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Archive for November, 2009

How do I look? Like everybody else Nov 13

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As part of my personal development and communication coaching, I’ve also been looking a lot at personal appearance and business etiquette. There seem to be volumes of etiquette rules about the way you should dress, accessorize and look, in the business environment and beyond it.

For example, the following are 3 such rules I’ve heard or read over the last few days:

  • The only acceptable colors for men’s business suit are black, navy blue and gray;
  • Grey is the best color for a man’s business suit, as it is neutral and conventional;
  • Men should always wear a suit with a tie when meeting a client.

All I can say is: there are a lot of stuck up people out there! Some try to sell us the idea that respecting every minor etiquette rule about appearance is the way to project professionalism and make a great impression, while disregarding any of them is nothing short of a tragedy. I disagree, and I have the arguments to back it up.

You’re not fooling anyone. Sure, people still associate a well put together look with competence and professionalism. I’m not saying you should meet your clients wearing the free t-shirt from the last beer festival. But following every small etiquette rule about your appearance is taking it too far and can easily turn against you.

Why? Because people have started to get suspicious of persons with the 100% correct look. They realize it can be used as a manipulative trick, it can be planned to create a certain first impression which often has nothing to do with what’s beyond the surface.

Personally, every time I see a sales representative with the by the book sales person look (black suit, white shirt, red tie, big grim on his face), the first thought that comes into my mind is: “Watch out! He’s out to trick you out of your money!” The 100% correct look does not communicate authenticity and it’s simply not trustworthy. This leads me to me second point…

Expressiveness is the new way to go. There is a new buzz word out there and it’s called “personal branding” (OK, actually 2 words). According to personal branding, in order to promote yourself and your services with great results, you need to identify what makes you unique and is relevant for the customer, then express it consistently in any context, through any communication channel. This includes your appearance.

Effective personal branding can only happen if you allow parts of your personality to shine and to reflect in your look. This means breaking some etiquette rules, dressing and accessorizing in a way that makes you stand out of the crowd, developing a personal style. And in the XXI century business word, this is becoming more and more important.

Stiff business etiquette about appearance is loosing ground. The fact of the matter is the way people dress in the business word has been changing quite a lot in the past decade. I’m no fashion expert but I think it’s gonna keep doing so for the next one. You can be a pioneer of this change and make an authentic look part of your personal development, or… not.

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Personal development readers vs. personal development doers Nov 08

How many people would you say are into personal development? Very few, right? Keep on reading, and you may realize they’re really fewer than you think. Because I think true personal development means a lot of doing, while a lot of the people in this segment are mostly just into reading/ listening/ viewing: books, blogs, articles, DVD’s, trainings & courses, you name it.

The way I see it, personal development is not essentially about acquiring new information, but about developing new skills and attitudes. And developing skills and attitude requires practice. I mean a whooole lot of practice! Massive, organized, ferocious and persistent action.

Most people I know who go into the reading part, comparing it with how much they actually need to practice to turn the knowledge into skills and attitudes, just the most valuable knowledge, they barely scratch the surface. They read a good book, find some very valuable, practical ideas, at best they start applying them a couple of days, than they move to the next book, seeking some new “inspiration”. They are the “readers”.

And I used to do just this; until I discovered I was just being a personal development literature enjoyer. Some people read love novels, I read “As a man thinketh” and the likes. I still enjoy the reading part a lot, but I’m very aware that this is not what real personal development is mainly about, so I also focus a lot on practicing what I read. On being a “doer”.

Besides the obvious difference in applying between the readers and the doers, there are 3 more important differences I notice very often, which I think go hand in hand with this one:

  • Doers focus on selecting, remembering and organizing the most valuable personal development ideas from what they read, they put them into their growth plan.
  • Doers use strategies for doing, they set practice goals and daily practice tasks, they keep track of progress and find ways to keep themselves motivated.
  • Doers sometimes consciously cut down their reading, as they understand that new information can often interfere with their practicing and defocus them from their goals. Rather, they sometimes re-read the stuff they’re already applying, to keep themselves going.

The result is the actual growing process as a person. I think you can often separate the doers from the readers because the doers are the ones you see after 2-3 years and they seem chanced, improved: maybe they’re more confident, happier, more expressive, more charming or simply… richer. I don’t know about you, but I for one, have the pleasure of being able to say this honestly only about a hand full people.

So, after finishing this article, are you gonna take a deep breath and move on to the next one, or are you gonna get up from that chair of yours? What do you usually do? Are you a personal development reader or a personal development doer?

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Enough with the mind reading: get a 360 feedback! Nov 02

I find that a whole lot of people worry about how others perceive them. They worry, and that’s it. They don’t do anything to actually get a realistic view on the matter. At best, they just try to guess it, they try to mind read it and every once in a while, they ask a person they feel comfortable with what she thinks about them.

If what others think about you is something that’s on your mind, do yourself and your personal development a favor, and do something effective about it: get a proper 360 degrees feedback (aka 360).

A 360 is an assessment of your person, from multiple sources. It is usually given by supervisors, peers and subordinates. Clients, suppliers can also chip in, and even friends or family if you wanna get a perspective beyond you professional life.

I used a 360 degrees feedback for myself repeatedly and I often use it with clients. The fact that it is structured and rich in information makes the results very meaningful. You won’t find out perfectly how everybody sees you, but it’s certainty a lot more scientific than guessing.

I think there are 3 main things you can do with the information you gain from a 360 degrees feedback, other than just wondering why people think you’re selfish when you buy everybody Christmas presents:

  1. Discover the traits you project with ease in any situation and use this for personal branding.
  2. Discover the traits you repress, you hide from others, and use this for becoming more expressive.
  3. Discover your strengths and weaknesses you may not have been aware of, and use this for personal development.

Knowing about the tool is one thing. Using it effectively is another. Here are my top tips for making the most out of a 360:

  • Use a standardized questionnaire for everyone that gives you feedback;
  • Ask specific questions and use very clear phrasing;
  • Ask for feedback from people that know you and care about you;
  • Allow the option of anonymous feedback to help people be more honest;
  • Get feedback from at least 10 people to have representative results;
  • Remember that how others see you is not necessarily how you are.
  • Remember it’s just a feedback, not a flawless evaluation tool.

Getting a 360 degrees feedback takes some effort and most importantly, some courage. Most of us are not used to asking others for clear and specific feedback about ourselves. Asking for it is a statement that we are vulnerable to their perception and it’s a request for something some find risky to give: honest evaluations. Expect this to take you and them out of your comfort zones, and embrace it.

If you’re interested in a specific 360 degrees feedback tool, I recommend 360°Reach by William Arruda. It’s an online assessment that’s well designed, easy to use for personal development or branding, and you can try it free of charge for 15 days. So, enjoy it!

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