A word about workplace clothing…

As a diehard fan of the now gone What Not To Wear, I fully accept the power of clothing to impact the way a person is perceived, but more importantly…how a person feels.

We’ve all had a moment where we put on a new pair of pants or a kickass blazer and thought, “I will OWN this day. Boom.”

We’ve all had that day where we put something on that we’re not super excited about and then spend the rest of the day fussy about how it fits, how it looks, how it feels.

And for some of us, we have an article of clothing that we absolutely love that’s slightly different from the mainstream – it could be shoes, it could be a button-down shirt, it could be socks, etc. Whatever it is, it is somehow magical and we love it. And we don’t really care if you love it, but we kind of hope you do because how could you not? IT’S AMAZING.blog

Then we run into coworkers who somehow feel like it’s their job to make comments about what you’re wearing. And those coworkers may think they’re being funny…but they’re not. They make you second guess what you look like and now you never feel like wearing that awesome tie again. Because now you’re that “tie guy.”

Look, I get that we all have different tastes. We all grew up with different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels – this impacts the way we dress and what we think looks fabulous. Shouldn’t we be celebrating this instead of judging it?

Here’s a rule of thumb: NEVER comment on something someone is wearing unless it’s to compliment them. Here are some examples of what that might sound like:

“That color looks great on you!”
“I like your tie.”
“I want to steal your shoes, they’re so cute.”
(That last one might just be something I tend to say…)

See? Not once did someone make a joke about the color, print, cut, or otherwise about what someone was wearing.

Do people sometimes show up in the office looking horrific in your eyes? OF COURSE THEY DO. Remember, we all have different tastes – one person’s treasure is another person’s nightmare. I, for one, don’t get shoulder pads. Then again, I have the shoulders of a football player and have never needed them. (The early 90s were a tough time for me.) But I don’t comment on it – why ruin someone’s happiness about how they look?

Unless someone’s dress is unsafe, unallowed, or impacting their ability to be successful – don’t worry about it. Compliment them, or just shut the hell up.

The world won’t end because someone wore white socks with black shoes.

Snark is the New Cool…and that may not be cool

One of the things you may not know about me is that I’m a bit of a musical theater nerd.  What this really means is I tend to be a singing snob.  Yeah…I’m one of those people.  It doesn’t mean I think I can do it better than other singers, I just get annoyed when singing isn’t done correctly. (Note to teachers of young singers – STOP MAKING THEM SING OUT OF THEIR NOSES!!!!!  Thank you.)

So when a live broadcast of The Sound of Music was announced with Carrie Underwood, I wasn’t terribly excited.  Nothing against her voice – I’m just not a country fan and I think sometimes she can be a little wooden in her performance.  And I love Julie Andrews.  Therefore, I chose not to watch.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t read a bunch of the comments made on social media on the interwebs.  Seriously, y’all got creative.  And some of you were funny.  And a little mean.

snark1

I was listening to Seth Speaks on my satellite radio (On Broadway channel – enjoy!) and Laura Benanti was a guest (she played the Baroness on the NBC broadcast, and starred as Maria in the Broadway revival…and she is amazing).  She was sharing some backstage stories and such, and Seth asked her what she thought about the comments made against Carrie.  And Laura threw down on the haters.

“Snark,” Laura says, “is the new cool.”   She pointed out that here was a person with the courage to try something she’d never done before…live…in front of 18 million people.  Instead of applauding her for it, and celebrating the fact that a major network took a chance to bring a new, younger audience to Broadway and music, the Twitter-verse used it as a chance to show off how clever it is.

No snark?
This stuck with me.  I love snark.  I enjoy the heck out of reading it, and I tend to engage heavily in the dishing out of said snark, too.  But Laura has a point – snark can get in the way of what you’re really trying to accomplish.  It can shut down people’s willingness to take a chance.  It can break down the feeling of “team”.  A lot of people who give snark can’t take it, so then you get a whiny snarker.  And while snark might be funny or make you look clever, is it adding anything of value to fix the perceived issue?  In short, snark can be extremely damaging.

What to do?
I’m not going to advocate going snark-free.  A little snark is like good satire – it points out that the emperor has no clothes and uses humor and shock to heighten awareness about a situation.  Matt Charney’s Snark Attack blog  is great!  So is Television Without Pity (spare the snark, spoil the network).  That snark IS cool.  And funny.  And thought-provoking. And change driving.

So if you consider yourself a snark aficionado (and who doesn’t, amiright?), use the next 30 days to pay attention to how and when you use it.  If your intent is pure and you’re working towards a greater good, snark away.  And a little snarkiness amongst friends can be fun!  But if you’re employing snark to put someone else down because it makes you feel better about yourself and you think it makes you look clever, stop it. You’re just being an asshole.

A Tale of Two Leaders (why humility matters)

After sitting 8 hours in the cold to watch the Broncos lose to the Ravens in a game in which they inexplicably abandoned everything that got them there in the first place, I was in NO mood to watch, listen, or read anything about football in general and the Broncos in particular.  (Seriously, we practically had a media blackout in the house – we only caught the end of the Atlanta/Seahawks game because it was on in the store where we were shopping for a treadmill.  But I digress.)

Despite my desire to avoid any and all stories about the Broncos, I couldn’t help but click on this  article when I saw it on Yahoo!  It describes the post-game meeting between Peyton Manning and Ray Lewis.  (Another great article on the story can be found here.)  What struck me as I read about it was how difficult it had to be for Peyton to be there…to wait for what had to be forever to say goodbye to a respected competitor.  And the feeling of respect was mutual (the Peter King SI.com article quotes Lewis as saying he was missing a “great warrior”).  This was humility in action – leading by example, respectfully wishing luck to a longtime rival.  Peyton Manning is a leader.  Not in words, but in behavior.

Let’s contrast that with the debacle of the Lance Armstrong fall from grace.  Using his stature and his money and his power, he bullied and sued anyone who dared to speak the truth about him.  He was the face of an amazing foundation that gave a lot of people with cancer hope and support…and yet his actions said anything BUT leadership.  During is “apology”, he showed no contrition and a distinct unwillingness to hold himself accountable for his actions over the years.  Rather than show humility, he showed defiance.  As Dan Wetzel wrote in his article about the event, “After the first session the only question left unanswered is how he ever found so many friends to stab in the back in the first place.”

Humility is a powerful tool in the leadership toolbox – not as a manipulation element; rather, as a real and honest emotion that leaders can and should display in times challenge and in triumph.  A humble leader is a leader people want to follow.  A humble leader understands his limitations, and welcomes the contributions of others. When mistakes are made (and they will be made), a humble leader accepts them and learns from them – regardless of who made them.  Peyton Manning, through his actions away from the spotlight, shows a humility that people respect. (Except for maybe New England fans, but that’s their problem. But I digress…again.)

Despite the power of humility, too many leaders take the Lance Armstrong route – pretending they’re invincible, bullying others when they dare speak the truth, deny and cover up mistakes in an effort to remain “perfect”.  This can work…for awhile.  But what happens when the story unravels?  Suddenly, those who followed that leader simply walk away, cursing the lie they defended for so long.

Think about where you land on the humility continuum.  Are you willing to wait for an hour after a crushing loss to congratulate your competitor?  Or are you offering hollow apologies in an effort to protect your personal gain?  Where do you want to be?  The choice you make will impact your ability to lead.

I believe that the first test of a great man is his humility. I don’t mean by humility, doubt of his power. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not of them, but through them.
― John Ruskin