People are always forming impressions of each other. We can’t help it because that’s just how our brains work. And it happens quickly – it takes just 0.7 seconds for our brains to form an impression.

And when it comes to your career, these impressions can make a fundamental difference to the opportunities you get and how you move forward, or not.

Since stakeholders are the people who have a say (and a stake) in your work and your career, they’re key to your progression and worth having on your side. So, how do you impress them?

In my experience, there are two kinds of situations that are especially important to get right when it comes to impressing your stakeholders.

Two Kinds of Moments to Impress Stakeholders

1. The “Stand Out” Moments

The “stand out” moments are when you’re “on stage”, whether that’s making a presentation to the executive committee, in a major client pitch or giving a speech. These are formal situations when you know you’re being watched and evaluated so you’re likely to prepare and be at your best.

2. The “Everyday” Moments

The second kind are the “everyday moments” that are part of your daily routine, so you’re likely to discount their importance because you’re “off stage”. These can be informal situations around the coffee machine, your weekly team meeting, or just walking down the hall.

These are the situations that can let you down or raise you up without your realizing it. They can sneak up on you because you take them for granted and aren’t self-managing.

Because it’s what you do every day, it’s easy to stop noticing how you’re showing up. After all, it feels like you’re “off stage” and it’s exhausting to be “on” 100% of the time.

When you’re not conscious of how you’re coming across in these routine moments, they can become “stand out” moments, both good and bad.

When Routine Moments Become Stand Out Moments

I learned this when I was coming up for promotion to a more senior level. Unfortunately, I had a habit of walking into meetings with a large stack of papers (in case someone asked me a question and I needed to look up the answer) and taking copious notes (so I would remember everything that went on and be able to follow up). Imagine a cross between a filing clerk and someone taking dictation.

While this was a great strategy when I first started out, nine years later it made me come across as still that junior team member and lacking in confidence as I clutched my “security blanket” of files.

Well, I didn’t get promoted that time but making better use of those everyday moments helped me get promoted the next year.

You’re Never “Off Stage”

The lesson I learned was that you’re never truly “off stage” as long as you’re around other people.

I don’t say this to make you feel self-conscious or stressed. And it’s definitely not about acting, pretending or being fake. It’s about being your best self intentionally, even if there’s not a clear reward for doing so.

So be aware of how you’re showing up every day, especially when you think you’re “off stage”.

It’s simple things like how you walk through the hall, where you choose to sit in a meeting and how engaged you are, your posture, nervous habits, how you respond to requests from senior people and team members alike.

“You are who you are when you think no one’s looking.”

The good news is, you have opportunities every day to make a good impression. You just have to be aware and use them consciously.

Use All the Moments

When you use all the moments in your day to your advantage, you’ll be better able to impress your stakeholders – current and future. And that leads to greater opportunities and ultimately, the career you dream of.

You never know who might become a stakeholder in the future. So make sure that the way you conduct yourself everyday represents you well. That makes it easy for people to form the right impression of you.

How are you showing up every day and what change would make the biggest difference to impressing your stakeholders?

Leave a comment and let me know.

Next week, I’ll share some advice on how to sound like a leader so you can impress your stakeholders even more!