Okay, I lied. Many things define your success. But one of the more important elements of initial and continued success are the ways other people perceive us. I've broken it down into five elements, so here goes:
How do you comport yourself? Do you slug along with your shoulders down, leaning on tables, head facing down? Try to change that - walk just a little bit faster wherever you go. Pick up the speed a little bit — a good measure is to move 20% faster, not a run, just a quicker pace.
Adjust your posture, don't stand straight up like a soldier — align your ears, shoulders, and hips — and your spine will relax into a natural 'S'. Try not to lean on tables, desks, cubicles — it communicates fatigue, laziness, boredom. If you don't feel like standing straight, then do something — look and act busy.
Handshake is critical. The other day, a person pulled me aside and complimented me about my son's handshake. He was impressed how firm his shake was for a 14-year old boy. Understand, this is probably the only time you will touch another person and the tactual, kinesthetic action is very important to set a first impression. You need to practice it frequently — if it's too weak (clammy) or too strong (vise-like), you'll immediately set the wrong perception.
Next time you have 1/2 hour and a cam in your laptop, record yourself working. When you review your recording, you might be surprised — most people's resting facial expression is one of anger or unhappiness. So if someone is looking or approaching you — you might not realize that you are actually presenting yourself with a less than appealing demeanor.
Try smiling more often — it takes less muscles and studies have shown that it makes you feel happier and gets the happy hormones flowing!
I'm not a fashion consultant — but I do know good choices of clothing and bad ones. When you first look at a person, the face is important, but your clothed body makes up a larger remainder of the perceived person. Dress nicely and if you want to, add an element of flair to your wardrobe — a scarf, a sharp tie, a cool belt, cool shoes. Make sure the scarf is not wrinkled, the tie is in-style and clean, your belt is shined with no visible scuff marks, and your shoes are in very good to excellent condition.
I'm also not going to get into the Boomer/Millennial argument about clothing. You know your environment, you know the people that you are trying to interact/reach out to/impress. Dress accordingly.
Let me let you in on a little secret: Years ago, when many offices made the decision to move from suits to casual dress, most employees sprinted into polo shirts and jeans. What did I do? I watched what all of my superiors were wearing — and guess what? I wore what they wore — sharp shirts and expensive slacks. Who got the best projects, the largest teams, the raises, and the promotions? ME.
Pay attention to your body - make sure your hair is perfect (mine is easy), that your smells are not too over-powering — shower, antiperspirant, a little cologne/perfume.
For you older folk, pay attention to hair that appears in strange places (nose/ears/face/hands) — I get more scared as I get older and see my hair migrate from my head to the Twilight Zones of my face. Pretty soon, I'll need hedge clippers from Black & Decker.
Also, good dental hygiene is important too. If you can, brush your teeth after lunch to get all the errant spinach from the crevices of your front incisors. At the very least, check your teeth with a mirror or give them a quick wipe with your napkin. Breath is all important — chew gum if you have too. Mr. Garlic or Mrs. Onion is not welcome when speaking one-on-one.
Hope these have helped. You probably do most, if not all of them. But I find that even I need a refresher course on how we present ourselves to deliver the best first impression.