Gina London_Putting your best face forward

Putting your best face forward

I want to be comfortable, but I still want to appear like a leader, my client told me during our weekly Zoom coaching session, I need your advice, she said.

Despite being the CEO of a large organisation, my client is a female in a largely male-dominated sector. She was determined to hit that leadership balance I keep talking about between credibility and warmth.

So, she emailed me a series of photos of various outfits. I guided her through a series of questions designed to help her develop a more strategic eye to quickly determine how the cut, fabric and colour of any dress or separate set combine to create an impression.

Every day, each of us makes choices that impact the way we are perceived by others. I divide the range of our choices into three main categories: Appearance, Behaviour and Communications.

Now, as more of us are beginning to emerge from behind our webcams and make the occasional socially distanced, yet, in-person business meeting, it’s time for a quick refresher on that all-important first aspect of making an impression, your appearance.

I know what you’re thinking. We should judge each other on what’s on the inside, not the outside. I agree. But according to the Association for Psychological Science, attractive people are treated more favourably in nearly every area of life, from dating to employment to criminal trials.

Attaining a professional business appearance is not the same as entering a beauty contest, obviously, but, for women and men, it is about making an effort to take control of the things you can, to put your best image forward.

1) Curate your clothing

Men, your suit jacket should fit you properly. Jackets sleeves should let about a quarter-to a half an inch of the shirt peek from underneath. Not much more or less. Cut off any manufacturer label on the sleeve and don’t forget to snip the threads on the vents of your jacket if it has vents.

Trousers, assuming you plan to put on trousers again someday and not continue wearing a jacket with pyjama pants in video calls forever, should properly fit as well. Considering length, whether you go for no break, light break or medium break, the point is you should understand and take ownership for the message each style says about you.

Ladies, let’s face it, we’re judged more harshly than our male counterparts when it comes to business attire.

As First Lady Melania Trump approached the podium in the newly remodelled White House rose garden this past Tuesday to give her Republican Convention address, commentators couldn’t help but remark on her military-style, olive green dress.

“Dressed for battle,” stated Vanity Fair.

“Dictator cosplay,” snarked New York Magazine.

Make no mistake, your clothing speaks for you.

2) Put on a little make up

Whether web-cam, or in-person, achieving a polished look might also require a little serum to smooth fly-away hair, a dash of concealer to cover dark circles or blemishes, or a bit of powder to reduce forehead or chin shine that can shimmer and distract from your on-screen message. Again, for both women and men.

“It’s about simple products used in a simple way to give confidence,” Danny Gray, CEO of War Paint for Men told me by phone. The London-based founder of the first men’s makeup brand to have a counter in a main street retail store, Danny founded the line to break the stigma associated with professional men choosing to wear makeup.

“Thirty-two percent of our customer base is over 50. I don’t care if you’re 7 or 70 years old, confidence is always a thing,” said Danny.

He first discovered confidence through a cover-up stick he borrowed from his sister as a teen.

“I was 15 years old and I got spots like most young men do and it really affected me. I turned to my sister and she gave me a concealer. I couldn’t believe the power of products and what they could do.”

In our largely conservative business world, we are still living in a time where natural-looking makeup is key.

For men, it should look like you’ve not applied anything. For women, your foundation should match your skin-tone and don’t forget to smoothly blend across your jawline into your neckline. If you opt for a brighter lip colour, it’s a safe bet to go for more natural eye makeup and if you do love a smoky eye, please save those enormous lash-extensions and HD eyebrows for the weekend if clubs ever open again.

Makeup application can be daunting. I’ve always enjoyed painting as a hobby and perhaps by extension, the art of makeup. Back in the day, the gals at CNN’s makeup department would even hand me a small brush to perfect my lipliner myself. But it’s not everyone’s forte.

Since Covid is preventing makeup counters from demonstrations, men can turn to War Paint’s website and ladies can choose among about a zillion tutorial sites on YouTube for tips.

It’s important to remember that our business interactions are not solely dependent on our appearance. But the more we learn, the more we can take charge and feel confident.

Gina London

Gina London

An Emmy-winning former CNN correspondent and anchor with premier clients in five continents, she guides the top companies and executives in the world to more positively connect and engage with their employees, their board and themselves.

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Meet Gina!

An Emmy-winning former CNN correspondent and anchor with premier clients in five continents, she guides the top companies and executives in the world to more positively connect and engage with their employees, their board and themselves.

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