March 26, 2024

Your Key Three: Shaping Positive Impressions as a Healthcare Leader

Leadership Development

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Most of us are familiar with the saying, “You only get one chance to make a first impression.” Researchers agree: various studies reinforce that our brains form immediate impressions of others. One such study, published by Alex Todorov and Janine Willis of Princeton University, found that people make judgements on whether someone is trustworthy, competent, and likeable within one second of seeing someone’s face (with trustworthiness clocking in at an incredible 100 milliseconds). 

Author Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote on this theme in his best-selling book, “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” highlighting our ability to make snap judgements and first impressions in the blink of an eye. Your impact and influence as a healthcare leader are invariably tied to those instant impressions.

Planning for winning impressions

Several years ago, I heard about something called the 7/11 Rule. The premise is that we form 11 impressions in the first seven seconds of an encounter. The takeaway from the Princeton study, Gladwell’s work and the 7/11 Rule is that impressions are, inevitably, formed quickly. 

As an executive coach, I believe self-awareness and intention are two of the most important aspects of being a highly effective leader. Because of this, I always encourage leaders I partner with to be intentional about how they show up and the impressions they want to create, taking into account their personal values, characteristics and strengths. 

Regarding the 7/11 concept, I think we can agree that trying to remember a list of 11 factors that shape how others perceive you is too much. Over the years, I have found that three is a realistic, manageable number.  

Your Key Three: ingredients for winning impressions

Consider your Key Three — three words that best describe how you would like others to experience you at your authentic best. Using adjectives for this exercise is helpful:  

“I’d like for them to experience me as very _________, ________, and ________.”  

Next, identify behaviors or actions that you can take to demonstrate each intention.  

Keep your Key Three top-of-mind as you go through your daily interactions with others. One leader I know coined the term “ICK factor” to describe her goal of showing up authentically and intentionally as a person of integrity with candor and kindness. Another coaching client has her three Cs: Confident, Curious and Collaborative.

It is a simple, yet powerful exercise that can help you be more effective as a leader or team member, and in your personal life.  

Resetting and repairing impressions

I’m also a believer in the power of hitting a reset when needed. If there is a relationship in your professional or personal life that needs more focus or repair, consider how you want to show up and be intentional about demonstrating the relevant behaviors. You might be surprised how a small, authentic shift in you can influence positive shifts in others.

Discover other ways that MEDI Leadership can help your healthcare leadership team.

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About the author

Kathy Gibala

Kathy Gibala is a sought-after executive leadership coach with more than 25 years of healthcare industry experience and over 15 years as a coach. She is honored to serve as a trusted partner and change catalyst to healthcare executives across the US to raise the bar on their leadership, build high-performing teams, and accelerate transformative change. Kathy incorporates neuroscience-based coaching techniques to help healthcare leaders expand their impact and reach their fullest potential.

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