Relationships are what leadership is about. Relationships are built out of communication, trust, honesty, accountability, discipline, and the list just goes on and on. It is a leader’s responsibility to build relationships with the people on their team, with the people in the entire organization, with customers, with vendors, and with the communities they serve. One aspect of building relationships that rarely gets attention, even in our classes, is the use of someone’s name in conversation. Recently I was sitting in a waiting room at a health care facility and heard a little girl say to one of the nurses, “Please remember my name.” It was said in such a sweet and innocent voice that it struck me immediately, and reminded me just how important names are. A name is an identifier and it’s personal. Conversations that include the use of someone’s name also make the communication more personal. It draws in the attention of that person. Using someone’s name is not enough. It’s important that the correct name is used, “Tracy” not “Stacy”. It’s important to learn the correct pronunciation of names, even difficult, unusual or international names. Taking the time to learn someone’s name shows them they are valued. Mispronouncing someone’s name shows a lack of interest in the relationship. In the 2005 NFL season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger set a record of being the youngest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl and has claimed many other records as well. When Ben was selecting a college to attend, he chose against Ohio State because the head coach did not pronounce his name correctly. He attended Miami University instead and holds every major passing record at the school. Seems a shame Ohio State missed out because they didn’t understand fully the impact of the importance of knowing someone’s name. Everyone makes mistakes, but it is of significant importance to get a person’s name right. It’s as simple as asking if you have the pronunciation correct. It’s using your listening skills, its practicing saying it through conversation. It shows the person they are important to you. I once worked for a person that told people when she introduced them to me that, “I was like a daughter to her,” and yet she never pronounced my name correctly. The sentiment seemed disingenuous to me because she couldn’t pronounce my name correctly nor was she willing to try, and that doesn’t happen in parent-child relationships. You may not be able to remember every name of all the people you meet, but it is critical you learn and use the names of the people most important to you. The relationships you are building deserve your effort. Don’t take the chance of losing your record-setting employee because you were unwilling to put in the extra effort.
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