You’ve heard the phrase before. First impressions mean everything. That’s a shame, because as human beings, the only thing that mode of operation can do is halt opportunity and prevent people from getting to know each other.

The best business Executives know that consistency is what determines one’s worth. Whether that be a product, a service, an organization..or a person. Doing something repeatedly a certain way, for better or worse, is what creates a reputation.

…and I really like the idea of this and I’m sure we’ve all experienced it. We’ve heard about someone. We’re intrigued by someone. Impressed by their accomplishments or certain abilities or like the way they look, etc… and then we meet these people and they are nothing like what we imagined. The book is closed before making it through the first chapter.

There is something to be said about expectations, too.  As humans, if someone thinks you’re at the top of the mountain, they are going to easily be let down when they see you’re just a regular person.  Alternatively, if expectations are low, it will be easier to impress upon someone.

…and I’m not suggesting not to have a first impression (and it’s inevitable I suppose), I’m suggesting to collect a series of impressions. As someone who loves the MB Type Indicator, I understand that many people make decisions based on gut feels (I’m one of them), but I don’t care how many other blogs I’ve read about the different types. None of us are true mystics or wizards, we just make decisions based on how something made us feel or what made sense to us at the time.

Point being, gut feels can be wrong and people’s feelings/thoughts change upon each interaction. I tell many of my clients that the secret to successful project implementations is a willingness to take chances on a strategy. We need to be able to get started, and that is often by wondering what’s possible and committing to giving something a firm try for a certain time frame. We’re going to see initial success, initial failure, periods that are stagnant, etc. We’re going to question everything we do and at times feel like we’re hanging in Limbo. We’re not going to know if we’re successful, though, until we learn more about ourselves and the project…and that takes time and consistency. I’m amazed at the amount of companies I come across who try one thing, have a quick, single failure…and then BOOM. Never again!  Get back on the horse!

The same thing happens with people. Someone doesn’t say hi the right way, or talks too much at first, or not enough, is having a bad day, etc and right away a negative perception is formed. I’m amazed at how many people don’t give things a chance based on that or just one interaction. Jobs, friendships, relationships, project teams, etc all don’t move forward because of a person’s hunch based on a single interaction.

I also find it interesting all of the chatter about people and projects. Adding some complexity to this topic, I’ve come across people with negative reputations among certain groups, only to spend time with them and then come away with a really great experience. In other cases, I’ve walked away saying, “Well I guess I was warned..” The flip side applies here, too.

…which leads me to manipulation. Sometimes when someone says hi the right way, talks the perfect amount, or just makes everything seem too good to be true, it can be cause for concern (still other times that person could just be really, really polished and able to back up their talk.) You could find yourself in a miserable situation later down the line, but hey, it sounded good at the (one) time, right?

In all of these cases, though, how will you truly know based on ONE impression?

You won’t. A willingness to take chances on all of these opportunities and hanging on for the long haul is where the true magic lies. In my experience, the majority of my best friendships came from either college or being colleagues (and the projects we were on). We were more or less forced to get to know each other over a series of time. In different scenarios our true colors surfaced whether we wanted them to or not. If I were to go back on all of the people I consider friends or projects that were a success, I know a lot of my first impressions were flat wrong (and some of the ones with good first impressions were cut loose).

I’m also not suggesting people’s first impressions are always wrong. I know that some people exist who are just really great judges of character (but would anyone actually ever say that about them-self?). In conclusion, my main point is that you should confirm based on calculated risks, a time frame and taking the chance!

Coming full circle, that person you’re intrigued about from my above example? Forget their first impression and spend time working with them (or just with them). After awhile, I bet you’ll begin to see why they have the reputation you’ve heard about…could turn into a great story!

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