Style Matters

Business, Work Wear

Pink Kids Collage Instagram Post

“It all seems so vain and selfish”, is what an acquaintance of mine said regarding my position on impression management.  To tell the truth, I thought the same way early in my career, and it showed.  However, what we wear speaks volumes in just a few seconds. Social psychology tells us this as well as a boatload of facts and data, but if it’s hard to wrap your hands around the vanity of choosing style, let me arm you with my own personal style journey.

I was 26 when I really started to take note. Why was it that the ladies that dressed “well” garnered more business than I did and they weren’t a bit more talented? After my first large bonus check, I decided to make an investment in my clothing. At the time, it was less of a style choice, because I hadn’t developed that yet, and more of a uniform. My uniform consisted of three pants, two skirts, three blazers, five collared shirts, and one pair of polished jeans. Everything came from Banana Republic outside of the shirts which wear from Brooks Brothers.

Normally, I would confine myself to my cubicle and seldom make in-person meetings. At the time I would excuse my cubicle dwelling as needing to build my business. After the investment with appropriate attire, which was somewhere in the total ballpark of $2000 (seemed to be a lot at the time), I found an excuse or two a month to be meeting clients in person.

In-person meetings can have an amazing impact on your business especially if it’s not something that you are used to doing. The more I was in front of clients, the more successful I was, the more confident I became and the more style notes I took.

As I became more confident, I realized that I did not like certain things, like pants. After minding my style for three years in a male-dominated industry, I made the big leap to dresses and skirts. This may really seem like an endeavor in frivolity but there is something immensely powerful surrounding a woman’s ability to feel confident, dressed as a woman with a peer group almost made entirely of men. I can recall one specific meeting when a photographer stepped in for a photo and it was 9 men in suits and one woman in a pink mandarin collared dress. Guess who billed the most that year?

I get that making an investment on the outside may seem vain – remember it’s not the what’s on the outside that counts, right? However, the data surrounding how others form their opinion of you is indisputable, and it does matter. If that’s not enough for you, then give it a try like I did. See how an investment in how you show up can impact your confidence and bank account. I promise you – style matters.




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Negotiate Like A Man


I was recently engaged in a search in which very few people in the US are qualified: under 15, to be exact. Interesting enough, the final candidate pool consisted of 2 qualified individuals – a male stepping into the role and a female with a few more years of experience than the male co-candidate. Several rounds of negotiation ensued with both candidates and the end result didn’t surprise me: The male candidate ended up negotiating his compensation to a level more senior than the more experienced female. The male got the job.

Gender pay-gap is a hot topic. Females are programmed early on with sugar, spice, and everything nice; couple this with both conscious and unconscious gender biases in productivity and performance and the gap is continually compounded over the lifetime of a career. The Coalition of Labor Union Women estimates that a female corporate, college educated worker makes hundreds of thousands less than her male counterparts – $713,000.

So listen up, because it could make a big dent in that retirement account.

  1. Most employers anticipate some negotiation.

All negotiation starts with fully listening, from the initial phone call to offer stage. While in some corporations they will disclose up front the limitations on the position, some do not especially if the role is newly created. Companies expect some amount of candidate collaboration on compensation, so begin listening to those cues early on to better formulate your compensation.

  1. Do your research; Ask a man and everyone else you know in a similar role about their compensation.

If you rely on your network, you will find the market rate for your role. I would rely less on the online calculators and do your own research if time affords you the opportunity to do so. Different industries and geographies tend to have different parameters on pay scale so keep that in mind as well.

  1. You are not only negotiating for you; you are negotiating for the absence of your time in other areas.

You are not asking only for you. You are also asking for your absence in other arenas that need your skills and/or time as well. Balance your negotiation with how else you could be spending your time.

  1. Keep it positive and focus on your advantages in the role.

Eliminate the possibility of negativity in negotiation by highlighting the overall value of your work, perspective and impact. I once had a single mom tell me “I won’t take anything less than 160K and I am worth every single penny”. Guess what, she was right, and then some.

  1. It’s okay to turn an offer down.

It’s okay to turn down an offer if you are seeing what you want. Keep in mind that some employers might be willing to work with you in other areas outside of base + bonus so be sure to ask for a better match, retirement plan, vacation prior to turning anything down. You may be surprised that most employers are willing to meet you in the middle.


I’ll leave this post with a thought: most women are naturally wired to be great negotiators. We fail to execute on this within salary negotiations because you  know – sugar, spice, everything nice. There is room in every negotiation for snails and puppy dog tails, so don’t be too sweet to ask.


Duty In All Matters Is The Only Thing That Matters


“I had a job to do so I did it”, is what my stepdad told me about being a 20 something year old dropped into the middle of Vietnam. He never really talked about Vietnam much but I knew that my stepdad was a true patriot.

After graduating from college where he played basketball, my stepdad was drafted into the Army’s 101st Airborne. At 6’7 he was a formidable guy. He was the M-60 gunner for his platoon, which was nicknamed “The Pig” because it weighed over 25lbs. He earned two bronze stars in just under a year in Vietnam, and to be honest, I am not sure why, because he never spoke of his accolades – he just wasn’t the type.

His sense of duty from the military and teamwork from his college basketball days permeated his entire life.  He made a good career in electronic sales and eventually was the GM over the business. Back in the early part of his career he was consistently the top sales person, but he never spoke about it. I imagine that he gained his success by building true relationships within his customers. He was never developed the sleezy side of the sales business. He had that military theme of duty that he extended to his customer base.

As he grew into the GM role the sense of duty went into hyper-drive. He was the first one in and last one out on most days. He told me once that he was amazed at how some people could be successful without the effort. He chalked it up to them being smarter and having natural abilities to connect the business dots. For him, he had to work hard every single day and that was the only way he knew how to be successful. He helped mold a company of future leaders by displaying the discipline of hard work and his company is undoubtedly better for his decades of hard work.  

Just prior to his passing, a large, long-term client of mine had been acquired by a competitor. All the projects we had went on hold and eventually went away all together. It was a hit to the business. A colleague asked if we were going to be okay without their business and I responded that it would be a tough year, but eventually it would be a good thing because the leadership will most likely break-up and move to other companies that could then become new clients. She was amazed by my confidence, but I was only being truthful. I was right. Two years later the business has returned just with different companies. Lessons learned by my stepdads understated approach and sense of duty to his clients gave me that confidence.

He not only was the guy you could completely count on at work, but he also was the anchor of our family. Unfortunately, we lost him two years ago due to a group of individuals that did not hold the sense of duty in their job

I am thankful that he taught me some lessons.

  1. The hardest working person in the room is often the person that never complains about it.
  2. You will never be criticized by someone doing more than you.
  3. Talent means nothing without hard work.
  4. Duty in all matters is the only thing that matters.


In Loving Memory of Burt Stills

“Sleep On It” : Dealing with Distraction

Business, Management
My boss, and owner of TheOProtocol has been an integral part of my professional life for the past five years. As I navigate a cluster of “seasons” that all seem to be overlapping one another;  this has been especially true. When she sees me starting to sink into the mud in one capacity or another, she is always quick with some words of wisdom to help me reset.

Yesterday, as I showed up to the office late, not as put together as I would have liked and otherwise flooding with emotion over personal “nonsense”, she offered another piece of advice that I will keep in my arsenal as I move forward in my career. Interestingly enough, it is one I’ve heard her say to candidates in the past as they consider job offers so that they may not make any decisions with a distracted mind: “The biggest life moves are marriage, children, home buying and career moves. Take a minute. Sleep on it.”  I translated this message into the following:

It was clear that I let what should have been a simple morning get away from me over something that could have been dealt with later on in the day, tomorrow or wasn’t even worth the mental space. I spent the morning being extremely distracted. As a 31 year old professional in the midst of a new marriage, fresh off the purchase of a new home, chasing a two year old and pregnant with another, these words could not have rung any more tried and true. There have been some major changes in my life; all of which carry an extreme amount of DISTRACTION. These distractions can be a career cancer if one is not careful. What start out as simple tasks or worries can grow into catastrophe if not dealt with appropriately. I let them get the best of me. For the other 99% of the population, this could have been a critical error in ones professional status.
Dealing with distraction can seem like a vertical climb as opposed to just an uphill battle. With so much going on, it is key to highlight what is important in the “now” so that you may sort out what is important for the future. Truth be told, heeding the advice of the experienced and taking a moment to pause, think about one thing at a time, develop a plan and then sleep on it, can provide you with the clear headed, forward thinking, constructive mindset you need as you navigate the next steps in your life. If you wake up in the morning still feeling good about your decision, whether it be a new home, a career move or even just a commitment to picking out what you’re going to wear the night before, then you know you’re making the right move for you; one that was made free of distraction and mental haze. Staying disorganized, disheveled and scattered will not only have an impact on your happiness but it can quickly dismantle your career and have a domino affect on the rest of your life.
So the next time you’re feeling like your being crushed by the weight of your house, your kids, your marriage, schedule or your career; take the time to dissect your mind, prioritize your thoughts, and sleep on it.