What’s in a Name?

How could someone go from a new college grad, factory floor night shift worker, to chief executive in just 11 years – becoming the youngest CEO of a Fortune 500 company at age 34? Or, how about a part-time GS-1 dishwasher rising through the ranks to the level of SES, serving the Securities and Exchange Commission?

Were these just lucky breaks? Extreme good fortune? Or, could they be examples of when a specific leadership trait is practiced to the extreme produces a way-out-of-the-ordinary result?

These examples show rapid advancement and career achievement are not impossible goals.

Let me briefly tell you about one of these people.

Steve Appleton, right out of Boise State University, turned his production job at memory chip maker Micron Technology into a meteoric path of promotions leading directly to the C-suite. What made it happen? A former Micron employee gave me some insight into one of the reasons, “Steve knew everybody’s name. No matter what department you were in, if he encountered you in the hall, he’d greet you by name.”

What you need to know, is that upon his untimely death in the crash of an experimental airplane, Micron had 20,000 employees worldwide.

Did he know the names of all 20,000? Maybe not.

But he was legendary in the number of people he knew, and recognized by name. Partly a “gift,” for sure, but also, it was most certainly a practiced habit, that he regularly exercised.

So what I’m suggesting here is that you begin getting to know people. Lots of people. By name. And get to know something about them. No matter how many years you’ve been on the job, it’s never too late to adopt this powerful behavior.

I’m not talking about the type of schmoozing that leads to ingratiating oneself with those in power. I’m talking about creating an ever-expanding circle of people that you know personally and individually.

It’ll make a powerful accent on the perception of you as a leader.

Why does this work?

Many employees feel they’re “in the belly of the beast,” swallowed up in a dehumanizing work environment, barely known by their bosses, and more likely seen as simply fleshy cogs in the wheel of industry. They’re numbers to their bosses, not people.

When you interrupt that cycle of frustration, and lack of personal identity, you begin to prune away the deadness of work, and open up places for new growth, and blossoming commitment.

So what’s in a name?


– Jerry Strom

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This article is based on the *’Focal Points Study: The Most Important Things a Leader Should Know,’ copyright 2014, by Jerry Strom & Company, Inc. Find the Research Abstract, along with descriptions of many of our other research projects at http://www.jerrystrom.com/js_research.html .

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