02/13/2012 05:40 pm ET Updated Apr 14, 2012

Influencer of the Week: Your Voice

In a week that's featured the return of Adele's powerfully emotional voice, the silencing of Whitney Houston's soaring vocals, and the imminent finale of Glen Campbell's crooning to Alzheimer's disease, I feel compelled to share this truth: Use your voice. It's the center of your influence.

Ever lost your voice? I've been silenced by a case of full blown laryngitis this week and am under doctor's orders to stay completely silent for 48 hours. No speaking. No whispering. Not so much as a gentle throat clearing.

You'd be surprised at how much you learn about your ability to influence when you're suddenly silent -- and what others imply by your stillness.

My silence thrust a bank into high alert. Blame my upbringing, but while making a deposit at my local bank branch, I slipped the teller a note apologizing for my silence. When I looked up, I spotted the camera zooming in really tight on me. Hold-up note, anyone? Lesson learned -- never overcompensate when a red panic button is on the line.

I learned that I deeply value and miss sharing exchanges with strangers like "thank you" and "you're welcome." I missed chatting with my college daughter on the phone. I missed the ability to call my dad. And to exchange quick pleasantries with the flyer in the next seat. My doctor-induced silence felt foreign and borderline rude, ap0logy notes notwithstanding.

Of course, my friends and family had a different viewpoint. My son found my predicament ironically funny since I wrote a book entitled Talk Less, Say More. Now he's playfully re-titled it Talk Less, Write More.

How does my laryngitis relate to your influence? More than you'd think. As an executive coach, I witness a world full of people who aren't using their voices. They're withholding when they should be contributing. Sadly, they're being misunderstood and losing opportunities for advancement as a result. Not to mention that their organizations are missing important contributions. Some quick tips:

  • Don't be invisible. Get in the game - contribute with an assertive voice
  • A habit of staying silent while decisions are being made damages your credibility
  • Withholding well thought-out ideas sabotages your power
  • Don't let perfection prevent you from contributing your ideas.
  • Think excellence, not perfection.
Others make judgments about your leadership abilities from the way you contribute. People size you up to decide if you merit their support. Use your voice. The alternative is a real pain in the neck.