As a leader, are you too important to even remember people’s names?
“Oh, come on. You are joking, right?” was my unspoken reaction when this was raised in a coaching session recently. Do leaders need to remember people’s names?
Can they afford not to?
There is clear evidence that hearing our name activates unique brain functioning. But do we need evidence of this? Think about it – if your boss’ boss knows you and greets you by name when they see you, what does that mean? How does that make you feel?
But if that person hadn’t even made an attempt to find out your name, well, how (un)important are you? And how disconnected might you feel to any person who could/should be inspiring you? How does it help team building – how can team members feel confident their leader understands their individual value if they don’t even know what they’re called?
I coach senior executives, and the more senior their ‘seat’, the more people fall within their leadership span. At what point can they justify their apparent apathy or claim there are too many names to remember for this to ring true?
Just a thought: how many place names, brand names, book titles, plays, or names of records could you list? And how many famous people can you name?
So, how can you learn the names of the people who achieve your results?
Hit Google, you’ll find thousands of techniques and psychometric tools. Some include associations (for example, an ‘apple’ for Angela) or visualisations, such as imagining writing their name. Here are the psychometric techniques I find effective:
You can remember names. You will remember names. Get my drift? Tell yourself you can’t remember or you won’t remember, and that’s what will happen.
If you’re visiting a business site you haven’t been to for a while, could someone prompt/host you, using words such as “Do you remember Jenny James?”. You can then reply, “Of course I remember Jenny. Nice to see you again……”
When someone tells you their name, focus completely on that. If you didn’t hear them, say, “Sorry, I didn’t catch that”. Even if you did hear them, still say you didn’t catch it.
Repeat, repeat again, and then once more
Say the name to push it into your memory. Easiest phrase is “Great to meet you, Moira”. If it’s an unusual name, ask how you spell it. If it’s not an unusual name, you can ask what they prefer to be called – Phil or Phillip? This will cement the name in your mind and ensure you are using the name they prefer. Alternatively, make some link to help you remember: “Ah, my daughter’s name is Grace”. As you’re talking to them, find one more opportunity to say their name, e.g. “What are you working on at the moment, Tony?”
Note it down
If you’re at a meeting or attending a presentation, sketch the layout of the table and jot down names of everyone, in the place they’re sitting, during the introductions. This is very helpful when directly responding to questions, “Thanks for raising that, Beccy”.
Include in your farewell
So you cement the name into your memory, include their name as you leave. “Great to meet you, Helen”.
A secret tip:
(Great with your partner at parties) Agree beforehand not to introduce people who know you immediately; it’s very helpful if they introduce themselves, so you can hear their name. Not that I have ever done this………
Over to you…
What techniques do you use to remember names? Do you feel it’s important for an effective leader to know the names of everyone within their command? If so, why?
If you’d like to improve on, or understand more about, team building and leadership coaching, contact me on 01302 220021.