Have you ever heard the old adage that your words count for 7% of your communication?
We all have heard it from time to time, but how many of us really do something about it?
At a recent Assessment Centre, I was roleplaying with a well qualified and competent individual who was seeking a new managerial position. The roleplay scenario was one of performance management. My character was technically one of the shining stars, yet had been underperforming in some aspects of her role.
If you read a transcript of the meeting, you would it had been highly successful, with both parties leaving happy with the outcome. The candidate displayed really strong insight as to the problem, he was not afraid to explain the issues and he was supportive, offering his guidance going forward. Perhaps a little directive at times, he managed to gain acceptance, if not complete buy in to his plan, but pretty much on the button in terms of his judgement of the situation.
However, as the meeting played out, sat in the seat of the direct report, my character felt slowly crushed and by the end of the meeting, was utterly despondent.
What could possibly have had such a powerfully negative impact during such an apparently positive meeting?
Everything he didn’t say.
His non-verbal communication was entirely incongruent to his words. In fact, in the 30 minutes we had for the meeting, there was only one smile – as he said goodbye.
When highlighting the performance issues, he frowned and his speech was laboured as if to demonstrate the severity of the problem. When encouraging me with positive words, he continued to frown and sigh, shaking his head.
Rather than the performance challenges being bumps in the road to be overcome, my character felt like she was a burden to the company. The small amount of praise for her achievements were delivered deadpan and without enthusiasm, bookended by her failures.
As people managers, we have a responsibility not just to drive for a result, but to the well being of the other person. Any frustration we have towards others inevitably leaks through our body language and has a direct impact on them and consequently on the quality of the outcome.
Tip: next time you have to have that difficult conversation, give yourself a moment to remember “This person is doing their absolute best with all that they currently know and the resources they believe are available to them.” and see how