Body language, both good and bad, is very important for all business leaders to understand and utilize. When you cultivate good body language you create a more welcoming work environment with happier employees. It doesn’t matter if you’re a COO, a CEO, or even just the guy who is in charge of delivering mail to the office. No matter who you are, your body language matters.
Body language determines how people evaluate and respect you in the workplace. Poor body language makes bad first impressions and leads to misunderstandings. All business leaders know how important those first impressions are!
Here are five of the worst body language mistakes you, or anyone, especially business leaders, can make at work and how to fix them.
Your Cell Phone is in Sight
This is a body language mistake that many people make without even realizing it —staying near their phone at all times. Keeping your cell phone in your line of vision during things such as meetings gives your employees the impression that you’re more interested in your cell phone than in them. They assume that if the phone buzzes, you’ll check it.
Besides, you wouldn’t want your employees to have their phones out either, even if they weren’t using them. When your phone is sitting out, a notification is far too distracting.
It is important that all business leaders keep their cell phones out of sight during meetings. Use a watch or the clock to check the time. There isn’t anything else you need it for during that time.
You Never Smile
It’s well known that smiling while you communicate puts people at ease, so it’s very important for business leaders to remember to smile.
This isn’t to say you need to be smiling all day every day—that’s just as off-putting as never smiling. Just allow yourself to smile if the person you’re talking to smiles, or genuinely laugh when someone makes a joke. Just because you’re a business leader, it doesn’t mean you can’t laugh and joke, too!
No need for a big, toothy grin either. A slight upward curve of the lips is perfectly fine. What’s most important is that it looks genuine.
Don’t forget to smile when you’re on the phone, too. Even though the person you’re talking to can’t actually see it, they’ll hear it. Body language transfers to the voice, too, so when you aren’t smiling you actually sound more monotone. Smiling helps to convey a sense of warmth and enthusiasm to the person on the other end of the line.
Don’t worry if smiling on demand doesn’t come to you immediately. It happens to a lot of people, especially business leaders. It’s simply something to keep in mind and work on.
Mismatching Your Body Language and Your Words
Your body language needs to match what you’re saying, especially when you’re giving instructions or saying something important. In fact, people tend to trust what someone’s body language says over what they’re actually speaking. You could be telling someone that it’s important for them to finish a certain task by the end of the day, but if you seem distracted and your shoulders are slumped, someone might think that you don’t actually care when it’s done. Even if you don’t mean to send the wrong message, others can receive it that way.
So, if you’re praising someone for doing a good job, your body language also needs to indicate that you’re happy with their work. Keep your arms uncrossed, smile, and let your voice be enthusiastic.
“Being able to share in their individual successes, brings team members together and motivates them to work for something greater than themselves.” – COO Alliance
Not Mirroring the Person You’re Talking To
Throughout a conversation, it is important to mirror the other person’s body language so as to show them you understand what they’re talking about. Behavioral aspects to mirror are their tone of voice, posture, tempo, and gestures.
This doesn’t mean you completely copy them, though. If someone is talking excitedly about a new project, remaining monotone and calm conveys that you don’t care. As a business leader, you need to show that you care. Match the other person’s excitement with a slightly higher voice, faster speech, and more gestures to mirror how the individual is expressing their enthusiasm so that you convey your enthusiasm as well!
You Lack Facial Expressions
Business leaders have often mastered the art of a neutral expression, but if your face is blank all the time people will think that you’re not interested in what they’re saying. To show interest, try raising your eyebrows, leaning forward, or nodding your head once in a while as they speak.
Eye contact during conversations is also critical. When you need to glance away, try not to look down as doing so signifies a lack of confidence. Either look left or right to send a less off-putting message.
Changing your body language makes a positive difference in your workplace especially if you’re a business leader. Sometimes a small smile at the right moment or a nod of the head is exactly what someone needs to feel like you care about what they have to say.
Avoiding these five body language mistakes is important to create a workspace that is happier and more productive. This is particularly required if you’re a COO or some other high caliber business leader, as your body language can ripple down to many levels of employees who report to you.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in October 2017 and has been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.