Are you ready to equip yourself with the tools and knowledge to master your leadership voice, fostering confidence and inspiration in your roles?

In this episode, the focus is on empowering leaders to enhance their effectiveness as the intellectual force behind an organization and as the prominent face and voice representing it. Many leaders find comfort in being the brains behind the scenes yet lack the necessary skills to be equally impactful in the forefront.

Dr. Laura Sicola specializes in bridging this gap and empowering executives to become confident and inspiring leaders. She is the author of the book “Speaking to Influence: Mastering Your Leadership Voice.” Laura introduces the concept of the three Cs of vocal executive presence: commanding the room, connecting with the audience, and closing the deal. Her expertise lies in guiding leaders through the complexities of executive presence, ensuring they excel in their intellectual capacities and shine as compelling and influential figures at the forefront of their organizations.

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  1. What challenges hinder leaders from enhancing their effectiveness in their roles?
  2. What specific roles do the three C’s of vocal executive presence play in presentations? Why are these aspects considered significant?
  3. How impactful is storytelling in constructing a robust leadership brand and being perceived as a go-to expert?
  4. Why is executive presence a critical skill for high-performing leaders?
  5. What five speech pitfalls may undermine authority or influence during a presentation?
  6. How relevant is the inclusion of humor or laughter in presentations?
  7. What’s the critical advice for regaining control of a presentation amidst challenges or tough questions?

      “In the first 60 seconds, you’re going to set the audience’s expectation for the value that you’re going to provide over the next 60 minutes.”

      Dr. Laura Sicola

      Founder, Vocal Impact Productions


      [05:38] Unveiling Vocal Impact: Bridging the Communication Gap for Effective Leadership

      [07:18] Overcoming Roadblocks to Expertise and Mastering the Three C’s of Vocal Executive Presence

      [09:51] The Power of Three C’s: Mastering Vocal Executive Presence for Commanding, Connecting, and Closing

      [12:14] Strategic Insights: The Crucial Link Between Command, Connection, and Closing the Deal

      [13:27] Storytelling Mastery: Elevating Leadership Presence and Building a Strong Brand

      [15:31] Signature Segment: Dr. Laura’s Tactics of Choice:  Leading with Executive Presence

      [17:53] The Art of Persuasion: Five Speech Pitfalls for Impactful Communication

      [27:20] Striking the Right Chord: Humor in Presentations with Finesse and Relevance

      [31:02] Signature Segment: Dr. Laura’s entry into the LATTOYG Playbook:  Reclaiming Control: Practical Tips for Regaining Composure in Challenging Presentation Moments

      [34:41] Connect with Vocal Impact to Elevate Your Communication

      [38:02] Signature Segment: Karan’s Take


      Dr. Laura Sicola is a dynamic and influential figure in leadership communication, renowned for her expertise in honing Vocal Executive Presence (VEP) and communication skills. As the founder of Vocal Impact Productions, she has dedicated her career to empowering individuals and organizations to project a robust and positive leadership image. Dr. Sicola’s multifaceted role encompasses being a TEDx speaker with an impressive 6,800,000+ views, a podcast host, and an accomplished author.

      With a wealth of experience as an executive coach and trainer, Dr. Sicola specializes in helping individuals unlock the full potential of their communication abilities. She understands the pivotal role of effective communication in leadership success and emphasizes the development of loyal, effective teams. Through her insightful coaching and training sessions, Dr. Sicola guides her clients in crafting compelling narratives, refining their vocal presence, and mastering the art of impactful communication.




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      This podcast episode is sponsored by Shockingly Different Leadership (SDL), the leader in on-demand People, Talent Development & Organizational Effectiveness professional services that up-level leader capability and optimize workforces to do their best work.

      SDL is the go-to firm companies trust when needing to:

      • supplement their in-house HR teams with contract or interim HR experts
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      Click the plus button on the tab to access the written transcript:

      Episode 61 | Discovering Your Leadership Voice with Dr. Laura Sicola

      Dr. Laura Sicola  00:00

      We’re having a conversation with someone and they respond and we think to ourselves, “How did you get that from what I said? Where’s that gap between what I think I said and what you think you heard?” And my job is to help close that gap so that the leaders know, whether they’re talking one on one or one to many, in virtual or in person, regardless of who the audience or who the stakeholder group is, that they can take the genius in their brain, the expertise, take the passion in their hearts, and know that when they open their mouth, it’s going to land as intended and have that desired impact.


      Voiceover  00:37

      Welcome to the “Lead at the Top of Your Game” podcast, where we equip you to more effectively lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. Each week, we help you sharpen your leadership acumen by cracking open the playbooks of dynamic leaders who are doing big things in their professional endeavors. And now, your host, leadership tactics, and organizational development expert, Karan Ferrell-Rhodes.


      Karan Rhodes  01:12

      Hey there superstars This is Karan and welcome to another episode designed to help you better lead at the top of your game. You know, many leaders are used to being the brains behind an organization. And this is indeed their comfort zone. But frequently they lacked the skills to be just as effective as the face and the voice in the front of the organization. And this is where our guest today helps leaders to bridge the gap. On today’s show, we have a true expert that empowers executives to become confident, inspiring leaders through mastering what she calls the three C’s of vocal executive presence. And those three C’s are commanding the room connecting with the audience and closing the deal. Dr. Laura Sicola is a leadership and communications and influence expert who’s also renowned speaker and author of the book, “Speaking to Influence; Mastering Your Leadership Voice.” Although the 3 Cs may sound simple at face value, during the episode, Laura goes deep in explaining the neuroscience and tactics behind each one, get your notebooks out my friends because I guarantee there will be a tip or two that you will want to implement starting tomorrow. And be sure to stay tuned after the episode for just two minutes to listen to my closing segment called Karan’s Take, where I share a tip on how to use insights from today’s episode to further sharpen your leadership acumen. And now enjoy the show. Hey there superstars. This is Karan and welcome to another episode of the Lead at the Top of Your Game podcast. We are so pleased to have on today’s show, Dr. Laura Sicola. And I’m sorry I hesitated a little bit because I wanted to make sure I got her pronunciation correctly. But she is a leadership and communications and influence expert. She’s a renowned speaker, and she’s also the author of the book “Speaking to Influence; Mastering Your Leadership Voice.” We’re going to dig deep into some of her findings and thoughts in that book. But she is absolutely amazing. And she’s also the founder of Vocal Impact Productions where she empowers executives to become confident, inspiring leaders through her coaching and her on camera trainings of which I need some of her expertise. So welcome to the podcast. Dr. Laura,


      Dr. Laura Sicola  03:38

      Thank you so much for inviting me, Karan. It’s pleasure to be here.


      Karan Rhodes  03:41

      Oh, it’s a honor to have you. Well, we are super thrilled to have you on the show because we try to provide aspects different aspects and lenses of leadership that professionals and individuals need to take into account and making sure that you have a solid executive presence and a leadership brand is definitely very important. And due to your expertise, I was dying to get you on to the show. So but before we dig into some of your knowledge and work, we’d love to learn a little bit about you so just for as much as you feel comfortable. Can you give us a sneak peek into your personal life or passions,


      Dr. Laura Sicola  04:23

      Lots of passions? I love my family I’ve got two boys who are, them and my husband of course sunrises and sets with them but I am a foodie at hearts I love to cook I love to eat if I could get paid to just eat my way around the world that would be my my absolute everyday up and down happy big smile on my face. So language culture and food. That’s a happy Laura.


      Karan Rhodes  04:47

      Oh, that sounds like a happy Karan to I think we’re sisters from different mothers. There’s definitely a foodie love to travel. And actually, my dream in my next life is to be a world renowned somolier. So not only. But, you know, advisor on the great indulgences, the wine around the world.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  05:13

      That sounds wonderful! So sign me up, I will be right there with you.


      Karan Rhodes  05:16

      Okay, sounds fantastic. Well, thank you so much for that. Lauren, we’d love to, you know, let’s dig deep into some of the work here you’re doing. So why don’t you first share with our audience a bit about your current company, and how you’re currently assisting clients. And that piece of work?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  05:38

      Sure, Vocal Impact Productions, the real focus is executive coaching, and trainings. So whether it’s one on one or in teams, groups, etc, it’s working with the leaders who are used to being the brains behind the operation, and need to be as effective as the face and the voice in front of it. And we all have those moments where we’re talking and we’re suddenly thinking to ourselves, you know, what, that sounded better in my head, or we’re having a conversation with someone and they respond, and we think to ourselves, how did you get that? From what I said, where’s that gap between what I think I said, and what you think you heard, and my job is to help close that gap so that the leaders know whether they’re talking one on one, or one to many, in virtual or in person, regardless of who the audience or who the stakeholder group is that they can take the genius in their brain, the expertise, take the passion in their hearts, and know that when they open their mouth, it’s going to land as intended, and have that desired impact, get people on board with the vision to get everyone rowing in the same direction towards that end goal that they want. So that’s what we really help leaders to do.


      Karan Rhodes  06:45

      Wow, you should be an absolute trillionaire. Because that is what every single leader that I know, I’ve worked with, through our clients that Checkley different leadership, always strive to want to be able to do but unfortunately, have a tough time and struggle being able to accomplish that. And I’m curious, what do you see as some of the major roadblocks to them being able to be better savvy in that area? Is it knowledge? Is it fear? Is it lack of expertise or something else?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  07:18

      It’s almost never a lack of technical expertise. If anything, people often get stuck in what I like to call the experts curse, where they know too much about their industry about their vertical, you’re in finance, you’re in it in cybersecurity, you’re in marketing, whatever it happens to be. And we forget that we need to translate that expertise for whoever the audience is. And whatever their needs are. We can’t just educate by the firehose method, right open mouth turn on Firehose drown the audience. In data in details in minutiae and get lost in the weeds, we have to think about what do they actually know already? Or not? What blanks we have to fill in? What do they need to know? Or not need to know? What do we love, but is utterly irrelevant? To them? Do we need to paint pictures? Do we need to tell stories? Do we need to give some background to something? And most importantly, why do they need this information? What information do they need? And how do we not just provide it to them, but we provide it to them in a way that makes it super easy for them to then take and plug and play for whatever their application is? If you’re talking to someone in the C suite? Well, who what do they need this information for? Are they going to do they need to talk to investors to the board? How do they translate that if we’re providing data that is more tactical? They need it for strategic planning? What is the relevance in the broader strategic plan? How do we help them see the relevance of what we share in a way that is most valuable for their objectives? If you can translate that, that’s where you become most valuable?


      Karan Rhodes  08:54

      I so agree with that. Yes. So yes, and is also very important for them to know that there’s a variety of ways people take in data and information, right adult learner. So while you might be putting on a presentation or talking to them, where you have to included a lot of data, you know, they might need to be conscious that there are others who might, their eyes might glaze over with all the data and they might have to start out with the high level big picture of where they’re going and then provide, you know, different information inputs, if you will, based on that. So I absolutely love that. And I understand that. One of the aspects that you share with your clients that’s very important is for the mastering what you call the three C’s of vocal executive presence. So I’d love for you to share with the audience members what that is exactly. And why are these three so important?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  09:51

      The three C’s are the foundation of everything that I teach, it is really, very simply the ability to command the room, connect with the audience and close is the deal. And to quickly break those down, commanding the room is about how you show up. It’s about your presence, it’s about can you catch their attention and keep it, there’s a difference between commanding respect, commanding attention versus demanding it, if you’d have to demand it, you will never command it. So the way that you stand, the way that you articulate your ideas is going to hopefully captivate their attention and compel them to want to continue to pay attention and focus on what you’re saying, that’s the command part, connect with the audience, as you’re talking to them, there needs to be an establishment of a mutual relationship that says, You understand me, and I understand you in some way, shape or form, we’re on the same wavelength, and they’re mutually you can move forward. And then the closing the deal is not just about signing on the dotted line, it’s not literally about a sale and that kind of a deal. It just means getting to yes, it means coming to an agreement together, even just moving the needle, just half a click, how do you come to that, that mutual understanding about what needs to happen next? Once you’ve got that we understand each other better? We may not agree on everything. We may not have completed all negotiations and discussions. But we have a better understanding and are now able to take the next step together. That’s closing the deal.


      Karan Rhodes  11:20

      I love this all three. The question about the first one, I believe it was command, what was coming in the room, the MIT room. Curious, when we did our research for my book, we found that part of the efforts in commanding the room was making sure that you found a win win topic of discussion that was important to both you but also important to who you’re trying to speak to or influence as well, something that was a of interest or a pain point or a point of curiosity, something that they were invested in so that they couldn’t just like find on Google. So it’s hard to lead someone if they don’t feel they need to be led? I’m curious, is that part of what you saw and thought through with your clients as you read the book on the command piece? Or did we just take it more from an execution lens, which is a bit different?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  12:14

      You know, I think identifying common relevance is essential for all three, you can’t command the room from the very beginning, if they don’t understand why you’re here, and why they should be listening, you’re already not going to connect with them, because they don’t even know why you’re having this conversation. And you’re not doing any better job as the conversation goes along of clarifying that point. So there’s a disconnect from beginning to end. And if you can’t do the first two, you’re not going to do the third one. So there’s no deal that’s going to be closed, the door might be closed. But that’s about it.


      Karan Rhodes  12:45

      Now, that makes a ton of sense, I think citizens. And once individuals apply the three C’s are as they do, so I’m sure it’s tied into Weave in what I call a red thread throughout what the story you’re trying to deliver. So that brings up the whole concept of compelling storytelling, and you know how to, and if you do that, well, you probably will be regarded as a renowned expert. But I’d love to get your thoughts on the importance of storytelling, and how that drives want to be considered as a go to expert or someone that has a very strong leadership brand. What is your perspective on that?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  13:27

      I think storytelling is a required skill. Nowadays, it is not enough to be a human spreadsheet, who can just spit out data, that’s nice. But that means you will be always the support person, when I need to pull out my calculator, I pull it out. It’s a support tool. But if I don’t need a calculation done in the moment, I’m not going to be using it and I will certainly never have the calculator be the center of my of my workspace. So if as a leader, the ability not just to tell stories in the you know, rambly entertaining kind of manner. It’s not the fluff aspect, it is about can you bring the data to life? Can you help people understand the context? Can you make the information relatable? Can you make it something that inspires people that shows purpose? Can you tell the story behind the numbers? What doesn’t the spreadsheet or whatever other document, what doesn’t it tell you? What do I need to know to understand the Oh, behind all of it. So for a leader who can make that come to life, that’s what I consider storytelling, whether it’s literally or figuratively, let me tell you what’s, what’s there was a client once who did this, that and the other thing are our vision and imagine the world in which that’s lovely. But that’s not that’s a very narrow definition of storytelling


      Karan Rhodes  14:44

      Correct. No, that makes a ton of sense. Well, one of the things that you know, we always love to ask our guests is which of the seven leadership tactics or abilities that we talked about in my book really resonated with you and I’m sure your my audience can tell It wouldn’t be a surprise to them that you selected leading with executive presence. And the way you know, we define it in the book is all about making clear and convincing either oral or written presentations in order to deliver your perspectives in a way that influences others or compels them to follow your lead. But forget in our definition, I’m just curious for you why you think executive presence is just a critical skill for high performing leaders.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  15:30

       To me, honestly, I think that leadership, we all define leadership in different ways. For me, leadership is an image, I don’t care what your role is, I don’t care what it says on your business card, if anybody has business cards anymore nowadays, but regardless of your position, the difference between a boss and a leader is in the much like beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So you can be my boss, because you outrank me, but you will be my leader, if I choose to follow you, if I believe in your vision, and I’m inspired to want to follow it and help you turn it into a reality, if that gets my engine going as well. And the way that you communicate with me will be most likely one of the top if not the top factors that determines whether or not in my perception, you are a leader, and specifically my leader. So that’s the executive presence piece starts there. Definitely, I should say whether it’s a formal presentation, and speaking engagement, or just a one on one conversation, or Monday morning, weekly team meetings, or just a one off conversation with somebody. My definition of public speaking, is anytime you’re talking to someone besides yourself.


      Karan Rhodes  16:41

      you’re absolutely correct. And when you make an excellent point, because it is not necessarily you being on a stage per se when we use it because we focus on actual execution in one’s day to day role. We talk about anytime you’re speaking to anyone else, whether it’s one or 1000, being able to meet them where they are, and have a convincing and compelling story with a mix of you know, facts and information as well as storytelling and presence is very important to capture their attention enough to earn the right for them to give you their followership.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  17:20

      Yes, that is exactly what it’s about.


      Karan Rhodes  17:24

      Wonderful. Well, Laura, you know, we’d love to help at the layers of the onion a little bit and give our audience listeners just a few distinct information and tips. And one question that really popped out for me is, how do you actually get this done. And I understand that you have identified five speech pitfalls that might undermine your authority or influence. And I was wondering if you can run through those for us,


      Dr. Laura Sicola  17:53

      There are many pitfalls that we all fall into. And we’d like to pick our favorites. So we all fall into different ones at different times. So I’ll share a few of them. The first one, of course, is just not thinking through the desired end result before you start talking. And whether it’s in a formal presentation, or just a one on one that you’re having a regular weekly meeting, when every engagement that you have, there are three levels of impact. And those three levels of impact are going to be cognitive, emotional, and behavioral. In other words, when you’re done, how do you want? What do you want people to know? Or how do you want them to think or believe something differently? How do you want them to feel? And what do you want them to do? How do you want them to behave? What action do you want them to take? And if you just walk in and say, here’s just the stuff I want to talk about, the likely impact that you will have is none zero. Right? Which at best people glaze over or they multitask. They don’t know why you’re just blathering? Yeah, yeah, cuz you have stuff you want to talk about supposed to saying? Where do I want to go? It’s like getting into your car, turning on the GPS and saying, calculate route. And it’s going to look at you and say to where they’re right. I can’t until you give me a destination. So we need to do the same with our conversations, figure out your destination, and then calculate route, how do you need to approach this conversation to get people to where you want them to go. So no premeditated choice in the three levels of impact you want to have means your car’s not going to leave the the starting point, you will have no impact in the end. So that’s by far, I think, the most important one. So let’s see the second one. We really don’t realize that there is a gap between the movie that plays in our mind and what we think we’re saying, and the movie that plays for everybody else, what they hear. And we’ve all had those moments where we see ourselves maybe in a little selfie video after a party get together. And 10 seconds later after the movie is recorded. We watch it and we go oh my gosh, okay, yeah, that sounded better in my head or what was I doing with my face? Or Who let me out of the house wearing that? You know, why did anybody tell me? That’s what it looked like it all these things, but it’s like why are you surprised because you were there, when you put it on you were there when you made the video you were there while you were talking. And yet, when we see it later, we’re surprised. So I think one of the best tools that we can use to really close that gap between what we think we say, and what they think they hear is the video, take just a minute. And pre again, when you’re planning that intention for the outcomes that you want, take your phone, hit, go into a room, close the door, talk to yourself, put on the recorder, and just go through the first minute, you don’t need to rehearse the entire presentation, just the first minute. In my book, I talk about what I call the 60 to 60 rule, which is that in the first 60 seconds, you’re going to set the audience’s expectation for the value that they’re going that you are going to provide over the next 60 minutes, or however long you’re going to take. So just see how are you launching into this conversation? What impression do you make? Are you organized? Are you empathetic? Are you confident? Are you pick whatever it is that you want to project? And then watch that video and say was I anywhere close on the same planet much less the same GPS route? And if not go back and adjust something what you say or how you say it both matter to really see, okay, if I want to try to get this person to that endpoint, how do I need to deliver that so that it really does land and I don’t utterly undermined myself before I’m even out of the starting gate.


      Karan Rhodes  21:30

      You know, I love that 62nd concept, because I’m one of those people that are very discerning about speakers. And I can instantly tell if I think that they’re going to be compelling enough for me to want to listen through 45 minutes or, or not, and said, You make a great point about making sure you’re extremely dynamic and compelling in this first 60 seconds. So that going back to the term I love to use so that you earn the right to be heard further by those that you’re speaking to. So yes, what a great, great concept.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  22:04

      And to your point, the if I may just piggyback on that. There is I think most people when they are in that more formal presentation or meeting kind of context, virtually or otherwise, um, true or false. In the beginning, maybe the nerves kick in the adrenaline kicks in a little bit. And they are kind of a hot mess in that first minute or two. And then eventually they get into their groove. Right What I hear all the time for the beginning, I’m nervous, but then, you know, the autopilot kicks in, and then I get into my content, and then I’m okay. So people practice or they prepare the middle content stuff, but they never think about how to open they never think about the greeting, they never think about the introduction part because they feel like well, that’s not really heavy content, I can wing that well. But when you wing it, what happens that’s when you’re a hot mess. Over, that’s when the butterflies take over the farm. And we don’t want that to happen. So work on just smoothing out that first minute, how do you want to open it you should not have to think about what you say in that first minute. It should just kick in because you have planned, you have prepared and then you just coast on that on ramp for those first 60 seconds. You bypass the nerves, and then you’re in smooth sailing for the rest, but boy does that for 60 seconds matter.


      Karan Rhodes  23:20

      Oh, love that. Absolutely just priceless. All right, I think we’re up to number three,


      Dr. Laura Sicola  23:26

      Oh, my goodness, let’s see the number three would be that maybe three and four, or two and three together on that last one. But the I would truly encourage people to focus on the sound of their voice. In particular, the tonality. And tonality is the highest and the lowest the melody of your voice. One of the biggest mistakes that people make. And it is something that women get pegged for a lot more and younger women in particular, and that is a utterly unfair and false narrative that they do it men and more mature adults and everything else do it just as much is a pattern called up speak. And up speak is that pattern that sounds like you’re asking questions at the ends of all your phrases and sentences, because your voice keeps going up the way I’m doing it now. And it is a habit that most people fall into at one point or another. There’s a variety of reasons why we do it. But it is something that utterly undermines our authority, because it sounds like we’re uncertain. Like we’re asking a question, and it literally mimics a structure that’s called the tag question and it’s an English and in many other languages as well, where you make a statement and then at the end you say something like Right? Or you know, or Okay, and if you want to ask that once in a while fine, but you don’t want to say that the end of every sentence. So similarly, you shouldn’t inflict it at the end of every sentence because if you do over and over, it sounds like you’re perpetually begging for validation. And if I am constantly begging you for validation, right you know, okay, know what I mean. Then Who really is the authority? I have just given away all of my power and assigned you as the lead in this. So why would I do that, we need to make sure that as we’re making a point, we have a period at the end of our sentences, and then we can start at the next sentence, that’s fine. But there needs to be an end. You know, we all have those friends who send text messages that are those horrific missives that just are running on rambling stream of consciousness, there’s no grammar, there’s no spelling, there’s no capitals or punctuation. It’s just a hot mess. And you know, when you see that pop up on your phone, your eyes just drive, right? You don’t even want to look at, you’re like, Oh, you just typed back, sweetie, call me. I can’t read this. That’s at best if you even acknowledge that it came through. That’s how most of us talk is that stream of consciousness is that of being intentional? Here’s my first sentence. There’s a period. Now, I’m going to make my next point. And when you can speak decisively and intentionally that way, it just adds a gravitas as an authority. You’re not being demanding. You’re not saying this. It’s not yelling. That’s different. But it sounds like you mean what you say, and you want people to be there with you, as opposed to unsure. So just being careful about that tonality piece makes a night and day difference in gravitas.


      Karan Rhodes  26:18

      Love that. I’m taking notes, as you can probably tell, like, why keep looking down, making sure I capture all of this. So with those the fiber was Was there one more?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  26:27

      Look, there’s so many others. So five is an easy number. But I just wanted to make sure I’m pausing also, and to really practice as I preach and not just say, let me tell you number one, and here’s number two. And here’s number three. And here’s number four. And people are going oh my god, that’s too many. Let her take a breath. And let Karan talk, please.


      Karan Rhodes  26:42

      I do have one question. So thank you for the grace of the space and the pausing. What is your perspective on humor or laughing during the presentation for the speaker? I’m guilty of that sometimes. And you can throw tomatoes at me if it’s if it’s inappropriate, but and I don’t do it a lot. But I do try to have the audience warm to me. And so I’m just curious, is that a no no? Or do it on a limited basis? Or not? At all? Am I losing my authority by infusing a bit of humor and smile?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  27:20

      I’m going to give you my favorite and most annoying answer on the planet, which is


      Karan Rhodes  27:25

      It depends.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  27:25



      Karan Rhodes  27:25

      I figured.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  27:28

      And that’s always what wha is the truth? Right? It’s about contextual appropriateness. Who is your audience? What is your topic? What is the situation? Are you a chief information security officer who’s addressing the board after a massive security breach, that’s going to take a couple of days or weeks to write the ship on this starting with a joke? Probably not in your best interest to toast a good number of jokes and comments along the humorous lines will probably be well received and prayed for by most people for that matter. If it’s something in the middle jumping a little bit of humor to just lighten the mood here and there is extremely valuable. Who is your audience? Is it are you in Japan or in Germany, where cultures are things are culturally a lot more serious humor is not the same way. Whereas here in the US dropping humor in here and there as as a little sarcasm, a little of this or that is common as long as it’s maybe not at somebody else’s expense or men in particular. I’m always amazed at the locker room talk that goes among men how ways that women would never do to each other men will insult each other right and left about everything from intelligence to body size to you name it, and they just, that’s how they bond. Can you imagine a couple of women talking to each other and making weight jokes, oh, my gosh, no. ostracized for the rest of your life and probably have a conversation in HR. But there is it’s guys can do that with each other in a way that women don’t again, whether from one organization to another, it’s appropriate or what but it’s who’s your audience is all I’m saying. So humor has its place. And of course, what you joke about has its place and who can take it versus give it more than the other some people like it, some people don’t. So knowing how sensitive is the person is the audience who it’s in front of. I think there’s definitely a time and a place humor is something that can break the ice humor is something that can equalize self deprecating humor, if done the right way can really make somebody less intimidating, much more relatable. I think there’s if you can do it, well, absolutely. But we do also want to be careful if on the flip side is allowing the nervous laughter to be let put to betray our uncertainty. Certain times there are if you get asked to park question after a meeting or in front of the board or whoever it is, and you start every answer with a giggle that’s not not appropriate. That’s not humor, that’s just showing that you’re very uncomfortable and that you don’t know how to answer the question and it shows a lack of maturity shows a lack of gravitas that’s not going to work in your favor. So just again, the who, the where the when the why all those factors should be weighed, and then appropriate quantity and quality of humor.


      Karan Rhodes  30:20

      Love that! Oh, gosh, so many questions so little time. Well, let me ask you this. The Laura is someone finds themselves, say making a presentation, as you’ve mentioned, and they find the reading the room they feel is not going well. Or if they are taken off track by someone in the audience or someone at the board table, as you mentioned, that might have some tough questions and they find themselves like deer in the headlights. Are there any tips or no you one tip you can give them to get back on track by chance is it take a deep breath is the take a break and regroup? What do you recommend when things aren’t going as well?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  31:02

      The breathing is something that people tend to poopoo like I know, take a deep breath first. No, you actually do have to breathe, it helps. And here’s a trick. Okay, here’s a tip that everybody can use. And it’s physical. When you feel that clench come up where you got asked the question that you’re not really sure how to answer or that your brain is scrambling and you feel like you’re your car’s in neutral, but your flooring, the gas pedal, and everything’s just spinning. First thing to check, can you dislodge your tongue from the roof of your mouth? Most people don’t realize that when they do that goal. Yeah, that of tension. And everything tightens up. When we swallow, we leave our tongue pressed to the roof of our mouth. And if we actually stopped breathing, it closes off the windpipe. And that does prevent blood flow to the brain in a way that allows our brain to work optimally. So the first thing to do is to just check can I literally dislodge? Unstick unglue my tongue from the roof of my mouth, if you can do that, you’ll also find that it then unhinges your jaw, and your jaw will relax. And then your neck muscles will relax, your shoulders can come down and there’ll be this muscular cascade down the body. And then you suddenly realize that you can inhale in a way that you couldn’t before. But that’s the trigger, unlock your tongue from the roof of your mouth, allow the rest of the body to loosen in a cascade and then immediately take a deep breath, people who are okay, if you take a moment to think before you talk, and following what with that, too, even if you have paper with you, there’s nothing wrong with saying, You know what, there’s a lot to unpack in that question it give me a second, I just want to organize my thoughts. And then take a moment to jot down don’t script out your answer, but jot down 234 key words of just stuff you want to hit on your punch list of sorts. There’s not one person on the planet who if you say I just want a moment to write down a couple thoughts, so I can organize it and give you a more concise, focused answer. There’s not one person who’s gonna say, actually, no, could you just start talking faster? Yes, I just want you to be that of consciousness. And I’ll try to figure out what it is that you mean? No, of course, you’re gonna say GUP. Now you can’t take five minutes. But you can take 10 or 15 seconds, if they see you’re writing something down, maybe nodding your head as you go going, Yes, this is what I want to say. You can buy yourself some time. So dislodge the tongue, breathe, start to jot down some notes, organize your thoughts, and articulate your intention, do what’s called metacognitive. processing. So telling them what your brain is doing in the moment, just give me a moment to write down my thoughts so that I can give you a clear, concise, organized, answer. And then right, and then go and you’ll find that things will fall into place. Much better from there.


      Karan Rhodes  33:50

      Priceless. I love that you’re absolutely right. I knew about the breathing, but I didn’t know about the tongue and the roof of the mouth. That is fascinating. So I’m gonna practice that starting today. If I ever, I don’t get nervous a lot when I speak. But you know, there’s always a few little butterflies when you’re going to, you know, go out in front of a crowd or present. But that’s a great tip to have in your hip pocket to get ready. Well, Dr. Laura, we are so pleased and thankful for the gift of your time of being on the on the podcast, we will definitely have all of the links to where to find you and additional resources in the show notes. But I always love to give our guests a chance to give a voice to where to find you. So would you mind letting our audience know, where’s the best places to reach you to learn more and to potentially engage you for their teams?


      Dr. Laura Sicola  34:42

      My pleasure, thank you so much for the opportunity. You can certainly reach me Of course find me on LinkedIn. Connect with me and let me know that you heard us here on Karan’s amazing show. We want to be able to give Karan a shout out there too. And from there, you can go to my website, which is And if you reach out to me from vocalimpactproductions on the contact page, and just let me know that you heard us here, I’m very happy to offer a tool. If that would be a value. May I offer a tool to you’re to the guests?


      Karan Rhodes  35:11

      Yes, please!


      Dr. Laura Sicola  35:13

      So there is a tool that I have, there’s two actually, you can ask for one is an equipment or recommended equipment list, because I feel like most people still show up in these virtual spaces with an unchallenged standard of mediocrity, kind of wishing they could rename themselves in the corner of the window with a disclaimer that says, I just want you to know, if you met me in person, you’d be impressed, right. And so the way that you show up, there are ways there’s different kinds of microphones, lights, and things that change your image that brand really quickly. So if you let me know that you’ve liked the recommended equipment list, I’m very happy to share that with people. And that way, I don’t have to boil the ocean and guests on Amazon, which of the gazillion options is right for you. So I’ve pre vetted a couple that I personally like. And the other option that people can request is a tool for it’s called listening to influence. And when you know that you have to have a conversation with someone that you’re just not looking forward to. Maybe you are regularly butting heads with that person, there’s some friction or you’re constantly talking past each other. This can be a personal or a professional scenario, either one is completely irrelevant. This is a very simple protocol to follow to ensure that both people go into it with the expectation and leave with the catharsis of having felt heard and understood, finally being heard when you are exiting this conversation. And that’s how you move that needle forward. There may be many other conversations to follow before you come to a Okay, so what’s the solution? But you know that at the end of this conversation, you won’t just be talking at someone and feeling like Why aren’t you listening to me, you will leave with the guarantee that you will feel heard and understood. And so will they. And I’m happy to share that protocol.


      Karan Rhodes  36:52

      Oh, wonderful. Well, thank you, Dr. Laura, for offering that to our audience members. And thank you, audience members for listening to this episode. Make sure make sure you go to this show notes to go to the link to her website, asked for the tool. You don’t get a lot of things these days for free. She’s offering this as a valuable tool for you to use in the next day or so. And I’m sure she has a lot of other resources on her site as well as well as to pick up her book. And we’ll have links to all of that as well. So once again, thank you, Dr. Laura, for being with us today. We appreciate it.


      Dr. Laura Sicola  37:28

      Thank you so much, Karan, it was an honor to be here.


      Karan Rhodes  37:30

       And thank you again, listeners and hope to see you again next week. Take care. I hope you enjoyed our conversation today with Dr. Laura Sicola, author of the book “Speaking to Influence; Mastering Your Leadership Voice.” Links to her bio her entry into our leadership playbook. And additional resources can be found in the show notes both on your favorite podcast platform of choice and on the web at lead your game And now we’re carrying to take on today’s topic of the leadership voice. Today I want to share a renowned resource on helping you to develop your own leadership voice. It is the book called The leaders voice how your communication can inspire action and get results. It was written by authors Boyd Clark and Ron Crossland with the leadership expert, Tom Peters actually providing the foreword to the book. It’s an oldie but goodie of a book. And it was one that my team at Microsoft used when we were developing our leaders, but his lessons still apply today. The leaders voice is backed up by over 20 years of communications research after the authors reviewed over 1100 examples of leadership communication. Their big point is that leaders at their best communicate simultaneously on three levels. factual, emotional, and symbolic. And they use the acronym FBS to articulate the model. This is how leaders such as John F Kennedy and Margaret Thatcher and Martin Luther King Jr. discovered their leadership voice and commanded an audience through very artful communication. I hope today’s info will really help to jumpstart your thinking and get you ready to create your own leadership voice. If you’d like to learn more about leadership and action and how to build your own leadership skills, we have a lot of information on our programs on the web at Thanks again for joining this episode. Please remember to subscribe and share the podcast with brands so that they too can lead at the top of their game. Thanks again for listening and see you next week. And that’s our show for today. Thank you for listening to the lead at the top of your game podcast, where we help you lead your seat at any employer, business, or industry in which you choose to play. You can check out the show notes, additional episodes, and bonus resources, and also submit guest recommendations on our website at You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn by searching for the name Karan Rhodes with Karan being spelled K a r a n. And if you like the show, the greatest gift you can give would be to subscribe and leave a rating on your podcast platform of choice. This podcast has been a production of Shockingly Different Leadership, a global consultancy which helps organizations execute their people, talent development, and organizational effectiveness initiatives on an on-demand, project, or contract basis. Huge thanks to our production and editing team for a job well done. Goodbye for now.

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