Anneliese Monden about work fashion to reflect your essence and support your personal leadershop
After her Master of Laws and a Master of Arts in International Relations, Anneliese started her career as a lawyer at the multinational General Electric. 15 Years ago, she decided to make a career switch and started Qlick coaching together with Chantal Smedts after the publication of their book "Word wie je echt wil zijn" (Become who you really want to be).
Characteristic for Annelieses approach is that she is always looking for the essence. What you do at work should therefore be in line with who you are.
I can say that my style has evolved from what was expected of me in how I dressed to this is who I am and from this essence I want to show myself.
Annelieses definition of Work Fashion
Work fashion are the things you wear when you put on your professional hat. There is a difference between being in work modus work and doing private matters. And now, of course, this is not always related to "you go to the office". I still find it different when I dress for work or for other things. I put myself in a different mood when I work, than when I read a book or watch Netflix.
Over the years, I have experimented with my style. For me, essence and identity are very important. The more you do who you are, the more you dress like who you are and the more powerful this can be. Of course, you evolve as a person. Through different moments in your life, changing careers, doing different things, you also start looking more for that essence and what is important to you. Over the years, I have also experimented with that in terms of clothing. In the beginning, I wasn't really concerned with that. It was the dress code of the company or I dressed like the environment. And that was fairly uniform. After a while, you evolve into different styles. I also lived in Bologna (Italy) for a while and followed the Italian style, although it was too colourful for me. Now I am back to simplicity and sobriety. And that is also because I am going back more to the essence and to who I am today.
In general, work fashion goes very much with the spirit of the times.
Dressing for various roles
I started my career in the United States in the legal field. Everything was very formal. You wore the traditional tailored suit in that period. As a woman, you always had to wear nylons, otherwise you were not dressed up. So dress codes were definitely imposed.
There was already a big difference between the United States and Europe. In Europe, the style has always been a bit more casual and there was more room to experiment and thus to bring out your personality.
I can say that my style has evolved from what was expected of me in how I dressed to this is who I am and from this essence I want to show myself. The more I wear clothes that make me feel good.
For certain settings, however, I am consciously thinking about clothing, such as a board meeting. Then I'll go for a formal suit. I have also consciously embraced femininity in my outfits. I think it's important that, as a woman, you can also show that you are a woman. Businesslike but with a feminine touch. That can come out in many different ways. For example, a dark blue tailored suit with a colourful blouse or a blouse with a bow tie.
I have often coached women who made the transition to board level and go dressed in a very masculine way to fit in. I think it is very important to dare to keep your femininity. Not so much because of femininity, but because of your personality. As a person, you are a woman and you can show that too.
Now there are also many board meetings online. The dressing approach is more casual and comfortabele. I am still conscious about my way of dressing. I won't dress too casual at an online board meeting, because even there I am still in an important meeting. I also see that male colleagues dress a bit more relaxed when it is online.
I think it's important to find a balance. It can be a bit more informal online, but you have to keep that work mode in mind. Again, the time spirit plays a role, so there are adjustments given the circumstances.
In the past, someone would never go to work in trainers. That was not done! I also notice a big difference between industries. For example, there is a big difference between the legal and coaching world. With my coaching clients, I will also look at who is coming that day and adapt. Within my own style, of course. But depending on how my clients dress, I will adjust where possible.
Women in board meetings
In terms of quotas, I can argue for both. I just think that when you are on a board - woman or man - you can show more what is really important to you and what you stand for. I myself have noticed that as a woman - and I don't know if this is only as a woman - I ask very different questions with my approach and I focus more on connection. But this has as much to do with my character and who I am. I don't think the style of clothing is very important in this, but daring to show who you are is. And this is not just about man-woman, but about daring to show diversity. Daring to show your own personality - whatever that personality is and what you stand for - is very important, also in your style of clothing.
Prejudice and stereotypes
I systematically and fundamentally counteract stereotypes and prejudices. This is also one of the main values of Qlick. We have a very important quote at Qlick:
There is a place beyond good and bad and I will meet you there.
Everyone has judgements. That's normal. Also when it comes to clothing style. You like something or not. But you have to go beyond the prejudices. The clothing style is an embodiment of what you want to show at that moment. That says a lot, but not everything. You have to be able to go beyond that and have the curiosity about who the person is behind the clothes. You have to look at the essence of the person sitting opposite you.
Is there more room for to have a look at the essence of a person? Unfortunately, I think it goes in two directions. On the one hand, there is a lot of openness to go behind the facade, on the other hand, there is still too much judgement.
In the beginning of my career, there was more uniformity in terms of clothing and also a lot of solidarity. I think we have not always evolved very positively in that respect. I think that today there are a lot of opposites and a lot of judgements. I hope we can change this into more cooperation and tolerance and respect for each person's identity. Because many more people dare to show their diversity, there is at the same time much more judgement. Many more different tribes are created and there are more small and pronounced differences. It would be nice to bring those differences together. That is the strength. Moreover, people often judge because they are afraid of the unknown.
The same goes for women in board meetings. In the past there was more macho behaviour by men from wanting to position themselves, but now that more women are coming to board meetings, this behaviour is ebbing away as women in board meetings is seen as the new normal.
I think and hope that people will be able to be more who they are, that this will be more accepted and that there will be much more cooperation.
The ongoing challenge of personal leadership
You can use your own personal leadership and identity to proclaim certain messages. Personal leadership is really taking up leadership for what you believe in and find important and then also coming out and talking about it, regardless of the form and circumstances.
Fear is a major barrier in this. This fear is very normal and understandable. Fear of losing your job, of hurting others, I think that if you continue to act and speak out in what you believe and in the purity of your own being, not much can go wrong. Of course, you have to dare to go beyond your fear. Sometimes this also means that there is a (work) environment where you really do not fit in.
Therefore, see your clothes as a tool that can contribute and/or support you in personal leadership. If you think about what you do and make sure it fits who you are, you can express that through your clothes.
Daring to be yourself and daring to take on personal leadership is a theme that has been around for a long time. I have seen this throughout my career. As you get older, you start daring more and more. Because you can no longer do otherwise. When you are younger, you adapt easily. Partly because you think it is expected of you. The older you get and the more you know who you are and what you stand for, the more difficult it becomes to adapt to your surroundings because the urge to be yourself in whatever circumstances becomes more important. The challenges are and remain to dare to take personal leadership and to dare to show yourself. To be able to do so, you must of course travel a road. It is a quest to know what is really important to you. Every moment in your life when something happens, you start thinking about it again. Although, after a while, it will become a little easier because the external pressure will go away and also because you will gain insight into the fact that you want to polish or learn certain things, but you don't want to change your core anymore.