Feature Interview #1 – Voice Strategies for EAs and PAs

I was recently interviewed by the great folks over at Executive Assistant Network for their member newsletter, about the power of voice in business.

You can read the text of the interview below.

Article by Jason Jelicich

Blind since birth, Tim Noonan developed an extra ordinary sense of voice perception to help him better understand both people’s intent and the world around him.

He has since become an acclaimed voice consultant, pioneering the emerging field of Vocal Branding, where his focus is on building brands that sound as great as they look.

Jason Jelicich, the GM here at EAN, met up with Tim at his Surry Hills studio to find out more about the importance of voice in business.

What follows is the first of a 2-part interview series with part 1 looking at voice of the EA in business and part 2 looking at the voice of the Executive in business.#### Q: When did you first start seriously thinking about the importance of voice in business?

When I think back on it, it was actually at school – how some teachers and authority figures used their voices to manage students and classes, imposing fear or respect.

But after school, before Uni, I worked for a year as a telephonist/receptionist for a building engineering company and quickly realised that the person answering the phone needed to be the one managing and leading the conversation – or corporate priorities and policies may be at risk.

While there I couldn’t help but overhear how many males would try to dominate females in sales and other situations. I began to realise that it took a real art and skill to be successful and respected in business conversations – this skill is principally expressed through how people engage and empower their voices.

As a blind person growing up in a seeing world, I sidestepped all the body language and posturing people use to try to give an impression. As a result I heard behind the posturing and gained deep insights into people from their largely unguarded and un-trained speaking. I read body language with my ears, and I’ve learnt that the voice tells much more about a person and their intentions than the way they stand or the way they look.

Q. From a voice perspective, what do you think are some of the key challenges for EAs & PA’s today?

Hmmm, it is a complex role – accountability is very high but formal authority is often lower. Skills of influence are key and voice is undoubtedly the most effective tool for influencing others. There is an art in exerting one’s will (or the will of one’s exec) without the other person resenting or reacting negatively. The Vocal Consciousness strategies which I’ve developed, give professionals in business more effective skills to handle such situations.

Also, sometimes you are speaking for your executive, other times, for yourself – how do you maintain a cohesive persona and sense of self when you have to move through and between these two states? Do you mirror the persona of your boss or do you complement it with a differing style? These are the kinds of things I urge EAs and others in business to be very clear on, or at least to start thinking more about.

Another challenge is that in this role you are often subject to displeasure or pressure from others, mainly coming through their voice. It’s important to be able to protect yourself from negative residue from these encounters – while responding optimally to the situation. The voice can be a very harsh weapon when wielded in anger or carelessly by others.

Most of us have been dominated through tone of voice as a child, and there are times when someone’s voice can trigger these kinds of past experiences. I sometimes work with people one-on-one to release that old negative voice domination – so they can maintain their personal and professional power as an adult. I show people ways to hear effectively and respectfully, while not being adversely impacted by others who show less respect when they speak.

Q: What are some tips you can suggest for our EAs to be more effective as communicators – over the phone or face-to-face?

  1. V O I C E

I created the following acronym – you can read about these five elements of authentic speaking at timnoonan.com.au/v-o-i-c-e.

V – Vibrant

O – Open

I – Intentional

C – Conversational

E – Emotionally expressive.

By employing these five elements of vocal authenticity, you can be more effective and more likeable in the workplace and elsewhere.

  1. What we resist usually persists!

The benefits of likeability are under-rated in business! Often we are trained to push back (resist) in response to aggressive or dominant requests. If we can develop greater likeability, respect and clarity of message through a warm and clear tone of voice, we can stave off the pressure without losing energy through resistance. We also then retain our negotiating power – and our interactions are far more pleasant and less costly to our en

  1. Buy Time

When you have a tricky negotiation or you know you are frazzled, try to buy (ask for) some time and space so you can better prepare and plan for the upcoming conversation. If you verbally acknowledge the person’s request and tell them you will check and get back to them, you have immediately eased the tension and pressure to make a decision or deny the request. When you initiate the ‘get back’ you hold more of the power. Warmly but firmly asking them to give you some time to look into a situation can trigger a subtle sense of helping and loyalty. This power comes from using Your Own Voice to make the request rather than sending an email.

  1. Talk Rather than Type

When we send emails they carry much of the ‘information’ of a communication, but less of the personalisation and intention. One reason for this is that email is a ‘Telling’ mode of communication, whereas the telephone is a ‘Conversational’ mode of communication. Conversation suggests greater equality and respect for the other party.

Explaining sincerely over the phone “I really wish I could get you in to see him sooner, but he is totally booked!” is much more powerful and builds better relationships than an email saying “I’m sorry, Mr. Smith is booked all day.” As well, voice enables us to convey a limitless number of feelings, emotions and intentions which add weight and authenticity to the information we need to share. Finally, spoken conversation gives us the opportunity to engage our voice and also to hear and sense the reactions of the other party immediately, this gives us the best chance of influencing a mutually satisfying outcome.

Q: How can people find out more about you and your voice consulting services or get in touch with you?

My website timnoonan.com.au has info about the diverse voice services we offer – including business communication coaching for management and executives; corporate voice audits; designing world class telephone services and inspirational conference speaking on vocal authenticity and insightful listening.

Q: Thanks Tim, it’s always a pleasure speaking with you – now tell me how does MY voice come across to you?

Well Jason there is no doubt that your voice conveys a great sense of confidence, showmanship and of course flair, but are you really sure that your readers are ready to hear everything else that your voice subtly reveals to me about you…??

You can read the second interview, Voice and the Executive here.

About Tim

Tim Noonan is a voice and usability consultant, business Communication coach, inspirational conference speaker and the founder of Vocal Branding Australia. Tim has a degree in Cognitive Psychology and Education, with a particular focus on how people process and comprehend auditory information. Some of his clients include Westpac, Telstra, St.George Bank, The NSW Electoral Commission, Weber Shandwick PR, NSW Ministry of Health and the ATO.

Tim can be reached on 0419 779 669

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