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Letters to a Young Manager

First Impressions, #1
LTYM > Managing People -- How to Begin

Dear Adam,
Congratulations on being promoted to manager. Your hard work has paid off. I remember my first day as manager--a combination of being on top of the world and sick to my stomach! I understand your questions. What to do first? It reminds me of the first day of class in my sophomore year of high school.

I was looking forward to tenth grade biology. We were going to dissect more than locusts. I had aced the ninth-grade science final, and was ready to tackle my first regents science class--a New York rite of passage. For a college bound high school guy, it doesn't get much better than that. Mr. Massi was new to the school. We had heard rumors from the classes he had earlier in the day that he was tough. That was an understatement. He was about five foot nine, wiry, and well dressed. The niceties ended there. He tore into the class room like a tornado, screaming, finding any little fault--a whisper here, a smirk there--and launching a tirade that put the offenders so deep in their chair s they were going to need a crow-bar to get out. This went on for 50 minutes. We were terrorized, numb, and clueless how we were going to survive a year with this tyrant.

The next day, when class began, we were stone silent. Mr. Massi came in smiling, no jacket, shirt sleeves rolled up, and sat on the edge of his desk. "Let me tell you about myself," he began in a softer, friendly voice. He told us about med school, some pranks he played and regretted, and the wholesale family jewelry business he now ran. He didn't need a job as a teacher. He was here because he wanted to teach, he loved biology, and he was very much looking forward to this year with us. What a neat guy. A mensch.

As the year progressed, we loved his class. We loved him, joked with him, and had the best time learning about biology. And we never stepped out of line. We remembered that first day, and no one wanted a repeat. It created a boundary, and respect that I'll never forget.

What this story says to me is that first impressions are important, and lasting. Whether it's kids in tenth grade or a group of employees for whom you are the new boss, what you do that first day sets the stage for everything that follows. Think about it and rehearse it. You don't need to play the tyrant, but you need to know you are on stage, the lights are on, and the curtain is coming up. What do you want your first impression to be?
Sincerely yours,



First impressions are lasting

Discussion Questions:

1) Was the teacher excessive in his approach to the first day? Why or why not?
2) What first day messages have you perceived from new bosses? Did they change?

For Further Reading:

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