Company Culture, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), and Employee Engagement are all just a few of the areas that can be affected by an environment whereby employees feel heard. In fact, according to Gallup, employees who feel heard and valued are 6X more likely to be engaged in their work. So why is this such a challenge in today’s workplace?
Have you ever been in a meeting and felt like either your ideas aren’t being heard or you had to change your “voice” to even be heard? Most people describe this as feeling like you are having to wear a mask to hide who you really are just to fit in and be heard. Trust me – I have been there. While this does happen to women frequently, I do not believe the experience is limited to just women. I have worked for some amazing organizations and have had many amazing opportunities. I have also worked for various managers who did not value my authentic voice. Those environments led to a toxic work environment which was not sustainable. One of the hardest lessons I have learned is when you don’t allow yourself to speak with your unique perspectives, personalities, and positions just so you feel “heard,” you are (by default) allowing your message to be minimized.
What is your authentic voice and why does it matter? Your authentic voice means you are staying true to your core beliefs, values, and personality, which leads to your actions being in alignment with your words. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best when he wrote, “Your actions speak so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” Having alignment in our thoughts, beliefs, values, actions, and words is key to an authentic voice.
This constant struggle to communicate clearly while maintaining my authentic voice is what eventually led me to become a certified Gallup’s Clifton Strengths coach. For those not familiar, Clifton Strengths assessment “gives people a common language and vocabulary to better describe, communicate with and understand each other.”
One of the things that makes Gallup’s Clifton Strengths refreshingly unique is that it isn’t based on personalities. While I love personality tests (and I’ve done several), they can tend to put people into “buckets” or stereotypes. Clifton Strengths celebrates that each person comes to the metaphorical table with their own naturally occurring talents and strengths that can be used individually and as a team to increase performance and culture – regardless of their personality type! In fact, Clifton Strengths celebrates diversity and individuality as one of their Guiding Principles which states, “DIFFERENCES ARE ADVANTAGES – humanity’s differences are not a problem to solve, but rather a resource that create an advantage when we develop and use them wisely”.
Your authentic voice brings to the table what no one else can – your unique perspective and personality.
Individual Questions for Reflection:
1. What is the message I am trying to communicate?
2. Am I confident in what I am trying to say?
3. What makes this message so important?
4. Who is my audience?
5. Are my beliefs and values in alignment with my actions and my words?
Leadership Questions for Reflection:
1. What do I need to do to create a psychologically safe place for my employees?
2. Who tends to do all the talking? How can I get them to actively listen?
3. Who tends to do all the listening? How can I get them to engage and communicate?