Words Are Powerful. Nonverbal Behaviours and Cues Affect Impact.

professional body languageIn their book Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire, authors Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern suggest three guidelines for developing emotional expressiveness that inspires others, influences change and drives business results.

  1. Generate excitement
  2. Put nonverbal cues to work
  3. Find and express a passionate purpose

My previous post explored generating authentic excitement through being expressive. Moving forward, this post explores how nonverbal behaviours and cues can work for or against you in developing your unique style of emotional expressiveness to carry your message as a leader.

Put Nonverbal Cues to Work

How do you put nonverbal behaviours to work in order to fully express emotions and carry your message as a leader?

“What makes presence is not just the clothes you wear, the words you speak or how you think. Rather, presence requires alignment between your mind, body and words — to walk the talk, you need a simultaneous focus on all three levers: mental, skill and physical. Your presence is an interconnected system of your beliefs and assumptions, your communication skills and your physical energy.” ~ Amy Jen Su, Own the Room: Discover Your Signature Voice to Master Your Leadership Presence (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013)

While the words you choose play an important role in your message’s emotional impact, research tells us that facial and body cues may be even more significant:

  • Body language and confidence level shape your message’s impact.
  • Tone of voice radiates clarity, energy and passion (or lack thereof).
  • Actual words have the least effect on communication impact.

Albert Mehrabian, a professor emeritus of psychology at UCLA, conducted studies that revealed:

  • Words account for only 7% of a speaker’s impact.
  • Vocal tone is responsible for 38%.
  • Body language trumps them both at an astounding 55%.

Despite these game-changing findings, most of us spend 99% of our time on crafting language when planning a presentation — and a mere 1% on how we’re going to convey our message.

Are You Happy? You Might Want to Tell Your Face That

In the BBC comedy series, Benidorm, Janey, the Solana hotel manager played by British actress Crissy Rock, calls out to a guest “Are you happy, darlin?” The guest replies “yes”, but obviously her response is not in sync with her facial expression. Janey retorts “Might want to tell your face that?”

You lose credibility when your face and body send different messages. You may not even be aware of your “tics”: unconscious movements or gestures that are out of sync with how you truly feel.

Alignment Using Your Core Values

Speak from your core values to achieve alignment. If you are not clear about your core values or if you feel you are holding back from expressing your highest values, consider hiring an experienced executive coach. In my work with executives, I reference the work of Sally Hogshead and her best-selling book, How the World Sees You. Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination. I encourage my clients to use the Fascination Advantage Report as a foundation to align their words and actions in creating and delivering their leadership message.

The challenge of aligning your leadership presence is too important to ignore. Your overall leadership presence ultimately determines whether or not you are perceived as a strong, consistent leader. Nonverbal behaviour and cues are subconscious and can sabotage your message. There is significant benefit in gaining awareness through feedback and coaching.

What do you think about this?

  • Are your words and actions aligned?
  • Do your words, your voice, and your body language carry your message as a leader?
  • How do you use your highest value to present a fascinating presence?

I’d love to hear from you. Tell me how you maintain a fascinating presence with the people you lead. Your comments are welcome. You can also contact me at patricia@maestroquality.com, at 905-858-7566, on LinkedIn, or on Maestro’s Facebook page.

You won’t want to miss the next blog post:

  • Enhance Your Leadership Presence. Stop explaining and relaying information! Challenge people to change and overcome obstacles to success. Express your passionate purpose.


Books and Audiobooks:

Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire(Penguin Group, USA, 2004), Kathy Lubar and Belle Linda Halpern. Available on iTunes

How the World Sees You, Discover Your Highest Value Through the Science of Fascination, Sally Hogshead. Also available as an audiobook on ITunes

Photo © contrastwerkstatt | Fotolia.com

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