First Impressions, Job Hunting and José

The start of a new year is often a time when we identify new challenges and projects and set our resolutions1.  New challenges and new projects often mean meeting new people and I was intrigued to read in a recent article in the Independent about what Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy proposed to be the two criteria on which people judge you during an initial meeting.

  • Can I trust this person?
  • Can I respect this person?

In her book Presence Amy Cuddy proposes that the second factor, our competence, is given undue prominence, particularly in a professional context such as work. We overemphasise the need to show we are competent and can do the job. However, the first factor, our warmth, is according to Amy Cuddy the most important factor in how people evaluate others. As she said in the interview in the Independent “From an evolutionary perspective it is more crucial to our survival to know whether a person deserves our trust.”

This got me thinking about one person who is looking to take on a new challenge – and if the media are to be believed at Manchester United. José Mourinho is the special one. The most successful manager of his generation. As close to a guarantee of silverware as you can get in the uncertain world of professional football. He is also a special one because he is fascinating. Charismatic, volatile, talented and fascinating. And his current situation is very fascinating. Nobody seems to want to employ him. His desire to manage Manchester United looks like being unrequited. It may of course happen, as professional football is a weird and wonderful world, but perhaps we need to look no further than Amy Cuddy’s work to understand why even an underachieving club like Manchester United has, outwardly, cold feet about appointing the most successful manager of his generation.

There is no questioning José Mourinho’s competence. Nobody better. But perhaps some of the bigger clubs doubt his warmth – whether they can trust him in the same way as they could other managers. The well-publicised incident with the Chelsea Doctor Eva Carneiro at the start of this season illustrates this. And individuals with different personal qualities, such as Carlo Ancelotti, seem now to be more highly valued by the biggest clubs.

I am of course speculating on Jose Mournio’s situation. But the central tenet of Amy Cuddy’s work echos much of what I have observed working in sport and meeting high profile leaders. Personal qualities matter. An approach recognised and manifested in the New Zealand rugby teams mantra which emphasised personal qualities. So if you are embarking on new challenges and meeting new people remember it is not just what you have done, but how much warmth you have and whether people feel they can trust you that matters.

Footnote1 One of my resolutions was to write more blogs. That it is February will tell you all you need to know about how this is going for me. So I am telling people about this resolution as a stimulus to maintain it – because that should help.


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