Roger (not his real name), a financial services leader, was newly promoted. He was well respected in his company and he was considered a good choice for this new role...until the first executive meeting! Roger prepared for hours and pored through all the numbers. He knew his material and was ready for questions. He created a presentation deck and proceeded to take the team through the slides. Ten minutes into the presentation, he looked up to see the partners’ eyes glazing over. He could feel the sweat on his forehead and started speaking faster. Having lost their patience, the partners began shooting rapid-fire questions. Roger didn't see this coming.
How often has this scenario played out? It could be an executive meeting, a sales, call, or a group interview. The presenter looked the part, knew the content, but it was the wrong context. In Roger’s case, he was so accustomed to reporting numbers that he believed that was what the partners expected. But in his new role, he needed to speak at a higher level, report trends, and make recommendations. His executive presence was being compromised because he lacked executive voice. Executive voice requires a visionary view, with a focus on the enterprise. not the details. He was still the subject matter expert, but the context had changed. And this is how presenters derail. They look like they have executive presence but they lack an executive voice.
Executive voice requires the leader or presenter to not only have the content but to understand the context or role.
For example, if the presenter is the subject matter expert, the context or role would most likely be to lead the meeting and to make decisions. If there were several leaders participating, their roles would be to provide input and connect the dots for the listeners without overshadowing the leader. If a participant were in a learning mode, the context or role would be to listen and observe.
Executive voice is about clarity, meaning that the ability to speak concisely will garner attention and respect, as well as, the ability to modulate the voice. The voice of authority is direct, even toned, with the right amount of projection. Rising inflections will detract from vocal authority and convey emotionality. The voice of authority doesn’t get rattled in an emotional storm; rather, the speaker sticks to the facts.
To develop an executive voice, be part of the solution. Develop strategic relationships. Do some homework to understand the context and know your role.