There is no more sensitive training topic than image and dress. For the past ten years,most of our clients have asked us to avoid the topic all together in group settings. While it is still important, it only gets addressed in private coaching. Much of what we tell people privately, I still don't feel I could publicly say. Here's what we share with groups that resonates fully. It is my hope that this helps us all feel more comfortable giving feedback to colleagues on dress.
We use the term, Visual Leadership, to define the concept of how to use aesthetics to help you connect and influence. Here are some of our tenets:
You can’t be “the obvious choice” if you are blending in
There’s always an intelligent way to be yourself at work
It is difficult to leave lasting impressions in a sterile corporate uniform. It also slows down relationship building and connection
Employees and employers want you to infuse your own personality into what you're wearing
Balance focusing on your authenticity and your audience. Work to express yourself while also considering the interests of your audience
To stand out discreetly, you can incorporate prints and unusual accessories into your classic wardrobe of tailored suits and separates
Seek a happy medium between traditional workwear and more fashion-y pieces
Like it or not, colleagues will judge you on what you’re wearing. You need to find a way to reconcile others’ perceptions and your own intentions
You can employ fashion not only to stand out but to lighten the mood. Try to offset seriousness about your work by playfulness in your clothing
Start with breaking small rules (e.g., adding color through a scarf, a bag, socks, or shoes).
Your style is most impactful when it reflects who you are as a person
Show personality through one or two elements you love. Just don’t wear it all at once because it will detract from your skills and what you bring to the table.
When you are dressing for your day, ask:
Does this fit?
Is this current?
Does it reflect my true personality?
Will this keep their focus on my message?