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Kathryn Freeman

Recently, a few members of the Summit team attended a Crucial Conversations seminar where we were reminded of the importance of body language. At a time when jobs are running at a ferocious pace, feet on the street are at an all-time high and time is constantly in short supply, you may think that body language should be the least of your worries. It is exactly under the above-described conditions that you should be extra aware of your physical presence.

As the BOSS, every action and inaction influence your employees. Your tone of voice, your smile and your frustration all have an impact on someone’s performance. Remember as a student when your teacher was having a bad day and attacked the chalkboard with vigor? Or the neighbor who was grumpy and whose sidewalk you avoided? Much of that is your awareness of their body language.

When you drive up to a job site and get out of your truck and immediately put your head down, either to review a list or check on your i-pad, you have closed yourself off; your team sees that you are too busy and they may make no effort to discuss short term questions or problems. As we all know and understand, it is often these small questions or concerns that lead to big problems later on. How many times have you heard the following statements?

  • “I didn’t think it was a big deal”
  • “I know I saw you yesterday but you seemed so busy”
  • “You are always rushing off”

Enter the Jobsite with purpose but at ease. Hold your head held high, making eye contact with everyone, including those people who are new, smiling all the while. This opens the door to those small but vital conversations. If this is contrary to your usual habit, practice good self-talk before exiting the truck. “I am open to feedback, I smile at my team, I am here to listen as well as instruct.”

Likewise, when discussing something of importance with someone on your crew, be mindful of your pose. Are you crossing your arms, looking at your feet or backing away from the person you are talking to? Are you not exactly yelling? Sometimes, a controlled voice accompanied by that too familiar wild-eyed look is actually louder than any yelling you could do. Creating an environment where employees can feel comfortable and are encouraged to give feedback allows for a good flow of communication. Often we hear on coaching calls, “I tell them over and over again…” are they not getting the message because they are paying more attention to how you are saying something rather than focusing on the content?

It is important to be observant as well. When giving constructive feedback, are you being aware of the other person’s body language? Are they crossing their arms or avoiding your eyes? By understanding this you can ensure that your delivery is working.

For example, You arrive at a Jobsite and the front yard is filled with debris and the gate to the back yard is open. The first person you encounter is an apprentice and he hangs his head and shuffles his feet. He doesn’t know how the mess got there. By this time, you are more than a bit angry and you find the crew leader. You approach him gesturing wildly, voice raised and asking accusatory questions. He retreats and mutters he’ll just fix it. By ignoring the body language of the apprentice, you missed an opportunity to get the answer you needed. By ignoring your own, the crew leaders missed the message about customer service and only heard the volume. In both situations, paying attention could have gotten a lesson learned rather than employees that are fearful.

Body language is not discussed often enough in our industries. Pay attention to it, and your business will improve!


Kathryn Freeman

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