If you’ve ever watched any one part of any episode of The Real Housewives of … well, anywhere, you’ll no doubt hear an argument: five or more high pitched voices yelling to be heard. No-one listening, everyone scrambling to be heard. Everyone focused on driving their view at the expense of feelings and respect. 😱 Makes for great (?) reality TV but not actual reality. 🤦‍♀️ It’s an overt example of what not to do to amplify your voice and not be heard while also not being seen and experienced as a leader with a knowledgeable voice of reason.

Your voice matters when you manage up and listening is, maybe ironically at first glance but stay with me, an important contributor to amplifying your voice.

Have you ever felt like someone is not listening to you? It feels terrible, like you’re not valued. Author of the guide Deep Listening, Oscar Trumboli asks the great question, “what’s the cost of not listening?” I love that question. Let it sit with you for a moment. I’d love to know what you believe is the cost of not listening.

While this email is about how you might use your voice to manage up, listening is an essential part of learning and then informing you so you know what to say, when to say it and how you convey it..

When asking managers about their voice in the context of managing up, they have shared with me:

  1. I don’t know how to say what I want to say so it will be taken the right way.
  2. I don’t have the confidence to speak up.
  3. It’d be a career limiting move if I said anything.
  4. I don’t know how to talk to my boss.
  5. Speaking up goes nowhere.
  6. “Leave it with me”: is code for don’t bother me with this. How do tell my boss this is a priority and needs more attention?

Listening to what’s going on around you, what other’s are saying, what your boss is saying and the way people are saying things – i.e. their tone and even their body language – will give you insight into how receptive people will be to what you have to say at any given time.

Listening and observing the culture of the team and organisation will contribute to how and when you speak up. 

As a child, if my brother was getting into trouble for something, I knew that was not a good time to discuss a bad assignment score or ask for anything special. While I did feel bad for my brother I wasn’t able to redirect or invite an angry parent to my situation.

Most of us have walked up to an office and could either see or hear something going on that made us do a 180 on the spot and decide, “yeah, maybe later.” Those moments are obvious and paying attention and making an evasive move is important; and it’s also important to pay attention to the bigger picture generally. Be curious and observe what’s going on, listen with intent to what and how people say what they say across your team, your organisation and even your industry.

When trying to persuade a boss or colleague isn’t working or you can’t seem to find the right words and timing to speak up, slow it down and regroup: ask questions and listen. Step into their world and see it from their perspective. When people feel understood they will be less resistant. When you see the world as they see it, you tend to find more and sometimes even better opportunities that will benefit you both. Doesn’t it feel good when you leave an exchange knowing the other person “just got me”.

This will help amplify your voice. This will help you manage up and be a productive leader.

I’d love to know your thoughts on this.