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Casino operator Echo Entertainment Group has a new CEO, and he says he’s nothing like the last one.
Larry Mullin, who left the CEO role in controversial circumstances last September, has been replaced by the corporate conservative, John Redmond, who previously sat on Echo’s board.
A veteran American casino operator who began his executive career in finance, Redmond has made it clear he won’t be repeating Mullin’s signature jeans-and-shirt look (a look that would not have allowed him past the bouncers in most VIP rooms at Echo’s Star Casino).
“I have always felt that the tone you set at the top of the organisation establishes the culture and what is acceptable in terms of performance,” Redmond told The Australian Financial Review.
“When I walk the casino floor, for example, I have my jacket buttoned, so everyone looks and thinks ‘I better button my jacket’. That is an example of setting that visual tone.”
Redmond, who the AFR says told chairman John O’Neill that Mullin wasn’t “CEO material” in September, is happy to note the contrast between himself and his predecessor.
“Put us next to each other, [and] just visually, Larry Mullin is a very casual person,” Redmond says. Coming on top of his statements about top buttons and all that, it’s clear he doesn’t approve.
June Dally-Watkins, Australia’s doyen of business etiquette who for the past 60 years has run a corporate finishing school, applauds Redmond’s view.
“I believe he’s absolutely correct,” she tells LeadingCompany. “He must set a tone and an image.”
“There have to be rules and standards.
“I think the fact that this new CEO is getting tough with his staff means he loves them and cares about them. Every human being needs to be encouraged to have a high standard. Anyone can be low, uncaring, cheap and vulgar.”
Career coach and human resources expert Kelly Magowan says leaders certainly set the tone with regard to attire. “If they’re more casual, so is everyone else, and vice versa.”
Magowan says she thinks it’s important to have a dress code and stick to it in professional environments. For client-facing roles, like those working at a casino frequented by high rollers, the dress code should be more formal.
“First impressions do count, and there’s lots of psychology around that,” she says “You can only create a first impression once,” she says.
“If you’re in client-facing role, there is a perception around your services. If you’re a consulting company and you’re charging a fortune, and your consultants are going out representing your company while dressed casually, of course that would create a horrible impression.”
Image consultant and former fashion designer Jon Michail says technology firms have inspired a casual-corporate look since the 1980s. But he stresses it’s not a look that works for most businesses.
“Historically these companies didn’t deal with people, but with technology. So they could let loose on those things. But if your business deals with human beings, if you look down-and-out, that’s how you message. If you’re really talented you’ll overcome that, but you create hurdles for yourself.”
As the casualization of the workforce began in the 1980s, when staff began doing shorter stints in each job, many leaders have forgotten their role in setting the tone of the office, Michail says. “Leaders have lost sense of what true leadership’s all about, and have started presenting down-and-out.
“You could do that when things were booming. But you’ve got an American [Redmond] coming from an American economy in serious trouble. They know where strategic, powerful, influential leadership is important, [and] looking down-and-out will not do that. Presenting influence, power and success also means the visual aspect.”
The ideal corporate attire, Magowan says, is neutral. It looks polished and tasteful, but should fade into the background, letting people focus on other things when interacting with you. “It should be just another uniform,” she says.
Dally-Watkins says this is forgotten by too many people, especially young ones, and is hamstringing their careers.
“Your clothes should match. You should dress correctly. It makes you look important. And it makes your staff look important and proud because they represent themselves well.”
“Somebody has to lift up the image of young people because I am appalled. I’ve just been around to my students – they’re wearing short skirts whether their legs are ugly or not. They’re wearing dresses that show their bosoms. The magazines are promoting it. Shoes, stiletto heels with high soles, they’re ugly and damaging to the health of their legs, and they can’t walk in them and they’re too flashy.
“Everyone should be looking at your lovely face, not your shoes.”
In many business situations, traditional corporate attire (buttoned-up suits, clean-shaven faces for the men and high heels for the women) isn’t the done thing. Dally-Watkins says while clothes should be conservative and flattering, they should also be in keeping with the culture.
“There are some businesses that are very casual, and in the suburbs. In those workplaces you shouldn’t overdo it. You should dress accordingly because that shows intelligence.”
Magowan says dressing different for work is useful for psychologically preparing people for the day. “There’s always been a separation between work and home,” she says.
“Even in information technology environments, for instance, where there’s a more casual dress code, it’s still a dress code. There’s still that group mentality aspect, there’s still that tradition and sense of corporate identity and so on.”
Though most businesses will develop an unspoken standard naturally, informed by how senior leaders dress, sometimes things can go wrong when this standard isn’t written down.
“If you have no policy around code of behaviour or presentation, then people can go awry,” Magowan says. “Most people do the right thing. Obviously it’s common sense, but it’s worth having a formal statement in place because there’s a percentage of the population who won’t do it unasked.”