Look the part, play the part, be the part.

I’m not sure if anyone famous has ever said this or if it genuinely came out of my head this week, but while interpreting some 360 degree feedback for a client as part of a management development programme, I wrote this phrase and I have decided that I really like it!

The issue identified was related to personal presentation. Several of the managers were rated as below expectation and development needs under the personal presentation criteria.

Employees want to be able to look up to their manager and respect them; they usually expect their manager to look the part. Now I’m not saying the manager needs to be in a suit and it may not be appropriate for them to be so, but this manager’s feedback was ‘need to improve personal presentation.’

So, what is personal presentation? Years ago, I was taken aside by my senior line manager and told my soft tailored suits were not professional enough and that wearing my hair in a ponytail made me look like a school girl. Only a matter of weeks later, the HR Director made me stand up in the open plan office, while she lectured two of my colleagues about how messy their hair was and how they needed to have it, ‘neat, tidy and tied back, just like Donna’s.’ I glanced at my manager who went bright red and could not look at me. Personal presentation is important, but what is acceptable does vary.

As a situational introvert, when I used to exhibit at the milk rounds I was so self conscious that I used to put on a full face of make up before each one. It was the only time I really wore makeup, but it made me feel like I was playing a role and therefore it became easier for me to adopt the role, to be confident, to get our recruitment message across and to achieve the level and quality of applications which we needed.

I looked the part, it was therefore easier to play the part and, gradually, my confidence grew and I could become the part – with or without the makeup. There is a reason people power dress – it is a route to confidence and communication. Managers would do well to remember that how they look as well as what they say affects the people around them.

Leave a Reply