When Supermodel Tyra Banks premiered America’s Next Top Model on May 20, 2003 I doubt anyone realized the body language lessons she was teaching to executive business women. I’ve pulled some of Tyra’s modeling photos through history and I’ll explain in this blog how her body language lessons can help executive business women across the world personify more confidence and power in the boardroom.
Lesson #1: There are 4 Confidence Zones on the Body
There are four confidence zones on the body that when left open and exposed will allow you to appear more confident. Those four zones are the following:
Now you see why Tyra is always telling her girls to extend their neck and to model H2T: head to toe. Business women across the world would benefit from analyzing their own body language this next week and noting how many times they touch or place their hands in front of their neck area, cross their arms, or cup their hands in front of their naughty bits. All of these gestures are limiting the way others perceive your confidence.
Lesson #2: Space + Height = Power
Once you understand the concept of the four confidence zones, you can start applying them to your day-to-day interactions. Not only does Tyra demonstrate this concept in the photos below, but she also demonstrates how to exude power: take up space & height! When sitting down in the boardroom you don’t necessarily have the height advantage; therefore, you have to use your legs and arms to take up space. Most business women that I watch in meetings keep their arms inside the chair or they cross their legs and wrap their hands around their knee. Whether they were taught this behavior or not, these gestures make them appear smaller and less confident. When standing and presenting in the boardroom, don’t be afraid to put at least one hand on your hip and gesture with the other. If there is an empty seat beside you, don’t be afraid to put your arm on the back of it to claim more space.
Lesson #3: Anchor Yourself to a Solid Surface
When communicating in the boardroom or presenting in front of a large audience, anchor yourself to a solid surface. Anchoring yourself forces you to take up more space which makes you appear more confident and grounded in what you’re saying. I teach female executives and sales people to anchor themselves to a chair, the corner of the table, the side of a podium, or the wall.
Lesson #4: Learn to Adapt
One of the reasons I love coaching female executives is that they understand there is a time to show power & confidence and a time to show empathy & collaboration. And more importantly, they understand these body language gestures look very different and they adapt! Anytime you minimize one or more of the confidence zones, you are going to appear less confident and move to a more empathetic role. We sometimes see these gestures when business leaders are coaching direct reports: leaning in, tilting the head, crossing their legs, covering torso or neck area with hands. These gestures minimize confidence and power and invites others to open up, share, and sometimes it allows them to feel that they have the power. Again, let me reiterate, there is a time to show power & confidence and a time to show empathy & collaboration. As a business executive or a model, you get the opportunity to ask yourself, “Who do I need to be in this meeting?” or “Who do I need to be in this photo shoot?” And now you have the knowledge to apply the appropriate body language so you can personify that image.
As Tyra Banks prepares for her 20th season of America’s Next Top Model, she reminds us that the show is much more than just modeling. If we as viewers can step back from the elaborate photo shoots, quit laughing at Kelly Cutrone’s abrasive personality, and stop gawking at Rob Evans, we would see that the show provides women everywhere a body language lesson that can fundamentally impact the way they are perceived inside and outside of the boardroom.