As a coach, the ability to make a good first impression is vital to the relationship that you can grow. The length over how long this takes seems to depend on which research you read but anywhere from 0.3 of a second up to about 30 seconds should cover it. I don’t think it is a disaster if it doesn’t pan out exactly as you hoped it would first time but the more consciously you manage that first contact the smoother things tend to go in those early moments.
So how can you make sure that, regardless of the variables that come with the turf of working with other human beings, you can manage that first contact well?
1. Don’t swat up (much).
Sponsors (those paying for the coaching programme) frequently try and share their thought of “Steve in Accounts” or give you their impressions of “Mary-Lou from their Hong Kong office” but where I can, I politely try to stem the flow of that kind of information because it may prejudice the relationship before we even start. You may want to get up to speed with the area the client works in and the outcomes the sponsor wants achieved through the coaching, but don’t overload on the personality, behaviour and flaws of your client.
2. Don’t jump to conclusions.
Ever. But especially early on. As human beings, despite our best efforts, I think we do end up judging people by our own standards and their initial appearance or behaviour. Some examples ….
- Five minutes late for the first coaching session = slacker and poorly organised
- Out of the mainstream dress sense = tree hugging, attention seeker
- Overly loud, somewhat false greeting = insecure, inferiority complex covered by poorly judged show of confidence
None of the above are true or accurate of course but it would be very easy to make quick judgements based on not very much hard information. Suspend all judgement and let it play out.
3. Flex your style.
Coaches, mentors and great managers, are all able to be genuine and act with integrity but also adapt their own style to ensure that they are able to make the person they are working with feel comfortable. This requires heightened attention-paying skills, followed by some matching and mirroring of body language, skilfully and subtly done especially early on help establish that very precious commodity: strong rapport.
Impressions count. Work hard at your own, in order to make it easy to build rapport with your client but also make sure you are fully conscious of any snap judgements you are making, so you can press pause and give people a break !
What have I forgotten? Bound to be something. Share your thoughts and insights in the comments section.
Glenn Wallis is an experienced Executive Coach and Coach Developer who will help you improve your own results and those of your organisation. When you are ready to raise your performance to the next level, find out more here.