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Her name was Dorothy

118218401You have to care enough about someone to learn their name and then -- most importantly -- to remember it.

I wrote down a short blurb from a Guideposts magazine while waiting in a doctor's office a number of years ago written by a woman named Joann Jones. She said, "During my second year of nursing school our professor gave us a pop quiz. I breezed through the questions until I read the last one. 'What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?'"

"Surely this was some kind of joke," Joann thought. "I had seen the cleaning woman several times, but how would I know her name? I handed in the paper, leaving the last question blank. Before the class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward our grade.

'Absolutely,' the professor said. 'In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.'

'I've never forgotten that lesson,' Joann continued. 'I also learned her name was Dorothy."

When I think about the most effective leaders I know, one of their outstanding qualities is their interest in others, demonstrated through the remembrance of others' names. I've toured dozens of offices and plants and worksites over the years and I'm always empressed when those leading the tours --usually a senior leader -- knows the names of those working the equipment, directing a work crew, or just waiting for the elevator. And talks with them. And introduces them to those of us on the tour. There's nothing more disheartening than to see a leader in his or her own department stand there and talk about the employees without ever engaging with them.

Saying, "I'm just not good at names" is a cop-out. We don't forget the names of those who are important to us -- our family members, friends, co-workers, team members, or our administrative assistant. Widen that circle. We know we have the mental capacity to remember thousands of names -- everyone on our floor, in our division, at our branch office -- if we care enough to do it.

If you learn everyone's full name and something about them, and do it sincerely, and they know you know them, their impression of you as a leader will be greatly enhanced. And you know what? Connecting in even a small way with those you bump into every day will make you a better human being. Whether it counts toward your grade or not.

- Shirley Poertner



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