First Impressions-Childhood Experience

Mother Always Said, "Robert...first impressions are like the first few steps in a race-they can give you an early lead, but the race isn't over until you cross the finish line."

IT WAS MY FIRST DATE. Boy, I was nervous just thinking about the fact that I was going out with one of the brightest, prettiest and most sought-after girls in my class; cheerleader Carol Mancini!

I was newly licensed, spit-shined and ready to go, but first I had to pass Mother’s hygiene inspection: “Did you bathe, brush your teeth and shine your shoes?” Check! “Is your underwear clean; in case you’re in an accident and have to go to the emergency room? I won’t have my son caught dead in dirty underwear!” Double check!


Then she hit the critical issue—manners. “Remember to be polite and speak clearly when you introduce yourself to her parents. Nobody likes a weak-kneed boy—especially a girl! And most of all, show respect! Bring her home on time, or even better, a few minutes early. If you have any trouble, car or otherwise, call us immediately, no matter what time it is. Remember . . . on and on and on . . .” I was exhausted even before I left the house—it almost wasn’t worth the date.

Mother’s inquisition was so draining; I didn’t have enough strength left to feel nervous.


There I was, pulling up in front of Carol’s house. I parked the car and took a deep breath. As I walked up the steps, I could hear a loud thumping sound—like a bass drum—and it was coming from underneath my sports jacket! I had a sudden thought, so this is why they call it a heartthrob as I rang the doorbell. An older woman—Carol’s grandmother—opened the door.


I walked into the living room, and Carol’s parents—along with an overwhelming amount of religious artifacts prominently displayed on every table and adorning every wall—greeted me. As I introduced myself, I felt compelled to declare to Carol’s parents that I was an altar boy for more than ten years; even as Mother’s parting advice still echoed in my ears: “There are three things you never discuss: politics, family, and religion— especially on the first date." Little did I know how right she was...first impressions are truly lasting impressions.  (Continued in Mother Always Said, "...")


First Impressions-Career Experience


THERE IS NO GREATER TEST IN BUSINESS THAN MID-TOWN MANHATTEN. Mother always placed a great deal of emphasis on making a positive first impression. Her definition of this went well beyond the traditional factors of dress, attitude, and manners, which she saw as a mere reflection of a person’s true character, beliefs, and interests. According to my mother, the first impression sets the tone for what follows, and if the first impression is insincere, then the true character will eventually surface; in other words, people are caught in the act of being who they really are.


Whether consulting to a business or government, I recognized why my mother considered positive first impressions of such importance. She stressed that preparation was truly the key.


“Robert, if you know your audience’s needs and expectations, then you’re halfway there to making a sale,” said Mother, further explaining that the reason she had such devoted shoe customers was based upon her knowing about their jobs, families, interests, favorite colors and styles and so much more . . . but without becoming involved in their personal lives.


“It’s a fine line,” she said, “and only time and experience can teach you how far to go. So, when in doubt, don’t offer solutions—Just listen. People don’t expect you to come up with solutions; they just want a warm and genuine listener.”


I finally had the opportunity to test this early lesson in one of the most challenging situations I ever experienced in my career when a Fortune 500 company in New York City hired me to develop a long sought-after account, and more importantly, my future consulting career was at stake.  (Continued in Mother Always Said, "...")