Just wanted to say a massive ‘thank you’ to yourself and David (and John!!) for the 3-day programme last week. You were both professional, engaging and supportive throughout the programme and the experience will live with me for many, many years to come; additionally, will, most definitely, shape the leadership training I deliver in the future.— Andy Wadham, Leadership Trainer at Irwin Mitchell Solicitors
Monthly Archives: November 2011
“Nothing is more confusing than the person who gives good advice but sets a bad example.”
If you are familiar with the principles of Action Centred Leadership, you will know that Setting an Example is one of the core functions of leadership. It is one of the activities you must demonstrate if you are to successfully meet the needs of the task, the team and the individual.
However, communication is one of the most difficult skills to master, even though we communicate every day with one another.
The Meaning of the Communication is the Response you Get
This potentially confusing statement is actually very accurate. What it is saying is this: no matter what message you intended to send, sometimes the recipients receive an entirely different one and if they do, that’s when tension and conflict can arise. So it is vital to be aware how messages are communicated and to ensure that the message you intend to send is the one that is actually received!
Eight Forms of Body Language
For many it is still a surprise that our words have the least amount of influence on other people. We can say whatever we like, but if we are to be believed, or taken seriously, we must ensure that we sound as if we mean it and we must look as if we do.
Ninety three per cent of our communication is non-verbal and so must convey and support the meaning of the words that we speak.
So what are the nine forms?
1) The most critical is our ability to maintain eye contact with the person to whom we are speaking. If we cannot, doubts about our sincerity creep into the other person’s mind. We look shifty – can they trust us? Holding good eye contact subliminally signals openness and honesty and silently says, “you can trust me.”
2) Facial expressions such as smiling and the raising of eyebrows can also convey enthusisasm, pleasure and excitement, while frowning conveys an altogether more serious message. All you have to do is to match your expressions to the meaning of your words.
3) Your posture also “speaks” volumes. Stand tall and you look confident and inspirational. Slump down and you look defeated and negative.
4) How close are you standing or sitting to the other person? Are you in their space and too intimidating? Or is that necessary to make your point? Or are you too far away, appearing disengaged?
5) Your hands and feet (and hands in particular) give an awful lot away about how you feel inside. You may want to appear confident and authoritative but clenched hands reveal nerves. Keep your hands by your side and not clutching each other or props such as a pen if you want to appear confident, assertive and genuine. Folded arms indicate that you do not really want to talk or listen to the other person and be careful of this one because often it is a very comfortable position for us! Remember the message it could convey if you are not careful.
If you are standing, fidgeting on your feet will also communicate discomfort and the desire to make a quick getaway. Keep still or you will make the other person start to question you in their mind.
6) Touching someone may or may not be appropriate and I would advise caution with this. For some people, physical touch may seem too familiar and unprofessional in the workplace and they will undoubtedly misinterpret your innocent offer for lunch! If you do not know the cultural norm (both in the social and organisational context) then make some observations before making your move.
7) Even how you hold your head can communicate a message. Good listeners often tilt their head to one side but even this can be misconstrued as a sign of passiveness and weakness by stronger personalities. It may not be true but you need to be aware how these little nuances can influence the perception by those around you. Keep your head upright and hold it high, particuarly if you want to create an impression of self-confidence and authority.
8) “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” This familiar saying is so true! Your voice has a high degree of influence on your listener so if you want to convey confidence, make sure your voice is loud enough and that you speak at a good pace. If you want to convey a different message, perhaps you need to speak more quietly and slow it down. Excitement and passion are usually expressed at a fast speed of delivery, but even so, if you want authority, slow your pace a little to ensure you have gravitas. Remove all “er’s” and “um’s” from your speech and use a pause instead. When you do speak, ensure your voice has melody (to make it interesting to listen to) and that you have clear diction. Open your mouth, project your voice and speak clearly and at a moderate pace. Now people will take notice!
Decide what your message is and ensure that your body language, including your tone of voice, match and support the words you use. You will not be convincing as a leader otherwise and your followers need to have confidence in you. That will only happen if you show confidence in yourself and communicate it to others every day.
Open body language, direct eye contact, an appropriate smile and upright posture will all ensure that your message hits home every time!