Working on new material for a presentation on Creating Strategic Impact to the MAGNET Global Advertising Agency group, I began thinking about “organizational body language.” This was triggered also by a conversation with a potential client last week. Its staff is reading certain ideas into the collective behaviors of its management team that aren’t intended or productive.
Body language is typically thought of as the non-verbal cues an individual makes both deliberately and unconsciously that signal underlying perceptions. Organizations, however, which are filled with individuals, can do the same thing.
What Is Your Organizational Body Language Saying?
Your organizational body language can come from the individual or collective behaviors of your senior leadership team. It may be a more encompassing behavior ingrained into your entire organization. While organizational body language is evident inside an organization, it can also speak volumes to outside audiences, including competition.
Based on typical meanings behind individual body language, here are ways organization’s exhibit similar sentiments – whether positive or negative - through organizational body language.
Positive Organizational Body Language
- Anticipation: Management becoming more visible to front line employees
- Confidence: Celebrates accomplishments
- Evaluation, Thinking: Lots of people and office lights staying on after hours
- Genuine: Embracing new thinking and ideas
- In decision making mode: Lots of drop-by discussions from senior managers
- Interest: It’s easy to secure meetings and resources for a particular initiative
- Openness: Management accepts and answers tough questions
- Readiness: The organization actively trains its people
- Relaxed: Incorporates humor into formal and informal communication
- Self-assured: Communicating performance numbers and setting clearly understood incentive structures
Negative Organizational Body Language
- Apprehension: Using too many consultants to “tell” management what to do
- Authoritative: Continual stream of directives from senior management
- Boredom: Pursues speculative shiny new stuff while ignoring the vital core business
- Defensive: Overly focused on reacting to competitors
- Dejection: Stops communicating during challenging times
- Desperation: Cutting prices to ridiculous levels
- Doubt: Lots of closed doors that are usually open
- Impatience: Cutting new programs abruptly before they get their footing
- Indecision: Too many meetings, asking the same questions repeatedly, and letting timelines slip
- Insecurity: Hiring a new cadre of senior managers with no industry experience
- Negativity: Displaying vengeful actions toward employees
- Nervousness: Continually revising budgets, forecasts, and plans
Is organizational body language slowing creating strategic impact?
If you’re part of the senior leadership team, are you sensitive to the organizational body language you and your peers are communicating?
Might it be the reason why your employees are forming perceptions contrary to all the messaging your organization is doing formally?
Could your organizational body language be standing the in the way of creating strategic impact you need right now?
If these questions hit home for you, let’s talk about how you can better gauge what you’re really communicating organizationally and better align your overall direction, messaging, and behaviors so you can be more effective in creating strategic impact. – Mike Brown
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