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June 2009
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August 2009


Remember the catchy, albeit raunchy, song about "Ti_s and As_" from the musical Chorus Line.  It seems to have helped set a new standard in unprofessional attire for some workers.

Recently I was interviewing a college student for a possible internship with my consulting firm.  She arrived in a revealing low-cut tank top with bra straps and much more hanging out, tight shorts, and flip flops.  This was shocking and distracting.  Needless to say, she did not get the position. 

Unfortunately this situation is not uncommon. Last night I picked up will-call tickets for a concert.  The young woman working in the ticket box office wore a strapless top without a bra which she repeatedly had to pull up so it did not fall down.   On stage, the male orchestra performers wore a relaxed summer attire without ties or jackets.  They looked professional with long-sleeve white shirts that were buttoned up and tucked in their slacks.  A few of the female performers however did not uphold this standard -- for example, every time one female violinist leaned forward to turn the music, her entire back end hung out.  Here was the 'plumber's butt' syndrome on stage -- ugh! It was clearly distracting her and the audience. Other parts of that same organization had set a reasonable standard -- ushers regardless of gender, for example, were dressed quite appropriately with non-revealing white blouses/shirts and black pants. These ushers appeared to be more mature and perhaps had learned from experience. Why is there such inconsistency?

Men are not immune to this syndrome of unprofessional attire and should be equally aware of the importance of portraying a professional image.

Organizations had not set, communicated, or upheld a consistent and professional standard for work attire. Such businesses are doing a disservice to their customers, employees, and their own image.  Employees are not as productive in such >settings.  Customers get a poor impression of your business.

It begs the question -- What are parents, schools, businesses, and the fashion industry teaching people about professional appearance.  What kind of judgment (or lack thereof) do employees and employers have?  It appears that the offenders don't even realize they are doing something inappropriate.

Practical Pointers for Employees.

  • Choose modesty over revealing clothes, not only for an interview but also for work.

  • Become aware.  Look at what people in positions you aspire to attain are wearing -- what is appropriate and what is not? Identify a role model after which you can model your attire.

  • When in doubt on the appropriate nature of some outfit, get an opinion from a teacher, parent, or another respected person in the community.

  • Take a course.  Alice Swanson offers a workshop called "Learn to Earn" which is designed to help students make the transition from college to career ( Alice states, "I DRILL professional attire into my students. I dress professionally every day that I teach so they can see what is appropriate."

Practical Pointers for Employers.

  • Set a written standard for professional attire in your work environment.  Be specific so that it is very clear.  Ensure there is no double standard -- insist that both women and men dress professionally.

  • Communicate your standard on an ongoing basis.  Share it during orientation sessions.  Have your managers be role models. 

  • Uphold your standard.  Send people home and dock their pay, if they do not meet the standard.  Include professional image in performance reviews. Do not accept less.

Together we can move beyond T&A as accepted work attire. Take on the pursuit of professional image as part of your passionate purpose.   The result will be better business and career performance.

Theresa M. Szczurek ( and


A single word can make a huge difference. On an increasing number of occasions over the last few months, I have noticed men and women, senior executives to entry level team members, refer to women as girls.  You might say what does it matter?  It matters a lot. 

Why?  I remember seeing a promo video of a what I thought was a top-notch speaker.  He really impressed me until he slipped--he referred in some way to the women involved in the business as girls. And, he was so unaware of this as a mistake that he included that clip as a demonstration of his best material.  Immediately, the red flag went up for me (and most likely for other professionals watching).  If he would say this on the record, what else would he say.  I realize that my respect and trust for him as a professional suffered. I could not hire or refer him.

In my coaching, I help my clients understand that proper terminology is expected and part of business performance.  If you want to be on the top, talk in a manner you expect from someone already at the top.  Using respectful terms such as women rather than girls makes you look good and allows you to show respect for others. 

Practical Pointers.

1.  The first step is "Be Aware." Do you remember the classic marketing formula, AIDA – awareness, interest, desire, and action. In our communications efforts, we strive to move the market to be aware, have interest, desire our product/services, and take action to buy.  Use AIDA to change your own communications patterns.  Once you have awareness of your behavior, interest (or the intention to communicate in a way that will be inclusive) and desire to change, you will take appropriate action.

2.  Old habits are hard to break. My suggestion is use terms that do not connote gender such as leader. Here are some examples:
• I want to thank the leaders who helped with the registration table…
• The staff did a fabulous job
• The committee members were so involved this year
• How can we thank the students for their participation?

3.  Surround yourself with people who use proper terminology and who will give you feedback.  Do you have a coach, a MasterMind group, or co-workers you can ask to help you?

4.  Give others feedback. People appreciate constructive feedback if it is shared with an intent to help.  Being silent only confuses --it makes it appear that you approve of this speech.

5. When does a girl become a woman? If she has gone through puberty, she is a woman. When in doubt, call any female a woman.  For sure, anyone older than high school is a woman.  I was surprised and impressed recently at a Girl Scouts event -- the event leaders called all the girls women.  This gave me a wake up call to refer to the members of the troop I lead, 7th and 8th graders, women. We all need reminders and help along the way.

Women and men unite!  Get passionate about using the proper terminology.  Use the term woman!

Theresa M. Szczurek ( and


Q209 is gone.  Was it all that you planned for it to be?  You do have a plan right? 


Don’t be like Alice in Wonderland.  You remember when Alice met the Cheshire Cat in the tree and asked, "Which road should I take?"  The Cat asked her, "Well it depends a great deal on what you want to go."  Alice said, "I don't much care where."  Then the Cat said, "Then it doesn't matter.  If you don't know where you are going any road will take you there." 


Take my Girl Scout troop of 8th grade girls, for example.  They love to go camping and at first did not like to plan to get there. Now they realize that if they don’t plan, either we don’t go or they don’t get what they want.  Planning actually saves them time and energy – it delivers the fun. 


Case Study.  Consider Rare Space, Inc. (, a tenant advisory services firm that promotes client success by solving and delivering solutions to their commercial real estate needs.  They realized that taking their plan and practices to the level would help them grow.  TMS conducted a company and sales force assessment and planned, designed, facilitated, and documented Rare Space’s strategic planning / execution process.  


“As a result of the time we spent with Technology and Management Solutions and the client interviews TMS conducted, we learned a lot,” stated Tom Grotewold, Founder and CEO at Rare Space.  “We now have a one-page strategic business plan that our firm actually uses.  We understand why our clients like working with us, and we win more business because we know what our strengths are and what is important to creating happy clients.  We meet once a week, and also briefly once a day.  These meetings actually solve problems, keep the communications flowing and allow us to reinforce our company core competencies, values and beliefs.  We hope these benefits are just the beginning, because we now have the tools and methods we need for even greater success.”


This approach works for individuals and families as well as for-profit, non-profit, and government organizations.  Try it, you will like it!


Practical Pointers for Q3 planning taken from Pursuit of Passionate Purpose (

  • Assess Progress.  How are things going?  Ask yourself the tough questions. Be honest. Many companies report that sales are down, closing times are up, and their pipeline is not big enough to make up for it.  This is the perfect time to do a sales assessment.  Start by taking the free sales grader:  Then Next get some help and do a comprehensive evaluation – you will learn what to do to strengthen your sales results.
  • Find Passion.  Reaffirm your values and core competencies.  In the intersection, you and your firm define its passion.  Passion is the fuel for the pursuit.
  • Align Passion with Purpose.  What is your purpose?  Where do you want to be in 10 to 25 years – do you have a vision?  Who are you serving? 
  • Pursue Purpose.  This is where you establish your 3 to 5 year, 1 year, and Q3 goals.  What do you need to do over the next 13 weeks so that you will be where you want by the end of the year?  Establish clear metrics – what are the key performance indicators of progress?  Take the plan down to what you need to do each day.  For example, for sales determine how many call attempts, conversations, appointments, and meetings are needed to get to your revenue goal. Make sure your plan is written down and visibly displayed.  Establish a rhythm of communication – have a daily huddle with your team. Check in on it at least weekly, monthly, and quarterly -- track your metrics. 


The worst of times? The best of times?  Which are these?  It is your choice.  It depends on your plan and how well you are doing in pursuing it.  Allow yourself to BELIEVE that everything is possible. And then ACT on your pursuit!


Theresa M. Szczurek ( and