Leaders! Check your video body language

Apparently no one checks McDonald’s leaders video body language. I posted my first Tik Tok yesterday to point out a body language mistake I witnessed on a CBS News clip. The story was on sexual harassment lawsuits against the McDonald’s Corporation and its franchises. Part of the story showed CEO, Chris Kempczinski, on a corporate video about harassment.

Mr. Kempczinski needed a body language expert help him with his perception on video. While I don’t normally work off of photos because you lose some context, I did freeze one frame which became the subject of the TikTok.

The mistakes are subtle, but the combo is detrimental for someone who wants (or we assume he wants) to come across as a leader who has humility and humanity. Unfortunately, he is perceived as a leader who doesn’t care about the pervasive sexual harassment problem in his corporation, and we doubt whether he even believes the victims. Furthermore, his statement sounds like something scripted. Watch the whole piece here.

Where did the CEO go wrong?

Head tilts are very common and can also signal listening or, in some cases, confusion, depending on the context. But in this case, we only see him for a few seconds. All we have to go on is the context of the piece. In a video meant to combat, or at least open a conversation, about sexual harassment, we need to see compassion, honesty and authenticity. Instead, he is perceived as cocking his head in a critical way. This move is negatively compounded by the steepling hand gesture. Putting the fingertips together in a steeple is an antiquated gesture. This used to be taught to executives as a way to signal superiority or intelligence. Today, it comes off as cocky or even narcissistic. Unfortunately for Mr. Kempczinski, he is also tilting his fingers down- not the area to point to during a sexual harassment video! His words, “We do the right things for the right reasons” ring hollow and we don’t believe him because his body language doesn’t support it. He should lean into the camera, with open gestures to convey transparency and openness.

The moral of the story?

The moral of this clip is to carefully look at video body language before the footage is made into a greater piece. Often when corporate videos are made, the production company cuts down so far and switches to B-roll so fast that the viewer doesn’t see enough context. Humans will always be suspicious and go to the negative reaction first. As much as we like to think we are more gracious and forgiving of behavior, our subconscious is not. Every bias we have against corporate leaders, white men, fast food, etc. will cloud our judgement. We don’t know if the rest of the video would have helped him, or further hurt his believability.

Another lesson:

The other lesson to learn is to be more aware of your nonverbal behavior and work to understand how you are perceived. Body language experts, like those at Moving Image Consulting, can help you to modify behavior to always put your best executive presence forward.

Want us to check your videos before you go “to print?” We also coach on set during filming to ensure executives look their best. Reach out to us for details.