There is just a seven-second window for someone to make that all-important strong ‘first impression’, on someone else. This is the conclusion of research, but Joy Marsden, motivational speaker and trainer, told delegates at ACCA UK’s annual Internal Audit Conference that making their mind up about someone in such a short time is ‘just wrong’.  

To illustrate her point, Joy offered up some seemingly unlikely options about her own activities and achievements. She asked delegates to guess which were true. Did she audition for Britain’s Got Talent? Does she play the piano? Love to sky-dive? The guesses made by delegates were far from accurate.

‘You see, you can’t tell what people can do, just by looking at them,’ Joy said. ‘How we think about people and how we treat them cannot be based on an impression made in seven seconds.’

However, while discouraging snap judgments, Joy did suggest that people largely fall into four categories:

  • those who anticipate and predict what someone is going to say or do
  • those who claim to be amazed and inspired by what others say and do but act on nothing they’ve heard or learned
  • others that worry that they don’t fit in and are anxious about just about everything
  • the ‘warriors’, whose stance is: ‘I’m ready for everything the world brings my way. Bring it on.’

Today, you need to be a warrior to survive. Sitting in the middle of all these different types of people, internal auditors need to manage up, manage down and engage sideways. ‘You’re finding information that may not be palatable for the people you’re sharing it with. Doing things that not everyone can do. I would say that this room is full of warriors,’ Joy said.

‘And I am going to encourage you to step up. Not because you are not doing well in your role, but because you must to excel in your role. Your motivation plus your ability equals your potential. You know your ability but have you reached your potential? To get you there also depends on the amount of energy you put in.  How much energy do you have? It will affect everything you feel, do and how other people engage with you.’

Stepping out

Joy told her audience to ‘step out’ because not everything they did do today would necessarily serve them for things they do tomorrow, next month and the year after. ‘If you don’t continue to grow, to push the boundaries and try and do things, differently do you think you are going to have a job in 10 years? It’s a bit scary but we are living in a fast-paced world and we know what we do today is not necessarily going to serve us tomorrow.’

The third move to make to survive and flourish in a changing world is to ‘stand out’ for all those things that make the world go around – integrity, honesty, trust and truth. Do you say what you mean and mean what you say? Are you the same person at home and at work? ‘Stand out for those things that really matter to you,’ Joy urged.

Everyone develops habits that don’t necessarily serve them and the people around them. That’s because old habits die hard. One of the keys to success is to take time to identify what needs to change and then commit to working on it. ‘Take one step at a time because change doesn’t happen straight away. If you decide to change people are going to notice. But don’t go back to your old ways.’

The way someone positions themselves in life is important. ‘Do you position yourself as a victim?’ Joy asked. ‘Have you positioned yourself as a success? How you position yourself will determine where you go from here.’

‘And you need to focus on the right thing. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do and put your energy into that. A lot of us use our energy to run away from the things that we don’t want; this is channelling energy in the wrong direction. Where you focus your attention will have a huge impact on the outcome of your day.’

An individual’s ego can help or stand in the way of success. ‘As adults, the more we know, the less we like to show how much we don’t know,’ Joy observed. ‘We’re in the age of making impressions, of thinking we have to look good. But there are times when you need to put hand your up. It’s not belittling, it’s just saying you need a little help or support. Don’t let ego get in the way of your growth.’

Moving through the importance of the different types of communication – formal, informal, group etc – Joy urged delegates to be mindful of their options and reminded them that the way they choose to engage has an impact on everyone else.

Taking a risk

So, what is the one skill that researchers worldwide are highlighting as the key to success? Self-awareness.

The more you know yourself the better off you will be ‘because you will know the impact you have on other people’, according to this motivation supremo, who also noted: ‘We have managers today managing other people who haven’t learned how to manage themselves.’

Summing up, Joy acknowledged that it is a risk to show yourselves for who you are. ‘But that’s who you’re supposed to be like,’ she said. ‘You are you! You’re a human being. So, has the world seen the fullness of who you are yet? I want you encourage you to step up and step out and stand out – and to keep stepping.’

Jill Wyatt is a business journalist