Do CEOs' facial expressions betray their emotions and cause their companies' downward spirals by undermining the confidence of employees and stockholders? Yes, according to facial coding developer and expert Dan Hill, Ph.D., author of the forthcoming book, Emotionomics (Beaver Pond Press).
Hill, president of SensoryLogic, Inc. (www.SensoryLogic.com), reports that a survey of 75,000 employees worldwide found that the key quality employees look for in a leader is honesty.
Why? Hill maintains it's the law of the jungle and survival instincts; workers want to know if their leaders can be trusted. "Can so-and-so be trusted to look after my security ... and enhance my chances of 'staying alive'?" they'll ask. And they tend to get their answers more from "facial coding"--looking at the unfiltered emotional responses expressed on their leader's face--rather than from verbal indicators.
In early Man, says Hill, discerning expressions was a defensive skill, distinguishing friend from enemy and safety from danger. And it's the same way in today's sophisticated workplace.
Expressions can't be overridden, Hill explains, they are instinctual; blind people who have never seen their faces have the same expressions as the sighted.
Hill says stockholders also look to facial coding as a supplementary means of assessing if a CEO has the emotional make-up to lead a company and make it a sound investment opportunity.
Hill analyzed the facial expressions of then Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Cisco CEO John Chambers. What emerged? Chamber lived up to his billing as "Mr. Sunshine," with his face emitting a high degree of positive emotion and his company stock tracking a positive curve. In contrast, Fiorina expressions were largely negative, betraying the signs of a person already under siege, Hill says. This rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, says Hill, and HP stock dropped 50 percent in price over her 6-year reign.
Anxiety signals fear, says Hill, so expressions of anxiety, or even just concern, on a leader's face are perceived by his or her audience (rank-and-file, board members, stockholders) as weakness.
And lack of expression doesn't fare much better; Hill cites John Kerry's "deadpan" having him instinctually perceived as weaker than George W. Bush's "smirk."
So what's on your CEO's face today?
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Update--Maybe It Was True!
Back in June, we reported on a rumor that the new Harry Potter book was being printed in the dark to keep the plot from being leaked by workers at the printing facility.
Well, it sounded pretty silly--and impossible. And when our workplace safety editor assured us that the European Union had manufacturing safety rules similar to OSHA's, we scoffed at the very idea.
Now, we are not so sure. Since its release on July 21, there have been "a few hundred" reports of books with missing pages, according to a statement from the publisher, Scholastic, obtained by the Associated Press. "Printing and distributing 12 million copies of a book is a Herculean task, and it is not surprising that some books would have printing errors," continued the statement. We agree--especially if they were printed in the dark!
The publisher's statement added that it is more than happy to replace the books at their place of purchase.