Is standing a new power pose? And if yes, does the emerging sit-stand culture of movement change the balance of our traditional notion of power in say, the conference room?
Writer Sue Shellenbarger addresses this a little bit in her article in the Wall Street Journal, “How ‘Power Poses’ Can Help Your Career.”
Shellenbarger explains that new research shows how striking a powerful pose−such as standing tall and straight or leaning forward over a desk with hands planted firmly on its surface−actually changes a person’s hormones and behavior, just as if he or she had real power whether they are in their offices or in a meeting.
But what happens when you have a room full of standing people? What impact does this have on the traditional view of the balance of power?
Here’s our story:
At first it was awkward for those of us who were trapped in the norms of the past that said only those in charge stood during a meeting. As the leaders continued to stand, the rest of us sat and watched, wriggling in our chairs in discomfort. Slowly we followed suit, if nothing else, in an effort to practice what we were preaching. Popping to our feet at last, we tried to figure out what to do with ourselves when we got there.
Cross our arms? Jam our hands in pockets? Stand by the chair? Stand behind the chair? Lean on the chair? Find a convenient wall? And then, which pose would help us appear in control? Confident? Non-combatant?
Other questions emerged. How long should I stand here? If the boss sits down, can I remain standing? If everyone else sits down should I, even if I don’t have control of meeting? Can I continue standing if I am near the front of the room versus at the back of the room? Was there a better place to stand? Did the same “stand when you want” rule applies if it was a c-suite executive is in the room versus a middle manager?
Over time, we have made the act of standing a seamless part of meetings, and our culture. We’ve even surprised a few vendors and guests over the years, inviting them to stand during the meeting. There are some uncomfortable laughs and very few takers at first until, at least for part of the time, they have found it to be a relaxing way to do business.
Here are a few important things we have learned from the experience that may help you to strike a new pose in your company:
- It’s best to check your ego at the door. Regardless of company hierarchy people can stand or sit whenever they desire, without taking “power” away from each other. Understanding how comfort can increase effectiveness will lessen the sting of letting archaic social norms, like only the person in power can stand, die away.
- Take ownership of your comfort. Do not feel embarrassed to stand or sit at any point of a meeting; if your body needs to move, move.
- Be a courteous stander. As the article suggests, since you are lot more visible when you stand and tower over the table, try not to cause distraction. The same body language rules apply. Finding a good book on what your body language is telling other people and adapt accordingly.
- Remember that confidence does not equal combatant. As the article suggests “an expansive body position can also increase testosterone, which tends to boost confidence and aggressive behavior,” so employees must member the same business etiquette is expected, regardless of sitting or standing posture.
This may not work in every business environment, but don’t be afraid to attempt it at yours. You might be surprised by the growing number of organizations adopting corporate cultures of movement. At the JustStand Wellness Summit this past summer we met several of them, willing to break the old standards for the sake of their staff’s health and well-being.
Finally, the article also highlights recent studies about how the physiological changes associated with striking a power pose (like standing) were linked to better performance and more confident, assertive behavior. We certainly find that at Ergotron. In fact, we’d go so far as to say the simply standing is a ‘power pose’ in its own right..at your desk, in your meetings, wherever you are.
Michelle Judd (@mjudd), Sr. Marketing Manager, Global Communications @ Ergotron