The Big Voice.

In an encounter with an Iraq veteran, the soldier mentioned his tent was located right beneath the “big voice.” I took this to mean a loudspeaker, because he said the frequency of announcements made it extremely hard to get a restful sleep. Night and day it blared its messages, broadcasting them far and wide.

No trouble finding the voice in that camp.

The upside – constant communication kept people awake, aware, and informed … probably safer as well. The downside – people don’t work well if they can’t get some sleep. Keeping a balance of enough information, with enough time to let it sink in, would be a reasonable goal. This place seemed to have too much of a good thing.

I guess it shows it’s possible to over-communicate, but that seems to be an exception, not the rule. All of the employee surveys I’ve ever read say that people want more information, not less. Even where leaders have focused on increasing the frequency and depth of their messages, workers regularly report they’re not getting enough information.

There is a widespread hunger to be in-the-know.

Where this intersects with leadership is that it’s your responsibility to measure the ‘informed-ness’ of your employees. Not only the quantity of information they’re getting, but the quality, as well. The only way they can truly follow is when the path forward is well laid out, described in detail, and put out there. Please don’t confuse long speeches with saying something. Learn how to communicate directly, without the superfluous.

For some people, especially those more introverted, or shy, communication is difficult. Finding their voice may be a bit more challenging … but not impossible. People respond when you speak from the heart, with the intention to inform them, not impress them. You don’t need eloquent phrases … you need eloquent clarity. I saw a recent survey suggesting that high performing, proactive teams may actually be better served by introverted leaders. Would that mean that lower performing, less proactive teams may need a leader that’s a little more ‘out there’ in terms of his/her presence? Can’t say for sure, but it’s important to develop your ‘big voice,’ not in terms of volume, but in terms of the confidence you have in what you say, and the number of channels in which you project it.

Captain Michael Abrashoff, in taking command of the U.S.S. Benfold, developed a ‘big voice’ by making constant, off-the-cuff announcements to his crew about something he just learned (most times from a crewmember) and that from now on that’s how things will be done. He took the time to meet and interview every member of the crew (over 300 men and women). He regularly spent time on the crew decks during meals too meet and connect with them. He often brought high-profile, senior leaders into contact with his crew. He gave the crew’s spokesman a seat-at-the-table during the formal leadership meetings. The ‘big voice’ in this situation was not only the words he used, but the regular interactions he facilitated. He gave relatively inexperienced sailors big responsibilities … and backed them up when they made mistakes. He trained, and trained, and trained them. Credibility was an outcome. So was performance. The U.S.S. Benfold became the “best darn ship in the Navy.” (‘It’s Your Ship,’ book authored by Captain Michael Abrashoff).

So speak with the intent to connect. It’s not just information. It’s a relationship.

It will take some work, but your voice can grow. Give up control. Gain command. Go big.

–  Jerry

For more information about our leadership development programs, please visit Subscribers receive notice of new articles automatically (see the ‘Register’ link in the right hand column).

This entry was posted in Leadership Articles. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *