Decoding Body Language

Body Lamguage

Decoding Body Language: What You’re Secretly Communicating About Your Leadership

What are you saying with your body language?

Like it or not, your non-verbal communication speaks louder than your words.  Many times, it’s not exactly what you intended to say.  If your team is headed in the wrong direction, you might want to step back, decode your body language and decipher what you are really telling them.

Imagine a time before the spoken word, thousands of years ago when cavemen relied on gestures and eye contact for communication. At that time, it was prudent to speak out loud only when necessary to avoid scaring away big game or attracting deadly enemies. It’s hard to imagine now that language and syntax were concepts barely in their infancy. With populations so sparse, body language was the common speech.

During those times, a simple gesture or puffing out of the chest to the clan leader at the wrong time in the wrong way could have someone in hot water or ostracized from the tribe. Meanwhile, averting the eyes at just the right moment might win over an attractive member of the opposite sex.

Here we are today in modern times dealing with the same classic issues with body language and communication. What do you think would happen if you stood up in the middle of a meeting and puffed out your chest to the division manager? Worse yet, what might happen if you turned your back when someone on your team was talking with you?Sending the right message with your non-verbals is keenly important. Your voice inflection is part of that message, but it’s not the total package.What does your body language say? Does it say you’re confident, smart, and enthusiastic—or just the opposite?

If you want to learn how to decode your body language and lead your teams more effectively, consider these practical tips below. As an added bonus, they might just help you advance your career.


The eyes truly are the windows to the soul. Be sure you’re making eye contact with those you’re having a conversation with. Glancing around the room, looking past someone or simply phasing out all indicate that you’re just not engaged in the conversation.

If you’re leading a meeting, eye contact with your audience is even more important. Keep your eyes focused on those you’re speaking with, and you’re half-way home to winning their trust.


Your posture conveys a number of factors to the people you’re with, including how you feel about your topic and even your energy level. If you’re slouched, resting your chin on your hands or crossing your legs, you’re conveying a casual attitude. This can be a big benefit in certain situations, but be careful. It can also imply carelessness.

Standing solidly on two feet conveys strength and energy. With your weight distributed on the balls of your feet, you’re ready to move. Square shoulders and chin up display confidence and self-respect.

The great thing about displaying good posture is that, even when you’re not feeling confident and interested, adopting this body language will help you feel brighter and more energetic immediately.

Arms & Hands:

When your hands are open, you’re ready to receive. With your arms outstretched or at your sides, you’re in a neutral or even a welcoming position.
Folding your arms across your chest is a great way to keep warm. After all, you’re covering your vital organs, including your heart. But it also could convey a closed attitude. Be careful how you use this gesture.


You may be surprised to learn that your feet are talking as much as your hands are, telling the story of your interest in the conversation. If you’re looking at someone but your feet are pointed toward the door, guess which way you sub-consciously want to move.

Crossing your ankles or legs indicates a casual stance or even a feeling a comfort. You’re certainly not about to go anywhere in that posture. But here again, be clear about what you want to convey. This can be great for bridging the gap, but it also could be inappropriate in formal settings. Understand what’s standing under you.


Everyone has a comfort zone, that personal space they’ll let you into. If you come closer than arm’s length, you’re likely to incite strong feelings – either of romance or anger. When you’re talking with someone, don’t encroach into their personal zone unless you’re absolutely sure you’re invited.

Using these tips for non-verbal communication may not win you any public speaking awards. On the other hand, they’ll help you keep your feet on the ground where they belong – and out of your mouth!

Effective Leadership for Technical Professionals

by Ron Shapiro

It’s no secret that good, effective leaders drive forward a successful business. But what makes a good leader? Technical leaders in particular, including as people working in marketing, finance, and sales, have a specific set of needs.

Effective Leadership for Technical ProfessionalsLeadership Needs for the Technical Workplace

Effective leaders should be the driving force behind achieving business goals and objectives, which requires that they meet a number of business needs.

  • Supporting colleagues. This is the first point on the list for a reason. Business leaders are not just there to crack the whip on their team members. Employees and teammates who feel well supported in their work are going to work harder, as long as the leader balances support with the importance of meeting deadlines and accomplishing goals.
  • Autonomy. In business, employees should have some level of freedom and discretion over the work that they do. Tying in with support, the autonomy awarded to colleagues also means high expectations. Employees who have a lot of free reign over their work also have high responsibility, and it is the leader’s job to motivate and check in. Leaders should also be able to reassess what is and is not working when it comes to employee responsibility.
  • Achievement. Ultimately, the greatest needs of businesses are those of actually meeting business objectives and goals.

Common Leadership Pitfalls

When leaders are ineffective, businesses suffer. But just how much? While it may be obvious that productivity decreases, it’s also true that retention falls short, employees are unengaged, their talents go undeveloped, and time is wasted. What makes for some of these pitfalls? Learn More »

Balancing Strategy and Execution

by Lakecia Carter, PMP

Given today’s complex and dynamic environments, PMPs need to be strategic and task-driven at the same time. Balancing the big picture with the small details is often a challenge for us. Balance Strategy and ExecutionOne of Merriam Webster’s definitions of balance is “Here are 5 tips to show you how: equality between the totals of the two sides of an account”. Is it possible to have equal degrees of strategy and execution when leading your projects?

Here are 5 tips to show you how:

#1 Articulate how your solution aligns with the business strategy and goals. Project charters are great tools to create a project road map. However, they often fall short of tying the end goal to the business strategy. Engage key stakeholders to help craft a vision to set a strong foundation to build upon. The big picture is not just big; it is visual, factual, compelling and real. Use it to steer the ship.

#2 Give your strategic players “just enough” detail and your implementation team “just enough” strategy. All projects include stakeholders at various levels in the organization. Communication issues arise when we aren’t paying attention to the message. Cross-functional teams responsible for execution need to be aware of how all the pieces work together to form the big picture. However, you can’t overwhelm them with too much information. Senior executives and business owners are primarily interested in milestone achievements, issues and risks they need to be involved in. Be careful not to leave out important information trying to keep it high level. Learn More »

“What is Success?”

by Lakecia Carter, PMP

One of the most powerful questions a PM can ask a project team is “What is Success?”. In one of my team meetings, I asked the group to participate in a discovery exercise around Define Success CollectivelySuccess. Each team member wrote his or her definition of success on a sticky note. As each person posted notes on the board, it became apparent how aligned and misaligned we were. The rest of our meeting was spent debating and arriving at a common definition of “Success” for our project. What about you? When was the last time you asked this question of your team? Here are 4 things to remember when you do:

#1 Don’t assume that your definition of success is the same as everyone else’s. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. Asking the question opens up interesting dialogue and possible debate. Spend time upfront and you will avoid standing around at the end saying “What was that?”

#2 Discover the drivers behind each success criteria.  Ask why stakeholders define success the way they do. What is motivating them? It will give you greater insight into their behaviors and help manage expectations better. Learn More »

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