good leaders remember names

Good Leaders Remember Names: How to Get Better

Chris and Jo are getting ready to pitch their idea at a meeting with new stakeholders. Both wander around the meeting beforehand making small talk. Chris makes a point to remember names as he goes.

Both Chris and Jo make their pitch and take questions. Chris responds to each person calling them by name. Jo doesn’t. Whom do you think sparked the deeper conversation?

Troy and Sue are both fitness instructors who lead a nearly identical class. Troy already knows the names of all the regulars and takes time to learn the new ones before he starts.  Sue does not. Guess which class is consistently filled?

Donna is an elementary school principal who greets every child (and their parents) by name in the parking lot each morning. When it’s Ryan’s ( the assistant principal) turn, he just smiles and waves.

I can’t tell you how many managers have shrugged their shoulders and told me, “I’m just not good at remembering names,” as if this is as a permanent genetic condition.

Why Remembering Names Matters

“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.”

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?

How to Remember Names

In his book Remember Every Name Every Time, Benjamin Levy shares a simple FACE model to make things easier.

F- Face: Notice and study the person’s face

A- Ask: Ask what version they prefer Ben or Benjamin?

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

E-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 “yearbook” which we shared throughout our remote organization. We don’t get together that often so it can serve as a useful refresher.

Your turn: What are some of your best techniques to remember names?

Thermostat or Thermometer? Helping Kids Feel the Leadership Climate

Today I present our final post in this year’s Leadership Padawan Saturday series, Growing Leadership in Kids. On Monday, I return to our normal leadership fare.

Today I offer a guest post from Eric Dingler, a great example of a Thermostat leader.

Eric has been the Director and lead communicator for an expanding Christian summer camp and year-round conference center for over 10 years. He lives on the camp in Ohio with his wife Marissa and their two children, Rilee and Ryan. You can follow Eric at or on his blog launching January 4th 2013 at

Over 16 years of teaching leadership to kids, here are four truths I’ve discovered. With these truths, we can teach our kids leadership skills for life.

1. More is caught than is taught.

This is why being intentional to model leadership to your kids is so important. Take them to work if you can. If you can’t do that, lead in your local church or civic club and let them experience you in action there. Lead at home well. Lead yourself well. For a list of other very practical steps read this previous post in this series. Leadership For Kids: A Great Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership

2. What you care enough to ask about is what you care enough to ask about.

Imagine you tell your kids that getting good grades is important– then never ask them how they are doing except when grades comes out. Add to that you never ask if you can help them improve their grades by helping with homework. Maybe them getting good grades isn’t really that important to you. At least, that’s what your kids will think. If you never ask about their leadership, how will they know it’s important? At the end of this post I’ll share a question I’ll ask my kids daily at the dinner table as soon as they are old enough to understand it.

3. What gets repeated gets remembered.

Have one conversation with your kids about not smoking, then let their friends and society hit them with the message to smoke over and over again; you’ll get a kid who smokes. Talk about being a leader once or just once in a while and you’ll probably not get a leader. Talk often about leadership and leadership principles if you want your kids to remember them.

4. It’s hard to beat a good visual aid to reinforce a lesson.

For leadership, I use the image of a thermostat versus a thermometer. A thermostat reads the temperature of the environment and then makes adjustments to reach the desired goal temperature. A thermometer just reads the temperature and reacts to show others what the temperature is. A leader is a thermostat. They read the environment and makes adjustments to reach the desired goals.

As soon as my kids are old enough (my daughter is 27 months old and my son is only 3 months old right now) I plan to intentionally ask them regularly, “So, were you a thermometer or a thermostat at school today?” Then, engage with them in the conversation.

This question isn’t just for kids.
What about you? Were you a thermostat or a thermometer today?
What other visuals could you compare for the lesson of leadership?

How to Change the Climate

Climate matters in crowds, in teams, in organizations. Does one person have the power to shift the climate from fun to frustrating? Can another person change it back? What can you do?

It’s Cold?

We were bundled up in our coats and boots, but the biting air still stung as we waited in line for the Hershey Park Christmas show. Sebastian looked up at me with his hot chocolate-stained grin. “Mommy, do you think we will get in?”— A question being asked throughout the line by other sticky children. The friendly usher came through reminding us that at our point in the line, there were “no guarantees” that we would see this show, but there was another show that evening.

The doors opened. At first the line moved fast, but then it came to a sudden stop with about a dozen people ahead of us as we approached the door. That’s when the climate began to shift.

A man in his late 30s started causing commotion. “I MUST get into the show. My wife went ahead and is saving seats.”

“Sir, we don’t allow seat saving.”

“But, ” And then the litany of reasons HIS needs were the most important ones in the park. The scene got louder and louder as this man shared his urgent need to hear Silent Night. Exasperated, the teenaged girl watching the door finally gave up. The man went in.

The climate began to shift again.

One man piped up, laughing “my triplet two year olds are in there all by themselves, I must go in.”

And then another smiled, “this show is the most important thing of my whole Christmas season.”

The climate got even lighter “my sister is in the show” and another, “my sister’s cousin is in the show too.”

And finally, “my pet monkey went ahead, and who knows what he will do if left unattended.”

Soon all the cold, frustrated wait-ers were laughing.

Folks began looking at their families “you know there are lots of other things we could go do to keep warm.” “we can always go to the next show.” “perhaps we should let the families with little kids go in and we’ll just go see the reindeer.”

What Can You Do to Impact the Climate?

Everywhere we look there are people who think their needs matter most. That their situation is the most vital. Sometimes they are right. Often not.

We have choices on how to react to such noisemakers.

Join in the debate? Engage in a show and tell of whose needs matter more?


Chose to let go of the small stuff. Work to lighten the mood. Search for alternative solutions. Work together to change the climate of the crowd?

The 30 minute show was cute. The more meaningful lesson was outside in the frosty air, with one warm leader choosing to lighten the mood.

The crowd chose peace and understanding.