It’s always important to leave a lasting impression on people.
It actually helps if it’s a positive one, but that’s a whole ‘nother matter for yet another story.
Today, we’ll just concentrate on the impression thingie.
When I was working for Citi back in NY during the 80s & 90s, I was fortunate enough…had the distinct pleasure…to attend a number of outstanding training courses & industry seminars.
A whole bunch of ’em.
I was “lucky”, I guess, that I always had bosses who believed in me & were willing to invest in my professional development.
I would also surmise that being a major pain in the ass when I found a class or event that I believed would be incredibly helpful to me and, in turn, the company, my people & our customers, and constantly seek my boss’s OK also helped me.
I was always thirsty for more & more opportunities to learn, to significantly increase my expertise, to gather as much knowledge as possible. And I was getting my hands dirty in so many different areas where technical & practical knowledge was so necessary to be successful.
And I kept assuming new/different business responsibilities over the years, often requiring that I bring myself up to speed in the best & most expeditious way possible.
I neither had the stomach, nor the patience, to just learn on the job.
Learn as you go.
Way, way too slow.
In addition, one of life’s major realities is that “you don’t know what you don’t know until you actually know it”!
When you think about it, it’s actually pretty profound.
You could be in a certain position at your company, believing that you are truly doing a good, or even, great, job. You could be meeting/surpassing all stated business performance goals, both for your own stuff as well as for the overall results of your team…but still have major room for improvement.
Great leaders handle all assignments extremely well.
The very best leaders are able to see beyond the obvious & start addressing concerns that have yet to be raised.
Work on stuff outside your immediate sphere of direct responsibility that may impact your (overall) business’s performance.
You’re able to anticipate & be prepared for things before they actually occur.
You’re very familiar with what’s going on with your competitors, in truly exceptional service companies & across your particular industry.
You’re constantly “pushing the envelope”, “thinking outside the box”, “bringing added value” to your business, developing your people so they’ll reach their true potential.
Not everything that you can achieve is written down & contained within your annual performance objectives. You should be hungry & driven enough (to the point of total obsession) to bring your business to levels never dreamed of before, much less previously-achieved!
You should have answers before they even ask you questions. Or even before they know what questions to ask.
That’s what you need to be striving for.
(Note: I’ve attended 4 seminars run by Tom Peters, the world’s most successful business author. Some of his best works were In Search of Excellence, The Pursuit of Wow, Thriving on Chaos, etc..
I find him absolutely fascinating!
He once said, “Really-good companies listen very closely to what their customers are saying, to what they want!
“But truly-great companies, industry leaders, work on stuff that their customers never heard of…then tell them, This is what you need!!!”)
But that’ll never happen if you stay within the confines of your nice & safe cocoon!
You have to “get out there” & see where your business sits in comparison to others.
Where your particular experience, expertise & abilities lie with relation to your peers (in & outside the company), your superiors & everyone else on the planet.
OK, now for a little lighter tale…
I had the opportunity to attend many training courses offered by UniverCiti, Citi’s centralized instructional support business for the Individual Bank (as opposed to the Corporate Bank & Investment Bank, the 3 main segments of the entire Citi corporate behemoth).
After I first assumed leadership responsibility for the Special Projects Team, I attended UniverCiti’s “Managing People for Middle Managers”.
I went out to St. Louis to attend this week-long in-house development program.
Turned out to be one of the finest training experiences I ever had! Super valuable…real-world based…tons of hands-on exercises…and, actually, a lot of fun.
Yeah, learning is fun, but these instructors were incredibly knowledgeable & personable & were able to get the very best out of everyone by really putting us at ease.
And a lot of the assignments we had were really enjoyable exercises to undertake.
While the classroom instruction was from 8AM to 5PM, M-F, we had group assignments & projects to do every evening…for which we made presentations to everyone the next day.
Again, I found the course to be extremely helpful to me as a new people manager (albeit it a rather-small team).
Several years later (I’d say, probably about 5or so), I was able to attend “Managing People for Senior Managers”, again held in St. Louis, and actually taught by one of the 2 trainers that handled the Middle Manager course ~5 years earlier…a wonderful guy, Forrest (his last name currently escapes me, as well as what I just had for lunch a few hours ago).
Yes, this aging thingie be crazy!
Anyway, when we arrived on Sunday evening at the 🍐Tree Inn in St. Louis (we actually had a quick project to do before Monday’s class), I found my way into one of the hotel ballrooms (where the course was being held).
Upon entering, I immediately recognized Forrest standing & speaking with a few of the other students.
When he turns around & sees me, he screams (yes, screams), “Mike LoRusso, you crazy mother, you! Did you bring your diapers with you?!?”
I burst out laughing as all the other people in the room are looking at us, er, rather strangely.
He heads straight for me & gives me this huge hug.
BTW, I can clearly hear all you guys out there in the blogosphere saying to yourselves, “What the hey?!?”.
A little background information may help here…
On the last day of the “Managing People for Middle Managers” course 5 years earlier, each “team” (they would change on a daily basis) had to prepare & perform a skit the following afternoon, based on some of the learnings we experienced during the week.
They clearly told us that it need not be “business-serious”. It could be fun, but basically had to demonstrate what we, hopefully, started to master during the course & intended to start implementing back in our own businesses when we returned home.
We worked on our presentation Thursday evening…well into the night.
Come Friday afternoon, we were the last team to present to the group.
The other teams all gave pretty straightforward presentations & they were very, very good. Covered their material well & the audience (the rest of us) was very appreciative for the stuff they presented & the obvious hard work they invested in developing it.
Then, it was our turn.
We had an all-male team (this was the mid-‘80s & women still had challenges to face in dealing with the stupid stereotypes & cave man thinking that was still present in the corporate world).
And we needed a few minutes to “get into costume”.
When we finally came out onto the stage, the place exploded!
We hadn’t even said a single word yet & people were howling!
Perhaps it was due to the fact that all of us were dressed (rather, partially dressed) as “full-grown” BABIES!!!
We used the bed sheets as diapers…that’s all we wore!
We were able to secure a bunch of liquor bottles for ourselves from the hotel bar (empty, damnit!) & we purchased some over-sized rubber nipples from a nearby drugstore. Those were our “bottles”.
We had bows in our hair & hand-made rattles (big ones) in our hands.
We looked absolutely ridiculous!
And our presentation was a major hit with the crowd.
When Forrest questioned the group to determine who came up with this novel idea, all eyes turned to me.
As soon as Forrest began to ask me a question, I immediately started wailin’ & screamin’ like an hysterical infant. I must admit, if I say so myself, that it was a damn good, on-the-spot reaction!
I thought Forrest was gonna experience a major coronary episode right there & then. He was laughing so hard, I could’ve sworn that he was crying.
We took questions from the group (just like all the other teams had done), but our responses came complete with our “childish theatrics”.
Yes, we were voted Best Presentation & received some token gifts. Yes, chachkes! (Or “tchotchke”, the Yiddish term for “those li’l thingies” that companies usually hand out to promote a campaign or recognize a significant event.)
OK, raise your hand if you ever collected those li’l Citi piggies!
Of course, when I arrived back in the office the following week, I received a note from Forrest.
I think he may have still been laughing.
And it was pretty apparent that I/we made quite the impression on him.
I wouldn’t necessary recommend that you use this example here as a template for making an impression on people.
But look at all your interactions with people (your own staff, your bosses, your peers…basically, everyone with whom you come into contact) as meeting them for the very first time.
“You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression!”
Think of everything in this manner & you’ll never take anything for granted. You’ll always be trying hard to be seen in a good light by everyone. It’ll be the impetus you’ll need to always do an exceptional job, regardless of how large or small an effort it is.
Thank you for listening!