"Look and Act the Part"
Your Success Thought for the Week of June 14, 2006

One point that students struggle with in my ‘Networking for Success’ workshops is the following:

“Have your physical and verbal presentation represent who you are and what you do, always.”

What is their struggle? They have ‘off days’ or ‘casual Fridays’ when they can’t look their best, and then, there are the weekends. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always look completely together on a Saturday morning trip to the nursery, but I’m not presented in a manner that would prove embarrassing if I run into a colleague or client.

As D.A. Benton puts it in Executive Charisma: “You don’t just interview for a job once, you interview for it every day. People are always watching, noticing, reevaluating. Most executives don’t get fired for incompetence. They get fired because they are not liked.” It’s easier to like someone who has pleasant verbal and physical presentation.

This is not being said to make you paranoid. The point is made simply to increase your awareness. I have a friend who used to wear thousand dollar suits in his previous real estate broker role. I was surprised to see him at a Chamber of Commerce function wearing a t-shirt and jeans. Was this dramatic change appropriate for this setting? Yes, as it turned out, he now owns a sports equipment store and his oversized logo on his t-shirt told the story.

Here are some of the questions I typically receive. They may help you to decide how you want to continue to present yourself:

“What about casual Fridays? I’m the boss and want to blend in with my team.” If you are the boss, then you want to dress one step above your crew to show authority. Perhaps you wear denim, but it is stylish and matched with a tailored shirt, not t-shirt.

“Everyone in my division dresses casually; however, they dress more formally in the area in which I hope to evolve.” If you have your eye on a promotion, you want to dress a step above what your position calls for to show others you are as serious about your dress as you are your position in the company. You’ll get noticed.

“OK, I’m not going to my son’s baseball game in a suit.” You don’t have to wear a suit; however, if you have current or potential customers in attendance, please be aware of how you present yourself. This is especially true verbally. Even the savviest of us forget our manners when our child is involved in a sport.

“What about jokes?” Know your audience and know who might overhear your joke. Racial jokes are rarely if ever accepted. Use language appropriate for the setting and never, ever, assume. If in doubt, keep it clean or don’t joke at all. Very few of us pull off jokes that are universally appealing.

“How do I tell an associate that her dress or language is inappropriate?” It depends on your relationship. If you are a close friend, take them to lunch and ask for feedback on your dress or language first. Then ask if they are open to feedback. If you are not close yet it is affecting your company image, let your manager know, and then drop it. Don’t assume your manager is aware. I find quite often that they are not.

“What if I don’t know how my/our image is perceived?” Great question. Solicit outside opinions from clients, friends, spouses, associates who will tell you the truth. Invite an image consultant to speak to your group regarding current trends annually. This can be both fun and educational.

Still confused as to what is appropriate? Search the internet for articles or sites dealing with your profession, look at professional journals, notice how people are dressed in the photos and at industry functions you attend. Also, note what you can tell about them before you even talk to them. Another great resource is First Impressions, What You don’t Know About How Others See You by Ann Demarais and Valerie White, or, try Googling "Dress for Success 2006" to see the latest standards and be sure you are up to date.

Have a little fun with this concept of walking your talk this week. You say you are an executive, a leader, a powerhouse. Does your physical and oral presentation back this up?

Have a wonderful week and enjoy your discoveries.


Ann Golden Eglé, MCC
Executive Coach & President
Golden Visions Success Coaching, LLC

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