How Your Eye Contact Impacts your Professional Credibility

A couple of weeks ago I was having a coaching session with a client who was trying to improve communication effectiveness amongst his C-level team. He told me that he constantly had issues with his team understanding what he was saying. Too often he would give them instructions and he would have to repeat himself multiple times, almost like they hadn’t even heard him.

Over the course of my experience as an Executive Presence Coach, I’ve learned to take into account all possible factors before advancing towards a solution. I asked my client if there was anything he thought might be contributing to it. He said he had no idea. You might have a feeling where this is going.

Immediately, I approached the problem with a different frame of mind and looked at the situation a little differently. I asked my client what he thought of the solutions he was offering. He muttered that they were just theories and he had no way to know if they would work. As soon as I asked him that question, he again dropped his gaze…

Bingo.

If you are a business leader that expects to thrive in today’s fast paced, dog-eat-dog world, then there’s one thing you must learn to master. The Achilles’ heel of many leaders: eye contact.

Research has shown that adults make eye contact less than half of the time in a normal conversation. If we want to be understood and respected we have to get that percentage much, much higher. If we have to work on our executive presence quotient, eye contact plays a pivotal role.

Here are three common detractors from eye contact that you should be aware of and how to combat them.

Mobile devices

Because of the huge rise in mobile device versatility, it can be near impossible to get people to put them down sometimes. With the ability to take notes, surf the web, find data, and use the monster that is social media, it’s no wonder a large majority of people feel it’s necessary to bring these Swiss army knives of utility into the meeting. They want to be prepared for anything that comes at them.

Luckily, there’s a pretty simple solution for meetings. Put them in a basket before the meeting starts and give them back after it ends. Pen and paper work wonders and leaders can simply take pictures or scan any handwritten notes they have taken to have a digital copy anyway.

On the other hand, if your subordinates aren’t looking you in the eye when talking one-on-one with them, tell them that you value their opinion and input and you need 100% of their focus on the matter at hand. Give them a compliment saying they are valued and their ears and eyes will perk up faster than you can say, “want a raise?”

Lack of Personal Interaction

Because our society is becoming increasingly digitally entrenched, some business leaders can run their entire business online without ever needing to meet in person, call on the phone, or interact with another human being except through typing.

Leaders who tend to talk without making as much eye contact don’t realize how it affects their executive presence. The less face-to-face time people spend with other stakeholders, the higher a likelihood of poor eye contact skills. The only cure to this is practice.

Unconfident Leadership

I’ll give it to you straight. Lack of confidence is plaguing our workplaces, homes, schools, and institutions, everywhere! It’s an unfortunate trend, but it cannot be ignored. More and more, there is growing pressure to do great things, look perfect, and be important. It seems the universal standard for what people should be like rises every second. As the bar rises in the corporate world, people struggle to keep up and often feel as if they are not good enough in many aspects of life.

To get that eye contact up, make it a business ritual to take those extra 3 seconds to observe others eye color, eyebrows, eye shape, and eye lashes! It’s a simple addition to your arsenal, but once you master it, the whole dynamic of your workplace will change.

All-in-all, there are many distractions that have made eye contact become a rarity, rather than the norm. But with a couple of positive reinforcing techniques and some hard work, it can be amended.

Summary: Realize that displaying your professional credibility is super vital in today’s world as a business leader. Learn to harness proper eye contact as an essential part to raise your credibility and leadership presence.