“Actions speak louder than words.” You have heard that before. But what does it really mean?

80% – 90% of the meaning of a message lies in the nonverbal part of it aka body language. Luka Cerar, Chief Financial Officer (Ljubljana, Slovenia) at Novartis, has a lot of experience when it comes to the art of body language that came from his international and diverse business background in financial statement management, budgeting and strategic planning in pharmaceutical/generics industry.

Luka, tell us a little about yourself so we can get to know you better.

I have a finance background with a professional career in the pharmaceutical industry. I was fortunate enough to live in various countries across Europe (Austria, Germany, Denmark, Croatia), which gave me the opportunity to experience different leadership styles. The latter is also the reason why I became passionate about body language. It enabled me to compensate for the limitation of language knowledge. For example, I was able to recognize a person’s mood, intention and/or feeling.

What is it that makes us “tell” what we truly “feel”?

A person may use words to tell people his or her feelings, however, body movements reveal thoughts, moods and attitudes. Both consciously and sub-consciously, one’s body tells observers what’s really going on. Every day and throughout the day, the body is relaying messages about attitude, mood and one’s general state of being. Although actions and gestures can convey a message, the body can unconsciously send signals. Research shows that one can tell how someone is feeling within the first seven seconds if facial expressions and body movements are read correctly.

Can you be more specific about what would be the key takeaways from your workshop? Why do you believe it is important topic for CFO’s?

The world today has become complex and competitive, the ability to communicate with clarity, confidence and credibility is vital for success. By recognizing and responding to body signals, you can direct the flow of the conversation and facilitate meetings more effectively.

There are many types of messages (tells), which the body can send: anxiety tells, lying tells, dominant tells, submissive tells, conversation tells etc. The workshop’s focus is on power/dominant tells with practical examples.

CFOs should be aware how to use their bodies for greatest effect. Their moderate and carefully chosen gestures should reflect their senses of what they want to project and how they want to be perceived.

They know that the gestures they use and how they use them have in the end more of an impact than the words they say.

Last but not least, CFOs often attend negotiations and in such cases having insight into someone’s true intentions or feelings may be a great advantage.

What are the most valuable lessons you learnt so far during your career?

A great part of my career was abroad (from studies to work). I quickly realized that if one wants to succeed, one must trust and believe in own abilities. This helped me to gain a certain level of confidence and develop a “can do” attitude. A valuable lesson I learned was that making mistakes is part of the learning process. Most importantly, the key is to first admit the mistake in order to effectively correct it and avoid repetition.

Above all, I learned that no matter what, you always have to show respect to people – regardless of the position they hold.

When it comes to CFO Executive summit, what are your expectations?

The program reflects upon a lot of very interesting and insightful lectures, study cases and workshops. I believe there will be quite a few useful takeaways, which I will be able to take home and even implement. Equally, if not more important, are the people. The CFO Executive summit is a perfect opportunity to talk to different individuals with a finance background, while exchanging knowledge and making valuable contacts. I feel honored to be invited and excited to be there.

To meet Luka in person and learn more about body language, reserve your seat today at the CFO Executive Summit in Prague. In the meantime, click here to get your own copy of the conference’s program.

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