The Sweet Smell of Career Success Begins With Good Grooming Habits

22With companies adopting a more casual dress code, some workers are becoming more casual about their grooming habits. Personal hygiene lies at the very center of a professional image. It’s not just the clothing that is worn; it’s what’s underneath it all. If you work with someone who needs guidance, initiate a confidential conversation to reinforce the message that good grooming habits have a positive impact on career growth.

Good grooming habits begin with basic cleanliness and continue with maintenance of one’s body and clothing. With your team member, do a quick mental scan right now, from head to toe. Body Health: Hair. Skin. Nails. Teeth. Clothing/Outer wear: Clean. Pressed. Stain-free. Also consider shoes, cologne, accessories, jewelry, and make-up for women. What’s your final assessment?

I have witnessed plenty of bad grooming habits throughout my professional career. Here are a few of my most memorable:

Bad Teeth. During one of my recent presentation skills seminars, a man in his mid-40s, delivered his presentation with his shoulders rounded, head down, with little eye contact, no smile, and weak vocal delivery. When I shared my observations during our private one-on-one evaluation, he opened up and confided in me that his teeth were really bad, that he was embarrassed, and that he was finally going to the dentist to have them fixed. I felt sad and happy at the same time; sad that he had waited many years to fix his teeth, sad that he may have missed some promotions or better job opportunities along the way, and happy that he was finally doing something about it. Interpersonal communication is a vital part of your life and career, so invest in basic dental care to enhance your image.

Heavy Cologne. Years ago, when I served on a selection committee for a new hire, there was one applicant who stood out, and she didn’t stand out for the right reason. Her cologne reached the conference room long before she did. By the time she arrived, the entire room was filled with a strong musky scent. It was a short interview, and she did not get the job. Over-use of a fragrance can completely shift first impressions. More companies are initiating a fragrance-free work environment because strong fragrance can create unpleasant surroundings.

Clean Yet Stinky. Years ago, I worked alongside a new employee who was delightful and hard-working. It was her first job. Everyone loved her enthusiasm, accuracy and efficiency. Yet we noticed one thing: Her body odor. We asked the oldest woman of our group to have a conversation with this young woman. We felt the news might be better received if it came from a wise sage. This was the right choice. When the news was shared, it was revealed that, although this young woman bathed daily, she wore her clothes several times before cleaning them. That meant that all of the oils from her body, along with perspiration odors, marinated in her clothing. When she put dirty clothes back on her body, it was as if she never bathed. After the conversation, she returned to the office like a new woman. From that moment on, her body and her clothing were clean and fresh. An added bonus: The conversation and the shift in personal hygiene boosted her self-confidence.

How can you help someone who needs a gentle nudge? Initiate a critical conversation by following this simple process:

Be kind. Whatever information you share, demonstrate respect and kindness; do not be judgmental.

Begin with a positive statement. “You are a valuable team member” or “You are doing an excellent job.”

Share specific feedback. “May I offer you some feedback about your personal style?” Once a response is given, add “I have noticed that…” “Are you aware of that?” Wait for a response. Avoid saying “Several people have mentioned to me” or “We have noticed” because you want to ensure that you are building trust in your relationship.

Ask for feedback. See how the person is receiving the information.

Receive feedback without judgment. “Now that I have shared my thoughts with you, what are you thinking?” Wait for a response.

Offer additional help. “May I offer some suggestions?” “How can I help you?”

Keep the conversation going. When you initiate a private conversation about a delicate topic like personal hygiene and grooming, you are deepening the level of trust with that other person. Keep the lines of communication open.

A confidential conversation like this, when it is shared with kindness and concern, can transform another person’s life and offer new career possibilities.

Without Art, There Is No Humanity

Pictured: Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre. Photo by Steve Wagner.

Art is an essential part of my life. It enhances my well-being. You may be the kind of person who values access to community programs that offer music, dance or theatre performances, literary readings, or lectures on philosophy or history. Without art, there is no humanity. Without humanity, hope is compromised.

I was introduced to the arts at a very early age. My mother, a gifted singer, played piano and sang to me in our living room to keep me occupied before I was old enough to go to school. She also acted in our local community theater for many years. I have fond memories of sitting in the back of that community theater, watching my mom in rehearsals. I continued that love of artistic expression into adulthood, and served on the board of directors for several small arts organizations. Today, I remain a dedicated arts patron.

Every nonprofit arts organization relies on some form of public funding to bring its creative and brilliantly produced programs to the community. Currently, several important cultural institutions are being threatened: The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). As independent agencies of the U. S. Federal government, the NEA and NEH were established through the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, which was enacted by Congress.

The NEA supports arts programming in the areas of accessibility, dance, international arts, media arts, musical theater and theater, visual arts, design, literature, museums, opera, arts education, folk and traditional arts, and music.

“What are the humanities?” you may ask. The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965, as amended, explains:

“The term ‘humanities’ includes, but is not limited to, the study and interpretation of the following: language, both modern and classical; linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; ethics; the history, criticism and theory of the arts; those aspects of social sciences which have humanistic content and employ humanistic methods; and the study and application of the humanities to the human environment with particular attention to reflecting our diverse heritage, traditions, and history and to the relevance of the humanities to the current conditions of national life.”

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 is also under scrutiny. CPB provides funding assistance to more than 1,500 public radio and television stations across the country. Programs provide rich educational, historical, and entertainment content.

Funding for these three essential organizations is less than $750 Million. To put things into perspective, proposed U.S. military spending is expected to increase by 10%, equivalent to a $54 Billion hike. That’s with a B, and that’s just the increase.

Where would our American society be without the arts and humanities? The value that these three organizations provide to citizens is unparalleled. Millions of underprivileged children have benefited from after-school arts programs. Senior citizens on fixed incomes have tuned into interviews with thought leaders and listened to great performances. Families have enjoyed free community performances.

Consider how your life (and the lives of your family, your children), has been enriched by programming in the arts and humanities. Now think about how the lives of future generations will be affected if these vital organizations disappear. Take a moment to join the fight to retain the NEA, the NEH and the CPB. It only takes a moment.










Women’s Voices Are Significant to the World

iwd-logomain2Today marks International Women’s Day, one day each year that celebrates the “social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women.” This year’s theme is Be Bold For Change. Take a moment to honor and recognize the women who have served as positive role models in your life, who have inspired and motivated you, and who have bravely charted new territory as pathfinders.

Now imagine your life without them. Oh, wait a minute. You wouldn’t be here if not for a woman! This message is being reinforced by leaders of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. They are encouraging women to participate in A Day Without A Woman on this International Women’s Day by not spending any money (or alternatively supporting women- and minority-owned businesses)  and by not engaging in any work.

Think about all of the women who have encouraged and inspired you. Mothers. Grandmothers. Aunts. Sisters. Daughters. Granddaughters. Great-granddaughters. Sisters-in-law. Mothers-in-law. Teachers. Bosses. Co-workers. Neighbors. Religious leaders. Shop owners. Community leaders. Political leaders. Friends.

I for one would not be the person I am today were it not for the courageous, intelligent, fearless women who came before me.

On this day, I honor my maternal grandmother who emigrated from Poland to begin a new life in America. She spoke no English when she arrived at Ellis Island. As a wife and mother, she ran a large household (with seven children) on a small stipend. Her values of hard work, discipline, and sacrifice were passed on to her children.

My 96-year-old mother continues to inspire me every day. I have enjoyed many lengthy conversations with her over the years, listening to her life story, and understanding her remarkable life as a first generation American. It took her ten years to work her way through college to receive her first degree – at the age of 47. At the age of 80, she received her second college degree. Although she could have audited classes for free as a senior citizen, she preferred to pay for every class so she could earn a degree.

Many women have inspired me from afar. The list is too long to include all of them here, yet, a few stand out…women of all ages and backgrounds:

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” Gloria Steinem


“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou


“Whatever the problem, be part of the solution. Don’t just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles.”

Tina Fey


“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai


“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Mother Teresa


“Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.” Amelia Earhart


“One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.” Barbara Walters

Now more than ever, women’s voices must be heard. We are economic decision makers, leaders in education, innovators in science and technology, entrepreneurs, and nurturers of the human family. Our inclusive and collaborative style leads to positive change. A quick review of Forbes Magazine’s “The World’s 100 Most Influential Women” will remind you of the capabilities and accomplishments of women.

At some point today, pause for a moment, and silently thank the women who have encouraged, supported, and inspired you. Or better yet, pick up the phone and call them!

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Bring Thanksgiving Into the Workplace

CardOnce a year, we Americans come together with our family or friends to give thanks. While the deeper meaning often gets trumped by delicious food and wine, Thanksgiving provides us with one day to relax and enjoy ourselves. What if the anticipation, laughter, enjoyment and camaraderie that we find with family or friends could be experienced at work? Imagine how different the workplace would be. It might look something like this…we would:

  • Look forward to going into work every day
  • Greet co-workers with joy
  • Enjoy stimulating conversations
  • Share stories and memories
  • Laugh until our sides hurt
  • When we felt tired or cranky, we would take a nap and wake up refreshed, ready for more food and conversation!

This is an extreme picture, yet there are threads in each of these behaviors that can be done on a daily basis. What if you arrived at work every day truly thankful for your job? What it has taught you? The income it provides to you? What it allows you to do in life?

My father spent his entire “career” – more than 40 years – working in a steel mill when steel was king in America. He started work at the age of 17, before the mills were organized through the United Steel Workers of America (USW). It was hard, physical work. Even when he experienced the occasional migraine headache, he never complained or missed work. He worked hard, saved his money, and was a good provider to our family of six.

Living through the Great Depression, he knew the value of having a job, being able to buy a home, a car, food for our family and even car vacations touring America. He took his thanks to the mill every working day, remaining positive until the day he retired.

On Thanksgiving Day, he would feast like a king. He looked forward to being with family, enjoying a full plate of food (and sometimes seconds), laughing, telling stories, and even taking a nap when needed.

As you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner and other activities, think of how you can bring that same contentment, happiness and thanks giving into your workplace. What a gift you would give to co-workers if you expressed your thanks on the job every day. Yes, it would be a very different world if we all did that.

What Do You Believe?

beliefAs my husband and I sat, waiting for a free community concert to begin, the woman sitting in front of us asked her friend, “Where’s your mother?” The woman replied, “She didn’t want to come because this concert is being held in a Catholic church.” (Both women were Jewish).

The concerts for the community-based orchestra are indeed held in a variety of religious venues throughout the year. This concert just happened to be performed in a Catholic church.

How sad, I thought to myself, that in our modern society today people are still so “old school.” Then I realized this woman’s mother was from the Traditionalist generation and remained loyal to her strong religious beliefs. She did not feel comfortable in a church. While I respect her belief and choice, her belief was standing in the way of her enjoying a magnificent free concert with an internationally acclaimed young violinist. Did I mention the concert was free?

This week, Oprah Winfrey is hosting a series on Belief on OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network. The series examines the broad topic of belief, including religious belief, and reminds us that we all carry with us different beliefs, and we have the right to do that. The series opens up your thinking about what people believe and what motivates or inspires them to believe.

I realized that my opinion about the Jewish mother not attending the concert was based on my own beliefs. In this case, I tapped into my belief that every person should have access to the arts. The mother definitely had access. I also believe that human beings have free will. Now we’re getting somewhere. The mother’s choice – based on her beliefs – made more sense to me. I was less judgmental of her decision.

It got me thinking: How often do our strong beliefs stand in the way of innovative thinking or creative expression? What do we lose in the process? How does our lifestyle support our beliefs? What do we gain?

The Pro’s Code: Use Good Judgment

Part 7 in a series on professionalism.

Criteria 7: Good judgment: All issues are thought through carefully and clearly; implications are considered before any action is taken.

ChoiceWith experience comes wisdom. An important lesson you have learned as a professional is to think before you speak – or act. It’s a lesson that often requires repeating multiple times throughout a career. Some examples of not using good judgment could include:

You don’t care that your boss is in a bad mood today. You ask for a raise anyway. You don’t get the results you wanted. You learn the importance of timing.

You exaggerate what happened in a meeting with a co-worker. You find out later that the new employee sitting in on that meeting just so happens to be your co-worker’s sister-in-law. Who knew? Open mouth. Insert foot. You learn the importance of discretion.

It happens to everyone in their careers…not taking the time to use good judgment to get the desired results.

Here are some tips on using good judgment:

Think it through. Don’t just act on the first impulse that comes to mind. Carefully scrutinize the decision that you are about to make or the action that you are about to take. Weigh any options.

Ask questions. Take a moment to ask several questions. Who will this decision impact? Who could I potentially hurt? What are the ultimate consequences of my actions? Is what I have to gain worth what I may potentially lose?

Listen to your intuition. If your intuition (or gut) screams out, “Don’t do it!!” then listen. Your intuition is always right. Your intuition knows when something feels right or not.

Question your emotional intelligence. Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence looks at human behavior from four perspectives: Self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management.

Consider others, not just yourself. It’s easy to put a thought, opinion or idea out there. Are you thinking of others rather than just yourself?

Learn from your mistakes. If you realize that you used poor judgment, then learn from the experience. Admit your mistake, learn from it and move on.

Here are a few examples of both good and bad judgment from recent news stories:

ESPN recently awarded its Arthur Ashe Award for Courage to Caitlyn Jenner for having the courage to announce her recent transgender transition. (Good judgment).

Donald Trump is back in hot water after making yet another inappropriate comment that caught the media’s attention, this one claiming that Senator John McCain was not a war hero (McCain was a POW in the Vietnam War). (Bad judgment).

A police officer in Texas forcefully arrested Sandra Bland, a 28-year old African-American woman, for failing to use a turn signal when switching lanes. The officer did not follow proper protocol (bad judgment), took Bland into custody and placed her in jail; later jail authorities found her hanging in her cell. The family has called for an investigation. (Good judgment).

There are positive and negative examples of judgment in the media every day. When you scan these stories, ask yourself “What would I have done differently if it had been me?” You will learn a great deal about your own judgment and integrity. Take the time to make the best decisions you can. In doing so, use good judgment every time, consider the consequences, and you will continue advancing your career.

Time Can Be On Your Side

CompassWhen you hear the words spend and invest, you may automatically think of money. What if you applied those words to time? You would look at time in a very different way.

Spend represents depletion, exhaustion, using up something. It can have a negative connotation. “I spent two full days preparing this report.” It’s time that you will never again have. The blessing – and the curse – of time is that those moments never again return.

Invest reflects a forward intention, movement, planning, strategic thinking. “I invested my time in a spiritual retreat over the weekend.” Investing one’s time symbolizes some benefit, a return on that investment in the future.

Do you have a negative relationship with time (dislike)? or Do you have a positive relationship with time (love)? Is time your enemy or your friend?

If you have a dislike relationship with time, most often you feel like you are continually running out of time, trying to do too much with too little time, finding yourself angry at the time gods each night when you go to sleep (if you’re even getting much sleep).

If you have a love affair with time, you most likely feel complete and fulfilled each day rather than depleted. You know how to pace the work you do and balance it with leisure activities that reconnect you with yourself and loved ones.

Reality check: Most people feel like they don’t have enough hours in the day. You are not alone!

What is your attitude towards time? Do you love it or dislike it? Does it work to your advantage or disadvantage?

If time is currently your enemy (you feel like you never have enough time), then how can you shift your thinking and actions so that you feel like you have enough time each day?

Here are a few suggestions:

Ask. If time is your enemy, ask why.

Assess. Take stock of the things you need to get done in a certain period of time. Are there times of the week, month or year when you feel more of a time crunch (like weekly reporting, monthly sales numbers or at annual tax time)? Are there times of the week, month or year when you feel like you have all the time in the world (annual meeting is over, the sales cycle has ended, new hires are all in place)?

Prioritize. Decide – and do – the most important work first. If you have a performance review scheduled with your boss tomorrow and a monthly report due in three days, which do you prepare for first? The boss, of course.

Delegate. Ask (or hire) someone to help you with small or large tasks, short-term or long-term projects. You may have added some personal burdens that people may not know about, like caring for an aging parent. I don’t know what it is about human nature…we are all so afraid to ask for help. Does it come from that little kid inside of us who – at an early age – wanted to demonstrate how grown up we were by announcing, “I can do it myself!” It is a sign of strength, not weakness, when you know your limitations and ask for help.

Chunk it. Large projects and tasks can be overwhelming. Break down any large assignment into smaller pieces. It’s easier to work on a small part of something big rather than to tackle it all at once.

Do it now. By the time you finish thinking about doing something, you could have gotten it done. The minute you hear yourself saying, “I’ll do that tomorrow,” stop, and ask yourself how long it would take to do it today. Chances are, if you do it today, you’ll sleep better.

Enjoy it. Bertrand Russell said it best: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Learn to fill minutes – even hours and days – with time that allows you to enjoy the present moment, whatever it is.

Shifting from disliking time to loving time requires a small investment of your time and attention.


You Are What You Meet

Aurelien Rigart

Aurelien Rigart, Saint Flo

As a professional, you attend many public events, community functions and business trade shows. How do you show up to those events? Are you investing the time to make a favorable first impression with other professionals or are you there just for the freebies? Whatever you choose, it shows.

Last week I attended a popular annual business expo in my area. Being fully present in every encounter, I was more mindful of my actions. I enjoyed meeting  business owners and company representatives. I exchanged several business cards, registered for a few giveaways, received a few free items and enjoyed a few snacks along the way. The key word here is few. I also reconnected with some colleagues I hadn’t seen in a while. Throughout it all, I shared meaningful conversations. When I reflected on my time at the business expo, I realized that I had truly enjoyed myself because I brought purpose and mindfulness to each encounter. I wasn’t just exchanging small talk and business cards with vendors just to load my free bag with free stuff. I was selective about who I spent time with. As a result, I can remember every face, every name and every conversation.

If you attend public functions just to load up on free goodies, you’re missing one crucial point: People are observing your behavior and watching you as you approach them. They are examining your body language and listening to your words. They are gauging your level of interest in them, their product or service. They know that there are many prospects and new contacts that they can begin building relationships with in that first minute of the conversation. All they want is an opportunity to make a connection with you.

How do you “show up” at public events? Are you engaging, dignified and professional while talking with people or specific vendors who you want to meet? OR Do you walk around the event with a bulging bag of free stuff and spaghetti sauce on your chin? What first impression are you making? Choose wisely.

To Have or To Not Have: A Coffee Chat

coffee-cup-funny-faceSmallIf there is one thing I have learned about the business world today it’s this: People are busy! Their calendars are jammed with meetings, either virtual or in-person. They are being asked to produce more with fewer resources. The bar for performance has been raised into the stratosphere, often accompanied by unrealistic expectations. It begs the question, “How do you use your time each day?”

Time is a precious commodity because there is a finite amount of it available to you. Every person is given 24 hours in one day, 60 minutes in each hour and 60 seconds in each minute. No more. No less. You choose what to do within that given time period every day. Some people handle their time more efficiently than others.

A great time vampire, if you let it be, is the coffee chat. It sounds like a simple request: “Let’s have coffee and chat.” If you are not careful and you don’t qualify the request, that time can quickly turn into this: “Let’s have coffee and chat and spend the entire time talking about me and what I need from you so that I can be more successful in my life.”

Don’t get me wrong. Having coffee with colleagues and chatting about something that is mutually meaningful is time well spent. When someone who you haven’t heard from in 5-10 years wants you to drop everything and have coffee and chat about what he wants to do with his life, then take the time and ask yourself “Is it worthy of me investing my time?”

This is not cold hearted. You are just trying to free up your schedule to do more of the things that you need to do rather than saying “Yes” to every request that comes your way. Here is a foolproof solution to these phantom requests: Have a conversation by phone rather than in person. Not having to drive to a location saves you about an hour round trip. Telephone conversations typically are much shorter than in-person conversations. What could consume two to three hours of your time is neatly reduced to 20-30 minutes. You get what you need, and so does the other person.

The next time someone requests coffee and a chat in person, think about the value of your time. Is it worth two to three hours or 20-30 minutes? The choice is yours.

Oscar Gets a Voice

For one day each year the world watches the Academy Awards televised broadcast (and streaming video) with great anticipation. Who will stroll down the red carpet? What divine designs will women wear? What will the Oscar winners say during their acceptance speeches?

This year I was pleasantly surprised that several celebrities colored outside the lines a bit and delivered thoughtful, heartfelt acceptance speeches. In years past, I often marveled at the speech-less-ness of award recipients who inserted awkward uh’s, um’s, you know’s, and oh’s as they stumbled through the most important speech they would ever make. Not this year. Instead of the ordinary, “I would like to thank my agent, and I would like to thank my director, and I would like to thank my fellow cast members…”, the messages were clear and thought provoking. Here are my top picks, in no particular order:

Patricia Arquette (Best Supporting Actress, Boyhood): Arquette used her limited time on the platform to espouse equal pay. Even Meryl Streep shouted a resounding “Yes!!” from her front-row seat.

Common and John Legend (Best Song, Glory, Selma): Co-writers and performers Common and Legend reminded us that 50 years after the historic walk in Selma, our country and the world still struggles with racial injustice and inequality. Their words encouraged us to reflect on what we can do as individuals to continue the fight.

Julianne Moore (Best Actress, Still Alice): My mother-in-law, who passed away in 2013, had Alzheimer’s, so I was pleased to hear Julianne Moore use some of her acceptance speech to educate the audience about the disease.

J.K. Simmons (Best Supporting Actor, Whiplash): Simmons urged viewers around the world to call their mom or dad if they are fortunate enough to still have them on this Earth. I love calling my 94-year-old mom. My dad? I talk to him too and have been reunited with him several times in my dreams.

Graham Moore (Best Screenplay Adaptation, The Imitation Game): Moore spoke openly about his attempt at age 16 to commit suicide. That took courage. He encouraged the audience to celebrate what makes anyone unique and to be more open minded in trying to understand others who are different.

AskHerMoreInstagramSmallReese Witherspoon: Although her work in Wild did not earn her an Oscar, her voice was heard more from the red carpet and social media than from the stage. Witherspoon posted an Instagram supporting #AskHerMore, part of The Representation Project started last year by Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls. The Instagram encouraged red carpet interviewers to ask deeper questions than just “Who are you wearing?”

Watching the Academy Awards got me thinking: If you were standing on a platform that could reach millions of people around the world, what powerful message – of hope or change – would you choose to share with your audience?