Lately it seems that
almost every day I hear from a human resource professional who is struggling to
talk with someone in their organization about their image. Personal image can
be a very private, personal, and difficult thing to talk about, after all. Who
among us wants to find out that our interpretation of the dress code was wrong
or that our image is not a positive reflection of the one the boss envisions?
While it can be a delicate matter to have this kind of conversation, I always
advise the human resource manager that it is really no different than
addressing an employee who comes to work late or whose work is not up to
standard. It’s just that many employees who have a strong work ethic, great
performance, and an energetic “get it done” attitude have never really learned
the how-to’s of creating a top-notch professional image. So that’s when the
organization’s human resource team calls to seek my professional advice.
I always make sure
that in discussing the individual I find out specifics about how he or she does
not best represent the corporate brand in terms of a professional presence. It’s
important to understand specifics, not broad generalizations, and I’ve heard
them all. Inappropriate dress and grooming essentials, poor table manners,
ineffective email communication skills, a lack of rapport, deficient
inter-office communications and platform skills, a lack of office etiquette –
the list goes on and on.
Typically during the
course of the conversation I find out that the employee in question is a highly
valued employee and company asset. Of course they are! Otherwise why would a
large organization seek out a consultant and coach for professional advice on
how to deal with that employee’s personal image?
It’s never easy, of
course. I often revert back to the many conversations I had with different
levels of employees during my days as a senior executive with Macy’s. After
each of those conversations I always felt relieved that the discussion was
behind us so that I could begin to see how the employee was going to respond
and work to solve the issue at hand. Now that I work as a consultant with
organizations I am able to offer tips, advice, and my executive coaching skills
–before, during, and after these conversations.
It’s always an
eye-opener for the employee to hear this type of constructive feedback. But
after our first session they realize how wonderful the organization was that it
was willing to seek an image coach to give them the specific skills and tools
they needed to enhance their image. I’ve
never yet worked with a company that did not feel that a positive shift or
change happened, once the individual understood how their image represented the
organization and I had an opportunity to coach them to bring out their ultimate
We have also found that these valued employees
remain with the organization for a longer duration of employment and feel very
positive about the organization and their workplace experience. They appreciate
that their company enlisted an experienced outside consultant to help them
polish their professional development skills.