First Impressions

Is it time you changed your impression on first impressions?

I guess that old saying that you only have one chance to make a first impression is even more real now in the world of instant messaging, reality TV 15-minute stars, and daily doses of new BFF’s. Who has time to get a second impression? Who needs it? Just wait 5 minutes and some one else will come along who DOES make a good impression. Are we all turning into ADD candidates?

Your Biases Can Impact Your Success

But think about it…. Most likely you have met someone who on first impression you thought was bombastic, full of themselves, stuck up, awkward or maybe even incompetent. Think of some of your colleagues …maybe a boss…who now you respect or even admire. Think about how your impressions do change as you get to know a person. We form impressions of people based on our biases built on past experiences. It could be that the person looks like that boss you once had who was a jerk; or talks in a manner that reminds you of that gym teacher you hated in high school or even their name conjures up a subconscious memory of that whiny kid in 6th grade.

As a leader you may want to start recognizing when your bias is creeping in with respect to a client, a peer or an employee. If you notice it, then take a mental step back and consciously become curious about what this person has to say. In fact, you may want to take a cue from JFK’s approach and say to yourself,  ”I am interested in this person”.  It is amazing how self talk will change your demeanor, behavior and outlook. You may find a person more  competent than you thought. And you won’t think it was a waste of  your time talking with them.

What about the first impression you make?

And the second and third? Have you given that much thought lately? You are no longer the same person you were a year ago or 5 years ago. Are you being seen the way you want to be ? The way you need to be? Is each impression you make just reinforcing people’s negative opinions of you? “Ya, he’s a great salesman..ops gal….numbers cruncher…nice person…BUT not really who we need for that new position or to take over that project. He/she is not ready” Heard that before? Said it before?

Victims of Long Memories

I have been in performance reviews with senior leaders reviewing their subordinates and I am amazed at the number of times that some executive will say something like, ” This person is not right  for that promotion because he is not responsive or she lacks insight or he acts unprofessionally or some other reason ” . Then you discover that this executive is talking about an incident or situation that happened years ago or happened in one instance.  Isolated incidences can cause lasting impressions.

Don’t let this happen to you ……and…. don’t you let it happen to others. First impressions are important but second and third and so on are even more important. Make a point of making every impression count.

btw I hope your first impression of me is good…..if not I will try and change that over time. Do check back and see for yourself.

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