Should dentists dress for success and Executive Presence?

At this time of year, many of us are busy scouring our closets in search of the perfect holiday outfit.

We are fretting over clothing, accessories, shoes, hairstyles, and more, trying to make a great impression at our upcoming holiday work, family, and social events.

But, do we put the same time and care into selecting our daily working wardrobe?

Probably not. This is particularly true for many new graduates who haven’t given much thought to changing from their student attire to appropriate career dressing and styling. 

Executive Presence encompasses many areas of professionalism, including communication, honesty, integrity, attitude, punctuality, and dress, so perhaps more time should be devoted to this topic. That being said, deciding what to wear to work can be especially difficult for those employed in the medical and healthcare fields.

I have a client who recently graduated with an advanced degree from a world-renowned dental school. Now employed, she was continuing to wear her scrubs to work, and it was impacting how she felt about herself as a newly- minted professional, and how her employer and patients viewed her as well.

Certainly, scrubs have a place in our professional world. They offer numerous advantages including:

1.  Comfort: When working in medical and dental environments, scrubs can be comfortable to wear during long, demanding days.

2.  Identification: Scrubs can help healthcare workers stand out from other co-workers employed in a variety of medical settings. This is particularly useful in emergency situations.

3.  Ease: Wearing uniforms such as scrubs help minimize planning and wardrobe decision making in the morning, and helps simplify daily routines.

4.  Infection control: Scrubs provide protection from environmental contamination of street-clothes.

5.  Reassurance: In pediatric settings, colorful scrubs can reduce anxiety in younger patients.

An interesting study was published in the British Dental Journal in December 2007, entitled, Patient preferences for dental clinical attire: a cross-sectional survey in a dental hospital. The authors, McKenna, Lillywhite, and Maini, surveyed 188 dental patients via questionnaires to obtain their attitudes toward their dentist and his/her choice of clothing. The authors were seeking information about physical appearance, and how it affects first impressions, and impacts interpersonal relationships.

The findings of the study suggest the following:

   Patients do pay attention to how their dentists are dressed. According to the survey, women typically pay more attention to dress than men, and older patients (46-64 years old), appear to favor more formal attire than younger patients. Younger patients generally prefer less traditional and/or formal clothing.

   Patients are supportive of dentists wearing appropriate safety gear such as masks and goggles.

   Patients strongly favor the use of name-tags.

Overall, patients expressed a strong preference for well-dressed dental professionals, who wear a white lab coat over their high- quality street clothes.

According to the results, well dressed dentists convey qualities of authority, professionalism and cleanliness. As Martha Stewart would say, “it’s a good thing.”

Of course, the clinical environment, patient demographics, and other factors must be taken into consideration when determining how to dress for success in a dental practice.

What happened to my client who stepped up her sartorial game? The owner of her practice took note, and asked her, “What is going on with your new look?” My client proudly replied, “I am doctor!”  And since she has ditched her scrubs, her mentor is calling her Doctor, too.

If you need any assistance with your communication skills or executive presence, contact Marjorie at:

How to Stand out in a Crowd

The best advice I ever got from my mom when heading out into the real world, was to “just be yourself.” I valued this suggestion because it validated who I was as a person, and encouraged me to be authentic in a world occasionally fraught with disingenuous people. 

However, sometimes we need a little help to be our best selves when it comes to how we communicate. What do we do if we speak to fast, or too softly, or mumble when we are nervous, or have a “little girl voice,” when we are in a boardroom full of powerful executives?

Many of my clients come to The Whittaker Group for just such coaching. We work on helping students and professionals sound confident, credible, and effective through a variety of techniques ranging from abdominal breathing and good posture, to vocal variety, adequate voice production and more.

Until now, I have had to create my own materials to reinforce these strategies. I was delighted to find a reference book for my clients that is aligned with my philosophy (and my mom’s) about using your speech and communication skills to release your best and most authentic self to differentiate yourself from the crowd.

Lynda Stuckey, owner of ClearlySpeaking, and an experienced speech-language pathologist and corporate consultant, has just released a wonderful resource called, Voice Branding for Executive Leaders—How to Align your Speech, Language, and Voice Skills with your Professional Goals

There are several features in the book that I find particularly valuable for my clients.

These include awareness surveys to help clients focus in on how they would like to be perceived by others, and what changes they need to make to their speech, voice and communication to make that happen.  Lynda also takes important voice characteristics such as rate, diction, rhythm, and loudness and guides the reader through analyses of what the perceptions of the speaker and his/her reactions on both sides of the spectrum.

For example, someone that speaks very slowly may be perceived as slow thinking or cautious, inciting the listener to want the speaker to hurry up, or complete the speaker’s sentences! On the other hand, if someone speaks too quickly, they might be perceived as intense and impatient, and the listener may feel that the speaker doesn’t have time to speak with them, or may make them feel nervous and edgy. These exercises really help clients dig deeper into the psychological impact that their speech, language and communication has on others, and is a powerful motivator to facilitate change when appropriate.

“I never thought about it that way,” or “I didn’t think it was possible to change the way I sound, “ are some comments I often hear often when we are engaged in these types of conversations.

Another valuable feature of the book is the “Celebrity Corner,” where Lynda provides audio links to examples of the speech characteristics that she is discussing in a particular chapter. Hearing is believing, and these samples truly helps to highlight the impact of certain speech and vocal qualities. 

Another unique feature of the book is the inclusion of case studies, where clients can see how real people with similar challenges made positive changes in their own communication. This is empowering for the doubters, who don’t believe such change is possible.

Finally, Lynda explores effective speech, voice, and communication skills that are important to specific industries such as those in the financial field, professional speakers such as teachers, coaches, and clergy, and professional athletes, for example.

I highly recommend Voice Branding for Executive Leaders to anyone seeking a practical guide to enhancing their communication to achieve the results they want in that elusive search for executive presence.

Who Are You, And How Are You Related To...Kinship Confusion A The Holiday Table!

Who are you?

I consider myself blessed by having a small, close family. I always knew who my cousins were, and it was relatively easy to figure out how the dinner guests were related.

However, at holiday time, you may find yourself an international guest at a festive extended family dinner, and be utterly confused by how all of these cousins and assorted relatives are related. When several generations of families gather to share traditions and make wonderful memories, the terms used to connect these people can be complicated and confusing. How can you figure out all of these relationships using Old English terminology?

1. The "cousin" designation is used if you and the other person share a common ancestor. If you both share a common ancestor by one generation, you are "first cousins."  Therefore, your aunt and uncle's children are your first cousins, because you are all one generation removed from your grandparents.

2. The "Second Cousin" designation is used when there is a minimum of two generations between the common ancestor and the cousin, and you and the cousin are equally separated from the common ancestor by the same number of generations. 

For example, If you have a child, and your cousin has a child, both children are separated from the common ancestor (your grandmother) by two generations, sothe children would be second cousins.

3. However, if there is a difference between how many generations you and your cousin are separated from the common ancestor, you need to use the "removed" designation. You need to count how many generations are needed to close the gap between the person who is closer in generations to the common ancestor. This becomes the "degree of removal." So, if your cousin is two generations closer to the common ancestor than you are, you are second cousins, twice removed. 

You need to remember that age has nothing to do with the degree of removal, it is the distance from the common ancestor!

Different cultures use different terms to describe familial relationships.

Some, like the Hawaiian system, are very simple and don't differentiate between siblings and cousins. Others, like the Chinese system, are very specific and complex. There are more than eight ways to interpret the word cousin, based on gender, age, relationship to the mother or father's side of the family, etc.

Now I understand why my husband's family would just call close family friends "aunt," or "uncle," and why my first cousin's husband (what should I really call him?) refers to everyone at his huge Thanksgiving table, simply as "Cuz."  

It's enough to make your head spin, even before the drinks are served!