Project Management

Helping Project Managers to Help Themselves

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I'm all about Building Thriving Leaders™ This blog is based on over 35 years of project management and leadership successes and failures. Get practical, concise nuggets on both hard and soft skills to help you deliver projects successfully with minimal friction.

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Impressive First Impressions

So check this out.

Recently I received an email from someone who found me on LinkedIn. The person wasn’t a connection of mine, so I had no idea who he was or where he worked.

Let’s go through some of the items on the email (indicated by red letters A-F) and how it influenced my impression of this person. I changed personally identifiable information and will call him John Doe.

A – John’s email in the “from” line is from what I call “CompanyName1.” All good so far.

B – The subject of the email is “Offer for Thensetta Group of Companies.” This seems all fine and well except my company name is “Consetta.”

C – In his signature line he identifies himself as working for “Company Name 2,” which is different from the company in his email address

D – His website is listed as “Companyname3.com,” which is different from both the company names in his email address and signature. What’s even more interesting is that the underlying URL is different from the listed company name. When I copied “Companyname3.com” into my browser I got a “Page Not Found” message. When I clicked on the hyperlink it took me to a parked webpage.

E – The portfolio in Vimeo has yet another company name which is different than all the others.

F – John tells me that if I want to stop getting emails from him I need to reply with “remove.” I presume that means to put the word “remove” in the subject line. Any reputable company uses an email service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp with a structured unsubscribe process.

Needless to say, there’s no way in heck I’m going to do business with John Doe. The first impression he left was so abysmally bad that I could never imagine entrusting him with helping me resolve a business problem.

I suspect that if you’ve been in business for any period of time you’ve heard the saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” Despite this saying being as old as dirt, I’m amazed at how frequently I’ve seen professionals, both seasoned and newbie, create a negative perception in a first interaction. It’s even worse when, like the John Doe email, a negative first impression is earned through careless and reckless mistakes. The way John Doe bungled his first interaction with me told me volumes about what he might be to work with. While it’s entirely possible he is a competent professional, I’ll never know because he’ll never get a second chance with me.

If you think you might need some help on creating positive first impressions, give the following six tips a look before your next meeting with someone new.

  1. Learn all you can – Take the time up front to learn about the person. With all that’s available on LinkedIn and through general web searches, there’s simply no reason to go into a meeting not knowing anything about the person. But balance this with point two…
  2. Don’t look like a stalker – Just because you learned a lot about someone doesn’t mean you have to bombard them with your research. I’ve met with eager first-timers who, in an effort to impress me, started rattling off articles I’ve written, companies I’ve worked for, and things about my family. While on one hand I was impressed they took some time to learn about me, I was also creeped out with how much they appeared to obsess over me. This leads me to point three…
  3. Look for a couple of connection points – Many people know of my passion for helping the autism community and their loved ones. I’ve always appreciated when someone has asked a genuinely sincere question or related a personal situation about autism. It shows that they not only took a bit of time to learn about me, but also lets me know the other person is passionate about something I am. Just make sure you follow point four…
  4. Be genuinely interested – I can smell a mile away when someone talks about a connection point only to try to warm me to the relationship. I don’t want to talk about my passion area with a disinterested party. When looking for connection points, make sure it’s a topic in which you are genuinely interested. A good test is to ask yourself: Would I talk about this connection area with this person even if there were no underlying agenda? Wrap up the meeting with point five…
  5. Take the initiative to summarize actions – Summarize the meeting with specific actions you and/or the other person will take and when the action will be taken, then include the summarized actions in a follow-up email. This underscores for me that they see our meeting as important enough to take action to keep us both aligned. Just don’t drop the ball on point six…
  6. Do what you say you’ll do – It drives me crazy when someone commits to something by a due date, then doesn’t deliver. Even if something comes up which prevents you from meeting your commitment, send a note prior to the due date with a revised date. Avoid the “My dog ate my homework” explanations; just a quick note telling when the commitment will be completed.

Positive first impressions matter. Creating negative first impressions through carelessness or being unprepared is just shooting yourself in the foot. Take first impressions seriously and do all you can to make your first impression impressive.

Posted on: March 18, 2021 08:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

In-Person Jekyll, Social Media Hyde

Ahh, social media. Where from the comfort of your living room you can make your point known to millions of people. People and businesses have grown from being virtual unknowns to worldwide phenoms (think “Gangnam Style”) thanks to social media. Then there are those who fell from grace like a lead balloon (think Roseanne Barr, Anthony Weiner, or Paula Deen) because of social media. Both the rises and falls can happen swiftly and without advance warning. Sadly, it doesn’t even have to be true. Fake news travels just as fast as the truth. It just has to be tantalizing. It also doesn’t even have to go viral; a handful of viewers can see something that will alter their opinions of the person posting.

That viewer could be your current or future boss, customer, or business partner.

Before I go any further, I want to be very careful to treat this topic with respect and not take sides on any political, religious, or social issue. My goal is to shine a light on social media and how it could impact your professional livelihood, not to tell you a point of view is right or wrong.

Let’s pretend you are a businessperson who would like me as a customer. You and I have met for coffee several times and we seem to hit it off. You friend me on Facebook, wanting to get to know me better to understand how you could help solve my business problems and earn my trust in a business relationship. After we become connected on social media, I see very passionate posts from you mocking a point of view that I hold and telling people like me that we must be idiots to support such a heinous position. You then say something like, “If you believe in <fill in the blank> then unfriend me now!” As your prospective customer, I am confused by how someone who is so nice face to face (Dr. Jekyll) can be so venomous on social media, even giving an ultimatum (Mr. Hyde). I ultimately decide to not do business with you, not because you hold a particular point of view, but because you berate others who believe something different.

In looking at the above scenario, there are a few business relationship guiding principles that seem to go out the window with many on social media:

  • Not everyone thinks the same way as you.
  • Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean the world needs to know about it.
  • When your posts are vague or generalized, you leave it up to the reader to decide what you meant, which could be quite different from what you meant to convey.
  • You can be denied a job because of questionable social media posts. According to a survey sponsored by The Manifest, 90% of employers look at potential employees’ social media profiles and 79% have rejected a candidate based on what they found.
  • If you’re trying to sell an idea or convince people to act a certain way, you shouldn’t do it by telling them what an idiot they are.

I want to illustrate this last point. Imagine walking into a car dealer and the salesperson greets you at the door. You tell him you want to buy a car and he asks you what you’re currently driving. You take him out to your car and he proceeds to tell you how ugly the car is and what a fool you are for driving such a repulsive vehicle. Do you view this person as credible and want to buy a car from him? I’d venture to say not a chance. Yet this is what I see over and over again on social media. People rip other points of view to shreds and berate all who believe in those views, rather than simply extolling the positive benefits of their own view.

When you post on social media, keep the following five takeaways in mind:

  1. Assume everyone sees everything – I’ve heard some businesspeople with both business and personal profiles use that as license to be unfiltered on personal profiles and more restrained on business profiles. The problem is the two aren’t always mutually exclusive. There are plenty of people I know in my business life with connections on both our personal and business profiles. What I see posted on their personal profiles influences how I think about them in a professional setting. Sadly, some I admired professionally have had their credibility hurt because of what they say on personal social media profiles.
  2. Be clear on what you post and why – Personally, I love posting pictures of places we travel, experiences we have, and meals we eat. We do it largely to let friends know what’s going on with us and for some good harmless fun. We also have a happy hour review website where we post reviews of local restaurant happy hours which we’ve been told help others in the area decide where to go for happy hour. Professionally I post information about our different businesses to engage current and future customers.
  3. Knowledge is knowing what to say, wisdom is knowing when (or if) to say it – Just because you have a point of view on something doesn’t mean the world needs to know about it. I know a number of professional people who choose not to discuss their social, political, or religious views on social media. Wise move.
  4. Assume it lives forever – Platforms like Instagram have stories that disappear after a set timeframe. That won’t stop someone from taking a screenshot of the post and sharing it somewhere else. Assume anything you post will live forever and could come back to bite you.
  5. Resist posting when upset or impaired – There are plenty of examples where someone posted something only to have to apologize later for a “lapse in judgment.” Meanwhile, the post goes viral, then the person tries to delete it in vain after it’s been screenshot and shared over and over again.

No argument that social media is a critical tool for advancing your point of view and building your business and professional platform. Just avoid being an in-person Jekyll and social media Hyde.

Posted on: January 21, 2021 05:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
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