Your Appearance Matters – How to Make the Most of Your Executive Presence

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I’ve got good news for you. 15 per cent of your success is based on your skill set. The bad news is no one sees your knowledge, skills and abilities when you walk through the door. What are you doing to maximize the 85 per cent of your success that is based on your presence?

Perhaps this isn’t something you’ve considered. Perhaps you struggle with the idea that your appearance could, would or should have any bearing at all on your success. I know I did when I first got into the image industry and I initially actively rebelled, wearing things that were very unique, unstructured and frankly, a little sloppy. I believed that I would attract business from people who were rebels, who didn’t want to care about what other people thought and who were most interested in showing their true selves to the world.

While I did do a fair amount of business working with these wonderful and unique individuals and getting great results for them around their self-expression and showing up as who they really were, I wasn’t really acknowledging one of the most important facts about the way our world (and our brain) works.

 

We don’t live in a vacuum

People, whether they’re meeting us for the first time or the hundredth time, have expectations of what we will look like based on what they know about us. If you’re a banker and show up to a multimillion-dollar meeting in sweats and trainers, you’re causing the people in the room to stop and wonder why it is you don’t show up the way they expected. While they’re spending all that time wondering, they’re not listening to you.

It’s not their fault. We’re all wired to make quick decisions, it’s what keeps us alive. Even if our rational frontal cortex is busy saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover”, the limbic brain is busy making decisions and slotting all the people we meet into the boxes framed up by our previous experience and education. Everyone’s boxes are unique, but not so much that you can appear way out of them and expect to be taken seriously.

Whether it’s for a promotion, a product sale, a career change or a date, whether you like it or not, your appearance matters. Here’s how to leverage yours:

1. Fit it and forget it. Make sure that what you’re putting on fits you on every level (physically, emotionally, spiritually, socially) and then you won’t have to worry about it. How you show up will make sense to people and they’ll have way more brain space to listen to your great ideas, thoughts and comments.

2. Care for yourself, care for others. Though many people eschew personal care, not believing its value, the recent research shows that what you put on your body affects the way you think. You are deserving of detailed care of every inch of your valuable self and caring for your appearance reflects how you might care for others. It’s also a subconscious confidence boost, which supercharges your social interactions.

3. Get honest, get feedback. We will never experience ourselves the way others see us. Even when we see ourselves on video or hear ourselves on a recording, our energy and essence is still being translated through a digital medium. The only way for us to gauge how our presence is coming across is to evaluate the results. How are our interactions going? Are we well-received or not?

Personally, getting help from a colleague was one of the best things I could have done when I got stuck in an overly casual, overly comfortable, somewhat messy look. She helped me see that by staying so comfortable and conforming a bit to Vancouver’s casual look, I was denying the part of myself that loves to look great and be creative with my style, the part that likes things to be finished, with a high level of attention to detail. Her feedback helped me see my blind spot and over the next year or so, I adjusted my course and sleeked up. I feel powerful, courageous and fierce, in a way that I never could have before. And my business has doubled.

What comes up for you when you read this? Stunned? Shocked? Annoyed? Excited? Let’s hear it in the comments.

Katherine Lazaruk