A favorite piece of feedback – “with the half-smile of the Buddha”

Years back I facilitated communication training with newly graduated women and men starting work as Analysts at a global bank.

Much of the two-day program is spent in role-play where the small group got feedback and coaching.

One young woman gave her presentation. She was clearly the smartest person in the room. Simply brilliant. Though you wouldn’t even know it.

She was devoid of any affect. That is, her face was frozen as was her voice and gesture. A crime. No one would know how incredibly talented and intelligent she is.

I asked her to give her presentation over again.

“This time, can you deliver it with the Half Smile of the Buddha?”

She did. The room erupted. Who knows what took over? This very slight adjustment changed it all for her. It worked.

Her colleagues were astounded how incredible she is.

The lesson is we can be the most talented, smartest person in room yet without our full physical expression and energy, no one will ever know.

I was most gratified by her full smile from her colleagues cheering for her. I don’t believe she had ever received this response before and she was fully appreciative.

Reclaim your authentic voice


“One word expresses the pathway to greatness:  Voice.

Those on this path find their voice and inspire others to find theirs.”                                           Stephen R. Covey

On the way to reclaiming my voice, I discovered my body was an instrument to connect to my self-esteem.

Reclaim your authentic voice

As a somatic coach for embodied leadership, I help my clients find their authentic voice. How did I get connected to my own voice to be able to help others?

Early on in my career I lost my voice and the cause wasn’t structural. Was it from my “exquisite” cover up? In the name of being nice? Polite? To not hurt feelings? To signal “I am not a threat to you”?

My voice retracted, my tongue is drawn tightly back into my throat and TMJ seizes my jaw. I was so intent to be good, to get it right, to find approval, to gain attention that I lose all spontaneity. A preeminent voice doctor recommends me to voice training. I studied with world renowned voice teachers.

From this very physical training, I remove tension. I learn to breathe. In therapy, I release me from having to be perfect.

Did I come by this honestly?

“Stay still and shut up!”  When I was born, my mom, the daughter of a doctor, had her physician father in the delivery room with her.  He yelled, “Don’t you dare make a peep. Not one sound.  Do you hear?!  Do not humiliate me in front of my colleagues.”

I’m birthed by a woman who held onto her voice while giving birth to me.

That’s the beginning of my life having to have to find my voice.  And now I help others find theirs.

I must have been royally pissed off hearing (in utero) my pompous grandfather say that.  Boy, did I fix them!  In my joy and exuberance, I spent my childhood vocalizing. Shouting. Singing. Raucous laughter. Big Noise is what my grandfather called me.

“Don’t you know children are to be seen, NOT heard?”  “Don’t talk in school.”  “Don’t talk in church.”  I become conditioned to hold my voice back and now with a total loss of it, I must work to recover my full and authentic voice.

Today, I combine my corporate leadership experience and extensive performance training to offer leadership and somatic coaching.  My passion is to help my clients find their authentic voice, full presence, free expression and spontaneity.  Nothing is more beautiful and satisfying than to witness clients find and live their true potential – being self-generating, self-cultivating and self-empowering.

We more easily get to our business goals when we convey trust, credibility, and confidence and with great conviction. The use of an authentic, clear, and strong voice will have you communicate intention powerfully and persuasively.

Everyone can learn to find and use that voice.

It may not be feasible or realistic for you to enter into years of voice or performance training.  Borrow my process.  Here are a few vocal “hacks” to help you project a fully connected, authentic voice.  Begin the work now.

For a powerful and natural voice, you must remove tension.

To remove tension is to have a relaxed body particularly your neck, chest, jaw, face, throat, shoulders, tongue and forehead.  This is done by using your breath.

Try this:

  1. Feel your feet.  Release your knees.  Drop your breath low into your body/ abdomen. Take in a long, slow inhale. Let out a long and slow exhale.  Now, again, inhale.  As you exhale, imagine you are releasing the air through your forehead. Next, through your brow, then each exhale releases your eyes, cheeks, mouth, tongue, jaw, neck, shoulders and chest.
  2. Once tension is removed, keep resonance by humming.  Hum into your head, face, neck and chest.  Vocalize Yah, yah, yah, yah, yah, yah feeling the vibration lightly in your throat.
  3. To keep your voice forward in your mouth, vocalize Be Bay Bah Bo Boo. The vibration needs to be forward.  Avoid having your voice trapped and tight backward in your throat and neck.

Avoid the unfortunate vocal tick called Vocal Fry.  Many people use it today because they think it sounds cool. It can cause one to be inarticulate and not understandable.

4. Project your voice.  Get yourself heard at the back of the room.  Imagine you are holding a ball in your hand.  Throw the ball to a “target” across the room using your breath. With this act, vocalize a sound to reach your target.  Extend the sound in an arc.  Reach the target.  The act of physically throwing helps your body and voice be free.

When you become inaudible, you render everyone around you inaudible.

There are those leaders who speak and people assume absolute authority. They resonate; they hold attention and they get listened to.  An authentic, strong, resonant and powerful voice is possible in everyone.  You must get yourself heard.

If it is critical that you get your message out to the world, your voice is a powerful means to do that.

See and Be Seen


Today, there is so much value being placed upon having Presence. In our workplace, we are asked to project leadership presence. What does that mean? It means in the moment having full engagement with another.

The leader who is one who declares the future learns that driving excellence comes from fully connecting to individuals on her or his team and to clients.  Only when you’ve made this connection can you influence, persuade and inspire to greatness. This is what leads to exceptional performance and outcomes.

In my world of coaching, I employ somatic practices to foster connection and openness in my clients. Somatic practices open our awareness through an integration of our mind and body.

One practice I use is called See and Be Seen.

Here is how you can use it to your advantage.

To own our connection to our self and to others, allow yourself to give attention and take attention. See the other fully. Let them fully see you.

If you can find a partner, stand facing each other.  In preparation, breathe, center and get grounded.

Get in touch with the space between you and them.

See them.

Let them see you.

Keep breathing.

See and be seen.

It’s deceptively simple, though in my programs this is the place most people admittedly struggle. It exposes us. It makes us feel vulnerable.

To be skillful at this connection we must embody it.

To the extent we can tolerate initial discomfort and breathe through it, we allow this connection between ourselves and others. It is here we build trust, deeper relationship and teamwork.

Note that our listeners draw conclusions based upon our non-verbal communication. Based on our behaviors, they silently make several assessments with regard to things such as commitment, authenticity and centeredness.

This awareness and mastery of this practice puts you well on your way to achieving leadership presence.