Having led my own company for over twenty-five years, creating custom wardrobes to help top female leaders and CEO's strengthen their personal brand and amplify their leadership, a common denominator I've seen work and successfully use myself are the three A’s:
1) Make sure your clothing aligns with your goals in every situation
Presenting at an early morning meeting? Wear a bright jacket (or for men, a bright tie) to keep your audience awake :) and interested.
Delivering bad news – or fabulous news – or asking for a lot of money? Try wearing deep navy – often called the most “honest color” paired with a white shirt or blouse.
Switching climates? You may have boarded when the temp was 25 degrees, but wearing your cozy cashmere jacket or dress when you present in Rio may not just make youwarm and uncomfortable, it can make your audience warm and uncomfortable as well. Same goes for the reverse.
2) Dress for your audience
Today’s global business arena requires understanding different cultures and social mores. Do some advance research on what your audience expects. This story illustrates why it’s not always what you think:
One of my clients is a class-action lawyer. She’s East Coast-based and was recommended to a Silicon Valley company with a very casual culture. Attempting to dress for her audience, she came in jeans and a casual top. Upon her arrival and introduction to the CEO, he abruptly cancelled the team meeting. Fortunately, because her reputation was so well respected, he took her aside and asked her why she was dressed the way she was. When she responded, he exclaimed, “If we wanted a valley lawyer to represent us, we would have hired one. This will be a high profile and sensitive case. We want a “suit” from New York to lead this case. Go buy yourself a suit today and we’ll reschedule the team meeting for tomorrow.”
3) Most important: make sure what you wear is authentic to who you are.
Don’t wear something if it’s not you - no matter how awesome your salesperson said you looked! If you're not feeling yourself in your clothes, your audience will sense the disconnect and it will be harder to break their natural defenses to get your message across.
Using the 3 A’s not only makes your leadership message stronger to people around you, it can also keep you on track and focused.
The latest behavioral science and brain scans have uncovered why this works: our thoughts are not just controlled by the brain but also influenced by our external environment – including the clothes we wear.
Dressing with a goal in mind can even increase your performance.
Early on, a mentor advised me to “dress up” when I was making sales calls from home. I shrugged but tried it anyway. It worked! I made more calls and the connections I made were deeper and more productive. Even today, when seeing clients, I adjust my dress depending on the tastes and needs of my clients. It creates instant alignment, relaxes my audience and makes talking about sensitive issues easier.