Join us in an insightful and empowering episode with our Associate Trainer, singing teacher and life coach Anne Leatherland.
In Season 8 Episode 6 Anne returns to share her unique approach to helping women find their voice, both literally and metaphorically, in professional settings.
We discuss the challenges women face regarding voice perception in the workplace and explore strategies for communicating with confidence and impact.
Voice is a key component of identity, and we discuss ways to align internal and external voices, and adapt to societal expectations without losing personal authenticity.
It's a fascinating conversation
00:00 Voice in the business community
03:11 Problems for the female voice in business
05:08 Woman Interrupted
09:00 A voice is linked to a person
12:53 Why should I change?
17:33 Working against your goals
19:11 Your vocal fingerprint
20:50 Trusting yourself and confidence
22:01 We have three voices
26:33 Confidence for singers
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TIAV S8 Ep6 Breaking the bias: a conversation about transformative voice coaching with Anne Leatherland
[00:00:00] This is a Voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kays and Jeremy Fisher. This is a Voice. Hello and welcome to This is a Voice, Season 8, Episode 6. The podcast where we get vocal about voice. I'm Jeremy Fisher. And I'm Dr. Gillyanne Kayes. And boy did we get vocal about voice last time with Anne Leatherland. We certainly did.
[00:00:37] And she is back. She's back for another round. I am. Hello again.
[00:00:40] Anne, let's do a switch now, kind of moving from values and the coaching that you did on yourself. You're already doing the Teacher's Toolkit. You have launched another arm to your business, haven't you? Tell us about that because it's sounding really exciting.
[00:01:00] Okay coming out of Teaching Actors at LIPA and at Liverpool Theatre School, I got interested in spoken voice, just as much in a way as in singing voice, and I decided I wanted somehow to include that in what I was doing. And it occurred to me that in the business community, there are many people who, A, don't really know why their voices are important, and B, if they don't quite know what to do about it.
[00:01:29] Now at the same time, I was trying to formulate something with coaching and my view of how that works for people and eventually came to the decision to meld the two. And so I've got this, I think it's quite unique fusion of life coaching and voice work. And I've built a program. It's in beta phase at the moment, and it's aimed at women in business who want to speak with more confidence and impact and authority. And it comes really from that place that as a woman, as women, me and Gillyanne anyway we, we understand where people don't take us as seriously as they would take a man.
[00:02:16] Now, that sounds very inflammatory, but it is still happening and there's evidence out there that it's still happening. It's been tested and looked at. So I don't say this to wind anybody up or to demean men or anything like that, but just to say there is a bias. And so I started reaching out to women on that level.
[00:02:38] And I've got now eight people doing a six month program with me. And we're looking at aspects of coaching. We will be looking at our values and things, but we're starting with the fundamentals of voice. Then we look at energy, then we look at how energy interacts with voice, how that interacts with who we are and the world in general.
[00:02:59] And everyone does it a slightly different way because it's bespoke one to one. I am, however, hoping to make it a group course sometime next year on a slightly different level. I mean, I've seen, some of your social media posts where you've talked about the kind of things that are said about female voice.
[00:03:18] For instance, in relation to pitch that that women can be said to sound hysterical, when they are talking with excitement or maybe their voices are too quiet or their voices are high pitched. What sorts of things do people, obviously without breaching any confidentiality, what sorts of things are people reporting that, they get fed back to them or that they believe in themselves?
[00:03:45] Sure, I mean, these are people who are in senior management or are in coaching roles themselves and it can be something like your voice is too shrill, your voice is too high, it's too wobbly you're the weakest presenter on our team.
[00:04:07] So there are people here who are being really hurt by those, or it can be Oh, you don't look like your voice sounds on the phone. No, nobody does, do they? Because the phone doesn't give all the information anyway. But there's a worry about shrillness. There's a worry about harsh edges on the voice.
[00:04:27] There's a worry about accent, some people commenting on accent, and various other related things. But the point is, our voice is our identity. So if somebody that we're working with says things like that to us, what does that do for our own self, sorry, own sense of who we are? So it's about learning to have the self belief to say, you know what, this is my voice. And I can grow, I can improve it, I can move forwards, but there is still this bias, and it comes from the fact, unfortunately, that men have a much lower fundamental frequency to their speech.
[00:05:08] Yeah. And so to a group of men, if you're the only woman in a male dominated room, your voice is going to sound like that, even though it might only be where mine is. Yeah. Because of that big difference in fundamental frequency, and it's a perceptual thing. And I think in the business world, it's probably fair to say that, the way, certainly, we're thinking, I don't know, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, that the business world is very patriarchal in, in, in the goals.
[00:05:41] And therefore it's always been harder for women to make the impact that they want to. I mean, hopefully, now that is changing. But I think there is, there can be an element of that. And even with, people, I've worked with a few people in this situation. I don't do the life coaching that you do where they found that that they couldn't get a word in edgeways.
[00:06:04] I have had to teach women to interrupt. That's very true because very often men will interrupt us. There's, I think I showed it to you, there's actually an app that you can get which measures how many times a man interrupts you when you're speaking. Oh, we'll have to put that in the show notes.
[00:06:25] I'll have to try and find out what it was interrupt her or something it's called. But you put it on during your meeting and at the end it tells you how many times you were interrupted by a male voice. I love that. And, this happened again to one of my clients. She was in an industry many years ago at corporate level and she was heckled in a presentation and it really affected the way that she worked and she became ill over it actually and eventually left that sort of work and has now gone on to other work, but wants to gain confidence for that new work that she's doing. So this is endemic and actually I ought to say it's actually not just men.
[00:07:09] It begins with men, but because our society has been so patriarchal for so long. It's become the case that other women, when it's tested, in general, actually think what a man says has more weight to it than what a woman says. So we're not helping each other in that sense. Yeah, and women in more powerful managerial positions may be the one who puts down the other woman.
[00:07:37] Who perhaps is perceived to have a voice that is, less than or less effective. Maybe someone just isn't yet a very effective speaker, but has, is actually incredibly knowledgeable in their field and is very valuable when they're in, maybe a small meeting or a one to one situation. And then if they're, they're in the boardroom or if they've got to do a presentation at work, which actually quite a lot of professions do demand these days, suddenly, they feel that they're not quite up to it.
[00:08:10] And yeah, because I've heard of women putting each other down and. We don't need to. And it's a shame. And of course, if you're on the spot there having to present, and before you go out there that you're likely to be looked down at or interrupted or dismissed in some way, then that doesn't augur very well for your confidence, does it?
[00:08:34] Or the way that you're going to actually present. And I think also in many business people, and I could be wrong, but I think what people understand by speaking or presenting is different than what we would understand. They don't really, it's not just about voice. You can have a slightly shrill voice, but you can still work with that to make your points come across really well.
[00:09:00] Tell us a bit more about that aspect of speaking, which isn't really about the voice. No, and yes. It is about the voice in the sense that a voice is linked to a person. If a voice isn't linked to a person, it's a robot. Now, the robots are getting very good these days with AI, but that's a whole different rabbit hole, so we won't go there.
[00:09:28] To me, a voice is an identity. So if we're used to hearing our voice in a certain way from inside ourselves, and that's how we all hear our own voice, then it's a real problem when somebody doesn't accept that voice. Yes. What I try and do with people is look at Why? Why might they not be accepting that voice?
[00:09:54] And we look at the fact, so we look at some people are just biased. Some people don't want to be in the meeting in the first place. Other people are sensitive to higher voices, or voices which have a slightly brighter edge to them. So what can we do to make that voice still be representative of us, but not give people those responses?
[00:10:21] So therefore I look at grounding the voice in the sense of really feeling the energy of where that voice comes from. So we look at the intent of what's being said. As they say, where the intention goes, energy flows. So it's that feeling of visceral energy through the body. and connecting that to the voice using the technical side of breath work.
[00:10:46] Um, Very often I do it with fricative work, but then I link between that and the energy and the intent to look at how is that helping what you want to say. It's still the same voice, but somehow it's anchored. That's lovely. Somehow it's now gone from being very narrow and like that to broadening out.
[00:11:05] It still has its characteristics, you still recognize yourself, but there's something more, what's the word, solid for people to listen to. There's something that, there was a real image that, that came up for me when you were talking and I was thinking about your voice being your vocal fingerprint and it being, excuse me, that being a reflection.
[00:11:28] That was interesting. I don't know what, no idea why that suddenly happened. So obviously being, having a vocal fingerprint is a very sensitive issue for me. The idea that you've got a vocal fingerprint, but in fact, from what you're saying there's two things immediately that jump out to me. One is that you're making someone's voice more efficient.
[00:11:48] But the other thing is that you're giving them more choices. Yes. Because we're not getting rid of the voice that they had. You're just extending the voice use that they've got. And I love this because this is, I mean, as a singing teacher, it would be what you would do with the singing voices to extend its capabilities.
[00:12:07] But I think it's really interesting that you've transferred those skills over into spoken voice and energy and connection and combination. Really good. Yes. Yeah, and looking at what drives that energy, looking at, I suppose, what you might call the gut reaction. If your skills are honed enough, when you make that gut reaction, you'll be able to find the thing in your vocal toolkit that you need to express that in a voice.
[00:12:37] So that's why I call the intuition, which is why it's vocal intuition, I suppose, but... Very nice. It's that feeling that... I've built it, I trust myself, so when I feel that it's going to be said or sung this way, I'm happy with that. Can we please go on to trust? It's one of my favourite things to talk about.
[00:12:59] But I want to be devil's advocate. Okay, you go first. I've seen some articles and social media posts a while back, actually. Do you remember when there was a whole thing about the valley girl and also the upward inflection, so that you'd get both of those going. And that people were complaining that women in business were not being taken seriously because they had the upward inflection.
[00:13:26] So everything was going upward at the end. I'm not doing a very good model of that, but I'm sure you two will be able to do it. And I've seen responses, which is like, From a feminist perspective, why do we have to change this? You lot should get over yourselves. I want to know what your response to that is, or maybe what, your clients come to you because they feel they need you, don't they?
[00:13:52] Unfortunately, I suppose, it's just a fact. that there is this bias. It's also a fact that even without a bias, there will be people who like our voice and the way we use it, and there will be people who don't. We're not everybody's cup of tea, so we have to live with that. We can never please all of the people all of the time, and you can look at any great recording artist, can't you, and say that.
[00:14:21] Some people like Frank Sinatra, some people don't. Yep. And so forth. So the change is not a change for change's sake. It's not a change to placate somebody else. It's a change that comes from the centre of the person that they want to make because they feel happier about it. And it gives them a way of expressing who they are, as Jeremy said, more choice.
[00:14:47] That's really powerful. Yeah, very often they will recognize, yeah, there is a shrillness in my voice, but it's my voice, what can I do? And I'll say yes, but that quality, that brightness is also very valuable, but let's see what else we can do with that. We're not just changing it for the sake of the audience, but it is a fact of life that we do need to appeal to the audience.
[00:15:11] And so if we can do some things that make that easier, that's going to help us to express ourselves in a better way. That's so good, Anne. I think you've handled that really nicely because I mean that, that is an issue and it's a reasonable perspective. A feminist perspective, which is why should I have to change my voice?
[00:15:31] And I think what you've said, I love the idea that someone could come away from doing your programme feeling... this is more me. I can be more me. That's it. It's about being more fully me, being fully who I am in my capacity as a senior manager or in my capacity as a team leader and feeling confident that I can have that authority and make that impact that I need to make using the voice I've got, albeit a little bit enhanced and with more skill.
[00:16:07] Using it with more skill. Going into an area that maybe I shouldn't go into, but I think it's really interesting. I'm going to go there anyway. Do you mean because you're male? Possibly. We know this. What I think is so interesting, just looking at two perspectives, so you have, as we've discussed, the feminist, a feminist viewpoint, which is why should I change?
[00:16:30] The situation is wrong, and therefore why should I be the one to do something about it? And then you've got the exact opposite of that, which is I'm in this situation and there's nothing I can do about it. So from the point of view of, let's say, one of your clients who goes, I'm in a really bad place because nobody's paying attention to me, or whatever the reason is.
[00:16:50] And both of those are extremes and both of them, ultimately do not take responsibility in some way. And I feel quite strongly about this. If you are of the feminist persuasion who says the situation is terrible and why should I be the one to change it? Therefore, I'm going to basically take no action and carry on doing exactly what I'm doing.
[00:17:13] And that's a context issue, which is, you do you, but don't expect to be successful in that context, because you doing you without paying attention to the context at all is not going to work for you. Oh, we could get kickback. I don't care. We could get kickback. I don't care, because I think that's valid.
[00:17:33] I think I see where you're going. I ought to say, actually, that this is just the same with men. This is just the same for men. If I do have male clients as well, again, in a different context and male singers and also male speakers, people needing help with health and it's, it is a case of understanding that the change is not just for the sake of it is because you want to actually reach your goal, whatever your goal is.
[00:18:05] If your goal is to engage your audience more effectively, then fine, don't change anything. But in certain circumstances, that might mean that you don't engage them. You're working against your own goal. Exactly that. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, say that this also comes from my own point of view, where very occasionally I go, why should I be the one to change? This situation out here is terrible!
[00:18:29] And the answer is that in certain circumstances, I am adult. And I can decide not just to change myself, which almost certainly will change the situation, but to actually work to change a situation as well. Do you think there's a bit of, do you want to be happy or do you want to be right there?
[00:18:47] Oh, we have had this conversation so many years. Do we want to be on the moral high ground? Can I be on the moral high ground, please? Or do we want to actually, be more comfortable in our work lives or whatever? And is that... That's, yeah, it's a really, I just throw that out there. But it's a really interesting dichotomy, isn't it?
[00:19:06] Because it's like, do you wanna be right or do you wanna be, comfortable? And there's a thing which is 'cause why I, I love what you've said is that you are not basically taking people away from their voice. No, you're not taking, you're not saying this is your vocal fingerprint currently, and you can't have that one because it doesn't work.
[00:19:23] So let's give you a completely different one. You are not saying that. You are expanding the possibilities. And then giving them the responsibility and the possibility of working that situation with whatever the tools that you, that are given. They come in with a vocal fingerprint and it's a bit like a fuzzy mark on a piece of paper.
[00:19:44] You can just about make out the fingerprint. So what we do is clear the fingerprint so we can look at all the turns and twirls in it if you like, so that we can see it fully. And I love that. So that really comes out. We're working with the person. Yeah. Yeah. It's always working with the person, but whether we like it or not, there are certain things that happen in society and expectations that people have, which as performers, and we are performers as singers or speakers or in a meeting, in a presentation, in a concert.
[00:20:17] And now we have to take those on board, you know that I'm from the North, I'm from Manchester, and you can hear that in the way that I speak. But I don't speak in broad Mancunian, I'm using my nearest to neutral standard English that I can get with a bit of northern ness in it, because I don't want to lose that, because that's me.
[00:20:38] So when I'm working with accents, I will do the same. Oh, I don't want to sound like I've got this accent. Shall we just soften it and make it more neutral? Because we don't want to wipe you out with it. You're important there. It is very much about keeping the person there. I want to go to trust. It was something that you mentioned earlier and I immediately, I went, this is about trusting yourself and I want to go to confidence, which is part of trusting yourself.
[00:21:06] One of the things that I think you do on your courses and we do on our courses is we enable people to understand that some of the things that they think are terrible are in fact very, very valuable things. And they then go, Oh, that, that means that I'm, I'm okay. That means I'm doing okay. That means I'm behaving in a way that's appropriate.
[00:21:28] That means I can start to trust my own instincts or I trust myself or I trust my own abilities. And there's a tremendous amount of confidence that comes from knowing that what you are doing or believing that what you are doing is okay. I think that's really powerful. That's the certainty thing, isn't it?
[00:21:47] It is. But when we have certainty, and Anne you were talking about just being able to, have the tools so you can trust your intuitive response to something, you've got that sense of certainty, and then you can, what's this, you talk about voicing yourself, which I think is, are those the words?
[00:22:05] Yeah, voicing yourself, you can, I think of us as having three voices. Oh, okay, go. So we have our physical voice, which we're all very familiar with and we've worked with a lot. Then we have our internal voice. which you could call the being, the self, whatever you want to call it, who we are at the deepest level that's represented by all those values that we were talking about.
[00:22:34] And then we have the naggy little voice in the head, right? So the internal, the external, and the voice in the head. And the voice in the head is the one that interrupts the communication between the inner and the outer. Now that's very simplistic and I'm not a neuroscientist. This is just as I see it, taking into account the things that I know and have experienced.
[00:22:58] If we can quieten down that part of the brain, the part that's hanging on to all the negative things to try to protect us, it sees many, many more negative possibilities in a typical day than it does positive, and we can start, we start to tell ourselves these negative stories and making things up. If we can learn how to reframe that. And how to quieten it down. As one great writer said, throw the chimp a banana. . Yeah. The inner chimp. Yeah. Then we can, we've got a chance of that inner voice, the true person that we are actually being able to communicate through the outer one. Now, biologically, we know this all goes through the brain, it has to, but some of it is conscious and some of it is subconscious.
[00:23:47] Yes. There will be things in our subconscious, things that are helpful to us, that... stop us from putting our finger in the plug socket or into the gas burner, and things that are not so helpful, like don't get up and speak and speak in public because you're no good at it and your voice is awful.
[00:24:07] We don't think that until it leaks over. into the voice in the head. So it's then looking for tools that help us to change that thought, reframe it. And that's part of your coaching program, isn't it? That's all part of what you do. Anne, just before you go there, there's something that you said that I thought was really powerful and I just want to pick it up.
[00:24:31] You're talking about outer voice, which is the one that we're familiar with, and the inner voice, which is if you like, yourself. And what occurred to me is that the inner voice just doesn't just use verbalization, it uses behavior, it uses energy, and It's all about you as the presence in the world, it's the presence on the planet.
[00:24:53] And all of the stuff that you give out, and all of the stuff that you resonate with, and all the stuff that you don't resonate with. And the ideal is that you get to the point where what you say doesn't just reflect what you're thinking, but it reflects who you are. Yes, your values, who you are as a person.
[00:25:11] And we know with a singer, when a singer can let go into that, then we get a performance which is sort of truly transcendent, don't we? Absolutely, and unique. Whereas if the singer is in their head, or the sports person is in their head, or the speaker is in their head, whoever it happens to be, just trying to bat away that little voice, then there's always something in the way.
[00:25:35] And it can be the most technically proficient singer or speaker or whatever, but if that little voice is in the head, it can derail us. Interesting. Love. So where I wanted to go then is, how can people find you please? Ah, they can find me on Facebook if they're a singer. They can find me on LinkedIn if they're a business person, and they can find me on Instagram just generally because I quite like Instagram for fun.
[00:26:04] They can email me and I also have a website. Can you put these in the program notes? I can. What do your handles on Instagram, Facebook, et cetera? Instagram, it's easy. Really, it's Anne.Leatherland , right? On LinkedIn it's AnneLeatherland, and on Facebook it's VocalIntuition. Excellent. It's just with having different audiences I tend to speak to singers more on Facebook and I tend to speak to business people more on LinkedIn.
[00:26:29] . Excellent. That makes sense. So that you know where to look. Yeah. And is this a moment to ask you about, give us a heads up on something new that you're gonna be doing very soon? I would like to take this idea into singing training as well.
[00:26:44] I'd like to work with confidence for singers. Love that. Using this same paradigm, but I'm still doing the beta test with the speakers and that's teaching me a lot. Yeah. I do know, though, it will be a very different thing working with singers and performers. Yeah, so that's a way I'd like to take it. Love that.
[00:27:06] Wonderful. That has been a complete joy listening to what you have to say, finding out about you as well, which is, we actually found some things out about you that we didn't know. Thank you so much for being a guest. It's been a joy.
[00:27:19] See you next time. It's been a joy for me too. Bye.
[00:27:23] This is a voice, a podcast with Dr. Gillyanne Kayes and Jeremy Fisher.