Four Characteristics of Poise and Polish

  1. Be Where Your Feet Are
  2. Storefront
  3. Precision
  4. Consistency

Poise and polish can be cultivated. Good deportment is there for all of us. High quality professionals, across various industries, include poise and polish amongst their skill sets. Irrespective of one’s role in an organization, a certain elegance can elevate performance while concurrently escalating others’ opinions.

Be Where Your Feet Are: put more simply, focus. There is a certain intensity when one focuses the mind on the current topic/environment. Especially when you turret that attention toward individuals.

George Bush and Bill Clinton are both known for the way they make people feel upon meeting. Many come away expressing how noticed they felt when they had a chance to meet either guy.

Cardinal Dolan from the archdiocese of New York represents a personal experience I have with, for lack of a better term, a famous person.

Kathleen and I chatted with him several times in a receiving line format.

As well, he bounces from table to table during events. He has a way of connecting with you quickly. My wife things of him as a personal friend, albeit he has no clue truly who she is! It’s just that when he is talking to her, he makes her feel is is there for the express purpose of seeing her. He builds a personal connection effortlessly.

Now, that is just one example. More generally, it has to do with being in that moment. When you attend a meeting, contribute based on what you are hearing. Let everyone who speaks know that you are listening. This does not mean you have to comment or respond- that would be annoying to all. Taking a quick handwritten note, or the turn of a chair, or high quality eye-contact can all signify attention.  A brief “tell me more” is a turn on for most egos.

Create an allegiance. Sometimes without saying a word.

Beware your phone. If you are on it, even using the calculator or taking notes, it distracts. It subliminally tells folks you are elsewhere. Call it multi-tasking if that’s the way you roll, but it rarely impresses.

When you walk in the room, is it game time? Do people know it’s on?

I’m not advocating you always be Mr. Intense, but when you want everyone to see it is “on-air” time, can you make it happen?

There has to be focus. When you consistently are where your feet are, your ability to bring intensity when it suits you will grow.

Next up is Storefront- the image you project to others.

Do I mean appearance? Yes, if I’m honest, appearance plays into this quite a bit. If you are unduly heavy, you have to clean that up. You’ll need a plan against that, and you’ll do it one step at a time. Others will know better than I the best practices for that.

Yet storefront is much more than appearance. Your posture, your clothing, your expression, your manner (or mien, for those looking to enhance the vocabulary) all contribute to your storefront.

Most of communication is non-verbal. Your storefront is shrieking things about you even when you are silent. Sometimes more when you are silent! Your storefront never shuts up.

My impulse is to identify clothing as the first characteristic to address. I could write a book- it’d be boring I’ll admit-about clothing. I’ll just give several disparate examples knowing you could add better ones.

  • Do your clothes fit you properly? Too tight or too loose? Neither is helpful.
  • Earrings a professional length? That might be different from what you like. Long is likely too long.
  • Jacket sleeve length- it is a jacket and not a coat. If your suit jacket comes anywhere near your thumb, it needs to be shortened. Envision a collared shirt showing a quarter inch of cuff. Could you do that with a jacket that goes to your wrist? No way. Yet I see it all the time.
  • Shoes; men are really my audience here. As part of the total, shoes are too important to overlook. And women notice men’s shoes as much as they do women’s. Lots of guys don’t know that. The shoes need to match the formality, and really should exceed, the rest of the outfit.
  • Whether it is make-up, clothes in need of ironing, everything fits and matches, remember dark is way better and black with splashes of white is a time tested winner. Dark blue or black with white works on Madison Avenue, behind a bar, in client services. Women can go all black while guys will look too foreboding. In any event, boardroom or warehouse, you want to project poise and polish with your armor.

Your facial expression is perhaps the most important component of your storefront.

Many of us can allow our faces to relax when not the focus of a group. And often that relaxed facial expression is not our most appealing. Wear an open expression. If you have to practice it, I’d suggest you do just that. Practice it. All the time. You don’t see many sullen people who look great. Don’t be sullen in your expression.

Your packaging figuratively defines how you want others to perceive you. Yet it is the consistency of this packaging that matters at the core. Wearing one’s best work outfit/suit on a rotational basis does not hit the mark unless there is great consistency in the overall look.  Remember your storefront is always turned on.

Vocabulary matters. Again, the topic is too broad to address properly. But I’ll give a couple examples:

  1. Showcase is a better word to use than show or display. Always showcase whatever you are representing or selling.
  2. An occasional summit rather than a meeting brings a sense of urgency. Host a revenue/expense/employee satisfaction, etc. summit every 6 months. Whatever the big rock is.
  3. Use precise terminology. Don’t ever have “a lot” of anything. Revenue never goes up “a lot”. Employee accidents never go down “a lot”. Use numbers, and judiciously. Data to quantify without overdoing it. Revenue grew 8%. Employee accidents are down 12.7%.

If you do these three things all the time

  1. Be Where Your Feet Are
  2. Storefront
  3. Precision

and if you are consistent with your approach, you’ll escalate your poise and polish.

I realize that I did not start this article defining the benefits of poise and polish, but if I’m honest, I don’t think the concept is worth defending. Either it appeals to you, or it doesn’t. A visceral thing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *