What’s in a name?

The importance of a name could be more than you may realize.

Last night, was our first “Kindness Catalyst” workplace cohort with 20 employees from a financial institution based in 13 different Asian countries. We will be working together for the next several weeks, so I knew I wanted all of us to be comfortable using each other’s names.

Not Your Average Ice-Breaker

I started the session by having everyone introduce themselves. They shared how to pronounce their names and any story that might be related to their name. The importance of a name may be cultural, making it just that much more vital to honor someone’s name correctly.

What sweet stories we heard! People spoke about how they were named for something specific in their language or culture. We heard about how some chose their own names and later learned it meant something they hadn’t expected. Some even made a choice as an adult to add new meanings to their given name.

I even learned something in preparing for our session about my name.

Surprises from My Own Name

Previously, I knew my parents named me Linda because of the famous song “Linda” written by Jack Lawrence in 1946. Most of the time when I meet women named Linda, they are usually a decade or so older than me.

In college, when I heard that song for the very first time, I was so excited to learn it did use my name. I had just assumed my mother used to sing it to me as a little girl and added my name to her rendition.

What I learned this week

Linda was the trendiest name for girls from 1938-1969. In fact, it could be said that Linda is the trendiest name of all time because of how long the name was popular. (Over three decades!) In 1947, 5% of all girls were given that name after Jack Lawrence’s song became so famous. That’s probably why I meet so many older Lindas.

What I also learned was who that song was written for… a little 5-year-old girl named Linda Eastman who grew up and became Linda McCartney after she married Paul McCartney.

There is a L.I.N.D.A (Lindas Involved in Network Development) convention that was started in the late 1980s that still occurs every July. That’s more than 30 years! Wouldn’t it be fun to be a speaker at that event…Wouldn’t even need name tags!

Wow, do I belong to an amazing club of Linda’s or what, who knew?

Names in the Workplace

People love to hear their names, especially when they are pronounced correctly. There is an added personal connection when you know something about why they were given that name.

When you are working in any setting, especially with international employees, addressing people by name is a sign of respect. If you struggle to pronounce a colleague’s name, ask them for help as an act of kindness. They will feel grateful that you’ve extended the effort, and show you kindness in return.

When introducing team members, elevate your ice-breaker so that names really resonate. Rather than asking people to say their name, department, and a ‘fun fact,’ encourage them to share where their name came from or a fun fact about their names. People remember personal stories much more than someone’s celebrity crush or favorite food.

By consciously using people’s names at work, leadership will strengthen communication, culture, and employee engagement. There are all kinds of ways organizations can elevate their culture, but this is one simple, and cost-effective strategy anyone can start using today.

What is the importance of your name? Is there a story behind it? Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn!