Suited and booted, dress-down casual or uniform, how does the way staff dress influence the image of the organisation? Presentaton guru, Peter Landau invites you to take a look at the powerful visual messages that the way we dress sends out, not just about ourselves, but the organisations we represent.
A number of articles have appeared recently about my concept of Intelligent Dressing™ and how the subliminal messages sent by personal presentation can influence the subconscious or unconscious mind of others in order to gain an advantage.
What no one has stressed is that whether one uses Intelligent Dressing™ or not, one is still sending subliminal messages whatever one wears or however one presents oneself.
So, just as what you wear can improve your chances of success, so what you wear can also ruin your chances.
The subconscious mind is an amazing machine, it takes in information all the time and computes it and most of the time one is unaware it’s happening.
Emotions come from the so-called subconscious or unconscious mind. The subconscious is extraordinary in that it allows others to program it and we also program it ourselves in periods of high emotions.
The subconscious is considered to be the deepest level of consciousness, that individuals are not directly aware of, but still affects conscious behaviour. The subconscious handles all processes that have been in the conscious mind, but which are not currently being used. They sink down to the subconscious. The conscious mind may block many feelings, but the unconscious mind doesn’t. The subconscious mind especially needs and uses feelings.
With this in mind it should be realised that many thousands of people are out there every day doing damage to their own reputation, to their companies and more importantly failing, simply because they send the wrong message.
So how do you as an organisation ensure that your people give the best impression of both themselves and the organisation and have the best chance of achieving goals?
One answer is uniforms. A uniform is a set of standard clothing worn by members of an organisation whilst participating in that organisation's activity.
People performing religious activities have often worn standard costumes since beginning of history. Other historic examples of people wearing uniforms include the clothing of the armies of the Roman Empire and other ancient civilizations.
Modern uniforms are worn by armed forces and public sector organisations such as police and emergency services as well as security guards, schools, some prison inmates etc.
Other workers sometimes wear uniforms or corporate clothing of one nature or another, including but not limited to shop workers, bank and post office workers, airline employees and holiday operators, and bar, restaurant and hotel employees. The use of uniforms by these organisations is often an effort to enhance the brand and to develop a standard corporate image but also it has an important effect on the employees required to wear the uniform.
However the term 'uniform' is misleading because employees are not always fully uniform in appearance and may not always wear clothes provided by the organisation, while still representing the organisation in their attire. Work on organisational dress shows uniformity of dress as one dimension, and conspicuousness as a second. Employees all wearing black, for example, may appear conspicuous and thus represent the organisation even though their attire is uniform only in the colour of their appearance not in its features. Struggles between employees and management about organisational dress are often about deeper meanings and the identities that dress represents. A point worth making is that a suit, on it’s own, does not constitute a uniform.
So while uniforms overcomes issues for some organisations two problems remain. One, if you do have a uniform how can you be sure it is worn properly by everyone all of the time and two, what to do if you don’t have a uniform.
The first is about training and regular inspection to a greater or lesser extent. The armed forces do it in a very methodical and regimented way, but other organisation less so. It’s about organisational culture. One sees a number of organisations where clearly there is little or no transferred culture and where power obviously does not rest entirely with management. These institutions are plain for all to see and we all know the reputation that follows them.
The second issue where no uniform exists is certainly the most complex and the most difficult to resolve. The organisations that I have worked with all end up defining their culture in some detail and cascading it down to every level. This is combined with in-house training and clear observations given to members of staff at times of appraisal and annual review. This goes some way to mitigating any possible negative messages being sent out from the workforce although one is always going to have some, which is true of all organisations.
To turn negative or neutral messages into positive ones is where I use the Intelligent Dressing™ process of PRIDE - Purpose, Research, Intention, Delivery and Evaluation. Pride also because it gives you pride in yourself, pride in your company and the company pride in its brand and its staff.
About the author: Peter Landau is the founder of Intelligent Dressing™. He started his first business in the late 1960s and Peter and has successfully built and sold businesses ever since. In recent years he has advised over 200 companies in the areas of business planning, strategy and business growth. He is a trusted advisor to many company owners and has frequently spoken on enterprise and entrepreneurship and has appeared on many occasions on radio, television and in the print media. He is also Executive Chairman of The London Business Support Service www.thelbss.co.uk. The term Intelligent Dressing™ is © Peter Landau of www.intelligentdressing.com and is used with permission.