5 Ways Naming Things Will Make You a Better Leader

The world goes nuts when someone finds a simple name for that universal feeling that makes you think more deeply about your leadership:  Who Moved My Cheese, Flow, fill in your favorite blank ________. You don’t need to wait for someone else to name it. Chances are you and your team can go a long way in naming your _______(fill in your favorite blank here, e.g. challenge, knee jerk response, team dysfunction). When you get stuck give your “stuckness” a name. When you are angry, name it. When you’ve got a cool project, name it something inspiring.

Leadership vision, challenge and hard work all become simplified in the naming process.

5 Ways to Use Naming in Your Leadership

1. Name Your Role

Consider asking your team to each pick a poignant name for their current role (and for a twist, have them add their desired role). I recently tested out the concept. Here’s what bubbled up.

  • Chief Difference Maker
  • Transformation Specialist
  • Mind Reader
  • Provocateur (I know this chick, trust me, this is not dirty)
  • Savior of Relationships
  • Stud Service Specialist (I realize this too could be taken in a different way. Trust me, his intentions are pure 😉

I’m quite sure there were also self-censored sarcastic names that are staying on hearts and minds. There’s power in naming the truth. If you can’t possibly think of a good name for your current role, that’s data.

2. Name Your Challenge

Give a creative name to your biggest business challenge. The process of finding a name will help you get to root cause and brings some levity to the scene. Operation______.

3. Name Your Anger

What’s really ticking you off? Name that frustration. Naming your anger helps you sift through the source.

4. Name Your Trigger Response

This one can get personal, but can be vital in an intrapersonal or team building context. Where do you go when you’re stressed? Being able to name the patterns makes them easier to recognize. If you can get your team talking about them, it’s easier for them to give feedback in a safe way when they see the response in play (perhaps start with yours). By giving your response a name you give the team permission to talk about it and help you grow.

5. Name Your Greatest Hope

What does your team want most… as individuals and as a team? Naming your dream simplifies the vision.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency, Communication, Everything Else and tagged , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt, Founder of Let’s Grow Leaders, helps leaders around the world achieve breakthrough results, without losing their soul. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in sales, customer service, and HR. She was recently named on Inc's list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers and American Management Association's 50 Leaders to Watch. She’s the author of 3 books: Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul, Overcoming an Imperfect Boss, and Glowstone Peak.


  1. I think that the thing that’s really powerful about naming is it gets you below the crap to the heart of what’s happening. Love this, Karin, and it works in so many different situations. As leaders, generalities are nice, naming the truth makes it real, tangible and do-able.

    • Alli,Love it…. getting below the “crap.” Who doesn’t need a bit more of that.

  2. Who moved my … discipline, small talk, empathy, focus on the mission statement …? The list could go on forever. This can be a helpful game to play, Karin. My take-away is that leadership should not be a chore. Leaders should be ever mindful in their craft and by naming elements of the “story,” we can keep our focus and maybe even find a way to communicate the concept better – to ourselves and to others.

  3. Love this post, Karin and can’t wait to try out this creative way to own our leadership!

    I would add: Name the behaviors or attitudes of a coach or mentor you most admire. People we meet along the way help shape us and guide us especially during times we are stuck. These people may not be in our lives presently, but their words still are very meaningful.

    Thanks for starting my Monday morning off with a smile!

  4. Great list, Karin!

    Naming our emotions and behavior is important because the very act of “naming” moves us into the thinking brain. This helps us look at both emotions and behavior in a more logical light. We can honestly evaluate how to move forward in the best way.

    When our emotions are too engaged, we’re not always at our best when it comes to performance.

  5. Karin,
    I love the job title exercise! HR and their standard job descriptions may not like it but these creative titles are much more exciting. For career employees (rather than entrepreneurs), I would suggest also making a note of the ‘market standard’ job title. Otherwise, one may struggle to land interviews especially at less forward thinking organizations.

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