Why We Fail to Make the Right Impression (& What to Do)

Why we sometimes fail to come across as we intend.

We often want to make the ‘right’ impression, but inadvertently end up making the ‘wrong’ impression.

This can happen with your boss, a potential employer, or someone who represents a romantic interest – in fact, anyone with whom you interact. And it can happen despite our best efforts and having the best of intentions. Not coming across as you intend – particularly in your initial encounter with someone – can cause big problems in your personal and professional life. People may mistrust you, dislike you, or not even notice you. Sometimes the fault is your own, sometimes the reason why may lie with other people

Why is this?

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • Perceiving people accurately is hard – often the way we see one another can be irrational, incomplete, and inflexible and largely automatic. Although we can distinguish between strong emotions expressed by others, it is remarkably difficult to do with more differentiated emotions. How you or other people look when concerned, puzzled, anxious or confused is very difficult if not impossible to distinguish accurately.  Because we know what we are feeling when we express it we assume that others can discern that feeling. Wrong!  This is why we are often “misunderstood” when we believe we have been crystal clear.
  • What we say, do and express is subject to interpretationwe cannot accurately assess others, or others accurately assess us, because we don’t know what they are thinking or why. So our brains, automatically, pick an interpretation which reflects our beliefs and experiences. So we develop an immediate perception of others, and they of us – rightly or wrongly.
  • We use shortcuts – here we use heuristics and assumptions to fill in the gaps.
    • Heuristics – these are rules of thumb which we use to help us guide our interpretation of someone, an event or a situation in making a decision. For example, when someone believes the opinion of a person of authority on a subject just because the individual is an authority figure. People apply this heuristic all the time in matters such as science, politics, and education. This can be described as an “authority heuristic”.
    • Assumptions – these guide what the perceiver sees, how that information is interpreted, and how it is remembered. As such, assumptions form an integral part of his or her perception of you. There are some assumptions so universal and automatic that you can count on other people making them about you, and that most people are unaware that are making them. For example, if you have a very positive trait — if you are smart, beautiful, funny, kind, and so forth — you are likely to have other positive traits. (and you can count on people to have no idea that they are doing it); the first impression you give is the “right” one, and it shapes how everything else about you is perceived, and you are like the other members of groups to which you appear to belong.

So even when you are meeting someone for the first time he or she will be filling in details about you – even before you start speaking!  So what can you do about this?

  • Find out in advance as much as you can about the other person’s likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. This will help you to anticipate what he or she may be projecting onto you.
  • Plan what you want to emphasize and/or underplay to help create the right effect.
  • Use the primacy effect – this is where the initial information or points you make are more likely to be remembered than those later on. In short, your initial conversation and behavior will have a greater and disproportionate impact than what occurs later.
  • Make your opinions and values explicitly known in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the other person.
  • Be intentional – it is not enough to have good intentions.

Making, Leveraging & Overcoming First Impressions

First Impressions Count

Remember first impressions can always be changed and/or improved on.  First impressions are important as they begin to lay the foundation of your relationship with another person, so if the foundation is not how you would like it to then be quick to smooth over or re-pour the concrete before it sets.  Why?  Because this foundation also represents the inertia of the other person’s attitudes towards you.  If these attitudes are favorable then it can be used to generate momentum, if they are unfavorable then a considerable effort is required to overcome the inertia and then gain momentum.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Flea Training

What is the one thing that limits your personal success most?

This is a story originally told by Zig Ziglar – a leading sales trainer and motivational speaker. It is a good story – short, to the point and memorable. I won’t say anymore – just take a moment to sit back and enjoy this particular gem.

Flea Training

Fleas basically do two things… They jump and they ride dogs… 

If you want to train a flea what you gotta do is put a flea in a jar, and if you put a flea in a jar, the flea will jump right out of the jar.  So in order to train the flea, what you do is put a lid on the jar and you watch the flea jump and the flea will jump – clap – clap – clap – clap.  You watch that flea jump and hit its head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back 10 minutes later, the flea is still jumping clap – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back an hour later, the flea is still jumping – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

You come back an hour later, the flea is still jumping – clap – clap – clap – clap and he is still hitting his head on the inside lid of the jar. 

About two hours later at some point, the itty bitty flea even with his itty bitty brain figures out that hitting the inside lid of the jar is not such a good idea and so the flea alters its jumping pattern.  The flea still jumps nonstop but now it’s jumping about an inch from the inside lid of the jar.  You’ve trained the flea at this point.  You can virtually take the lid off the jar and watch the flea jump from now until doomsday and guess what?  That flea is never jumping out of the jar. 

Folks, that flea has all the power in the world to jump right out of that jar, but it can’t and it won’t and the reason why is because the flea doesn’t know the difference between a real limitation being the lid and a limitation it put on itself.  Most people, unfortunately, are the same way.  Most people don’t know the difference between a real limitation and a self-imposed limitation – and I’m here to tell you that there are no real limitations. 

Oh sure, if you have no legs you got some limitations.  Sure if you didn’t go to Harvard, you have some limitations.  At the end of the day, there really are no limitations except what you decide are limitations.  There are no real limitations.  There may be some challenges, there may be some things you have to overcome, but there are no real stops in your life.  There are no real limitations in your life – it’s what you put on yourself”

I smile every time I read this story. It reminds me that what I achieve is up to me, that the biggest barrier I face is myself, and my biggest supporter is myself.  It reminds me to wake up every day and choose to succeed and achieve.  Share this story with your colleagues, your team, your friends, and family – help them see and realize their own potential, and in doing that do it for yourself!

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here.

Share your thoughts and ideas here, or email me at andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Your Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence

You have limited time, resources and energy to expend on getting work done, projects completed and achieving the results you are looking for.  As such you need to be able to use these limited and finite resources effectively.  To do this you need to be able to distinguish between what lies within your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence as shown in the picture below:

Circle of Concern and Influence

  • The Circle of Concern – this larger circle encompasses  everything that you are concerned about, including those things over which you exert no control or influence e.g. the level of tax, terrorist threats, the current interest rate on loans and mortgages etcetera.  We tend to waste a lot of our time, effort and mental energy in the Circle of Concern.  This produces nothing as we are unable to overcome the inertia or have any effect.
  • The Circle of Influence is smaller, and it encompasses those things that we can do something about.  These are those things where we can be proactive and, by taking action for ourselves, address them. Here we invest our time, energy and effort on the things that we can change.  This produces results and momentum forward.

The two circles – Concern and Influence – are about the choices you make and the results you want.

The Circle of Concern is where you find people who focus on that which they cannot influence. They are reactive, stressed and ineffectual.  The Circle of Influence is where we find people who choose to focus on things that they can influence.

By focusing attention and energy on our circle of influence, people are increasingly proactive. The energy we expend is enlarging; each small victory motivates us further exert influence. We don’t waste energy on things we can do nothing about, but direct it towards what we can change. With each step we feel stronger and more creative. And so our circle of influence expands.

By focusing on what we can influence we also start to understand better what we cannot influence. We develop a better understanding of our circle of concern, and what it includes and does not include – it may even expand our circle of concern. This provides us with a fuller and better appreciation of the context in which we work, and helps us to better focus on our efforts on what we can influence. It can be incredibly liberating to realize that, in choosing how to respond to circumstances, we affect those circumstances. If we want to cope with the challenges we face, then we need to learn how we can influence them.

Share this diagram with your team, colleagues, and clients to help them distinguish between the two, what lies within their Circle of Influence whilst being aware of what lies within their Circle of Concern – and to focus their efforts on what they can influence, not that over which they have no control. This will provide greater traction, reduced stress and a more effective and productive team who can achieve results more easily.

To view or download a PDF version of this blog click here

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.


 

Are you in Control?

There is a simple, but useful tool that helps you to understand how people respond to situations, and to anticipate their likely behaviour. It can also help you identify those who are likely to be winners and losers. This tool is called the Locus of Control.

Everyone wants to know what separates winners from losers. One of the significant factors limiting the attainment of your vision is the degree to which you believe you are in control of your destiny. Your locus of control can be internal or external. You can have a combination of both but normally one will outweigh the other.  So what are the differences between an internal Locus of Control and an external Locus of Control,, and how can you identify them?

  • External Locus of Control – you can tell by listening to what you say, or your team members, when talking about your business and your life. If you hear things like, “I would have been successful but the economy turned sour” or “I got caught by a pile of bad debts so I had to close the business down” you have an external locus of control. People with an external locus of control blame the external factors for their failure.

Locus of Control

  • Internal Locus of Control  – people with an internal locus of control feel that they can influence the issues around them. You’ll hear them say things like “I misjudged the market so I put on too many people which ended up costing me a packet of money” or “I found that my skills weren’t sufficient to handle the negotiation”.

Get into the habit of listening to the people to determine whether they have an internal or external locus of control. Of course, those who have an external locus are the ones who find it difficult to change. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility.

If you are setting up a team or looking at staffing make sure you have plenty of people with an internal locus of control. In simple terms, a person with an external locus of control is problem focused, while a person with an internal locus of control is solution focused. Remember, you will always find what you are looking for. Sometimes you find that by teaching someone about the locus of control, and helping them to change their own mindset they can change from having an external locus of control to an internal locus of control.

There is little point in developing a focused and aggressive business strategy if you are surrounded with people who believe that the Government, their people and even their customers are conspiring against them. You are defeated before you start. How can this be resolved?  By having people with an internal locus of control!

To see or download this blog as a PDF article click here.

If you found this article of use or interest please don’t hesitate to share it with others.

Click here to find out more about Andrew Cooke and Growth & Profit Solutions.

Be a Compelling Person!

What is a compelling person? Why do you want to be one? And how can you become one? A compelling person is one who, in dealing and interacting with others, has both strength and warmth. In short, these are:

  • Strength – a person’s capacity to make things happen with abilities and force of will. When people project strength, they command our respect.
  • Warmth is the sense that a person shares our feelings, interests, and view of the world. When people project warmth, we like and support them.
  • People who project both strength and warmth impress us as knowing what they are doing and having our best interests at heart, so we trust them and find them persuasive. They are compelling.

Strength and WarmthBeing both is not as simple as it seems, as strength and warmth are in direct tension with each other. Most of the things we do to project strength of character – such as wearing a serious facial expression, flexing our biceps etcetera – tend to make us seem less warm. Likewise, most signals of warmth – smiling often, speaking softly, doing people favours – can leave us seeming more submissive than strong.

Being a compelling person is a major ingredient to influencing people and building deep trust with people. So how can we overcome this tension and be perceived as compelling and become a more effective leader, and improve your career opportunities? Here are ten suggestions of things you can do,

Ten Suggestions to Becoming More Compelling

  1. Be level-headed = this is about being self-composed, sensible, having common sense and sound judgement. You feel comfortable to invite this person to a very difficult conversation knowing you will get a balanced view and a contextualized conversation.
  2. Respectful straightforwardness – you provide feedback in a direct, frank and constructive manner; similarly you are a good listener, listening to ensure that you understand the other person first rather than being understood yourself first.
  3. Courage and toughness – you demonstrate the strength of character and conviction to ensure consistency and fairness in a situation, even if the course of action you take is unpopular or unwelcome.
  4. Open minded – you are open to new ideas, no matter who or where they come from; at the same time you avoid adopting biased views and don’t carry past baggage into the future with you.
  5. Self-control – you exercise good self-control at all times, and don’t let yourself become hijacked by your emotions.
  6. Non-judgmental – you listen and discuss matters without pre-judging the people or the situation.
  7. Conscientiousness – you do things thoroughly and well. You appear efficient, organized and dependable; in doing so you consistently deliver reliability.
  8. Forward looking – you look beyond the past and today, and you do not let them hold you back, with a focus on the future and how you can influence it.
  9. Assertive, not aggressive – you are able and willing to stand your ground and make your point without, in doing so, diminishing the other person or their arguments.
  10. Being a safe haven – as a compelling person others are comfortable in talking with you openly, frankly and honestly. They see that you will give the best advice they can, even if you do not like it.

How do you rate yourself on these ten aspects of being a compelling person? What can you do to improve? Share this with your team and reports and use it a basis for opening useful and insightful individual and team discussions and become more compelling yourself in doing so.

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

Your Boss – Seriously Successful or Downright Deluded?

Seriously Successful or Downright DeludedWhich answer do you think is most common? Strangely enough, the answer is probably both!

Marshall Goldsmith shares a story:

One night over dinner, I listened to a wise military leader share his experience with an eager, newly minted General, “Recently, have you started to notice that when you tell jokes, everyone erupts into laughter—and that when you say something ‘wise’ everyone nods their heads in solemn agreement?” The new General replied, “Why, yes, I have.” The older General laughed, “Let me help you. You aren’t that funny and you aren’t that smart! It’s only that star on your shoulder. Don’t ever let it go to your head.”

Marshall continues. We all want to hear what we want to hear. We want to believe those great things that the world is telling us about ourselves. Your boss is no different. It’s our belief in ourselves that helps us become successful and it can also make it very hard for us to change. As the wise older General noted – we aren’t really that funny, and we aren’t really that smart. We can all get better -if we are willing to take a hard look at ourselves. By understanding why changing behavior can be so difficult for our leaders, we can increase the likelihood of making the changes that we need to make in our quest to become even more successful.

In the video below Marshall shares his insight into “The Success Delusion”, a short but powerful video. When watching it remember, this not only applies to you but also to others – so remember that when you work with your team, your peers, your bosses and others.

Why We Resist Change

We all delude ourselves about our achievements, our status, and our contributions. We

  • Overestimate our contribution to a project;
  • Have an elevated opinion of our professional skills and standing among our peers;
  • Exaggerate our project’s impact on profitability by discounting real and hidden costs.

Many of our delusions come from our association with success, not failure. We get positive reinforcement from our successes and we think they are predictive of a great future.

The fact that successful people tend to be delusional isn’t all bad. Our belief in our wonderfulness gives us confidence. Even though we are not as good as we think we are, this confidence actually helps us be better than we would become if we did not believe in ourselves. The most realistic people in the world are not delusional—they are depressed!

Although our self-confident delusions can help us achieve, they can make it difficult for us to change. In fact, when others suggest that we need to change, we may respond with unadulterated bafflement.

It’s an interesting three-part response:

  1. First we are convinced that the other party is confused. They are misinformed, and they just don’t know what they are talking about. They must have us mixed up with someone who truly does need to change.
  2. Second, as it dawns upon us that the other party is not confused—maybe their information about our perceived shortcomings is accurate—we go into denial mode. This criticism may be correct, but it can’t be that important—or else we wouldn’t be so successful.
  3. Finally, when all else fails, we may attack the other party. We discredit the messenger. “Why is a winner like me,” we conclude, “listening to a loser like you?”

These are just a few of our initial responses to what we don’t want to hear. Couple this with the very positive interpretation that successful people assign to (a) their past performance, (b) their ability to influence their success (as opposed to just being lucky), (c) their optimistic belief that their success will continue in the future, and (d) their over-stated sense of control over their own destiny (as opposed to being controlled by external forces), and you have a volatile cocktail of resistance to change.

So, as you can see, while your boss’s positive beliefs about herself helped her become successful, these same beliefs can make it tough for her to change. The same beliefs that helped her get to her current level of success, can inhibit her from making the changes needed to stay there – or move forward. Don’t fall into this trap!

As the wise older General noted, as you move up the ranks and get that star – don’t let it go to your head. Realize that every promotion can make it harder to change. Always balance the confidence that got you here = where you are – with the humility required to get you there – where you have the potential to go.

I am passionate about helping executives and leaders become more successful and, in doing so, help others become more successful in turn.  As an accredited Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach (MGSCC) I partner with executives and leaders to help them achieve real tangible improvement in leadership effectiveness and organizational performance.

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)

 

 

You’ve Changed! Why Didn’t Anyone Notice?

You've ChangedAn article by Marshall Goldsmith

Shared by Andrew Cooke, Blue Sky GPS

It’s much harder to change others’ perceptions of our behavior than it is to change our own behavior. People’s perceptions of us are formed when they observe a sequence of actions we take that resemble one another. When other people see a pattern of resemblance, that’s when they start forming their perceptions of us.

For example, one day you’re asked to make a presentation in a meeting. Speaking in public may be the greatest fear among adults, but in this instance you don’t choke or crumble. You give a great presentation, magically emerging as someone who can stand up in front of people and be commanding, knowledgeable, and articulate. Everyone in attendance is impressed. They never knew this side of you. That said, this is not the moment when your reputation as a great public speaker gels into shape. But a seed has been sown in people’s minds. If you repeat the performance another time, and another, and another, eventually their perception of you as an effective speaker will solidify.

Negative reputations form in the same unhurried, incremental way. Let’s say you’re a fresh-faced manager looking at your first big crisis at work. You can react with poise or panic, clarity or confusion, aggressiveness or passivity. It’s your call. In this instance, you do not distinguish yourself as a leader. You fumble the moment and your group takes the hit. Fortunately for you, this is not the moment when your reputation as someone who can’t handle pressure is formed. It’s too soon to tell. But again, the seed has been sown—people are watching, waiting for a repeat performance. Only when you demonstrate your ineffectiveness in another crisis, and then another, will their perception of you as someone who wilts at crunch time take shape.

Because we don’t keep track of our repeat behavior, but they do, we don’t see the patterns that others see. These are the patterns that shape others’ perceptions of us—and yet we’re largely oblivious to them! And once their perceptions are set, it is very difficult to change them. That’s because, according to the theory of cognitive dissonance, people see what they expect to see, not what is there! So, even if you finally do choke a presentation – people will excuse it saying you just had a bad day or they will think it was great because that’s what they expect. And, even if you save the day in a crisis, it will not change people’s perceptions of you. They will consider it a one-off event or they will not notice your part in it at all.

So, what do you do? The challenge is that just as one event doesn’t form people’s positive perceptions of you, neither will one corrective gesture reform their views of you. Change doesn’t happen overnight. You need a sequence of consistent, similar actions to begin the rebuilding process. This is doable, but it requires personal insight and, most of all, discipline. A lot of discipline.

You have to be consistent in how you present yourself—to the point where you don’t mind being “guilty of repeating yourself”. If you abandon the consistency, people will get confused and the perception you are trying to change will get muddied by conflicting evidence that you are just the same as you were.

Finally, you have to follow up with those whose perceptions you are trying to change. Go to them every month or two and ask, “Ms. Co-Worker, It’s been one month [two months, three months] since I told you I was going to try to change this behavior. How am I doing?” Your co-worker will pause and reflect, “You’re doing good Co-Worker. Keep it up!” In this way, they will repeatedly acknowledge that they are seeing a change in your behavior. And, if you do fall back into an old behavior one time after a few months, they will remember how you have been doing great for such a period of time and will likely let it slide!

To find out more and discuss this and other ways to improve leadership effectiveness and organizational performance further contact Andrew Cooke (MGSCC), call Andrew Cooke on +61 (0)401 842 673 or andrew.cooke@business-gps.com.au

You can also find further insights and a wealth of material on business and leadership on Andrew’s other blog – Growth & Profit Solution Blog. There are also a large number of resources at his Blue Sky GPS Website, and these can be found Blue Sky GPS Resources.

About Andrew Cooke & Blue Sky GPS (Growth & Profit Solutions)