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Small Things Matter

by Randall Craig on November 27, 2007

Filed in: Blog, Communication, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , ,

Have you ever had a meeting with your staff, manager, or perhaps a recruiter, and it didn’t go as well as you thought it would? If so, you’re not alone. While we all like to focus on the content of what we say, one thing will often get in the way: our body language.

Research suggests that most of your message is actually interpreted through your body language. If you are not aware of how your body language “speaks” to others around you, it shouldn’t be a surprise if your message isn’t resonating. With increasing diversity in many workplaces, people will rely more on body language to augment the meaning of an uncertain word.

The most important thing is to ensure that your words and your body language are congruent. Defining your message is first, but after that, work on your body language:

1) No Slouching: An interviewee recently spent 45 minutes in front of me slouched to the side in his chair. Was he really interesed in the job? Try sitting at the front of the seat, leaning slightly forward.

2) No Scowling: Would you like to work with someone who always looked angry? Lighten up, and smile from time to time.

3) No Shoulder Surfing: Keeping eye contact shows sincerity. If your eyes are always darting over the shoulder, seemingly interested in something else, then the assumption will be made that you are… interested in something else.

4) No Performance: If you are usually a restrained person, act that way. If you are usually outgoing and extroverted, then act that way. If you try to be someone you’re not, it will look like you’re hiding something.

There are dozens of other body language clues, but start with these four.

This Week’s Action Item: Before your next meeting with your manager, staff, client, or supplier, make sure that you know your message. Then work on your body language – small things can make the biggest difference.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)


Who doesn’t remember the old adage “Do as I say, not as I do”? For today’s progressive manager, this expression isn’t really appropriate. But how about “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do”? This variation is better, as it focuses on action. Furthermore, when you do and say the same things, you develop credibility with your workmates. The reason why is simple: no hypocrisy.

To improve your effectiveness though, even this is not enough.

Before opening your mouth or hitting the “send” button on an email, put yourself in the shoes of your audience: how would each person interpret what you said? And more important, how would each person interpret your actions? Before making a sales presentation, how would each person on the customer’s side of the table interpret your words? And when you are in a job interview, focus on how your answers will be interpreted.

When it comes to communication, interpretation is in the mind of the listener, not in the intentions of the speaker. When it comes to managing effectively, it’s not what you say, it’s what they see that will make a difference.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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