learning & development

Personal Branding for Career Success

We had a great time in Chicago last weekend - weather aside! As I mentioned in last week’s post, we were very excited (and a little nervous) for an upcoming event. This event was exactly what we envisioned when we founded FirstSeven! We were hired by a leading global law firm to conduct a session around Personal Branding. The session was part of a three weekend-long offsite (at the chic Soho House in Chicago) and was attended by about 35 six-year associates, a pretty equal mix of men and women.

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We knew our content was good and relevant, but we were anxious to see how it would be received by this room full of extremely successful professionals. Well, we’re happy to report it was received very enthusiastically.

We kicked off the session by talking about the role personal branding plays in executive presence, and the power of a first impression. We showcased some compelling statistics and research studies that support our premise that image can play a role in professional success. Then, we split into gender-specific breakout sessions (the men headed downstairs to the cinema room, or ‘man cave’ as we affectionately referred to it). In these break out sessions, we moved beyond the ‘why’ and into the ‘how’.  Here we walked through how to build a functional and flattering professional wardrobe. Both the men and women engaged in some interactive exercises and a robust Q&A session.

The Man Cave.

The Man Cave.

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It's always a good day when you’re able to do something you love, with people you like, in a cool space, where you feel you’re really making an impact!

Night before prep!

Night before prep!

We offered samples from  The Laundress , a female founded company that creates eco friendly detergent, fabric care and home cleaning products.  

We offered samples from The Laundress, a female founded company that creates eco friendly detergent, fabric care and home cleaning products.  

During lunch, after the breakout sessions, we overhead a man talking to group of other men (all who had participated in the session) saying ‘I mean, wearing a suit that doesn't fit, that’s career suicide!”. That statement may be a bit dramatic, but we were thrilled our content resonated!

Please contact us to discuss how we can create and deliver custom training content to meet your company’s needs!  We can participate in company off-sites, provide one-hour ‘lunch and learn’ sessions or even facilitate a happy hour or team event.

The Missing Piece in Many Corporate Training Programs

Each of us has probably experienced a moment when a leader enters a room and she instantly attracts the attention of everyone present. Heads turn, conversations halt and everyone just gravitates toward her. Perhaps you can recall a time listening to a CEO address the company or simply chatting with a successful team leader at a holiday party - you just want to listen and engage. You feel motivated and inspired, and led. These people have what some might call a wow factor, and in business it's usually referred to as Executive Presence. There’s quite a bit of research that’s been done on executive presence, and most of them come back to some version of what’s laid out below:

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Most people will agree that to be successful in many career paths, certainly those that involve high-level leadership and management, a certain level of executive presence is crucial.

Most people would also agree that companies should provide training to their employees to help guide them along in their career development and provide growth opportunities. In fact, 68% of workers said that training and development is the most important workplace policy for them. It’s particularly important to millennials, 87% say professional development opportunities are very important. (per a State of the Industry Report from ClearCompany).

According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), “companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalized training. These companies also enjoy a 24% higher profit margin than those who spend less on training. It would seem that continuing to invest in training and development, even when there are economic downturns, is the smart play.”

So what does all this have to do with executive presence, you might ask?  Well, we’ve seen our share of really robust training programs and we’ve talked to many professionals who have been on the receiving end of these programs.  Between the three of us, we've spent decades at companies where they have truly invested in their learning & development programs; offering Presentation Skills, Conflict Management, Leadership Training, Writing & Business Communication Workshops, Negotiation Skills and Effective Brainstorming, just to name a few.  These courses are phenomenal. They help develop character, form behavior and they ensure there is substance and clear communication.  That said, we’ve yet to see any courses that focus specifically on those other key elements of executive presence - style and appearance.

That’s one of the reasons we founded FirstSeven!

According to a study done by LinkedIn, 27 percent of North American businesses are going to spend more on internal learning programs in 2018. Hopefully, some of this increased investment will fund programs to allow employees to explore the power that image has on improving their executive presence and enhancing their career!

Today we’re busy putting some final touches on a program for a top global law firm that has recognized the value of personal branding and executive presence.  We’re so excited to share it with a room full of very successful professionals. Check in next week and we'll tell you all about it!

What You Wear Matters: The science behind dressing for success

In our last post, we introduced the idea of science to support our belief that what you wear matters.  While I don’t think anyone would dispute this claim, it's nice to have some research to back it up.   

Who out there hasn’t experienced that feeling of putting on something that makes you stand up a bit taller, walk more purposefully, and speak more confidently?

Enclothed Cognition is a term that was introduced in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2012 by a team of researchers from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.  They conducted a series of experiments that showcased the power of a lab coat.  This lab coat affected not only how others perceived the wearer, it actually increased the performance on attention related tasks for the group wearing the lab coat, compared to a group without a lab coat.   Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go around wearing lab coats, but this study does prove that what we choose to wear can impact our performance.

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Another interesting finding from this study involved the symbolic meaning of the item.  The team found that when subjects were told the white coat was a painter’s coat, there was no effect at all on the attention tests - the positive effect came only when subjects were told it was a doctor’s lab coat.  This may explain why a pair of Christian Louboutin heels make us feel powerful, while a similar looking pump from a less prestigious brand doesn’t have the same effect.  The researches concluded “Clothes can have a profound and systematic psychological and behavioural consequences for their wearers.”  

Although the saying goes that clothes do not make the man (or woman), our results suggest they do hold a strange power over their wearers.
— Hajo Adam & Adam Galinsky

Another paper published in Social Psychology and Personality Science “suggests that wearing relatively formal clothing is associated with increased abstract processing in everyday life, outside a laboratory context." Abstract processing is related to ‘big picture’ thinking - this is the kind of thinking necessary for executive and leadership roles. While I wouldn’t use this study to advocate eliminating casual fridays, it clearly supports ‘dressing up’ when you have some important work to do.  Even Michael Slepain, the first author of the paper referenced in this paragraph, has stepped up his own wardrobe a bit, ‘When I work at home, I maybe dress a little nicer now,’ he said.  (nymag.com, May 15 2015).  There you have it friends!

When you need to think creatively , about the bigger picture, that’s when dressing more formally will increase your productivity
— Michael L. Slepian

The last study I’ll reference, is perhaps the most concrete in terms of demonstrating an actual quantifiable benefit of dressing purposefully. This study came out of the Yale School of Management, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in 2014.  The study divided men into groups, one group wore business suits another  group wore very casual clothing, and the third group was neutral, remaining in the clothes they arrived in.  He then had the groups participate in mock negotiations where the neutral group acted as the sellers, selling a hypothetical factory to the other 2 groups. “In the end, the suits proved much less willing to concede ground during the negotiations, moving off their initial offer by an average of only $830,000, compared with $2.81 million for those in sweatpants “(Wall Street Journal, Why Dressing for Success Leads to Success)

If these studies haven’t convinced you of the power your wardrobe choices have, consider this: 

  • 41% of employers said that people who dress better or more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their organization (Careerbuilder)

  • You can earn up to 5% more annually by simply upgrading your wardrobe (Newsweek)

  • Over 50% of U.S. Corporate hiring managers suggest professionals spend as much time on their image as on their resume (Newsweek)

 

Paying a bit more attention to what you wear just makes sense.  We’d love to hear your stories about how you ‘stepped it up’ a bit and felt the positive effects!