Recently I was invited to be a keynote speaker at an event hosted in the War World II Museum – US Freedom Pavilion – Boeing Center in New Orleans. This venue is impressive. It has WWII planes hanging from the ceiling, a pageantry of flags on the stage and important historic memorabilia on display. I hope you will visit soon. The small, landscaped area outside was clean and sidewalks were well maintained. Inside, the floors were beautifully waxed, the windows spotless, my host was delightful and made sure all the details were taken care of. All told, it made for a positive and lasting first impression.
As Will Rogers said, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” I have never met a leader in any organization who doesn’t agree that first impressions matter. Many of us make our living by creating and marketing those first impressions. Whether it is a property, food, or customer service, we note our first impressions regarding quality, and they do matter.
According to author Jessica Estrada and psychologist Linda Humphreys, “Perception is merely a lens or mindset from which we view people, events, and things…In other words, we believe what we perceive to be accurate, and we create our own realities based on those.” The old saying, “perception is reality” can be true for a new customer or our bosses. Our employees are often the first and only impression of our organization. How our employees are perceived by our bosses, clients, customers, and guests can either boost confidence in their work and our brand or lessen the impact of both. Untucked shirts are stylish these days but making sure it fits the branding image of the organization is fundamental.
In my landscaping world, leaving a dead plant in the ground is a sin. It is almost unforgivable because it only leads to more problems. Once a customer notices a dead plant, it leads to a quick perception that everything is wrong, and the credibility of the department or business is being questioned. On my teams, we rehearse empowering staff to remove any dead plant they come across. All leaders should oversee quality control, making sure the property is viewed with fresh and expert eyes as often as possible. Coaching our teams to see and experience it the way our customers see it is fundamental.
In big and small ways, regardless of the situation, first impressions do matter. Providing a keynote address from the stage of the WWII Museum in New Orleans, I was inspired by my surroundings which were obviously cared for with the guests in mind. The big challenge in daily operations is maintaining a critical eye; viewing our operation the way our customers will view it. This critical eye allows us to see what needs to be addressed before the customer experiences a first impression. Good leaders pause, look, and address the barriers to good first impressions. Great leaders figure out ways to daily coach this awareness in each team member and then empower them all to action.
Thank you for leading and cultivating great first impressions.