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Huddle up; Meet well

Huddle up; Meet well

While it is easy for me to remember scores of boring staff meetings, when it came to be my turn to run them and I learned to do them right, I loved ‘em.

Mostly because it was far easier to mobilize the troops in one meeting versus 8 to 10 individually held conversations, and it was a golden opportunity to make collaborative decisions versus arbitrary or dictatorial ones. When the expectation was clear that we were going to end the meeting having achieved a collaborative result, staff meetings ended up to be extremely useful and productive. They actually saved time.

The time I devoted to individual one-on-one meetings could then be highly focused and personalized. One-on-one meetings are for talent and strength coaching, for individual project delegation, and especially for the Daily Five Minutes.

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In my coaching practice, executives will ask me for ideas on bringing new life to their regularly scheduled meetings, and these brainstorming conversations centered on their current focus and objectives turn out to be pretty energizing for both of us: They get excited about the possibilities of what can actually occur, and I’m able to get more of the clues I need in coaching them toward leadership breakthroughs specific to their business. Fun stuff, and as leaders we can do the same thing; orchestrate the way meetings occur through-out our organizations, by coaching our junior managers how to enliven them.

Meetings are your opportunity to take advantage of having a captive audience, so just ask yourself, is that what do you? When you consider meetings your chance to reach agreements faster and with complete buy-in, you can amaze yourself with how creative and far-reaching you can get in their actual execution.

Business meetings are like all other business processes: They have to result in something if they are to prove useful, and worth the precious time of the people sitting in the room.

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How can you ensure that every single meeting you hold is productive, and everyone looks forward to them as much as you do? (Okay, as I did and as you will.) By setting yourself up for success every time. Here is a 5-Point Plan for better meetings:

  1. Prepare and plan them well. Meetings should be premeditated and result-oriented. As Stephen Covey said so well, “Begin with the end in mind.” Take time to debrief, so you can continually improve as a facilitator.
  2. Don’t get so ambitious that you can’t walk out of the meeting with some definitive result. This is a 5-point plan, not 5 points on the agenda. I would ask my managers to end each meeting they ran with 3 minutes writing time for discussion result notes on 3 take-aways each participant would translate to action steps.
  3. Keep meetings as short and as focused as possible. Concentrate the energy, don’t drain it. Increased meeting frequency may be better: Repeated zingers are far better than laborious operations. Use them like huddles in a football game: Huddle- win point. Huddle- go for the next win.
  4. Get everyone there to weigh in and participate in some way —if you don’t see that happening for certain people, coach them on what is expected. Or don’t invite them; the meeting scope may have changed, but you’ve all been on auto-pilot with them. There must be a reason for people to be there: Observing is not good enough. No bench warmers. Validate your Rules of Engagement.
  5. If the first four things are not virtually guaranteed, especially the degree of your preparation as facilitator, postpone or cancel the meeting. Don’t sabotage your efforts by allowing any poorly-run meeting to be the bad apple souring the reputation of the barrel.

Number 5. is probably the best advice I can give you. It must become part of your company culture that you only hold productive, result-targeted meetings, or not at all.

If these five points happen with every meeting you hold, there will be an entirely new level of excellence in your group-think and in your team initiatives. More will be brought to the table because the effort is well worth it and contributions are valued. Potentially explosive ideas will no longer die unspoken. Getting invited to meetings will actually be thought of as perks.

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Have a meeting. Get something done. Enjoy the experience.

All three phrases do belong together.

I love meetings.

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Referenced Articles:

Rosa Say is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership. For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: Don’t Just Add; Replace. Own the 100%

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Rosa Say

Rosa is an author and blogger who dedicates to helping people thrive in the work and live with purpose.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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