• Kim F Vaughan

Let's hear it for the shoes!

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

Shoes keep our feet warm, protect them from the weather, and they are easier to find a fit for than anything we wear higher up our bodies. They are our connection with the ground and provide the finishing touch to that killer outfit. But, during 2020, with Covid lockdown and the ubiquity of the online video meeting, shoes have been kicked into touch. Yet, even when they are out of sight, they still have a valuable part to play in how we show up!

I was reflecting this morning, as I rushed to dress for yet another Zoom meeting, that my attention was focused on my hair and face, and which scarf to drape casually round my neck to give the impression of professional woman in charge of herself and her destiny.

OK, you're right, I also swapped a gardening T-shirt for something (slightly) more fetching, hoping to undergo a miracle transformation from duvet-hugging slug to sharp-and-switched-on executive coach.

Online meetings have been cruel to those of us not accustomed to seeing ourselves on screen. Despite all efforts to appear engaged and intelligent throughout these online meetings, not just when scintillating the gathered company with my wit and wisdom, I have had to work on my 'resting' face. Repeatedly seeing myself in gallery views, wondering 'who is that?' and recognising signs of my venerated (and aged) ancestors, I've messed with lighting and camera angles to find the sweet spot - somewhere between elderly village idiot and anxious contortionist.

Use of gaffer tape was briefly toyed with then rejected. After all, I told myself, I am an executive coach, working with clients to identify and hone their inner qualities. At no stage do we worry about superficial appearances, preferring holistic approaches and inner improvements. We work with things we can transform, altering our attitudes but accepting no control over our genetic inheritance.

Reconciled to compromise (otherwise known as 'turning off self-view') and armed with inner positivity, I decided to stop fussing but, this morning, I was still not feeling right.

Do you remember the olden days when we used to have face-to-face meetings? When faced with making an impression in a room full of people who seem to know what they are doing, I would put on the armour. Best clothes, laundered and pressed. Nails polished to chime with the colour scheme, hair and make-up as good as they could be. Smiling (though preferably not like Here Comes Johnny in the Shining). Standing tall and straight then walking in as if I have every right to be there.

Then the lightbulb went on. Walk in. Walking into the room with impact meant SHOES. Don't hobble in with pain etched on my face. Don't drop mud everywhere from my trusty trainers, even though they prove I have done at least a little exercise outdoors. Be comfortable but be stylish. Match the shoe to the outfit, both in style and in colour scheme. Sitting, standing or lying flat, let the shoes be the star of the show.

Even though my shoes are not showing in online meetings, the effect they have on me does show. Knowing that my top half and bottom half are in tune helps me to forget my body and focus on my mind so I can sit up straight and contribute with confidence. Having headspace free helps me to listen more carefully, and recognise more easily the qualities of the people I am engaging with. Whilst you don't have to go the whole hog all the time, treating preparation for online meetings in the same way as in-person ones raises everyone's game.

This morning I changed my shoes. I put aside the yeti slippers and put on the weary old Italian ankle boots, rust-coloured suede with a wedge heel, bought in Bologna several years ago, back when we could travel and I had a salary, before I became self-employed. Yes, they have seen better days but, as I tied the laces, something good clicked inside me.

So let's hear it for the shoes!

I'm interested in hearing about what helps you be your best in an online meeting. Do get in touch!

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