My closet looks exactly like Donald Duck’s: two dozen identical white shirts all in a row.
About three years ago I decided to start wearing a uniform to the office, so I went to J. Crew and ordered three of the same suit in the same fabric and a score of white oxford shirts with button-down collars. My uniform, I thought, would free me from the daily anxiety of standing in front of my closet wondering, “Does this match?” or “Am I wearing this sweater too often?”
At first, I had just swapped one anxiety for another: Would people think I was lazy or boring for wearing a uniform? But as I eased into my new uniform lifestyle, I started to feel better at work because I knew I would look good and I would be dressed perfectly for almost any occasion. Simply put, the decision to go all uniform all the time is one of the best I’ve ever made. I had joined the ranks of very successful people who dress the same every day — Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Barack Obama — and I appreciated that I could so easily communicate who I am.
“The whole idea of uniformity and adopting a uniform for yourself, it keeps things very simple,” said the fashion designer Thom Browne, who wears one of his signature “shrunken” gray suits every day.
“I think there’s something refreshing when you see someone who has a true sense of their own style,” Mr. Browne said, joking that his uniform is so consistent he could probably get dressed in the dark.
“There is a real confidence in being able to project that image,’’ he added. “I hope that’s what people see as well.”
Research supports that correlation between self-confidence and the way we present ourselves. In one study from 2012, people were given a coat and told it was either a doctor’s coat or an artist’s smock. Researchers found that the subjects paid more attention to certain tasks when they thought they were wearing a doctor’s coat, but that there was no improvement in performance when they thought it was an artist’s smock.
Dr. Adam Galinsky, who ran the study and is a psychologist and professor at Columbia Business School, calls this “enclothed cognition.” When we wear certain clothes, particularly uniforms, we take on the characteristics associated with those uniforms.
“The clothes or uniforms that we wear affect our basic processes,” Dr. Galinksy said.
For this to work, a person has to understand the symbolism associated with a given outfit. So, if a person begins to conflate their work uniform with a certain persona, they will start to embody that person. It’s kind of like Dumbo’s magic feather, but hopefully covering a lot more skin.
Dr. Galinsky added that when a person starts to embody that persona in the office, co-workers will recognize it, reinforcing that persona in the wearer’s mind. This creates an endless feedback loop between how a person wants to be perceived and how they are perceived.
Basically, this is the psychological justification for the “dress for the job you want, not the job you have” speech your mother gave you when she bought you your first interview suit after you graduated from college.
So what should shoppers do when looking to start a uniform?
“The key question you’re asking is, What behavior do we want to produce and what impression do we want to portray?” Dr. Galinksy said. “You work backward from that into that uniform.”
Dawnn Karen, a fashion psychologist who teaches at the Fashion Institute of Technology, added that people should look to dress appropriately for their specific office.
“You don’t want to be in a tutu when everyone else is wearing a suit,” she said, adding that it goes both ways. For those at a tech firm, a few pairs of the same jeans and two dozen of the most comfortable T-shirts and hoodies are going to get you a lot further than a closet full of stuffy suits.
Rather than creating a uniform, Lauren A. Rothman, a stylist who lives in Washington, and wrote the book “Style Bible: What to Wear to Work,” practices “capsule dressing” with her clients, which is curating a small set of clothing that can be mixed or matched together. She suggests four capsules, one for each season. She added that people generally wore only about 25 percent of what was in their closets, so start by finding that 25 percent and replicating it.
“The problem with variety is that it is unpredictable and can be unsuccessful,” Ms. Rothman said. “A uniform does communicate who you are. It is great if you have consistent messaging every day about who you are, and what you wear will show that.”
When you are buying a uniform, take comfort into account, but also body type, physique and what will make you look and feel good, Ms. Rothman said. And while budget is always a consideration, it does not mean a solid collection can’t be found inexpensively.
“A great capsule can be created at Kohl’s and Bonobos as it can at Neimans or Nordstorm,” Ms. Rothman said.
Mr. Browne suggests people stick with high-quality goods, things that will last a long time through repeated wearing, and to consider tailoring when possible.
And don’t forget you can still customize the details. Dawnn Karen got a client out of her all-black clothing rut by incorporating more jewelry into the client’s everyday attire. For men, consider a rotation of lapel pins, colorful socks and shiny shoes to mix things up.
One admittedly clichéd sentiment worth remembering: Less is more. That is certainly a philosophy that Donald Duck, my uniform bête-noire, subscribes to as well.
Chinese billionaire Jack Ma realized a policy of not hiring the best candidates for a job during Alibaba’s early years and it eventually paid off.
According to the book “ALIBABA: The House That Jack Ma Built,” Ma hires applicants who were a notch or two below the schools’ best graduates.
Written by China-based investment adviser Duncan Clark in 2016, the book also revealed Ma’s unflattering opinion of those who graduated from business schools:
“It is not necessary to study an MBA. Most MBA graduates are not useful… Unless they come back from their MBA studies and forget what they’ve learned at school, then they will be useful. Because schools teach knowledge while starting businesses requires wisdom. Wisdom is acquired through experience. Knowledge can be acquired through hard work.”
As the entrepreneur pointed out, candidates from the so-called “college elite” have the tendency to get frustrated easily when faced with real-world challenges.
Ma revealed in a speech:
“A good team does not mean you hire excellent people from Harvard or from a multinational or from Fortune 500 companies.
“I remember when we raised the first $5 million, we thought, ‘Ha, now we have money.’ From $50,000 to $5 million, so we should hire great people. We hired close to 10 excellent vice presidents from many multinational companies. One of the guys who was a marketing expert vice president of a big company, he gave me a business plan, a marketing plan: $12 million.
“And I said, ‘Hey, we only have $5 million, how could you give me a business plan for next year’s budget in marketing set for $12 million?’
“He said, ‘Jack, I’ve never made any plan below $20 million!’
“Hire the right people, not necessarily the best people. The best people are always the ones you train. There’s no ‘best people’ in the market, the best people for you are always the ones you train yourself.”
Ma understood that it would take thick-skinned individuals to survive a company which was then still finding its place in the modern economy.
“Today is brutal, tomorrow is more brutal, but the day after tomorrow is beautiful. However, the majority of people will die tomorrow night. They won’t be able to see the sunshine the day after tomorrow,” Ma would often say to new recruits.
The new hires had to contend with very low salaries and grueling work hours, working seven 16-hour work days per week and earning barely $50 per month.
Alibaba employees were also required to live no more than ten minutes away from the office to save traveling time.
But what sets the company apart from the other firms in China is how Alibaba was managed like a Silicon Valley company from the start.
It has remained one of the very few Chinese companies which issue each employee share options in the company, vesting over a four-year period.
When the Alibaba’s clientele eventually grew, customer service demands also increased. Ma’s employees responded to the challenge by turning themselves into free “tech support” to customers.
From providing basic troubleshooting tips on computers to resolving delivery issues, the instant customer care team managed to respond to every email within two hours, further establishing the company’s “customer first” principle.
With the right people behind him, Ma was able to transform Alibaba into a multinational e-commerce, retail, Internet, AI, and technology conglomerate considered to be one of the biggest companies in the world today.
By discovering what drives you and your art, you can tap into your deepest motivations and achieve your full creative potential, says writer and professor Meta Wagner.
What’s your creative type?
Do any of these sound familiar?
— You believe you have a great creative talent, but you think your dreams of pursuing it full-time are childish and impractical.
— You spent months on a creative project. Then, you couldn’t decide if it was brilliant or worthless so you. just. stopped.
— You’ve sold a drawing/song/podcast/story/web series, and you’ve got more under way. But even though you’re succeeding, you find yourself waking up at night, worrying about competitors.
If you can relate to one or more of these scenarios, welcome to the creative life. Any artist you’ve ever heard of has had something besides talent, dedication or luck behind them: Most of them knew why they created. When you know what drives you — and what encourages and discourages you — you’re better able to keep yourself on track and enlist friends and colleagues to rally you during dry times or tough times.
The five creative types here grew out of the extensive research and thinking I’ve done for the “Creativity in Context” seminar I teach at Emerson College. My students have responded enthusiastically, and I realized I’d tapped into something valuable for anyone creative.
Take the quiz, discover your type, and embrace a life fueled by your imagination and art.
Have you ever wondered what is the best way to keep calm under pressure? Perhaps you are dreading giving a musical performance, a talk or having to get through an interview. The pressure is relentless and the brain does not seem to help at all as it is overreacting and you are getting more nervous by the minute. Here are 10 ways you can reverse all that, keep really calm and sail through it.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
1. Learn how to defeat the panic signals
When we are in danger or facing a really challenging situation, our minds and bodies go into the ‘fight or flight’ mode. Neither of these is really appropriate when we are about to give a PowerPoint presentation or turn up for an interview!
Stress hormones flood our system and can really help us overcome an emergency. In the long term, we do not need these at all as they can lead to chronic conditions. I know, because it happened to me and led to a state of permanent anxiety which was mistaken for a heart condition, known as angina. After hospitalization, the message was pretty clear. I had to find ways of combating these ‘fight or flight’ reactions. The best way was to train myself to use a relaxation response.
2. Learn how to breathe properly
One of the most effective ways to train this response is to learn how to breathe properly. Shallow breathing means that the diaphragm muscles are not being used. Thee secret is to inhale deeply so that the chest and stomach are filled with air. If you are lying down, you can easily feel your stomach rising by placing your hands over your belly button area. Then exhale slowly. As you do so, concentrate on the movement you feel and also repeat a mantra such as ‘breathe in’ and ‘breathe out’. Simply put, you are now channelling the autonomic nervous system into much more productive activity which will be extremely useful in fighting the panic response.
3. Learn how to improve your vagal tone
We mentioned the autonomic nervous system above. The principal nerve involved in the calming nervous pathways is the vagus nerve. This is rather long gangling affair which stretches from the brainstem right down into the stomach, intestines, heart and lungs. It is no accident that people use terms like ‘he lost his nerve’ or ‘he hasn’t got the guts’ when stress takes over.
The best way to stimulate this vagus nerve to calm the whole system down so that we feel safe and secure is to improve its tone. You can do this in the following ways:
practice meditation or mindfulness
generate positive thoughts
do exercise or some physical activity
increase omega 3 consumption by eating more fish and nuts
4. Learn how to get things into perspective
Learning how to prioritize and re-evaluate our talents, skills and experience is a great way of building self-esteem. This can also help us to put things into perspective when we are facing a critical challenge. Dr. Andy Martens of the University of Arizona has done some interesting research in this area.
5. Learn how to avoid negative people
You are in control but not when you are surrounded by anxious, negative and cynical people. Learning how to avoid these people is crucial especially when preparing for an extra stressful event.
6. Learn how to be grateful
When you are under pressure, cortisol is released and functions well as a sort of lubricant for the nervous system. The problem arises when long term, constant stress produces too much cortisol and this in turn can damage the nervous system.
One great way to reduce cortisol is to regularly practise gratitude. Researchers at the University of California Davis, led by Robert Emmons, found that this practice was very effective in reducing cortisol by as much as 23%. There were added benefits in that people were in a better mood and felt better physically and mentally.
7. Learn how to re-label emotions
Esther Sternberg, a researcher at The NIMH has done a lot of research on mind-body interaction. One of her recommendations is that when, under pressure, you are successfully able to re-label the ‘fear or flight’ emotions. For example, fear can become anticipation while dread can become caution. Being under pressure can be simply re-labelled as being courted! If you are successful with this technique you become watchful and aware rather than being frightened and ready to flee.
8. Learn how to get in the ‘zone’
Now I know saying ‘practice makes perfect’ can sound banal. Is there any scientific evidence that this is really true? Actually, the more you practise something, the more automatic it becomes. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has given lots of talks about getting in the ‘zone’ or ‘flow’ where extremely heightened focus and immersion in an activity can lead to really superb performances. There is a perfect match between your skill level and the challenge you are facing.
In fact, time is non-existent and you forget your ego and other physical restraints. One of the ways of achieving the flow is not only practice, but overlearning a skill where you can stretch yourself to new limits. This is essential when you are under pressure. You can refer to some of Mihali Csikszentmihalyi’s books which outline the whole ‘flow’concept with practical examples of their application in daily life.
9. Learn how to get on auto-pilot
There are experiments which show golfers performing lousy swings after being told that they should watch the position of their elbows. The secret here is that our conscious attention is hijacking our perfectly honed motor skills and we normally perform, speak or run much better than this! Ramping up pressure like this is not helpful. If I tell you to watch your grammar before your presentation, then your performance may be less than your best. Sports teams know all about this pressure when their fans get too enthusiastic and noisy, especially when playing at home.
Just tell yourself that your sweaty palms or beating heart are not signs that you are going to fail! They are just the side effects of somebody who is ready to give the best performance in his or her life. Tell yourself that this test/match/interview/presentation is no big deal. Sian Bellock’s book,‘Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To.’ is a fascinating insight on this process.
10. Learn to look after yourself
So, you are under pressure. But what steps are you taking to make sure that your body is going to perform well on the day? That means looking after all the essential maintenance such as diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation. Did you know that if you have too many carbs in the morning, your blood sugar may fall? That can lead to bad temper, whereas if you get enough protein, this can keep you going for much longer without that annoying sugar crash.
“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” –Dalai Lama
Let us know in the comments below how you manage to stay calm under pressure.
Being a great manager is a four-part process, Tweeted LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, pictured. AP
With a 97 percent employee approval rating on Glassdoor, LinkedIn’s Jeff Weiner has developed a reputation as one of the most beloved CEOs in the world.
Weiner recently shared his advice on what it takes to reach employees on a deeper level:
“Inspire, empower, listen & appreciate. Practicing any one of these can improve employee engagement; mastering all four can change the game”
Of course, most would agree these four qualities would be beneficial to the leadership of any business. But how do you develop and exercise these qualities in the day-to-day?
Here are a few practical steps:
There are many ways to empower your employees, including providing them with:
the flexibility to work remotely, wherever and whenever they can produce
the tools they need to do their best work
the freedom and psychological safety required to explore new ideas, to experiment, and to express dissenting opinions
Of course, good leadership involves maintaining interest in your people’s work, and offering helpful advice when appropriate.
But if you really want to see what your people are capable of, don’t be afraid to get out of their way.
Effective leaders know that good listening is an art.
To do so, you must give complete attention to the other person. (That’s right, put the phone and other distractions away.) Resist the urge to interrupt. Also, avoid trying to solve the problem, or think in terms of right and wrong.
Instead, work to understand how the other person’s thinking is similar or different than your own, along with the reasons for this. Focus on learning from the other person’s perspective. Then, use those learnings to improve your understanding of others and their situations, deepen your relationships, and broaden your overall thinking.
Appreciating your people is about more than giving credit where it’s due, or telling someone: “Job well done.” Nor is it about flattery or praise for the sake of praising.
True appreciation is looking for the good in others, getting sincere and specific about what you appreciate, and why. It means seeing their potential.
It also means commending right away when you see something good. After all, if you saw an employee engage in a dangerous behavior, you wouldn’t wait too long to correct it, would you? Similarly, you should positively reinforce your employees’ good behavior when you see it — to encourage them to continue.
Each of your people is talented in different ways. By learning to identify, recognize, and praise those talents, you bring out the best in them.
Weiner actually names this quality first, but I’m naming it last — because the effort you put into the other three traits will help you provide inspiration.
If you truly want to inspire, forget about trying to impress others with what school you went to or what you’ve already accomplished. None of that matters to the people you’re leading right now.
Instead, be willing to:
take time out of your busy schedule to help them with a problem
remain open-minded, happy to try out new ideas
get down in the trenches and join in the dirty work
show your people you’ve got their backs by staying by them even when they make mistakes
do more than tell people where they should go — set the example and show them the way
Leaders who recognize the importance of humility and emotional intelligence are the ones who are able to inspire. These leaders concern themselves with action instead of position.
Perhaps leadership author Simon Sinek said it best:
“There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.”
People in every workplace talk about building the team, but few understand how to create the experience of teamwork or how to develop an effective team. Belonging to a team, in the broadest sense, is a result of feeling part of something larger than yourself. It has a lot to do with your understanding of the mission or objectives of your organization.
In a team-oriented environment, you contribute to the overall success of the organization. You work with fellow members of the organization to produce these results. Even though you have a specific job function and you belong to a specific department, you are unified with other staff members in order to accomplish the overall objectives. Your function exists to serve the bigger picture.
You need to differentiate this overall sense of teamwork from the task of developing an effective intact team that is formed to accomplish a specific goal. People confuse the two team building objectives.
This is why so many team building seminars, meetings, retreats, and activities are deemed failures. Leaders failed to define the team they wanted to build. Developing an overall sense of teamwork is different from building an effective, focused team.
The 12 Cs for Team Building
Executives, managers, and organization staff members universally explore ways to improve business results and profitability. Many view team-based, horizontal, organization structures as the best design for involving all employees in creating business success.
No matter what you call your team-based improvement effort (whether it’s continuous improvement, total quality, lean manufacturing, or a self-directed work team), you are striving to improve results for customers. However, few organizations are totally pleased with the results their team improvement efforts produce.
If your team improvement efforts are not living up to your expectations, this self-diagnosing checklist may tell you why. Successful team building—that creates effective, focused work teams—requires attention to each of the following.
1. Clear Expectations.
Has executive leadership clearly communicated its expectations for the team’s performance and expected outcomes? Do team members understand why the team was created?
Is the organization demonstrating constancy of purpose in supporting the team with resources of people, time and money? Does the work of the team receive sufficient emphasis as a priority in terms of the time, discussion, attention, and interest directed its way by executive leaders?
Do team members understand why they are participating on the team? Do they understand how the strategy of using teams will help the organization attain its communicated business goals?
Can team members define their team’s importance to the accomplishment of corporate goals? Does the team understand where its work fits into the total context of the organization’s goals, principles, vision, and values?
Do team members want to participate on the team? Do team members feel the team mission is important? Are members committed to accomplishing the team mission and expected outcomes?
Do team members perceive their service as valuable to the organization and to their own careers? Do team members anticipate recognition for their contributions? Do team members expect their skills to grow and develop on the team? Are team members excited and challenged by the team opportunity?
Does the team feel that it has the appropriate people participating? For example, in a process improvement, is each step of the process represented on the team? Does the team feel that its members have the knowledge, skill, and capability to address the issues for which the team was formed? If not, does the team have access to the help it needs? Does the team feel it has the resources, strategies, and support needed to accomplish its mission?
Has the team taken its assigned area of responsibility and designed its own mission, vision, and strategies to accomplish the mission. Has the team defined and communicated its goals; its anticipated outcomes and contributions; its timelines; and how it will measure both the outcomes of its work and the process the team followed to accomplish their task? Does the leadership team or other coordinating group support what the team has designed?
Does the team have enough freedom and empowerment to obtain the ownership necessary to accomplish its charter? At the same time, do team members clearly understand their boundaries? How far are members allowed to go in pursuit of solutions? Are limitations (e.g., monetary and time resources) defined at the beginning of the project before the team experiences barriers and rework?
Are the team’s reporting relationship and accountability understood by all members of the organization? Has the organization defined the team’s authority to make recommendations? To implement the plan? Is there a defined review process so both the team and the organization are consistently aligned with both direction and purpose?
Do team members hold each other accountable for project timelines, commitments, and results? Does the organization have a plan to increase opportunities for self-management among organization members?
Does the team understand the team and group process? Do members understand the stages of group development? Are team members working together effectively interpersonally? Do all team members understand the roles and responsibilities of team members, team leaders, and team recorders?
Can the team approach problem solving, process improvement, goal setting, and measurement jointly? Do team members cooperate to accomplish the team charter? Has the team established group norms or rules of conduct in areas such as conflict resolution, consensus decision making, and meeting management? Is the team using an appropriate strategy to accomplish its action plan?
Are team members clear about the priority of their tasks? Is there an established method for the teams to give feedback and receive honest performance feedback? Does the organization provide important business information regularly?
Do the teams understand the complete context of their existence? Do team members communicate clearly and honestly with each other? Do team members bring diverse opinions to the table? Are necessary conflicts raised and addressed?
9. Creative Innovation.
Is the organization really interested in change? Does it value creative thinking, unique solutions, and new ideas? Does it reward people who take reasonable risks to make improvements? Or does the company reward the people who fit in and maintain the status quo? Does it provide the training, education, access to books and films, and field trips necessary to stimulate new thinking?
Do team members feel responsible and accountable for team achievements? Are rewards and recognition supplied when teams are successful? Is reasonable risk respected and encouraged in the organization? Do team members fear reprisal? Do team members spend their time finger pointing rather than resolving problems?
Is the organization designing reward systems that recognize both team and individual performance? Is the organization planning to share gains and increased profitability with the team and individual contributors? Can contributors see their impact on increased organization success?
Are teams coordinated by a central leadership team that assists the groups to obtain what they need for success? Have priorities and resource allocation been planned across departments? Do teams understand the concept of the internal customer (i.e, anyone to whom they provide a product or a service?)
Are cross-functional and multi-department teams common and working together effectively? Is the organization developing a customer-focused process-focused orientation and moving away from traditional departmental thinking?
12. Culture Change.
Does the organization recognize that the team-based, collaborative, empowering, enabling the organizational culture of the future is different than the traditional, hierarchical organization it may currently be? Is the organization planning to, or in the process of, changing how it rewards, appraises, hires, develops, motivates, and manages the people it employs?
Does the organization plan to use failures for learning and support reasonable risk? Does the organization recognize that the more it can change its climate to support teams, the more it will receive in payback from the work of the teams?
The 12 Cs Work
If you spend time and attention on each of these recommendations you will ensure that your work teams contribute as effectively as possible to your overall business success. It’s a lot to do, but there’s a lot at stake.