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.
- To show authority, stand. Status and authority are communicated through height and taking up space.
- 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.
- To build rapport, “do lunch.” When you share a meal with someone, your glucose level rises enhancing complex brain activity.
- To look approachable uncross your arms.
- To signal you are trustworthy, flash a genuine smile. People intuitively recognize a real, face-lighting smile.
In 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.
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.