Leadership Tips to Manage the Primacy and Recency Effect

The restaurant was beautiful. We walked through the grand room of the main restaurant and were escorted to the intimate dining area designed for romance. Between courses, we were encouraged to step outside on the terrace to enjoy the fresh air and the view. Magical.Our first course set the stage. There was melon, thinly sliced and arranged like a Mondrian. We almost didn’t want to eat it. Since my husband and I were there in the pre-smartphone age, we have no photo proof, but it was one of the most exquisite dishes I’ve ever seen.Between the atmosphere, waitstaff, and artfully prepared food, it had all the makings for a night we’d never forget . Turns out, they were right, we never forgot it, but for the wrong reasons.At the end of the night, we ordered coffee with our dessert. You may not remember, but in the pre-smartphone age, it was also the pre-latte age. When you got coffee at the end of a meal, it was a cup of coffee from a coffeemaker that brewed directly into a pot that stayed on a burner to keep warm.The coffee was burnt. Blech.We were there nearly 20 years ago and what do I remember? The first course, stepping outside, and the horrible coffee at the end. That’s it. Not one more detail has lingered. It’s the start and end with only some vague recollection of the middle that stuck.

Want to create a lasting positive impression and spark inspired action?

You need to learn to manage the primacy and recency effects. Nobody wants to be compared to a cup of burnt coffee. As a leader or business owner, here’s what you need to know about the primacy and recency effect.

Primacy Effect:

Simply, people remember what comes first. In the case of my meal, it was the artful melon dish that looked like a masterpiece.It’s often said that what you do first sets the tone because it’s true.If you lose your cool and then reign yourself in for a strong finish, don’t expect people to forget about where you started – that’s the primacy effect.

Leadership Success Tip:

Be intentional when addressing your team or crafting a presentation. Where do you want to start your story? How do you want to pull people in? Think about the primacy effect and craft your start for impact instead of meandering the way to your point.Related: Which of These Ps Define Your Personal Leadership Style?

Recency Effect:

Hello, burnt coffee. The last thing you say or do? People won’t forget it. It’s a cornerstone of marketing, and it’s key to your leadership success too. Your wrap-up will linger.At this restaurant, nobody tasted the coffee before serving it or asked themselves if it had been sitting too long. They assumed that it would hit the mark. It’s assumptions that get in the way of our success.

Leadership Success Tip:

In your presentations, marketing efforts and team meetings, end with what you want people to remember. Do you end your meeting with an, “Oh yeah. I forgot to mention…” or are you on point and on purpose? If you know that your ending will stick, craft it; don’t wing it. Don’t let your key messages get buriedunder an avalanche of details or a pile of haphazard thoughts.“It’s your job to take people on a journey from their first bite to their last sip.”~ Alli PolinIt’s unlikely I’ll ever go back to that restaurant not only because now live on the other side of the world, but also because I’ll never obliterate the memory of the coffee. No matter how spectacular the first course was, the end was unforgettable.