I’ve been a teacher most of my adult life, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s this — pay attention to the messages students are giving in their body language! Although a few people can trick us with their physical attention as much as their words, it’s body language that helps us measure whether we’re really serving the people who depend on us.
I know this probably seems obvious, and I also know, you think you’re paying attention. But I don’t know a leader/teacher who can’t do better — including me!
The first thing we forget, when we get excited about our thoughts, plans and words, is to check in with our listeners’ body language. The first thing! We get caught up in our internal scripts, plans, ideas, sense of excitement, and lose track of the real goal — communicating those plans and that excitement to others.
This problem is particularly acute in meetings and trainings. Our colleagues and followers have to be there. It’s in their job description! So if you’re the leader of a meeting, every now and then, do these simple things:
1. ASK A QUESTION — and wait for the answers. In the silence, watch for cues from body language, and as people start to speak, observe the whole group. You’ll find out a lot!
2. Keep your “presentation” short, but if you need to talk for awhile, REGULARLY TAKE A BREATH and check in with the body language of your audience. They may be polite but they may not be listening!
There’s nothing sadder than the ironic contrast of a bored, frustrated room full of followers, and a leader excited and happy sharing something that really matters to her and her company. And it’s not necessary!
Because it’s an easy fix, if we practice paying attention as we communicate — just ASK A QUESTION and listen/watch. TAKE A BREATH and pause to make sure you’re connecting, not just talking.