Occupants of the Executive Suite cannot afford to make bad impressions in meeting people because they meet a lot of people very important to the success of their company. We are not talking about employees here, as important as they are. We are talking about other company owners and CEOs, key customer/clients, bankers, lawyers, and other critically important professionals.
That first impression is the ballgame. First impressions resist change, because we form a conclusion about someone, often within minutes of meeting him. Once that cement dries—and it dries within minutes—that is the hardened image.
So what should you do about that? What is the secret to making a good impression—the first time?
According to impression expert, Jo-Ellen Dimitrius, there are four key components to making the optimum impression. If you can embody these four, you will never fail to impress. Here they are.
This is a cornerstone. You need to exude credibility and believability. A calm, reasonable, non-manipulative demeanor is key here. You want to express an openness and reliability.
Any way in which you can demonstrate reliability will be a positive. You could meet someone and in conversation, tell her you have a person she would do well to put in her network. Excuse yourself for a moment, find the person in your contact list, and give the name and contact to her. In other words, take a calm initiative and follow through.
You want your behavior to be consistent and predictable right out of the gate. Nothing erratic or over the top in that first meeting—steady and solid.
You want to be warm, accepting, and receptive. Listen rather than talk, ask appropriate and probing questions about what others are saying.
If you have something of value to offer, state it sincerely. Caring is a not-about-me attitude. It is the opposite of selfishness and one-upmanship. A lot of this is “given off” by how we listen and what we say. Keep the focus away from yourself as much as possible. Agree when you can.
Eye contact is big here. It conveys care. You don’t have to make it intense, but meet the other person’s eyes and listen attentively.
If you can do anything from getting the person a cup of coffee to offering a solution to a problem, do it. People like people who care about them.
You do not have to lie spread-eagled on the carpet and have your associates walk over you to show humility. In a single phrase, humility is the opposite of arrogance. Think about it. How many arrogant people do you like? Well, the people you meet, no matter how highly placed, like the same number you do—even if they are arrogant themselves.
Many people like Joe Girardi. They don’t like Bobby Valentine. Many like John McCain. They don’t like Newt Gingrich. Unless you have the corporate trump cards of The Donald, you would do well not emanating Donald Trump.
Stand firm, look people in the eye, but play to the modest side.
Humility is balanced off against capability. Here is where you can shine—rack up some power points. You want to appear confident and competent; quietly certain of what you say and think.
Dress powerfully and conservatively. Look and act professional. Speak intelligently. Speak slowly and clearly. In conversation, speak to the point and trash the lectures and tangents.
You can combine this air of confidence and competence with caring by moving the discussion into an arena in which you have real expertise. If you listen actively—probing with good questions—you can get to something in which you can speak with unmistakable authority.
Mention a book, a system, or a methodology. Do not demean yourself by praising the author. Just mention the product. It is better to say that “Good to Great” is an excellent book than to extol the brilliance of Jim Collins.