Image and Impact for Interview, Member Monday, Men in Business, Men's Style, Women in business, Women's Style

Member’s Monday – Interview Success by Jacky Williams

Preparing for interview?

W1Increase your image and impact with top tips for interview by Accredited First Impressions Consultant, Jacky Williams.

1.  First impressions start before the interview. How you come across on paper or via on-line applications and how you sound on the telephone. Ensure your CV and accompanying letter or email is free from mistakes and speak clearly on the telephone.

2.  Show an interest in your possible future employers and research the company. Remember they may also do the same with you so be aware of what information is available to interviewers on social networking sites like Facebook! Are you promoting a credible image?

3.  Put in the effort and dress appropriately.  Make sure your interview outfit is in-keeping with the company’s dress code and always look smart and well turned out.  Wear the correct colours and styles to suit your personal colouring and body shape. Reflect your individual style with well chosen accessories.

4.  Make a list of any information you require. Asking questions shows initiative and interest in the position.

5.  Pay attention to personal grooming and personal hygiene. Always wear well kept clean shoes.

6.  Be aware of your body language, aiming for a positive and confident demeanour, using firm handshake, good eye contact and remember to smile!

7.  Communicate clearly and calmly, taking time to answer questions thoughtfully. Make sure any presentations are well prepared and practised.

Good luck!


Authentic, Authenticity, Body Language, Confidence, First Impressions, Image consultancy, Leadership, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

How to Express Your Leadership Presence

iStock_000017925351SmallLeaders of men and women come in many guises, from successful business people like Richard Branson and Sheryl Sandberg, to spiritual and political leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King.  One thing effective leaders have in common is presence and by learning how to maximise yours, you will be developing an essential vital non-verbal communication skill that will ensure you look like a leader. The art of communication is surely one of the most vital skills of any leader, the power to persuade and appearance plays and important role in that process. In this very visual world, we are all influenced by what we see and so our appearance needs to match what’s on the inside – our abilities, characteristics and values. Otherwise, we get mixed messages. The ability to manage our image is a positive communication skill and something we can easily learn like any other for career success.

Deep impact

First and foremost, you have to make an impact. Effective leaders will almost always have ‘presence’ or that indefinable X factor. They will either give an impression of quiet authority or of obvious power, according to their personal style. Your posture, demeanour and the way you interact with people – as well as appearance – will all contribute to your personal presence. It has often been described that leaders ‘take up space’ and are comfortable doing so. They stand, move and dress confidently and assertively.  Good leaders will be well aware of the subliminal messages of non-verbal communication, including image and your body language, and will use these tricks effectively. Leaders also make the rules rather than follow them and have the confidence to dress to reflect their personality and business. Think of Sir John Harvey-Jones with his natty suits and flamboyant socks, Richard Branson’s early years in his approachable knitwear or Anita Roddick’s style echoing her individuality and ethical interests. Each of these leaders has a very distinctive personal image. You need to develop your personal style to suit your style of leadership. Whatever look you choose, you must be true to your personality and remain individual to ensure you’re memorable.

Feel the quality

And, whether you believe money is the measure of success or not, when it comes to appearance, quality counts.  That doesn’t mean you have to buy the most expensive items you can find – it’s about seeking clothes and accessories where the quality of the material and craftsmanship is evident.  A perfectly fitting lightweight wool suit, an immaculate silk tie or a beautifully stitched handbag in softest leather – they all breathe quality.  Too often in corporate life, an individual’s impact is marred by the inclusion of an item that jars.  A smart tailored suit and crisp shirt can be undermined by teaming them with a cheap plastic watch and biro.  It gives out a message of poor judgement, poor quality and a sloppy approach to work.  The subliminal message you want people to pick up from your appearance is ‘here is someone who knows what they are doing, where they are going, with sound judgement and an eye for quality and detail’.

Role Model

Another aspect of effective leadership is taking your duty as a role model seriously.  Individuals leading their own businesses can obviously make the rules, but should remember that they are role models for those following them up the career ladder and so should set the standard for the company.  Giving clear messages to your employees about how you expect them to dress at work will make them feel far more comfortable than a confusing ‘anything goes’ atmosphere.   Make it clear to your staff or team just what you expect of them – and avoid vague terms than can be misinterpreted. The current trend towards a ‘modern professional’ dress code, where an employee is expected to make judgements about what look each day’s activities require, is a good test of their business acumen. Judging when to opt for ‘formal business’, knowing when ‘relaxed business’ will do or when ‘business casual’ is the order of the day takes perception – and that’s a valuable skill to have on your team. You will want your staff and clients to have absolute faith in you and your ability to make good decisions, so a good leader will need to earn respect.   Your clothes can play their part – err on the side of formality or, if the culture in which you work demands a business casual approach, keep it smart and co-ordinated and of good quality. And, of course, your clothes need to match the culture and values of your organisation. For example, in a young, innovative company, you’ll need to be more casual and keep a closer eye on fashion trends. Knowledge of colour will also be valuable to know how to look more authoritative when you need to. This is especially true when selecting business casual items as they are often more colourful and require good co-ordination.  There will also be occasions when you need to project more approachability and subtle changes in the way you wear colour can help achieve this.

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions  Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Director of Regional Events for FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching.  First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map. Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038 Email: Website:

Dress for Success, Member Monday, Women in business

Member’s Monday – Dressing Expectations by Joanna Gaudoin

Every Monday we are giving the opportunity to our trained consultants to showcase their blogs.  This first week we have a blog from Joanna Gaudoin of Inside Outlarge-man-woman-bathroom-sign-md

Dressing Expectations – Are expectations of how to dress higher for women in the workplace?

What’s your reaction to this question? Have you ever thought about ‘dressing expectations’ in this way before? If you’re a woman, perhaps you feel a bit indignant, if a man perhaps puzzlement… I have been asked this question several times in the last few weeks, in different scenarios and by different types of people- during a radio interview, at a speaking event and during some one-to- one conversations. I think the fact that I have been asked it so many times in a matter of weeks alludes to an answer. It is a tricky question in these times of supposed equality. I have to admit it does make me bristle a little…However, I do think that there are greater expectations of women to present themselves better in the workplace. This means that they are judged more harshly when they don’t dress according to the expectations of those around them; and that is the expectations of both men and women! One event participant was very honest in a comment he made recently, although I appreciate it may annoy many of you at this point…He explained that what men appreciate a woman wearing on a date or in another social setting is frowned upon by men in the workplace. Date or social wear are not seen as appropriate for professional women in the work environment but for a post work outing men do expect more effort, not just office wear. On the other hand, formal office wear worn by men is widely accepted and even actively appreciated by women on an evening out. So this begs the question, why are there greater expectations of women? I believe the first reason is women are expected to know how to dress well and look good. After all, all women are into clothes, shopping and have an eye for these things, right? In reality, this is not the case, many women don’t want to spend time thinking about clothes and shoes and dread shopping! With more and more time pressure too, trying to balance being partner, mother and career woman, there just isn’t the time. Fewer women than men dislike clothes and shopping but more than the media and magazines would like us to believe. Many women I work with berate themselves as they feel they ‘should’ know by now how to look good even though they struggle with the inclination and the time. However, why should women ‘know’? We don’t all have an eye for what looks good on us. If it’s not a natural skill, then it’s like any other, we need help to develop it! Secondly, whilst being female provides more opportunities to dress interestingly and be more individual, the increased scope and availability of accessories and more colourful items does provide more scope for mistakes and harsh subjective judgements. Men will almost always notice something less than ideal on a woman and women will almost certainly do the same of their peers so I guess you could say that’s a double whammy!  Whilst women are likely to notice a badly dressed man, other men are less likely to unless there is something drastically out of kilter! ‘Dressing expectations’ are what they are but what is important to remember is whilst not everyone is always going to appreciate our specific choices most people can appreciate when others look good even if it wouldn’t be their personal choice. Looking good means:

  • Appropriate for the occasion and the environment
  • The right clothing and accessories for our body shape, colouring and personal style.

So some tips to remember:

  • Consider the appropriate dress code not just for your job role but the environment and situation for a given day. Being over or under dressed can leave you feeling very uncomfortable and unfocused on the work task
  • Try to bring out some personality in your outfit in an appropriate way so you are positively memorable; men can do this via ties, cuff links, a patterned shirt. For women there are many options – jewellery, scarf, shoes, handbag
  • For women, think about altering an outfit for a post work event – use different accessories and shoes. TIP: One designer Manifattura Donna, available at  has detachable elements that come with some of their shirts and dresses such as ribbons and necklaces that fix neatly to the garment; allowing you to relax the feel of the item for evening wear or a less formal meeting.
  • Avoid anything that distracts someone so they are more focused on that element than what you are saying. Examples include cartoon socks for men, jangly bracelets for women
  • Ensure your clothes fit you well and they flatter you. The better you look, the better you will feel meaning you will exude greater confidence and positivity to others, which can only be a plus.

Let me know what you think as it would be great to get some more opinions. Thank you Joanna!

Confidence, First Impressions, Leadership, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

Putting Yourself First

oxygen maskYou may have noticed that I didn’t post yesterday and there was good reason for that.  I was adding to my knowledge, mixing with people who ‘juice’ me, to coin a well used phrase from the weekend!  I am one of life’s curious people. I love new experiences and learning new things. It’s what makes me happy and puts a spring in my step!

There is a great metaphor for life if you ever pay attention to the air hosts or hostesses when they do their safely demonstrations.  They advise you to put your own oxygen mask on first. That may be tricky for you to comprehend, especially if you are a giver. But in order to be able to help others, you do need to put your own oxygen mask on first. What good are you to others if you are not able to breathe?!

So that’s, what I was doing this weekend, putting my own oxygen mask on first and filling up my lungs, my head and my heart.

The training was fantastic!  I was learning all about how to become financially free.  In these uncertain times I’m certainly not going to fut my faith into the Government to look after me in my old age, so before I get too old, I’m making sure we are maximising our own finances so that my family and I are secure.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  I was training with Ann Wilson – The Wealth Chef – she gives such practical advice, delivered with high energy, enthusiasm and love.  If you want to be financially free – I’d definitely check out Ann’s work. She’s a self-made millionaire and it’s her mission to teach as many people as possible how to be financially free.

Wishing you a fabulous week


Dressing Down, First Impressions, Leadership, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

iStock_000015022319MediumAs it is Friday, I thought I would write about dressing down today!

A few years ago the City, followed by businesses across the country, abandoned the suit and embraced ‘dress down’.  Firstly, it was ‘dress down Fridays’ and then gradually dress down became the norm from Monday through Friday.  But clothes are always cyclical and the suit never really died.  These days, many companies adopt a ‘modern professional’ dress code which expects employees to wear whatever is deemed appropriate for the activities they are involved in each day.  But ‘deemed appropriate’ by whom?  Whilst the really smart ones will know how to get the ‘suited and booted’ look right for external meetings with clients and the ‘business casual’ look spot on for internal meetings, for many it’s a mystifying labyrinth of unwritten rules that leaves them confused and bewildered!

Without proper guidelines and direction, as was common in the past, standards slip and bosses start to feel uncomfortable about an ‘anything goes’ culture.  They may be more tolerant, with smart casual being acceptable in many environments, but they still expect a business-like look.  Whilst most staff can manage to look reasonably professional in their jackets and suits, when it comes to dress down it’s a different matter.  Any employee who wants to go places should know what smart casual (or business casual) should look like.

Dress down allows more individual choice, which is where the problems creep in.  People don’t intentionally disregard policies – what employees wear can be attributed to their own individual style personality, job profile and age and this leads to some amazingly inappropriate choices.  However, companies should be able to trust employees to dress appropriately – it’s all part of being able to do the job properly.  One City firm sent a memo to its employees stating that anyone reporting to work improperly dressed may be instructed by their manager to return home and change their clothes, with further action and possible termination not out of the question!

The fundamental benefit of dress down for staff is that it allows freedom and choice, enabling them to express their individuality.  Comfortable, happy workers should be more productive so in theory employers like dress down too.  However, there are staff at all levels who find all that choice just too much of a good thing.  It was all so easy before but now every occasion requires thought, planning and a different dress code.

Whilst it might seem churlish to single out British men, a quick look around any city business district anywhere in the UK will show that chinos with a crumpled casual shirt is the uniform that many have simply substituted for the suit.  An alternative is the faded logo-emblazoned T-shirt with scruffy combats, denim or corduroys.  And when it comes to shoes – don’t even go there!  British women aren’t guilt-free either – with underwear showing and too much flesh exposed being the most common crimes.

So how should dress down be properly interpreted?  A simple definition of ‘business casual’ is ‘A comfortably relaxed version of classic business attire, with no sacrifice of professionalism or personal power.’.  Propriety, quality and co-ordination are the watch-words of dress down.  Clothes should never be distracting and therefore they should suitably cover you (legs, arms, chests, cleavages, midriffs or any other body part that might otherwise get exposed).  Exposing too much diminishes credibility faster than anything else – you have been warned!

You should also expect to spend as much on your business casual wardrobe as on your formal suiting – the quality of construction, fabric, finish and attention to detail should be no different from that of a formal suit.  It is simply the colour, fabric type and style details that will make a jacket, skirt or pair of trousers look casual rather than formal.  The many and varied versions of cotton, linen, silk and lightweight wool, often mixed with clever new fibre technology, gives you a wide range of fabric choices for business casual clothing.  Clothing structure will also affect how formal or casual a garment looks.  In general, the more tailored or ‘structured’ a garment, the more formal and authoritative it will look.  For business casual looks garments can be more softly structured, for example a soft collar rather than a sharp collar or a softly tailored jacket rather than a sharply tailored jacket.

Co-ordination is also a vital element of business casual, although you can select lighter shades and more colour and pattern than for formal dressing.  Whilst it is hard to get it too wrong with a suit, with business casual you have to THINK about what goes with what!  That means you have to know what suits you, including the colours, styles, proportions and details that will work for your individual colouring and physique.  Your outfit should look so well put together that your clients, customers and colleagues can all get on with the job in hand, instead of being struck dumb by the amazing colour combinations you’ve selected that day.

Another ingredient of more casual dressing is fashion and, whilst in some creative industries it might be vital to look as fashionable as you can afford, in others it will be perceived as shallow and not conducive to the business environment.  It’s more important to ensure you are ‘current’ as this implies that your thinking and ideas will be current too.  Regularly update your wardrobe so that it looks relatively ‘of the moment’ without looking overtly fashionable and that way you’ll attain the right ‘modern classic’ look that works for business casual.

Consistency is also vital with business casual.  You can’t look fantastic one day and like a dog’s dinner the next without ruining your credibility.  You’ve got to look good every day – that way you’ll give consistent messages of your personal ‘brand values’.  Decide in advance how you want to be perceived and then ensure that your business casual look echoes this message.  For example, you can still achieve an authoritative look using colour – simply select the darker shades or clothing combinations with more contrast from your business casual wardrobe in order to create a stronger look.

Whilst for many the advent of dress down throughout the week has meant a whole new wardrobe, it’s best not to view formal and casual as two separate wardrobes.  ‘Modern professional’ has many nuances and you should develop a flexible wardrobe that allows you to slide seamlessly from formal, through relaxed business, to business casual, making minor adjustments to your look to suit your working day and lifestyle along the way.

Think of your wardrobe needs as a sliding scale with formal business at one end and casual at the other.  Just below formal business will come ‘relaxed business’ – a suited or jacketed look that’s not so sharp as ‘formal’.  Below that is ‘business casual’ – still smart and polished but using casual garments and accessories.  These are the three looks you need in the workplace.  Below ‘business casual’ comes ‘casual’ – an entirely different thing!  Casual is denim, trainers, t-shirts, combats, flip-flops, Timberlands, chunky sweaters, fleeces…need I go on?  If it’s in this last category, it shouldn’t be worn for work.  And that’s where all the trouble started…. employees wearing their ‘casual’ clothes to the workplace.

So spend some time shopping for your business casual wardrobe, just as you would for your formal suits.  Learn to enjoy putting different looks together and you’ll feel confident whatever the dress code – the suit may not be dead but there’s no doubt that dress down is here to stay!

Top Tips for Dress Down

  • Aim for more softly structured garments for business casual
  • Go for lighter shades and an increased use of colour
  • Budget to spend as much on your business casual wardrobe as your formal office attire.
  • Avoid distracting clothes and exposing too much flesh
  • Regularly update your wardrobe to keep your clothes ‘current’
  • Aim for consistency to retain your credibility and personal brand values
  • Develop a flexible wardrobe that can adapt to various work scenarios
  • Don’t confuse business casual with ‘casual’ – save fleeces and trainers for the weekend!

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Membership Director of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching. 

First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map.

Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038




Solving the Dress Down Puzzle

Colour Psychology, First Impressions, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

The Psychology of Colour

Colour psychologyWhen you visit another organisation, what are the first things you notice?  One of your initial observations is likely to be the general ‘feel’ of the environment and this will include the colour scheme, even if you are not aware you are noticing it.  You may not realise that the colours used are giving strong messages but they are – some colour schemes shout trendy, imaginative, forward-thinking and others give quite the opposite impression – dull, unimaginative, stuck in a time-warp or just plain run-down.  Your feelings will be greatly influenced by the subliminal messages you absorb within a few minutes of arrival.

If colour contributes strongly to the impression you form of an organisation, so too will it contribute to the impression you form of an individual, or that others form of you.  The colours you, and others, choose to wear will speak volumes about you – your ability to decide what’s appropriate; your creativity; your sense of style and ability to co-ordinate; your sense of what’s right for each situation.

Scientific studies show that blood pressure can alter in response to colour and appetite can also be affected!  Many people are familiar with the effect that music can have on mood and colour can have a similar influence – it creates both a physiological and emotional response.  It follows that individuals will be affected by the colours around them and the colours they, and others, wear.

Every morning you decide what to wear to work – which shirt, which tie, which suit, which top – decisions, decisions!  How do you make those decisions?  In order to ensure that colour works for you in the workplace (and, for that matter, out of it) you need to consider two things.  Firstly, what colours work for your individual colouring and secondly, what is appropriate or inappropriate for the environment and role you are going to be in.

By recognising the characteristics that make up your own colour pattern and applying them to your clothing choices, you will achieve the right balance with your colouring so that attention is drawn to you and not your clothes.  Whilst some colours will overwhelm you, you’ll overpower others, and the key is to find colours that work with your colouring to flatter and enhance – ensuring you look your healthiest best.  Take a bit of time also to think about the psychology of colour and the messages associated with each before you make your choices.  That way, you can be sure that your brand values and messages, and those of your organisation, are being echoed by your sartorial decisions.

Colours and their common messages

Blue is a popular colour for a working wardrobe, suggesting professionalism, intelligence, trustworthiness and reliability.  However, blue can also seem cold, aloof and conservative – so too much blue might not be right if you are working for an energetic and creative young company.

Purple is a very popular alternative, in every shade from deep to palest lilac – and it works for both sexes.  Throughout history, purple was the most expensive colour to produce so was always reserved for royalty and the clergy.  Signalling creativity, innovation, confidence and success, it can work well for workplace attire.

Black on its own can be sophisticated and assertive but it can also seem intimidating and even menacing.  Often chosen by those in media, fashion and design, its connotations can be different in these industries – with an intimation of understated modernity and urban cool.  In other industries, however, it could be perceived as too austere if you want to come across as warm and friendly, especially if worn alone.

Stark black and white contrasts usually signal authority and power which can be positive but which can also intimidate, so decide just how authoritative you want to appear.  Think of judges, the police and security guards – they would have a much harder time wearing beige!  White on its own signals purity, empathy and approachability but, once again, can be stark and severe. Grey can be cool but be careful, it needs to be used stylishly and with attention to quality, otherwise it can seem dull and lacking in energy.

Choosing red needs care – it can appear powerful, dynamic and assertive but, like black and white, can also seem aggressive and demanding.  Red works best as an accent to focus attention – that’s why speakers often wear red ties as it draws attention to the mouth and concentrates attention on the speech.

When calm, balance, harmony and empathy are the messages you want to project, choosing green will help you to create the right atmosphere.  It is one of the most restful colours to look at but needs to be used in a dynamic way and accessorised well to avoid looking dull and bland.

So what of beige and brown – aren’t neutrals the most popular 21st century scheme for interiors?  Well, yes, used in a modern, sleek and creative way and with their associations with the earth and nature, they can convey both seriousness and respectability with creativity and innovation.  They are also associated with empathy and supportiveness.  Just make sure they are used in a high quality, sophisticated way to avoid looking dreary.

 What to wear when

Apart from the common messages that certain colours signal, your choices should include some thought for what you’ll be doing – what will be most appropriate for the day’s activities?  For formal work occasions, such as client presentations, choose a darker suit or jacket and combine it with a light or bright top or shirt, in order to create contrast.  This will give you a stronger, more authoritative appearance and will help you feel confident.  If you have a difficult meeting with a colleague and wish to appear approachable and non-threatening, choose softer contrasts and use more colour.  A lighter suit or jacket with a more colourful shirt or top would work well.  The colours you choose within the workplace should also fit the nature of your message.  If you need to communicate difficult news, wear suitably sober clothing to echo your message.  Likewise, an upbeat report on an award won or outstanding results can be communicated wearing something similarly bright, upbeat and energetic.

Whatever colours you choose, a professional working wardrobe for both formal and business casual looks should consist of ‘structured’ items, ideally in plain, closely woven fabrics.  Your own colouring should be part of your decision and the colour you choose to wear should be selected in the depth, tone and clarity that suits your individual colouring.  If this sounds like double-dutch, find an expert to help you understand what works and why.  You can make a start by thinking of an item in your wardrobe that you love and wear a lot and another that you don’t like and rarely wear.  It’s quite likely that the favourite item is in a colour that’s good for you and that the rarely worn one isn’t – although there could be another reason such as the style or fit, of course.

Your clothes, and the colours you choose to wear, should help you in your daily task of creating rapport, influencing others and ensuring you create the right impression.  Never underestimate the power of appearances and especially of first impressions – that smart, sleek coffee and cream head office is a world away from the magnolia and beige one in the same street.

Best wishes


Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Membership Director of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching. 

First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map.

Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038



Body Language, Business Etiquette, Confidence, First Impressions, Image consultancy, Leadership, Lyn Bromley, Men in Business, Women in business

Mind Your Manners!

Business Etiquette

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at

What does business etiquette mean to you?  The word etiquette is, of course, a French word and we use it to describe the manners and courtesy that are deemed desirable in both social and business life.  Interestingly, the French don’t use the word etiquette to mean the same thing – they use ‘savoir vivre’ – ‘to know how to live’.  Equally interesting, I think, is that the French use of the word etiquette translates as ‘label’.  Surely nothing ‘labels’ us so effectively in the eyes and minds of our friends, acquaintances and business associates as the way we conduct ourselves – the manners and courtesy we display in our daily lives.

There is no doubt that non-verbal communication plays a very significant role in inter-personal relationships and, as communication experts, we are constantly dealing with the visual aspects including both appearance and body language.  In the last couple of years, however, clients have increasingly asked us to tackle other aspects of behaviour in the workplace, focussing on the many and varied topics that fall within the term ‘business etiquette’.

Popular television shows, both fact and fiction, show just how profoundly powerful this aspect of an individual’s professional conduct can be.  You might remember David Brent of ‘The Office’ committing just about every business etiquette crime there is, or you may have squirmed with discomfort as one of the ‘Dragon’s Den’ supplicants reached the top of the stairs and launched into their ‘pitch’ without a handshake or introduction.  You’ll remember the relief you felt when, at last, one of them actually walked up to the ‘Dragons’, shook hands, made eye contact and introduced themselves in a friendly and assertive way.  The  BBC show is still popular now, so watch how all the non-verbal signals persuade or dissuade the ‘Dragons’ to part with their thousands – or not, as the case may be.  Equally, ‘The Apprentice’ was a fascinating insight into how people conduct themselves and how it affects their success, or lack of it, in the workplace.

Business Etiquette is a vast subject covering everything from dining to e-mails; meetings to greetings; gestures to chewing gum and, to some extent, it’s what we should know anyway.  But in an increasingly casual 21st century Britain, we don’t.  A whole generation is entering the workforce (and moving up through it) with gaps in their knowledge of what constitutes acceptable or appropriate behaviour.  Whilst today’s emphasis on free expression and creativity in an individual’s early years is doubtless a positive thing, this doesn’t have to mean losing sight of the value of respect in human relationships.

The basic rule of etiquette is to show consideration for the other party.  Whether it’s thinking about what’s appropriate to wear to a meeting – the etiquette of appearance – so that you show respect to whoever you’re meeting; conducting yourself properly and positively in a meeting or at a corporate hospitality event; or following simple rules for business e-mails and letters, etiquette is fundamentally about showing respect for others.  If you stop and think how the other person is likely to receive your communication or respond to your behaviour, you will go a long way towards preventing misunderstandings and not giving offence.  You will also go a long way towards building rapport and strong personal relationships.  It’s these personal relationships, within the workplace environment, that are so vital to an individual’s and an organisation’s success.

Most managers are agreed that manners, common courtesy and an understanding of how to ‘do the right thing’ in any situation are all attributes that differentiate great from good when it comes to staff.  As ‘soft skills’ are widely recognised to be more vital to an individual’s personal employability than technical skills these days, companies are increasingly asking First Impressions to include Business Etiquette within a range of topics relating to professional profile development.  If an individual is going to be able to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the workplace as they work their way up the career ladder, it’s even more important that they understand that how they operate – their ‘professional profile’ – plays a key role in building credibility and is a vital part of their career toolkit.

What are the customs and taboos in your workplace?  Are you confident that your etiquette is always spot-on?  Do you sometimes wince when a colleague commits a faux pas at a business lunch or corporate hospitality event?  Business etiquette affects us all.  If your people are your biggest asset, are you confident that their business etiquette will help not hinder your organisation’s success?

Test your Business Etiquette know-how with our quick quiz:

Q1        Where do you put your napkin if you need to leave the dining table during a meal?

Q2        Where do you put your napkin when you leave the table at the end of the meal?

Q3        What are the five most common blunders that office workers admit to when greeting clients and colleagues?

Q4        Should you introduce a colleague to a client or a client to a colleague?

Q5        Is it appropriate to use your laptop, mobile or palm pilot at the table at a business lunch?

Q6        Can you toast yourself?  Is it acceptable to raise your glass and drink when you are the one being toasted?

Quiz Answers:

A1        On the back of your chair

A2        On the table

A3        The continental kiss; the bone crusher handshake; offering a handshake when the other person offers a cheek; misjudging a kiss and almost giving a smacker on the lips!; giving an overenthusiastic bear hug

A4        Always introduce a colleague to a client, regardless of the colleague’s age or rank – i.e. deference should be shown to the client.

A5        No – and nor should you spread papers out over the table at a business lunch.  It may be a business lunch but the basic rules of dining etiquette still apply.

A6        No – you can raise your glass to acknowledge a toast to you but you should not drink when you are the one being toasted.


Business Etiquette Top Tips

  • Practice what you preach


It’s easy to know what to do but much harder to do it.  Aim to avoid just paying lip service to business etiquette and ensure you do actually behave as you would like others to.  Remember that you’re a role model for other colleagues as well.

  • Listen, watch and learn


Think about times when you have experienced rudeness – you’ve been ignored at a corporate event; someone has kept you hanging on the phone for ages or you haven’t been introduced properly to someone.  Learn from your own mistakes and from others and think what you – or they – could have done differently that would have improved the experience.

  • Show respect


Respect others’ time – avoid interrupting your colleagues’ meetings, discussions and phone calls if at all possible but if it is unavoidable always apologise and make your point quickly so others can get back to their work.

  • Treat everyone with the same courtesy

Don’t differentiate people by their job role or position within the company but treat everyone with the same courtesy and politeness.  Treating everyone with the same courtesy will earn you respect and improve your credibility within an organisation.

  • Show appreciation

Be keen to pass on praise and compliments to your team and colleagues and everyone who made a contribution to a project or event.

  • Be honest

You will earn respect for delivering work on time and giving realistic deadlines.   You will get a reputation for unreliability for over-promising impossible schedules.

  • Avoid unintentional rudeness


Ignoring phone calls or neglecting to reply to correspondence or emails is just as bad as face-to-face rudeness.  Abruptness or an off-hand manner can cause offence in business environment and, even if you’re really busy, aim to deal with others politely and with courtesy.

  • Build good working relationships


The ability to get on with different types of people is an essential business skill.  Being able to develop good working relationships with your business associates and fellow team members will help you stand out in your organisation.

  • Working Internationally

Learn as much as possible about how business is conducted abroad.  Try and learn some elements of the language and basis courtesies if possible and familiarise yourself with the customs of the country you are visiting.

  • Differentiate yourself

Remember that good professional business etiquette helps build leadership skills, shows commitment to your company and helps differentiate you in a competitive environment.

First Impressions run a series of open Business Etiquette courses, for anyone who would like to learn more about this vital subject.  Courses are held at the First Impressions Training Centre in Warwick.  For more information, telephone 01926 623038 or e-mail

Lyn Bromley MFIPI, ACMA –  Managing Director, First Impressions

 Lyn Bromley is Managing Director of First Impressions Training Ltd and a Master of The Federation of Image Professionals International. (FIPI)  She is also Membership Director of FIPI and a leader of Achiever’s Academy for Women.

Please contact us if you would like to know more about our programmes, bespoke image training or one-to-one coaching. 

First Impressions have a network of over 150 consultants working across the UK – to find one in your area visit the website and take a look at the consultant map.

Telephone: +44 (0)1926 623038



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