Impression Management

“You can’t live with people and you can’t live without them.”  Unless you are from Mars, you are involved with people; at a minimum everyone starts with a mom or dad.  

The problem with people is discerning the differences in those individuals who have a degree in Impression Management (IM) and those of real character.  You do not want the IM people of the world around you, because when you need them the most, they disappear and/or worse they attack you with their selfishness and victim mentality.

Warren Buffett commented about the recession, “you know who is swimming naked when the tide goes out.” You can use the same analogy for people who are “impression management” artists.  Their real character only shows up during adversity.  

Character Is Revealed When the Going Gets Tough

Leadership is all about character during adversity – you do not need leadership during the easy times.  A leader is transparent and their character is on display for you to see and view, because they believe in personal accountability.  The impression manager is quite different; like the chameleon they change according to the situation and circumstances.   These people tell whoever they are meeting exactly what they want to hear.  They are excellent at avoiding meetings with groups of people because accountability occurs in groups, and as adversity increases the demand for personal accountability rises.  The IM will manipulate circumstances and enter the “blame game” because there is always someone else who has caused the problem.  They literally will create their own reality. 

The impression management artists are people who never seem to be wrong.  They have great justification for their positions, they inflate themselves while deflating others. They live in a state of self-deception.  The art of self-awareness is lost on the IM.

Characteristics of Bad Character

So how do you identify these people?  It is difficult because they always look, feel and sound so good.  But look deeper.

  1. Notice the company they keep, starting with their spouse.  Bad company leads to bad character; if the spouse is not consistent with the behavior or character of the individual you are dealing with, watch out.  The spouse is a window to the soul of the IM.
  1. They are non-confrontational. Confrontation leads to accountability, IM people typically suffer from “yes man” syndrome, but then 6 weeks later they will say something like “I really did not agree with that anyway.” Where was that input when we were discussing the issue?
  1. Disrespect for the rules. The IM is always bending the rules with good justification.  Now be careful with this one, because the entrepreneur makes rules, the IM bends rules.  There is a huge difference.
  1. “I apologize.” This phrase does not seem to exist in the IM vocabulary.  Admitting a mistake would mean personal accountability and the IM is fearful of the accountability. 

Characteristics of Good Character

The people of real character typically behave in a different manner.

Emotional maturity.  You are passionate but not emotional.  Pat Williams, Orlando Magic, commented; “we expect the five year old to throw a fit when denied ice cream in the store.”   Maturity is the ability to control one’s emotional state with consistency and in accordance with the situation.  

Change is inevitable, personal growth optional.  You are always growing; because with growth you can adapt to change.  You are constantly in motion for improvement and adapting to your circumstances.  There is no position of “constant being.”  You are either moving forward or backward. 

Be a part of the solution.  Provide a positive contribution to the situation.  An individual in every circumstance is either in a state of “contribution” or “destruction.”   You must contribute to the results.  If you are not a part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.

Doing wrong for right is still wrong.  A person’s values show in actions more than words.  Everything we do is about the people first and foremost.

Be your best when your best is needed.  As the Boy Scout creed says; “Be prepared!”   Show up with your best when your best is needed.  Life is a process of developing the best YOU.  There are no shortcuts.  Life is a marathon full of mini sprints while the IM artist is always looking for the shortcut to success, constantly manipulating things in order to create their own perceived value instead of delivering true results.  Remember winning is not the goal, it is the byproduct of achieving your BEST.

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Jeff Piersall

Jeff Piersall is a proven leader in all endeavors of his life having positively affected thousands of people throughout his career. As founder and CEO of TREP Advisors, Jeff and his team guide business owners through the process of growth capital, business succession and how to use these as tools to project their businesses forward. Jeff is known for his strategic vision and how to manage chaos; he is the classic multi-tasker for the successful obtainment of the goal. He is a tireless worker and known for his 4:00am emails to get things done. He is the ultimate problem-solver by uniquely taking the complex and breaking it down to the simple fundamentals for a plan of action and implementation. He is a sales savant with a diverse background in people and business skills making him the quintessential advisor for succession planning to entrepreneurs. Jeff is also co-author of Dogs Don't Bark at Parked Cars. 

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