Change Whisperer – Gail Severini, Symphini Change Management Inc.

Your voice matters―liberate it (Liberate your voice series, Post 1 of 3)
January 15, 2015, 8:06 pm
Filed under: - Personal change, - Professional Development | Tags:

Confidence Speaking Authenticity“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”―Marilyn Ferguson

What does it mean to “liberate your voice”? It means to speak aloud, in any room.  It means to share your observations and opinions.  Every one of us behaves on a continuum from “not enough” to “way too much”.  This post is for those who would like to move from “not enough” into the middle.

Of course narcissists (yes, those of you with a high ratio of “I”s, “me”s, and “my”s in your expressions) can stop reading now.

For many of us, speaking out is difficult.  We may worry that we are not qualified or that we are missing something.  We may be concerned about how others will view us – as stupid or as arrogant.  This is not an easy balance and I don’t claim to have it all figured out.  I have, however, experimented quite a bit and stretched my own comfort zone over the past 5 years or so.  These three posts are intended to share some of the techniques I have used.

Why this topic on Change Whisperer? Well, leading and managing change is tumultuous.  It requires strong minded and strong willed practitioners.  It requires a precarious balance between listening and talking, between inspiring and collaborating. It requires a strong “voice”.

Start with a mindset “Everyone has valuable ideas and opinions―me and you”

I believe this.  It is my mindset – perhaps you will consider it.  I believe that every single person in an organization has a point of view that contributes to the success of the enterprise.

Furthermore, during periods of change when we ask employees or members of a group to shift the way they think about their work (eg value customer experience more than efficiency), to learn new skills (eg be vulnerable while developing proficiency) or simply to do different stuff (eg shift their priorities) we cannot “tell them into it” rather we can “listen them in”.  What I mean by this is that to get someone’s full commitment to a new way of working they need to process it―they benefit from talking through the reasons why (case for change) and to talk through their questions and objections.

If you wonder if the employee’s “full commitment” matters I would ask you to consider this terrific distinction from Tim Creasey in the upcoming 4th Edition of “Practicing Organization Development”:  “Change Management’s goal is to drive and capture the portion of benefits that depend on employee adoption and usage” [1].

We can only develop full engagement if we believe that employee’s ideas and opinions matter.  Sometimes they raise issues and points of view that the project team has not considered but can then factor in (many would argue that these voices should be heard earlier and there is validity to this―for another post).

The point here is that everyone needs to be able to speak their mind, to voice their ideas and opinions. In fact, getting to all the sexy ideas like “employee engagement” and “collaboration” requires that we take this very seriously.

This goes against much of our conditioning.  It goes against common command-and-control cultures and the speed at which we are all pressured into.  It is extraordinarily difficult to operationalize.

The power of you

Let’s talk about you for a minute.  Do you believe that you have valuable ideas and opinions? Do you voice them in your organization?

Often when I observe teams, I see people holding back even when their leaders are asking for (requiring) their input.  There are lots of reasons why this could be systemic but today I want to zoom in on you.

Do you know your opinions?

Do you voice them? If not, why not?

Let’s further narrow the scope down to take out career-limiting politics.  How about in something as benign as online forums – perhaps you read along and have a thought but you hesitate to jump in and post a comment.  Why?

I know this is true for some of you.  I know because I have walked in these shoes.

I care because you have important things to say.  I care because your ideas and opinions make us all smarter and stronger.

This series is about liberating your voice.

Confront your inner critic

One of the first things that many of us need to work on is that voice inside our heads that monitors our performance and tends to play on our fears and inadequacies.

There are productive ways to deal with this–a quick search on the internet will yield many.  What strikes me as useful are these:

  • Be conscious of the self criticism. What we say to ourselves is as powerful as what others might say to us―often more so because we are harder on ourselves than anyone else might be.
  • Imagine if someone said this to your friend. Marshal your arguments.  How would you rebut such criticism and defend your friend?

We really need to accept ourselves and be okay with the notion that we are “enough” already.

You don’t have to know your purpose but it helps

Our energy comes from the things that inspire us, that are important to us. What do you care about? Will you voice your opinions on those issues?

Many of us are a bit lost from time to time.  Having a “purpose” sounds so big, daunting really.  I re-read a post from Umair Haque recently, “How to let your purpose find you”, which I think is quite good.

What has motivated me is a conviction that organizational performance on transformation matters.  It preserves and creates jobs, which fuel our communities.  This jazzes me up.  It feels like a place where I can make a difference, both in my own performance and in sharing what I learn as I go.

What jazzes you?

In the next post we’ll explore how to lock in on those important things that you want to say and how to begin making your voice heard.  Subscribe (top left) to ensure you get the next post in this series.

Related Posts


[1]          “Exploring the Relationship Between Organization Development and Change Management”, Chapter 31, Tim Creasey, David Jamieson, William J. Rothwell, and Gail Severini. “Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Leading Change”, William J. Rothwell (Editor), Jacqueline M. Stavros (Editor), Roland L. Sullivan (Editor), Arielle Sullivan (Editor). Copyright © 2014 Pfeiffer / Wiley. All rights reserved. 4th Edition. In Press 2015.

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5 Comments so far
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Looking forward to parts 2 and 3.
To your question “what jazzes you” I would answer: Community and connecting people.

Comment by lucgaloppin

Gail, will creating safe spaces/places appear in parts two and three? I think “the feeling in the room” has an effect on the decision to lift one’s voice.

Comment by billbraun

Might I add to the comment of Bill that ‘room’ could be both physical or digital? 🙂

Comment by lucgaloppin

Thanks Luc and Bill for reading and commenting. You both add great points – and I wish I had thought of them.

In this series, I really focused on what we could do to prepare ourselves. I have usually used “space” (physical and digital) very deliberately, as you both suggest, to prepare space for others. As I think of it now, it certainly also helped to prepare me.

If either of you have good resources on this, including your own great blogs please do share the links here.

Bill, I often go back to your posts on Dialogue and Powerful Questions and wish you would write more.

Luc, your work on Social Architecture really gets to the best of what happens when we all bring our voices forward.

Coming up will be an exploration of finding our authenticity and figuring out where we fit on a thought leadership scale then 10 tips. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on these.

Comment by Gail Severini

Ah, that self criticism. It is alive and well everywhere. It would be wonderful if we could find a way to help not just adults, but our children moderate their inner voice. How might we evolve differently if we learned this skill early in life?

Comment by Faith Fuqua-Purvis

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