Monthly Archives: November 2010

First Impressions

I was running errands one Saturday afternoon and found myself at one of those “oil change in a box” places.  As a hardcore people watcher, establishments like this are a virtual buffet of humanity, and I always enjoy observing people from all walks of life drawn together for one purpose…getting their oil changed.

When I walked into the waiting area, I was not disappointed. Already parked in uncomfortable folding chairs placed way too close together was an eclectic group: a cute college coed in her University of Georgia sweatshirt, a granddad with his rambunctious grandson, a Mohawk sporting tattooed twenty-something guy, a thirty-something mom (complete with mini van), and me.

In our little slice of humanity we had different generations, genders, and races.  We had gray hair, colored hair, and spiky hair.  I love to watch how people interact with each other in environments like this (or pretend not to see anyone else in the room).

Now, in my line of work, I find myself interacting with all kinds of people and try very hard not to jump to false assumptions about them based on “surfacy” things like hair style, skin color, clothing choices, etc. and usually do a pretty good job.

But “Mr. Mohawk” left little room for misinterpretation…emblazoned across the front of his sleeveless t-shirt was the phrase “LOVE IS FOR LOSERS”.  Instantly, I had him pegged as a tough, shallow, one-night stand kind of guy who has a hard heart and a fear of commitment.

I wrote him off and studied the others.  But I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. He was quite anxious and agitated and kept getting up to check the status of his car. I found myself thinking, “What are you in such a hurry for, loser?” When the oil change guy said they were working as fast as they could, Mr. Tattoo said, “I’m sorry, I am cutting it close to making my tennis match.”  Then little Miss UGA told him to relax! This was getting good!

It was then that I noticed his muscular legs, his right arm was bigger than his left arm, their was a wedding ring on his finger, and that, oh yeah, little Miss UGA was actually his wife!!!

“Love is for losers” instantly made sense. This guy was a serious tennis player and, in tennis, the word love equals zero. If at the end of a game your score is love…you are the loser!

My first impression of him had been completely off base.  I had jumped to totally wrong conclusions. How easy it had been for me to misjudge him.

Be aware of first impressions and realize they may be made on inaccurate or incomplete information.


It is all the rage today to understand your mission, your vision, your values.

You can see both corporations and individuals spending lots of time (and money) identifying these things and then laboriously “word-smithing” them down on paper so that they read just right.

But, if we’re not careful, there can be a total disconnect when it comes to living out those well-crafted words.

Here’s what I mean…If I read your words and then look at your behavior or the behavior of your team, will I see congruence? Will the behaviors, attitudes, reactions, and responses align with what you say is important to you or your organization?

The following story recently arrived in my Inbox and illustrates what I am saying:

The light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.

The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration, as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup.

As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up.

He took her to the police station where she was searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and placed in a holding cell.

After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.

He said, ”I’m very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ bumper sticker, the ‘Choose Life’ license plate holder, the ‘Follow Me to Sunday-School’ bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, so naturally…I assumed you had stolen the car.”

Take a moment and reflect. Are your behaviors and reactions aligned with what you say you value? To your customers? To your team members? To your family? To your neighbors?