Do you know the image you're projecting as a leader? As people, we get different energies from attire that affect our communication.
Just as you feel the difference when you wear a suit instead of a casual outfit, so do your employees and clients notice the difference.
Think about those days when you feel confident in your clothes. People interact with you in a positive manner and you are at your leadership best. Then there are those days when you put on an article of clothing and feel out of sync. You don't lead well when you're uncomfortable.
An inner feeling
As children, we instinctively knew which clothes we loved. We picked out colors, styles, textures and patterns that made us feel comfortable and happy. Then we grew up. Peers, fashion and television became our clothing models. We began to second-guess ourselves instead of listening to that child-like instinct.
Do you ignore your clothing instincts? Deep down, you really know which clothes look best on you. They're the ones you wear all the time, even if you don't know why.
You also know that those items that hang in your closet and never get worn do not project your best image. Those are the outfits you're unsure of wearing.Be yourself
Is your attire sending the message of your true role? Can clients tell what you do for a living?
In today's world, we sometimes cannot tell the difference between the executive and the visitor. But to your clients and employees, there is comfort in immediately recognizing you as a leader.
With the shift in workplace attire, ask yourself how you want to be perceived. Is it professional, casual, approachable, competent, powerful? Give consideration to your choice of attire and how that choice will affect that perception.
Dress for respect
No matter your profession, certain body parts should always be covered in order to project a professional appearance. With a professional appearance comes respect.
For example, women should never wear anything sleeveless, and no one should have bare legs or ankles. A man not wearing socks or a woman not wearing hosiery is way too casual in a business situation.
Whatever you choose to wear, always think about how you want to be perceived -- with or without respect. These items are very subtle yet very powerful.Keep tailored
Tailoring is a fine detail that makes a world of difference. Unfortunately, we are not all built the same. Two people may be the same height and wear the same size. However, one person has long arms, the other, short. One has squared shoulders, the other, sloped. One has a small bone structure, the other, a large bone structure.
Even though they wear the same size, clothes may fit entirely differently. To get the perfect fit for your unique body type and to display a professional image, have all your clothes tailored.
Develop your image plan around your industry, leadership position, level of clientele and lifestyle. Attire should project individuality, what you do and your goals.
As you analyze your clothes and how they make you feel, you'll realize that a subtle change in your attire can create a powerful difference in how people interact with you. Ultimately, your visual package is a powerful leadership tool for financial success. Dawn Waldrop (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a national speaker and leading expert on attire in the workplace. She is author of the book "Best Impressions How To Gain Professionalism, Promotion and Profit." Reach her at (888) 577-BEST or visit www.best-impressions.com.
Scott Adams' cartoon depicting casual day sums it up.
The owner of the company watches the employees come into work. One is in a ballet outfit, another is in a bathrobe and the last person is naked. The caption reads: "Casual Day. It seemed like a good idea."
This is what has happened in the real world. The reality of casual dress in the office is that it is not working. If it were, no one would be talking about it. Instead, you walk into a company and the first words spoken are, "Please excuse our office. It's dress down day."
Stop. If everyone were dressed appropriately, no one would be apologizing.
But can business casual work? Yes, if people are aware of what casual attire is for the office. The problem is that no one has taught us.
Consider what would happen if no one taught your employees how to do their jobs. They would muddle through, costing the company valuable time and money. That's exactly what most people do when they stand in front of their closets each morning trying to get dressed for work. People do not intentionally dress inappropriately. It is because they do not know what to do.
We need to be taught how and why, just as we are taught everything else in our lives.
How much money does your company lose because of casual attire? How much more money could you make if your employees presented themselves professionally?
Before you begin a litany of excuses about the importance of casual attire, understand that dressing professionally does not mean you have to wear a dark business suit. There are many different levels of business casual dress, depending on your profession and industry.
Here's a tip everyone can use: Keep the business casual wardrobe separate from the weekend wardrobe. By keeping it separate, the mindset will be on the job. If clothes are worn on the weekend, then to work, the mind is still on the weekend.
Clothes stay neater and look more professional if you only wear them to work. Let's face it, on the weekend, we do not pay attention to our clothes. By keeping this attire separate, you never have to worry about wearing something to work, then discovering it has a stain or tear.
You will also save money. If an outfit starts to get worn but still has some life, move it to the weekend attire.
If you feel uncomfortable in business casual, here are some ways to be more casual, yet highly professional:
- Women, wear a sweater top in place of a silk blouse. Slip on flat shoes vs. shoes with a heel.
- Men, wear a dark-colored shirt, with or without the jacket.
Give serious consideration to how you want others to perceive your employees and your company. Think about how you feel when you walk into a medical facility and cannot figure out who is the nurse, doctor or patient. Or when you walk into a store and can not figure out who is the sales clerk. People need that security of recognizing the professional. Attire is that powerful communication tool.
Look at my photo. What words describe me? Conservative. Tailored. Confident. Professional. I am all those. But, do I appear to be a woman with large tattoos on her body?
You may laugh, as do my audiences. But I do have tattoos, thanks to my son, Gregory Christian, a national tattoo artist.
My point is that it is important to be your own person and present yourself professionally. Attire must enhance your personal coloring, body structure, preference in textures and patterns. Professional attire, whether it be power professional, professional or business casual, needs to be specific to your industry, position level and the types of people you interact with daily.
So ask yourself this question before you leave for work every day: "If a client or guest walks into the office today, do I look and feel totally professional in what I am wearing?" If everyone in the company cannot answer "yes," then your company is most likely losing money.
Dawn Waldrop is a national speaker, trainer and author of the book, "Best Impressions: How to gain professionalism, promotion and profit." She is president of Best Impressions and conducts training programs and executive one-on-one consulting to Fortune 100 companies. Reach her at (888) 577-BEST or online at www.best-impressions.com.
Today employers leave wardrobe decisions up to their employees, yet they are concerned that employee decisions with regard to appearance are causing them to lose customers and negatively impacting the bottom line.
The implementation of business casual dress to attract and retain employees is hurting organizations in terms of both sales and customer service. Business owners know it, but believe they can't do anything to change this. Management thinks casual is what the employee wants.
The reality is that saying, "No" to three-piece suits does not mean saying, "Yes" to jeans and T-shirts. Employees are displeased with co-workers who dress unprofessionally and are confused about what to wear to work.
Companies are aware the manner in which some employees present themselves is negatively affecting business. It's important to develop the awareness and guidelines for employees so that they consistently present themselves to achieve results.
Gone is the perception of image consulting as a fluffy program. There is a widespread realization that, far from being a soft skill, professional presentation directly affects sales targets and customer retention.
Companies that provide training or one-on-one coaching are seeing increased sales volume, profit, customer retention and repeat business. The key is teaching employees to make wardrobe decisions without prescribing a dress code.
Any system should help employees make choices that are aligned with corporate interests without stifling personal interests. To support corporate objectives, it is important to help employees dress more professionally and appropriately, while maintaining their individuality.
Take into consideration these things:
- The employee who dresses unprofessionally undermines the goals of the organization.
- The employee who dresses moderately professional has a neutral impact on goals.
- The employee who presents a professional presence accelerates his or her own success, as well as the organization's success.
Younger generations will continue to seek attire guidance so they can have individuality, yet achieve desired results in their career. These individuals are looking to brand themselves for career success and advancement. In their work, appearance is a significant component in how they will be perceived and how successful they will be.
With the advancement of technology, business will bring increases in videoconferencing, creating a demand for even more carefully chosen wardrobe for the camera.
Companies merging with or acquiring other companies face the challenge of integrating cultures without losing the best people in both companies. The question is, do they choose one dress culture over the other or institute a new and more effective system that members of both cultures can live with?
Successful organizations optimize every aspect of employee effectiveness while retaining the best people. Smart business leaders recognize that presentation matters and that improving their employees' appearance makes a strong business statement.
These organizations are reframing the rules of dress, shifting back to dressing more professionally, but always trying to support both employee individuality and peak profitability.
Dawn Waldrop mailto:email@example.com) is president of Best Impressions Inc. and consults with business owners on how to increase revenue through the image of the employees. She also helps executives present their best image for financial success. Waldrop is the author of "Best Impressions: How to Gain Professionalism, Promotion and Profit." Visit her on the Net at www.best-impressions.com.