Do you have trouble remembering people’s names? It has always been a problem for me. I don’t forget faces, but have difficulty connecting names with faces.
I remember my first day at Henry Ford Health System, when the leader of the orientation session told me how amazing our CEO, Nancy Schlichting, is at remembering names. He said he met her once, and the next time she saw him she called him by name. I was impressed and inspired. It was amazing how great it made this person feel.
When I started at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, I decided that one of my goals was to meet lots of employees and remember their names. I haven’t done very well on that goal.
Using people’s names shows respect and caring. It is something all good sales people and leaders know. Our staff is reminded to acknowledge patients and their families using their names. To truly treat them as people, not just a disease or condition, we also get their backstory.
This brings me back to Nancy Schlichting, who told me that wherever she goes, whether in Henry Ford or other organizations, she can tell when leaders are truly engaging with their teams. Nancy says that when the employees feel like their leaders really know them, not just their jobs and their names, but who they are as people, there is better engagement. It’s also important that leaders talk about their employees using their names and with a true sense of fondness.
Since this was one of my goals, and it’s a new year, I am again striving to meet lots more employees (I have met a lot!), and commit to remembering their names.
I found some suggestions in the March 1 issue of New York Times magazine, in “How to Remember People’s Names,” by Malia Wollan. She suggests concentrating during the introduction and picturing something unique about them.
I know this works, because I remember Nora Jones, a nurse at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, because she shares her name with one of my favorite singers. Ms. Wollan also suggests finding a photo of people before a meeting, so you already have the image in your brain, making it easier to connect the name.
In a 2013 Forbes article, “The Five Best Tricks to Remember Names,“ by Kristi Hedges, I found more advice, including repeating the name (appropriately) during the initial conversation. “Hello, Mark, it is so nice to meet you,” at the beginning, followed by “Hope to see you again soon, Mark,” in closing. Another suggestion is a favorite of mine, where some alliteration is used. For example, I met a very friendly barista named Michelle, and to remember her name I call her, “Mucho Friendly Michelle.”
Both authors agree you must care about this – which I do. Ms. Wollan notes that neuroimaging studies show the sound of our names produces distinct activity patterns in the regions of our brains that provide our sense of self. In other words, we like to hear our names. Ms. Hedges suggests that if we make it a priority because we care about the people we meet, it will come more naturally.
So for 2015, I will incorporate this in everything I do – rounding in the hospital, visiting with departments, eating in the café, etc. It may take me some time, but I am committed to do this, so that by the end of 2015, I not only recognize those that work with me at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, I know their names!