My friend Horst Abraham is a world class teacher. In the last blog entry I shared the note he sent indicating that in working with people he sees a wide hunger. People yearn to find their own authentic voice. Then he asked, “When have we lost that voice to begin with?”
The fascinating thing about the question is that it suggests a radical assumption. Horst seems to believe that we always have always had or currently have an authentic voice. It exists but it is simply not available to us. It is there and our task is to discover it.
This week I had the sacred privilege to do my job. That is, to teach executives to discover their own power. We began by discussing the conventional perspective on organizations. A woman who works as a professional consultant raised her hand and said, “These conventional assumptions translate into a climate of fear and the fear turns into pain. When I enter organizations that operate according to these assumptions, the people put a good face on it, but I can always feel the pain. It is real, it is discernable.”
Later I was chatting with her. She described her career path. She went to the best schools, worked in the political arena, and then started a computer business. After a time she realized she did not like the business. She also went through some significant challenges in her personal life.
She eventually discovered that she was at her best when she has the opportunity to help people realize their potential. She made the courageous decision to leave her company and pursue her calling as a seer and developer of potential.
She spoke of her executive coaching and indicated that when executives live in fear and pain they resent the culture and see limited options. Since they see no opportunity to express voice, they know they cannot influence the culture. As the discomfort or helplessness increases, they decide they can either endure or exit. She tries to broaden the frame. She asks about their passions, their strengths and about the needs of the company. She encourages them to envision and invent a job that they would love and that the company would value. She gave several examples of helping executives do this very thing. They went from personal misery to loving what they do.
Then she made her most impressive declaration. She said, “Because of what I have been through, I no longer have fears. Because I live without fear I can see possibilities others cannot see. I am a seer of possibilities. This morning when you taught the positive perspective and the inclusive mindset it all made sense. When you live without fear you can not only see the conventional constraints that everyone sees, you can also see the possibilities that no one else sees.”
Everything she was saying had to do with voice. When we live in fear, our attention narrows and we focus on the immovable constraints of life. Many people spend their entire life in the state of victimhood. Such people tend to never know or express their authentic voice. While Horst would tell them it exists, they would tell Horst he does not know what he is talking about. They are certain of their powerlessness.
How did the above woman come to live without fear and gain a voice that invites her clients to successfully find their own power? What does her voice have to do with her ability to be a seer?
She faced significant professional and personal challenges and moved forward. In the process she discovered her best self. The best self is not an object. The best self is a living, evolving identity that embraces change. It recognizes the world is ever evolving and that growth is a function of continually revising old beliefs. The best self recognizes and has faith in the process of deep learning.
In the process of deep learning we become open to emotions. We recognize the power of emotions. We learn to transform negative emotions into positive emotions. As we do, we see differently and we find the capacity to attach our emerging images with existing words. In doing this we integrate the emerging future with the existing past in the present moment. Because we see, others can hear and understand what they previously could not.
When we acquire vision it gives us voice. We have something to say. More accurately we have something we must say. Yet as we imagine ourselves saying it, we intuitively recognize the dangers. Each of knows intuitively that speaking in the authentic voice invites disbelief, accusations of fraud, madness, ridicule and reviling. It is in the fear of the world and the threat of rejection that we find the answer to Horst’s question.
What is an authentic voice?
Who in our organization has an authentic voice?
Why are there not more people with authentic voices?
How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?