I’m a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s. During my early childhood, I was raised by my grandparents because my mom was working after the untimely, early death of my father. Growing up on a farm in Luckey, Ohio was wonderful !! My brother and I had countless adventures that were mostly outdoors. You used your imagination to make your surroundings come to life. We watched very little television because our grandmother wanted us out from under her feet. When we did watch on their tiny black and white set, we watched PBS. Yes, PBS. Grandma made sure we watched the Public Broadcasting System because it was filled with educational programming. One of our favorite shows was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
We loved visiting his neighborhood with the various characters in the Land of Make Believe. You learned something every time you watched. We never thought the show was simple, easy-going or even “cheesy.” The messages he gave rang true, and he always seemed so interested in you as a person.
Fast forward to 2019. My wife and I just went to see the new Tom Hanks movie where he plays Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is magnificent !! Granted, I already had fond memories of Mr. Rogers, but this movie made some facets of his life more visible and poignant. I highly recommend you go see the movie to get the entire feel and impact of the message so I don’t want to reveal too many components.
The one characteristic that resonated deeply with me was that Mr. Rogers made sure to know everyone he met by name. He didn’t overlook anyone he encountered either on the set of his television program, or if he met you in person. People mattered to him. One scene, shown in the preview, shows the main character’s wife, Andrea, squeal when Hanks calls their home and introduces himself to her. She is trying to pass the phone to her husband, but Mr. Rogers stops her to take time to intentionally talk to her. She says, “Mr. Rogers knows my name !!” It obviously moved her.
They note that Rogers, a man who had a strong personal faith, prayed for the people in his life by name. Every. Day. This wasn’t some parlor trick that showed he had a great memory. He valued being connected to people and wanted to know them personally.
I am a person who shares the same conviction of Mr. Rogers. I think it’s critical to meet, know and interact with people by name. Whenever you meet someone for the first time, you have to make the time to get to know (and remember) their name. Our names are the most significant identifying trait of who we are as humans. When you share your name with someone and they share theirs with you, you are connected immediately.
We were given names on purpose when we were born. Even though people may share the same first name, it doesn’t diminish the reality that they are unique. No one “Steve” is the same as another. The reason it’s important to know someone’s name is that when you interact, it’s more intimate and meaningful. You will remove the distractions of the day which constantly vie for our attention because you have called someone out by name. You’re locked together and those conversations will be more rich and meaningful than just trying to catch someone on the fly.
As HR professionals, this should be a skill that matters to you. I know that it can be difficult to remember names, but that’s an excuse. We all need to take the time to learn and recall the names of the people who are in our daily lives. If you need to make lists, then do it. If you need to make associations that spark your memory to remember a person’s name, then keep track of those attributes. Be intentional about this. We can’t fool ourselves to think that our companies are people-centric if everyone remains nameless.
Once you know someone by name, you can get to know them as a person. Having knowledge of who they are is far more important and lasting than anything they do. I mean it. They, in turn, can get to know you more as a person as well. I see it every day. People want to connect and be known for who they are.
This week start interacting with people by name on purpose. It will make a huge difference for you personally and professionally. Be like Mr. Rogers and make it matter. It will make our various neighborhoods the great environments they were meant to be !!