You walk into a meeting and there are several people in the room. Two people are scowling, another has his face in his hands, and one person has his body turned away from the others with his arms crossed. It’s not hard to surmise that there are some unhappy folks in our midst. Entrepreneurs will do well to pay attention to body language and non-verbal forms of expression – not only to understand how others may be feeling but also to know what signals he/she may be sending.
So quick – here’s a bit of trivia. What was the television commercial that coined the phrase “never let them see you sweat?” Give up? It was a commercial for a deodorant product called Dry Idea and was released in 1984. Though the product is long forgotten, the phrase is apropos for every entrepreneur. Let’s focus on how we want others to see us.
As a leader, the last thing I want is for anyone else to sense that I’m having a bad day. Fortunately this seldom happens, but when it does I don’t want members of my team to be nervous or concerned about how I’m feeling. Putting on the happy face is important when others are looking to us for leadership. Members of our team often take their cues from us. That’s why I do my best to try and always send positive vibes.
How we dress can send a powerful message. A number of years ago our companies went from casual Fridays to casual every day. It seemed to be the way of the world and there was a lot of enthusiasm for making the shift. After a few months, I realized that I did not like it. However, once a policy has been changed giving something like this to the team, it’s very hard to take it away. But that didn’t mean I had to dress down myself. Instead, I started wearing suits or sport coats and ties every day but Friday. I’m just more comfortable attired this way. And being one of the few business people still dressing up, I have been the recipient of many a comment as to how nice I look. If nothing else, others are noticing that I am representing our organization in a sharp and tasteful manner. Perhaps they’ll draw a positive conclusion about our brand as well.
I’m working with my oldest grandson (age 11) to help him learn how to shake hands. The handshake should be firm but not crushing. It’s important for the hand to be dry and warm. A cold or wet handshake is a turnoff. At the same time as the handshake is occurring, we look the other person in the eye, SMILE and introduce our self – “I’m Lee Harris.” I teach my grandson that when he does this in a confident manner the other person will almost always reciprocate with his or her name. At this point it’s a good idea to repeat the other person’s name – “Hi Dylan, it’s nice to meet you.” So you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? I already know this stuff.” You would be amazed at how many entrepreneurs don’t know how to shake hands! Oh, and one other thing. When wearing a name badge, stick or pin it on the right side – not the left. This way, when you reach out to shake someone’s hand, it’s easy for them to see your name badge.
We tend to sit a lot in the business world. Our days are consumed with meetings and there are many levels of unspoken communications constantly occurring while we are seated. Are we rocking in our chair? Do we have a fidget-prone foot or leg? These movements can be distracting to others and may lessen the impact of what we have to say. Are we slouching in our chair? Is our phone in our lap and are we looking down for extended periods of time as we check e-mails, texts, etc.? As entrepreneurial leaders we want to set a good example for our team. Good posture and ongoing attentiveness sends the right message.
Finally, I can’t overemphasize the power of the SMILE and regular eye contact. This form of non-verbal communications puts people at ease and is vital to establishing a positive rapport.
Even though we may have learned about body language and non-verbal communications long ago, it’s always a good idea to periodically review and refresh. Better yet, spend a few moments to teach a youngster what you’ve learned.
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This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.