The Art of Handshaking

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Over two and a half thousand years ago, the handshake began as a gesture of peace. Today,
there’s no gesture quite as powerful as the handshake in creating rapport, showing respect and
demonstrating professional etiquette in Western cultures.

Nor is there a gesture more contentious. Handshaking spreads germs (yes, even more than kissing!)
and everybody seems to have a different opinion on how to do it correctly. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld
once summed up the problem perfectly saying, “There are absolutely no guidelines for handshakes…
too strong, too weak, sometimes they give you the three-quarter handshake – just the fingers. Early
release, late release, too many pumps, coming in too high, too sweaty, from too far away…” Oh, we
know his pain, don’t we?

Matters become even further complicated when you factor in gender. We’ve all been in a situation
where, in a group of men and women, the men automatically shake hands and the women instead
look sheepish, or give half-hearted handshakes. As a woman, your brain whirrs with questions like,
should I initiate a handshake with a man? Does a firm handshake with another woman come off as
aggressive? Oh, god, are my palms sweaty? Did that guy wash his hands?

The answer? Yes, no, maybe and probably not.

To be taken seriously professionally, women must absolutely engage in handshaking. These days,
women are exposed to more networking situations, and a greater emphasis has been made to target
the issues of gender diversity in senior positions, career opportunities and general visibility. So the
handshake works to even the playing field that little bit more by eliminating some disparity between
the genders. Women shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to offer their hand to a man or a woman, as
it instantly opens the communication lines and projects self-assurance and the desire to build instant
rapport with another person. If you are not naturally confident then it is a great way to help you
project that you are and also break the ice. For those who worry about germs, it’s best to just carry
hand sanitiser lotion.

A good handshake isn’t as easy as it sounds. How often have you experienced the “Wet Fish” (a limp,
cold, unemotional and sometimes wet handshake that conveys apathy), the “Cruncher” (an overly
strong grip that can be construed as aggressive) or the “The Palm Pincher” (only a few fingers and
thumb grasp the palm for the shake, sending a negative message).

In a well-executed handshake, hands are gripped firmly, eye contact is made, smiles are exchanged
and the hands make two firm shakes. It is customary to face the other person straight on and stand
about three quarters of a metre apart. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, then of course it’s
important to make a solid introduction of yourself during the handshake.

To project a confident image through your handshake, it’s important to put effort into grooming,
making sure hands are clean and moisturised and nails are manicured.

Being well-versed in the art of communication and following proper etiquette has the power to
give you an invaluable “one percenter” – that special something that sets you apart and catches the
attention of all the right people. Who’d have thought that a simple gesture of peace could be so
powerful?

Strategising Your Success

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Have you ever heard of the term Personal Branding? It’s not something we have made up, it’s a positioning strategy frequently used by leaders and politicians across the globe, to enhance their personal impact and boost their careers. Our Prime Minister is no exception.

As, a role model for aspiring female leaders, a representative of the Labour Party, the Prime Minister of Australia and an ambassador for all its people, Julia Gillard undoubtedly has a huge responsibility on her shoulders. Central to her performing each of these roles, is the cultivation of a strong personal brand and image that projects a confident, capable and statesman-like figure.

One of the most visible personal branding strategies employed by Gillard is the accentuation of her most identifiable characteristic, her hair colour. By intensifying her hair to a deeper and richer hue of red, the colour’s strengthened connotations of energy and confidence are transferred to Gillard’s persona, lifting her appearance and giving her a more striking and energetic presence.

Julia-Gillard_0 copy JG

According to former finance minister, Lindsay Tanner, ‘Gillard has dyed her hair red for years to help build her personal brand. It makes her more noticeable.’ The move also represents Gillard’s embracement of her unique colouring and the development of her assets into a personal trademark that makes her more memorable.

So if you want to advance your career, consider the use of personal branding strategies and how they can help you enhance your visibility, communicate all your skills and capabilities and really project you, at your finest.

Body Art

Friday, February 4th, 2011

They can be seen on the backs and arms of the rich and famous.  They can be seen on criminals, sailors, bikeys and the teenager down the street. They can be seen on the catwalks of exclusive luxury brands, Chanel, Rodarte and Jean Paul Gautier. They may even be on you! But who will you show them to?

What are they? They are tattoos!

Sported by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox and David Beckham and seen strutting down the runway of famous fashion houses, tattoos have heavily hit the mainstream. With tattoos at such a high popularity, even companies have taken advantage of the craze by using people as walking billboards to strengthen and promote their brand.

Chanel1 scott-campbell-louis-vuitton-tattoo

But, while the fashion houses have opted for temporary tattoos, many people are lining up at the local tattoo parlor to permanently engrave a personal statement onto their skin.

So what does this all mean for the conservative corporate environment. What do you do when your highest quality job candidate has tattoos running all the way up his or her arm? With Gen Y entering the job market and the soon to follow, Gen Z, the chances of coming across a tattoo bearing candidate is abundant. Can employers really afford to ban tattoos and turn away young talent? The answer is no. Interestingly though, tattooing was prohibited in New York City as recently as 1997.

Indeed many workplaces have recognised this tattoo trend and have started to incorporate clear sections within their dress code policies to address this and to protect their corporate image.

As an employer, it is important to recognise and celebrate the diversity of your people and employees, but to also maintain a credible, professional corporate image for the company to clients and to the general public. For the organisation to communicate a consistent message across, employers need to ensure that their employees understand the image and perception that the company wants to project and that this image is reflected in the way that their team presents themselves.

The modern interpretation of tattoos is that they are a means of creative expression and individuality. Some individuals even have tattoos of lost loved ones or of family and hence broaching the topic of a tattoo ban can be a highly sensitive matter. In some cultures, tattoos bear religious significance and are believed to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, hence serving as an amulet of protection. With the myriad of different reasons an individual may have for getting their tattoos, employers should establish clear policies and dress codes to avoid misunderstanding and legal repercussions, as well as to be more open minded and sensitive when dealing with employees on the topic of tattoos.

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On the other hand, tattoos have been associated with negative connotations for decades. While tattoos may seem cool, it’s understandable that your boss may not take too well to you flashing the skull and cross-bones on your arm to all the company clients in the next business meeting. So if you would like to get a tattoo, think carefully about what you are getting done and consider the size and placement of your tattoo and the implications it could have on your current and future career. It goes without saying that if you intend to work in a highly conservative corporate environment, you are more than likely going to be required to cover the tattoo if it’s in a visible area of your body. For those who are unaware of the boundaries, don’t have any work done above the collar line and nothing past the wrist.

And perhaps consider that having a tattoo is not like buying a necklace or a shirt. Sure you can always buy a new tattoo but you can’t just take it off and change it like you can a necklace or shirt. It is permanent. And whatever you wear from that point onwards may have to be chosen to align with your tattoo, depending on how large the tattoo is and what it conveys. So to those considering getting a tattoo simply because you think it looks ‘cool’, think long and hard and then think again. If do you get a tattoo, consider something that has meaning and significance to you and consider whether it aligns with your future goals and career.

Colour Perception

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

A common misconception people often have towards colour is that it is, just colour. But colour is not something to be taken lightly. It has the ability to affect your mood, influence your perception and even empower you.

In fact, I could even drive you out of your own house with nothing but a single colour. Do you think that’s too bold a claim? Well think about this. Picture the interior of your house. Now imagine, I went and painted it all in bright red.

What’s that? You say red is your favourite colour? Well, now take it even a step further and imagine if all the furniture, as well as all the other items in your house were also the same shade of red. How long do you think you’ll really be able to stay in the house? Let alone live in it… I know I wouldn’t last more than five minutes. That much red is far too loud and overwhelming.

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Evidently, colour can be a truly powerful tool, so understanding colour and learning how to wear it, can really work to your advantage.

So what exactly is colour?

It all began during the 1700’s, when Sir Isaac Newton’s experiment of entrapping light in a prism, retracted seven main colours through the visible spectrum of white light. This discovery in the nature of light and colour initiated the first relationship between light and colour.  As you can see, there is a whole science behind light and colour.

smallprism

In fact, the underlying meaning of colour is based around science and psychology. Which is why, as image and personal brand consultants, we delve deeper into the realm of colour to discover the myriad of meanings associated with colour and how this affects our state of mind.

Think about the colours you wear and how much your mood that day influences this choice.  Are you feeling bright and energetic and want to make a bold statement with a lively yellow? Or do you want to exude elegance and sophistication, and feel more powerful in a classic black?

See how these everyday choices reflect you as a person; from your emotions to influencing how others perceive you. It really is incredible how something so universal and simple allows us to be so creative and expressive.

In fact, you could even say that colours are our ‘optical emotions’.

Human-beings are amazing creatures.  We sense and interpret colours through our eyes, body and mind. Colours sensed through the eyes stimulate different regions that are sensitive to specific colours. For example the area sensitive to green light is located directly in the centre of the retina, which allows light to fall into the centre of the eye. This makes the colour green, the most relaxing colour for the eyes and, in turn, the mind.

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So next time you are deciding on your outfit, visualise how people interpret colour through their senses and what your colour choice says about you.

Be aware however, that the previously discussed interpretations of colour only apply to Western culture. Next time, we will investigate how the symbolism and meaning of colour varies across different cultures.

A Strong Leadership Brand

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Individuals can be trained and slowly cultured into strong and powerful leaders. But imagine being suddenly thrust into a leadership position without any prior knowledge or training. Well this was how it all began for Sam Walsh, Chief Executive of Rio Tinto Iron Ore.

It was after the unexpected death of his father, that Walsh’s leadership skills came to surface. Despite being only a young teenager, Walsh took it upon himself to start managing all of his family’s affairs. Undoubtedly, this is a feat that only a natural born leader with great strength of will and character would be able to achieve.

With his strong leadership qualities, it is no surprise that Walsh is now in a high-powered management position in one of the world’s leading resource companies. Despite his incredible degree of authority and power, Walsh remains a very open and relatable character.  He has been known to prefer a more open-door and informal style to leadership which encourages team involvement and empowerment.

Walsh’s individual style to leadership and high level of professionalism is well reinforced by his external image. His choice of blues and purples in shirts and ties, communicate a sense of formality and professionalism, but also reflect his approachability and openness. From a colour perspective, these colours are well suited for his image as blue is a colour which represents integrity, communication and trust and purple denotes vision and regality.

Walsh is also often seen wearing a handkerchief in his suit pocket, which communicates his gentlemanly characteristics as well as adding an interesting twist, which sets his style apart from the more simplistic and conventional style of other high level executives. The addition of cufflinks and a pin finishes his elegant look, completing the image of a refined, statesmanlike figure.

Overall, Walsh is truly an inspirational leader whom has successfully distinguished himself by cultivating an image which strongly aligns with his professional status, as well as his own personal characteristics and leadership style.

Sam Walsh

Helping Young People to Achieve their Career Goals

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

If you have a dream, then you should chase after it.  Sounds simple enough, right?

Well take a step into the shoes of a young woman who has low self-confidence and is struggling to step out of her shell.  There is no denying she’s a smart woman, after all she’s excelling academically at university and has the potential to accomplish great things in life.  But having potential can only get you so far if you’re shy and unsure of yourself.  So it’s not surprising that the thought of attending an interview, which even a self-assured person can find nerve-racking, is petrifying.  Not only that, but this lack of confidence can prevent someone from achieving their future goals.

Unfortunately, she’s not alone.  This somewhat daunting and over-whelming feeling is a reality for many young people who are just starting their careers.  Imagine the surprise of entering the big world of corporate and professional organisations after just having graduated university.  Or having the potential and skill, but not being able to portray yourself visually in the way you want to be perceived.

We all have career goals and aspirations at some point in our lives but making them happen is another completely different story.  And that’s why projecting a confident image is such an important and powerful tool.  We also all have positive qualities, but what many people don’t realise is that confidence defines who you are and helps you in pursuing your career.

EGAMI recognises the importance of nurturing talent and working with young people to build their confidence, establish an influential image, help cultivate their leadership ability and develop life skills.  For this reason, we are thrilled to be involved in helping young people achieve their career goals through our image programs and workshops as well as supporting the WA Miss Universe event.

From a holistic perspective, our approach enables young people to develop their own unique brand and create a memorable presence that goes beyond first impressions.  For the WA Miss Universe participants, what’s really important is that this is a life skill they will be able to take with them beyond the competition and greatly assist them in their future endeavours.

Women at the Top

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Gail Kelly, Chief Executive of Westpac, is a woman who encompasses the essences of power and success.  Recently ranked eighth in Forbes’ illustrious list of the world’s most powerful women, Kelly’s recognition highlights the importance of image and perception in a professional environment.  Her reputation as a born leader is evident in her accomplishments; however it is Kelly’s commanding presence that has ultimately established her successful career. 

Gail KellyKelly’s overall image reflects her position as a leader. The use of primary colours in her wardrobe, such as a dominating red, sets apart from the uniformity of grey. Simply wearing red will dramatically enhance positive attributes such as confidence, strength and energy, in comparison to grey which is a psychological neutral and evokes a limited response.               

Kelly’s image is complemented by her body language and powerful gestures, as you can see in the image contained within this recent article.  This not only allows for effective communication but conveys confidence and leadership.

By self-packaging her positive attributes, Kelly demonstrates a strong holistic image of confidence and success. As you can see, investing in your professional image and personal brand and influencing how you want to be perceived are powerful steps in creating your own success.  Congratulations Gail, what a great achievement for an Australian Executive!

Return of 1950’s Style

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Spring is in the air and has inspired a return of 1950’s fashion.  This was an era that witnessed the emergence of prominent fashion houses such as Christian Dior, Coco Chanel and Hubert Givenchy.  Men and women were fabulously dressed in a style that was glamorous, feminine and tailored.

At EGAMI, we are constantly observing how your image can reflect certain trends.  Optimism, as reflected in the 50’s, has inspired us to convey this influential time into our social mood.  For this season we are seeing that feminine styles, such as shapely full skirts and small waistlines, are making a return on the runways.  Hats are in vogue for men again, which during that era were worn not sometime – but all the time!

50's style elements

Keeping your Image Current

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Men, keep your image current this season by incorporate a different trend into your style.  Perhaps introduce a nautical element by opting for a navy suit over black.  When it comes to selecting a shirt, choose dark blue stripes or a simple blue shirt to add more emphasis to your image.

Nautical

“I’ve been forty years discovering that the queen of all colours is black.” – Pierre Auguste Renoir

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It’s commonly understood that black is not a colour.   So you can imagine how much I love Renoir’s recognition of black and the significance it holds in the colour world.

Black is one of my favourite colours.  Black can be intriguing, sophisticated and elegant.  When it comes to selecting black items for my wardrobe, I search for unique pieces and works of art.  Such as my beautifully crafted wool blend textured jacket.

A timeless black silk shirt and stunning black lace structured dress add interest and an element of distinction to my professional wardrobe.  Adorned with a pair of shiny black heels, they make great staples that can carry you from the office through to functions or events in the evening.

Renoir

Le Moulin de la Galette (1876), Renoir

Passion Management And Image

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

With the festive season fast approaching, many calendars are quickly filling up with end of year work functions, Christmas parties and New Year’s celebrations. Before it’s too late, now is an important time to schedule in some ‘time out’ for yourself, something that is often overlooked during this hectic time of year.

Everybody has a different way of unwinding; perusing the latest fashion at the stores or on-line with a glass of champagne (highly recommended!), working out at the gym, perhaps a little pampering or reading a great book. Wouldn’t you agree that it’s essential to make the time to do these things on a regular basis? Maintaining a ‘work-life balance’ can become a bit difficult if  like us, you really do enjoy what you do for a living.  It is us, however, who generally burn out the quickest as we never switch off, mentally or in the technological sense.

If there simply are not enough hours in the day to take time out for yourself, then how about scheduling that meeting over a game of golf or a walk around the river rather than in the boardroom? In most cases, your client or colleague is probably just as time-deprived as you are and would enjoy the break!

A healthy state of mind is the foundation for projecting a confident image.  Are you aligned?

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PROFESSIONAL

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

professional image consultantsUncover the power of executive positioning and self promotion. You’ll realise your career potential with EGAMI’s professional styling, training and mentoring.

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