Choosing appropriate clothing for the business environment can be challenging at the best of times. It becomes more difficult when temperatures rise and we feel being fully covered is uncomfortable and downright hot. It becomes even more of a challenge when we leave home in sweltering heat and then move into an air conditioned work environment. How do we dress? What should we wear?
Knowing how to dress for the summer heat and still remain comfortable and professional has the potential to boost your professional image and maybe even move you up a notch or two.
The Rules of Summer Dressing in a Business Environment:
1. Focus on professional: Resist the urge to wear clothing that shows bare skin. Low necklines, short skirts, sleeveless tops, sheer tops, bare legs are great for summer weather but are more fitting for barbecues and nightclubs than a day at work. When choose our clothing we are also choosing an image to project. If your intention is to move up in the business world keep your business clothes professional.
2. Wear lightweight clothing: You can still stay cool and not show skin. Choose fabrics that are lightweight such as cotton and linen. For example wear a cotton jacket over a lightweight blouse or wear a sweater set. If it gets too hot you can remove the jacket and still be covered underneath. If you work in an air-conditioned environment you will appreciate the added layer while you are inside and the option of removing it when you move into the heat.
3. Choose the proper footwear: Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean that sandals can be worn everywhere. Sandals are not appropriate in a professional setting. Wear only closed shoes such as pumps and sling backs.
4. Stay away from clothing that spells “summer”: That means bright jewelry, cropped pants or skorts. Summer clothing can be worn in a professional environment but ever so subtlety. Wear lighter colored accessories and clothing but nothing that brings attention. For example, choose a pastel blouse or light colored professional handbag.
5. Wear loose clothing: Choose to wear skirts and pants in a light fabric so that the fabric glides over your hips and tummy. White is great for summer but will show every bump and lump if worn too tightly.
Bob Mercer, a marketing executive from Manhattan, took two of his associates to the mountains where he and his father had camped many times. It had been fourteen years since his last trip. During the drive Bob reminisced of the wonderful memories he shared with his father. Upon arriving Bob decided to forgo setting up camp for a short hike into the woods, to a river less than three miles from camp. They took with them a backpack containing a few jugs of water, some light snacks and their fishing gear. Bob sensed he had enough equipment for their short journey. After all, he’d planned to get back before the sunset to set up camp, build a cozy fire, and fry some of the fresh catch of the day for dinner. Along the trail Bob bragged about the river he and father had fished several times in the past. After they had traveled a few miles, the river was nowhere in sight… Bob kept saying, “I’m sure it’s here. I’ve been here several times with my dad.” They kept walking a few more miles, no river in sight.
What Bob did not know is that the river was rerouted due to a heavy mudslide in the area several years ago. If they had read the signs along the path they would’ve been alerted of the latest change in landscape. But wait, even the trail signs were burned by local fire a few years ago, and since the camp area became unpopular with the campers the signs were not replaced. The ridges and peaks seemed familiar to Bob but certain rest areas and other key landmarks had been eradicated by the fire’s fury and ensuing erosion. Soon Bob and his friends were lost, and the weather above them was rapidly changing; a small detail they had not anticipated. The weather in these high altitudes can change within a moments notice and cause temperatures to drop drastically. Suddenly the ominous clouds above them burst sending a heap of water over them. Bob and his friends needed to respond quickly to the environmental changes. Although Bob was an avid camper for many years as a youth, he had not gone for a long time, and his friends were city dwellers all their lives. They simply didn’t have the expertise or knowledge to respond to these types of situations. The hiking trails filled and flowed with water, which made it more cumbersome to walk uphill. After walking several hours in the rain and mud they luckily stumbled into their campground late into the evening extremely exhausted, nursing the large blisters on their feet. Too tired and late into the night to set up camp they simply spent the night in their rented car, grateful they had made it out of the wilderness alive.
As a businessperson can you relate with this story? Do you approach your business or the workplace with the same mentality that the economy will look and operate the same as yesterday’s glory years? When the current economic recession blindsided you, how do you react to it? Did you see it coming? Did you have a ready recession proof plan in place to guide you through tough times? In Bob’s story, what was required to make their trip less risky and more enjoyable? If intelligence matters in a simple hiking trip, then it would make even more sense in the way you operate your business or manage your organization.
According to Professor William E. Halal, “Organizational intelligence is the capacity of an organization to create knowledge and use it to strategically adapt to its environment or marketplace. It is similar to I.Q., but framed at an organizational level.” Author Verna Allee defines it as “the cognitive capacities and capabilities of an organization.” In sum, organizational intelligence is tapping into your organization’s collective knowledge quotient, and then applying new learning capabilities to seize opportunities to gain an advantage in the marketplace. Utilizing organizational intelligence does more for you than just help you stay afloat; it’s about perceiving and taking advantage of new trends and shifts in the marketplace, then creating strategies to stay competitive in an unstable business environment. Organization’s who place a high value on learning and accessing new knowledge increase in strength and are better prepared to absorb fast changing environments. How can organizational and business leaders prepare themselves and their teams to become more aware of the environmental changes in their sphere of business? This article addresses a few ingredients essential to help you, the organizational leader, access new knowledge, and use this knowledge to adjust organizational strategy to meet the changes emerging in your environment. First, we must look to our living systems to get our queues.
Take Note of Living Organisms
One way organization’s can make the adjustment is to think like living organisms, which learn to live in, adapt and survive in changing environments such as seasons of drought or when imminent danger looms. Animals have built in systems of awareness and networks that alert them to apparent changes emerging in their environment. Do you remember the tsunami that hit Thailand’s beaches unrepentantly on Christmas Day 2006? It was noted that birds and animals were seen taking flight away from the ocean to higher ground moments before the tide hit the beach. In other words, these animals sensed atmospheric changes in their ecosystem, which triggered an internal “flight” mechanism. As an entrepreneur, manager or business leader can you sense the emerging trends in your business environment, gain knowledge, learn to respond, and create strategic approaches that will help you thrive? The world of living organisms can teach us many things. Second, you’ll need to depend on your team and learn to optimize their collective intelligence.
Optimize Team Intelligence
Organizational intelligence requires a constant conversation with your team, not just at the executive level but also throughout the organization, including the shop floor. It’s a top to bottom conversation. Therefore, as you gather your team members’ mine for their collective insights and knowledge, which are crucial for navigational purposes. You should not underestimate the wisdom of your team members regardless of their background, experience or education. Pure wisdom often comes from the simple minded. Certain employees in your organization interact with suppliers, customers and others vital to your existence. Many times the information shared in these exchanges don’t make it to the top, and organizations miss vital intelligence data required to lead masterfully. In the story you read, Bob’s two companions had no experience neither camping nor hiking, however, a conversation would have been better than none at all. In this respect, community learning is essential for acquiring new knowledge. Rapid changes in the environment must also include speedy discussions. One leader can’t have all the right answers all the time but a team’s collective insights, knowledge and intuition can be the deal breaker in situations like Bob’s excursion.
Stay Connected to Your Business Web
Your business operates among a web of networks within and without the organization. Your internal web consists of various departments, a system of reporting and accountability, and employees with varying degrees of experience, knowledge and education. Your external web is made up of vendors, shareholders and consumers who also may interact with your competitors and other related enterprises. As you become more intimate and connected to the entire web you begin to sense the slightest changes within your field of relationships. According to author Mary Beth O’Neil, “When anything comes in contact with a spider web, anywhere on its surface, the whole web moves… so it is with an interactional force field established between two or more people. It has its own anchor points, resiliency, and breaking point, and it is most often invisible to the members within it. When anyone in the field moves, all members feel the effect, though differently based on their positions.”
When you become more familiar with your internal and external business webs you become more sensitive to slight movements, and their effects upon your business. In the opening story in this article at what point should Bob have felt change in his environment? Could it have been the moment he sensed the missing river? Remember he had been there several times before with his father. At this point he should have stopped and asked himself, “Something isn’t right here. Let’s regroup.”
Back to Bob
If Bob had detected and thought through the changes in his environment early and learned to use this information, he probably would have made better decisions and avoided an embarrassing trip. Some environments do not stay the same within time; they change, while others stay the same. Therefore, we must remain on constant vigil or else learn life’s lessons the hard way. What could Bob and his companions have done differently? It’s easier to gain insight from hindsight but it’s even better to develop foresight; insight fostered by perception and knowledge. Therefore, learning how to learn is the key to increasing intelligence capacity, which must become a priority for every organization. A “winging it” approach simply won’t help you survive through the unexpected changes in your business environment.
The business environment is full of opportunities but it is also full of conflict. Conflict is a very good thing as long as one knows how to deal with it effectively because it leads to change. It also brings out the best in some people. However, if conflict is not managed well it will lead to negative outcome for your organization because people will spend more time at odds with each other than working together. One of the duties of an effective manager is managing conflict effectively, but this is a skill that has to be learned.
There are many reasons for problems to occur between two or more people. This usually occurs when they have purposes at odds of each other or when they have differing opinions of how to solve the same problem. The workplace is highly competitive because each person wants to stand apart from the others and grab the attention of the bosses. Another reason for fights in the workplace is communication problems.
A person who is adept at managing conflict is usually able to identify the first signs of problem and proceeds to deal with it immediately. This is a very useful skill to have because it increases productivity at the workplace. A boss who is good at managing conflict at the workplace manages to reduce employee turnover greatly. This makes the office a very good place to work in and it also reduces the money the company has to spend for hiring new people and training them.
If you feel that you do not have the necessary skills to deal with conflict then you ought to acquire them as soon as possible. There are many training programs that can give you the skills you need to identify conflict causing situations and defuse the problem immediately. Apart from learning how to get your team to work together, you will also benefit from it personally because you will know how to deal with anger better and to communicate more effectively.
You will be able to rise through the company hierarchy if you are able to demonstrate how effective you are at building employee morale and getting people to work together to achieve a common goal. Get your company to pay for a training program on managing conflict or pay for it yourself if you have to because your career graph will benefit very much from it.
Changes happen and will happen, there is pretty much nothing anybody can do about it. The best reason to change is to achieve an improvement. There is no reason for making a change for its own sake. Changes in the business environment will bring about great opportunities as well as doom for some who can’t keep up with it.
The Philippine business landscape is changing. Globalization has greatly influenced what business are capable of surviving locally. The local apparel and textile industry has all but gone out of business due to cheap labor and materials from China and India. I feel bad for the business owners that have gone out of business and the employees that have been laid off, but the law of the jungle also applies to business, only the strongest shall survive. Change in technology can also greatly affect the survival of an entire industry. Remember the pager? Innovations in cellphone technology produced text messaging. Texting killed off that industry, but at least the employees were able to find work in the cellphone and call center agencies.
When change happens, it isn’t always welcome, even when it is absolutely necessary. Expect a lot of resistance coming from industry and business owners, but in the end, the outcome will almost always benefit the consumer. But all is not doom and gloom for business owners due to change. It just means that they must learn to adapt and evolve their business to meet the challenges that lie ahead.