Leadership is all about communication. However most leaders when preparing for an important pitch, a crucial board meeting, an employee review or a supplier negotiation go about it all wrong.

They prepare and plan, concentrating on the words they will say, the handouts they will use and the presentation they will give. They’ll fuss and worry about how knowledgeable and credible they’ll sound, if they’ve got all the facts and data and what question the other party may ask.

They’ll draft, edit, redraft and rehearse. There’s one tiny problem with this. They’re focusing on the wrong part of the communication piece. It’s not what you say that counts, it’s how you say it and the perception it creates. The long and the short is if you don’t make a positive impression and build rapport in the first seven seconds basically you’re screwed.

The reality is we are genetically pre-programmed to look for nonverbal cues, interpret and understand them in order to survive. Why wouldn’t you want to use that natural strength to your advantage?

You’ve probably heard the saying before that people want to do business with people they “know, like and trust.” Well it’s true and if you’re not aware of the use of personal space, body language and facial expressions you may have already lost them before you’ve even begun.

Basically if you say the right words but make all the wrong moves like give a poor handshake, avoid eye contact or worse avoid shaking hands after a verbal agreement is made, you’ll have missed the mark and lost the sale, opportunity, employee or client. As a leadership and communication coach I see body language mistakes all the time in leaders both by what they do and how they interpret signals from others.

The latest research in communication, neuroscience and psychology proves that body language is crucial to a leader’s success and effectiveness which is why I believe it should be in business schools and universities as a second language and critical business skill.

When properly understood, read and applied, body intelligence can move a leader from good to great, from average to outstanding. Why? Because it helps in every aspect of the role from building productive relationships, engaging and motivating employees, presenting and influencing with power as well as future proofing your leadership and ability to get the job done in a future multicultural and multigenerational workplace.

If you haven’t already begun – now would be a good time to start building your body intelligence. Why? Because with the increase of visual technology, globalisation, robotics and diverse workforces you cannot rely on purely your written or verbal communication skills anymore.

If you’re a leader it’s important to remember that people are always watching everything you do and often it’s a case of the higher you go – the more people are watching you. So it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what you do and how you behave – that’s how you’ll be judged. Remember what you do in the tea room and the hallway counts just as much as what you do in the boardroom. Learn to read and use your body intelligence muscle, become fluent in your second language – body language – and watch your leadership shift to a brand new level.

If you want to learn what to do when the person you are meeting with disengages then download my tip sheet here.

Author's Bio: 

Keynote speaker and workplace futurist, Heidi Alexandra is without a doubt a leading authority on the topic of the power of unleashing individual’s unique strengths and power so they can volunteer their best work every day. Obsessed with helping leaders, organisations and entrepreneurs to create companies that balance people, planet and purpose with profit, she founded UQ Power – an executive development consultancy dedicated to rethinking and reimagining the workplace. You can download her free report Unleash Your Future Potential Now at www.UQPower.com.au