Inspiring Women, Episode 21: Finding and Owning Your Voice
Finding and owning your voice is a necessary skill for women to learn, so that they can express their unique identity, add value in any situation, and contribute to the greater good. Host Betty Collins explains in this edition of “Inspiring Women,” presented by Brady Ware & Company.
Betty’s Show Notes
Finding and owning your voice.
Strengthening your inner confidence.
It’s your identity expressing itself. It’s your personality, and it’s your individual message to the world.
I believe that there is power in that feminine voice, and it’s missing in too many conversations. From the business environment – your office, the marketplace, the boardroom, to politics, and in our homes. If we are there, it’s so crucial that the voice is heard.
In this episode, I hope to help you to move forward in owning your voice, and claiming that power.
Of course, if it’s only for the greater good.
You first have to recognize you probably have something valuable to say. You have to be strategic, though, about what you say and when you say it. Don’t speak for the sake of speaking. Be sure that you speak thoughtfully, in an engaging manner, when you want to be heard.
Words really matter.
People’s perception and how they’ve heard you is your of choice of words. Speaking isn’t just saying what you want. Speaking isn’t just having your voice. Words matter to make things happen.
You must be willing to speak up when something goes against what has a deep value for you. Silence in those moments really talks about your character. And be prepared for possible backlash when you do. Criticism comes with being a leader, regardless of your gender. The labels, and the name-calling have very little to do with you, personally. It’s really about how uncomfortable you’re making some people. Don’t take it personally, and just move on.
When you’re finding your voice, it’s one step at a time. Slow and steady.
Betty Collins, CPA, Brady Ware & Company and Host of the “Inspiring Women” Podcast
Betty Collins is the Office Lead for Brady Ware’s Columbus office and a Shareholder in the firm. Betty joined Brady Ware & Company in 2012 through a merger with Nipps, Brown, Collins & Associates. She started her career in public accounting in 1988. Betty is co-leader of the Long Term Care service team, which helps providers of services to Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and nursing centers establish effective operational models that also maximize available funding. She consults with other small businesses, helping them prosper with advice on general operations management, cash flow optimization, and tax minimization strategies.
In addition, Betty serves on the Board of Directors for Brady Ware and Company. She leads Brady Ware’s Women’s Initiative, a program designed to empower female employees, allowing them to tap into unique resources and unleash their full potential. Betty helps her colleagues create a work/life balance while inspiring them to set and reach personal and professional goals. The Women’s Initiative promotes women-to-women business relationships for clients and holds an annual conference that supports women business owners, women leaders, and other women who want to succeed. Betty actively participates in women-oriented conferences through speaking engagements and board activity.
Betty is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and she is the President-elect for the Columbus Chapter. Brady Ware also partners with the Women’s Small Business Accelerator (WSBA), an organization designed to help female business owners develop and implement a strong business strategy through education and mentorship, and Betty participates in their mentor match program. She is passionate about WSBA because she believes in their acceleration program and matching women with the right advisors to help them achieve their business ownership goals. Betty supports the WSBA and NAWBO because these organizations deliver resources that help other women-owned and managed businesses thrive.
Betty is a graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene College, a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and a member of the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants. Betty is also the Board Chairwoman for the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce, and she serves on the Board of the Community Improvement Corporation of Gahanna as Treasurer.
“Inspiring Women” Podcast Series
“Inspiring Women” is THE podcast that advances women toward economic, social and political achievement. The show is hosted by Betty Collins, CPA, and presented by Brady Ware and Company. Brady Ware is committed to empowering women to go their distance in the workplace and at home. Other episodes of “Inspiring Women” can be found here.
Today, we’re going to talk about finding and owning your voice; strengthening your inner confidence. It’s really not about how your voice sounds, or it’s not really about finding the perfect way to say something. Really, do you have something to say, but you maybe choose to be silent? Maybe you’re at the table. You finally got there, and you want to have some kind of impact, and you want to speak up, but you don’t. Maybe you’re confident, but you’re just not courageous with what you’re wanting to say, when the time comes. Maybe you’re using your voice, and you’re talking, but you’re not being heard. I hate to say it like this, but could it be that you’re not saying anything? That’s kind of an ouch, but …
So, your voice – it’s your authentic self speaking. It’s your identity expressing itself. It’s your personality, and it’s your individual message to the world. That world is what for you, professionally and personally? Your voice is what you have to say, and it takes confidence, and you have to be courageous. It takes really some strategy. It takes you stepping back, looking into the mirror, and being honest; strengthening that inner confidence, and shutting down the voices in your head. Then, it’s just action time.
Your voice is your power. It’s yours. It’s not anyone else’s. You should not give it up for any reason. There are people all around you who have used their voice for good and for bad. Think about it – if they had not used their voice, if they had not stood, if they had not said what needed to be said, what differences would be going on, right now, around you, in your company, in your career, in your family, et cetera? Who are you thinking of right now that spoke up? They spoke up and they communicated a very needed message. You have to think of those who did it negatively, though, and not for the greater good; always speaking, always saying something … Today is a tough environment. We have this P.C. world, and the tones, and the agendas, and all these opinions. At time, it’s shutting down our voices due to differences, and that’s not good either.
As this is a podcast for inspiring women, I believe that there is power in that feminine voice, and it’s missing in too many conversations, from the business environment – your office, the marketplace, maybe the boardroom; in politics; our homes. In a lot of those arenas, we’re not even there, so how could our voice be heard? So, if we are there, it’s so crucial that the voice is heard. Today, I hope to help you to move forward in owning your voice, and claiming that power; of course, if it’s only for the greater good. So, let’s get started.
You first have to recognize you probably have something valuable to say. Do you believe that you have something to say? Is there something on that tip of your tongue or maybe at the very core of who you are, something you have had … There’s a tremendous passion and yet, no one knows it. You have to start first with knowing that you are capable of adding value to a conversation.
I struggle with this, at times, because I think who would really care about this, or I think, even in my podcast, who’s really going to listen to what I have to say? But a lot of times, these are the things that I think matter. So, you matter, and your words matter. You have to avoid measuring the worth of your words against other people at the table, sometimes, or in the room. If you’re playing the comparison game, you’re just devaluing yourself. Don’t let the original of who you are conform to just being another copy. Believe in yourself and what you have to say. That’s your starting point. You’ve got to recognize that you have something valuable to say.
You have to be strategic also, though, about what you say and when you say it. I hate to break it to you … Here’s the bad news – shooting from the hip and spouting off is probably not overly strategic. Sometimes, it’s very effective. Do not get me wrong. Sometimes, you’re just in that moment, and it’s the choice that needs to be made. You certainly found your voice, and you used it, but was it effective, or did it just set you back because shooting from the hip can also do that? Your credibility is gone, and you can’t go back, because that’s what people are going to remember.
Do not speak for the sake of speaking. Be sure that you speak thoughtfully, in an engaging manner, if you want to be heard. Speak as you would like to be spoken to. That’s really huge. Sometimes we tend to be very brash people, or we tend to be very strong personalities, so we think everyone gets that. Sometimes, we want to be spoken to with respect, so if you don’t do that to the other person, how are you going to be heard? Your voice is just noise. Think on that because that can be pretty hard.
Think of it this way – when you have listened to somebody, it’s probably because they spoke; they were prepared; they were … The influence of what they were trying to get across was probably ignited within you. Again, it took strategy, and they thought it through.
We really need to figure out how to be inclusive and not decisive in our message. What does that mean? It means, really, sometimes, words really matter. As much as I don’t like the P.C. world in which we live right now, words matter, and how they are said matters. People’s perception and how they’ve heard you is probably because of choice of words. Speaking isn’t just saying what you want. Speaking isn’t just having your voice. Words matter in the things that have to happen. Then, just getting angry is counterproductive, so try to keep out of that kind of conversation, when it becomes heated, and you disagree.
If we use the right inclusiveness and decisiveness in our message, we can say the tough things; we can say the things that we want to say and, in some environments, it would be heard. The hardest thing in today’s environment is we can’t even have the discussion, no matter how we even choose our words. It’s not the greatest place to be, but that matters.
I think we have to be confident and not defensive. There is a time to be defensive. That is pretty much defending your abilities and your potentials, and sometimes, that happens. It’s more reactive. Then, there’s a time to be offensive. “Hey, these are my abilities, values. I’m going to score. I’m going to show you that potential!” That’s being proactive.
No matter which side you’ve chosen because of the circumstance, you got to do it with confidence. Then, you have nothing to prove. If somebody comes to you, and they’re very defensive, and they’re very timid, or meek, or apologizing, you’re not going to listen. So, when you do that, why would somebody? A defensive posture instinctively says you have something to prove, and maybe you do; but the offensive posture says, “This is my ability.” Either way, when you’re confident when you execute, you will have nothing to prove. You only have to show everyone else what already is known to be true. Being confident, and being on the offense, and not being defensive is usually the better strategy.
Stay in integrity with yourself. You must be willing to speak up, when something goes against something that is a very deep value for you. Silence in those moments really talks about your character. You have to stay in integrity. You have to stay in that mode. Silence or backing down in those moments probably is not an option. It’s far more important for you to look at yourself in the mirror and sleep well at night. Your voice can change that environment, maybe; standing up for what is right, or staying with a value, a core value. But don’t waste your energy where you won’t find yourself doing that. Find another place. You’re too valuable for that.
I think of two men who had two different beliefs. One was a very, very progressive, left side – those are what he valued, and those are what he believed – and he did not compromise those. He did it with … He led with those beliefs and those values. You never saw him compromise. Then, I will speak of a very, very conservative man who, these were his beliefs, and he met with anyone who didn’t believe that, and tried to convince them, and tried to help them understand. Neither gentleman ever compromised, or said, “I’m going to just go ahead and go what’s against everything I believe.” Those two people are President Ronald Reagan, and President Barack Obama. Two very different belief systems, two very different ways, but they both had the same way, in my opinion, of execution. They stayed with what they believed, and their integrity relied upon it. Doesn’t mean you had to believe either side, but they were both very effective in communicating their messages, and their voices were heard to two different audiences, but they were heard.
Speaking of those two individuals, be prepared for possible backlash when you do these things. While I want to believe that things are improving for women, and they are, there are still some environments where women leaders are penalized for speaking up. We’re labeled … When we’re aggressive, there are certain names that are said. I’m not going to say them … Or you’re told, “You’re too much.” Kind of like my kids do. “Mom, you’re great, but you’re a lot.”.
But remember these two things. Criticism comes with being a leader, regardless of your gender, by the way. The words are just nastier, sometimes, when they’re attached to a woman who is leading. So, you have to be prepared for that backlash. When you want your voice heard, and you’re trying to find that in today’s environment, it’s not easy. Two, the labels, and the name-calling have very little to do with you, personally. It’s really about how much you’re probably making some people feel uncomfortable. Don’t take it personally, and just move on. Again, I always go back to – if I want my voice heard, how am I going to use it?
You’ve got to have some safe places. I have my sounding boards, where I just let down. It’s a place. It’s a person. It’s an environment. I have to trust that those people, in those places, at the very core. At times, your voice is going to be criticized beyond, and you’re going to need to do that. It may be harsh, and it may take a toll on you emotionally, but no woman should be an island. We shouldn’t feel like we’re all in this alone because we’ve chosen to maybe take a stand somewhere.
When you’re finding your voice, it’s one step at a time. Slow and steady. It can be scary, and it can be risky, and you’ve got to put yourself out there. You’ve got to allow your voice to be heard and see what happens. You may not be able to do it all at once, or in a really big way, but that’s okay. Find a small way that you can begin today. Maybe start by saying no more, or intentionally apologizing less.
I would challenge you … My son is a minister in a church, and there’s just certain things that he believes in that he’s really into. Then, there are things that he just really isn’t about. He said, “Why are these things happening?” I’m not going to go into all that … I told him very clearly, pretty quickly, and he kind of just … We talked about it for a while, and I said it’s because people have believed what they needed to say, and they kept saying it. And after a while, people either got on board; they believed it. They got engaged, and there was conversation.
At Brady Ware, I’m fortunate enough to be a shareholder, lead a women’s initiative, and be on the board of directors. The greatest thing about that is – in all three of those arenas, as an owner of a business and in the leadership of the business – I get to have a voice, and I get to speak for many around me. So, you got to take your voice, and your message, and finding it very seriously, in no matter what it is you do. So, I hope this was challenging for you today and that you’ll think about it.