscoring the importance of being you. Now what.
Get out of your head and into the conversation.
You’re spending so much time fast-forwarding to after you say the thing, that you’re never saying the thing. What if they disagree? What if someone objects? What if my mute button is on the whole time? The truth: all of that might happen. You can’t control others (though sure, you can likely control your mute button – so check that). You can control you.
Jot down your three key points based on what the people need in the room care about right now. Start with, “I have an opinion about…” And then say it. Don’t get cute with your wording. Just say the thing. Then, create a dialogue around it by threading in a colleague. It would sound like this:
I have an opinion about paper receipts. The way I see it, if we all moved to digital receipts, we’d save paper, save a step at checkout, and save a potentially awkward exchange at the register. Get rid of paper receipts and let’s bring in digital. Jack, you’ve done a lot of shopping lately…what is your reaction to the suggestion that we get rid of paper receipts?
Congratulations. You just shared your opinion, and you sparked a dialogue around it.
Whether or not you stay at your current gig – we don’t know. We could go on an entirely different tangent on that one. But this find your voice action? You have to do that. The loudest person in the room doesn’t win. The quietest doesn’t win. The one who uses their voice with grace and class to share their ideas…wins.
If this has left you thinking, “Voice is great, but where do I even start with leadership?” check out our article on Leadership Basics.