Category Archives: Workplace communications

First Lesson from the Apprentice – the Art of Followership

Yes it’s back – a new series of the Apprentice and immediately it brings a lesson to mind – although I have a feeling this will not be the last!

The first episode of this series showed the two teams getting on with their first task except everyone wanted to show they were the best leader  – and consequently none of them made good followers.

If you’ve seen my “How to Talk to Aliens” presentation you may remember the grid of characteristics based on the original work by Merrill and Reid [1].

The common perception is that the Driver is the obvious leader but here is plenty of scope for different personalities styles to lead. Perhaps more importantly good leaders have an ability to spot when to practice good followership and let other people come to the fore. This is particularly important if you’re the boss and want your staff to work on their own initiative and without constant reference to you. Following is an excellent way of helping your staff develop with a little security from your support.

It may be surprising how powerful the characteristics, we don’t normally associate with leadership, can be.  Particularly the listening, relationship building and supportive skills are excellent for helping your staff grow and ultimately make you life easier.

For me being an effective follower can bring just as much success as being the leader.

So how did our Apprentices score – Nil Point!

[1] Personal Styles & Effective Performance : David W. Merrill , Roger H Reid
ISBN-10: 0801968992  ISBN-13: 978-0801968990

The Voice of Margaret Thatcher

While watching the funeral of Baroness Thatcher yesterday I remembered how important her voice was to her authority. You can hear the audio of how her voice changes during her time in office here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=28_0gXLKLbk

At the start of her office it was such a gentle pleasant voice and under the guidance of tutor from the National Theatre she leant to drop the tone and add a strident authoritative quality to her voice.

I’ve  worked in Engineering for the last 38 years and the role of women has changed. At the beginning women in Engineering were regarded as about as feminine as the Eastern European women’s shot put team, but now the roles are very much equal and more and more women are in team leaders’ roles. Still, for some women they retain the gentle pleasant voice that characterised Margaret Thatcher’s early office.  I wouldn’t suggest there’s a necessity for every woman to develop the lower authoritative tone that Baroness Thatcher developed but I do think there’s a strong case for developing a tone that’s clearly business like and  commands attention and respect.

You can develop your own style using a number of different vocal assets. Your pace and directness will set the tone of a conversation, making it clear that your are business focussed but we get so much of our meaning from the intonation people use (not the 38%/45% attributed to Albert Mehrabian) that it’s worth the effort to make sure your voice has the best tone for the business environment.

You could do this your self through vocal exercises are perhaps better to use a vocal coach. I’ve worked with two great coaches. From my time in the Professional Speaking Association I worked with  Fergus McLelland and from my mastermind group a coach who came from an operatic background, Susan Heaton Wright who runs Executive Voice.

You may not be setting your sights on Prime Minister but your vocal quality can have a big effect on your career and it’s worth taking seriously to make the biggest impact you can in the workplace.