Practice Your Bearing
Below are some brief exercises to help you develop better practices around your Leadership Bearing.
This topic is discussed more fully in STAND UP STRAIGHT! (Your Mother Was Right)
Practice #1: YOUR STANCE: HOW DOES IT FEEL?
✓ MOVE INTO THE MOST “CHILDISH” OR “GIRLISH” POSE YOU CAN THINK OF. For example, cock your hip to one side, cross one arm in front of you and grab the other arm, turn your head to one side, lower your chin and look up at an imagined person across from you without lifting your head. Clench one or both of your fists and/or tighten your arm muscles.
✓ FEEL HOW WEAK THAT POSITION MAKES YOU FEEL INSIDE. Hold it for a few moments and breathe, experiencing what it is like to stand in a way that is childish and defensive. Notice that your mind responds by making you feel silly and stupid – or cute and sweet, perhaps, which are nevertheless not standard leadership descriptors!
✓ NOW, SLOWLY MOVE OUT OF THAT POSITION, ONE MOVEMENT AT A TIME, UNTIL YOU HAVE COME BACK TO YOUR STRAIGHT AND UPRIGHT STANCE. Be sure to relax your hands and/or arms.
✓ FEEL HOW STRONG THIS POSITION MAKES YOU FEEL INSIDE: Notice your mind responds with a sense of strength – you feel calm, courageous, lit up, strong and competent, relaxed. Some people experience a sense of relief and ease.
✓ TAKE A DEEP BREATH – in through your nose, then sighing out through your nose or mouth.
✓ THINK: I’M READY! And step forth!
If you do this prior to walking into a room – even pause for a second or two for an extra breath – it will change how you move, are perceived, and feel as you participate in whatever activities are occurring in the room.
Practice #2: STOP and BLOCK!
✓ MAKE A “STOP” GESTURE by putting your both hands out straight in front of you, palms facing forward, thumbs touching. The palms of your hands will more-or-less block your face.
✓ HOLD FOR A MOMENT. Notice how it places a barrier in front of you. Notice how the sense of barrier extends, all the way along your arms, protecting you to either side.
✓ MOVE THE GESTURE OUTWARD: Without lowering your hands, slowly move your arms outward so your hands now gesture “stop” directly to either side. Notice how this now makes you feel more open and/or exposed in the semi-circle directly in front of you.
✓ DROP YOUR HANDS TO YOUR SIDES. Relax your hands; relax your shoulders down. Feel how open you are.
✓ REMIND YOURSELF that most gestures in front of the torso or face may guard you psychologically; however, as a leader, looking blocked makes you look afraid.
Practice #3: THE WRONG GESTURES
✓ STAND IN YOUR “MOUNTAIN” POSE
✓ START WITH “WRONG” GESTURES: Flip your hands around, cross your arms, run your fingers through your hair.
✓ FEEL HOW ODD AND UNBALANCED (And SILLY!) THAT FEELS
✓ NOW RETURN TO CALM; REALLY BREATHE
✓ THINK OF BEING CENTERED, and know your gestures will grow out of that naturally.
✓ IMAGINE YOURSELF EASILY AND GRACEFULLY WELCOMING SOMEONE into your home, or your office.
✓ SMILE, AND WHISPER, “COME IN!” and feel the gestures smoothly emerge.
Feel how open and welcoming that feels.
PRACTICE #4: EYE CONTACT: AN ACTORS’ TRICK
For a number of very good reasons – cultural, psychological, etc. – it is difficult for some people to maintain eye contact.
If this is you, or you find yourself tiring – use one or both of these actor’s tricks:
✓ LOOK: At a spot directly between the other person’s eyes. It will appear to them that you are still looking at them, while giving you a “rest.”
✓ THINK: This person is a good person, and has something important I need to hear. This will shift your attitude about them, and help you maintain your interest and focus.
A SIDE NOTE: BREATHING
A full, deep, easy breath can support your efforts, banish nervousness, and give you the air capacity to project your voice, carry your tone, or move into action.
And amazingly, many of us do not know how to breathe effectively, and must learn how to do so.
If you have ever done yoga or martial arts, taken Lamaze classes, played a wind instrument or been taught formally to sing, you have likely been exposed to these techniques. If you haven’t, you might like to take a class, or, simply ask a friend who has.
In brief, however, with a full, deep, easy breath:
✓ Your shoulders stay down and relaxed
✓ You inhale through your nose in such a way that your entire torso – not just your upper torso – expands.
✓ Particularly, your lower ribs widen, and the area around your navel expands outwards, allowing your stomach to “pooch” out.
In a cleansing breath – which you might need if you are nervous!
✓ After you inhale fully, hold your breath for a moment or two, and then exhale to slowly push all the air out of the lungs.
✓ With the last push the stomach muscles will press the navel toward the spine, using the same muscles you might use to blow through a straw, or blow up a balloon.
✓ For the next inhalation, simply open your mouth, relax your stomach muscles, and air will be drawn back into your lungs without any effort on your part.
✓ Take a “normal” breath, and consider whether you need another “cleansing” one.