Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Importance of First Impressions

I was hired to conduct a long-term customer service training program for a large Chicago hospital.  My first week’s assignment was to anonymously familiarize myself with the hospital and gather information on where improvement  was most needed to make it more user-friendly.

The nurse behind the counter scowled at me.  Well, she didn’t actually scowl at me, because she never gave me any eye contact.  She just had a scowl on her face and body language that was anything but friendly and inviting.

I thought, “I would never want her to be my nurse! I’d be intimidated to even talk to her.  Why would they put someone like that in such a high-profile job?”

Later I learned that this nurse had been with the hospital many years and was, according to her managers, one of the best they had.  She really cared about her patients and did her job with excellence.  But her management recognized that she made a very bad first impression and asked me to counsel with her one-on-one.  As I did, I realized this was an unusual woman who had survived many adversities and was truly outstanding in her job.  But she made a terrible first impression.  Did she do it on purpose? Of course not! She had no idea people were perceiving her initially in a negative way.  But the very negative first impression she gave to people was affecting her ability to really thrive on her job.  It was holding her back, and it was totally unnecessary.

Did you ever think about what kind of impression you make on people?  I’m sure you’ve heard it said that first impressions are the most important, and you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  That’s true, but it’s also true that last impressions are ones we remember, and all those in between are important too.

If you’re not making consistently good impressions on your job you’re going to find it difficult to thrive.  Making good impressions is not some phony, hypocritical façade we put on; it’s not polishing the apple or playing company politics.  It is simply being certain we’re putting our best foot forward and making the effort to improve our skills and eliminate bad habits so that people remember the positive things about us rather than the negative ones. 

Proverbs 14:8 says, “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways.” A prudent person is wise, judicious, and careful, and that person will give thought to his or her ways.  Are you a prudent person? When was the last time you gave serious thoughts to your ways – your habits, your skills, the impression you make on others?  Self-improvement is important and it’s healthy to think about how your ways help or distract, encourage or tear down, make you look bad or good. 

As Christians working in a world that needs to know Christ we should make the best impression we can.  We are, after all, ambassadors for Jesus Christ; we represent him to our world. 

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