Rebuilding trust in the wake of a scandal is always challenging, and nowhere has it been felt more than for the banks.
As the chief executive of the Commonwealth Bank, Matt Comyn said recently, the trust and reputation of the industry has been eroded substantially. “Rebuilding that (trust) is extremely important,” Comyn said.
So how do you build trust? And what part does image play?
Your image is a combination of 4 things – your appearance, behaviour, communication and digital footprint (ABC&D). What you say and how you say it is, of course, very important but what is equally, if not more important, is the overall impression you’re creating when you walk into a room or stand on a stage. And that starts with your initial impression. Does your image help or hinder those, all-important messages?
Let’s take a look at appearance for a minute.
As Sylvia Ann Hewlett, author of Executive Presence: The missing link between merit and success, says: “appearance is the ‘critical first filter’ through which gravitas and communication are evaluated.”
Hewlett and her team at the Center for Talent Innovation surveyed 4,000 college-educated professionals and determined that EP rests on three pillars: Gravitas (how you act), Communication (how you speak) and Appearance (how you look). And whilst appearance accounted for a mere 5% in terms of which was deemed most important, that figure is very deceptive as first impressions – through appearance – is by far the most powerful and will evoke strong reactions in the audience.
You might have paid thousands of dollars for a suit or dress, but if it’s ill-fitting, or the colour makes the wrong statement, your audience will, subconsciously, reject the message. Yes, it’s subtle. And yes, it’s important.
You have a few seconds only to create an impression, and when rebuilding trust, you really do need to make those precious moments count.
So banking executives start by getting smart about your appearance! Here are my top five dressing tips when you are rebuilding trust:
Role model your message. Start by aligning your message with what your audience sees. This is critical for credibility and authenticity. If, for example, you’re talking about the importance of the mental or physical well being of your workforce or customers, be sure to appear calm, centred, rested and healthy yourself.
Know your industry dress code. And dress for it. Almost every industry has one. It’s a look that represents the company culture, its products and services, and which customers associate with the brand. Anything off-centre and unexpected will raise eyebrows and cast doubt.
Dress for each individual occasion. Are you speaking on stage? Addressing the media? Or connecting in a more intimate space? Different situations will require adjustments in the ‘tone’ of your clothing choices. Too formal and you might disengage your audience. Too casual and you could lose respect.
Choose your colours carefully. Colour has powerful psychological impacts on the human brain. This is not the time for big bold power statements of red. Navy blue universally signals messages of trust and respect, and translates beautifully on camera. Pastel accents in ties, shirts or blouses can work wonders to enhance audience engagement.
Pay attention to the details. Chances are, your audience will be on high alert for mistakes so pay careful attention to your grooming. Dirty fingernails, overpowering fragrance, dishevelled hair (think Boris Johnson) and scuffed shoes might seem minor to you, perhaps even trivial, but I can assure you they will take centre stage.
Make those few seconds help you, not hinder you so you create the right impression. Align your image to your audience, and the occasion, and ensure your message is the focus. Not what you’re wearing.