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Archive for the “Body Language” Category

Carol_Goman_The longer I find myself in harness as an entrepreneur (18 years), the more I think all answers are found in simplicity and common sense.

One of the simple things that has grabbed me of late is how impactful body language and positioning can be for a business leader.

For example Carol Kinsy Goman, author of The Silent Language of Leaders, recently wrote a useful blog on just this subject in Forbes Online (March 15, 2013) titled 5 Body Language Tips To Increase Your Curb Appeal.  Worth a read.  Here they are in oversimplified form.

  1. To show authority, stand.  Status and authority are communicated through height and  taking up space.
  2. To set a collaborative tone, take off your jacket and take a seat at the middle of the table.  Lean in when your colleagues speak.
  3. To build rapport, “do lunch.”  When you share a meal with someone, your glucose level rises enhancing complex brain activity.
  4. To look approachable uncross your arms.
  5. To signal you are trustworthy, flash a genuine smile.  People intuitively recognize a real, face-lighting smile.

cuddy_poptech.jpgIn the same vein, I am presently doing a two week intensive seminar in NY of Tracy Goss marvelous Executive Reinvention Program.  (More on this in a later post.)  Each day begins with a series of empowerment exercises, some of which are taken from the work and insights of Dr. Amy Cuddy of Harvard.  Cuddy believes tiny tweeks to our physicality can lead to mighty changes in our life and leadership.  They can actually reconfigure our brains in ways that make us more assertive, confident, relaxed, and fearless.  Cuddy recommends several “power poses” which raise your testosterone, the harmone linked to power and self-confidence in both men and women, and lower the levels of the stress harmone, cortisol.  Just two minutes of these poses can increase your testosterone by 20% and lower your cortisol by 25%.  (HBR, 3/20/13)  My favorite pose Cuddy terms “Wonder Woman,” which is simply standing—hands on hips, legs spread wide—for two minutes.  Like Linda Carter at the open of the Wonder Woman TV series, bold and brazen in her super hero underwear.

Cuddy and her colleagues at Harvard have proven that their power poses increase people’s tolerance for risk and pain, and their ability to think abstractly.  For Cuddy, your body language is not so much about what you’re communicating to others, as about changing your own mind, your own behavior and your own outcomes.  So to a large extent, your leadership and self-efficacy can be improved with relatively painless physical adjustments.

Deborah-Bull_largeIf you want to know more about Cuddy’s thinking and work below is a link to her TED speech October 1, 2012.

Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

British ballerina Deborah Bull says, “Body language is a very powerful tool.  We had body language before we had speech, and apparently 80% of what you understand is read through the body, not the words.”   Thank you, Deborah.

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Carol_Goman_For me, the smallest details often can make a big difference in leading my firm Corporate Rain and being it’s chief rainmaker.  While I think a lot of entrepreneurial leaders do many of the following things instinctively, here are some simple apt tricks and techniques offered by my friend and body language expert Carol Goman to get yourself off the snide.  Carol wrote the book The Silent Language of Leaders:  How Body Language Can Help–Or Hurt–How You Lead.

Here’s some of what she suggests.

  1. To boost your confidence before an important meeting, replace your smart phone with a newspaper.  Research from Harvard and Columbia Business Schools shows that holding your body in expansive “high power” poses (standing tall with shoulders pulled back, widening your stance, spreading your arms to expand space) raises testosterone and lowers the stress hormone cortisol.  The simple expansive act of holding the arms spread wide, necessitated by holding a newspaper, prevents you from hunkering bent over your cellphone.  It increases your confidence and lowers your stress.
  2. To spot a liar, look out for these four tell-tale signs:  hand touching, face touching, crossed arms, and leaning away.
  3.  To make a difficult task seem easier, smile.  Yup.  No matter the task, when you grimace you are sending your brain the massage:  “This is really difficult.  I should stop.” Simply smiling tells your brain, “This isn’t so bad.  I can do this!”  (Carol cites Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performance, who once coached the Russian Olympic  weight-lifting team.  Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort.  In an experiment, he encouraged the  athletes to smile when they got to the point of exhaustion.  This minor difference enabled them to add 2-3 more reps.)
  4.  To reach an agreement, send early engagement signals like nodding, mirroring, smiling, and open gestures.
  5.  When meeting in your office, encourage collaboration by coming out from behind your desk or creating a conversation area (chairs of equal size set around a small table or at right angles to each other) to encourage informality, equality, and partnership.
  6.  To reduce resistance, hand out your business card.  People who are defensive, guarded, or resistant may cross their arms or fold their legs.  To neutralize this kind of  resistance offer the individual a cup of coffee or hand out your card, brochure, or product sample.  With a large audience invite people to raise their hands.  Because body positions influence attitude, the mere act of unwinding a resistant posture will subvert resistance.
  7.  To maximize your authority, minimize your movements.  Take a deep breath, bring your gestures down to waist level, and pause before making a key point.  When you appear calm and contained, you look more powerful.
  8.  To diffuse tension, realign your body more congenially.  If you physically align yourself with that person (sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction) confrontation is eased.
  9. Leonardo-Da-VinciTo “seal the deal,” make a positive last impression.  Stand tall.  Shake hands warmly.  Smile.  Say “thank you.”  Leave your counterpart with the impression you are  someone to look forward to dealing with.

All this may seem almost naive in its simplicity, but I find these tips easily actionable and right on.  My experience is that small detailing, like body-language adjustment, often achieves more than eloquent presentation.

As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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