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Learn To Find Your Voice and Gain Confidence at Work

Salesforce’s Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Beckwith and Chief Engagement Officer Cristina Jones discuss on #BossTalks how using your voice can help you get ahead.

Ebony Beckwith and Cristina Jones
Ebony Beckwith and Cristina Jones discuss how to use your voice to gain confidence on #BossTalks.

In her role as chief engagement officer of Salesforce.org, Cristina Jones humanizes the conversation around technology at every touchpoint. Part of this work is encouraging leaders in the education and nonprofit communities to drive real change. “The worst thing you can do right now is do nothing,” Jones said. “So we’re creating a platform and a community where people can tap in and help.”

Much of what Jones does helps people find their voice and gain confidence in their work. This is what Jones and Salesforce Chief Philanthropy Officer Ebony Beckwith discussed on the fifth episode of her web-based video series #BossTalks, aimed at career-oriented professionals on LinkedIn. In addition, they discuss:

Pop down to see the full transcript and the full episode.

Showing up as your authentic self

Early in her career, Jones worked for a Black woman who, she said, was unapologetically herself as head of creative for a young production studio. Jones, who had come from a more buttoned-up corporate environment, saw this and realized she could be authentic and be successful. She encourages her staff to do the same.

“The beauty of us as humans is our differences,” Jones said. “With [my] teams, I encourage and really demand they show up authentically. I think that word is overused, but how can you serve the communities in which we work if you’re not true to yourself? Especially in the space that I work in, which is helping people tell their stories. Well, you need to be really comfortable with your story as well.”

Using your voice — even when you’re uncomfortable

That little voice in your head sometimes will creep up and discourage you from speaking, from sharing what might be a great idea, or telling you that you’ll be wrong — before you even open your mouth. Jones said we need to silence that voice in order to share our actual voice. Silencing that voice moves you in the direction of authenticity, even if it makes you uncomfortable.

“If you’re going to have innovative ideas, if you want to drive change, sometimes you have to be comfortable using your voice,” Jones said. “This is where authenticity is critical. Why do you care enough to drive this change? Why do you care enough to lead these conversations? It means you need to also be comfortable that your voice matters. Your voice matters.”

If you want to drive change, you have to be comfortable using your voice

Cristina Jones, chief engagement officer, Salesforce.org

Why the loudest voice isn’t always the smartest

Have you noticed in team meetings, certain people always speak? They may not have the best ideas, but may have the need to speak up. This can sometimes discourage others from sharing ideas or raising questions — and we all lose out because the silenced voices may have the next big idea. 

“There’s an over-reliance on people who talk a lot,” Jones said. “The loudest voice in the room is not always the smartest voice in the room. And so even as you grow into leadership, make sure that you don’t fall into that old trap of listening to the loudest person who’s probably not saying anything really.”

Having courage as a value

On the flip side, people who never speak up lose opportunities to express themselves and get their potentially great ideas out in the world. You think about talking, second-guess yourself, and then look back at the moment and wonder why you didn’t offer up your idea. Everyone loses.

Sometimes it takes courage to use your voice. Who hasn’t sat silent in a meeting with an idea or comment or question because you didn’t have the courage to speak out? By not speaking up, you potentially deprive yourself of having a moment and, in turn, offering your team or company a great idea. Many of us are programmed to only show our perfect self, but that also doesn’t show your humanity and allow others to connect with you.

“I was on a call the other day with another leader, talking about having courage as a value, courage to speak your peace, courage to say maybe not the popular thing in the room,” Jones said. “On the flip side, he was also saying it’s important for him to always look happy. And I said, ‘Well, are you courageous enough to be vulnerable? Are you courageous enough to be your authentic self so people can feel connected to you?’” 

How humanity makes us interesting 

Jones added that vulnerability makes you human. It’s in that space you can laugh, make a joke, maybe admit you don’t know something and ask for help. By not speaking up, she said, you lose opportunities to express yourself and put your potentially great ideas out in the world.

“You want to build a career based on who you are, as a person,” she said. “It makes you a real person. We’re not perfect all the time. We should not aspire to be perfect all the time. Humanity is what makes us interesting.”

Create space for everyone’s voice to be heard.

Cristina jones

Making space to amplify all voices 

Whether you’re a young leader or manage people, you sometimes need to help someone get their ideas out. Not everyone feels comfortable speaking up in a group so you may need to call on someone who often sits back in meetings and doesn’t use their voice. It’s not putting them on the spot, per se, but helping them realize they, too, can speak up and share ideas. 

“Create space for everyone’s voice to be heard,” Jones said. “Consider what you’re doing to this person’s self-esteem and courageousness to say something. Imagine the missed opportunity by not hearing the idea. If you have something to say, say it. And for those in the room, welcome it.”

Creating opportunity by telling others’ stories

Just like that moment when she was 25 and saw the executive being her authentic self, Jones encourages others to not just project that image but to actively promote others you know have done important work. When you get to a position of leadership, Jones said, you have the responsibility to help elevate and amplify other voices by telling their stories. This helps get them noticed by other people in the room and community. 

“There’s opportunity for all of us,” Jones said. “Use your platform intentionally to create opportunity. Me giving a shout-out to someone who’s not in the room because of what they did takes me two seconds but could be the difference in their career with their supervisor. Did it hurt me to help them? No. Creating projects that create opportunity for other people who otherwise would not have visibility is something else that as we get into these roles is important to do.”

Watch the full episode and read the full transcript with viewer questions.

Learn how to use your voice directly from Salesforce’s Cristina Jones on #BossTalks.

Ebony Beckwith:

Hello everyone and welcome to Boss Talks. This is the new series presented by Salesforce featuring career conversations with people I trust and admire to keep it real. Today we’re talking about finding your voice. Everything from gaining the confidence to speak up in meetings to learning how to express your views and opinions at work. Finding your voice is one of the toughest, but most valuable things you can learn in your career. I know from my own experience, it took many years of me trying on a different communication style. It’s constantly iterating or tweaking different audiences for different roles I held, but the work is so worth it, and here’s why. Effective communication is critical to effective leadership.

So today we’re going to talk about how to find and use your voice in a way that helps show your value and influence, and maybe even impress those around you. To help me out, I’ve invited a true boss, my dear friend and colleague Cristina Jones, Chief Engagement Officer at salesforce.org. Cristina, welcome to Boss Talks. Thank you so much for joining us.

Cristina Jones:

Thank you for inviting me. I’ve been looking forward to this all day. I love our talks.

Ebony Beckwith:

Me too, my friend. Before we get started, I have to tell everyone a quick story about the first time I met you. You’ve heard it many times. So I saw you present at a kickoff event and I was immediately like, “Who is she and how can I be her friend?” That’s what was going on for me. And I went up to you and after the rest was history. So now we talk almost every day. We text all the time.

And when I talk about or think about my personal board of directors or who I want at my table, you are without a doubt one of those people. And I think it’s so rare to find those people who have your back like that. And when you do find them, don’t let them go. So I want people to learn more about you. Can you give us an overview of what you do at salesforce.org and how storytelling really became central to your career?

Cristina Jones:

Absolutely. So currently I’m at salesforce.org as their chief engagement officer. And my focus since I’ve been over in tech has been to humanize the conversation around technology across every touch point, so that people can see themselves in it and understand how they can engage. And I would argue there’s no more critical space to do this in the nonprofit sector, in the education sector and in the sectors where you have what I like to call action leaders who are driving real change.

And it is important to lead, to help action leaders like them elevate their voice so that people understand the work that they’re doing so that they can tap in and help. Ebony, you and I say this a lot. The worst thing you can do right now is do nothing. So we’re creating a platform and a community where people can tap in and help.

Ebony Beckwith:

Tell us a little bit more about your experience of finding your own voice.

Cristina Jones:

So it’s funny. I remember specifically when I was 25, I was working at New Line and I had the opportunity to work for an incredible Black woman who was just unapologetically herself. She was head of creative. I worked in creative at the time and I was like, “Whoa.” I’d come from Warner Bros., which was much more corporate, much more buttoned up. So I was trying to fit myself into that space. And then I was lucky to have her early on in my career. So I could say, “See that. Oh, I could just be Cristina.” And I’ve never gone back from that.

And I think that journey, it’s not always easy to stay true to who you are, right? You want to blend in the old rumblings from our teen years maybe still back there. But the beauty of us as humans is our differences. And so with the teams that I have, I encourage and really demand that they show up authentically. I think that word’s overused a lot, but how can you serve the communities in which we work if you’re not true to yourself? Especially in the space that I work in, which is helping people tell their story. Well, you need to be really comfortable with your story as well.

Ebony Beckwith:

Help us apply that more broadly. What are some things that people can do to find their voice?

Cristina Jones:

The way that you find your voice is by using your voice. There’s a little voice in your head that tells you not to speak, that what you’re saying isn’t right, that you will be judged. Shutting that voice down is critical in order for you to start being comfortable enough to start using your actual voice. Like moving away from having to be perfect and always saying the right thing at the right time. Getting used to the story of yourself and the stories that are important to you is how you find who you are authentically.

Ebony Beckwith:

So part of it is about finding your voice. And the other part is about actually using your voice, which is not always easy to do. So I wonder if there’s a memorable moment that comes to mind at a time when you spoke up and you used your voice.

Cristina Jones:

We have to use our voice even when it’s uncomfortable. If you’ve heard me talk, you’ve heard me say this a lot. I am not comfortable with a lot of public speaking. I am an introvert. I like studying people, but if you’re going to have innovative ideas, if you do want to drive change, sometimes you have to be comfortable using your own voice and your own face. And this is where the authenticity is critical, right? Why do you care enough to drive this change? Why do you care enough to lead these conversations? It means that you need to be also comfortable with that your voice matters, your voice matters.

And of course on any day, my greatest passion is creating space for other voices, whether it’s in my team or other teams. Taking a second to look into the room and who’s not spoken. Even if they’re not on your team. If there’s someone quiet that’s collaborating with you, why can’t we all use our platform to drive change at any minute of the day? You’re really great about this, Ebony? How do you look across the room and see untapped talent? I think that there’s an over-reliance on people who talk a lot or the loudest voice in the room is not always the smartest voice in the room. And so even as you grow into leadership, making sure that you don’t fall into that old trap of listening to the loudest person who’s probably not saying anything really.

Ebony Beckwith:

That’s right. And inviting all voices to contribute to the room, right?

Cristina Jones:

Exactly.

Ebony Beckwith:

I think that’s so important. You just mentioned being an introvert. I’m an extroverted introvert. I had to learn how to be extroverted and it can be a surprise for some people because we speak often and we’re asked to do it, but it’s not something that comes naturally. It’s often very intimidating for people to find and use that voice. So let’s talk about the cost of not using their voice.

Cristina Jones:

What a shame if you don’t use your voice. I think about that a lot like what is all the untapped talent out there that is sitting there waiting to be discovered, but locked up in a box? I know that everyone who’s listening has had an idea that they haven’t acted upon. And then they’re like, “Dang, why didn’t I say that? I had the idea.” Can we stop that? And I worry a little bit about the social media culture because what’s happening is that you are trained for perfection. You want everyone to see you at your best. And so it doesn’t teach you how to be you. And I think that that carries on into work where people want to say the right thing.

I was on a call the other day with another leader, we were talking about having courage as a value, courage to speak your peace. Courage to say maybe not the popular thing in the room, but on the flip side he was also saying that it’s important for him to always look happy and be … And I said, “Well, are you courageous enough to be vulnerable? Are you courageous enough to be your authentic self so people can feel connected to you?” And that again is using your voice, not just to manage people, but to lead people. I’m proud of the teams that I’ve grown. I’ve grown people leaders, not people managers. There’s a big difference, but you can’t lead with a fake voice.

Ebony Beckwith:

Let’s talk about how vulnerability is a part of sharing your authentic voice. How can people tap into that? Because I know probably for you as a storyteller, you want that authenticity and that vulnerability. That’s what you’re trying to bring out in people, but it can be sort of counterintuitive especially in corporate America to think what does vulnerability have to do with this conversation? So maybe you can help us unpack that.

Cristina Jones:

You don’t want to build a whole career on artifice. You want to build a career based on who you are, Ebony, as a person. What are you passionate about? What motivates you? And also I love when we can laugh and play and joke. Those are those moments of connectivity. And those moments of saying I don’t know and can you help me? I think it makes you a real person. We’re not perfect all the time. We should not aspire to be perfect all the time. The humanity is what makes us interesting.

Ebony Beckwith:

I want to go back to a question we get a lot around speaking up in meetings, especially in this new Zoom environment. So I want to make sure we tackle this head on. What advice do you have for people who are trying to figure out how to insert themselves into the conversation? Really going back to the cost of not using their voice, especially in this new virtual world.

Cristina Jones:

I want to answer for young executives. I also want to answer those for leaders of young executives. It is you have to create a space for everyone’s voice to be heard because the worst thing that can happen in my opinion and shame on any executive that does this is when someone is courageous enough to raise their hand, to have an opinion, to say something to not create a space where they can be supported.

Beyond just that moment, consider what you’re doing to this person’s self-esteem and courageousness to say something. And on your end, imagine the missed opportunity that you have by not hearing the idea. But if you do have something to say, say it, say it. And for those in the room, welcome it.

Ebony Beckwith:

I often think about that double dutch. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out like, “When do I get in? Do I get it now ? Do I get in?” And sometimes you’re going to trip up and other times you’re going to be like, “Yes, I nailed it.” But just having that space open for people I think is so important.

Cristina Jones:

I think something else to consider is to show up for your friends in the room too. I remember early on when I was presenting and I was a nervous wreck and you held my hand and you were like, “You got this. This is a great story, Cristina. Just say it.” It doesn’t matter how far along you go, stories and creative are my little babies and I get like. And I think having what did you call it? Board of directors is important. You and I brainstorm all the time, but we also show up for each other in the room, which kills some of that noise that might otherwise be there when people see like, “Oh, this person is not here alone.”

Ebony Beckwith:

That’s right. And I think that’s something that holds people back too. They feel like they’re the only one or they can’t phone a friend. I’m the only young person. I’m the only woman. I’m the only person of color. All those things that we tell ourselves. And I know we both have experience with this. I think one tip you just gave around navigating it is realizing that you do have friends and people on your side. And that also so that you’re not alone. But also your story is one that needs to be told and heard. So how do you personally navigate that feeling of being the only, maybe you are the only in the room?

Cristina Jones:

It never gets easier. It never gets easier, which is why I’m passionate about. These things all go together, right? Like if you are the only one in the room, it is easy to not keep true to who you are, because you don’t want to rock the boat because you are the only one in the room. And you’re worried about what people will think. Reverse engineering this is you make it to the room. You do start to drive change, you pull up more seats so there’s more of you at the room. Not just more of you, but just more people, more diversity of thought. So it’s not just you who has the crazy idea. And who knows what ideas come out of that. The more that you create an inclusive workforce, that’s what we’re talking about.

Ebony Beckwith:

That’s right. Cristina, I want to talk about power dynamics. I know we’ve talked a lot about and I hear you talk about this a lot, changing the makeup of a room. And I love that because that is a complete and total boss move. So share more about that.

Cristina Jones:

You have to. You have to. It’s not just the smart thing to do. It is the right thing to do. Think of all the people who came before us. We talk a lot about Shirley Chisholm and she’s like, “I’ll pull a folding chair up.” Shirley Chisholm would not be happy with a folding chair right now. She would be demanding her full seat and if not her own table. And we are at that point where that’s what we should all be doing at every level. And don’t just look at one person to do that. Ask yourself, “what change are you making?” When you look at the last three people you’ve hired, who have you hired? Who have you promoted? How are you part of the change as opposed to waiting for some big change to happen?

It’s uncomfortable to have that conversation with people. It’s not playing the diversity game, which is like I’m a black woman I left. Replace me with a black woman. It’s the creating an inclusive workspace where you can clearly identify the right person for the right role from an inclusive selection, a diverse selection, a selection of all qualified executives.

Ebony Beckwith:

That’s right. One of the things you said earlier that I want to come back to. You talked about telling other people’s stories. And you don’t hear too many people and their professional careers really talk about helping other people so intentionally. Sometimes there can be a fear of helping other people shine because it takes away from your shine.

So I’d love to hear what you think about it. For me, I’m like, “I want all my friends to be fabulous.” The squad is looking good, but talk about that. Sometimes you can find that it can be very competitive. So talk about your desire to really share other people’s story and what that adds for you and the other person.

Cristina Jones:

I have so much disappointment for people who come from that scarcity mindset, that mindset that I have to have everything. Everything must be mine. I can only shine. That comes from a lack of self. I think a lack of self-esteem, a sense of there’s not enough for all of us. I like to come at it from a different space like you and I can both be fabulous in the same room while driving change, and creating so much opportunity that there needs to be more tables. There’s not just one table.

The last three jobs I’ve had didn’t exist before I took them. There’s opportunity for all of us. Use your platform intentionally to create opportunity. Me giving a shout-out to someone who’s not in the room because of what they did takes me two seconds, but could be the difference in their career with their supervisor. I don’t know, but did it hurt me to help them? No. Creating projects that create opportunity for other people who otherwise would not have visibility is something else that as we get into these roles is important to do.

Ebony Beckwith:

I think it’s also really so important to lift as you climb and to take other people along with you. Like you said, it only takes a few moments and it can have such lasting impact.

Cristina Jones:

Again, finding your tribe in your career is equally important. Coloring outside the lines with your friend is amazing.

Ebony Beckwith:

All right, so final question, Cristina. I’m asking everyone what their superpower is. I could name so many for you, but I’m going to ask you to pick one. So tell us, what is your superpower?

Cristina Jones:

Listening. Listening. I do my best to be present and listen. I don’t want to tell people’s stories of how I perceive them to be. I want to tell their stories.

Ebony Beckwith:

Well, thank you for telling such powerful stories and thank you for all your words of wisdom today. I know we’re soaking them all up and we’re going to start putting your words of wisdom into practice. So thank you so much for being here with us today, Cristina.

Cristina Jones:

Thank you, Ebony.

Ebony Beckwith:

And now I want to hear what you have to say. So let’s hear your questions.

Trae Gavin:

Hi Ebony. My question is after receiving an opportunity at a new company, how would you suggest finding your voice in a new corporate culture and managing new personalities?

Ebony Beckwith:

Trae, that’s a good one. So this might seem counterintuitive, but the best way to find your voice and to understand the culture at a new company is to start by listening. I know I’ve suggested to people on my team to take some time, maybe the first 60 or 30 days in their new role to get to know people, learn what they do and see how everyone works together. And in this virtual world, that might mean setting up virtual coffee dates or happy hours to get to know your colleagues more on a personal level.

That way when you’re ready to speak up and share your perspectives and meetings, it’ll be a lot easier. You’ll feel more comfortable. It’ll be more well-received because you know your audience and they will know you and help you. I also say that finding your voice is not a one size fits all approach. Meaning that what worked at one company, doesn’t always work at another company. And you might have to get comfortable being uncomfortable at first and really try some new things before you learn what’s effective in this new environment. But I liked the beginner’s mindset that you’re taking. That’s a great and very helpful powerful first step.

Thank you all for your questions and please keep them coming. I will read a few each episode, so please comment on our LinkedIn page or send me a tweet @EbonyBeckwith using #BossTalks. I hope you all enjoyed today’s conversation about finding your voice. To continue building meaningful skills for your career, head on over to Trailhead, Salesforce’s free online learning platform that helps anyone skill up for in demand jobs in the Salesforce ecosystem. With that, I’m Ebony Beckwith. Thank you for tuning into Boss Talks and see you all next time.


Ari Bendersky is a Chicago-based lifestyle journalist who has contributed to a number of leading publications including the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal magazine, Men's Journal, RollingStone.com and many more. He has written for brands as wide-ranging as Ace Hardware to Grassroots Cannabis and is a lead contributor to the Salesforce 360 Blog. He is also the co-host of the Overserved podcast, featuring long-form conversations with food and beverage personalities.

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