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First Impressions Matter

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There was a major reorganization taking place in a multinational company in America.

The CEO was retiring and the buzz in the work place was that the most senior staying executive could take over his place. A consultant was brought in. The senior exec talked to him, wanting to get his personal opinion on the matter. The consultant was a frank, brutal-to-the-truth kind of man who looked at him and said, “Frankly, I don’t think you will be chosen by the board to head this organization.” The senior exec was devastated. He said, “But I have the seniority, I have the skill, I have the qualifications, and I have the experience. It’s a logical choice that I will be the next CEO of this company.”

The business consultant turned confidant with a serious look on his face and said, “Yes, my friend there is no doubt about all that but…you just don’t have the CEO walk!”

The moment I came across this story I knew what it meant.

What’s the CEO Walk? What it means is the way you look and package yourself says a lot about you. People see you and make snap judgments about you. This is why the way you look really matters, especially in business.

People are way more critical than you think. Don't give them fuel for the fire!

First impressions are lasting impressions. But if you're like most people, you probably can't see the first impression you're making.

Now some people do not like this. They claim that what they are on the inside matters more than what they look like on the outside. True. No argument there. But how many people do you know have the luxury of telling people, “Don’t judge me by how I look, I am really a better person from the inside!” Most people would probably reply, ‘What are you smoking?”

Here’s what you can do. Ask one or more of your close friends if you are guilty of any of the following image deficiencies below. If so, thank your friends for their honesty. Don’t take it against them but immediately do something to correct your deficiencies! Create the impression you want to last by being conscious of the following:

1. Your handshake

Some people shake hands with a limp-wrist, dead-fish handshake. They think they are conveying humility by doing so. For a man, this is a sign of weakness or disinterest. For a woman, it's a sign that she lacks confidence. Shake hands with confidence.

2. Your clothes

I hear consultants say, “Your clothes do not have to be expensive…” Now coming from years in the garments industry, allow me to tell you that it is extremely difficult to get good, respectable, decent business clothes from 168 shops. Just like every good thing in life, you need to invest in quality. And quality costs money. Good clothes last longer and turn out to be more economical since they can be used over the long haul.

3. Your words

Now we’re moving into the less visible qualities that define you as a person. If you have a weak vocabulary, then you will not be able to express your ideas well. Worse, people will not understand you well enough to respect you. Avoid verbal mannerisms such as 'ah' and 'um.' And using cuss words is simply not cool! I have also heard young women use words like 'super' and 'awesome.' These do not add value to your career development.

4. Your grooming

Long hair, sideburns, a three-day stubble, a bad makeup job, un-tucked shirt or blouse, unpolished shoes, all these say to people: Cannot be left alone for a second with prospective clients. It's also a sign of intellectual sloppiness!

5. Your hygiene

Foul body odor, dirty fingernails, chronic bad breath. These are things you want to ask your most trusted best friend about because (1) Chances are, you can't notice it, and (2) Some people won't want to hurt your feelings.

6. Your posture

People notice the way you enter a room, the way you carry yourself. Take a few deep breaths to collect yourself. Stand tall and hold your head up high. Walk with purpose and direction.

7. Your character

While it is difficult to assess the worthiness of a person’s character, in the first few encounters people can usually sense whether a person is noble by the way they speak—and most especially by the way they treat those beneath them.

First impressions do last and you never get a second chance to create a first impression. But one thing we need to remember is this. The Bible says human beings look at the outside appearance, but God looks at the heart. This is why we have to make sure that the inside is clean first, and then the outside will take care of itself.

Print ed: 06/10


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