How to cultivate a better professional image for yourself

Like it or not, you do have an image: if you do not develop it by intent, then it will develop by default. So the answer is to make sure that the image you project is an asset rather than a liability. But knowing what image you present and how to go about improving it is more difficult than it would seem at first glance. The suggestions that follow are listed to help you enhance your personal image and to influence more positively the way others see you...

1. Know what image you want to project.

What kind of personal image do you want to project? Do you want to impress as a creative, energetic, innovative, and enthusiastic leader? Or as a laid-back, let-it-all-happen, efficient manager? Or as a sensitive, caring people person? Other people read the signals you project so analyse the image you would like to create and set about communicating the right signals to project that image.

2. Attend to your personal appearance.

Dress appropriately and well, as if you have already arrived at the top of your success pyramid. Wear what you consider will meet other people's expectations of you as a successful manager. Compile and analyse your own personal dress and grooming check list; ties, shoes, hair, accessories, pen, briefcase, glasses, cosmetics, fingernails, jewellery… How do you and others rate your appearance?

3. Be a positive communicator.

What you say and how you say it are important factors in image-building. Have you ever taped yourself in natural conversation or in reading aloud to consider the loudness, pitch, and tone of your voice; and your articulation and speed? Audio tapes can reveal much: boring monotone, nasality, stridency, gotta's, dropped g's, overuse of um's and ah's, and y'knows… All can contribute to a negative personal image.

Be a good listener while at the same time keeping your employees and colleagues informed about what is going on in your department or organisation. Spend as much time listening as talking, and make oral and written communication as positive as you can.

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