Sixth Grade and Service Excellence!

Recently I was asked to speak to Midde School students at my son’s school, Pine Crest School, in Fort Lauderdale, on 21 Century Skills to encourage building expertise and adaptive abilities.

As one of six featured speakers from a variety of industries including technology, media and medicine, they introduced me as an internationally recognized expert in the hospitality and service industries and asked me to share perspective on my career and successful strategies these young minds could consider. I thought back to my own feelings and perspective as a sixth grader and what would have been meaningful to me at that time and also something I could relate to at that age. First Impressions! In our training sessions, we always say “you never get a second chance to make a great first impression” and so it goes in each moment these young people are now encountering. When they meet new teachers, when they deliver school reports, when they interact with parents, when they apply for scholarships, when they make phone calls, when they try out for teams , when they participate in competitions, when they make new friends and the list continues.

These are all powerful impression forming moments and most young people are not yet aware of their own personal power in making those moments good , bad or indifferent. In most cases, those impressions are made within 7-30 seconds. What are the factors that make not only a great first impression but a lasting one that will impact future encounters and perceptions of who you are and your potential?

The students were engaged and attentive as we talked about how appearance, courtesy, tone of voice, language, knowledge, ambiance, timeliness, attitude and professionalism all are part of the impression development formula. I shared examples with them that they could relate to with current pop and sports stars , who is doing it right and who is doing it wrong and the impression trail they leave with their audiences. I played both good and poor phone calls for them so they could understand the power of something as simple as tone of voice in making an impression. We talked about body language and how their growing arms and legs and their facial expressions can say it all before even uttering a word.

Interesting to note that many adults have forgotten or still have not figured out many of these factors and yet how key they are in any job role and especially in service delivery. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to go back to school for one brief moment, to rewind our minds to a time when we were just learning how to be in a grown up world, to rethink and retool these very simple concepts so we graduate to a higher level of service excellence and impact as well! Thinking about this, maybe we will get a second chance to make a great first impression!