Your Hidden Language: Training Employees to Develop Positive Body Language

Body Language

“The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”

~ Ludwig Wittgenstein ~

Conflict among staff can occur because of the things we say or how we act.  It can also occur when our body language communicates things we might not be aware of.  To increase harmony in the office, consider training employees to develop a recognition of the importance of body language and give them skills to master it.

When we listen to people, we also read their body language to see if it is in sync with their words. Most people recognize the body language that says: I’m interested, I’m not interested, I’m busy, please listen to me.

But some people are less aware of body language. When they ignore these messages or misread them, tension and irritation occurs.  Training employees to develop awareness of other people’s body language and the unspoken messages they send can create more trust and harmony in the work place.  It’s worth the effort.

 1. Give Voice to Body Language. If you find that meetings are disrupted by annoying fidgeting or conversations are distracted by the listener staring off into space, it may be time to talk about and train your staff on this topic.  Consider role playing to show the messages sent so even the less sensitive workers recognize the language of the body.  Video tape staff speaking or listening so they can see their own body language.

Often people are highly critical when they see themselves on screen. Balance their views with supportive staff who point out the messages they see in their coworker’s body language.  When body language is addressed head on and out in the open, employees develop more sensitivity to their physical actions as well as being in tune with others.

2. Body language that shows more than you want.   The key effectiveness of body language is that it helps others discern a person’s true feelings.  While you might think you are talking pleasantly to someone you’re angry with, your body language will tell a different story.  Help employees develop coping strategies.

  • Check your emotions. Before you talk with a person or enter a meeting, evaluate how you feel about the people you will see.  If you feel angry, frustrated, or condescending toward anyone there, watch out!  Be very careful your body is not exhibiting your emotions.
  • Be honest.  The easiest way to gain great body language is to have good emotions and communication skills.  If you are interested, if you are paying attention, if you are respectful to your co workers, your body will automatically broadcast those emotions.

3. Body Language that lies. As you train and develop your employees, help them recognize the internal and external reasons body language may not represent the “truth.”

  • If a person is hungry or needs to relieve him or herself, the stresses of the body will be reflected in actions.  The fidgeting, hunching the body, or glancing at the clock might be misinterpreted as disinterest, when the causes are biological.  Help your employees avoid sending these incorrect messages by planning ahead and not going into meetings or events hungry or stressed.  A chilly room may cause crossed arms.
  • Illness—either temporary or long-running can affect our body language. Help employees be aware of others who have ADHD or Tourette’s or any of a host of other medical problems that may cause them to act differently.

Offices run smoother when conflicts are kept to a minimum through understanding and respect.  One effective way to make this happen is through training employees to be aware of their own body language and to not misunderstand the body language of those around them.

Contact Joel to find out more about training and developing employees. 

Talkback: What annoying body language have you faced?  Was there ever a time when you thought you understood someone’s body language and discovered you were mistaken?

Image courtesy of Auremar / Fotolia.com

Going from Great to Exceptional

Ladder of Success
“Our business in life is not to get ahead of others, but to get ahead of ourselves—to break our own records, to outstrip our yesterday by our today.”

~ Stewart B. Johnson ~

Although hard work, experience, leadership, and your ability to influence others are all key factors in getting promoted, executive presence is often the factor that separates the great employees from the exceptional. Executive presence can mean the difference between sitting stagnant on one rung of the corporate ladder or quickly climbing past your co-workers. There are three excellent ways to develop this distinctive quality: building a strong personal brand, stepping outside your comfort zone, and recruiting influential advocates to support you.

I discuss these three methods in my recent guest blog post, “3 Killer Ways to Build Your Executive Presence,” for Diane Craig’s Corporate Class Inc., a leading image and etiquette consultant company that has been advising Fortune 500 companies for more than twenty years. In my post, I discuss how building your brand helps you set yourself apart from your co-workers and establishes you as an expert your employer will value. I also explain how risk-taking isn’t just for leaders, but further establishes you as the employee who goes the extra mile for your organization. By the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll have a better understanding of how important strategic relationships and executive presence are to your career and job advancement.

With these methods, you’ll gain more organizational recognition, become more influential and have strong allies in your corner. Through the development of executive presence, you will be a driver of change who creates innovative solutions and positively impacts your company’s growth and success. Each of these factors will transform you from a great employee to an exceptional employee your organization will be eager to promote.

Joel Garfinkle is a personal leadership coach who has helped develop effective leaders in many top companies. He has worked with clients at Shell Chemicals, Eli Lilly, Coldwell Banker, and dozens of other leading businesses in the US and worldwide.

Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do You Have What it Takes to Build Executive Presence?

Success and Failure Road Sign
“Nothing succeeds like the appearance of success.”

~ Christopher Lasch ~

Guest post by Diane Craig: President and founder of Corporate Class Inc., Diane has been on a 30-year journey as an image expert. She has consulted with political leaders and celebrities and prepped guests of royal families. Popular for her corporate lunch and learn sessions, her expertise is sought by Fortune 500 companies, universities, media, and North America’s top business schools.

Meet Susan. A director within a multi-national organization, Susan was clear about her career goal: Vice President. Despite two openings, Susan had not been invited to apply. “My boss,” she said, “told me I need to enhance my executive presence, but I’m not sure what that is.”

When Susan approached me for help, she looked about ten years older than she was, and academic—meaning more likely to be found on a campus than in a boardroom. Over the phone, Susan came across as warm and friendly. This jelled with her enthusiasm to begin executive presence training, so we got started.

Clothing Plays a Pivotal Role

Let’s face it, people form their impressions of us based on our appearance. Whether this is right or wrong doesn’t matter, it’s just a fact of life. Susan developed a more polished approach to dressing. It was a process, not an extreme makeover, and as Susan’s new look unfolded she was obviously enjoying the results. The mere act of walking into a room showcased Susan’s new style. She made an impact. Although Susan’s education and training provided a distinct advantage, her lack of executive presence had kept her off the fast-track of corporate life.

Tip #1: Becoming more self-aware of your appearance is a great first step toward building executive presence.

Intensive Communication Training

Susan focused on how to effectively communicate to help her stand out, to be recognized–and remembered. From basic body language to entering a room, posture, dining etiquette, handshake and eye contact, Susan discovered the nuances of conversational engagement and the precise forms of chairing a meeting. She learned how to secure involvement with targeted individuals or groups, how to develop partnerships, and how to gain effective responses through action and communication.

Tip #2: Using the right body language and communicating effectively with individuals and groups can be a “learned” skill. It’s never too late to start learning.

During the early stages of training, Susan had a wake-up-call. Like most high-potential people, Susan grasped that to be promoted, she needed to manage how she was perceived and that she was missing out on promotions not because of lack of competence for what she was doing, but for lack of skill around how she was doing it. Susan had captured the essence of executive presence in a single sentence. She was on her way.

No doubt, if this post were a Hollywood script, Susan would be promoted to VP but the fact remains that although we all like happy endings, corporate life isn’t a fairy tale. Suffice to say, last month Susan was invited to apply for a more senior position. What are you doing to build your executive presence?