Some Thoughts on Shoes and Hair-do's

Some Thoughts on Shoes and Hair-do’s

A workshop on strategic communications with a group of dynamic business leaders took a little detour recently, for an in-depth conversation about hair styles, shoes and wardrobe. The interesting thing is, all the participants in the workshop (me being the hold out) were men.

Over years of working with groups and individuals on how best to manage their content, their presentation skills and themselves, it’s usually been the women who are more attuned to the messages hair and wardrobe convey, and are looking for support and input on how to manage the impressions they make for maximum credibility and success. Men have often bowed out of those discussions saying things like, “I don’t have a lot of options; this is who I am; this is who they get; it doesn’t matter.”

It was fascinating and gratifying to see how insightful the discussion was, from the perspective of showing up as the person most likely to persuade and succeed. We talked about managing your appearance, especially for first impressions, while still being true to who you are. There have been numerous instances of Canadian politicians “dressing up” or down, to look like one of the folks, and many of those have failed dramatically.

There is a mini-formula I like, to decide how to show up for different audiences and here it is: will you be more successful in persuading the group by being seen as an expert OR by being seen as one of the group with shared experiences and values? If you are exerting your influence vertically, by being seen as an expert, dress and carry yourself like an expert. If you exert more successful influence horizontally, dress like the group, bearing in mind the authenticity proviso above. Bottom line, if you don’t already have it in your closet, chances are you won’t look authentic so don’t rush out to pick up that pair of hip waders.

Joanna Piros