One of the very first lessons I learned in being a successful group leader or facilitator in corporate settings is how significant people’s names really are – they relish them. Take names seriously, respectfully and intentionally – your thoughtfulness will be appreciated.
There are some months when I may lead fifteen to twenty different groups of people in different companies, in a variety of industries and in several countries. What is true in each group, no matter who the members are? Each person wants to be recognized as a member of the group, and the only way we have of doing so equitably and legitimately is by both learning and using each other’s names. I have learned that there is much tolerance for mispronunciations as long as there is effort. And, of course, a sincere effort is being made at getting the name right. We are quite forgiving of our names being poorly pronounced if there is an intention of truly getting it right. While, on the other side of this tolerance is brutal judgement, and even a trace of scorn and malice when we have our names misspelled, especially in an e-mail with a mass distribution. In this particular case, one misspelling can lead to a long-term, multi-person confusion, which often then also leads to the same name being mispronounced. There are clear implications to building one’s brand if your brand has either been misnamed or renamed by unfortunate spelling. Brands can happen by accident or malice. They are designed with intention.
Learn people’s names; make it your mission to correctly and often refer to others by name. Remember, as professionals we are all quite vain, myself included. We like to hear the sound of our own names. We like to see our names written by others. Use this to your advantage.