I was speaking with a colleague yesterday who shared with me a very interesting experience of meeting a new leader for the first time. This leader was new to the organisation and new to the team, and whilst they were very eager to create a great first impression, the way they went about it created the exact opposite impression. My colleague went on to describe how the leader introduced themselves and then proceeded to advise my colleague on how and why others in the team did not like them. He said ‘you are too intelligent for everybody else – you need to dumb it down somewhat’. This took my colleague completely by surprise and for a couple of moments, rendered her speechless. Here was a Manager (we can’t really call them a Leader!!) who, whilst in a position of hierarchical power, was trying to pass on his advice to someone who he had just met. He had not established any rapport, had not asked any questions to find out more about my colleague and get to know them. Instead he was seeking to elevate himself above his team and he did this through judgement. He broke a cardinal rule of leadership, and that is first impressions matter, so make them count.
My colleague and I then proceeded to discuss the approach the Manager could have taken which would have led to a completely different outcome, such as :
- Begin a conversation by asking genuine questions and come from a position of curiosity. Instead of trying to to be interesting, be interested in the other person. This approach alone, can create immediate credibility and in the process, generate a powerful first impression.
- Maintain a strong and engaging physiology and focus especially on maintaining eye contact. Nothing is more off putting as someone who is unable to maintain eye contact. Understand that the eyes are the windows to the soul and can enable rapport to be developed very rapidly. This can also build trust.
- Be humble and focus on championing others. There is no need to ‘big note’ yourself as a strategy to build credibility – in fact, ‘big noting’ does the complete opposite. Understand that as a leader, you are the least important person in the room, though you are also the most influential. Don’t make it about you – make it about others.
- Never offer to ‘share’ feedback with someone unless you have done your research and you have asked the person permission to provide feedback. Whilst feedback is the ‘Breakfast of Champions’, imposed feedback can often lead to cortisol being released in the other person’s body, triggering the flight or fight mechanism. When this happens, the shutters can go up and the person can become very defensive, justifying their position, or they can attack like a lion pouncing on an unsuspecting gazelle, and rip you to shreds. And before ever providing any feedback, encourage the person to share some self reflected feedback first.
- Understand that as a leader, you must have immediate trust and respect for your people, however, you need to earn the trust and respect of your people. This is an attitude and a mindset that will help create a great first impression. Before you can lead a team, you must first earn the right to lead the team, and this is done through the creation of trust and respect.
As a result of this experience, my colleague has an exceptionally low level of trust and respect for this leader, and he is going to have to work extremely hard to make deposits into the trust and respect bank to build his credibility. However, if he had have implemented the above 5 points, he would already be well on his way to developing trust and respect, because he would have made a great first impression. So as a Leader, please understand how important first impressions are and how difficult it is to build credibility if your first impressions are not great.
First impressions…..make them count!!
To your continued leadership success.
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.