There is much written about the words leaders need to use, both in speech and on paper, to be effective. Words are certainly important, but there are other, more subtle messages that leaders send every day through their actions (or inactions) in the workplace.
These messages can strongly reinforce your words, or render them ineffective or meaningless. Thus, every great leader needs to develop a strong self-awareness of their non-verbal communication, and use it consistently, so they can “walk the walk” as well as “talk the talk“.
Here are seven of the best ways to lead without uttering (or writing) a single word:
- Eye Contact - Nothing says “I’m paying attention to YOU” better than actually looking someone in the eye. Looking at the floor, the wall, or worse yet, at your Blackberry, sends a message of disinterest, even if it’s totally unintentional.
- An Open Door – Much has been said about the benefits of “an open-door policy“, but it’s one thing to talk about it, and another thing to actually keep your door open. Better yet, why even have a door at all?
- Smiles – You know the saying “a picture says a thousand words“? If a leader is trying to project positivity, humility, graciousness, optimism, openness, and a general good nature, smiling whenever possible is a great place to start.
- Posture – Body language can speak volumes. Slumped shoulders and rounded backs are never good ways to project authority and control (hint: practice this in front of a mirror and you’ll see what I mean)
- Handshakes & Back Pats – These “old style” gestures, when done with proper consideration of the particular sensitivities of the persons involved, can make a real difference. For example. I’ll always remember the bosses that would enter a room for a team meeting and shake every hand in the room before they started, or the ones who would give their encouragement or praise with a hand on my shoulder.
- Arriving On Time – Consistent punctuality sends a strong structural message to the rest of the team – it’s a critical part of “leading by example“, especially when it comes to keeping all the trains running on time, and meeting deadlines.
- Be a Wanderer (Simple Presence) – Doing things like walking the halls, getting your own coffee, making your own copies now and then, stopping by all the office birthday celebrations, or sitting in on a team meeting you were not required to attend are all ways to simply be “there“. Frequently getting out of the office and into the field is another excellent habit, even if it’s a series of quick “drop bys”. Teammates will notice you made the effort.
Be conscious of these 7 things as you lead, and watch how your team responds.
(On a side note, this week , on October 5 and 6, I’ll be attending the World Business Forum In NYC as one of a great group of folks live-blogging the event – check out my blog later this week for my reports, and you can also monitor our real-time postings on Twitter by following the hashtag “#wbf10“. Thanks!)