5 top tips for successful Executive grooming

Ok, so hands up who thought this was going to be a slightly riskee ditty on identifying and luring promising young talent? Well, sorry to disappoint you but it’s not. Not in this day and age. And quite right too. And if it was the grooming # that got you here then shame on you and begone! Instead, this is about sorting out that frustrating but increasingly important part of your executive life, your image.

I say frustrating. Historically I have certainty found it frustrating, but I do realise that this may not universally be the case, and I may have been at one end of the extreme. At the other end, I have come across plenty of executives – both male and female – who spend more time working and refining their image than is healthy, and certainly more time than they bother to spend helping their often flailing teams. As with many things, the sensible place to be is somewhere in the middle, and I have long recognised that without doing some basic maintenance of your image you are putting yourself at a distinct disadvantage in the “getting on” stakes. More recently I have also learnt that doing some relatively low key work on your image, whilst making sure you keep your ego in check, is not only worthwhile but actually quite rewarding. This is my best quick fire guide to sorting out the basics with minimum fuss.

1. Hair so fair…

As your grandparents will no doubt have told you many times – you must always have a nice neat haircut. Belatedly I have actually started to follow this sage advice, and spend decent chunks of time and money on my pate. Vain I know. But given that this is from a life long cheap barbers shop man – in and out in twenty minutes with an itchy neck and jangling change from a small note was more my modus d’operandi – this has been quite a conversion. My own thriftiness in the Haircare stakes was instilled in me by my dad. Although for most of my childhood we did frequent an, at the time, relatively on trend and bourgeois barbers shop called Roberto’s, there was a definite thrift (and style) catch to our visits. You see, at Roberto’s there were always 4 chairs, 4 barbers and a whole gaggle of willing haircuttees loitering. Well, all willing and queuing for 3 of the chairs. We always visited the 4th chair, walking past the queues for the confident and aromatic Roberto, the swarthy and evocative Salvatore, and the boisterous and gregarious Ricardo. The plus side of the 4th chair was no queues. I almost always got seated directly into the chair, of Gilbert, an elderly, dour, shrinking, bald gentleman, with thick rimmed spectacles and a permanent cold. The only time he had been near Italy was as a POW. You certainly got what you paid for. I have now seen the error of my ways and converted. I pay top dollar, get my head massage, my glass of wine, my glossy brochure page flick and a damn good haircut. It actually makes me feel much better about myself – as long as I ignore the wallet impact. Crucially I trust them to keep me young and fit looking and that is important. When the time comes to die my hair, and keep it fair, it will be them that I trust. My suggestion is to swallow your pride and give it a go.

2 Facial flair…

I have to say that looking after my skin, and in particular my face, has figured even lower on the must do list. I once overheard a woman to woman whispered tip – “never trust a man who moisturises”. Well, I’m afraid now that’s me too. Obviously this needs to be done casually rather than obsessively, but the good news is it’s a really quick job and it does make you look and feel much fresher – and dare I say it younger. Again, I’m a convert.

One saying that I do agree with however, is another pearler from my mother in law. “Never cultivate on your face, what grows naturally elsewhere.” She is not a fan of beards – and neither am I. Fashion is a funny and fickle thing, but I see beards, and the fad towards them, as just another unnecessary distraction. And boy do some people fuss over them. A previous erstwhile CEO boss of mine, #Ricky-the-Tit, was forever playing and plucking with his perfectly manicured specimen during meetings and presentations. Very off putting I can assure you, and I still can’t help but draw parallels with hiding parts of you away, with Ricky it certainly wasn’t his talent he was hiding.

3. Dress to impress…

Sartorial elegance has never been a natural bedfellow of mine. Another legacy from my dad who was most happy in a shabby sports jacket, towelling shirt, pair of slacks and a peaked cap. Again, this has haunted me from an imagine perspective for most of my career. Clothes that fit rather than look good were my “go to” and there was only ever a cursory glance in the mirror on the way out the door, as well as a check that the shoes matched (once recently I failed this test and found myself due to present to the board in one black and one brown until urgent procurement measures were taken). Well guess what? Spending more time reflecting in the mirror to actually think about how I am going to tackle each situation in every day led me to realise that I pretty much looked like shit most of the time. Now I actually try to buy clothes that look good on me – even if they do cost a bit more. I’m lucky in that the closest opinion to me – my long suffering wife – has a great eye for everything (except men) and is not shy of telling it as it is. The downside is more time in shops. The upside is feeling a bit better about myself and therefore more ready to tackle the trials and tribulations of everyday Executive life.

4. Walk the walk…

A very simple but effective tool in the burgeoning image armoury is to get your walk right. This was another tip from an early mentor that struck home with me and stuck. Walk with purpose. Fast, big strides, facing forwards. It gives a clear impression of Executive on a mission. Knows what they are doing. Going places. And by the way, it’s good for you as well. Faster you walk the more you burn. Win win.

5 And talk the talk…

Possibly the most salient saying to tumble from the wise mind and lips of my now infamous mother in law goes like this. “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.” Having worked in a legal office for over 50 years I know that M-I-L has seen some sights, and witnessed the whole spectrum of bosses. From where it matters most – the office floor. Let’s be honest, of the top executives that you know, how many of them, when it really comes down to it, are jumped up twats, full of their own sense of importance, and partial to the more than occasional display of anything other than “being nice”. Well, let’s see if we can change that. Because the truth is you do not have to be a nasty twat to succeed. You can be civil to people. All the time. Nice even. It won’t kill you. But it sure will be noticed.

All of the above are specific things you can do to improve your image, and if done carefully and in a balanced way, shouldn’t tip you too deeply into the abyss of vanity. However the very best way to improve your image and your standing amongst the people you see most often is to work on exuding an aura of health and happiness. Ok, so every hour of every day is going to be a challenge, but I am a growing believer that positivity really works, and most importantly, as long as it’s genuine and not overdone, is really infectious and potentially inspiring for people around you. Because it’s not just about you you know….


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