Body talk: Six common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace

If there’s one thing that shouldn’t be underestimated in the business world, it’s the power of body language. Your facial expressions and physical gestures can tell a lot about what you’re thinking, as well as what kind of person you are and how you feel in certain situations.

It’s important to be aware of the messages your body language sends to others as it’s this form of non-verbal communication that people will use to perceive who you are. Your physical cues have a significant impact on your success and can often make or break your various business relationships, so we’ve complied this list of common body language mistakes to avoid in the workplace. The next time you’re sitting in a meeting or presenting an idea, remember what not to do.

 

Weak handshake

 

What’s in a handshake? Well, a lot, actually. When you meet someone for the first time it’s more than likely your handshake on which they will form their first impression of you, and the last thing you’ll want to do is send the wrong message. The perfect handshake is one that is firm yet not overbearing – this will convey a sense of confidence to the person on the receiving end. The trick is to commit when shaking someone’s hand and you can only do this if it’s a palm-to-palm shake that is filled with purpose and self-assurance. A weak handshake can lead to people perceiving you as being nervous, timid and lacking in confidence.

 

No eye contact

 

This is a vital part of any interaction. Maintaining eye contact during a conversation or presentation is key in establishing you as a trustworthy and confident person. It also shows that you are focussing on the other person and that you are engaged and respectful of them. Good eye contact plays an important role in your ability to persuade others as it can help draw people in and allow you to really engage with them. If you keep averting your eyes form the other person’s or looking down, you can be seen to be nervous, untrustworthy or distracted.

 

Poor posture

 

There’s good reason why your mother always told you to stand up straight – she wasn’t only looking out for your health, but also for how you would ultimately be perceived by those around you. How we feel about ourselves is often reflected through how we hold ourselves: when you stand tall, with your shoulders back and your head held high, chances are that you will give off an air of confidence. It’s when you slump that you may seem to have a lack of self-esteem and even disregard for others and the situation. Your posture can speak volumes about how you view yourself.

 

Too much fidgeting

 

When people become nervous, anxious or bored, they may begin to fidget. This can be perceived as them having a lack of focus and confidence, as well as being a dead giveaway of their nervousness. Powerful, authoritative people are the ones who tend to use smaller, subtler hand gestures when speaking and are rarely seen to make nervous gestures. Stillness conveys a sense of calm and quiet self-assurance, so be aware of the movements you make at all times to be sure that you’re not being seen to be disinterested, distracted or bored.

 

Lack of physical feedback or facial expressions

 

It’s no secret that our actions can speak louder than words, so it’s important for us to be in tune with our physical reactions. Holding back too much when it comes to facial expressions or physical feedback can give off the wrong impression: you can be seen to be aloof, removed, disinterested or even bored. Not responding in your face can lead people to believe that you are unable to be empathetic or make them feel as if you are not really acknowledging and internalising what is being said to you. You want to try and respond in small, physical ways to the person – this includes: smiling, nodding, making vocal utterances and raising your eyebrows. Facial expression restraint can make you appear inaccessible, cold or removed – things that will not help you cement long-lasting work relationships. A simple smile can put the other person at ease and help you come across as an open, warm and approachable person.

 

Constantly crossing the arms

 

Nothing screams “unimpressed” or “closed off” quite like crossed arms. They tend to act like a barrier between you and other people, cutting you off and making you appear unreceptive. You want to be viewed as an honest, credible and open person, but crossing your arms too much can send the opposite message. Some people also cross their arms when they are nervous as a sort of protective measure, but ultimately, this is most likely to be perceived in a negative way, so try and stop yourself when this happens.

 

Your body language can belie how you feel about certain situations and people, something that can have both positive and negative outcomes in your professional life. The key is to be aware of how you may come across as much as possible and to work on presenting people with the best version of yourself at all times. It’s no easy feat, but once you master the art of perfecting the ideal body language, you’re likely to feel satisfied with how others perceive you.   

 

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Close that deal over a business lunch

With technology making it far easier to communicate in this day and age, there are some people who view the classic business lunch as being unimportant and outdated. However, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face business meeting – it can often help take a relationship with a prospective client to the next level by introducing an openness and intimacy that perhaps doesn’t exist when communication is confined to email.

With technology making it far easier to communicate in this day and age, there are some people who view the classic business lunch as being unimportant and outdated. However, there’s nothing quite like a face-to-face business meeting – it can often help take a relationship with a prospective client to the next level by introducing an openness and intimacy that perhaps doesn’t exist when communication is confined to email. Business lunches still have their place in the business world and can be a great way to build and strengthen relationships, as well as to strike up and close those valuable deals that will help your small business grow. Attending a business lunch is so much more than simply stepping out of the office, so bear these few things in mind the next time you plan a business discussion over a meal.

The Place: Will the environment facilitate discussion?

When it comes to choosing a place to meet for a business lunch, you need to make sure that it’s a suitable environment that will foster discussion and negotiation. Be polite and ask your client if there’s somewhere specific they’d like to meet. If they leave the decision up to you, it’s a good idea to pick a place that is familiar to you and if it’s fairly close to them, then that’s an added bonus. You will want to avoid places that are overly noisy, crowded and too hot or cold. When it comes to choosing a table, opt for one that is slightly more secluded from the rest – you want to be able to have a discussion free from too many external interruptions. Selecting a place that offers various dishes (including vegetarian options) is also something to be considered, but the most important things is to ensure that the venue you choose is conducive for conducting business.

The Etiquette: When is the right time to start talking business?

There’s a guideline that says that it’s only after the fourth hole of a game of golf that you can broach the subject of business. When it comes to a business lunch however, it’s slightly different. There’s undoubtedly going to be the requisite small talk that kicks things off – this is part of the process, but be sure not to get too familiar or personal with your client. Once you’ve ordered something to drink and placed your meal order, consider this a good time to get down to the main reason for the meeting: to talk business. It’s important to convey to your client how you can help them, but rather try and listen more, allowing them to do most of the talking.

Additional etiquette tips:

  • Make sure your phone is off or on silent to avoid it disturbing your meeting.
  • Remember your table manners.
  • Arrive on time to the meeting; in fact, get there earlier than your client to make sure everything is satisfactory.

A note on drinking during business lunches: It’s best to avoid alcohol during business lunches, especially if you’re hoping a deal will come from it. You’ll want to be as sharp as possible and avoid impairing your abilities.

The Direction: How will the meeting play out?

Whilst there’s no way of knowing exactly how the meeting will go, it’s a good idea to steer it in the right direction. You may be out of the office and sharing a meal, but the simple truth is that it’s still a business meeting. It can be easy to get caught up in the relaxed atmosphere of a restaurant, so it’s important to ensure that you don’t lose sight of the reason why you and the client are there in the first place. An easy way to avoid straying from the path is to prepare an agenda beforehand so that you can arrive at the meeting with the aim of achieving certain objectives. Be mindful of the agenda you’ve set for yourself and do what you can to stick to it – otherwise the meeting can end up being a waste of time.

The Bill: Who is responsible for paying it?

Rule of thumb is that if you invite a client to join you for a business lunch, it’s your responsibility to settle the bill. Once the bill arrives at the table, avoid grabbing it and rather reach for it calmly, before placing your credit card down.

Treating a client to lunch outside of the office environment can be an excellent way to make you both feel relaxed and more receptive to forging a business relationship together. If everything goes to plan, you could just walk out of there with one more piece of new business.

You may also be interested in: Six Secrets to Presenting the Perfect Business Pitch

 

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Communication: Your key to maintaining lasting business relationships

As with most human relationships, clear communication is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones for successful, lasting partnerships – and the same can be said to be true for business relationships. Strong, enduring relationships are an important ingredient in an effective business formula and if a business is to continue to grow in the future, they are vital, and in turn, so too is excellent communication.

As with most human relationships, clear communication is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones for successful, lasting partnerships – and the same can be said to be true for business relationships. Strong, enduring relationships are an important ingredient in an effective business formula and if a business is to continue to grow in the future, they are vital, and in turn, so too is excellent communication. There is a great amount of value placed on cultivating enduring relationships within business and this extends across the board, from clients to vendors. What follows are some useful communication tips that will ensure you build and maintain lasting business relationships for years to come.

There is no such thing as “over communicating”

Open lines of communication are required in order for both sides to remain in-the-know and satisfied within a business relationship. They each depend on the other to remain informed, so in order for a partnership to stay healthy, constant communication is non-negotiable. A client shouldn’t have to request updates because regular ones should be received in the form of status reports and ongoing dialogues between parties. Communication overload is really non-existent in the business world and clients will be more than happy with regular updates – that way there will be fewer assumptions, nasty surprises and feelings of being left in the dark.

Honesty is the best policy

Quality communication is not only clear, but also honest. Clients will appreciate your commitment to honesty and transparency, two elements that will help foster healthy and lasting business relationships. Having an honest and open approach can also help you cultivate an impressive reputation, something that will help you in your quest to become appealing to other potential customers and attract new business. However, being honest does not translate to always having the answer. There will be times when you won’t necessary know the answers to questions, but it’s these situations in which you need to maintain your honesty, yet work harder to find suitable solutions.

Become a useful resource

Going that extra mile and showing clients that your interest in them extends beyond mere sales can only stand you in good stead. They should be able to consider you a useful resource with you willing to share your expertise without necessarily expecting anything in return. Parting with your wisdom and going beyond just being a service provider will be valued by your clients. It will prove to them that your business thinks of them as being more than just clients. The value you offer them can far surpass the services and products you supply and extend to beneficial knowledge for their business as well.

Do whatever you can to meet deadlines

Without trust, a relationship is bound to fail and disintegrate. With this in mind, you and your business need to do as much as possible to build trust between you and your clients. One way of achieving this is by keeping your word, honouring your commitments and delivering on time. In this way, you will prove to your clients that you are trustworthy and reliable, and when you promise to do something, you do it in accordance with deadlines – and well. Fostering goodwill will not only help you retain current clients and keep them happy, but it will also give others a concrete reason to consider doing business with you.

Don’t forget that personal touch

Nowadays, it’s so easy to have open lines of communication, but a lot of the time, these are over the phone or via email. Ensuring you have just the right amount of face-to-face communication with your clients will show them that you care enough to make the effort to have a personal connection with them and it’s in this way that they are sure to feel more valued and taken care of as a client. Bringing that personal touch also helps to remind both parties that there are indeed people behind the business, something that gets easily forgotten. Rewarding loyal clients is also a great way of expressing your appreciation for their ongoing support and business.

Maintaining lasting business relationships takes time and effort, but in the long run, they end up being beneficial to both sides. They are truly an asset to any growing business and it’s for this reason that they should be nurtured year in and year out. Efficient and effective communication can help you do this, so if success is something you have your eye on, you should make sure that yours is in tip-top shape.

Speaking of effective and efficient: for online accounting and payroll software that ticks both these boxes, contact Sage One and find out more about their premium products – your business will thank you.

 

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Why team building is important for your small business

When it comes to small business, nothing is more important than team building. Your team makes up your talent, and your talent is what keeps the business going. Naturally, it then becomes extremely important for that talent to be able to work together and to be as strong as possible while doing so.

When it comes to small business, nothing is more important than team building. Your team makes up your talent, and your talent is what keeps the business going. Naturally, it then becomes extremely important for that talent to be able to work together and to be as strong as possible while doing so. But do obstacle courses, problem-solving puzzles and brain teasers really play a role in ensuring the success of a small business? While these activities may seem trivial at the time, the answer is absolutely yes.

People who respect each other work well together

During team building activities, colleagues have an opportunity to well and truly get to know each other. While employees may cross paths at the coffee machine from time to time, the interaction they may have on a daily basis could be minimal. It’s human nature to earn respect from others once you get to know them, and creating an environment in which employees can learn more about each other will do just that. Respect is key in the workplace, as it means people are more willing to work together in order to produce great work.

Building relationships helps improve communication

Strong communication is one of the most important aspects of any business. Team building exercises help foster a good sense of communication amongst employees. Not only will it encourage the more reserved team members to speak up, but it also provides an excellent platform for discussion. In the long run, this has the potential to improve the relationships that employees have with each other in the office, leading to an environment in which top-quality work will be produced.

Indentify strengths and weaknesses

In any business, regardless of how big or small, it is important to identify key strengths and weaknesses across the board. By hosting team building events, it becomes clearer to see exactly where each strength and weakness lies. For example, during problem-solving tasks, setting the analtyical, logical thinkers apart from the creative ones will be an easy feat. While none of them are right or wrong, it could be quite interesting to see which employees are stronger in which aspects, as these specific skills could become useful to the business further down the line.

No matter which way you look at it, team building exercises are fantastic for small businesses. While factors like accurate business software, insurance, retaining talent and maintaining a good office culture are all remarkably important. Without a strong team that works well together, the rest of it will all end up being rather meaningless.

 

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International business customs worth noting

With business becoming more and more global, the likelihood is that you’ll be expected to travel for work more often too. It’s important to do your research thoroughly beforehand though, as cultures differ from country to country, and as a result, how people conduct business transactions can also change from place to place.

With business becoming more and more global, the likelihood is that you’ll be expected to travel for work more often too. It’s important to do your research thoroughly beforehand though, as cultures differ from country to country, and as a result, how people conduct business transactions can also change from place to place. What is considered acceptable in one culture, may not be in another. So as to avoid embarrassing moments that can leave people feeling offended and could lead to the end of a business relationship, remember that there isn’t a universal set of rules when it comes to international business customs, and it’ll be worth your while to familiarise yourself with the following:

Be aware of personal space

Respecting someone’s personal space already has a place in everyday life, but even more so in the boardroom. Whilst a handshake is a commonly acceptable form of greeting, especially when meeting someone for the first time, it may not always be the case, so it’s best to hold back when in doubt. Observe what others do and you’ll be able to work out quickly whether or not you should proceed with an out-stretched arm. In some cultures, greeting men and women can also differ – you may observe that men hug and kiss each other hello, yet when it comes to women, the same is not acceptable. This is where proper research will stand you in good stead – the last thing you want is to make a faux pas like this with a prospective client.

Good to know:

  • Brazilians tend to use a fair amount of physical contact during conversation and can stand very close to one another as well. Closeness inspires trust in Brazil, which in turn, leads to long-lasting relationships.
  • In Morocco it’s customary to shake the person’s hand to your right first, before moving round to the people on your left.

Business card etiquette

Most business people in the West don’t think much of business cards – they view them simply as having an informational purpose. Accepting a business card and just as fast shoving it into your pocket or briefcase usually happens without a second thought. However, in other parts of the world, business cards are seen as more than just pieces of paper – they call for respect.

Good to know:

  • In China and Japan, it’s customary to present or receive a business card with two hands, while simultaneously bowing. Avoid sliding it across the table.
  • In Arab countries you should use your right hand to take a business card as the left is reserved for personal hygiene.

Gifts and food/drink

In some cultures, it’s expected that gifts are presented or exchanged during a meeting. This act is viewed as a sign of admiration and respect. The offering of certain foods or drink in certain settings can be a symbol of hospitality and a welcoming gesture intended to make the visitor/guest feel at home and comfortable. This can be odd for some people as it isn’t usually part of how they conduct business, so as not to offend your business associates, it’s worth looking into the customs surrounding such exchanges or presentations.

Good to know:

In Egypt it’s considered rude not to accept tea or coffee when it’s presented to you – you should graciously accept even if you don’t really want to.

In China, it’s customary to bring a small gift from your home country to business meetings – it will be greatly appreciated by your counterparts. Avoid: clocks (they represent death) and also white, blue and black wrapping paper.

Here are a few more interesting international business customs:

Finland: Long periods of silence are to be expected during meetings.

South Korea: There is a high level of respect held for elders so one should always greet them first and follow that with a few moments spent talking to them.

Russia: It is considered rude to stand with your hands in your pockets.

Canada: Canadians are extremely punctual with meetings being well-organised. Time schedules tend to be adhered to strictly and so one should make an effort to be on time for business gatherings.

Mexico: It is more common to conduct business over lunch than dinner.

Being in touch with the business etiquette associated with the country in which you plan to do business is a smart move on your behalf. It will not only help you make a memorable impression, but it will also help you conduct business more smoothly.

 

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