We make major decisions about others at lightning speed… and them about us. In fact, we’ve read that people create 11 impressions in the first seven seconds of an encounter. The moment you meet someone – a new boss or colleague, a patient, etc. – his or her brain quickly goes to work sizing you up. “Is he a friend or foe?” “Is she friendly and approachable?” “Is he competent, confident, trustworthy?”
Impressions matter for you as a leader.
Do your first impressions affect how others perceive your leadership potential?
While you can’t stop people from making snap decisions (after all, our brains are hardwired with this survival mechanism), you can be more intentional about creating a positive, authentic impression with others. Think about your key work relationships. Where do you show up with people and what impression do you want or need to make with them? If you have gotten off on the wrong foot with an individual or a group, consider hitting a reset button. A physician leader shared a great story with me this week about how he re-established a positive relationship with others in his practice through a highly interactive all-team meeting. He and they felt great about it! Improving leadership approaches can lead directly to increased business success.
Research indicates that communication in general, and first impressions in particular, are heavily influenced by nonverbal behaviors. Little things like arriving early, standing tall, walking confidently, dressing professionally, smiling, making eye contact, giving a firm handshake, providing a warm greeting and sitting at the head of the table if you’re the committee leader all contribute to making a positive impression and creating a positive climate for whatever discussion follows.
Think more specifically about those 11 impressions and consider this exercise:
Make a Who, What and How list for yourself
- Who I want to influence
- What impressions I’d like to create (“I’d like them to see me as very…”)
- How I will demonstrate
This also applies well in discussion with practice, office or department team members around the impressions you’d like to create as a group with your customers.