Improve Your Body Language at Work
How many conversations do you have at work each day? And with how many different people? And how many of those people are you trying to lead?
Got that number? OK, now take one minute of one conversation—a single minute where you’re trying to communicate an idea, to express your vision, to motivate your employee to care more.
In that single minute, even during the most nonchalant of conversations, Patti Wood says you give off 10,000 nonverbal cues.
And every single one of them matters for a first-level leader.
“As a leader, you’re constantly giving off cues,” she says, “and employees are reading those cues and using them to decide how much to trust you.”
Wood, who will speak about the art of nonverbal communication in leadership at the 2018 SEMA Show, says your external image reflects your own internal view of yourself. The way you walk, the tone of your voice, the look in your eye tells everyone how much power you have, what kind of day you're having, if you believe in what you’re saying. And, based on those cues, employees will model the behavior and perform at varying levels.
It may sound daunting, but Wood says that finding your rhythm as a leader simply means asking yourself a few simple questions:
Who walks in the door each day?
As you get out of your car and head through those front doors every morning, think about every cue you give off: Am I coming into this space as a leader? Am I showing employees they matter to me? What does my outfit convey to everyone? My hair? My smile? My tone? My walk? From head to toe, think about every aspect of your being and what nonverbal cues you’re giving off. Do those match the image you wish to convey?
How accessible are you?
While you may feel the need to shut your door at points throughout the workday and recharge, that behavior can convey inaccessibility. While it’s perfectly acceptable to take time for yourself, find ways to recharge that doesn’t close people off. Just one little change in how much free time you spend with employees changes how honest they are with you.
What behavior do you inspire?
When you speak with employees, study how they respond to you. If they sound miserable in the morning, they could be mimicking your own enthusiasm. If they respond in short, curt sentences, perhaps you’re not being open enough. Shift your nonverbal cues and look for a change in their responses.