Is Your Body Language Hurting Your Career Advancement?

You are focused on driving results, achieving your operational objectives, raising your profile and building key relationships, but you are still being passed over. 

One factor to consider is what recruiters refer to as ‘executive presence’.  A big component of ‘executive presence’ is positive body language which Forbes’ article: Do You Have ‘Executive Presence’ defines as the ability to command a room. People stop and listen when you speak because you project confidence, decisiveness and are calm under pressure.

Executive presence matters when it comes to advancing your career.  TalentSmart studied more than one million people and identified how body language impacts what others think of you and more importantly, what hiring managers consider good and promotable body language. 

What Your Body Language is Saying about You

From first impressions to how you show up at meetings, your body language conveys your self confidence, approachability, receptiveness and ability to collaborate with others.

Do a Quick Audit:

At your last meeting, did you appear to be rushed, unprepared, and disheveled?  Or did you block 15 to 20 minutes in advance to plan and be purposeful about how you could contribute to the meeting.  When speaking, were you poised, calm and decisive when communicating your ideas, recommendations or providing feedback. 

Did you build rapport and influence engagement by leaning in when talking with someone, using good eye contact, and demonstrating open body language (versus closed off, with your arms crossed)?

Were you distracted, fidgeting or looking over the person’s shoulder or at the clock?  Your body language tells your audience if you are truly interested in engaging in a conversation and working collaboratively.   Of note, fidgeting - whether playing with your pen, doodling or shifting in your seat can be perceived as lacking confidence.

These factors can contribute to creating a negative impression of you as a leader.  And when being considered for career advancement opportunities, perceptions can matter.

Thinking this doesn’t count in our tele-mobile world?  Sorry, it does.  Body language can be conveyed over the phone.  We coach our clients preparing for telephone interviews or critical conference calls to stand up or sit-up straight, and smile as these behaviours transmit confidence and approachability.

5 Tips to Build Your Body Language and Executive Presence: 


  1. Get Feedback:  Ask two or three people for their honest feedback about your body language and how you project yourself.  Reach out to your mentor and gain their insights on how you could present yourself more effectively.  Read about how to source a mentor in:  Who’s Your Mentor?
  2. Purposeful Planning:  If you want to be perceived as confident, decisive and ‘on top of your game’, you can’t wing the meetings you attend.  Your body language will give it away.  Invest time in advance to prepare what you want to present and anticipate key questions that the senior leaders might ask.  This will keep your jitters at bay and help you navigate challenging conversations. 
  3. Hone Your Communication Skills:  Shying away from Boardroom conversations?  Finding yourself sitting quietly and only commenting when called on?  This isn’t how to earn your stripes.  Project confidence by building your public speaking skills.  JL Careers Leadership Coaching and Toastmasters can help you master the skills to think on your feet and present with confidence, clarity and passion. 
  4. Practice Your Power Poses:Before your next big meeting or a challenging conversation practice your power poses. Standing in the posture of confidence – head up, shoulders back – even when you don’t feel confident can make the difference between showing up as capable and confident, or unsure and nervous.   Read about Power Poses in: Ace the Interview:  What’s Your Body Language Saying About You?
  5. Master Difficult Conversations:  Become an expert at navigating challenging conversations.  Watch the body language of respected senior leaders and observe how they handle conflict.  Do they act defensively and territorial, or do they lean in to listen and understand the other person’s perspective?  When someone states something you disagree with try asking questions to understand where they are coming from before engaging with them.  The most powerful question you can ask is: ‘Tell me more about that.’  By asking this question you gain critical insights about their needs and you take yourself off the hot seat and buy yourself time to think through your response.

Advancing to the top takes more than grit and hard work.  It’s also about how you are perceived.  Consider, what is your body language saying about you.  Are you projecting confidence, approachability and poise under pressure?  It’s an important question to ask as your body language might be costing you your next promotion.

Author: Joanne Loberg of JL Careers Inc. is a Certified Executive Coach and Internationally Certified Career Management Professional. She has a reputation as a highly sought after Career Consultant and she has been referred to as "an absolute expert at navigating the complex territory of career advancement.” Joanne provides leadership coaching as well as career transition coaching, career planning workshops, and job search services (resumes, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters, and interview practice) for Professionals and Executives. Copyright 2018 JL Careers Inc. All rights reserved.

Wishing you much career success!

Joanne Loberg

Certified Executive Coach & Internationally Certified Career Management Professional

JL Careers Inc

© 2004-2013 JL Careers, Vancouver BC, Canada

JL Careers provides Career and Leadership Coaching, Career Development Workshops, and Career Transition Services which support organizational succession planning, leadership development and employee engagement strategies.