Effective collaboration in the workplace means getting things done faster and better. Leaders all around the world realise that the silo mentality and knowledge-hoarding behaviours are barriers to reaching shared goals and higher productivity in their organisations. Research shows that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration for workplace failures. In the workplace, employees look for cues from higher-ups and mimic their behaviours, both consciously and unconsciously. When leaders and managers model desirable behaviour, it encourages employees to follow suit. Thus, if you want your team to collaborate, first you need to become a positive example of collaboration. Meetings are an avenue of collaboration and leaders need to ensure that they project positive body language so others feel valued and respected.
Here are 6 body language tips to take note for greater collaboration in meetings:
“Smile and the world smiles with you”. A genuine smile not only stimulates your own sense of well-being but tells others that you are approachable and friendly. Research shows that “A genuine smile will make your cheeks go up, with wrinkles around your eyes and the ends of your eyebrows will dip slightly.” In contrast, a fake smile will come on quickly and never reaches the eyes. If leaders wish to encourage collaboration, smiling influences how others in the room respond to you. When you smile at others, they will inevitably smile back at you. Smiles are also contagious. Facial expressions invoke corresponding feelings, so smiles can influence the emotional states of others in a positive manner during a meeting.
Collaboration happens when people are willing to speak up and share their ideas. Your body language can either encourage their participation or lack of it. If you are trying to encourage someone to continue speaking or elaborate on their ideas, try nodding your head. Research shows that people will talk 3 to 4 times more than usual when the listener nods their head using groups of 3 nods at regular intervals. Head nodding sends out positive vibes and affirms agreement with what the speaker is saying. Another tip in using your head is to tilt sideways while listening. Charles Darwin was one of the first to note that humans as well as animals- especially dogs- tilt their heads to one side when they are interested in something. Head tilts can be a positive non-verbal cue that motivates the speaker to continue speaking.
One of the most effective way to bond with your audience is to use good eye contact. As long as you are looking at them talk, people feel that they have your attention and interest in what they are saying. As a leader, you set the tone for the meeting and your body language says a lot about how you feel. Rather than checking your messages on your mobile phone or looking at your watch, give your fullest attention to the speaker by looking at them face to face. Multitasking during a meeting can send the wrong signal to others that you are either bored or uninterested with the topic at hand. This may lead others to keep their distance and do not feel inclined to share their viewpoints and insights with you.
Imagine you are at a university lecture room. Look around and you will notice some students leaning back, showing disinterest in the lecturer’s speech while there are those leaning forward and taking notes briskly. Leaning in is a non-verbal way of showing someone that you are interested and keen in listening to what they have to say. It is also a sign of active listening. The speaker will be encouraged to speak more if what they say appeals to the audience. As the leader in the room, others will subconsciously look to you for approval. Therefore, if you show interest and concern in what is being said, it opens up a room opportunities for others to collaborate.
Sit yourself facing the presenter directly. This sounds obvious, but a lot of times, we may find ourselves giving others the “cold shoulder” indirectly by the way we sit. It could be due to us taking notes or typing on our electronic devices and even a quarter-turn may create a barrier between you and the presenter. Put your phone, briefcases or planner away at the side and show interest by aligning your body to where the presenter is. Sometimes, a hiatus during the meeting may bring us to the pantry for a coffee break. Be aware that how you hold a coffee cup may create a distance between you and the others. Research has found that holding your coffee cup at the chest level shows that you are deliberately keeping a distance from others. Therefore, make a conscious effort to be mindful of your body language when interacting with others in a room.
It turns out that how and where you sit during a meeting can influence the chances of collaboration. Strategic positioning is an effective way to get everyone to co-operate. In most meetings, the power position in the room is the dominant chair at the head of the long table. While the leader automatically seats himself there to direct and control the agenda, there is little room for collaboration. With the leader at that spot, ideas that goes around ultimately gets directed to him or her for validation or rejection rather than to the whole team. Thus before your next meeting, take a moment to think about the relationship you want to establish with the meeting participants. For instance, by arranging chairs in concentric circles, rather than a lecture style or around a conference table, it makes a positive difference to create a feeling of equality amongst everyone present at the meeting. It shows that you as a leader values all opinions and seeks for participation from everyone.
In conclusion, today’s organisations exists in an increasingly complex and ever-changing business landscape. Leaders need to rely on the resourcefulness and expertise of their employees. Collaboration is seen as being more important than ever to achieve and sustain business outcomes. The adage “None of us is smarter than all of us” rings true and smart leaders have to pay attention to non-verbal cues of communication to enhance opportunities for collaboration.
We hope that this article is helpful. Do you have any tips you would like to add?
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