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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

We tend to think that Leadership Communication is a verbal, intellectual exercise, but it's not. Leadership Communication is not so much about what you say, but how you say it. 

It is you, in physical form, who is presenting those words, and your body carries its own messages through your gestures and your tone of voice. So it’s possible that your words may be saying one thing, but your body language quite another. Unfortunately, it is your body language which resonates most with your colleagues. 

Lots of research supports this -- for example, a landmark UCLA study showed that gestures count for a whopping 55% of the impact you have on someone, while your tone of voice makes up 38%. Your words? A measly 7%. So the non-verbal part of your communication accounts for 93% of its impact!

Which leads us to a simple and irrevocable truth: When it comes to body language, actions speak louder than words, and your body language can make or break your Leadership Communication.

Your eyes, your mouth, your hands, your head, movements of various body parts -- all of this reveals your mental state.

Gestures can assist in creating emphasis; however, too many or exaggerated movements can make you look overbearing or aggressive when you were just aiming for “strong.” 

Gestures such as touching your face or hair or covering your mouth can make you seem less than honest.

Your facial expressions also are extremely important: the way you look reveals how you feel and about yourself and your message. So does your overall posture.

Taken together, a lack of eye contact, intimate hand gestures such as scratching or touching your face, a wavering vice and bad posture are telltale signs of discomfort. 

So remember: no matter how well-thought off your verbal message is, your body language will override it.

Keys to Success

Basically, it’s important to know how to move, where to look, where to stand or sit and what gestures to make when interacting with others. Coaching can help with this and below is a short-list of four key things to master:

1. Your posture -- very important in demonstrating confidence. No slouching! Stand or sit with your shoulders back and chest out. Good posture puts you in a positive right frame of mind, while projecting energy, resilience, and confidence.

2. Eye contact -- always look somewhere, preferably at your partner in conversation. Wandering eyes can make you look sneaky and will tend to make you feel unfocused. (A note of caution, eye contact is considered a positive approach, but can be construed negatively to other cultures, particularly eye contact between the sexes.)

3. Smile -- it will make people feel more comfortable and can establish immediate rapport while putting people at ease. Just remember that your facial expression should follow your storyline -- smiles while discussing layoffs, for example, would be neither desirable nor appropriate.

4. A voice poised and clear (ditch those unconscious “uhmms”), an open and natural manner, and good posture will go a long way towards making your interactions a success. 

Being body-language savvy is a crucial part of your personal brand. Great leaders sit, stand, walk, and gesture in ways that exude competence. They also send nonverbal signals of warmth and empathy – especially when nurturing collaborative environments and managing change. 

As a business actor and coach, I’ve been awed by the impact that body language has on leadership results. Good body language skills can help you motivate direct reports, bond with audiences, present ideas with added credibility, and authentically project your personal brand of charisma. 

And that’s a powerful set of skills for any leader to develop.

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