What is your name? Why were you given that name? What does your name mean?

Our name, a perfectly crafted combination of characters distinguishes us among 7 billion people on earth. It is our being, it carries our heritage and it was a gift of love from our parents. Our name gives us human definition in our early years and as we grow older, we further define our name in the global landscape. Are we smart, successful, kind, strong, talented or another characteristic that helps set us apart?

Will we forge new ground? Will we blend in with the masses? What difference will our difference make?

Our name may be common, complex, ethnic or unusual; in all cases, it was carefully selected just for us. It is inscribed on the very first certificate we will be given in life, and on our last. We carry the label given for life. It is a word that proclaims our existence, and value. We protect it, announce it and we sign it.

Our name will ideally command respect and be recognizable. Some of our names may be on marquees, the news, a business registry, our home titles or the titles to our vehicles. Its very existence is easily printed and sent around the globe introducing the individual behind the words, the deeds, the actions and even our potential.

In our youth we learned to pronounce our given names with fluidity honoring those who bestowed this familial identity. As time passed, we continued to build our persona in the world landscape. It is the most valuable symbolic possession we have had to offer the world on a personal level. It is a treasure that conveys meaning and purpose.

If a name is all of these attributes to us, could it not convey the same worthy characteristics to another person? Do we carry that message? Do others show their respect to us and, conversely, do we in turn show others our respect by pronouncing their name correctly?

In our organizations, as leaders, we cannot say with all honesty that we truly value and respect the individual in our ranks if we do not take the time to learn how to pronounce their names correctly. All too often, our team members will use a pseudo name (e.g.- call me “Sue” instead) to make it easier for their teammates OR we will volunteer a name for someone, such as “We will call you Pete,” because their name is too difficult to pronounce. When this happens we can clearly see that what we say does not match what we do. There is a mental disconnect within the organization.

I started my career having a very difficult time remembering names, any name. I had to work on this mental shortfall and develop ways to remember my team members as my organization grew. Invariably though, I had customers, team members or other associate’s names that were also very difficult for me to pronounce. I would ask once, twice and three times over several days as I mentally rehearsed their names until I was able to master each of them. The joy and twinkle in the eye that you witness when the individual sees that you remember their name, or realizes that you have made an effort to pronounce their name correctly, is a free and extremely valuable reward tool. We all want to feel valued. When we see that our organization really cares about us, we are more apt to give back to the organization in innumerable ways. Will your employee’s enthusiasm be evident with their sales calls, will it enhance your organizational synergy, will they be more willing to share new ideas with you or go the extra mile to get a job done?

“Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” is an old adage that easily applies in our daily communication habits. Have you felt a twinge of ire when someone has mispronounced your name? Do you feel they care? If they do not care to correct the pronunciation… how apt are you to give that person your full attention?

Take a moment and reflect on your own personal habits, and your organization. What example are you setting? What values are you communicating? Consider exercising a free habit that has rewards of its own and which has the power to build up your own name!

Enrique Ruiz

Author's Bio: 

Ruiz is an accomplished Program Manager that has led large scale IT operations over the past decade. His credits involve Census Operations in three countries, hiring and training for the Veterans Benefit Administration Document Conversion program and military/commercial manufacturing.

He is the author of four books and speaks regularly on Diversity Management and Building Leadership skills.