We all know that body language is important, and it’s especially important for anyone in leadership. Any time you have a face-to-face meeting, or even a meeting over Zoom, your body language is crucial. How you look when you say something is often as important as what you’re say and how you’re saying it.
Just as you choose your words carefully, it’s important to make sure your body language isn’t sending unintended messages. Left unchecked, poor body language can derail otherwise strong communicators. Here are seven of the most cringeworthy body language problems I see in leaders:
Unengaged posture. We have all seen people who slouch through meetings, head off to one side, sometimes looking half asleep. An unengaged posture sends a message of weakness. Sit up in a straight but relaxed posture, hold yourself still, and show you’re paying attention.
Lack of eye contact. A lot of people fail to make eye contact, staring off into middle distance or looking down at their hands or notes. This behavior sends a dismissive message. Unless you’re actively taking notes, maintain eye contact with the speaker. But keep it natural—don’t stare.
Drumming fingers. Maybe it’s a nervous tic or an old habit, but drumming your fingers on the table is irritating. It makes you look childish and impatient. Even if you’re sitting there just waiting for meeting to end, don’t communicate it to the room.
Looking distracted. If you look distracted you are distracted. And if people don’t have your full attention, they won’t give you their full respect. Resist the temptation to check your phone, the clock, your fingernails, or the door.
Crossing your arms. Crossing your arms is a defensive posture that puts distance between you and those around you. It communicates a closed mind and a lack of trust. Keep your arms open—if you don’t know what to do with your hands, put them in your lap.
Fidgeting. If you’ve ever sat with someone who’s constantly fidgeting with their hands, feet and legs, you know how distracting it can be. It sends a message of anxiety. If you get fidgety when you’re nervous, work with a coach or counselor to find better coping strategies. If it persists, talk to your doctor—there may be an underlying health condition.
Multitasking. If you’re checking your devices during a meeting, there’s no way you can stay focused. Multitasking just means that nothing is getting your full attention. And even over Zoom, people notice.
Body language sends strong messages before you ever say a word. Make sure you’re sending the right message with your words and your actions.
Lead From Within: Body language is a powerful tool. The highest form of respect is to give your sincere, full presence.
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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.
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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world.
Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds
of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership
program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance
and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.
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.