What makes an impression when you meet someone for the first time?
How you’re dressed, what cologne or perfume you wear, whether there’s something stuck in your teeth when you smile, your posture, how you shake hands, your eye contact, how close you stand, and (literally) dozens of other factors are all pieced together to make a first impression – and this is all without mentioning “What you say”.
If it’s true that communicating a first impression is far more than what you say, then it’s clear that every aspect and detail has a role in what you’re communicating, because everything communicates.
Sometimes communication is intentional (like the shirt you’ve chosen to wear) and other times, unintentional (like that drip of coffee that you didn’t realize landed on your shirt a few minutes ago). Sometimes you intentionally wore that shirt because you liked the colors and design, but not realizing that design actually symbolizes something you don’t represent.
So how does this impact the first impression at your church? Being aware of both intentional and unintentional communication.
Intentional vs. Unintentional Communication
Your team’s dress code: Intentional, Your door holder has the right shirt, but bad breath: Unintentional
Your coffee is hot: Intentional. Your coffee tastes burnt because it’s been kept too hot for too long: Unintentional.
You have a “First-time Guests” booth with signage: Intentional. You’ve run out of gifts for first-time guests: Unintentional.
They key is to realize that both the intentional and the unintentional communicate to your guests. It’s not enough to think that only the “intentional” aspects are making an impression, and the “unintentional” aspects are simply glossed over by your guests.
There are 2 simple ways to turn most “unintentional” communication into “intentional” communication:
Observe, then strategize
In the case of the door holder with bad breath, you could strategize on how to turn that into intentional. Some ideas:
- Provide mints for all of our guest services team.
- Have a conversation with that team member to help them understand the impact.
- Make a recommendation that everyone on the team carries their own mints.
- Move that team member from a door position to help with administrative tasks on the team (like scheduling) outside of a Sunday morning.
Observe, then strategize. Take what is happening unintentionally, and think of a few ways that it could be an intentional win.
Empower your team to help each other understand the “why”
Encourage your team members to embrace “Why” you’re making an important first impression, encourage others to keep the “why” at the forefront of what they do, and encourage new ideas on embracing the “why”.
In the unintentional example that someone spilled coffee on their shirt, there’s not going to be a helpful strategy to put in place that avoids this from happening. You could tell your team that you don’t want them to drink coffee before they come to church on days they’re serving but clearly, this isn’t a helpful strategy.
Instead, encourage a culture where one team member could say to another “oh, just noticed you may have dropped some coffee on your shirt. How can I help?” Maybe that’s holding the door while the door holder goes to the restroom to get the coffee off, or offering someone a spare shirt to wear for the morning or move that door holder to the parking lot team because they wear parking vests that would hide the stain.
When your team understands “Why”, they will make decisions that align with that “why”. When they’re only focussed on “What” (like “Holding the door” or “Parking the cars” or “Smiling”) then their involvement is limited to a job description.