Blog

Good Leaders Remember Names

Good Leaders Remember Names post image

Two leaders are presenting at the meeting. Both wander around the meeting before hand making small talk. Both address the group and take questions. One responds to each person calling them by name. The other doesn’t.

Two fitness instructors present the identical class, although one takes the time to learn any new names at the beginning of the class, and uses the names throughout. The other does not.

“And when someone else speaks your name you feel pleased. You feel wanted. You feel there. Alive. Even if they’re saying your name with dislike, at least you know you’re you, that you exist.”

One principal takes time to learn the names of each student as well as the parents who go with them. The other does not.

All recent real-life scenarios from my world this month. Which scenarios feel best to you?

And yet. I can’t tell you how many leaders I have heard laugh and say, “I’m just not good at remembering names,” as if this is as a permanent genetic condition.

Using a person’s name…

  • demonstrates that you care
  • reinforces that they matter as an individual
  • shows you are paying attention
  • makes them feel valued
  • enhances your credibility
  • ???

If you wrestle with remembering names, why not have this be the year you improve that aspect of your leadership?

Tips for Remembering People’s Names

In his book Remember Every Name Every Time, Benjamin Levy shares a simple FACE model to make things easier.
Face: Notice and study the person’s face

Ask: Ask what version they prefer Ben or Benjamin?

Comment and Cross Reference: Make a linkage to an image you can remember

Employ: Use the name in the course of the conversation
If you want more ideas, there are some good ones in this blog post. How to Remember a Person’s Name, 11 Steps with Pictures.

I have also had luck with making an organizational “year book” which we shared throughout our remote organization. We don’t get together that often so it can serve as a useful refresher.

Why is it important to remember people’s names? What tricks do you use?
Filed Under:   Communication
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt is an experienced executive, speaker, and writer with a diverse background in sales, marketing, customer service, merger integration, training and organizational leadership. Her company, Let’s Grow Leaders, helps companies gain a competitive edge by building extraordinary front-line teams. She was recently named to the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trusted Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Karin knows the stillness of a yogi, the reflective road of the marathon runner, and the joy of being a mom raising emerging leaders.
 

Join The Conversation

What People Are Saying

Eric Dingler (@EricDingler)   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

I have found that associating a person’s name with someone else in my life with that name helps in the short term. Repeating it in the conversation helps a lot.

And, total cheat here….at summer camp, with a 100 plus new names a week to learn for 10 weeks straight, I just call every kid Monkey. Then, when some kids see’s me in public and says, “Hi Eric.” I say, “Hey Monkey” They are normally impressed I remembered their nickname from camp. Or, if a kid says hi to me in public and my wife or kids are with me, I’ll say…”Hey dude, you should remind my wife who you are…she’s terrible with names.” This works every time.

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Eric, thanks so much for sharing. That sounds like an extraordinary task with so many coming through. Monkey… hmmm… wonder how that would go over in corporate America? Great stuff.

Eric Dingler (@EricDingler)   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

There is plenty from the camp world that would make heads turn in the corporate world. Imagine, singing “repeat after me” songs in the lunch room every day. Singing the “announcement” song before every staff meeting. But I think my favorite would be the afternoon rest hour and swim time.

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |  

that sounds awfully nice.

Bobbi Klein (@bobbiklein)   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

I always try to relate people to someone that they remind me of especially when teaching. Having 100+ students can be a task but with face recognition and studying names it makes it a lot easier.

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Bobbi, so great to have you join the conversation. Wow, I imagine that many students can really be quite a task. Glad to hear the face recognition and relating to folks they remind you of works even with that large group.

Lisa Kohn   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

I will admit you caught me Karin – “I’m not good at remembering names.” It is a trait I hate, because I know it looks like I don’t care. I do care. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but you’ve just convinced me. I will improve on this this year! I will no longer allow my bad memory to be an excuse. Thanks

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Lisa, thanks so much… yeah, it’s hard for me too… we can all continue to work on it together. For some people it does seem to come easy, but my guess is most who do it well are really working at it. Great to have you in the conversation.

Steve Borek   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

I’m usually very good with names. Though, I have to admit, other times I’ll struggle to remember someone’s name.

Instead of acting like Seinfeld where he forgets the girl’s name, I’ll just say “I apologize, I forget your name. I’m Steve Borek.” It doesn’t mean we don’t care. We’re human.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1g5iPdwTL4

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Steve, you are just too funny! Thanks for adding this.

Steve Borek   |   04 January 2013   |  

I never watched this show when it was a hit. Now I’m a fan of all the reruns. Glad you liked it Karin!

Yuki Yang   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

This is so true! In my fitness instructor role, I always write down new members’ names with a descriptor and then review them before the next class. And, when I forget, I just ask them again. It really does make a difference especially when I haven’t seen them for awhile. :-) At work, luckily our staff list and Outlook both have pictures. I do try and walk around, say “hi” to people and engage in conversations in the break-room. I don’t want to be a senior manager that only knows my direct reports.

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Yuki, Thanks so much for sharing. I love that you have outlook with pictures…. that is just awesome, wish we had that.

Carrie @ Busy Nothings   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Hey, my first comment on your blog! :) This post resonates with me because I know how important I feel when someone who I have only met once or twice remembers my name. I also know how much I struggle to remember someone’s name and I take the same path as Steve, apologize that I forgot, introduce myself again, and ask them their name. And I usually add, “I might forget it again, so please help me out!” It IS something that I have been working on, however, ever since I walked into our bank (a very large bank – not a small local one) and the bank manager – who had met me one time – looked up and said, “Hello, Carrie!” I was stunned. Ever since, I have made more of an effort to use and remember people’s names, and it DOES make a difference. GREAT post, Karin!

letsgrowleaders   |   04 January 2013   |   Reply

Carrie, Yeah!!!! Glad to have you join the commenting. I too have been stunned…. my parents’ minister remembers all of my family’s names even though we go to a different church. It blows me away every time.

wtolblog   |   05 January 2013   |   Reply

I struggle with this sometimes too, because I work on TV, and people see me a lot more than I see them. My husband is great…when he’s with me at an event and someone comes up, if I don’t introduce them right away he realizes I don’t know the person’s name and says “Hi…I’m Chrys’ husband Tom…” at which point they say their name and I’m off the hook.
I do find repeating the person’s name and trying to use it several times during the conversation helps to solidify it in my brain and keep it there longer. The older I get, the more tricks I need!!

letsgrowleaders   |   05 January 2013   |   Reply

Thanks so much for sharing this. Yes, it’s great to have a helper. I just came back from a funeral and saw about a dozen people who I worked with about 7 years ago. I thought, oh boy, here’s the test (karma from having just written this post). I missed one… and my husband was right there and jumped in. So great to have you join the conversation.

Anonymous   |   05 January 2013   |   Reply

Great post! A challenging reminder to avoid the petty crutch; “I’m bad with names”.
Each year I was a teacher, I would ask my new students to write their names on note cards along with a few interesting things about themselves- favorite movie, type of music, sport, goals, etc.; then I would carry those cards during the first days of school and study them as I interacted with students.
I love and will employ the FACE mneumonic.

letsgrowleaders   |   05 January 2013   |   Reply

Marcus, thanks so much for your comment. The cards are a GREAT idea.

Bruce E. Beverly   |   12 February 2013   |   Reply

Totally agree that learning, remembering and using names is an important skill for leaders. What has helped me in addition to FACE is seeing the person’s name written down on a business card, or better yet, writing it down myself. There is something about connecting a face with a written name that works for me. I have found this to be effective for me to learn a name that comes from a different culture than my own.

letsgrowleaders   |   12 February 2013   |   Reply

Bruce, Thanks so much for adding that. I agree, connecting a person’s face to their name can be so helpful. So glad to have you adding to the Let’s Grow Leaders community and conversation.