When it comes to Executive Presence and your personal brand, perception is reality. Your reputation is based on what people say about you when you are not in the room. To a degree you can influence others perception of your personal brand by looking the part – by portraying a professional image.
This article covers how to be ‘professional’ without falling into a stereotype.
‘Professionals always look the part’. This means the state, condition, manner, and style in which you present yourself. The business needs you to be involved, ‘present’, alert and interested. To appear ‘professional’ you need to present the best version of yourself. No one wants a follow a harried leader. To avoid this and to progress you need to be ruthless with your time so that you have time for yourself and others. Personal effectiveness is key to your wellbeing and sense of perspective. I would therefore suggest you conduct an ‘audit’ of your activities to see what value each activity brings to you and the business and reassess what you do, how you do it and why it is important.
‘Professional’ does not mean superhuman. You may try to ensure your private life does not impinge on your professional life, but you cannot control every eventuality. Whilst what you do in your free time is your business there are times when you cannot and should not hide an event which impacts on your behaviour and performance. If you do not explain, others will attribute your demeanour to stress or a bad mood. Years ago, I spent a night in Accident and Emergency with a sick relative, went to work the next day and put on what I thought was my ‘professional’ trainer’s face. When my performance was questioned, I explained the underlying cause and was told I should have informed the course participants and then the feedback, if it had been given, would have been voiced as a compassionate observation rather than what I perceived as a criticism.That day I realised that no matter how relaxed I think I look I cannot convincingly hide any underlying stress.
‘Professionals always look the part’. Ensure you are remembered for who you are and not what you wear. You are always on show and being judged even when you are working from home. Your dress can enhance your credibility and help you to exude an air of authority which in turn earns the trust and confidence of others. What you wear (this includes hair and jewellery) can express your personality but should not be a distraction. Regardless of the season follow your company’s dress code guidelines. This does not mean that you are obliged to conform to a stereotype, but your dress should ‘fit’ both in size and context. One of my coachees often looked uncomfortable in meetings and his demeanour was perceived as defensive. No one had told him – not even in an appraisal. As his coach, he fell to me to discuss Executive Presence with him. We discussed posture, presentation and even a larger shirt! Posture and presentation undoubtedly enhanced his impact but I am convinced a more comfortable shirt enabled him to project his confidence and authority. So, if you are in any doubt about your dress, ask for guidance or feedback from someone whose judgement you trust – your mentor or coach. If you wish to take it further talk to an image consultant who can help you put together an outfit which suits your personality and fits the context and the dress code of your organisation.
In short, ‘looking the part’ is far more than dress. Appearance is one element of your brand that you can control and so it is worth seeking feedback from your coach, mentor and stakeholders to find out whether you are presenting yourself in the best possible light. You can also measure your Executive Presence with the Bates ExPI™ multi-rater assessment tool. It measures Appearance as one of the 15 unique facets of your Executive Presence. The perceptions of others are then compared with your self-perceptions to enable you to assess your presence and impact.