Are you a leader who strives but somehow feels like you’re still not being enough? Or are you someone who has something special—locked away and slowly fading? For today’s episode, Elizabeth Bachman is joined by The Resonance Coach founding director Cassandra Rix, who shares her story of how she lost her voice and learned the importance of taking care of the gifts you have. She also tells us how a true leader is one that has perception, compassion, and understands team dynamics. Tune in now to this conversation that is full of valuable insights on leadership, personal talents, and quality of life!
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Perception, Compassion, And Team Dynamics: On Finding Your Voice And Becoming A True Leader With Cassandra Rix
Before we go into our fascinating conversation with our guest, I would like to invite you to see where your presentation skills are strong by taking our free four-minute assessment at www.SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are strong and where perhaps a little bit of support could help you get the results you need and the recognition that you deserve.
My guest is a colleague from the United Kingdom named Cassandra Rix, otherwise known as Cass. She and I have been working together for about a year and a half on a project, helping to make a team into the team everybody wants to work on. I have been over and over impressed by the wonderful things that Cass comes up with and how she finds persistence, perception, and compassion in this.
Also, she started out as a singer who then lost her voice because of barriers that she herself put up, which has a lot to do with the general themes of this show, where we are helping to get more people’s voices out into the world, especially women in male-dominated industries. The official bio is that Cassandra Rix built her career in frontline service and leadership, evolving a gift to deeply understand challenge, coach, and nurture into a personal philosophy and approach.
This facilitates you to know your own story, own the truth of who you are, and evolve your behavior to achieve your full potential. She’s led people and teams across Cello Health, defining and delivering integrated people strategies and aligning management approaches and leadership principles across capabilities. Her frontline input into recruitment, well-being, and performance management has been pivotal in guiding cultural change and actively addressing organizational challenges.
Cassandra remains committed to the success of thriving global businesses of any size. Her straightforward approach takes leadership challenges head-on, puts role modeling front and center for talent engagement, and asks businesses to look beyond the traditional leadership assertions to the real questions that need answering, which is, “Where change happens outside the comfort zone.”
She has a passion, belief, and continually evolving culture and collective conscience in business. She uses her intuition as a superpower to deeply connect with individuals and leadership teams, bringing resonance to challenging environments and opening hearts and minds to build rewarding interpersonal relationships, which are the bedrock of organizational achievement.
We had an interesting conversation about voice and losing one’s voice and the necessity for caring for the gifts you have, whether it be your body, your family, and your voice or else you will lose them. We went on to discuss how to be a better leader, how to have compassion, and understand team dynamics. We were getting going when we ran out of time. I will have to bring her back because we could have gone for another hour but don’t fear. It was a lovely conversation. I know that you will enjoy.
Cassandra Rix, Cass, I am happy I’ve finally got you onto the show. Welcome.
Thank you, Elizabeth. It’s a pleasure to be invited.
To be transparent, since we have been working together, I have been waiting for the right moment. I’m glad we finally got the chance. Before I get into the official subject of our interview, let me ask you, who would be your dream interview? If you were to interview someone who’s not with us at the moment, who would it be? What would you ask them? Who should be listening?
My dream interview would, in fact, be about my paternal grandmother, my father’s mother, who traveled across the whole of Europe during the end of the Second World War. She’s from Poland as a Polish Catholic sleeping in, as far as I know, sheds, barns, people’s lofts, and silos to find her way to her husband, who was serving in the British Airforce. Eventually, she met him in Scotland and settled in the South of England in what is now quite a huge Polish community in Surrey.
I would interview her because her story is fascinating, awe-inspiring, and terrifying. She also is enormously influential in how my father taught me to be a woman and what my father believed to strength and character to be about. He was influenced by his mother and his mother’s story. What would I want to ask her? I would want to ask her how she felt during all the stories that I’ve heard about her.
What I always heard about was what she did and how amazing it was, how she spoke seven different languages because she had to survive. The strength and fierceness that she then operated the rest of her life in as a result of her experience as a young woman would have been, as we would’ve described now, traumatic and caused an awful lot of reasons for her to behave a particular way. I never knew how she felt. Her feelings were something that was never spoken about in my family or certainly around me. Feelings and emotions were things that I held onto.
Who should be listening other than me because I desperately would love to hear how she felt? My daughter and her generation of young women who have a conflicted view of what feminine strength is and can understandably be confused by what my ancestors portrayed as strength and femininity. What I have strived to find is a balance between strength and femininity or whatever strength in femininity is. Also, myself who I would desperately love to really know. My dad as well, because although he’s passed away, I’m sure he would be reading. He probably never asked her those questions.
I’m curious. Did she already know your grandfather when she took this trek?
She did. Based on dates, she knew him quite well before she made the trek. I don’t know enough to be able to say she made it for him. He was the reason why she believed that she could settle here and did everything that she possibly could to be safe. Someone has her diary somewhere, which is written entirely in Polish. I hoped one day I get my hands on it, so it can be translated. It would be amazing. It would be one of those war stories like The Choice that we read about now.
The reason I was curious is that I know people who were part of the German-speaking polls who got pushed out of Poland when they had to make room for all the Polish-speaking Russians after the war when the borders changed. A whole bunch of polls got pushed out of Russia. Anybody who lived in Poland but spoke German got pushed into Germany to make room for the others. I had wondered if she was maybe part of that wave.
I would guess so because she had to leave. She spoke German. The place that my father was born, in fact, in the end, is now part of Germany rather than Poland. She obviously decided if she could go East or West.
That sounds like a fascinating interview. I would love to be there. I would like to ask you about perception, compassion, and team dynamics. I want to start out with voice because both you and I work on helping women get their voices heard. You trained as a singer. Now you support and defend those who don’t have a “voice” but you lost your physical voice at one point. That is relevant to the work that you do. Could you tell us that story?
I was about to say I would love to and check with myself, “Is that true?” You know me well. I frequently check in with myself. “Am I telling the truth or am I weaving a story?” which is something that always strikes me as important. When I think about how I use my voice, it’s become quite a characteristic of how I operate in the world. I have always had a resonant, loud voice, particularly a resonating singing voice. At a young age at school, it was evident that I was louder than everybody else in the choir and in tune, which is always a nice combination.
I went to two convent schools as a child. Fortunately, I would be the person singing in the chapel that everybody would turn around and look at in the middle of a hymn or whatever. Through my younger years, probably up until I was eleven, this was noticed generally. I had a particular woman, a lady named Margaret Sangster, who’s still alive and lives in Scotland. She heard me sing as a new Music teacher at our school and said to my teachers and my mother, “You have to do something about Cassie’s voice. Cassie is quite important.” I don’t refer to myself as Cassie at all anymore.
It’s the name that my parents gave me, and I was known by it at school. Up until I was about 21, maybe 22, I was known pretty much everywhere people would call me Cassie. I discovered I have two things. One is the ability to sing mainly without any accompaniment or I frequently find myself singing completely acapella to anything. I have an amazing memory for words, conversations, and, therefore, lyrics. I don’t just hear the first bar of something, and I will know what song it is. I will also know the words and will feel the words before I’ve heard them.
I also recognized that there was something in the resonance in my voice, which is why my business is called The Resonance Coach, which did something about how I felt and how others felt. I was encouraged to find a Music teacher. I was lucky enough to be taught by the then-retired professor of the Royal Academy of Music. She just retired. They hadn’t got a replacement for her. I was eleven years old. I could have been traveling to London every day.
She happened to live in what is now even closer to me than where my parents lived. She lived half an hour’s drive away from my parents’ house. She’s no longer alive. God bless her soul. She would’ve lived five minutes away from me now. By seeing her, I was able to explore what my voice was capable of. She, as I believe any good vocal coach would say to an eleven-year-old girl, “I’m not going to teach you how to sing.” She taught me to play piano to appreciate and understand music. I was probably fourteen before she allowed me to have a voice lesson.
She was utterly determined that my voice would not be ruined, strained or broken. She effectively said, “You could go to the Royal Academy of Music or I will take you on as a private pupil because I’m doing that now.” I was lucky enough to become a close friend. I always felt like she was my surrogate grandmother. She and I had many conversations in a long ways of telling the story, many conversations in my teens about my voice and what it might be capable of.
My voice was always without much vibrato at all. It still remains like that now. It’s quite a full resonance sound regardless of where I was singing in my range, and as you know better than anybody, Elizabeth can be wonderful and not fashionable or can be unwanted. We always knew that my voice was something that was powerful and had the capability to make people feel, including me.
Do you know when you hear a song that means something to you and its act aside? It can make you smile or cry. My voice has always had that effect on people I don’t know, on my closest family. Upon reflection, I put that down to the resonance, which meant it lacked a lot of vibratos. It had a full sound. What effectively happened is that I sang everywhere and anywhere. I sang at charity balls and school. I got a scholarship to my daughter’ because of my voice. I was singing in that school before I was even a pupil because they wanted to showcase my voice. I loved singing.
I loved the fact that I could switch my voice on whenever I wanted to. I will now be honest enough to say that I completely took it for granted. I believe in some form of God or higher power, a God-given gift. I thought it would always show up. Although I continued to have singing lessons into my teens, then into my twenties, and as my life got more complicated as they do, I started to practice less and take care of my voice less, and do other more interesting things, at least that’s what I thought.
I particularly remember a pivotal conversation I had with a man who became my husband. He’s my ex-husband. He’s my daughter’s father. I’m still close to him. I was talking about going back to music school and spending time harnessing my voice to sing. He said to me, “What are you going to do about getting married and having children?” At the time, I wasn’t in a relationship with him. He was sharing with me his own agenda, one of those Freudian slips.
I asked myself that question and went, “I don’t think I can have it all.” I remember a moment of maybe I won’t make it anyway. I was going to be a Math teacher. I never was. I always had a backup plan because I knew that being an opera singer was anything in the fame game. It was reliant on fashion and personal opinion and taste and also any potential vulnerability or injury that I said, “I’ve got a backup plan.”
I decided that I would continue to sing but was no longer invested in my voice. I would say that would be time, money, effort, and energy. I still saw my singing teacher and would sing with her when I chose to. Over the course of the years as various different things happened to me as I had a child, as I divorced, as my life changed, and this is probably one of the pivotal parts that I notice now, as I became more and more independent as a woman, financially and physically.
As a woman with a booming career.
I ended up in strategy consulting. I worked in an entirely male-dominated organization. I was 1 woman amongst 15 men. I continued to work in that space. I knew that I had to be a particular version of myself or at least I thought I had to believe a particular version of myself related to my paternal grandmother, that said, “You have to be hard. You have to be strong.” I remember one person saying to me when my daughter was about 5 or 6, “I didn’t even know you had children.” I remember that moment. The way that I operated was that I would make my life work around my career.You have to be hard. You have to be strong. Click To Tweet
Somewhere in that, what I considered to be a feminine part of me, which is my voice, my ability to open my heart and my soul, started to suffer because I was wearing a shiny, almost invisible, tight-fitting suit of armor everywhere I went. It was heavy. I had to shout quite loud to get my voice out of it. Not heard, I was always heard but through the barriers, I was creating, I had to do some things that didn’t sound very much like a beautiful vocal tone.
In the end, I started to lose my singing voice. My voice range now is lower than it ever was before. That comes with age, anyway. Certainly, I’ve learned I have an injury in my vocal cords, which has caused referred nodules. Somewhere in there, I carried on doing things that meant I wasn’t nurturing or looking after my own voice. That matters the most to me. Eventually, I lost my voice, so I couldn’t sing at all.
How does that inform what you do now?
There are two major things. One is that I have become clear about what my purpose is. The way that I work with women, men, and teams is always about, “What are you here for? What is the service you are meant to offer the world rather than what can you get?” We operate in a world where money is the way we make meaning of things. It’s the energy of exchange in our world.
I now understand that accessing wealth is a side effect of doing what brings you joy and what is of service to others. I did a lot of work on myself to understand who I am and which part of this is a mask or a suit of armor that I’m wearing and if I’m supposed to use this gift, this voice of mine, to allow you to feel. Once, somebody said to me that my singing and my speaking voice had the effect of clearing cobwebs and dust away.
When I then ask you a question like, “What’s going on, Elizabeth?” you will understand what I mean by that question even if you can’t answer it. There’s something about that. I’m still able to use my voice, although I don’t sing. The starting point for me is what am I here to do and what’s this other person here to do? What is your purpose? When you wake up in the morning, what do you get out of bed for? None of us do it for money or fame.
We do it because we believe there’s someone who we can serve in some way. My ability to talk about three things, one, pretending to be something you are not, is the highway to hell. You will suffer. There will be a pain. You will lose things that are dear to you. Nothing is owed to you that you don’t have to care for it. Your body, your voice, your relationships, your talents, they might be God-given talents but if you ignore them, they might suffer.Don't pretend to be someone you're not. Click To Tweet
Let me rephrase that, especially for international readers, you use a circuitous phrase. Any talents or blessings you have must be cared for and worked on. Curated, if you will.
If I don’t believe that my voice is of enough value to care for it, then why will it always show up for me? We could say about our relationships with anything. My relationship with my body, my relationship with my partner, my daughter, and myself. My voice has become an absolute mirror of my relationship with myself and how much I care about myself.
Let me ask you from the philosophical to the specific here, talking about speaking up for yourself, you were telling me about a situation you were in where you discovered that the new man on your team who was working for you was earning $30,000 more than you were. I don’t know about $30,000 but this is something that many people find. What did you do? What actions did you take?
First, I checked in with myself and made sure I did not let it affect my relationship with him. That’s inaction if you like but it’s a decision and an important one. While we might accept salaries, we are not necessarily the people who determine what they are. I went straight into a conversation with my line manager and also my then-CEO. I could have circumnavigated my manager and gone straight to the CEO and thought, “I need to go to him and the CEO. I need to have some specific conversations.”
I come from a place that always starts with understanding. I want to tell you how I feel about this but first, I would like to understand why you have made this decision. I believe that when you ask somebody to explain themselves, you need to shut up. Our tendency is to ask a question and then to interrupt because they are not saying things the way we want them to say them. What I discovered was a lot of interesting beliefs about what people should be paid based on what they were paid in the last job they did.
I discovered a lot of their beliefs, and many of us might experience it, about how people who are already in organizations get paid a little bit more to make them stay. When you are trying to attract new talent to the team, you might attract them with a bit more cash or whatever incentive there might be. When I heard that I asked the question, “What does length of service, I used the word tenure and how long you’ve been here and how much you’ve proven you have value and seniority?” I asked it deliberately in those three ways.
I don’t think you should start with, “I’m more senior, so I should earn more money.” It’s about responsibility. “What is it? What about tenure? What about the experience you have of me? What about the fact that we operate a transparent, which is a great salary policy in our organization? I know that you’ve decided to pay this person who’s going to be on my team more. Why was I not involved in that conversation? Is that because you didn’t think I would like it?” They were honest enough to answer yes.
I said, “What would it take for me to earn what you are proposing to pay this person who needs to go through probation and be proven anyway? I’m trying to understand the level of responsibility I have in this organization, including in the model. I was in need of feeding him work, so he works because I’m selling the work. What would I need to do?” They couldn’t answer the question, which told me a lot. I try not to jump to conclusions but I thought, “If you can’t tell me what it is going to take, then you don’t know what it’s going to take.” I have said this, “Is this the right thing to be said?” He said, “I’m asking you to pay me at least what you pay him because you are asking me to be responsible for his development in this organization.”
I said, “I would hate to think that anything of this had to do with the fact that I am a woman.” I left it there. I do feel the intensity of that statement. I feel the level of golding you could say was with that statement but I wanted to say, “This is how it feels to me. You might not intend it but the impact.” I talk a lot about us using phrases like, “I didn’t mean to,” and thinking that’s an apology. It’s not. I need to apologize for what I did, not for what I intended.If you're wrong, apologize for the impact it had on THEM. Click To Tweet
You may not have intended to but the impact on me was that it means you don’t think I’m worth as much as somebody you don’t know. That’s an interesting belief. Also, is it because I’m a woman? There is so much evidence that tells us that women don’t ask for pay rises and promotions because, societally, we are conditioned to stay quiet and be nice and not ask for things. Having someone like me who’s quite straightforward saying, “I don’t think so.”
You did say to me when you first told me this story that he got that much money because he asked, and they said, “Okay.” They gave it to him. They didn’t think about it. He asked for it, which chances are a woman would not.
We tend to ask what the salary is. In fact, I remember I had an apprentice. She said to me, “I want to ask you for the upper range of the salary that you’ve advertised. I hope you don’t mind.” I said to her genuinely, “I am extremely proud to be recruiting somebody who’s brave enough to ask that question.” At 22, I wouldn’t have done it.
I wouldn’t have either.
If I think about it, if I hadn’t been in a managerial position, managing someone that I was aware was earning more than me, I’m not sure I would’ve said it either. It came from a place of indignance rather than self-worth. Now it comes from somewhere else.
This is a situation that people find themselves in a lot. What tips can you give? What strategies can you suggest to the person who’s reading this saying, “That’s where I am but I don’t know what to do?”
The first thing is a thing about yourself. All of our actions need to come from a centered and grounded place. We often act out of impulse and emotion. There’s nothing wrong with impulse or emotion. They are important. They are clues. How you are feeling is a clue. Ask yourself the question, “Why am I angry? Why do I feel undervalued? Why do I feel I don’t matter?” Particularly around money, ask yourself the question, “Is it about the money?”
If you go into a conversation saying, and I don’t think anybody would necessarily do this, “So and so is earning more money than me. That’s not fair.” That probably doesn’t set you up for any kind of success. You’ve got to ask yourself the question, “What is it I’m angry about?” My anger and frustration are that you don’t know if this person is capable or agnostic of whether they were male or female. Anything to do with that. You don’t know that. I’m responsible for this person’s development.
In some way, I’m responsible for them. Leadership is about responsibility for others. What that says to me is the value that I’m bringing by being responsible for him and having been here for longer and assuming I’m doing a good job is that you are not telling me that I matter. Underneath that, you haven’t considered that I might mind. It’s not about the money.
When you then go to someone with, “No, you’ve done this. It’s not fair,” but you go with, “I’m feeling this way. I’ve asked myself why. It’s because it’s telling me that I don’t matter as much to you because you haven’t consulted me, and you are paying someone more than me than someone you’ve never worked with before.”
Let me ask another question then. As we are talking about this, I’m thinking now, if we have Cass as the coach, supposing you were advising that leadership team and they found themselves having made this big mistake, what would you tell the leaders to do in a situation like this?
There are some details underneath it but there are two things. They are the same thing I would say to myself if I had upset my daughter. You, if you would upset your friends, your partner, anybody is this. Do two things. 1) Apologize for the impact that you’ve had, the lack of consideration that you realize that you have shown, and the resulting feeling the other person has. We are not responsible for how other people feel but we can certainly create situations where they are likely to feel certain things. Don’t apologize and say, “I did it because.” Just say sorry. 2) Make it right. An apology without a change in behavior is not an apology.Then make it right. Click To Tweet
We are not talking about me forgetting to do something occasionally and needing to be reminded. We are talking about other members of my organization who I give responsibility to lead other people and sit in front of clients and make money for me. If I haven’t thought, “What might the impact be on Cass?” I’ve made a big mistake. If I’m not doing that for this, what else am I not considering them for? My mentor has a great phrase, which comes from yogic philosophy, “How you do one thing is how you do everything.” It manifests in different ways. If you don’t consider the impact on other people about being late or not doing things, you do that everywhere. The make it right is the other thing. Take responsibility.How you do one thing is how you do everything. Click To Tweet
This also brings me to my next question, which was that you and I had talked a lot about putting yourself in the shoes of your listeners. I always say that it’s rule number one, if you are presenting or leading, is to use strategic empathy. Put yourself in their shoes. You’ve talked a lot about compassion. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes extends to having compassion in one’s day-to-day interactions. To follow that up, how can you be compassionate without lying down and letting someone walk all over you? Where’s the balance?
Remember that being in someone else’s shoes means you’ve got their shoes on and they don’t fit you. Real empathy and compassion are about being them in their shoes. We often say, and I don’t know how much we say this in other languages but it’s often used in English, which is if I were in your shoes, if it were me, which is true, it’s how to connect with people. The truth is that if I were you, I wouldn’t do any of the things you are doing because I’m not you.
I need to understand why are you, you doing your things, then I’m being in your shoes. The reason I answered that way is that, for me, it is compassion. That, for me, is understanding why you are doing it as you but still being over here to help you. The best quote that I’ve ever heard is that, “Sympathy is about getting in the pit with someone when they are in the pit.” You are both in the pit, and no one is getting out. Real empathy is standing outside of the pit, holding out my hand to you, and saying, “I’m here but you need to take my hand and you need to want to get out.”
I don’t get walked all over because the chances are I get in the pit with you. You stand on my head to get out of the pit if you want to. I’m not the vehicle for you to get out of the pit. I’m the person that says, “There are plenty of hands out here that will help you.” Compassion for me is twofold. 1) It’s understanding why people do what they do. What is their story? What’s their trigger? If mine is that strength is doing everything on my own and never asking for help, then what’s someone else’s? Understanding that and accepting it. 2) Behaving in a way that means they don’t have to do what I say. I’ve offered them some choices. I’ve offered them agency and the opportunity to do it differently.
How can you do that when you are managing up? How can you do that with the people who are supervising you, who you think is in the pits and that you wish you could tell what they were supposed to do because they are not doing it?
Part one, which comes from a place, it’s the same thing as understanding, which is to assume that everybody is doing their best all of the time always. Even those people who are more senior than you have got authority over you or your bosses and you go, “I could do that so much better than you.” Maybe you could but that’s not your job. I always assumed, even if I didn’t like it, that what that person was doing was what they believed was the best at the time.
I have a positive mindset to say, “Why would that person do that? Why would so and so think that’s okay?” The answer might be that they are going to pay him what he’s asked for because we don’t have enough people to do the work here at the moment. I’m completely overwhelmed. I’m stacked with work, and they want to give me someone I can pass the work to. They want to make sure that person is capable. Maybe they associate capable with being well-paid.
That’s giving someone the benefit. That is what the benefit of the doubt is about. It’s not about making excuses for people. It’s about saying, “If I believe you are doing the best thing you think is right, what’s your rationale?” It won’t be the same as mine. To manage up, they are doing their best. They didn’t get out of bed that day to make your day hell. That’s not what they do. They got out of bed that day to do their best. If I want to actively manage up, then I start with wanting to understand that and not taking responsibility for it. What’s causing this level of stress?
We all behave like petulant children sometimes. What’s the meaning that they’re behaving being a bit difficult or inconsiderate. What can I do to help solve that? Not fix it, not make you better but what can I do? What can I bring to that table? Sometimes it’s as simple as making them a cup of tea. We often make the mistake with leaders of treating them the way that we are being treated by them rather than the way we want to be treated. We can make this excuse that goes, “You are doing this to me so that I will do this to you.” Start with kindness, assuming they are doing their best, and by saying, “What could I do to make it a bit easier for them now?”
That sounds like a perfect note to finish on. Cassandra Rix, Cass, thank you so much for having been the guest on the show. Thank you very much, my friend. I may have to bring you back in six months or so to delve into some of these questions a little deeper. This has been Speakers Who Get Results, and I will see you on the next one.
About Cassandra Rix
Cassandra Rix is known as a voice that clears and holds space for truth, for individuals and teams. She founded The Resonance Coach with a clear Vision to change the world view of leadership, one human interaction at a time.
Cassandra recognises and validates what we all know: that commercial success today rests on leadership creating more ‘resonant’ cultures. We know that sustainable financial success exists in organisations where leaders put their people and intentional leadership at the centre of all they do, consistently and daily.
CEOs come to her to run programmes for leader teams to ‘unlearn’ habits and stories that stand in the way of their authenticity and build new leadership narratives based on the truth of who they are and want to be in the world. These programmes bring increased productivity and profitability (often from 10-15% to >20% each year) by building leadership that exemplifies and upholds a resonant culture – places where people thrive and become their employers’ ‘raving fans’!