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?