The business world can be tough. Competition is fierce and the speed at which the professional world flows can be difficult to keep up with. Today’s business pros are always on the look out to further their career, improve their prospects and advance. To get there we attend seminars, network, read self-help books and work on advanced degrees and certifications. All of these things and the business suits we wear are all worthy and at times necessary. But everyone from a CEO to the newest intern can dramatically improve their fortunes by focusing on what’s at the heart of your career, and that’s YOU!
Now I am not talking about the latest look and a new haircut (although they can be helpful) I am talking about your physical self. Why is this important? A great deal of the impression that you make on others comes across in your physical bearing and demeanor. The way you stand, sit, walk and gesture. The tilt of your head, the way you use your eyes and the tonality of your voice all come together to formulate an “impression” both consciously and unconsciously to the observer. And often based on that the observer immediately begins to create an opinion of the subject (which is you).
So once again; why is this important? Well, if you are negotiating a deal, pressing for a promotion or trying to ace a job interview your personal presentation may be the difference between success and disappointment. You wouldn’t show up at a job interview without combing your hair, wearing miss matched clothing and staring at the floor would you? Of course not! So why would you try to persuade someone of your worthiness with poor posture, while looking out of shape and exhausted?
Now of course it is true that the business world is full of extremely talented and hardworking folks whom are not flaunting physical prowess. Nor is this article implying that someone’s self-worth and value rests upon their physicality, because it’s not. But we are talking about how you can look and feel your best and in turn help to create a viable first impression when you first meet a new employer, give a presentation before your peers or pitch a new proposal to a client. Listed below are some subtle changes you can do immediately to help your confidence and health:
• Stand Tall: Think of a soldier standing at attention and then relax about 10%. Viewed from the side your ear, shoulder, hip and knee should be roughly in a straight line. If this feels difficult for you then you need to improve the strength of your posterior chain (think the rear part of your body) by performing strength exercises that pull your arms back behind the body such as seated rows, one arm dumbbell rows, and Lat pulldowns. An easy one to do at home is the Superman. Lie on your stomach and place your arms at your sides. Gently, raise your head and chest. As you do so squeeze your shoulder blades together and breathe out. Hold for five seconds, lower and repeat. Start with a few each day and try to improve how long you can hold each contraction. Make sure you’re healthy enough for this exercise! Ask your doctor if you are unsure especially if you have back problems since even this mild extension can be irritating for certain back issues.
Walk with Power and Grace: Most people have tendency to walk “from their feet” and kind of plod along with a stride that is extremely inefficient and awkward. Contrast that with how graceful a dancer looks when walking across the floor. They almost seem to glide as opposed to walk. Here is how you can cheat a little on their gracefulness without ten years of ballet. Think of your hips as the “engine” of your body. This is where we will start our movement from. Practice this at home in your living room where you have 15-20 feet to walk in a straight line. Have someone you trust to stand behind you and place their hands right at the top of your hips. Now walk forward by initiating movement first from your hips and not by reaching out with your feet. At the same time, have your partner gently push your hips forward as you walk. If done with just a little push, it should feel like it does at the airport when you walk somewhat effortlessly on the people movers. It sounds awkward to describe it to you and not be there to show you but give it a try and you will get it! Once you get the feel of it, try without your partner pushing you. I originally started teaching this movement to people learning to walk again in physical therapy and now to improve the efficiency of competitive runners. It really works!
There are many other things you can do to make a positive first impression in a business environment that we don’t have time to cover today. But if you spend the next few days working on your posture and fluidity while standing and walking you will start to look and feel more confident, powerful and capable. Feel your confidence grow and make a great impression when it’s needed most!