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Serving the Business and Professional
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N. Elizabeth Fried, Ph.D.
Coaching Corner: Executive Presence Series
November 6, 2014 Blog Series 7 of 9: Executive Presence:
Maintaining a Professional Appearance
third universal component of executive presence identified in CTIís research was
appearance. Although they found that appearance was inconsequential to executive
presence, as I mentioned earlier, we need to look at that finding more deeply.
Nothing replaces good grooming.
The last thing you want to do is look like an unmade bed, or that you just
rolled out of one! Clean and manicured nails are a must. In most work places,
polish is fine as long itís not distracting with designs and glitter. Collars
and cuffs should be pressed and non-frayed. Once they become frayed, replace the
shirt. Additionally, your clothes should be stain and wrinkle-free. Iíd be
willing to wager that none of this is news to you, but as I mentioned before,
you know what to do, but you may not be doing what you know. In this case,
perhaps appearance isnít important to you, or you donít think itís important to
others. You couldnít be any more wrong.
Even though CTIís research
revealed that appearance wasnít as important as gravitas and communication, the
reality is that a poor image acts a barrier to entry. What do I mean by that?
Unless youíre well groomed and maintain a professional appearance, no one will
even let you in the door to listen to you. You simply wonít be taken seriously.
You need to present an image
thatís well groomed, polished, and healthy. Anything less sends a subtle or
not-so-subtle message, that if youíre sloppy with yourself, true or not, youíll
also be sloppy with your work and thus canít be trusted.
While how youíre groomed and
the type clothing you choose are clear barriers to entry, body type and height
are not barriers in and of themselves. CTIís research revealed that itís more
about what you do with what youíve got that matters. This is good news, because
it means that the bodies weíre born with wonít hold us back, and we can acquire
the knowledge to learn how to look our best. Ill-fitting, tight clothes that
pull at the seams are real distractions and should be left in the closet until
weight is normalized or discarded for clothes that fit. There are many options
for plus-size women as well as big and tall men that enable them to look
professional and appropriate. The investment will pay for itself in the long
A question often comes up
about how much make-up a woman should wear at work. A research a study conducted
by Nancy Etcoff, et. al. (2011) at Harvard Medical School provided some
surprising information. Researchers showed study participants photos of several
different women. Each of these women had a set of four photos, with the only
difference being the degree of make-up applied. Thus, the first photo was No
Make-up; the second was Minimal; the third was Moderate; and the fourth was
Dramatic. The study participants were shown these by either flashing the photos
for 250 milliseconds or allowing them to view the photos for a period of
time. The subjects were then asked to rate the photos on how attractive,
competent, trustworthy, and likeable they judged the women in the photos to be.
The research showed that whether the subjects viewed the photo in milliseconds
or longer periods of time, the results were the same. The photos of the women
who wore the dramatic version of make-up were consistently rated highest on all
qualities except trustworthiness. For trustworthiness, moderate was
selected. The implication may be that although dramatic makeup gets high marks,
itís hard to fully trust a glamour girl. It also implies that a visit to
the cosmetic counter is probably a good investment for women.
Finally, facial attractiveness
for men or women deserves a mention. You may have read research which indicated
that good looking people are hired more frequently. While that may be the case
in hiring, itís not the case for executive presence according to CTIís research.
Instead, if someone is too good looking, that quality can be viewed as a
In the next issue, Iíll cover developing and delivering presentations
For additional one to two-minute sessions on other topics, go to the
Coaching Corner Archive.