The NCAA Tournament is winding down to the Final Four, and even if you’re not a basketball fan you can benefit from doing the little experiment I’m about to suggest. Turn your television on and watch one of the semifinal games for a few minutes, then mute the sound and cover the bottom of the screen where they show the score. Now, see if you can tell who is winning and who is losing based just on watching the players' and coaches' body language and how they are moving on the court. You’ll only need to watch for a few minutes and I bet you’ll nail it.
Why am I so confident? Because you will see that the winners act energized when they are winning and losers do not. A champion, on the other hand, acts like a winner regardless of which side of the score they may be on at any given moment. They are still energized and remain persistent. You need to carry yourself like a champion in the sport of business. If you can do this, you will be doing something that many elite athletes struggle with.
Body language impacts all kinds of workplace performance. Researcher Chia-Jung Tsay found in a 2013 study that both musical novices and experts were best able to identify the winners of live performance competitions by watching muted videos of them. Yet when the audio was turned on or when they simply listened without any visual cues they could not correctly identify the winners. Interestingly, when they surveyed the over 1,000 observers before the experiment, they all reported that sound would factor most in their evaluations.
If someone were filming you at work and you watched the “game film” on mute, what would your body language say about you?
When I was coaching, I would invite a deaf friend of mine to attend and film our practices. He would observe, evaluate and share with us what he noticed, then we would watch the film so the team could see for themselves. The insights were priceless and really enabled my players to understand that their actions and demeanor speak volumes.
If our non-verbal behavior plays such a telling role in our performance, shouldn’t we be more mindful of it? It’s imperative that you act like a champion whether you’re winning or losing at whatever endeavor you’re pursuing. Your body language and physiology don’t just affect others' perception of you, they also impact your self-perception.
William James, father of the positive psychology movement, referred to this phenomenon as the “As If” technique. By acting as if you feel a certain way for a short period of time, your actions will convince your brain you do indeed feel that way. Quite simply, you can act your way into feeling. If you feel tired, act energized. If you feel discouraged, act confident and you’ll notice your mood state change for the better.
In the final weekend of the NCAA tournament, you will see the best teams act like champions and play like there is no scoreboard. We should work the same way. In the sport of business, champions act like winners regardless of rejections, the score, circumstances and economy.
Benjamin Franklin once said that “energy and persistence conquer all things,” and in today’s competitive marketplace we all could use that reminder. Energy and persistence have nothing to do with your words, yet have everything to do with your actions. We all know which speak louder.