Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Part 3)

This is the final post in a series that I hope has been able to help you consider how your image might be impacting your success, and your fulfillment on the job and in life. The posts are condensed excerpts from a presentation I delivered for a group of business professionals. Many wrote or phoned me afterward to say they had heeded my advice, and were seeing a positive difference in the way they conducted themselves and were perceived by others. If you'd like to catch up, this series began with the post "He Said WHAT?" and was followed by "Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate" Steps 1 and 2. Today's Topic and
Step 3: 
Be Appropriate. Apply this to all aspects of your professional life. And, frankly, to your personal life. Let's start at my favorite place... your ABC's. And, pay close attention to the social networking advice near the end of the post!

Appearance:  Dress appropriately for the situation. If you believe there’s a chance that ‘situation’ may change during the day, keep an extra set of clothes in the car. Took me one time to learn that lesson. I was a news anchor on duty in Pensacola. There was an emergency call and I went straight from the anchor desk, INTO the waters of Pensacola Beach, where I recorded for posterity (and WKRG News Center 5) the efforts of about 50 swimmers and surfers  to help free a beached whale shark. 

Pantyhose and an a-line dress.  Great in the studio. In the surf.. not so much.

From that point on, I always carried a second set of ‘less stuffy’ clothing with me. If you have a profession where the situation, and location, might quickly change (realtor, sales) you mght consider doing the same. Don't wear your after-5- or weekend- clothes to work. It sends out signals that you are to be  taken less seriously on the job. Who wants that? In addition, know when it’s appropriate to dress down or dress up. And with business casual- remember, the emphasis on 'business', not on 'casual.'

Keep it on the up and up. There's a longer list, but for this post's purposes: political rants, sour puss attitudes, flirting, salty language, and dirty jokes have no place in the workplace and in most social settings, for that matter. What (or who) you laugh at says volumes about your character. So do the words you choose to say. An acquaintance recently recounted how her supervisor (on my friend's first day on the job) dropped about a dozen expletives in the morning staff meeting. She immediately lost respect for him and that colored their professional relationship from that point. Watch your manners. Others are watching them.

When you are having a face to face conversation, be polite. Look the person in the eye. That says that you value this interaction with them.Talk TO them, not AT them, or worse yet-- down to them. On the phone, keep a pleasant tone in your voice. Don't open the mail, eat a sandwich, or even read this blog while you are on the phone. Your indifference will show in your voice and you risk offending the person on the other end of the line.  Email: Watch your tone. DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS. IT SEEMS AS IF YOU ARE SHOUTING! Do not write emails when you are angry, upset or distracted. Once you hit "send", it's impossible to retrieve words you wish had never been written. And finally, I cannot address the area of “appropriateness” without touching on social networking.  Be very careful what you post on your Facebook and Twitter pages, and on your blogs. Remember, this is not just an intimate little gathering of friends reading about your latest escapade, bad date, or bad mood. Your post might be read by someone who, before your little revelation, was considering hiring you-- or promoting you. Weigh every word. Put into your mind your boss, your most important client.. or the person you would most like to have as your boss or client. Picture your mother.. or your pastor.. reading it. Then decide-- is this really appropriate?
Here are some actual FB posts I’ve been collecting for about a year. No names. But check out their professions. Would YOU want to work with, or hire. them?

"People just try to mess everything up. People are crazy." ~ A county commssioner
"Supplements make me gag." ~ A nutritionist
"So-and-so defendant (I've purposely withheld the name) is a disgrace to the human race." ~ A journalist in the middle of covering this person's trial. How's that for non-biased reporting?
"My feelings are so hurt. Oh, well. I guess I just have to deal. Why is life so hard?" ~You ready for this one? A MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER. Really?

As I wrote in the first article on this topic, "He Said WHAT?", learning to project a confident, polished, trustworthy image by matching what's on the inside with what we project on the outside is a process. I look for ways to improve every day. But, if you use these short tips--Be Aware, Be Authentic and Be Appropriate--and if you concentrate on your ABC's--you will be well on your way to helping the world see the very best that is inside of you. Remember---
“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” ~George Eliot

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Step 2)

The past few days I've been sharing with you the importance of matching what we project on the outside with who we really are on the inside. This thing called 'image' not only speaks to our level of professionalism, but also to our character. To catch up, read the "He Said WHAT?" post from a few days ago, then yesterday's post Triple A Image-Step 1- Be Aware. 
Today’s tip:

Be Authentic.

The dictionary definition of authentic is: "Genuine, real, not false or copied." When it comes to your image, you have to decide who you are. Are you the friendly, approachable person?  Are you the no-nonsense, let’s-get-it-taken-care-of specialist? Are you  laid-back.. or aggresive? (Are you a little of both?) Are you an early bird who gets the worm.. or the tiger who kicks it into high gear later in the day?

When you are defining your image, don’t try to be anyone other than who you are. You can fake it for awhile, but you cannot sustain it and that’s when you veer into the area of image without substance. It's a dangerous venue that will ultmately lead to failure, because it will cause others to lose confidence in who you say you are.. and what you do. 
Once you determine who you are--what's really inside your heart and your mind--decide how best you can demonstrate that through your image-- your ABC's. (See previous post.)  Be consistent so that you.. and your image.. are reliable. If you do need to make adjustments so that the outer You matches the inner You... don't fake it. Work on it. Keep it real! Be authentic in your efforts.

Next Time: Be Appropriate.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate (Step 1)

You are in a doctor’s waiting room. It’s quiet. You're reading a magazine. The door opens and someone walks in. What do you do? You stop reading, you look up, and your eyes follow this newcomer from the door...across the waiting room... all the way to the receptionist's window. You immediately begin making assessments and assumptions. Based on attire, grooming and communication (verbal and non-verbal) you decide within seconds if this newcomer is another patient (who better not try to get in ahead of you,) a delivery person, a staff member, or a pharmaceutical rep (who definitely better not try to get in ahead of you.) Based solely on the way they are dressed you make assumptions about their social standing, level of education, financial status, even if they are likable, unpleasant or a downright pain in the neck. Yes, you do. Even if you don't realize it.

And, guess what?

People are doing the same to you… in the doctor’s office, your business office, the grocery store, the post office, the movie theater, etc. Your appearance is the first message you give out about your image--about who you are. What does your image say about you?

Image Enrichment™ is a process. It takes time and thought. But, I'd like to help you get a jumpstart, by sharing three quick tips gleaned from a recent presentation I gave to a group of business professionals. Today’s tip:

Be Aware.

Be aware of what you want your image to say.  When you walk into a room, what are the first words you want to come into others' minds? Take the time to put it in writing. Make a list of the qualities and attributes you have on the inside, and that you wish to project on the outside. Then, make another list-- a brutally honest list that critiques your current image. Compare the lists and determine where you want to make improvements. Concentrate on your ABC’s: your appearance, behavior and communication skills.

How’s your appearance? Do you need to update your wardrobe with clothes that are complimentary to your body type, skin tone and hair color? Do you need to add clothing that says 'professional, successful and confident'? Do you need a more contemporary hairstyle, makeup, or even eyeglasses? Do you need to shape up? Healthy, fit people are perceived to be more confident, likable and successful. I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just sayin’ it IS.

How’s your behavior? Do you need an attitude adjustment? Something as simple as a smile goes a long way toward projecting an approachable, professional, confident image. How do you behave in business-social situations?  Do you tell, or laugh at, dirty jokes, or do you keep the humor clean? Do you gossip, or do you keep the conversation on the high road? Are you kind and patient with others, or are you snappy and bossy? 

How are your communication skills? Do you need to improve your vocabulary with interesting, engaging words? Easy suggestion: Sign up for Word of the Day. It’s one of the best tools around for learning interesting words. Watch your volume. People shy away from folks who shout, or who speak so softly you have to strain to hear them. Be aware of your body language, and cultivate a firm, confident handshake.

I recently worked with a client who is retired military. He says that in a gathering of military personnel, he can tell a person’s rank simply by the way he or she enters a room and the way they carry themselves—whether in uniform or not. They never even have to speak. Their posture and facial expression, the way they walk and shake hands tell the story. It’s the same with all of us. Be aware of the signals you are sending, and determine whether they are true to the person you are, and to the person you wish others to see.

Next Time:
Triple A Image Step Two: Be Authentic


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

For Goodness Sake

The first Triple-A Image post is coming tomorrow. In the meantime, I couldn't resist posting this wonderful quote from the wonderful John Wesley.

“Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

Now... that's good.

Monday, July 18, 2011

He said WHAT?

It was a hot summer day many years ago. I'd had a grueling week at the television station where I served as both morning news anchor and managing editor. So, I snagged a comp day, threw on a swimsuit and headed for the beautiful beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama. After relaxing in the sand for a few moments, I realized that in my haste, I had forgotten to carry something to drink. So, I walked up to the concession area and asked the young man behind the counter for a bottle of water. As I handed him my dollar bill, and reached for the water, he put a tight grip on both, refusing to let go. I looked up at him and he said, "You're not... mmmm.. you're not... nah... you can't be. You're not that lady on TV are you? That.... Drexel Gilbert?" I straightened my shoulders, flashed my biggest TV camera smile and said, "Why, yes. As a matter of fact, I am." To which he replied... "Oh. I guess you must wear a lot of makeup on TV."

Yes. He. Did.
I stomped back to my spot in the sand, fussing and carrying on the entire way. "Seriously?  A lot of makeup? Dude. I've had a hard week. Give me a break..." and on and on. Then I took stock of myself.   For my 'cover-up' I was wearing one of my husband's raggedy fishing t-shirts;  I had on a dirty baseball cap that was probably older than that young man; and my shoes had more flop than flip to them. I realized I'd let that young man down.

He was used to seeing me with my hair styled, my makeup on, speaking to him in a professional manner. I'd blown his image of me. The next time I went to the beach, I wore pantyhose and pumps.

But, I did purchase a new coverup, a nice straw hat....and HUGE sunglasses. No more embarassing 'gotcha's' for me! And, that is when I began to study the importance of image on our professional-- and our personal-- lives. People do make assumptions and judgments about us based on how we dress, speak, and behave. I'm not telling you that it's right. I'm just telling you that.... it IS.
Over the course of the next few days, I'm going to offer some advice on ways to enrich your image. Don't get me wrong. Image isn't everything. There has to be substance behind it. We see the danger of 'empty image' everyday on the television screen and tabloid covers, with celebrities and politicians who look the part---and that's all. Image should be the outward reflection of who you are inside. Image Enrichment™, as I like to call it, starts with the heart.
I hope you enjoy the advice that is to come. I'm basing the next few posts on a speech I gave to a group of business professionals. It's entitled "Triple A Image: Be Aware, Be Authentic, Be Appropriate." Perhaps you will find tips to help you reach whatever goal you may have set for yourself and to become more successful and fulfilled in your professional and personal endeavors.
P.S. I think I might go to the beach tomorrow. Where DID I put those sunglasses?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Feature

“From Heaven, the Lord looks down and sees all mankind.” Psalm 33:13
He stole my heart the way a baseball player steals a base-- in the blink of an eye and before I even knew it was happening. I took in his angelic face, his infectious smile, and his boundless energy, and I was smitten. Instantly.

His name was Jacob. He was seven years old.

As I watched his bat connect with the ball, time and time again, I marveled at his timing and his aim. Not many boys his age would have so masterfully conquered the skills of… tee ball.  Especially, if they could not see the ball, or the tee on which it was perched. 

You see-- Jacob was blind.

My assignment was to bring in a feature report on people helping people. My search led me to Jacob and his youth league coach.  Retinoblastoma had robbed Jacob of his eyes when he was four years old. But his pre-school memories of playing tee ball in the back yard remained vivid in his mind and he wanted to play once again. By seeming coincidence, a youth league coach learned of Jacob and agreed to put him on his team.

In the beginning, the coach would patiently tuck Jacob’s tiny hand into his own, and guide it to the place where the ball sat.  He would wrap his arms around Jacob and help him aim, then step away and let the child take the swing. When bat and ball connected, the coach would again grasp Jacob’s hand and guide him as he ran around the bases. The reaction from the crowd was always the same. Emotional silence followed by thunderous applause. 

As time went on, Jacob mastered many of the moves of the game on his own.. no longer needing a guiding hand every time he stepped up to the plate. He even took his place in the outfield and was often heard gleefully yelling “Hit it to me! Hit it to me!” 

Jacob’s mother once said to me “He doesn’t think he is blind.” Indeed, it seems to me that Jacob has simply learned to see with his heart, instead of his eyes.

Today, when you are faced with a difficult situation or person, think of Jacob. Resolve to put a smile on your face and shout out to life: “Hit it to me!” Like Jacob’s tee ball coach, God promises to take our hand, put his arms around us and guide us around the obstacles in our way, making certain we move safely toward ‘home.’

*This is an excerpt from my video devotional, "Anchored". My thanks to Jacob, and his mom, Jessica, for allowing me to tell their story. They are my heroes now.... and forever. If you would like to see the video version of this blog entry, click this link which will take you to my website.
Photo Courtesy: Promise. A quarterly publication of St. Judge Children's Research Hospital. Memphis, TN.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ode to 52

Oh, 52…You wicked age.
I welcomed you, as Life's next stage.
You told me age would make me wise.
Oh, really? 
Try telling that to my thighs.
At 51, I was trim and lean.
I could eat French fries, and chocolate ice cream.
At  52, a lettuce snack
Will add 5 pounds to my view ‘round back.
The biggest ‘gift’ mid-life doth bring
Are calories that seem to cling
To waist and tummy and hips and chin.
But, 52,
You will not win.
My new regimen has now kicked off.
I’m 52, but I’m not soft!
A two mile walk will start my day.
And, sugar’s out.. but veggies stay.
No fats, no sweets, no restaurant cookin’,
At least until I like how I’m lookin’.
So, 52, just kiss my grits.
Oh... and, eat them, too.
They’re off my list.