As a leader, one of the most difficult truths you’ll have to face will be the fact that it’s hard to understand what it’s like to be on the other side of you and your leadership tendencies. That’s natural, of course, because we’re all only human. However, for those leaders who don’t take the time to understand how they lead or what effect their tendencies have on others, especially those on people who display tendencies differ from their own, then the environment becomes ripe for conflict, miscommunication, mistaken assumptions, and unhealthy culture.
That’s where the 5 Voices system comes into play. It helps you understand your voice order so that you can discover how you tend to navigate the world and communicate with others. Each voice comes with it’s own set of tendencies around processing information, making decisions, and communicating with those around you. Armed with the knowledge of your own voice tendencies, as well as the voices and tendencies of those around you, you will become better equipped to successfully navigate healthy relationships, effective decision-making, and consistent communication.
The Problem of Underrepresentation
The unfortunate reality is that the more corporate and business-orientated the environment (especially at the executive level), the less representative of the general population it becomes in regard to voices. This is especially true for the lack of of Nurturers, but even extends to Connectors and Guardians who, if they are present, tend to be overshadowed by the louder voices of Pioneers. Pioneers, on the other hand, are highly overrepresented, since they only make up about 7% of the population, but saturate nearly 50% of CEO positions.
Given the highly strategic, long-term, and critical decision-making nature of Pioneer types, it makes sense why boards and executive leadership tends to default to such voices. However, an over reliance on Pioneer strengths tends to result in a loss of the invaluable insights other voices bring to the table. Additionally, since Pioneers only comprise 7% of the population, they often struggle to understand how best to translate the impact of messaging and decision-making to the other 93% of people in their organization who have different voices and perspectives than their own. Such drastic disconnections almost always result in dissatisfaction, inefficiency, and a generally unhealthy culture.
That being said, let’s take a look at a few examples of clients who have experienced critical disconnections between voice tendencies and leadership of the wider organization. You’ll find a common thread of voice underrepresentation and under-appreciation that often leads to misfires or mistrust between leadership and the rest of the company.
Disconnection #1: Feedback & Communication
One of the most interesting teams we’ve worked with consisted almost entirely of Creatives and Pioneers. That meant their foundational voice orders were either Creative-Pioneers or Pioneer-Creatives. As leaders of a large organization with a few thousand people, the limited variety of voice input on the team led to poor and ineffective communication with the rest of the company. Additionally, as an executive team comprised primarily of “Thinkers,” their communication involved very little affirmation or encouragement. In Pioneer-Creative cultures, feedback typically focuses on criticism; whereas if you are doing well, then you just tend to not hear anything, the expectation being that you carry on with your satisfactory performance.
As part of the problem, however, some of the leaders reporting to the executive team were Feelers who, as relationally sensitive people, assumed the lack of communication and absence of encouragement meant the executives were displeased. This caused an environment of insecurity and mounting panic among those leaders, who believed it was only a matter of time before they were replaced. Due to the lack of Nurturer (and Guardian) representation on the executive team, their strategic decisions were solid, but often lacked consideration for how those decisions would be received by the rest of the organization. Based on the population breakdown of voices, the team’s lack of diversity amounted to nearly 73% of voices and perspectives being underrepresented at the highest level of company leadership. That makes for a critical problem when it comes to communicating with the rest of the organization and utilizing the full complement of skills and perspectives that each voice brings to the team.
Disconnection #2: The Need for Bridge-Building
In another organization, most of the executive team consisted almost entirely of Pioneers and Guardians, with only one Nurturer present. Interestingly enough, however, the Nurturer happened to lead 75% of the people, and everyone loved him because he was always fighting for them, and they felt it.
Unfortunately, however, the leadership team lacked a strong Connector-Creative voice presence and therefore struggled to craft the long-term, people-centered development focus that those voices do best. Consequently, the team has come to realize that there’s a voice in their decision-making. While everybody loved the Nurturer, he was the only one on the team fighting for the people and prioritizing how each decision would impact them and their well-being.
This caused the rest of the more analytical, factual, strategy-first Pioneers and Guardians to view that Nurturer as “too-soft,” and therefore result in frequent dismissal of the alarms and perspectives he raised. Without the presence of Connectors and Creatives to build the bridge between long-term, strategic decision-making, and the real, immediate needs of employees, a serious disconnection occurred between leadership and the rest of the company.
Dealing with Disconnection
So, if Pioneer voices are overrepresented, and executive leadership tends to lack the presence of at least one voice, how are organizations supposed to deal with disconnection?
Fortunately, it’s not absolutely necessary to have every foundational voice represented on every team. To be sure, a complete complement of voices can make it much easier to solicit the various perspectives and contributions that must be considered for effective communication and decision-making. However, the most important factor involves maintaining an honest awareness of the missing perspectives, as well as a strong commitment to incorporate their strengths and invite collaboration where necessary.
For example, if Nurturers or Guardians are missing from the team, it’s important to invite other trusted members of the organization who represent those voices to participate in the discussion from time-to-time. Another option is to always keep in mind what the missing voice(s) tends to focus on, and then commit to asking the questions and evaluating concerns they often champion. We even have a guide to the primary questions that each voice asks, which you can find in our previous introductory series on the 5 Voices. So, if your team lacks a Nurturer voice, try running through the following questions to ensure you are considering all possible perspectives that may be missing from the natural discussion: “Who’s going to be most upset about this decision? Who’s going to hate this the most? Have we really thought it through? What are the implications for people? Are we going to violate values that we aren’t aware of?”
In the end, avoiding the pitfalls of disconnection means adopting a sense of humility and learning how and where to get a variety of inputs on the team. It’s about creating the environment where each voice feels truly safe and empowered to bring their best to the team.
This was originally posted by GiANT Worldwide and I wanted to share it here as well. If you’re interested in learning more about how your voice affects your leadership, I’m happy to schedule a meeting to discuss. Just click the contact button and let me know!