Why the last question a CEO is ever asked could be the most important – how do you feel?

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Read or watch any interview with a CEO and it will be all about performance of the business, profitability, growth, future plans, etc. Have you ever heard the interviewer, be that a journalist, stakeholder or chairman, ask how the CEO feels? No, neither have I. Yet the answer to that simple question could be the most revealing. In fact, it could be the best possible indicator of future performance. Here’s why …

A CEO’s ability to project a message with authority and be convincing is entirely dependent on what emotional state he or she is in. Unless they are a Shakespearean actor, they will not be able to disguise their true emotional state with strong words and confident gestures.  A discerning journalist will know that something isn’t quite right.  That could result in an editorial that questions the capability of the CEO, which in turn affects the share price and puts additional pressure on the leader. It’s clear that our emotional state is not something that can be ignored. It’s crucial that a CEO is able to legitimately get into the right emotional state when getting messages out to the market. 

Our emotional state is determined by our biology. Believe it or not, others can tell what’s going on inside bodies even if they aren’t equipped with x-ray vision. If you’re anxious, your heart will be racing. When your heart beats fast, that biological signal is actually radiated off the body. The journalist in our scenario may not have an ECG machine to know for sure, but they perceive an inconsistency between what the CEO is saying and the biological signals his or her body is emitting.

Getting into the right emotional state means taking control of our biology. It’s something we talk about in more detail in the ‘I’ (being) dimension chapter of 4D Leadership. Only by getting down to the fundamental biological level can we genuinely get into the right emotional state. We appear confident and calm, when we feel that way from a biological level.

Far from emotions being something we factor out or ignore in business, they are actually central to a CEO’s ability to be convincing, persuasive and project confidence. The right kind of coaching can enable people to embody specific emotional states and that can have a direct impact on perceived authenticity, and ultimately performance.

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