High Power Posing and Sales

By | April 7, 2011

Tim Askew - CEO Corporate Rain InternationalI’m insecure, dammit. I sure wish I wasn’t. Pathetic, huh, for a guy posing as an expert in such a testosterone-fueled, masculine-imaged, aggressive profession as sales? But when I started my career as an entrepreneurial salesman my hands used to shake when I met with the C-suite folk I was pitching. That doesn’t happen any more, but the inner feeling of not being quite enough is an ineluctable closeted demon still lurking somewhere beneath a late-blooming polished professional.

That said, I know everyone suffers at least occasional feelings of powerlessness and low self-esteem. To this point, I was caught recently by an interesting article about the work of Professor Amy J.C. Cuddy of the Harvard Business School. In an article titled “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance“, Professor Cuddy reveals that holding “power poses” for brief periods stimulates higher levels of testosterone (the hormone linked to power and dominance) and lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone that can help cause hypertension and impaired immune functioning).

Reporting on Cuddy’s research Julia Hanna, Associate Editor of the HBS Alumni Bulletin, states,

“Controlling for subjects’ baseline levels of both [testosterone and cortisol], Cuddy and her coauthors found that high-power poses decreased cortisol by about 25% and increased testosterone by about 19% for both men and women. In contrast, low-power poses increased cortisol about 17% and decreased testosterone about 10%. Not surprisingly, high-power posers of both sexes also reported greater feelings of being powerful and in charge.”

I’m trying one of Cuddy’s power poses right now in my office. I have my feet up on my desk, hands behind my head and it does seem to have some emotionally salubrious, empowering effect. (Begone low self-esteem!  Get thee to a nunnery!  I abjure your presence!)

At any rate these power poses might at least prove a useful, practical preparation for those fragile, not-at-your best days when you still have to sally forth to kill the sales dragon.

William Hazlitt says in “Characteristics” (1823), “As is our confidence, so is our capacity.” Thank you, William.

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