Leadership presence is a major part of your day-to-day business life. One of your key tools for this presence, if not the most important, is your vocal behavior. Your voice plays a big role in how your vocal behavior is experienced by the listener, but the voice alone is not the only facet of how your vocal behavior communicates. Close your eyes and think about how you react to the voice of James Earl Jones. Now, how does a Betty Boop voice come across in a business setting? Vocal behavior consists of how you sound, how you deliver your sound and how people receive your sound.
Your sound is the quality of your voice. An energetic and easy-to-hear sound conveys dynamism. Shouting doesn’t work, but neither does a nearly-inaudible voice. Your sound also takes into consideration your pitch. You often hear musicians described as pitchy or having perfect pitch. The same is true of the spoken voice. Recording yourself reading a passage or in an actual meeting and then listening to playback is the easiest way to self-assess. If you don’t have the ear to hear whether you are too nasal or too high-pitched, then find some help with this assessment. Awareness is the first step to empowering your vocal behavior.
Your tone is the personality of your voice. Does your tone communicate anger, condescension or approachability? For most of us, it might convey all of those personalities. However, as a leader, you want to control your vocal personality. Awareness about what your particular voice is doing to convey a certain vocal behavior is important. Then, moving into action to make sure it’s your intended tone is critical. I suggest you do an energy check before any meeting or important phone call. Then, chat with someone who is not part of the meeting and really listen to your tone. What are you hearing as you speak?
If you sound approachable and powerful, stay in that zone. If you’re hearing a negative tone, self-correct so your intended message has the best chance of landing with your audience.
If you are aware of the messages your vocal behavior sends beyond the words you speak, then you are in the subtext realm. Verbal tics, nasality and negative tones all contribute to a poor subtext. Poor subtext means your intended message delivery won’t happen. Seeking honest feedback from your senior team as well as others in your audiences about what they heard versus what you intended is a first step to powerful subtextual messaging and allows you accomplish overall vocal behavior wins. It doesn’t matter what you know if you don’t know how to communicate it. Make sure your vocal behavior evolves into a powerful tool for your leadership presence.