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Monsieur Hulot – a modern day leadership guru?

September 20, 2010

Leadership Guru?

The late Jacques Tati, French comic actor, film director and creator of the bumbling Monsieur Hulot, was a master of comedy, mime and, in my view, communication.

And the connection to leadership?

Well…in today’s business world a lot of effort goes into getting the words of any staff message from leadership right. Professional communicators may be called on to ‘wordsmith’ messages to capture the finer nuances of what is to be communicated.

While this approach is likely to result in a well articulated message, words only get you so far in getting your message across.

As a filmmaker Tati used minimal dialogue. He relied on tightly orchestrated visual jokes, facial expression and gestures to get his message across.

Academic studies consistently indicate that only a small proportion of communication is attributed to what is said, a far great proportion is attributed to non-verbal factors actions such as facial expressions, tone of voice, eye contact, touch, position and gestures.

What this means as a leader is that in addition to being precise with the words you’re saying, you need to be aware of what messages you are communicating non-verbally.

If your ‘words’ are saying one thing but all your non-verbal cues are saying something else, the effectiveness of your communication is compromised. And when push comes to shove, people tend to believe the non-verbal over the verbal.

The way you look, listen, move and react sends messages to your audience about how much you care about them and how well you’re listening. The non-verbal cues you send out will generate either a sense of interest and trust or fuel disinterest and mistrust.

Mastering non-verbal communication skills will help you be able to:

  • ‘Read’ others – understand how they feel about what it is you’re saying
  • Match your verbal and non-verbal messages to create trust and transparency with your audience, and
  • Respond with non verbal cues that demonstrate that you’re listening, understand and care.

So how do you use non-verbal communication successfully?

A quick internet search will identify many texts available to help you understand and identify the various aspects of non-verbal communication, but at its core, it requires a commitment to concentrate and be in the moment – to be aware of your own state and what is happening around you.

While Jacques Tati undoubtedly understood this, sadly the same can’t be said of Monsieur Hulot!

  1. Kerry permalink

    Great post Matt, loving your site. I’m sure I’ve heard someone speak and their message has resonated, while with another it has felt like something’s missing. You may well have hit the nail on the head with this observation. Keep up the great work – inspiring stuff.

  2. Geeta Mirchandani permalink

    What a clever and perceptive analysis of what constitutes effective communication. Often, consultants are called in to develop effective messages but when the execution is hampered by poor body language or uninspiring delivery, the plot is then lost. That’s why the importance of holistic coaching that encompasses the verbal and non-verbal, which is precisely the track you’re on. This is my first foray into your website and I must say it’s impressive.

  3. Steve Harris permalink

    Agree 100% with what you are saying Matt. What works for me in this regard is to refer to the little guy sitting on my shoulder (metaphysical being of course)and ask him what he is seeing me do or say and check if it’s appropriate for the situation.

    This is also a lot to do with the boundaries between IQ and EQ and how to balance them effectively.

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