For me, the smallest details can make a big difference in leading my firm Corporate Rain and being its chief rainmaker. While I think a lot of entrepreneurial leaders do many of the following things instinctively, here are nine simple, apt tricks and techniques offered by my friend and body language expert Carol Goman to get you off the schneid. Carol wrote the book The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help--or Hurt--How You Lead.
These specific, useful actions have helped me.
- To boost your confidence before an important meeting, replace your smart phone with a newspaper. Research from the Harvard and Columbia business schools shows that holding your body in expansive "high power" poses (standing tall with shoulders pulled back, widening your stance, spreading your arms to expand space) raises testosterone and lowers the stress hormone cortisol. The simple expansive act of holding the arms spread wide, necessitated by holding a newspaper, prevents you from hunkering over your cell phone. It increases your confidence and lowers your stress.
- To spot a liar, look out for these four telltale signs: hand touching, face touching, crossed arms, and leaning away. (I must admit I found myself doing all four of these things in an interview last week. Uh-oh.)
- To make a difficult task seem easier, smile. Yup. No matter the task, when you grimace you are sending your brain the message, "This is really difficult. I should stop." Simply smiling tells your brain, "This isn't so bad. I can do this!" (Carol cites Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performance, who once coached the Russian Olympic weightlifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to the point of exhaustion. This minor difference enabled them to add two or three more reps.)
- To reach an agreement, send early engagement signals like nodding, mirroring, smiling, and open gestures.
- When meeting in your office, encourage collaboration by coming out from behind your desk or creating a conversation area (chairs of equal size set around a small table or at right angles to each other) to encourage informality, equality, and partnership.
- To reduce resistance, hand out your business card. People who are defensive, guarded, or resistant may cross their arms or fold their legs. To neutralize such a bearing, offer the individual a cup of coffee or hand out your card, a brochure, or a product sample. With a large audience, invite people to raise their hands. Because body positions influence attitude, the mere act of unwinding a resistant posture will subvert resistance.
- To maximize your authority, minimize your movements. Take a deep breath, bring your gestures down to waist level, and pause before making a key point. When you appear calm and contained, you look more powerful.
- To defuse tension, realign your body more congenially. If you physically align yourself with that person (sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder facing the same direction), confrontation is eased.
- To "seal the deal," make a positive last impression. Stand tall. Shake hands warmly. Smile. Say thank you. Leave your counterpart with the impression you are someone to look forward to dealing with.
All this may seem almost naive in its simplicity, but I find these tips easily actionable and right on. My experience is that small detailing, like body-language adjustment, often achieves more than eloquent presentation.
As Leonardo da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."