Tips for Healing a Bruised Reputation

internet-reputationYour reputation follows you wherever you go. No matter how many paths you take or career changes you make, you will always have the same reputation. As such, it is so important that you constantly work to build an excellent one.

Of course, life is also full of mistakes and learning can be a process of trial-and-error. Along the way, you might find your reputation in need of repair. Here are a few tips to care for your reputation throughout your career – whether or not you need to fix a mistake.

The best medicine is preventive medicine.
Just as staying active and eating a healthy diet can help to prevent many diseases, taking care of your reputation before any problems begin is a sure path to success. To preserve your reputation:

  • Always speak mindfully, no matter where you are or whom you are with. While you should not speak rudely or hurtfully about someone else in the office, keep the same standard during your free time in other contexts. You never know who could overhear your carelessly chosen words, even outside of the office.
  • The same standards apply for email conduct. Do not write an email that would embarrass you – or another person – if it were accidentally forwarded to your entire company.
  • Halt office gossip before it begins. If you are having an issue with a colleague, an employee or a boss, address that person directly or engage HR if necessary. Gossiping about a problematic person is not constructive and will only create more issues.

If you make a mistake, all is not lost.
We all make mistakes. If you happen to do something that bruises your reputation, remember: all is not lost. Do not throw everything away or give up on your reputation with one error. You can work to heal your reputation with certain steps:

  • Apologize to whomever you have wronged, if someone else was involved. Ensure that your apology is conveyed sincerely and meaningfully – and that you are, in fact, truly sorry.
  • Avoid making excuses for yourself. If you have made a mistake, gracefully accept the blame. Excuses may harm your reputation further, as others may perceive you as unable to admit your faults.
  • Proactively re-build your reputation. Do not simply maintain status quo that kept your reputation afloat prior to a mistake: instead, actively improve your reputation by assisting others or making an extra effort on the job.
  • Give it time. Do not expect your reputation to heal instantly – the fact is, even flawless reputations take years to build. But patience is a virtue: eventually, you can repair the damage.

Tips for Maintaining Grace Under Fire

Gravitas, one of the three core pillars of Executive Presence, is not a single trait but a combination of many characteristics. Among them, confidence, decisiveness, reputation and vision are key. Another indispensible element of gravitas? The ability to maintain calm and collected under intense pressure – otherwise known as “grace under fire.”


Like any feature of Executive Presence, the ability to demonstrate grace under fire is not a given trait. It must be learned and practiced. Staying focused and maintaining a cool head under pressure is certainly not easy – and those such as politicians, athletes, CEOs or other individuals whose jobs require them to be constantly on the spot must train in order to excel in their fields.

That said, nearly everyone has faced intense pressure in the workplace at some point – no matter what their job. And if you want to enhance your own Executive Presence, you too must find and practice strategies that work for you to remain calm during heated moments. Here are some tips that may help you to demonstrate “grace under fire.”

  • The first step: breathe. If you are faced with a stressful situation or if a colleague or client is demanding an immediate answer, you must remember that minimal time will be lost if you pause for a moment to breathe. Inhale, exhale, and then proceed with addressing the situation. Oxygen intake will force you to calm down, and taking even a couple of extra seconds to respond will help you refrain from blurting the first response that pops in your head.
  • Try not to take the stress of others personally. If a colleague, boss or client addresses you rudely or is very demanding, remind yourself that they likely are not trying to attack you, but rather are projecting their own stress. Though it is difficult to do so, try to detach some emotion from stressful situations in the workplace. This will help you to view the conflict through an objective, rational lens.
  • When responding to questions or demands while under pressure, avoid making up answers or excuses that you do not support or believe in. It’s not worth it to respond to a situation right away with a quick answer that is not genuine or well thought-out. Try to take time to consider an answer that you will not regret or want to change later.
  • Filter out demands that are top priority and address minor concerns later. Intense pressure on the job often comes from not one source, but from many demands all piling down on you at once. Instead of trying to fix everything immediately, prioritize what is most essential. This will allow you to focus, which is essential for staying calm in critical moments.

What tips work for you when you are under pressure? How do you maintain “grace under fire” on the job and elsewhere?

Dining Etiquette in the Age of Food Selfies

Mobile etiquette is now an integral part of etiquette training, especially when it comes to the presence of cell phones at the dining table. And as technology constantly evolves, discussions about its appropriate use must keep up. This week’s blog post, then, addresses one of the more recent yet wildly popular mobile trends: food selfies.

Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 11.35.02 AMPhotograph: Ana Arevalo/AFP/Getty Images

The other day, I was dining at a fine restaurant as part of Toronto’s Summerlicious festival. I couldn’t help but notice the behaviour of the couple at the table next to me. When each course of their three-course meal arrived, they spent several minutes photographing their food. After taking pictures, they proceeded to text or tweet the photos with their smartphones, which rested on the table throughout the duration of the meal.

While only mildly surprising, their actions nevertheless seemed to be more extreme than most cell phone usage that I have seen in restaurants. The downsides of this behaviour? The couple spent the majority of the meal ignoring each other, instead fixated on their phones and on taking pictures. Their actions also affected the ambiance of the restaurant, as they ignored the preferences of the restaurant staff and fellow diners.

Has this behaviour become normalized? In some ways, it has. I later learned that BlogTO, a popular Toronto blog, is hosting a Summerlicious 2014 Photo Contest. This contest encourages diners to photograph their food and submit it to the blog. This is not unusual: other contests such as Live with Kelly & Michael’s Farm-to-Table Food Selfie Contest or Cigna’s Healthy Food Selfie contest follow similar guidelines.

But even though the “food selfie” has become a normal and even encouraged ritual, it does not mean that it is always the best practice while dining. If you are determined to capture culinary memories at the table, consider these guidelines first:

  • First and foremost: Never take food selfies while out on a business lunch or dinner. Business meals are about building relationships with professional contacts, not about photographing your meal.
  • If you do want to take a picture if you are out with friends, family or while you are on vacation, do your best to photograph discreetly and quickly – then stow your phone or camera for the rest of dinner. If you want to tweet your photo, wait until you are no longer sitting at the table.
  • Do not let photos or social media interrupt the meal, no matter whom you are with. Dining with others should be a time to focus on those around you and enjoy each other’s company.

What do you think about the normalization of food selfies at restaurants? Is this behaviour here to stay?

For more on mobile etiquette and dining, see our previous blog post, “Cell Phones at the Dinner Table – Are Times Changing?


How does your Executive Presence measure up?

Do you want to enhance your Executive Presence, but have no idea where to start? Do you have trouble determining your areas for improvement or knowing how others perceive you? It can be difficult to understand the strengths and limits of your own Executive Presence without knowing the right questions to ask yourself. Luckily, we have developed some tools that can help you to determine exactly where you stand.

Evaluate your Reputation Capital
In business, your reputation is one of your most valuable assets and you must work constantly to build and improve it. Your reputation follows you everywhere: it is the presence you have even when you’re not there. And as one of the six components that compose “gravitas,” reputation is essential to your Executive Presence.

Of course, because your reputation has so much to do with what others say about you and how they perceive you, at times it can be difficult to assess the state of your reputation.

As part of our free resource page, our Reputation Capital Quiz can help you to define just that. The quiz, divided into the categories of “Character,” “Communication,” and “Trust,” takes a holistic approach to assessing your reputation – as mastering each one of these categories is essential to a strong and positive reputation.

The questions will ask whether you…

  • Care and act with everyone’s welfare in mind?
  • Come across as a person who has a genuine respect for others?
  • Go out of your way to communicate your genuine personal commitment to those you work with?

… Plus several more that aim to give you an accurate and honest picture of the current status of your reputation.

Assess Your Executive Presence
Executive Presence is important both on an individual level as well as a team level. There are three pillars of Executive Presence: Image, Communication and Gravitas, or the ability to be calm, confident, decisive and poised all at once.

To help you organize all of the many components which constitute Executive Presence – and allow you to reflect on your own projection of Executive Presence – we have developed two scorecards for assessing your own presence as well as that of your team.

Questions that assess your individual Executive Presence will ask whether you…

  • Are familiar with all protocols for business and social introductions?
  • Project credibility and instill trust immediately?
  • Always remember everyone’s name?

The team scorecard will ask you and your close colleagues whether your team…

  • Knows how to work a room and make good use of social opportunities to connect with clients and prospects, instead of sticking together at events?
  • Is highly knowledgeable on all the latest rules of virtual etiquette?

Reflecting on the status of your reputation and your presence is very important to initiate growth. Once you’ve taken these first steps, we can help you find the right path to improving your Executive Presence.

Check out all of our free resources on our site!

Recharge Your Batteries to Maximize Your Presence

Your phone, tablet and laptop are not the only things that need to be recharged on a regular basis. So do you! Whether you need a burst of energy in the middle of the day or need to envision your career path with a revitalized point of view, there are several strategies that can help you find the drive you need to meet your professional goals.

All professionals need to dedicate time and thought toward recharging. A tired, unmotivated individual cannot project a high level of Executive Presence or put forth the most positive and enthusiastic image possible. These qualities will enable success in the workplace and will help in developing lasting professional relationships.

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 10.47.41 AM


Strategies for Recharging…

During the day
To make it through the day and into the evening with energy to spare, try the following strategies.



  • Do you take lunch at your desk or in meetings every single day? For many professionals, it can be impossible to step away from work, even for a few minutes. If you simply can’t leave your work at lunch every day, aim to step out of the office for lunch at least once per week. Without even a short break to clear your mind, the seemingly endless stream of work can wear you down.
  • Gather some vitamin D. Take advantage of the warm summer weather by stepping out of the office and into the sun – even for a short, 5-minute walk around the building. Moving your body regularly can also help you to recharge.
  • Or, move your body without even stepping away from your desk. The Mayo Clinic recommends several easy head, neck, and shoulder stretches that can offset the tension from sitting too long in one position.

Throughout the Week or Month
Weekends or evenings outside of work hours can help you find the time you need for more extensive recharging strategies.

  • Due to professional demands, many of us cannot unplug or refrain from working during the weekend. If this is the case for you, try at least to set aside a few set hours where you decide to avoid reading emails or checking your phone.
  • With a few free hours, physically step out of your home or office environment. Research shows that getting out in nature can have health benefits not only for your body, but also for your mind – and both are required in order to return to the office on Monday. Extensive travel is not necessary – going to the park in the neighbourhood can do the trick.

In Your Career
Recharging is also necessary in order to view your career through a long-term lens.

  • Through self-reflection, determine the positive and negative aspects of your working style. What functions well? What doesn’t? What do you need to change? Trying a new approach to your work can re-energize you by helping you become more efficient and productive.
  • Aim high: set yourself an ambitious yet attainable goal for the year. Whether you set out to obtain a promotion, lead a project, or increase your output, working toward a goal can help you achieve focus and drive in your career.
  • If the time is right for you and your company, take a vacation! Studies say that vacations can increase productivity and decrease risk of burnout at work. Not to mention, it can also improve your physical health.

Silence Speaks Volumes

Recently I read an anecdote about the power of silence. It described an event with thousands of people crowded into one room, with everyone chatting at once and no one paying attention to the individuals speaking at the front of the room. Three speakers failed to get the attention of the crowd – until, at last, one speaker simply stood in silence in front of the microphone. Soon after, all eyes were on him and you could hear a pin drop in the room. He achieved this using no words at all.

This story inspired me to think of the great value of silence in business, and what using silence can accomplish: not only to capture the attention of a crowd, but also to demonstrate respect, speak using other forms of non-verbal communication, and help you be the most articulate you can be. In this post, we talk about a few of the many ways that silence matters in business.


Stay Silent – and Listen Up
In a conversation, sometimes the most important thing you can contribute is simply listening. To remain silent and listen may seem like no contribution at all, but it takes effort to be fully present in a conversation – and the rewards pay off.


  • What can you expect to learn from another individual, whether a mentor, colleague, superior, or friend, if you constantly feel the need to assert your own opinion? Especially in a professional setting with new or unfamiliar information, keep your ears open constantly. By taking in the most knowledge as possible from others, you will continue to learn and grow – which will lead to upward mobility in your career.
  • Show the utmost respect to the person you are conversing with by silencing your other conversations. Unless absolutely necessary, take your cell phone off the table during meetings. When someone comes to your office to talk, darken your computer screen or close your laptop. This will help you focus on the individual and will make your meetings more efficient, too.
  • For more on the importance of listening, check out or blog post on Why Engaged Listening Matters in Business.

Choosing Words Carefully
Never be afraid letting a conversation hang in brief silence before answering a question or responding to a comment. In fact, you should get used to it!

  • Before immediately jumping to respond to a question or comment, take a moment to reflect on your words. Not only will this help you to craft a more articulate response, it will also incite the attention of others. People will begin to notice that you take time, energy, and thought into answering a question – and that you are not simply blurting out the first thing that pops into your mind.
  • This is an especially important tip during a job interview or a first-time meeting with a client. It creates a positive first impression that you are a thoughtful, conscious individual. This first impression will inform your professional relationships and will work to your advantage.

Silence Speaks for Itself
When you are silent, in no way does it mean you are not communicating. The next time you are not talking, pay close attention to how you may be speaking without words.

  • Body language, even when standing still, says a lot about you and your attitude. Are you standing with slouched shoulders, arms crossed, or fidgeting? If so, others may perceive you as bored or apathetic. Or, is your posture aligned, your shoulders back, and hands on your hips or at your sides? This suggests you are confident, prepared, and alert.
  • When listening to someone, eye contact is key to let that person know that you are interested in and engaged with what they are saying. If you are truly listening but your eyes are wandering around the room, the speaker might suspect your indifference.

Your professional image speaks volumes about you. If you do not take the time to polish your image by paying attention to dress codes, fit and cut of clothing, age-appropriate attire, and grooming, your image can silently override anything you have to say – no matter how articulate you are.

The Art of Business Cards

Business cardWe have discussed business cards previously on the blog, asking whether the traditional card is on its way out in this digital age. While there certainly are many digital counterparts to the classic card, the truth is that physical business cards are still a very prominent part of contemporary business exchanges. In this blog post, we will address the art of the business card: from the card itself to the protocol of exchanging them.

The Look and Feel of a Business Card
The appearance of your business card matters greatly. Just like your own professional image, it can make or break a great first impression.

  • If your business card reflects your role within your company, the design of your card is more or less out of your hands. It should reflect the brand guidelines of your organization. Make sure that you know who organizes business card production in your company, so that you can let them know when you are running low on your supply.
  • If you have a personally branded card – whether you are a consultant, business owner, or prospective professional – ensure that the design looks professional.
  • The text should be in a legible font and size, properly justified to the card dimensions. Treat your own brand like that of a company: have clearly outlined brand guidelines that define the colour, font, sizing, and possible logo for all of your materials, including your cards, letterhead, and PowerPoint template.
  • If you do not have the skills or supplies at home to produce your own cards, have your business cards professionally printed and cut. Your card may look amateur if you do not have the know-how to create a crisp, clean cut. Choose a paper with a heavier weight, so that the card is sturdy and does not appear flimsy when held against other cards.
  • Match the design of your business card to the personality of your industry. Are you a graphic designer? Ensure that your card reflects your creativity and design expertise. Are you a Certified General Accountant? Then perhaps you may choose a simpler colour scheme or design concept.

The Art of the Exchange
Exchanging business cards is still an important step in forming a business relationship, and it is essential that you demonstrate Executive Presence when exchanging cards with someone.

  • In our new Introduction to Executive Presence Video Series, we outline several do’s and don’ts of how to exchange business cards properly.

    You can also watch the video here. Some of the finer points include:

  • Carry your business cards in a nice cardholder. This will prevent the cards from becoming dog-eared in your pocket or wallet. Also, when someone gives you his or her card, put it into your cardholder as well. They will notice you treating their card with respect and retaining it for future reference.
  • When someone gives you a card, be sure to take a brief moment to look at it before putting it away. Make this step easier for the other person by presenting your card face-up.
  • As you present your card, don’t rush. Carefully take the card out of the holder and present it with measured movements.

Beyond the Briefcase

BriefcaseWhen you pack your bag to head to the office, do you leave your personal style behind? If you think you cannot mix style with function when it comes to the professional bag or briefcase, think again! There are so many choices in colour, shape, size, and material. And no matter where you are headed – whether to the office, airport, or gym – you can find a bag that will complete your polished image along the way.

Everyday Professional Bags
Commuting with a standard utilitarian laptop bag can feel at once bulky and boring, and your purse often won’t hold all the files and tech gear you need for your day. But there are an array of larger totes and bags that fuse form and function for the professional woman. Here are a few of our favourite options.

  • For a classic bag that is subtly elegant but does not grab attention, choose a leather bag in darker colours, like black or brown. This type of bag will match with nearly any attire choice and travels well between contexts, from work to evening. The Coach Large Borough Bag in Pebbled Leather is a great example of such a bag – very spacious on the interior, but thin handles and subtle detailing avoid a bulky look.
  • Fabric bags provide a great alternative to leather. This grey fabric Nina Commuter Brief by Tumi is made for professional women on the go, with extra compartments for a laptop and tablet. Yet it does not compromise a stylish look, with smooth grey fabric and leather detailing.
  • Clutches are not only for eveningwear, but are made for laptops, too! Laptop cases have transitioned from utilitarian protective covers to sleek accessories. A leather laptop sleeve or clutch can add a level of elegance to your professional look.

Suitcases and Travel Bags
Staying organized is especially important when traveling for business, with even more belongings to keep track of. A sturdy carry-on that completes your look when striding through the airport is a must for professional women.

  • Whenever I travel for business, I do not leave home without my Ebby Rane Quartermaster – which Canadian Living called the “world’s greatest suitcase” last year. Eleven carryall cases come inside the bag, which help me to stay organized during busy trips. Tan leather detailing adds luxurious sophistication to a simple yet powerful design.
  • Tumi also offers a line of business travel bags specifically designed for women in business. The products in this line include roomy leather carry-on tote bags, a laptop bag with a pop of colour, and a trim wheeled briefcase. See the Women’s Business page on their website for more options.

Gym Bags
When transitioning from work to the gym and back home again, it can feel awkward to lug a big duffel bag through the office or down the street. But there is no reason why your gym bag can’t match your professional profile.

  • Among the best for well-designed gym bags is the Stella McCartney for Adidas line, like this grey bag in scuba-jersey fabric. Through her partnership with Adidas, McCartney takes her high fashion and design expertise and applies it to an athletic context.
  • Lululemon also offers bags that can move easily from professional to recreational contexts. The Flow to Om bag in black is discreet yet roomy enough to pack all your gym essentials.


Men’s Summer Suits and Styles

When summer finally arrives, it’s time to switch out your wardrobe for lighter materials and brighter colours. While we have blogged previously on office-friendly summer attire for women, this post focuses solely on men’s summer attire.

For men in business formal environments, there is no substitute for the suit. But the material and colour of the suit can vary as the months warm up, and there is an even greater range of choices for outdoor or more casual functions. We also provide crisp and cool options for summer business casual attire and accessories.

C201205-ST-Suitsupply-Business-Night-Out-Summer-WeekendPhoto source:

Suit Up for Summer
A dark wool suit can weigh you down as the temperatures climb. Alternative materials that function better in the summer but still make a fine, professional suit include:

  • Chino: Because chino is made from 100% cotton, the material breathes better and is much lighter than wool. Chino suits are often a light brown or khaki colour, but a dark blue chino suit will add a level of formality.
  • Seersucker: Also made from cotton, the seersucker suit is a classic look in the blazingly hot southern United States. But since Canadian temperatures also can climb at the peak of summer, seersucker might be a suit of choice in July. While seersucker suits traditionally are patterned with very light blue and white stripes, a dark navy seersucker suit again can make a summery suit more office-ready.
  • Linen: As a very light and breathable material, a white linen suit is best for outdoor formal occasions, such as garden parties or weddings. The linen suit is not as appropriate for the boardroom, so keep it on reserve for celebratory functions.

Summer Shirts and Accessories
Paired with a suit for business formal or worn alone for business casual, find the best summer shirt that matches your personal style and office dress code – and summer accessories to go with it.

  • Summer dress shirts: Though it depends on your office culture, business formal dress codes and most business casual dress codes recommend a long-sleeved dress shirt at any time of year. In the summer, crisp cotton dress shirts in white, pale blue, or mint green provide a breezy summer palette. Certain linen shirts may also look office-ready, but make sure you opt for a clean, tailored cut. In more casual environments, try a seasonal pattern like gingham or light check to mix it up.
  • Ties and pocket squares: If you would rather stick with a solid colour shirt but still want a hint of a summer pattern, find a tie or pocket square in your pattern of choice. A tie in a pastel plaid, gingham, pale stripe, or lightly-coloured silk knit would all be sunny and suitable options.

Accessories: While most summer accessories (like sunglasses, baseball caps, and flip-flops) do not belong in the office, you can still subtly nod to summer with professional accessories. For example, switch out your black leather watchband for lighter brown or tan leather. A tie clip with a hint of gold can radiate a sunny glow. Or, get creative with cufflinks in a subtle nautical pattern or with a mother of pearl inlay.

Small Talk Can Lead to Big Opportunities

97421060When you go to a networking event, do you dread making small talk with strangers? Many find small talk to be awkward, meaningless, or tiresome – but the reality is, small talk is a very important component of making professional connections.

Although the topics discussed during small talk may not be directly related to business, small talk helps to build relationships. This leads to more meaningful discussions, lasting professional partnerships, and business deals. The habit of discussing business all the time is not a path to success – in fact, even in some professional situations it is inappropriate to address business affairs constantly.

Mastering the art of small talk, then, is key to enhancing your own professional presence. Here, we discuss a few starting points and elements of small talk – and opportunities for more practice.

What do I talk about?
Jumping into small talk can seem intimidating – especially if you can’t think of a topic of conversation other than the weather. If you don’t want to start with a cliché or mundane topic like the weather, where do you start?

  • If you are at a national or international event, ask other participants about where they are based, what is interesting about their home city, or what they enjoy about the host city. This gives you a great starting point for further questions, such as great sights to see or questions about their company, instead of a dead-end topic like the weather.
  • Conversely, if someone is from the same city as you, discuss what he or she enjoys about that place. This may allow you to find mutual connections and discuss possible opportunities to meet in your hometown.
  • Ask questions about what other participants do for work and what they enjoy about it. This is not directly related to business affairs, as it simply allows others to expand upon their passions and interest. Again, you may find something in common with their interests, and this could lead to further discussion about where your companies align and could connect in the future.
  • For further resources, see an article from the website Entrepreneur, which lends the simple yet valuable advice to “just ask questions” when making small talk. Fast Company also suggests five great questions to ask when engaging in small talk.

Small talk isn’t just about talking
Though it sounds counter-intuitive, small talk isn’t just about talking! It’s also about being open, inviting, and ready to engage – through body language and the ability to work a room.

  • When at a networking event or cocktail party, refrain from staying in one corner of the room or only seeking out familiar faces. You will never make small talk if you refuse to approach others! Walk around the room – and be sure to check your posture, stance, and eye contact while doing so.
  • With your body language, show that you are open to making new connections. Above all, smile! A friendly face invites introductions and conversation.
  • Our previous blog post on Working A Room can provide you with even more tips on how to jump into a networking session with ease.

How do I learn more?
Small talk is a key component of the Interpersonal Communication Skills module in our upcoming Advanced Executive Presence Seminar for C-Suite Leaders. We are very excited to launch this two-day training on May 27 and 28, specifically designed for executives at the C-suite level and covering all seven modules of our Executive Presence training. If you are interested in mastering the art of small talk – and many more factors contributing to your Executive Presence – please contact us.