There’s no avoiding it: relationships matter at work.  That means we can’t deny that other people’s perceptions of us matter too. As much as we might not like that idea, it’s true.

The way you create a perception of yourself is through your personal impact. Managing this is essential in building positive work relationships.

Let’s look at what personal impact is and the tools you can master to better manage your personal impact and, ultimately, improve your professional relationships.

Personal impact – the what

How much thought do you give your personal impact? Personal impact is essentially about the impact we make on others wherever we engage with them – what they think of us. Crudely, it comes from human instinct and is broadly positive or negative. To read one theory behind what our brain is weighing up click here.

I’m sure if you think about it, you’ve been at an event, spotted someone you have never met before and hoped you wouldn’t end up speaking to them – as unfair and unkind as that sounds. They have had a negative personal impact on you.

So, how do you avoid doing that and make sure you have a positive personal impact on people?

First, how much thought do you give your personal impact? Do you know what personal impact you have on your colleagues? Your clients?

We can’t entirely influence how others perceive us but we can strongly influence it by what we project.

Making a positive personal impact on others helps forge better relationships, which, of course facilitates both individual career progression and organisational performance. If you service clients (whether internal or external) and think about the best and worst ones, the difference is bound to be the relationship you have with the individuals themselves.

The three tools affecting personal impact

I’m now going to briefly walk you through the main ‘tools’ you have, which you can use to affect your personal impact.

However, before you get into the detail, you might want to think about your personal brand and what you wish to convey. You can read more on that here.

These three personal impact tools elements account for 93% of the impression you make on someone when you first meet them in person. Of this 93%, the two visual aspects account for 55%. Let’s take that in. Over half of the initial impact you have is down to your appearance and body language. That’s staggering.

  1. Appearance

Given the importance of visual aspects, if you’re not dressed appropriately for:

  • the professional environment you’re in;
  • the people you’re meeting;
  • the context

then people will be distracted by what you’re wearing rather than listening to what you are saying.

Appearance is not as rigid as it once was; the key is appropriateness for the situation. To read more on this topic, click here.

Practical tips:

  • Consider the impact you want to make and whether how you currently dress for work supports that.
  • Make sure that even if you’re dressed more casually in general, or on specific days, it still looks like you have bothered.
  1. Body language

Humans can learn to read body language to different degrees but there is always an ‘instinct’ involved. Therefore, you need to be aware of what triggers that ‘instinct’, so you can choose how you trigger it in different people.

A key ‘trigger’ is body language. It’s very easy for your mouth to be saying one thing which your body language doesn’t support. 60-80% of communication in a meeting is through body language.  People pick up on body language unconsciously and that’s what creates their ‘instinct’ about you.

Key aspects to consider are:

  • posture
  • smile
  • eye contact
  • gestures
  • mannerisms
  • expressions.

Your whole movement also conveys something to others too – watch the short video at the bottom of this page for a clear demonstration.

Practical tips:

  • Very few of us get to see ourselves moving about; how will you gain awareness of your body language?
  • Words convey facts, expressions convey feelings. How expressive is your face? What do you give away?
  • Body language is cultural, so, if you travel for work, research cultural differences.
  • Avoid interpreting someone’s reaction or state of mind from looking at just one aspect of body language e.g. folded arms. Look at all the elements together.
  1. Voice

Of course, you need to work on what you say to people but the how is very important. The meaning can be totally changed by a variation in the voice.

There are also some key elements of your voice to think about that have a huge impact on what people perceive about you and whether people understand and really hear what you are saying.

The four main aspects to consider are

  1. volume
  2. pace
  3. enunciation
  4. tone.

The biggest challenge I see, even with senior people, is that they speak far too fast.

This combined with a lack of pausing is problematic – read more here on the power of a pause.

People speak too fast for various reasons; they think quickly; they are always in a hurry; they’re conveying information that’s well known to them so they don’t think it warrants time (unlikely to be the case for others); or they think it makes them look smart.

However, if others can’t follow and understand, let alone be engaged, then what they are saying is a waste of time.

Of course, speaking fast can also portray nervousness, as does speaking too quietly or in a high pitched tone.

Practical tips:

  • Consider the status of those four aspects of your voice – what needs focus?
  • Count how many times you pause when you speak – is it enough?

What next?

This blog post has provided a whistle stop tour of some of the reasons why personal impact matters and key elements to consider.

One of the most valuable things you can do first is to get some feedback on your personal impact from a couple of trusted (this is essential) colleagues and potentially an expert. Then make a plan for what to work on and how.

Pick one aspect at a time to work on. If you try to work on too many aspects at once, you won’t achieve long-term change.

Remember, this is not about being someone else, but being the best version of yourself that you can be. People like to think this stuff doesn’t matter, but I can assure you having a positive personal impact is pivotal to your career success. Manage your personal impact and watch your professional relationships and therefore your career, improve.

More help and advice

To read about the other eight skills for career success, request my free emails series and booklet below.

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