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The Body Language of Collaboration

From Carol Kinsey Goman:

Most leaders agree that effective collaboration is more important than ever in today’s turbulent business environment. But the collaboration so critical to organizations is being blocked by internal power struggles, by a lack of unified goals and rewards, by a self-preservation instinct that results in information hoarding — and, perhaps surprisingly, by the body language of leaders.

All leaders express enthusiasm, warmth and confidence as well as arrogance, indifference and displeasure through their expressions, gestures, touch and use of space. As such, your nonverbal signals can either increase collaboration or shut it off.

Here are four body language tips for collaboration:

1) Look like you’re listening.

Whenever your body language signals boredom or disinterest, team members will react by holding back their comments. So if you want people to speak up, avoid the temptation to check your text messages, check your watch or check out how the other participants are reacting. Instead, focus on those who are speaking by turning your head and torso to face them directly and by making eye contact. It’s important to hear people. It’s just as important to make sure that they know you are listening.  

2) Use your head.

To encourage someone to continue speaking, nod your head using clusters of three nods at regular intervals. I’ve found that people will talk much more than usual when the listener nods in this manner.

Head tilting is another signal that you are interested, curious and involved. The head tilt is a universal gesture of giving the other person an ear. As such, head tilts can be very positive cues when you want to encourage people to expand on their comments.

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