Posts tagged #communication

What Is Your Body Language Saying During An Interview?

Body Language

Imagine you are at an interview and are sitting in a very comfortable office chair across from your interviewer.

You are probably imagining what the interviewer and the room look like. Forget about them. Imagine what YOU are doing in this scenario.

Are you shifting your weight in your chair? How is your posture? What are your hands doing? Where are your eyes looking?

Your body is always communicating to others. At home, at work, at the grocery store. The way you stand, your posture, your facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), and personal “quirks” are all speaking something to those around you. Not with verbal words, but with body language.

If you’ve never thought about these things as they pertain to the job search, now is a great time to start. Your body language says just as much, if not more about yourself and your interest in a position than your words.

Posture

How you sit speaks loudly about your current mood and thoughts. Look down and observe how you are sitting right now. Are you laying on the couch with your laptop (casual)? Are you reading this on your phone while you pace the floor at the doctor’s office(impatient)? Are you sitting at your desk with your feet flat on the floor and back straight (productive)? Are you slouching (discouraged)?

Several years ago, I was interviewing a young woman who was sitting with one arm draped over the chair beside her and her legs spread widely - like a baseball player sitting on the bench. She was also chewing gum. I remember this particular interview well because her body language suggested she was not taking the interview very seriously and didn’t care one iota about what I thought of her.

Another interviewee’s brow was furrowed and his arms were crossed across his chest the entire duration of our time together. He didn’t seem happy to be at the interview, and exuded an arrogant demeanor by his stance.

Over the next several days, notice what your body is saying in different circumstances, personally and professionally. Ask the person you are with about what your body language is suggesting your mood or thoughts are. You might be surprised at how clearly your body language speaks!

Eye Contact

You should always look your interviewer directly in the eyes. It can be uncomfortable if you aren’t used to doing it. Practice looking directly at your own eyes in a mirror to adjust to the new habit. Try to match a pleasant facial expression with your eye contact. Once you feel you are ready, try practicing with others. When you are checking out at the grocery store, look the clerk in the eyes as you interact. You can practice this skill every time you speak with someone, making it a quick habit to strengthen.

During yet another interview I was conducting, one particular woman checked her watch every five minutes and kept looking behind me at the door. I cut the interview short as it was crystal clear that she was anxious to be done with our time together.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, by thinking of a real-world example. Have you ever been talking with a colleague or friend and he or she never looks at your eyes, but instead looks at their computer or phone? In that moment, their eyes told you that whatever was on that screen was more important to them than you and what you had to say. Eye contact reveals distraction and priority, and that’s especially true in an interview setting.

You can see how body language and eye contact are important. Don’t dismiss the powerful language your body and eyes speak. Pay attention in every aspect of your life and you might be surprised to find you are often sending messages that you thought you were keeping internally.

Posted on March 13, 2018 and filed under Interviewing, Career.

Managing Communication: Messages to Employees May Not Be So Obvious

Communication, that essential element for any manager, is often not as clear as we might think. Two primary goals of a line manager’s communication are to convey the organization’s goals and strategies, and to give clear directions and rationale for employees. The ultimate objective is to align the team’s work to the overall corporate strategy and lead to positive outcomes. Bidirectional communication includes listening to employees and treating what they say seriously, providing opportunities for productive discussions. Yet the Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that a myth in strategy execution is that “communication equals understanding,” citing that only “55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.”

From the time a worker is elevated to manager or a position of authority—often without the support of management and leadership training—a certain distortion in perception occurs. Fully 91% of employees surveyed in a recent HBR poll report that communication issues prevent executives from leading effectively. By being aware of this shift, managers can reflect upon communication challenges and address problems before they become too damaging to the manager-employee relationship. Here, we discuss some key communication challenges and offer suggestions for avoiding these pitfalls.

A Manager’s Perception

Many managers fall victim to some level of power poisoning, often by forgetting what it’s like to be the employee. This drop in empathy, according to increasing authority, has been detailed in numerous management studies. Though this progression is quite normal—it’s only natural to pay more attention to the boss than to the intern—the result is often that leaders miss out on the true perspective of subordinates when they need it most.

This so-called toxic tandem, outlined by Stanford’s Robert Sutton, is the tendency for managers to become less empathetic to subordinates while the employees more closely examine the boss’s words and actions. Leaders can sidestep the pitfalls of the toxic tandem by increasing their understanding of how messages are received by subordinates.

For instance, when managers have a big announcement or change to make, they have already processed the scenarios, considered alternatives, made decisions, and accepted the reality of the situation. By understanding that employees will also need time to process the situation, and that drastic changes may mean part of the message is missed in the initial delivery, an empathetic leader will repeat simple elements of the message over time to ensure that the most important takeaways from the discussion sink in.

Manager to Employee Exchanges

As previously mentioned, the downward communication from manager to employee is not always a smooth path. Frequently, managers are smart, well-educated leaders who aren’t as adept at delivering information as they may hope.

A manager who has specific ideas about how a task or project should be completed ought to provide that information as a guideline for the employee, especially when the guidelines determine how the employee’s performance will be judged. It is better to avoid assuming that the guidelines are immediately obvious or that the message is completely clear.

Welcome employee questions that seek clarity – the more the topic is discussed, the more likely the employee is to understand the perspective and complete the project to everyone’s mutual satisfaction. Consider that an employee who asks numerous questions may not fully understand the task as initially outlined, so the questions are seeking to clear up ambiguities rather than questioning the manager’s expertise or authority.

Remember that when the expected outcomes are not obtained, the manager’s message to the employee may not have been effective. Reflect on how the toxic tandem might be at play in the delivery and reception of the message—a different approach or discussing the rationale and context for the work in deeper detail may resolve the disconnect between what a manager thinks was said and what the employee heard and interpreted.

Employee to Manager Exchanges

When seeking information from employees, be aware that the framing of the question often predetermines the response that the manager will receive.

For example, a common mistake is asking leading questions, such as “Don’t you think…?” When the employee privately disagrees, he or she is faced with either giving the answer that the boss wants despite personal opinions, or giving an answer that conflicts with the boss’s thinking. Many employees will want to avoid the discomfort and risk of outwardly disagreeing with the boss; the employee is more likely to give the former response, leading to the manager missing out on the true measure of the situation.

Therefore, it’s better to avoid leading questions and instead ask broad, open-ended questions when seeking opinions and information. This allows employees the opportunity to express more honest opinions and increase their sense of ownership in the discussion. Examples of open-ended questions include: What do you think about this new initiative? How did your client meeting go? Tell me about your project. Proper open-ended questions cede control of the conversation to the responding employee, whose full answer will draw upon his or her own knowledge or opinions.

If you are experiencing particular challenges in communicating with your employees, we recommend that you consider how your perspective may differ from that of your subordinates. The message that you think is perfectly clear may not take into account the time and additional context that employees need to reach similar conclusions. The consideration of these communication scenarios can improve the manager-employee relationship, and ultimately, improve performance and outcomes.

Amanda Y. Hendrix
Expert Consultant, The Wilbanks Consulting Group