Little Things Can Say A Lot


As an executive coach working with high-performing leaders, I regularly hear candid feedback about my clients, often information that no one has shared with them. Over the years, I have noticed how managers can draw big conclusions about their direct reports based on the “little things” they do. Unfortunately, most people can’t see their own detracting behaviors unless someone points them out. Take a look at the examples below, note which ones you do, and the indirect messages those behaviors may be sending. If you’re unsure whether some of these apply to you, ask others you trust.

1. Nervous Habits

  • Fidget with or flip your hair

  • Shake your leg when sitting

  • Tap a pen or the table

  • Keep checking your phone

What these behaviors may tell others: You can’t focus, are nervous, or would rather spend your time elsewhere.

2. Presentation style

  • Casually lean against something (e.g. podium, chair, etc.) when presenting

  • Present seated instead of standing

  • Let others take over or divert a discussion you are leading

  • Focus more on detail than headlines/key messages

What these behaviors may tell others: You don’t understand the importance of the meeting, have the influence and capability to command a room, have confidence, or see the big picture.

3. Use of time

  • Consistently run over in one-on-one or group meetings

  • Spend too much time on topics outside the scope of the discussion (e.g., personal or business) before you cover the agenda items

  • Have difficulty adjusting your approach when your presentation time gets compressed

What these may tell others: You lack time management skills, can’t manage your workload effectively, are not ready to take on more responsibility, or don’t respect others’ time.

Each of these behaviors should be considered in the context of your working environment, the company culture and what’s expected. If you engage in some of these behaviors, ask yourself (and possibly others) how they serve you or get in your way. That will help you decide what action to take, if any.

The point is to raise your awareness and make an intentional choice that aligns with your desired leadership brand. So, this week, ask others for feedback and identify one small step you will take to convey the right message to others about your capabilities. Remember, small steps can lead to big results.


© 2013 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.