August 14, 2011

Name Game

“A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

– Dale Carnegie

I'm in Hanoi only a few days each month. To help me remember names, I take photos of each person and edit their name into the photo. I regularly update the album on the Internet to aid Dream Makers in their quests to take my money in the Name Game.

One of my most important responsibilities as a leader is creating a sense of community in our team.  I want people to feel recognized and important and have a sense of belonging.

One of the best ways to do that is to learn everyone’s name.

Remember the title song from that old mega-popular American TV show, “Cheers?”  It went:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You wanna be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name

Everybody loves an environment where everybody knows their name.  It fosters a feeling of community, friendliness and belonging.  I wanted our company to feel like a comfortable, familiar place filled with friends, like the bar on “Cheers” (minus the booze).

A few years ago I decided to learn everyone’s name in the the company, about 240 people.  I challenged another director, Wee Tee, who cleverly upped the ante on me — not only know everyone’s name, but know something about them (hometown, favorite color, whatever).

Over the next few weeks both of us took time every day to walk around and practice.  A hush would fall over the floor when I walked by and Wee Tee was learning names and details.  It was very competitive.  The staff loved it.  There were even bets being made on who would win.  Hilarious.

When the big day came everyone paid close attention.  Wee Tee missed one name but knew more details about each person than I did.  The judges declared it a tie.  Everyone got a big kick out of it.

The experience gave me an idea. Why not challenge everyone in the company to learn names?  And, as an added incentive, why not pay them a cash prize for knowing names?

Enter the NAME GAME.

We play the Name Game during the CEO Update each month at our “All Hands” meeting.  I ask for contestants and then pick at random using “eeny meeny miny moe.”  The prize is 500,000 VND (about US$25) of my own money.  100,000 VND is subtracted for every name missed and every time I hear someone trying to help the contestant (Yes, I had a problem with that before — everyone loves to see staff take money from the boss!).  Any amounts subtracted this way get added to next month’s Name Game prize.

The Name Game is FUN and IT WORKS.

People are learning names and greeting each other during the work day by name.  It has helped to break down barriers between groups and advanced my goal of making our workplace the “Most fun, most challenging and most rewarding place to work in Vietnam.”

Why not try it in your team?