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YOU are your own best Business Card

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending Cisco Connected Women’s event “YOU are your own best Business Card” presented by Guest Speaker Laurel Herman, Founder and Managing Director of Positive Presence. Based on the premise that as you walk through the door, it is you who wins the deal, the job -- or whatever else is at stake, Laurel’s session provided women (and men too) with top tips on how to present a positive presence and maximise their impact.

Laurel asked all of us to make a list of four words or phrases that best described our own perception of ourselves. We were only given about a minute to complete the task so we each had to pretty much pick the first 4 words/phrases that came to mind. Next, Laurel asked us to write down four words or phrases that we thought others at work would generally use to describe ourselves (we could use the words we included in the first exercise). The aim of the task was quite simply – one, to show us that our own perception may differ from how we perceive others see us and two, to ask ourselves if we are happy with our own perception or if we would like to adjust our own perception. The words I chose to describe myself were very positive – sociable, hard-working, love and dedicated – whereas the words that appeared on my second list were much more critical, for example lacking confidence, so perhaps I do need to adjust and turn a negative into a positive. I am interested in gathering research on myself from my colleagues and friends to find out whether I am “correct”.

In the next task, we were asked to think of a leader who has had a positive impact on our lives. Laurel then informed us she was going to read a long list of words which make up an impactful leader and she asked us to count how many of these characteristics applied to the leader in our minds. If our leader scored 75% or above s/he was an impactful leader; lower than 75% meant that s/he was probably highly charismatic but not impactful. Laurel defined the difference between charisma and impact as follows: charisma is a gift used to describe an elusive personality trait that includes an uncanny ability to lead, charm, persuade, inspire and influence whereas impact is the powerful or dramatic effect that someone or someone has. Someone can be highly charismatic but not impactful; people are born with charisma but impact is a gift (which arguably can be learned).

Laurel then explored the concept of perception and technology. With many more people working virtual through web 2.0 technologies, many first encounters are made through virtual means. How many people do you know just through telephone calls? How about email? Laurel argued that when someone ‘meets’ you for the first time by email, they will already make a first impression of you judging by the style of your writing – the words you use, your tone, etc. You have probably already made an impression of me through my writing on this blog – let’s hope it’s a good one! And similarly through telephone, but tone of voice clearly plays a fundamental role in this. Laurel gave an example that if there was an executive hiring for a new role and s/he telephoned three people and got through to their voicemail, s/he would probably make a first impression of them from their voicemail. And if s/he was asked to just phone one person back to offer them an interview, that impression would play a key role in that decision. And moving on to face-to-face meetings, when you walk in the door, the first impression of you is made:

  •  68% on how you look (appearance and body language)
  • 25% on the sound of your voice
  • 7% on what you say

And not only this but it is also influenced by that original first impression that person has made of you from your first email or voicemail.

In summary, it really made me think about my own perception and how a simple alteration to my presence can have a significant effect on my impact at Cisco.

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