Remembering names comes easy to some but can be exacting task for others.

In all our training programs, we insist that the trainer / facilitator remembers the names of the participants. It is a little tough, with some trainers saying it is impossible to remember 30 to 40 names in a span of 10 – 15 minutes of introduction time. The resistance is understandable but not agreeable.

Let me share a little story around this. We have all heard of Barack and Michelle Obama and their incredible journey into the White House. Some stories are well known like putting up a tyre swing for their children, their Portuguese dog and others. A slightly lesser known story is of Michelle Obama and her staff. Time magazine reported that soon after Michelle Obama moved into the White House, a mail was sent to all the staff of the White House inviting them for a meeting to one of the conference rooms. Gardeners, chefs, housekeepers – the entire staff was invited. When they walked into the conference room, they were surprised to see a bunch of senior advisors in the room. Michelle introduced her team of senior advisors from Chicago and told them “I want you to know that a year from now, you won’t be judged based on whether they know your name. You will be judged based on whether you know their names.”

Simple but terrific. Knowing names is not a big deal actually. But the intent is to move the spotlight from ourselves to others. In knowing and remembering names, we tell ourselves and others that we care for those who support us and take care of us. We stop focusing on what matters to us and start looking at what matters to our team. Leadership is all about knowing our teams – their strengths, their motives, their needs and of course their names!!

A couple of days back, a good friend of mine invited me for coffee to a restaurant. As we sat talking, he introduced me to the waiter – his name and a short word on his impeccable service. A sweet gesture – but one – that won us the waiter’s undiluted attention whenever we needed something. And with this simple gesture, I understood my friend’s ability to connect with people, one of the most invaluable traits of a leader.

When we as trainers and facilitators remember names of every participant, it signifies a couple of things – we take our job seriously, we have a good memory and most importantly we care for someone who will be spending one long day listening to us. Leadership has to be demonstrated – it is not a subject to be preached.

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