Body language: especially important for executives
The opinion is still valid in many places: above all the achievement counts. And especially with executives. The fact that appearance and body language have a decisive effect on the success of the leadership is often enough forgotten.
Therefore, while many executives prepare for key employees or conversations with customers, meetings or presentations so that they appear credible and convincing, their own demeanor is often ignored.
Mirror neurons and their influence on others
Just think of the "mirror neurons" of the brain, which not only mimic behaviors, but also sensations and feelings. If we are denied these interpersonal references and forced to rely solely on the printed or spoken word, the entire communication suffers.
This explains why body language has a decisive influence on your impact as a leader. Because in order to convince and influence people, it is not enough to convincingly present content. People also need to feel that the leader is empathetic, inspiring and trustworthy. And the use of personal space, physical gestures, posture, facial expression and eye contact plays an important role. The body language can therefore significantly improve your effect as a leader, but also weaken or even sabotage.
The confidence of the employees arises through congruence between words and deeds
The trust that is so important to leaders also comes through a congruence between what they say and their body language. If both do not match, people subconsciously perceive insecurity or internal conflict. This can also be measured by brain waves, as the neuroscientists of Colgate University found:
They studied the effects of gestures by using an electroencephalograph (EEG) to measure "event-related potentials" - brain waves that form peaks and valleys.
Incongruent body language creates problems
One of these valleys emerged when the subjects were shown opposing gestures. The same brainwave dip, the technical term, also occurs on 0 when people hear nonsensical speech.
It follows that whenever your body language does not fit your words, for example, when you are looking around or fidgeting anxiously, while you want to convey confidence or open-mindedness with folded arms, this endeavor will probably fail.
10 body language tips for executives
Here are five key tips every executive should know about body language:
- The first impression counts: You have no second chance for the first impression it says. It may not be quite as blatant, but in fact you have less than seven seconds to make the first impression. Because this impression then acts like a filter for the perception of the other. In other words, if you've classified someone as "trustworthy," "suspicious," "mighty," or "submissive," then from now on, all your actions will be considered through this filter. If someone has trusted you, he or she will look for the best in you. But if you distrust, all your actions are suspicious at first.
- The right attitude for your appearance: But what can you do to make an optimal impression? First, adjust your mental attitude. Before you greet a customer, enter the conference room for a business meeting, or go to the stage to give a presentation, think about the situation and make a conscious decision about the attitude you want to embody.
- The right attitude for executives: Equally important: pay attention to your posture, because it can not only affect the way in which other people perceive you, but also your own way of thinking and feeling. Studies by the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University show that "posture expansion", which positions itself as opening the body and occupying space, activates a behavioral behavior that causes behavioral changes in a person regardless of his or her actual behavior Rank or its role in an organization. Three other studies show that attitude is more than hierarchy when it comes to making a person think, act and be perceived in a more powerful way.
- Smile: Smile is a positive signal whose potential is often underused by executives. A smile is an invitation that signals friendliness and openness to your employees or business partners. But beware: In some contexts smiles can also be rated aggressively, just think of the superior winning smile.
- Make eye contact: The eyes are the mirror of the soul, it is said, therefore, the eyes of a man show his energy and openness. Most people feel comfortable with eye contact, which lasts about three seconds, but when we like or agree with someone, we automatically increase the time we spend looking them in the eye. When you make eye contact and lean forward slightly show that you are committed and interested. At the same time, keep a reasonable distance from other people in business.
- Interpret handshake - shake hands: Handshake is also an important tool for managers when it comes to their perception. All we have to do is remember the handshake between US President Trump and French President Macron. In this case, both wanted to signal power and perseverance. Otherwise, the handshake is the fastest and most effective way to connect to a person. This should be firm, boar no bone fractures. Studies show that it takes an average of three hours of continuous interaction to develop the same level of relationship that can be achieved with a single handshake.
- Gesturing - but right: Anyone who wants to convince and convince people needs passion. And passionate people often accompany your words with appropriate gestures. The right movements are therefore essential for the effect of a leader. Science shows that audiences tend to see people who use a greater variety of gestures more positively. Because studies show that people who communicate through active gestures tend to be rated as warm, comfortable and energetic, while those who stand still or whose gestures appear mechanical or "wooden" are considered cold. By the way: Even people who let their hands hang limply or enclose their body defensively convey the impression of lack of passion. Therefore, if you want to generate enthusiasm among your listeners, you can boost your gestures. But beware, not too much: Excessive gestures can quickly make a manager look less believable and powerful, especially when his hands are raised above his shoulders.
- Show hands visible: The open pointing of the hands is as an evolutionary signal deeply rooted in our subconscious mind. Because in the Stone Age one made survival decisions, which were based exclusively on visual information. If a human's hands were invisible, he would have been able to carry a weapon earlier. Therefore, invisible hands still cause discomfort and cost executives confidence in this way.
- Do not point your finger: Recently in my circle of acquaintances someone posted a picture of themselves on Facebook during a speech in which he pointed to audience with finger. That should probably mean dominance, but seemed to me rather irritating. Aggressive finger pointing may indicate that a leader has lost control of the situation. At least the gesture looks more like parental scolding and therefore rather ridiculous than dominant.
- Grounded gestures: Arms held at waist height and gestures within this horizontal plane help executives - and the audience - to feel centered and relaxed. Arms at the waist and flexed to an 45 degree angle also help keep you grounded, energized, and focused.
Conclusion: use body language correctly as a leader
Decisive for your impact as a leader is how you use your body language for your impact - this is even more true in times of fast-paced digital communication in which the personal impression gains more value again. And it is indispensable for executives.
Personal conversations as the key to success
Personal conversations are the key to positive employee and customer relationships. Only in personal encounters do people receive all the information they need for a comprehensive impression - and in addition to words, they also include all emotional nuances such as voice tone, speech tempo, facial expression and much more.
Conversely, executives rely on immediate feedback to gauge how well their comments are received.
Strong relationships through nonverbal communication
The nonverbal connection between individuals is sometimes even so strong that when we are in genuine relationship with someone, we unconsciously compare our body positions, movements and even our breathing rhythms with those of them.
If people disagree with your boss's suggestion, leaders need to be able to see what's happening - and respond quickly. Good body language skills can help to present ideas with more credibility and your personal Charisma to present authentically. In this way, body language competence becomes part of the personal brand of an executive.
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