Growing up my father used to say to me “Looking good is half the battle.” For too many years I interpreted this the wrong way.
I had an argument with the CEO of the first company I was working for. His mantra was “Look Sharp,” and that extended well beyond clothing and included being clean shaven and punctual. My argument was that performance should be based solely on performance, especially since I wasn’t “customer facing”. Needless to say, I lost that argument, but I didn’t learn my lesson until after I had moved on. I had two major mental blocks that I needed to overcome: I didn’t understand the importance of how other people saw me and I didn’t understand who my customers were.
The importance of how others see you cannot be understated. Especially at the beginning of a career where the best strategy of high performers seems to be fake-it-till-you-make-it. How can you fake competency without a good first impression!?
The 7% – 38% – 55% Rule:
55% of messages received and processed by your brain are based on your body language. This means that you are actually judged more on your physical stance and facial movements while communicating. A high percentage makes it imperative that you are aware of the way you look when communicating. For example, you can say that you forgive someone while they are apologizing, but if you have your arms crossed over your chest, this puts up a barrier between you and the other person. Their brain will not accept your forgiveness because it doesn’t look like you are open to their apology.
38% of messages are processed based on your tone of voice. How you say something is more important that what you are actually saying. While communicating with someone, if your voice is not expressive of the emotion you are trying to convey, the meaning behind your words will be lost. Take the forgiveness scenario, if your tone of voice expresses a lack of enthusiasm when accepting the apology, the meaning will get lost. You must sound forgiving and understanding if that is what you want the other person to feel.
Only 7% of your received meaning will be based off the words you are saying. This low percentage means that saying the words “I forgive you” means little when your tone and body language do not reflect forgiveness.
The functions of nonverbal communication are very important. Since there is so much importance on how we look and sound when communicating a message, it’s important to understand the functions of non-verbal communication. What makes this form of communication so important?
Ergo, you’ll need to look good to succeed. It shouldn’t have taken me as long as it did to learn this. This is the exact lesson my father was trying to teach me; I just wasn’t willing to listen.
The second flaw in my thinking was assuming that my company’s customers were my customers. When I was arguing with my CEO, my position was IT engineer. Primarily, my role was to support the business — meaning my customers were not the SMBs buying my company’s services, but the employees that were building our products. How could I have missed this? If I wasn’t taking myself seriously in front of my customers, how could I expect them to take me seriously? Again, a lesson that I shouldn’t have had to learn the hard way.
Call to action. Clothing is an investment. You need to build a minumum viable wardrobe. There isn’t a ton of items to consider when building out a Minimum Viable Wardrobe (MVW).
The MVW essentials:
- White non-iron shirt
- Blue non-iron shirt
- Black pants
- A tie with blue in it (you can wear this with both shirts)
Want to step up your game?:
- Add color
- Shirts – light yellow, blue stipes, light pink, etc..
- Pants – Blue, khaki, grey
- A classy watch
- Sports coat
- Tailored Suit
- Brown shoes
At the risk of making this sound like an advertisement, I am going to personally recommend my favorite brand, Brooks Brothers, for the following reasons:
- Service. They helped me find clothing that fit. Pants and shirts that aren’t baggy.
- Shape. The clothing lines that they have fit my body nicely. I have a small frame and it is very hard to find good fitting clothing
- Quality. I can’t stress this enough. Quality wrinkle-free shirts are a godsend. They last for at least a year or more and I never wrinkle them or bring them to dry cleaning.
- Price. Yes, BB has a premium, but avoiding ironing alone is enough to sell me. That said, if you are lucky enough to be on a corporate plan, BB has 30% off sales ~twice a year. (If you’re around Boston and want to piggy back on my discount card on next sale, let me know!)
If looking good is half the battle, than we’re 25% of the way there. To get the remaining 25% you’ll need to have a haircut that fits your style as well as facial hair maintenance. When in doubt, tell your local barber “high and tight” and clean shave your face. Lastly, don’t forget to have clean shoes.
That’s about it. Am I missing anything? Let me know!