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Let Me Hear Your Body Talk: A Q&A With David Meade

Sep 17, 2019

David Meade

From ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR

David Meade is a motivational and organizational speaker who specializes in body language, business psychology and leadership. Drawing on his own research on management, workplace culture and leadership, Meade speaks to members at all levels of a group to on how to improve an organization and achieve success.

A popular speaker at NECA Now, NECA’s executive leadership conference, Meade offered several classes at the NECA 2019 Convention and Trade Show in Las Vegas. In his courses, Meade says he is driven to give attendees, “real tools and techniques that they can use to grow their business, grow their teams and grow themselves.”

We talked to David Meade about the topics he covers in his courses and how they can help electrical contractors reach success.

Is there a key strategy across sectors to building lasting relationships?

Today nothing matters more than authenticity. Whether we are in sales or leadership, meaningfully connecting with the people around you is the most effective way to supercharge your performance, impact and results.

In terms of size, ECs run the gamut. What’s a communication strategy every leader can implement regardless of size?

Leaders must make time to communicate with their team in a face-to-face, one-to-one environment. Decades worth of research show that it’s the key determinant in driving discretionary effort in our teams. While schedule and timings are always a challenge, it’s incredibly important to carve out moments of connection where we can get to know who they are and what matters to them.

As a new generation of apprentices enters the workforce, how can ECs improve or adapt their communication style with younger workers/apprentices.

Finding their purpose is king. Younger team members aren’t just driven by salary and perks. These things matter, of course, but they’re more ‘hygiene factors.’ That is to say, as long as it’s felt they’re fair and equitable, these things tend to be forgotten after the initial boost of good feeling. For some it will be career progression, or a sense of achievement, or even carrying on a family tradition. Whatever their driving purpose, they need to feel continual investment in their future, so work hard to establish a ‘next steps’ approach to keeping them educated, challenged and inspired.

How must leaders with remote teams operate differently to succeed?

Remote teams absolutely must make time to have face-to-face engagement. As useful as Skype and Zoom are, there needs to be at least some real handshakes to build a relationship that doesn’t just function but soars too. Whether it’s a quarterly half day of team training, or even just an annual get together, these human connections formed in person can catalyze the very best digital and remote results.

ECs interact with a variety of internal and external partners that depend on different types of communication. What’s the relationship between communicating well and team productivity?

Authentic and meaningful communication with our teams drive productivity across the business at all levels. Our main challenge is finding the team. We know if we have effective face-to-face, and secondarily digital communications with our team, the cogs of our companies spin smoother. But given how diverse our communication and leadership types and styles are, we really do need to find a way to not only increase the frequency, but also the quality, of our interactions.

Whether you’re a top executive or a new hire, what things should every person have in their leadership toolkit?

Moving forward, the real currency of success will be influence and persuasion. Regardless of your role in an organization, you need to find a way to make your voice heard. Whether it’s getting a contract across the line, nudging a colleague in the right direction, or just getting a stakeholder on side, it’s something we all must invest in to get results.

What should ECs in particular know about good body language?

Every body tells a story. While we can be trained to speak and present in a way that is professional and polished, our nonverbal communication is often so ingrained in our behavioral DNA that we struggle to coach it in a new direction. Learning how to send, and detect, the subtle messages that our body is giving away is a huge opportunity for us to improve our communication toolkit. If our walk doesn’t match our talk, we’ll never achieve our leadership objectives.

Are there specific body language tactics that leaders of organizations can employ to improve their performance?

The basics of posture, eye contact, and gestures are all important of course, but some lesser known techniques matter too. Orienting our body to directly face an individual while they speak makes them feel like the most important person in the room. This technique has been used to great effect by Bill Clinton who, those that work with him report, creates a sense of intimacy in even the busiest room. Equally, the simple act of nodding while speaking and listening can massively increase compliance. 

What are some examples of poor body language that people don’t realize they do?

We all have little ticks and habits that we’re unaware of. For some it’s spinning a pen in their fingers, or jiggling change in their pocket. Some are even totally unaware of the fact that they pick their teeth, poke their nose or scratch their inner ear before giving a closing handshake! The only true way to spot these issues is to ask a trusted colleague, or expert, to observe and give feedback. The results can be shocking!