In the first three seconds that we see someone new, without even realising it, we have scanned their clothes, their build, their posture, their body language, their voice, how they smell, how we see ourselves in relation to them….and our mind has made a comparison and judgement about them based on our likes, dislikes and preferences. And we create an “impression”, based on that, about who we “think” they are.
Those thoughts will then determine the words we say, the actions we take and consequently how we respond to them. In those three seconds our brain is pattern matching based on past experiences and we are deciding, on a very basic level, whether we perceive them as friend or foe.
We never experience a person as they actually are. We experience them as we “think” they are. And from those thoughts our feelings about them are created.
I’m sure you have had an experience of meeting someone new, internally creating your first impression of them and then comparing it to someone else’s first impression and found you have both seen entirely different things.
Same person, different perception. These are deep processes at work here behind the scenes that happen unconsciously, creating your moment to moment experience.
In fact, there are some basic principles at work here that are useful to know about in business, as well as your personal life –
- Everything you are experiencing is being created in your mind.
- We are only ever feeling our current thinking.
- That thinking changes and we can have new thinking any time.
On your first day you are coming into a variety of different expectations- there are those who love change and those who are afraid of it. There will be those who are looking for a leader and those who think they already know it all. There will be those you get on side instantly and those who will be waiting for you to prove yourself.
You are dealing with the expectations of the person who made the final decision on recruiting you and how that reflects on them.
And then, finally, you are working with the biggest expectations of all- your own! You want to get the team on side, to gain their respect, to please your boss, to please the stakeholders, to please your Mum!
So, on the first day in a new job, now armed with this information how do you make the best impression you can, that sets up expectations, and positions you in the way in which you wish to be perceived, bearing in mind that it is not possible to please all the people all of the time, and we cannot be all things to all people!
Well, firstly, having explained how all this works, I suggest you now forget about it! If you go into a meeting, a first day at work or even a first date with all that on your mind your head will explode…. because also remember that whilst everyone else is running these processes, so are you!
So, what is actually useful to know about creating a great first impression on your first day?
Show leadership- insist that on your first day it is your priority to get to know the team. It is usual for new managers to be sent on trainings or asked to attend meetings and not be very visible. Be clear that on your first day it is important that you get to meet at least some of the team if it’s not possible to meet them all- they will report back to the other team members about what they think you are like. Show that you care about your role and show that you are excited to be working with them.
Then when you get to meet them remember you are dealing with two separate entities- the team and the individuals that make up the team.
You might be new, but your team isn’t. They have been doing their best with the level of management, support and development that they have received up until now. Focus on the positives, even if they are hard to find. This is your first chance to get them on side. They might be expecting you to come charging in full of ideas, but at this stage you need to gain their trust and you can do this with humility and respect.
They need to hear that their efforts, work and achievements are not going un noticed and that you are there to build on what they have accomplished so far. You are positioning a desire in them to make things better, not because they are bad (even if they are) but because you want them to be involved in growth and progression.
Get to know them. Tell them you are going to schedule in one to one’s and do it. This is your first chance to prove that you will do as you say. And at those one to ones, LISTEN to them. Ask them questions that enable them to share relevant information with you, to reflect on where they are now and where they would like to be within the team and to find out if they have any ideas for change. Make it clear that this is not an appraisal this is getting to know them
How long have they been with the company?
What are they proudest of that they have achieved so far?
What do they like the most about the business, the team and their role?
What do they like the least?
Where do they see room for improvement?
And find out a bit about them- what do they like to do in their personal time?
And don’t worry- if you are a few weeks into a new job and haven’t followed any of the suggestions, remember one of the principles mentioned above- that thinking changes and we can have new thinking at any time. There will still be time to create opportunities to have those conversations and to make a new impression!