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Bringing Glamour into the Boardroom

Silvia TcherassiAn Interview with Silvia Tcherassi, Latin America’s Queen of Glam

(Escribi esta entrevista originalmente para la revista Personal Branding.  Gracias Dan Schawbel por darme permiso para publicarla ahora en mi blog.)

Dressing for work need not be a stale affair – as Silvia Tcherassi, Latin America’s leading fashion designer, teaches.  Chosen by Swarovski as one of the top 100 designers worldwide as well as being the face of Audi Latin America, it’s refreshing to see that after 15 years working in haute couture, Silvia’s approach to fashion is grounded and practical.

As she shared with me, glamorous and professional match – in fact they can match nicely, and can even be affordable.  With her advice she makes glamour accessible to us all – even inside a cubicle. 

SR – Just as product brand managers have a clear vision when it comes to a product’s package design, being that a person’s clothing is their personal packaging – what do you think should be their guiding philosophy when putting together a wardrobe for work?

ST – I believe that just as with a product’s package, the image a person projects needs to be original. It should reflect their own style and personality.  That’s why I’m against people imitating fashion icons and celebrities.  Albeit, most work environments call for a degree of conservatism – within that framework it is possible to stand out and be authentic.

SR – How important is the role of a person’s image on their path to success?   Can a glamorous image make up for lack of talent or skills?

This is such an important topic in our careers, that I dedicated an entire chapter to addressing it in my book Elegancia Sin Esfuerzo (Effortless Elegance – published by Random House, 2010).  I emphasize that our look is not only what we are but what we want to be.  Through our image and how we dress, we tell the world about our personality, our likes and dislikes and how we act.  It is true that first impressions matter.  However, if we “conquer” people with our image – yet there is nothing of substance to back it up – then it’s just that – an impression. 
SR – What tips would you give people entering the world of work?   

To them I would say that this new time in their personal and work lives is a unique opportunity of self-discovery – to create and project their personal image. 

Creating and projecting a glamorous image need not be expensive.  It is mostly about selecting versatile pieces that may be easily mixed and matched.  And that instead of being too trendy are classic. That way they have a longer shelf life.  Classic pieces can easily be livened up with the season’s “it’ bag or garments with fashionable colors.  Quality is also more important than quantity. And keep in mind that there’s more than a pantsuit when it comes to projecting a professional image.
SR – Which are the worse fashion faux-paus in the world of work? 

Clothing that’s too tight-fitting, too short or too revealing.
SR – Which are the main “Good Fashion Practices” in the world of work?

Comfortable pieces that are versatile and that fit in to the work environment you’re in. For example, a manager in the financial sector will not dress the same as an account manager at an ad agency.  The former should project trust and security to her clients – whereas the latter creativity and an ability to take risks.

A straight-cut pant, a white shirt, a trenchcoat and a bag that’s big enough to fit a laptop are a good starting point for any person, regardless of the environment they work in or the season.  From that point it’s possible to build a glamorous wardrobe.

Una patadita (en tu trasero) pero con amor.

ValentineInspirada por el día de San Valentin – que ya casi llega – decidí escribir acerca de los diferentes colegas que nos rodean en el trabajo.  Si observas bien, en el mundo del trabajo hay dos tipos de colegas.  Hay los que juegan en tu equipo y los que juegan en contra de tu equipo. 

Y no me refiero a las diferencias que hay en sus preferencias de pareja

Me refiero a la diferencia que hay en las intenciones de aquellos que te rodean.  Si prestas atención, aunque nadie carga uniforme, es muy fácil determinar para qué equipo juega cada uno. 

Los de tu equipo tienden a apoyarte, a darte tu espacio, y a motivarte cuando estas teniendo un día confrontante. Y si, en ocasiones te dicen las cosas tal como son – aunque te sientas retada.

Por otro lado, esta el colega que juega en contra tuyo.  Aunque jamás te lo dirá, este colega te tiene envidia y/o miedo.  Por lo tanto sus intenciones son destructivas.  Le da pavor quedarse solo en la bufonería – por lo tanto trata de traer abajo cuanto colega se le atreviese.  Entonces tiende a interrumpirte – ya sea con chistes, chismes o quejas – o todos al tiempo.  Constantemente apunta a problemas – sin ofrecer soluciones. (y ¡que ojo el que tiene para los problemas!)   Es tan destructivo como un virus.  Y tenlo por seguro que te chupara de tu tiempo y energía.  Con amigos así – no necesitas enemigos!

Y entonces, ¿en el 2010 con quien escogerás rodearte?


¿Te gusta la foto?  Gracias ajatierra

What’s a picture of Evander Holyfield doing on my blog?

Right now, do me a favor.  If you’re left-handed, pick up a pen with your right hand and write your name.  If you’re right-handed, use your left hand to write your name. (For the few ambidextrous, well, what can I say – you’re one of the lucky few – I’m afraid I won’t be able to prove my point with you).

Now, take a few minutes to think long and hard about what it took for you to do something outside of your comfort zone.  If you’re being honest, because using your ‘other hand’ to write doesn’t come naturally to you, you had to talk yourself into doing it.  Am I right?

Now lets move on to bigger and better things, beyond writing your name illegibly.

Lets look at excellence.  No, not perfection. Excellence – a commitment with being better every day and with stretching yourself a bit more each day.  On the other hand, lets look at mediocrity.  Mediocrity – feeling okay with getting by and that it’s enough to do as little as possible.  That said, pushing yourself a little bit over your edge every day is a choice. On the other hand, doing as little as posible is also a choice. And like choosing to write with your left hand if you’re a righty, and with your right hand if you’re a lefty, making any choice involves thoughtfulness and intention.

Aiming to create a world inhabited by excellent people, a world free of mediocre beings, when Dan Schawbel asked me to write a column for issue #3 of his e-mag Personal Branding, I decided to write about excellence.  Being that the issue is focused on helping readers build a personal brand that owns a specific niche, I thought it was a unique opportunity to write about what it takes to own excellence, to answer ‘what does it take to make excellence your personal brand?’

In finding someone to interview, my main goal became to showcase someone who, at first glance it’s obvious they lead an extraordinary life, one that’s worthy of imitation, yet at the same time is real and approachable.  The latter two traits is what makes excellence sticky. 

With that in mind I interviewed Samuel Azout. A Latin American business man who has thoughtfully created an extraordinary career. 

“After working for 25 years in the private business sector, he re-invented himself as a social entrepreneur. He`s now the founder and leader of two social ventures, Fundacion Carullaand Fundacion Futbol con Corazon, both based in his home country of Colombia. Both driven by his vision to create equality and opportunity for some of the poorest people in the world -those he affectionately refers to as ‘vulnerable’.

Yet, as much as he has achieved and as much as he has already contributed to the community at large, he’s very quick to point out that it’s a team of extraordinary people who deserve the credit.”

You’ll find the full interview in issue # 3 of Personal Branding.  For now, click here to access your free sample, which by the way, is hot off the press.  You will find loads of valuable information including interviews of other inspiring professionals – who were willing to share their wisdom about “owning your niche”. (yes that’s Evander Holyfield on the cover)

That said, if you know someone else who is clone-worthy, I’d love to know. (Thanks in advance for sharing your wealth).

Cut the (umbilical) cord

 (Or the birth of  brand YOU)

A few months ago Dan Schawbel (personal branding guru and author of Me 2.0) asked me if I wanted to contribute to his e-mag: Personal Branding.  He offered me the option to either edit or write a column.  I chose to write – and accepted to write The Brand Assessment column.  I figured that although as an editor I’d be in a  unique position to learn from other  writers, by writing I’d be able to further develop my voice. And that was a risk worth taking.  
By clicking here, right now you can receive your free sample of the e-mag and read my very first article.  (The yearly subscription, which includes 4 issues, costs $12.95 and 50% of proceeds go to the American Cancer Society 

To celebrate this milestone in my writing career, I decided to write this post to remind you that as an employee you’re a stand-alone entity with business needs of your own.   That said, this is not to perpetuate the ‘free agent’ conversation – mostly because plenty has already been written about that.    This is to empower you to answer a question that will resonate throughout  your entire working life – “Why do I need a personal brand?”

So why do you need a personal brand?

Here’s the deal.  As an employee you may be a vital part of the organization you work with.  And you may count on that organization for your lively-hood – (a.k.a. paycheck).  Even so, you’re not an extension of that business.  That simply means that just as that organization has business needs of its own which btw you help cater for, you also have business needs that require attention – a personal brand being among the main ones.

I’ve raised more than a few eye-brows each time that I’ve advocated that employees work for themselves with employers, not for them.  I stand behind this even if that involves changing jobs at a pace that appears to benefit employees more than their current employer.  To continue to defend my position, I’d like to remind you that working with an organization goes beyond being independent.  It’s about interdependency.    And a basic requirement for achieving interdependency is for both parties to be independent in principle from one another. Only then will true collaboration arise – between two independent parties that decide to collaborate.  Although it’s possible for parties with varying degrees of dependency to co-exist for some time, the relationship is doomed from the start.   If you’ve ever seen what a leech does to its host, you’ll agree that a parasitic relationship does not benefit either party.  The leech remains a leech – with no other option than to find another host to leech off from – and the host is eventually sucked dry – slowly but surely.   To learn from real-life collaboration, think orhcids.  These breath-taking flowers grow from the branches of trees without taking away nutrients from its host. That’s because orchids are epiphytes, not parasytes.  They have their own mechanism of survival, independent from its host.  As such they’re able to add to the host – not take away from it.

Realizing that as an employee you have your own brand (and identity) – separate from the current organization you work with – and developing that brand to support your own goals, are two key steps in cutting the umbilical cord from your current employer.  Failing to do so will keep you in a state of dependency, unable to reach your fullest potential as an employee.  You loose and so does your employer – remember the leech-host drama.

As you think through that, here are a few key pointers:

1.       A personal brand is for YOU. It will inspire you, empower you, focus you, drive you and help you achieve fulfillment in your work-life.  It will also prevent you from being dragged by others. 

2.       A powerful personal brand is authentic.  Yes, your uniqueness is your strength.  The world of work is light years away from your school playground where other kids would make fun of you for not fitting in.  Not following the herd in the world of work is an asset. Look closely at yourself.  When amongst your colleagues, take time to notice what makes you stand out (yes, like a sore thumb).  How can you further develop your distinguishing traits?  How can you cash in on them?

3.       A sustainable personal brand emerges from a place of honesty within you.   The closer to your truth your personal brand is, the longer you’ll be able to stand behind it.   Being honest (with yourself) marks the difference between building a sail boat with a long keel* and one with a short one. The one with the short one will be toppled even by  small waves.  The one with the longer one will be well-grounded and will be able to withstand many rough waters.

Think about this next time that you’re contemplating a change in your career.  What steps will you take today to cut the cord?


*For my land-locked friends, a keel is a long, slim plank that juts out from the bottom of the sail boat.  It’s the structure that keeps the boat from tipping over.

Find career enlightenment through personal branding

Take it from a self-proclaimed strategic job-hoppercareer enlightenment is about achieving your goals in a sustainable way. That said, personal branding is at the core of an enlightened career.

Rest assured that today’s tough economic climate calls for an even greater focus on personal branding.  During a time when businesses are looking for ways to cut costs, and when a large majority have recurred to laying-off staff, a strong personal brand is what will allow you – as an employee – to tip the scale in your favor. Make no mistake, a strong personal brand has the power to make employers look beyond cost and instead focus on quality.

By minding the following brand attributes, it’s possible for the ‘average Joe employee’ to reach career enlightenment.

An enlightened careerist is:

Genuine – A 100% commitment to being true to yourself will provide a solid foundation to your career. It will drive major aspects of your career such as your networking efforts, and your career goals and decisions.  It is what will say to the world that your uniqueness is your strength.

Trustworthy – In the world of work, trust is a powerful currency. Being known as someone who delivers on their promises opens doors – even for someone who does not have all the skills or experience for a role.  On the other hand, no amount of skills or experience will erase a tainted reputation.  Building trust with employers, colleagues and clients takes time.  On the other hand, breaking that hard-earned trust often takes very little. (who said the world was meant to be fair)

Solution-focused – Particularly during challenging times, it’s vital to not waste time on unproductive activities.  Asking ‘what can I do?’ rather than finding out what happened is what delivers results. This requires implementing a zero whining policy and dropping the blame game. 

Goal-oriented – Knowing what really matters to you will place you in the seat of power of your career.  Not knowing leaves you exposed to being dragged by those who have goals of their own.  Focusing on your goals is far from being inflexible.  Rather, when you know where you want to go, it’s more likely that you’ll remain nimble and do what it takes to achieve your goals – even if that means changing courses and redefining your career.

Self-aware – Ignorance might be bliss – but little by little will lead you to miss out on opportunities for growth.  On the other hand, knowledge gives you the option to improve those areas which aren’t quite right.  As much as asking the right questions is key for staying in touch with yourself, answering honestly is as important.

Risk-favorable – Taking risks is a trampoline to bigger and better opportunities.  Benefiting from risk is more a matter of reframing outcomes than of achieving the expected ones.

While you seek for career enlightenment, keep in mind that true enlightenment is at the intersection of knowledge and action. 

What one thing will you do right now to get closer to your goals?


Photo credit: The Sun Herald

Me 2.0 – Dan Schawbel’s answer to thriving in a social media-crazed world

A few days ago, when Dan Schawbel, my blogoshpere friend and author, asked me to review his recently released book, Me 2.0 (by Kaplan), I gladly accepted.  For the past few months I’ve followed Dan’s work and collaborated with him on a few projects.  It’s quite clear that he’s one of the most knowledgeable millennials on using social media to develop an effective personal brand.  After all, he’s been using tools like a personal blog, facebook and twitter to become known as the ‘personal branding guru’.

That said, if Tom Peters put personal branding on the map in 1997, in Me 2.0 Dan put it on steroids. Through his easy to implement advice, Dan demystifies social media tools and empowers readers to create their own effective personal brand – and take charge of their careers.   Me 2.0 is not an option, it’s a must for anyone looking to succeed in this new world.

Dan – the personal brand man – does it again

Dan Schawbel, Gen Y’s personal branding guru, has done it again with his latest issue of Personal Branding Magazine (click here to download your free sample).

As the magazine’s editor, here’s what Dan has to say about this issue:

Many people rush into personal branding, without first taking precious time to discover who they are and what they want to do for the rest of their lives. In this issue, we expose how to unlock your true potential, unearth your passion, acquire the necessary skills and how to set achievable goals. We’ve interviewed some of the leading businessmen, such as Marcus Buckingham, to help you with your own personal development.”

In a nut-shell, I highly recommend that you go grab a coffee or a tea (if you’re like me) and start reading your free sample.  It’s packed with valuable information – that will take your career game to the next level.

To subscribe to the full publication, which is out on 1 Feb (a few sleeps away), click here.  The price for an annual subscription, which includes 4 issues is $12.95.  Even better, half of the proceeds are donated to the American Cancer Society.

What’s in it for me? 

This is my chance to support a good friend and fellow blogger who’s work I admire and personally learn from.  Also, Dan has invited me to write The Brand Assessment column for the following four issues.  A project I’m most proud and excited about joining.

Stay tuned.

Soul Food for Your (one) Reputation

Employed, self-employed or unemployed, in the world of work you have one reputation – one.

Just as Apple and Mini Cooper have a brand that represents them in the public eye, your reputation is your own personal brand. Depending on how you manage it, it can either open doors for you or potentially repel opportunities.

I’m not implying that you don’t already take care of your reputation, but humor me for a few seconds and think about what you would do differently if you would take it as seriously as Apple takes their brand image.

The good news is that it’s possible for you to look after and develop your reputation, while being yourself and not feeling like you’re walking on egg-shells.

The following tips are based on my own experience and some come from working with doctors – a group of professionals whose careers live and die by their reputations.

Tip #1 – Follow the ‘Golden Rule’: Do onto others as you would like done onto you. ‘Nough said. By parting from this point you’re acknowledging that others are as important as you are. When you respect others, the likelihood is that they’ll respect you in return.

Tip #2 – Work as if you matter: This isn’t about feeling cocky and giving your ego a boost. Rather, it’s about knowing that your skills are needed and that through your work you have the potential to make a difference in your company and the community at large. Not to idealize the medical profession, but most doctors know that their work can make a difference and feel proud of it. By believing that your work makes a difference you also have the potential to feel proud about your own contributions.

Tip #3 – Take responsibility: Take full responsibility for any mistakes you might make. Nobody is error free (that’s why there are erasers on pencils). Playing the blame game or getting caught in a lie can tarnish your reputation. Face your mistakes and other difficult situations head on. If you live by this, your co-workers will have much more respect for you.

Tip #4 – Work to be respected, not to be liked: Bill Cosby says it best: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Through your actions, you can influence whether you’re respected or not. But in reality, just as you can’t control whether a peer likes cocktails or beer, you can’t control whether you are liked by everybody or not.

Tip #5 – Be assertive: While trying to get your point across and influence others, don’t be aggressive but don’t be passive either. Sure, this has been stated almost ad-nauseum in self-development literature time and time again. However, that doesn’t change the fact that there’s a lot to be said about someone who can be firm yet nice at the same time. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and ask for what you want but do so in a way that respects the personal boundaries of others. Trust me, I learned the hard way that being too aggressive and pushy can result in the opposite than what you’re looking for.

Tip # 6 – Build trust: Trust isn’t something that is given to you, you must earn it. And you’ll find, as I have, that it’s not that hard to earn, as long as you’re willing to make the necessary deposits in people’s emotional bank account. All it takes is a few baby steps. Make a small promise, one you are 110% sure that you can keep, and keep it. Through making promises and keeping them is how you pave the way and eventually earn others’ trust.

Tip # 7 – Follow-through relentlessly: If you’ve taken a tennis or golf lesson, you’ll understand that your stroke is only as good as your follow-through. This also applies to work follow through. By not responding to work related matters in a timely manner you’re projecting a message – whether intentionally or not – that certain issues don’t matter to you. If workload is what’s keeping you from responding, just a quick note to let people know that you received their communication and by when you plan to respond, will make a world of difference. To make sure that you follow-through, set rules for yourself. I personally believe in returning emails within 1 day of receiving them and phone calls the same day. Don’t wait until you need someone you met to get in touch with them. Use the follow through to create the bridge that you can walk on to get to them when you need them.

Tip # 8 – Deliver what you promise: Talk is cheap. Do what you promise that you will. Start by being honest with yourself about what you can deliver and then be honest with others, don’t over-promise. If you’ve fallen into the habit of talking up things, be it because you mean well and genuinely want to help or that’s just your style, practice under-promising. This is not about being mediocre or a slacker. It’s about learning to work within the bounds of your own reality.

Tip # 9 – Be on time: I learned that if you’re late you’re ‘dead’. While working as a baking & pastry apprentice in an industrial kitchen, I saw first-hand how tardiness messes up a whole day of production. In the office world, tardiness communicates: ‘I have more important things to do than to meet you!’ Think about it. In the absence of an emergency, we all know that we’re late because we decided to do something else on our way out the door. In other words, we did not make it our highest priority to respect the other person’s needs. Being on time is not rocket science. Simply work backwards from the time that you need to be somewhere and figure out by what time you need to leave. It will do wonders for your reputation because it makes others feel important and shows that you’re organized.

Tip # 10 – Mind your appearance: Yes, your image is part of the package of how people perceive you. This includes the way you dress and how you communicate when you speak and write.

Dressing: A simple rule regarding wardrobe is to dress according to the message you want to project. I tend to look at people I admire (in & out of work) and use them as a guide as how to dress. It’s not about stripping away your personality, it’s more about bringing it out where it really counts and makes a difference. And sure, in certain environments it’s the norm to make a statement with what you wear – I say, go for it!

Speaking: Just as well, how you say things is as important as what you say. When it comes to speaking in public, practice does make perfect. Recently I became a member of a Toastmasters club. I’m finding that  it’s a safe environment to practice skills that most certainly apply to work. I suggest that you check them out: www.toastmasters.org (No I will not get any commission or brownie points if you join. I’m serious).

Writing: In writing, to get your point across aim to make your point early on, use simple language and be consistent in your use of verbs and terms. Make it a habit to proof read documents at least once – don’t just rely on spell check.

Now that I’ve shared with you my thoughts, I’d love to hear what you’re feeding your reputation.