In the movie Far and Away, Tom Cruise playing the part of a young Irishman named Joseph Donnelly, travels to the United States with Shannon Christie played by Nichole Kidman. Their intent is to get a new start and find land in their new country. In one scene Joseph has bragged about how quickly he has finished cleaning his laundry while Shannon clearly does not know how to clean her clothes. Joseph proceeds to show her how by taking a garment, placing it on a washboard, and plunging it into the soapy water and scrubbing it on the washboard. As he demonstrates the technique he tells Shannon, “You plunge and scrub, plunge and scrub, and if it still is not clean then…you plunge and scrub and plunge and scrub.” Later in the movie Shannon demonstrates the technique to her mother who is not used to doing her own laundry.
As a professional life coach I have recently had the opportunity to work with some young adults who, like Shannon Christie in the movie Far and Away either do not know the virtues of personal hygiene or are too lazy to apply the principles. It is particularly troubling as some of these young adults were certainly taught the rudimentary methods of bathing, brushing their teeth, and washing their clothes by their parents but the sitcom Friends left a greater impression. It is true that we live in a time when narcissism rules but if you expect to get a job and keep it or have a meaningful relationship with someone, then perhaps you need to get back to the basics.
As a teacher I have been known to begin my classes with a quiz of five well chosen questions, so which of the answers below as related to clothing is the correct answer?
- Throw the garment against the wall and if and when it falls to the floor it is okay to wear.
- Clothes, including underwear, can be worn at least ten times before washing them.
- As long as I take a shower, clothes off the floor are a reasonable choice.
- I can skip the shower as long as I use body spray and deodorant.
- I shower or bathe once a day and wear clean clothes that have not been worn more than twice between washings.
GROSS! I hope you know the right answer because if I have to tell you then you have a problem. It is indeed odd that this issue must be addressed but with such dysfunction in families and society, it is needed. If you have interviewed high school AND college graduates for employment lately then you might agree. I went to traffic court a couple of years ago, and I was amazed at what people wore to court. In fact the judge told one woman to come back to court the next week because she was scantily dressed in something that was entirely too small. He refused to hear her case until she was dressed more modestly.
I interviewed one young man on several occasions and it was likely that he had bathed but body odor was evident on his clothes. Another young man almost gassed me with his bad breath. It would seem that these are common sense issues but not anymore. If you follow the following guidelines then if you don’t get the job or keep it, your loss will not be due to a lack of personal hygiene.
- Shower or bathe daily…with soap. Maybe you are trying to be like the Europeans or a water conservationist but the question is, “Do you want the job and/or relationship or not?” When washing yourself give attention to underarms, feet, and private parts. (I didn’t think I would ever need to write that so plainly, but times have changed.)
- Use deodorant, body spray, and cologne conservatively. Not too much and not as a substitute for a shower or bath. I guarantee that others can smell body odor through Channel #9 and you don’t need to add your own personal spice to Old Spice.
- Guys, trim your nails and clean the gunk out from under them. A female interviewer will notice.
- Do something with that hair. Don’t go to an interview or to work with bed hair or unwashed flakey hair. Also, be careful about giving yourself a quick trim. One young man I knew decided to give himself a haircut and looked like he was on chemotherapy.
- Guys, depending on the job or potential job, shave or groom your beard and mustache. Also, nose hair is not the in thing for most job interviewers and supers.
- Brush your teeth and use mouthwash. If you eat garlic, or ramps for my Appalachian readers, some parsley oil such as Breath-Assure will neutralize the odiferous herbs. A couple Tic-Tacs can also help but you probably don’t want the rhythmical rattle of a Tic-Tac package in your pocket. I like to just take a few with me every day just for good measure.
- God gave humans two eyebrows but nature sometimes gives some people just one. You might want to make sure you have two but be careful not to eliminate one or both.
- Wear underwear! Many years ago when I joined the U.S. Navy and had a “group physical” I was amazed at the number of guys that did not wear underwear. It’s not clean and the practice does nothing to keep your clothes clean if you know what I mean.
- Perhaps you like your tattoo but it may not win points with an interview as a new business executive or manager in training. Cover it up. Better yet…don’t get one! I know that mine is an ultra conservative position on this one but do you want the job or not?
- Wear clean clothes. If they have been worn once already, do the smell-test. The problem is that individuals cannot always sense their own odors…but everybody else can. You may use some discretion as related to clothing in some cases. If you are going to work around the house, then that pair of jeans that you have worn twice might be okay. However, err on the clean side. Remember to dress appropriately to the job or occasion. It is usually better to over dress slightly than to under dress.
- Wear clean socks. Some people wear socks once and put them back in the drawer to wear again. Not cool.
- Because bacteria particularly like to colonize shoes, it’s a good idea to spray them occasionally with a product for the purpose that kills the organisms and neutralizes foot odor. It also might be a good idea to clean and polish your shoes if appropriate.
The list could go on but these are the very basics. Add more in the comments section.
Perhaps you are saying, “Why do I have to do all those things to get a job?” While you may not agree, your perspective employer is looking for an employee who will project the image THEY want. While hiring you is about you, it’s also about them. They are looking to see (and smell) if you are a good fit. Will you project their desired image and will customers and coworkers want to be around you? The BIG question is, DO YOU WANT THE JOB OR NOT?
Life is limiting enough without limiting one’s choices because of poor hygiene.
Is there a young adult that you know who might benefit by reading this article? Do you have some “tasteful” suggestions to add for males and females regarding hygiene? Do you have an interesting or funny story about hygiene as related to interviewing or hiring? Please post “tasteful” comments that will add to the discussion.
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
He is a pastor, author, professional coach, leadership specialist, and is
a member Coach/Teacher/Speaker for the John Maxwell Team
A friend of mine is a successful businessman and entrepreneur who also serves as a board member of a non-profit community organization. On the board, Rob (not his real name) often offers insightful comments and good advice that matches his good business sense. Yet when asked to serve as a board officer, Rob quotes the notorious General William Tecumseh Sherman when asked if he would seek presidential office,
“If nominated I will not run; if elected I will not serve.”
To Serve or Not To Serve
Many would-be leaders have the same attitude as Sherman.
- It is extreme irony that Rob will not serve at a higher level as a leader since he is already leading in a number of roles.
- Rob will not seek a higher level of leadership because he is fearful of failure.
- He has not found the leader within…he has not discovered the quintessential leader that he could be.
Can you relate to Rob? I know I can. Even the best of leaders falter at times…me included. On a weekend vacation I was recently doing a detailed reading of John Maxwell’s leadership book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect in which he lists “Four Unpardonable Sins of a Communicator”: being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting, or uncomfortable.
Maxwell’s words hit me head on as I recounted my lack of leadership in one of my roles.
The greatest mistake of leadership is not a failure to succeed but a failure to lead.
In fact, the greatest failures of leadership are not a lack of experience, a lack of training, a lack of education, or lack of resources but usually a failure of one to engage.
Avoiding Leadership Failure
Four ways to avoid a failure to lead are:
- Engage as a leader.
- Engage at the right time.
- Engage with enough energy to see the project through.
- Engage other leaders around you to help and eventually take over the project.
1. ENGAGE AS A LEADER
The only way to lead is to lead! It sounds ridiculous, but it is true. Many people who are in THE prime place to lead never engage. Perhaps you understand the issues better than anyone else, you have the authority to lead, and people are looking at you and anticipating action, but you are waiting.
Perhaps you are waiting for someone else to step up to the plate. Maybe you are hoping the problem will just go away.
Other excuses may include:
- I don’t have the experience.
- I don’t have the time.
- I don’t have the education.
- I don’t think others respect me.
- I don’t want to keep someone else from their opportunity to lead.
- I’m not leadership material.
Based on the listed excuses, you will never be ready to lead. Moses used virtually every one of these excuses in Exodus 3 and 4 when talking with the Creator and God did not let him off the hook but kept handing the job to him. Moses had to engage. It was during the process and time of leadership that Moses became Moses instead of a nameless adopted son of a pharaoh in Egypt.
Only through the action of leading will the leader in you emerge.
2. ENGAGE AT THE RIGHT TIME
In baseball, the difference between swinging the bat too early, too late, and on time can be either a foul ball or a home run. It’s that way with leadership too.
As a leader you must engage at the right time.
Crisis situations require instant leadership. Other situations may allow decision and strategy time, but a large part of successful leadership is timing. Great leaders have an intuitive understanding of timing which creates the highest possible involvement of others who are empowered to assist…also called buy-in.
By engaging at the right time, they increase the number of others working on the same problem. If you are waiting for the problem to resolve itself or go away…it will probably only get worse.
3. ENGAGE WITH ENOUGH ENERGY TO SEE THE PROJECT THROUGH
Introverted leaders (S & C on the DISC profile) are often tempted to disengage too early before the full success is achieved. The reason for this is that their reserve for directing energy toward others is less.
On the other hand, extroverted leaders (D & I on the DISC profile) have a tendency to either delegate the leadership role too early or declare victory prematurely. Great leaders see the big picture of the project so they pace their energy or know how to replenish it along the way in order to complete the task. I believe the greatest leaders lead out of energy overflow instead of reserves.
The overflow principle is a Psalm 23 concept by which one does not manufacture her own energy but is continuously using overflow from God’s inexhaustible energy resources. Overflow may be defined as finding one’s fulfillment, satisfaction, worth, and esteem in Christ which results in greater energy overflow.
Show me an exhausted leader and I will show you a leader who is leading out of his own exhaustible reserves that will eventually run dry.
The greatest leaders learn to tap in to the Psalm 23 overflow to the point of directing and investing energy overflow into others on purpose to add value to them. Read Psalm 23 again while considering the Overflow Principle:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil;My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.
Psalms 23:1-6 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
Note verses 3 and 5 where the Lord “restores my soul” and “my cup runs over.” These illustrate the Overflow Principle of Leadership.
4. ENGAGE OTHER LEADERS AROUND YOU TO ASSIST
Engage other leaders around you to help and eventually take over the project. A great leader intuitively scans for people in the organization who possess the abilities and willingness to assist and eventually take over a project. “Willingness” is often the only quality that separates a new leader from everyone else.
Mentoring and coaching are often the only disciplines that separate average leaders from great leaders. Great leaders mentor and coach emerging leaders. In fact this may be a distinguishing difference between managers and leaders. The difference between leaders and managers is coaching & mentoring emerging leaders.
Leaders add value to new leaders while managers often feel threatened.
Don’t miss your opportunity to be the leader you were meant to be. Find the leader within! Here is a quote from Kate Chopin’s book The Awakening:
“She was becoming herself and daily casting aside that fictitious self which we assume like a garment with which to appear before the world.”
It is time for you to cast aside that fictitious apparition of yourself as one who fears to lead and allow the leader within you to emerge. Do it now!
- What are your attitudes toward other leaders? If you distrust other leaders then you will not want to become a leader until you learn to trust.
- What excuses are keeping you from engaging as a leader? There are few legitimate “reasons.”
- How are you using the “Overflow Principle of Leadership” or not?
- List the leadership qualities you and others see in you that have potential.
(This article by Dr. Tom Cocklereece was originally published on Linked2Leadership May 17, 2011.)
Dr. Tom Cocklereece is CEO of RENOVA Coaching and Consulting, LLC
Author “Simple Discipleship,” contributing writer L2L Blogazine
He is a pastor, an author, professional coach, and leadership specialist
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One way you can get out of your way is to name your gremlin. A gremlin in this sense is a self-defeating behavior that reappears in life, work, and relationships that prevents you from achieving a new level of success. Like in the movie by the same name, gremlins usually are latent and easy to live with until they are activated by external or internal factors, either past, present, or perceived future. Naming them can help you to be aware of your self-defeating behavior so you may make intentional decisions that are edifying and rewarding to all involved. The introductory article to this series is at http://renovacoaching.com/2010/10/05/get-out-of-your-way/ .
It is likely that you have known someone who has the gremlin named “Blamer,” that is, they seem to always blame somebody or something for their failure. They rarely accept responsibility for anything and even when they do, their statement usually includes some measure of blaming. If Blamer is your gremlin, you need to know two things: 1) you are sabotaging your success and relationships, and 2) your future opportunities will gradually diminish. If this is what you want out of life then keep Blamer as your pet and feed him well with criticism of others at every opportunity. On the other hand, if you desire to improve your relationships and increase future opportunities, always be aware of your latent blaming potential and critical spirit. Then,…stop,…accept responsibility,…and do your best with no excuses (another gremlin). You will enjoy improved relationships and more opportunities. However, you may need to get to the heart of the matter.
Blaming is often disguised as unhealthy guilt that has never been resolved. Remember that when you point to others there are three fingers pointing back to you—four if your thumb is double-jointed. Ask yourself several questions:
- Has there been a cataclysmic event in my life that provides me with an unending well of anger and resentment?
- Have others ever told you that you are always critical or blaming?
- Do you see accepting responsibility and admitting your failings a weakness?
- Do you repeatedly share blame stories with family and friends? You may find that it’s like a fish story in which the fault blamed on others get bigger with each telling.
I like what Rick Warren teaches in his well know book The Purpose-Driven Life: “Don’t get bitter but choose to get better.” Forgiveness of others and self is the remedy.
Links to the Gremlin series:
Dr. Tom Cocklereece
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