If you’re in a position of leadership—whether you’re a CEO, manager, or community volunteer—it’s likely that you put a great deal of care into the words you use. But if your
body language doesn’t sync with those words, you may be giving a terrible impression without even knowing it.
It is said that people form impressions of others in seven to 30 seconds. That’s pretty quick.
If you don’t have the right body language, you may be leaving a negative impression
before you even have a chance to speak.
Body language goes far beyond a handshake and smile. But in my decades of executive leadership coaching, I’ve found that executives don’t pay nearly enough attention to its importance.
Here are some of the most common body language mistakes to avoid if you want
to make the great impression as a leader.
1. Clashing body cues and spoken words. If you’re saying “Let’s all work together
and make this work” while your hands are crossed against your chest, you’re likely
coming across as confusing. People tend to trust nonverbal messages over verbal
ones when the two are at odds. If you want people to believe your conciliatory words,
uncross your arms and appear friendly and approachable and open.
2. Raising your chin when you speak. While you definitely want to be proud of
what you’re saying, a raised chin is a sign that you feel superior to the person
you’re speaking with. Show respect by lowering your chin and staying evenly
3. Putting one foot out the door. If you want to see where a person’s interest truly lies,
look at their shoulders and feet. One of the first indicators that someone is trying to
leave a conversation is when they turn a shoulder or a toe away. To show engagement
and interest, keep your body directed at the person in front of you.
4. Lack of eye contact. When you fail to maintain eye contact with someone
who’s speaking, you’re signaling a complete lack of interest. Lack of eye contact
will shut down even the most enthusiastic speaker. Establish the habit of thoughtful
eye contact to show your interest.
5. Constant fidgeting. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who couldn’t
stop moving? Feet bobbing up and down, swaying back and forth, making little motions
with their arms—fidgeting sends a message of stress bordering on anxiety, and it’s both unnerving and extremely distracting. When you have something to say, relax your body
and try to be still as possible so your words come out strong and your body doesn’t give away cues of your stress.
6. Not giving enough space. This one is especially important: give people enough space. People who lean right into you and speak inches away from your face seem to be taking advantage of their power. Nobody likes to feel their space has been invaded. Unless
you’re signaled an invitation to come closer, the best body language is to stay at least
an arm’s length away. Don’t back up too far, though, or you’ll come across as
unapproachable or uninterested. Stand just close enough to show you’re engaged,
and don’t lean in or out too much.
7. Looking at your watch. Have you ever been distracted in a meeting or conversation
when the person you’re trying to connect with keeps looking at their watch? We all know
that means they’re checked out, uninterested or indifferent to what is being said. Stop
looking at your watch—that goes for your phone, too—and don’t let your body language signal boredom.
Everyone wants to make a good impression, no matter what their position or title. But
when your body is saying one thing and your words another, there’s a better-than-average chance you’re making a poor impression. Review these common mistakes from time to
time and make sure you’re not guilty of any of them and if you are avoid them or correct them.
Lead From Within: As a leader, your body language will speak volumes, make sure
you are mindful and paying attention to the message you are sending.
N A T I O N A L B E S T S E L L E R
The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness
After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.
Additional Reading you might enjoy:
- 12 Successful Leadership Principles That Never Grow Old
- A Leadership Manifesto: A Guide To Greatness
- How to Succeed as A New Leader
- 12 of The Most Common Lies Leaders Tell Themselves
- 4 Proven Reasons Why Intuitive Leaders Make Great Leaders
- The One Quality Every Leader Needs To Succeed
- The Deception Trap of Leadership
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.