Written by Coco Duckworth, Advisory Board Member of the WT Enterprise Center. For more information about the WT Enterprise Center visit www.IncubationWorks.com.
Remember the old question, “Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?” A thermostat changes the temperature in an environment; the other only reflects the current temperature.
As a business coach, I believe everyone carries within them the “super power” to affect the weather around them. The power of words, actions and body language can signal calm seas, stormy weather or a down-right cold front in your workplace.
Patti Wood’s book, “Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language & Charisma,” (recommended to me by my friend Anthony Urias) has loads of information and research that accurate first impressions are made in the first 100 milliseconds of meeting, less time than it takes to snap your fingers.
A sunny way to affect any business relationship or workplace is a classic handshake. Wood’s research contends that a handshake is equal to three hours of face-to-face interaction. So it turns out your dad was right: A firm handshake and eye contact are crucial to setting the weather forecast for a successful business encounter.
It occurs to me that we should think about greeting the people we work with every day with an occasional handshake, rather than saving them for first-time meetings only. Even with uncertainties in the economy, there are many areas in which we can affect a positive climate in our work environments.
Bring your own sunshine
Smile more than you ever have before, make more eye contact and watch your feet. Your feet? Patti Wood maintains that when you don’t want to be with someone, your feet will point where your heart wants to go. I began to watch for this, and it’s fascinating to observe.
Everyone enjoys associating with positive people. Let me share a secret first-impression tip that I call my theory of instant connectivity. We all know people who enter a room with an attitude that says, “Here I am!” My connectivity advantage is that I consciously enter a room (silently) saying to each person I meet, “There you are!” A focus on others rather than oneself brings immediate connection and bright skies.
Stop whining like a whistling Panhandle wind
When you accept employment with a company, you are in essence making a contract for services or a specific number of working hours in exchange for a paycheck. So do it graciously, or leave graciously.
Instead of wasting your time complaining, put your effort into making the situation better. Don’t talk about what’s wrong; talk about how you’ll make things better. If you bring up a problem, bring up a proposed solution. Find people to work for, or to work for you, who are like-minded. You’ll be more productive and have more fun.
Storm clouds of fear on the horizon
A few really bright people I’ve coached over the years have let over-analysis and fear of failure hinder the pursuit of their dreams. They watch for storm clouds on the horizon so intently they miss the beautiful weather they are currently experiencing. If you want to start a business, take the first step. Want to expand to new markets? Take the first step. If you want to change careers, take the first step. Sure, you need contingency plans for bad weather, but enjoy the sun when it shines on you.
Face your fears. Do something. Once tomorrow comes, today is history. Today is the most precious asset you own and the one thing you should truly fear wasting.
A whirlwind of drama
Be expressive. We like to be able to read people. Show your positive emotions on your face. However, most of us know someone (not you, of course) who brings a little drama with them to work. Their weather is usually partly cloudy with cloudbursts or damaging winds.
Your words have power, especially over you. Be aware when you say, “I am so busy,” because you will be. When you say, “You drive me crazy,” you’re paving the road to arrive at a crazy destination. You may be searching for affirmation or support or sympathy, but what you’ll get is a whirlwind of drama and largely unproductive busyness. Choose your own balmy weather. Speak positively to yourself: “I am calm. I am focused. I am productive. I am happy.” In short, “save the drama for your mama.” It’s out of place at work.
Cold-front approaching – body language tip-offs
There are a few common-sense body language cold-front signals you probably know. Crossed arms put up a barrier that pushes people away. Placing purses, cell phones or laptops/tablets between someone with whom you’re trying to establish a connection is a no-no. Absolutely always maintain eye contact rather than check text messages or emails during a conversation.
Dress appropriately for the weather
When you dress sharp, you think sharp. If you don’t believe me, try it out yourself. When you feel put together, you feel more alert, more confident, and ready to tackle the day’s tasks. Then do an internal weather assessment, as well. Wood says it takes about 1/40th of a second for the physical act of lifting your head and straightening your shoulders to chemically change your brain and raise your confidence level. If you think your customer is important, dress to match that belief, and you’ll find you have an easier time getting into a sunny weather frame of mind.
Professional dress guidelines seem to be making a comeback. Interestingly, in one study, when people were shown photos of the same individuals in various styles of dress, from suits to casual clothes, they allotted the characteristics of intelligence, success, trustworthiness and professionalism to the more well-dressed people.
In addition, if you’re interested in finding a new job, remember that hiring decisions are often made within the first 10 seconds of an interview. Walk into that interview with positive weather surrounding you.
Think and act “up” – your body moves upward when you are happy, joyful and excited. Bring your head, your gestures, your upper chest and the pace of your walk upward to convey energy and happiness when you come into a room. Notice how you greet or begin every interaction and how you end or say goodbye to everyone (face to face and through technology) for 24 hours and watch the atmospheric conditions change.
So now you know you possess a superpower. You can affect the weather! May all of you superheroes have prosperous conditions in your business, with showers of blessings, peaceful skies… and occasional, slight gusts to keep the air clear.