Improved Leadership. Competitive Advantage.

... their first name.

This is so simple it seems absurd, even ridiculous. But it isn’t. There are a few books that are seminal. And there are a few leadership experts that are truly iconic. Dale Carnegie and his book “How to Win Friends & Influence People” fit those descriptions.

One of his maxims is that people value one word over all others—their first name. People want to feel valued, different, and special. They want to feel a connection to another. Perhaps, the easiest way to build that human connection is to use a person’s first name. At ELP, we commit to using first names with each other, with our clients, and with everybody—across all mediums: texting, emails, face-to-face, etc.

We spend a lot of time in nuclear, and we received some feedback that one senior engineer was failing at building some connections with his 30 or so direct reports. We got feedback from those that he led that, “he seemed distant” and other responses that included, “I feel like a number to this guy” and unfortunately some input that said, “I don’t even know if this guy knows my name. I’ve been here for six years, and he’s yet to call me by my first name in-person or over email. It seems so disrespectful to me.” Based on some of this feedback, we intensely coached this individual to use first names in any and all correspondence. He said that it wasn’t his style, and he’d need a day to think about. The next day, he came back with some data—if you can believe that—regarding our request. He said that he’d lose between three and six minutes each day by having to use first names in text, email, and face-to-face. We thought he was joking. He wasn’t. We asked him to sacrifice six minutes a day and try this small act.

It worked. Or, at the very least, it made a dent. People forget that when we address someone by their first name, it makes the recipient feel good and valued. Surprisingly—or not—it also affects the leader. By using first names, the relationship must get more personal. Trust us here. There’s nothing that you can do that is easier. That demonstrates more respect. That closes the social distance. Than using the first name. So, unless you are in the military, where first names are off-limits and where high social distance is desired, consider this small tactic to build some bonds.

By the way, and speaking of first names, email Robin to learn more on how ELP can change your culture. Her first name is her email: robin@elpadvantage.com.