Snapshot Management: Are You a Victim of it?

Do People See the Real You or a Creation?

I was coaching Steven a Vice President for a Healthcare Company, who was making good progress developing his team, being more decisive and briefer in his communication with others. In communicating with the president how he could support some of Steven’s coaching changes, he said “Steven is a marginal player and has been that way for the last 10 years.“ 

The Steven today was not seen.  He was a victim of what I call “Snapshot Management.” Are you? Many leaders and individual performers are without knowing how they got there.

 “Snapshot Management” is another one of the 108 tools from Leading with Emotional Intelligence.  “Snapshot Management” is the invisible territory of inferences and assumptions that employees quickly make of their leaders and leaders constantly make of their direct reports. Often incorrect or based on limited or outdated data, these assumptions of leaders on employees are powerful influencers and inhibitors of an employee’s motivation, creativity, mood and performance. 

These Snapshots may not be the real or current you. They are figments or creations of what people see in you which are highly influenced by past snapshots. Your review or evaluation by your manager is an “incomplete you” with real financial and career consequences.

Without realizing it, the snapshots of you are quickly collected to form an impression, thus “Snapshot Management.” In psychology this is called “attribution theory,” what people look at or attribute to you when creating impressions. Team members and co-workers quickly make positive or negative fixed impressions of you as a leader. If your behavior, posture, and style are similar in just four to five of these snapshots, then you get “thin-sliced” as “that is you.”

Five reasons these snapshots formed?

  1. 95% of our behavior occurs out of habit, most of what we do and think is not under our control. We think we are conscious beings, but our conscious mind is more of bystander than in charge, says David Eagleman in Incognito.
  2. First Impressions, the 2 by 4 rule: The impression you make in the first 4 seconds is so powerful that it takes 4 more minutes to change it 50% either positively or negatively. 
  3. We prefer short cuts. People don’t take the time to truly understand your intentions, rationale or situation. People don’t have time to truly get to know you; instead they take the easiest short cuts or path of least resistance and put their 4-5 similar snap shots together.
  4. We don’t like ambiguity and prefer certainty. We are lazy in our thinking and would rather put people in categories to feel more certain than handling the ambiguity of making an accurate appraisal, which is very challenging with many different and possibly conflicting data.
  5. Story creation and maintenance. Once formed these snapshots become your story or reputation. You are “smart and a go getter” or “you always seem disconnected, not involved or making excuses.” Leaders and co-workers want to know quickly if they can trust or depend on you. Their opinion of you is based often on limited and skewed data. 

Then we see what we are looking for, so the created story continues. The “confirmation bias” then looks for evidence to confirm these original snapshots. These snapshots are then reinforced as people are primed to see you in that similar pose again.

Meeting Arena: Where are these snapshots formed?

Many of these snapshots take place in meetings, where you have your biggest audience and limited time on stage. This is where your automatic behavior can be detrimental to the story creation of you. Some leaders have asked, “Do I have to monitor how I act in this next meeting?” The answer is yes and in every meeting thereafter when you are under the spotlight. This is often where your image as a leader or individual performer gets crystallized. Leaders and many new leaders don’t take the time to prepare and understand how critical their behavior and performance is in these meetings to the evaluation of them.

Steven started preparing more for his meetings and consciously deciding what role he wanted to take in future meetings. He understood the spotlight was on him and he wanted his best performance.

Getting the Benefit of the Doubt

If your snapshot image is positive, your colleagues and boss will give you the “benefit of the doubt” if you miss a deadline, make a mistake or get in a conflict. They will think it is an exception or someone else’s fault. The problem occurs when these snapshots are negative; because once the impression is made it is almost impossible to change. If this impression was created because you have been unpredictable or impulsive in your behavior, your direct reports, peers, and boss are constantly poised for that same behavior. They are looking for the confirmation bias, evidence that reinforces their view of you. They can’t trust that you can be dependable or control yourself.

Our brain takes short cuts and jumps to quick conclusions. Feeling certain, even if it’s wrong, it is more comfortable than ambivalence. These snapshots may not be accurate portraits of who you are as a leader or individual performer, but unfortunately they stick in people’s minds and become “reality.” 

The question I asked to Steven’s boss was, “If Steven actually made positive changes, would you see and recognize them?” His original snapshots are so powerful that they can blind others to the multifaceted sides of him. All of Steven’s wins, strengths, and capabilities in different settings with different people were blurred by the original fixed snapshot of him for 9-10 years ago.

Action Questions:

  1. Of the 4-5 snapshots of you by your team or your boss, how many are positive?
  2. In your reviews of others are you blind to some of their accomplishments because of your snapshots of them?
  3. What successes have you or our direct reports had that have gone unnoticed?
  4. How can you get more snapshots or views of someone you are reviewing versus relying on just your minimal snapshots of them?
  5. What do you need to do to maximize your exposure and performance in meetings?

To explore what actions you need to take to counter act or Manage Snapshot Management go to

for more strategies.

If you stay on automatic you stay average. To be exceptional you need to be more aware and emotionally intelligent so you can be in charge of your life and contributions. For more resources go to: 

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