Wednesday, June 30

Not long ago, I attended a professional networking meeting at which each person had 3 minutes to introduce him/herself to another person in the room. At the conclusion of that 3 minute interaction, each partner then writes down 3 words or phrases that they believe characterize the person they've just met. They drop the card with their observations into an envelope the other is carrying, and then the two separate to each meet another new person and repeat the process.

In about 20 minutes, we each had 7 cards in our envelope from 7 individuals we had never met before. When we each examined how we were described on our cards, we discovered that perceptions of very different people we had just met were remarkably consistent. The 21+ phrases on my 7 cards were definitely "me," and were definitely unlike the phrases on the cards of those around me, although theirs were equally consistent for them.

What does this mean? As I reflected on it, I thought about how we each have a story, a way we approach life--some would even call it an aura. Recent research has shown (a la "Blink") that first impressions DO have a lot of validity. Organizations make first impressions too. Have you ever entered a restaurant and had the feeling that this was not going to be a peak culinary experience? Most likely, that's just what you found to be true. Similarly, have you ever walked into a school and thought, "I wish I could be a student here," or "I would love to have my own child attend this school?" Organizations, like individuals, communicate first impressions that are usually lasting and accurate.

Think about your own organization's personality. What 3 words would a first time visitor to your website or office use to describe their experience of you? Professional, Friendly, Creative? Stiff, Tense, Inefficient? Your "brand identity" is formed in first impressions. Make them intentional, authentic, and positive!

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