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  • Writer's pictureNeal McIntyre

Do You Look As Good As You Feel, Or Do You Feel As Good As You Look?

Updated: May 18

That question is one that I heard very frequently growing up. My father would regularly ask myself and my sister this question as well as a few other questions or comments that he knew would aggravate us, at least a little. If you were having a rough day or if you were having difficulty getting the day started, especially if you had just gotten out of bed and weren’t fully awake yet, it was a guarantee that he was going to ask these types of questions that often left us confused (and irritated) as we didn’t know exactly how to answer them.

Ironically, I’ve found myself posing this same question to my wife and daughters on many different occasions and their reactions are no different than the ones that my sister and I had many, many years ago. If anything, I’ve found myself pondering this question more and more as I’ve gotten older as I’m still trying to determine the correct answer.

So what does this question have to do with the workplace and/or workplace culture? My experience with interacting with many representatives of different businesses and industries has led me to realize that this same question is a valid inquiry for many organizations.

Can You Only Look Good When You Feel Good?

There’s no doubt that the way we feel often carries over and is reflected in the way that we act and even the way we look. When you feel good, you are generally more motivated, more energetic, and more positive - your self-image is improved as well as your self-confidence. In these times, you basically carry yourself in a way that is reflective of the mood that you're in based on how you feel. For more expressive people, others can determine how they feel when they first enter the room based on their facial expressions and body language. 

Alternatively, when someone is having a bad day or they are just not feeling well, this, too, is often reflected in their behaviors and mannerisms. They may not be as eager to take part in certain tasks on this particular day or they find it very easy to become agitated and frustrated with those around them - especially in minor situations that normally would not bother them or catch their attention. 

So here’s the question: can you only look good when you are feeling good? Or can you only feel good when you look good? There’s no doubt that there is a correlation between the two. In other words, one is often more apt to look good if they feel good and vice versa, but the two conditions are not necessarily causal in nature. One doesn’t cause the other no more than a rooster crowing at dawn causes the sun to rise.

What About Your Business?

So the question for you regarding your business is this: does your business look as good as it feels or does it feel as good as it looks? Many business leaders may quickly jump to answer this particular question - normally by saying that their business looks and feels great. I would sincerely urge you to truly evaluate and consider this question though, as it is deeper than it appears at face value. 

I talked to many executives and administrators who, when talking about their organization, routinely state that the people in their agency operate as one big, cohesive family who doesn’t have any issues and that they are exceptional at performing their job duties. Yet, when you talk to others within the organization, you get a different story. Additionally, when you talk to customers, clients, or patients, you get mixed reviews - for many businesses, you can see these mixed reviews online on their Google review page.

Granted, I know that you can’t please everyone and that you’re always going to have dissatisfied employees or customers every now and then but this excuse is often used to justify inaction in regards to evaluating the reason these individuals are dissatisfied. You see, many businesses go to great extents to look good - their grounds are well maintained and pedicured, the outside of their building is very attractive and visually inviting and appealing while expressing professionalism, and even the inside of the building is well decorated and furnished in a visually appealing manner to make it a welcoming environment. We typically go out of our way to look good, even though the internal work culture may not be feeling good - which generally gets overlooked and left unresolved.

Why Businesses Should Feel Good

Appearances matter. If the outside of a business is the epitome of neglect and even abandonment, chances are we’re not even going to stop regardless of what product or service they may offer. So we do base our choices on the look of a business - so it is important. Business leaders know this as this is the reason they make sure everything looks right. Their look is what gets us to go through their door for their product or service. Yet their look isn’t necessarily what keeps us coming back as a repeat customer.

People return to businesses mainly because of the way the business made them feel, how they were treated by the business, the quality of service they received, and the personalities of the staff at the business. All factors that frequently get less attention than the looks of the organization. Why? These factors flow from the culture that is present within the business, in other words, the way the organization feels. If the culture feels great, the business will be able to attract higher quality employees, the employees will feel valued, appreciated, and respected by the organization, the employees will be invested in and motivated to do their duties at a superior level, and all of this will translate into an exceptional customer experience that propels business performance and reputation.

Why focus so much on looks? Well, basically, it’s easier to correct the looks of an organization. If you don’t like the color of a room or the outside of the building, all you have to do is slap a fresh coat of paint on it and the problem will be resolved in a matter of days. When you’re talking about how a company feels, you’re talking about the culture of the organization - and that is often rather difficult to change or correct. Why? First, I’m a firm believer that any organization is going to be a reflection of its leadership. So, if you have issues with your work culture, it’s difficult for leaders to objectively evaluate their potential role in the culture problems. No one likes to admit that “I created this” or that “I contributed to the problem”, but many times this is the first true step in being able to identify the problem and seek out a proper solution. Now, that’s not to suggest that the entire workplace culture problem is caused by the company leader as that is never the case.


When my father always posed that initial question to me years ago, part of the reason that I struggled to find an appropriate answer to it was because I always struggled with determining which was more important - the way I looked or the way I felt. My thought process was that if I could determine which one was more important (or which should come first), I could then easily determine which would flow from that and would be able to answer the question.

For most business organizations, their leaders struggle with this same type of thought process. Most generally settle on the idea that as long as our company looks good (i.e., fresh paint, new fixtures, new furnishings, etc.), our company will naturally feel good. In fact, this has been the prevailing thought amongst the business community for many decades - and it has been one that has failed to achieve sustainable, positive results. Yet leaders do not challenge this tactic as doing something different requires creativity, vision, experimentation, and worst of all, risk. So instead, business leaders keep doing the same old, same old. New paint here, new fixture there, a new colorful painting here,...all in the hopes of making their culture feel good.

Rest assured, there are solutions. In next week’s article, I’ll explore some of the things that companies can do to feel and look good. The very first step that must be taken, though, is that organizational leaders must stop pretending that their culture is problem-free and begin to understand that there are things to be improved in order to make their company feel as good as it looks and look as good as it feels. Until then, company performance will continue to suffer and the leader’s impact on the organization will be muffled.

Oh, and to answer the question - I’m still not sure if I look as good as I feel or feel as good as I look.

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