What sort of first impression do people have of you? Whether you’ve thought about it or not, others will form a powerful impression based on your grooming, clothing and body language, also known as your ‘visual language’, and your voice, ‘verbal language’. Together, these images are the basis of the way others think of you, how they describe you to others and whether or not they recommend you and your business.
The power of a first impression is immense. The company’s image is represented by you and you are the line of communication that links to the company. Ultimately, you need to present an image that reflects your strengths and values.
Personal branding is becoming ever more important. Due to economic turmoil and competition in general, business focus has become more firmly centred on finance directors, they can no longer lurk in a back office, oblivious to all but the numbers. CFOs must now accept their role that has become a public one and accordingly, they must think about the image they project.
Is it important to work on one’s image? Most CFOs agree it is important to get it right the first time around. Brands no longer apply solely to companies; increasingly, personal brands have become just as important. Think Richard Branson. It pays to be consistently professional in all the ways that matter, whether it is the way you meet and work with others, through to the way you look after your personal appearance. It could be said that the company’s brand is the sum total of all the personal brands associated with it, starting with management. Even though every management role is different, the personal brands combine to make a strong and authentic statement about the organisation.
The key for a CFO to making an individual statement is to dress with simplicity. Create a visual language that communicates security, reliability, longevity and fiscal responsibility – the last thing you want is for your CFO to look like a bank robber. Clothes must be of good quality and should fit the individual as though made for them, therefore invest in yourself. Impressions are formed by others within a few seconds, so it is important not to wear something inappropriate or distracting, no matter how small. Chandelier ear-rings or a tie featuring gimmicks are a distraction that dissolves the aura of reliability you are trying to project.
Authentic character evaluations are a good way to bring congruence to the overall ‘look’ of the company. Bring the key players together and compare impressions. How do others perceive you? How do you perceive yourself? Do those images match?
Although this is not the traditional area of finance professionals, such “transactional” analysis will prove beneficial. CFOs have a central role in working with stakeholders and the impressions they generate are vital in delivering credibility and developing trust. Find improved ways to communicate accounting and finance information to the stakeholders: illustrate important points with real world examples and raise the standards of presentation: It may initially take more effort – but it will be remembered and your return on investment quantified.
If CFOs look professional and project integrity and strength of character, stakeholders will attach more importance to their message. A strong personal brand is crucial to the well-being of the organisation – in times of uncertainty, it’s critical.