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To Inspire Employees, Develop Your Leadership Voice. Here’s How

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Communicate in an authentic and meaningful way.

Ever feel like you spend a lot of time communicating, but that your words don’t resonate? Sure, team members act on the most important directives, but employees are not as motivated and energized as you’d like them to be.

The solution, according to executive coach Amy Jen Su, is to develop your leadership voice–well, actually, leadership voices.

In her book, The Leader You Want to Be, Su explains that successful leaders work to build their presence–which requires more than simply conveying facts. According to Su, to inspire your people, you need to develop six aspects of your voice: 

Character. “This is the part of your voice that is constant and consistent . . . grounded in fundamental principles about whom you choose to be,” writes Su. One idea is to  develop a mantra to keep your key leadership principles in mind:

  • “Give the benefit of the doubt”
  • “Don’t take things personally”
  • “Focus on what’s best for the business”
  • “Be direct with respect” 

Context. Too often, in the race against time, leaders dive right into the details of a presentation . . . without taking an extra few minutes to appropriately set the stage and share critical context. Su writes, “As you take on increasingly senior roles, your perspective of the business grows. You hold more of the big picture. Part of the job then becomes finding ways to express and communicate that bigger picture to others.”

Clarity. “In a high-intensity workplace, you need to be the voice of clarity and help your team stay focused on the most important priorities,” writes Su. When leaders are too reactive, they “reflexively fire off new possibilities, muse out loud, or have knee-jerk reactions,” which causes their teams to try to deliver on their every whim. These teams end up scattered, spread thin and unfocused.” 

Curiosity. Of course your responsibility as a leader is to give direction, share information and make important decisions. “But you need to be sure you’re not approaching every situation as if you have all the answers,” advises Su. Instead, it’s better to be the voice of curiosity.

Su tells the story of one client who took this approach: “While I’m confident in my own business judgment and instincts, I know that my organization has hired really smart people. Therefore, if one of my peers or team members has a different perspective or pushes back, I don’t take it personally. I get really curious to understand where they are coming from . . . so we can get to the best solution.”

Connection. As your span of control or influence grows, it can become increasingly difficult to make a connection with a broadening set of colleagues, strategic networks and teams. Su recommends these methods to build connections with the people on your team:

  • Make time for a few minutes of ice-breaking or rapport-building. So often, we want to get right down to business, so we skip the niceties or pleasantries that help to build relationships with others. 
  • Increase your skill as a storyteller. Stories make our points more memorable and salient. 
  • Thank and acknowledge. Our teams and colleagues often go to great lengths to ensure that deliverables are met and customers are satisfied. When we use our voice of connection, we express gratitude.

By communicating consistently and clearly, you’ll do more than convey information–you’ll engage and motivate your employees.