By Graeme Gordon
O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us; To see oursels as ithers see us! (Oh, would some Power give us the gift; To see ourselves as others see us!)
The great Scots poet Robbie Burns wrote these words in the final stanza of To A Louse : On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church.
I’ve been thinking about this poem recently because I’ve undertaken a routine of diet and exercise to get myself truly fit, under the instruction of a top-notch personal trainer. This has led to me not only shedding over 30 pounds/14 kilos but also adopted healthier habits and a positive self-image.
My colleagues frequently comment on my weight loss, even when we haven’t seen each other for a few days, but I’ve not really noticed the physical difference. It’s just that I have had to by a whole new set of trousers and suits, because it’s been gradual and I’ve been here, so to speak, throughout the process. But others see the difference.
How do others ‘see‘ us? While it’s absolutely true that ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’, it’s also true that you constantly make an impression on colleagues, clients and other business contacts. So, how conscious are we of the impression we make? How careful are we, not only in terms of our appearance, but in our manners and deportment?
It is too easy to assume that someone knows you well enough that you don’t need to bother about what you wear, or think about what you say. However, even with your soul mate, who knows all your bad points and still loves you, I’d suggest you need to honour their love by being the best you for them.
This is especially true for clients, prospects and colleagues.
Yes, they may have met you before, have a very good impression of you, and are willing and happy to trust you with their project. But it does not take much for them to lose that trust if they see a rude, impetuous or demanding, not to say ‘sloppy’, side to you.
Always remember how fragile trust is. It takes a lot of time and effort to create and sustain it, but very little to break it completely.
Once trust is lost, the chances of getting it back are very slim. And if you can get it back, it’s an even longer and much more difficult road.
So, while I fully endorse swift and decisive action, always take a moment to ensure you’re not jeopardising trust. A prompt response is always welcome, if only to let someone know you are acting on their message, but take a moment to check your reply can’t be misinterpreted.
It may seem obvious, but when you host or attend a meeting, always think about the other side. How will they expect you to dress? How would they like to be greeted? What do they expect of you, and how can you not only meet their expectations but exceed them?
If you put thought and care into all these things, people will look at you in admiration and won’t be distracted by the proverbial bug in your hat, like the louse that horrified Robbie Burns.