The other day, I was standing in line before my morning commute when a guy cut me, barking his coffee order over mine. Shaking my head, I soon forgot all about him. Until he sat beside me and introduced himself, commending me on my new venture and asking how everything was going. I thanked him, answered his questions as briefly as possible and then quickly got back to my screen. The distaste of my first impression of him consciously stopped me from giving him the time of day (which by the way was pretty early).

That interaction got me thinking a lot about that famous Warren Buffett quote: 

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it."

How true that is. It's not easy to win people over; it takes time and a lot of energy. Most frustrating of all, you can blow it with one wrong move.

So how do you win people over in the first place? How do you build up that bank of goodwill so that one day, if something goes wrong, people give you the benefit of the doubt? Contrary to what you might think, it's relatively easy. The most important thing to keep in mind is consistency. If you consistently walk the talk, people will very quickly come to respect and admire you; and if you're a leader on your team, they will follow you. Below are the simplest ways to make a good impression:

1. Respond to all correspondence. Even if you are delayed in your replies, still respond. It's funny but people with the worst memories still remember the emails and texts they don't receive back; they often forget the ones they do receive. Remember that!

2. Be on time. Nothing says "I don't care about you" more than being late. A few times is always understandable but being consistently late to meetings, appointments, lunches, etc. sends the message that the other person or people are not important and that you consider their time to be less valuable than your own. In which case, you become less important to them, too.

3. Apologize immediately. If you do something wrong, say sorry fast. And better yet, say it in person. A good friend of mine once said whenever he makes a mistake, he finds that person immediately and sits next to him or her to say sorry. The physical proximity is important as it shows sincerity. If that's not possible, he calls. And if that's not possible either, then he resorts to emails. Emails are a last resort.

4. Surprise people. If you're known to be buttoned-up and shy, try surprising people by taking colleagues to a lunch, or bringing treats in for a special holiday if you rarely do. Do something that you normally are not known for. Come in early a few days if you're normally 9-to-5. Whatever it might be, do something that is the opposite of what you normally do. But be sure it's helpful to others.

5. Say thank you. It sounds obvious but saying thank you goes a long way. I can't tell you how many people remember when someone doesn't say thank you. Say thank you in a variety of ways: verbally, in an email or a handwritten note, or by sending a small gift. The fact that so few people do this nowadays only makes your gratitude stand out more.

Do all of these above consistently--and you'll be well on your way to making a consistently good impression. Oh and no cutting!

Speaking of my new venture; Radiate is all about improving people's emotional intelligence, or EQ, through expert advice. We asked CEOs such as Dan Gilbert, Kat Cole and Ed Bastian to share how they make a positive first impression on their teams and I'd love for you to check out what they had to say

Published on: Apr 18, 2018