We have all heard the saying: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The harsh reality is that people often do judge a book, a leader, or an organization based on outward appearances. I am not saying, at all, that you have to be a runway model to be a great leader, but how do you present yourself and your organization?
Life is a buffet. If you show up early, you get to eat anything you want served at the buffet. If you show up late, you get the pickled beets and the wilted lettuce. Your leadership is the exact same way.
Showing up early to meetings, showing up early to work, and showing up ready and prepared to enjoy abundance give you the ability to take advantage of all that is being offered to you by the experience. Like a buffet, if you show up late, you get the things that nobody else wants.
Perception is reality, and we absolutely must make sure that we are giving the perception we are as professional as possible. One of the things we do in our office space is to constantly look at how an outsider would perceive us. Why? We want to constantly get better, so it is critically important that we are honest when things need to change.
We even ask our peers about their perceptions. Following a business meeting with a peer group from another part of the country, I pulled them aside afterwards and asked, “Hey, will you spend five minutes looking around our offices and send me a note of your perception?” I did not tell them to look for something good, I did not tell them to look for anything bad. Their feedback was invaluable.
Southwest Michigan First serves as the front door of our community. We have to sell that community on our capacities. So, we must hire amazing people to work on our team and be part of us. To be the best at what they do, our employees deserve to work in an environment that is high energy, high quality, and says, “I am going to give you the resources you need to succeed, and I am going to take care and steward those resources because you are the most important resource we have. That is what you need, and that is what you deserve.”
This is not soft, wimpy, or new age thinking; it is enlightened self-interest. As a leader, the presentation that you give of yourself and your place of business should not be for somebody else. You should do it, because it is the price you are willing to pay to lead in something that is important to you. Managing how people perceive you, your organization, and your physical environment offers opportunities to lead on what is most important to you. It is those things that you are going to use to change the human condition, to change your business, and to bring return on investment to your investors.