Be Leary of the First Impression

I spent some time (finally) reading for pleasure over the 4th of July holiday week.  A new author, Amor Towles, has struck a cord with me, and I finished up reading A Gentleman in Moscow over the break.

The writing is eloquent and thought-provoking, and this quote resonated with me as a keen lesson:

After all, what can a first impression tell us about someone we’ve just met for a minute in the lobby of a hotel? For that matter, what can a first impression tell us about anyone? Why, no more than a chord can tell us about Beethoven, or a brushstroke about Botticelli.  By their very nature, human beings are so capricious, so complex, so delightfully contradictory, that they deserve not only our consideration, but our reconsideration– and our unwavering determination to withhold our opinion until we have engaged with them in every possible setting at every possible hour.

In the world of talent management, we often label people based merely on first impressions.  Someone gets the tag “Hi-Po” for whatever fleeting reason, and they remain so even when their performance doesn’t dictate it.  And even a greater tragedy, the reverse happens and we write someone off as a low performer when we haven’t taken the time to initially consider or reconsider (as the author emphasize is more important) the context of the person and their overall performance.

In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover, or its title.  If I had done so, I wouldn’t have ever discovered this gem or a quote or this gem of an author.  And you and I both may be passing up on gems in and for our organization because we haven’t taken the time to get to know them “in every possible setting at every possible hour.”

Who do you need to reconsider?

Mary Ila Ward

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