Generating an original idea, developing that idea so that it works in practice, making it affordable, persuading people to adopt it: there’s a lot that has to happen to bring an innovation to life. Difficult, if not impossible, to do all that by yourself.
A look at the Voices at Work for a Hotel Receptionist
Claire is a hotel receptionist. She works in the West of Scotland, but listening to what she is saying, you could be in a hotel lobby anywhere in the world.
‘Good afternoon, how can I help?’
‘I need the credit card you intend to use and I need you to sign this form here and here.’
‘If you’re planning to dine with us this evening, may I suggest you make a reservation, as the restaurant is expecting to be quite busy.’
The Inquire, Direct and Advise voices: the stock-in-trade of the hotel receptionist’s interaction with guests.
This is speech which might sound too straightforward to hold much interest. But when you pause to reflect on what makes it seem so ordinary, you start to notice how it highlights important features and differences in how talk can be used.
Facilitating a simulation exercise is probably a familiar sounding activity for many learning and development professionals. Scenario-based group work is a common component of many recruitment processes, assessment days, development centres and team-building events.
But, when your participants are humanitarian practitioners, and your subject area is the serious matter of preparing to provide life-saving humanitarian aid, how you design, deliver and debrief your simulation takes on a new importance.The simulation is the safe space in which people can practise skills and routines that, in the field, can become matters of life and death.
vp-adminVoices at Work – The Emergency Simulation Manager
Catherine McIntosh is a professional mediator. She helps people to resolve their disagreements, acting as an independent third party through a process which is less formal and less expensive than resorting to litigation or going to court. Judging from the feedback she receives from her clients, she’s rather good at it. ‘Very professional.’ ‘’Very helpful.’ We felt comfortable.’ ‘This was the first time we’d been able to talk.’ ‘You made it easy to have a conversation.’ Given that emotions run high during disputes, these are significant accolades.
vp-adminVoices at Work – The Professional Mediator
The great thing about lying in the dentist’s chair is that it obliges you to listen.
And if you listen carefully, it helps you to gain a sharper (ouch!) appreciation of some of the very different forms that conversations can take.
Mary has been my dentist for years. We’ve both forgotten how many. I like the way she works for three reasons. First, she always treats you like an intelligent, grown-up participant in the business of looking after your teeth, whether the way you’ve been doing it deserves that or not. Secondly, she keeps the interventions to a minimum: she endeavours to make your original teeth last as long as they can and doesn’t undertake major bits of work until that becomes the most sensible option. Thirdly, and actually this might really be the most important reason, when you have to have an injection of local anaesthetic, she somehow manages to do it in a way that is unexpectedly but joyfully almost pain free.
With terrorism a matter of acute public concern, the latest in our Voices at Work series focuses on one of the roles in the front line of keeping us safe.
Voices at Work – The Investigative Interviewer
Neil Brewster is an investigative interviewer. If you wanted to be more sensational about it, you’d call him a professional interrogator. He is a former military intelligence operator who now runs a consultancy service for clients who place a premium on the honesty and integrity of the information provided by people. Neil carries out investigative interviews for his clients and also provides them with training and coaching in how to do it themselves. He is an expert in his field, having conducted investigative interviews in a wide range of contexts from counter-terrorism to human resource management, from the high stakes to the everyday, from interviewing terrorist suspects and incident debriefing to security vetting and assessing candidates for job selection.
A focus on nameless people who are out of work, reveals that our voices are always at work, even when we are not.
In some occupations, perhaps most, certain voices are particularly important. Diagnosing and directing are essential parts of being a paramedic. Detectives need to probe and critique. Salespeople need to use both inquiry and advocacy. But what about the out-of-work? Are they voiceless as well as jobless?
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking.” As you read the words, I expect you can already hear the familiar sound of the voice. The diction is crisp and clear. The accent is educated. The pace is business-like but unhurried. The message is concise and instructional. The tone is relaxed, confident and reassuring. Such is the speech of the commercial airline pilot, as much a part of the uniform as the smartly cut suit, the braid rings on the sleeve and the peaked cap. You might almost imagine that airlines carry a piece of equipment which transponds pilots’ own voices to make them all sound the same.
‘Spin doctoring’ has given media relations a bad name. Even the easy way the phrase rolls off the tongue softens and disguises the nature of what it is describing. Spin doctoring is a deceptive phrase for a deceptive activity, the business of manipulation. But we shouldn’t allow the behaviour of political lobbyists or celebrity publicists to distort our understanding. Media relations is an important sphere of activity for businesses in crowded, competitive and noisy markets, and it is one where honest communication is vital, if products and services are to earn deserved reputations and maintain strong brands.
This is the second in our series of features illustrating the use and importance of particular voices in different occupations and contexts.
Freeland Barbour is, although he is too modest to say so himself, a highly respected and internationally acclaimed composer and musician, who works primarily but by no means exclusively in the musical tradition of his native Scotland. A former BBC producer, he continues to produce records as part of the portfolio of creative interests that make up his career.
Each of us has a personal but largely unconscious profile of ‘voices’ which shapes the way we talk and the impact we make. We each favour some voices, and often over-rely on them, while neglecting others.
The effect is not only to leave us less versatile than we could be and need to be, but also deaf and blind to our own inflexibilities and to the consequences of some of our actions.
By bringing your personal pattern of voices, and its impact on others, into conscious awareness, VoicePrint makes your personal, inter-personal and organisational skill-set more complete, more agile and more effective.