Smile Check

“Our body language affects our team”

A leader shared a dialogue he had with a team member recently.  It went something like this.

Team member:  “Woah – you must be mad”

Leader:  “Why do you say that?”

Team member:  “You have a scowl on your face.  Someone must have done something to make you mad.”

Leader:  “I am not mad.  It must just be the way my face looks.”

Ever experienced something like this?  You are not feeling an emotion that your body language is somehow sending.  Synchronicity has escaped us.  This confuses people, leading to misperceptions about our attitudes, and even our opinions of their performance.  Team members can jump to all sorts of conclusions and worst case scenarios based on a something that is not true.

When we are in tune with our emotions, monitor them, and adjust them to mirror our true feelings, we have a positive impact on the team.

Here’s the rest of Todd’s story.

After this exchange, Todd paused.  He took some time to reflect on his facial expressions and body language.  He talked to his team, and explained he has a tendency to have an “angry resting face.”  His team playfully laughed with him and embraced his vulnerability in sharing something personal about himself.  Since he realized this had a negative impact on the team, he asked his team to call him out in the future when they saw the “angry resting face.”  Team members had fun with it.  When they would catch him with the face, they would exaggeratedly smile at him, or point at the corners of their mouths to encourage him to smile.  They coined the phrase, “smile check.”  It was a safe way to call it out in the moment, and correct the behavior.  No need for formal sit-down chat.  When the behavior was seen in the moment, it could easily be corrected on the spot.  How’s that for instant feedback!

Todd offered these tips for those with a “smile check” opportunity:

  • Be in tune with your emotions. Our bodies speak volumes more than our words.  People pick up on our emotions most often through our facial expressions, posture, gestures, and positioning.  Know what your emotions are, and what impact that has on the signals you are sending subconsciously.
  • Monitor your body language. Pause from time to time to reflect on our facial expressions, posture, gestures, and positioning.  If it is hard to self-monitor, have team members call you out.  Sometimes we have no idea what messages our body language is sending and need a gentle nudge or code word from a trusted colleague to help us.
  • Adjust body language. Practice mirroring the emotions you want to convey.  Use a mirror to practice if you want.  How do you look when you are happy, sad, frustrated, excited, etc.?  Make sure your body language is in sync with the message you want to send and adjust if necessary.

For more resources, I highly recommend Amy Cuddy’s Presence for more on positive body language, including the infamous power pose from her Ted Talk.

How does your body language affect your team?