Your Personal Presence: Appearances Matter

Personal-Presence-AppearancesHow much time and attention do you give to your wardrobe and appearance? It’s often the little things that count. Like it or not, first impressions matter. Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s blockbuster book Blink, back in 2007? The author stresses how quickly we decide to like or dislike someone. Our brains size up people in less than 250 milliseconds.

While character and communication skills are key, you won’t influence the people you need to lead if your appearance telegraphs that you’re clueless.

Whether you’re an executive up for promotion, an employee seeking more responsibilities, or a parent involved in community or team activities, how you look will open doors and put you in play.

There’s a connection between looking good and feeling capable. When we look our best, we feel confident. And research shows there’s also a big link between our appearance and whether we are perceived as competent or not.

People who look attractive and well-groomed are perceived by others as more capable, likeable, and even more trustworthy.

It’s not surprising, however, that colleagues, mentors, and even your best friends are reluctant to give feedback on how you should improve your wardrobe, hair, and grooming. Advice on appearances is difficult for anyone to give, even with best interests at heart. At work, it’s even more perilous to critique appearances, especially to women and minorities.

Surveys can offer some guidelines as to what senior leaders expect. Sylvia Ann Hewlett of the Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 268 executives and interviewed 4,000 college-educated adults on executive presence, including appearance.

According to senior leaders, there are five aspects comprising good appearance:

  1. Being polished and groomed
  2. Being physically attractive, fit, slim
  3. Simple, stylish clothes that position you for your next job
  4. Being tall
  5. Being youthful and vigorous

Which do you think is most important in your work culture?

In the work I do coaching some very competent leaders, you’d be surprised how often the topic of appearance comes up, but it does. I think it’s because not many executives are comfortable discussing this topic with peers or even mentors. They’re afraid they’ll appear unsure of themselves or clueless if they have to ask.

What about you? Granted, dress standards do change with the times as younger generations fill the workplace. Are you shifting along with trends, and are you staying appropriate?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Contact me here and on LinkedIn.

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