Employee Engagement & the Magic of Remembering

In a number of my previous blog posts, I made reference to the importance of listening and how this enhances the efficacy of communication.  A lot of other people talk about it too.  And that’s a good thing.

But I’m wondering how much of the information we get from listening do we actually remember when we’d like to or need to?  Taking notes is one way to capture new information but frankly sometimes it just isn’t appropriate to break a conversation so that we can capture a thought, a name or an idea.  So often, we have to rely on what we remember.

Personally, that is a scary thought as my memory for some things is, well, awful.  A little research has enlightened me however to the possibility that it doesn’t have to be awful as long as I give it some regular exercise.  So why would I want to?

Here’s why.  There is magic in remembering.

Many years ago, when I was working as a Personnel Officer in the Head office of a very large organization, I was invited to attend a breakfast and listen to the President  & Chairman of the Board, talk about our goals and challenges. The organization employed at that time, something in the neighbourhood of 35,000 people worldwide and so you can imagine that the goals and challenges were significant.

Before we sat down to breakfast the Chairman took a turn about the room, which was hosting about 350 people.  Quite by accident, he happened upon me.  I introduced myself and we talked for a very brief time.  And then he moved on.

Well, we had breakfast and then the Chairman got up to speak.  He was eloquent in his description of the organizational goals and realistic when he described the challenges we faced.

And then the magic happened.  He said something like, “I was talking to Gwyn earlier and she reminded me of the importance of people to our organization”

Suddenly, I was no longer a blurred face in the crowd or a very small cog in a very large wheel.  I felt important.  I felt heard.  And I felt included.

He had remembered my name.

Remembering details, like people’s names, may seem like a small thing when we have so many other things competing for our time and attention.  But simple acts of acknowledgement are very powerful.  They make us want to participate.  They make us want to do better and be better.   And that is, to me at least, the essence of employee engagement.

Here’s a link to an article written by Molly Edmonds, called Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Memory.

I’m going to work on improving my memory.  How about you?

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11 Comments

Filed under Building Relationships, communication, Leadership Values, motivating & Inspiring, Self Knowledge

11 responses to “Employee Engagement & the Magic of Remembering

  1. I’m not sure that what you describe is a memory skill so much as actually paying attention to the people the CEO spoke with.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      You make a good point, Wally. You have made me reflect some more on the notion of memory skill vs paying attention. I think there are some people who simply have a knack for memorizing and that’s different from remembering. Remembering, to me, is indeed about paying attention and being genuinely interested in what someone has to say. Memorizing carries with it the danger of being viewed as nothing more than a parlor game.
      In my own situation, I of course like to think that this particular CEO was remembering and not memorizing but whether he was or wasn’t, the immediate impact on me was positive enough for me to remember the experience.
      It might have been more fitting for me to entitle this piece, “The magic of Paying Attention” but it seemed less poetic somehow 🙂

      Thanks for reading and for your comments, which are always welcome!

  2. While I’ll be a bit cynical and agree with Wally that the CEO could just be leveraging his short-term memory to connect with the audience, the main thrust of your post is absolutely correct.

    Remembering details about other people shows you care. Taking time to listen and retain things makes a difference. I agree with Gwyn: my memory is terrible and this kind of remembering is an effort, but a worthwhile one. I hate that I am terrible with names and faces and really try to improve this. I envy those who can work a room and then recite every name of every person in one shot.

    Gwyn, your post reminds me of one of the core lessons from Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People: the most precious sound to any person is their name. Remember it, and you are well on your way to connecting with them.

    As always, good post!

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Thanks for your insights, Chuck. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in my struggle to be more attentive to small, and yet big, details.
      I understand that the brain’s “filing cabinet” for this sort of thing is called the hippocampus. While it sounds more like a Tanzanian animal sanctuary to me, I’m going to work harder at keeping mine in some sort of shape.

      Thanks for coming by! 🙂

  3. Let me expand on my thoughts a bit, Gwyn. I think that both memory and attention are in play in the situation you describe. Jerry Lucas who, in addition to being a Hall of Fame basketball player was also a memory expert has said that “it’s easy to remember what you care about.” But it’s memory that helps bring it back at a good time.

    When I give a speech, I always work the room before the speech, the way your CEO did. One reason is to connect with audience members I already know from my pre-program research. The other is to meet other folks who will be listening to me a few moments hence.

    So for me, interest and my memory (which is good) are both at work. But there’s one more thing and I think it relates to the CEO as well.

    Those off-the-cuff references only work if you’re willing to let them fly. Many speakers and execs are far too script-dependent to do that. Others don’t’ want to let go of complete control the way you must if you’re going off-the-cuff.

  4. Gwyn Teatro

    I can see that in business, and other areas of life too, the business of connecting with others in any sort of meaningful way relies on our being genuine in our interest and timely in our recollections.

    Thanks, Wally. I have learned from your comments and the blog post has benefited from the value you have added to it.

  5. I do make some degree of correlation of memorization of the world around us with the degree of connection we achieve. Even simple memorization from reading entails some measure of connection with the reading material, just as remembering names entails connection with the individual. Thanks for a nice post, Gwyn.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Yes, I know what you mean. There have been times when I have read something that was supposedly important but didn’t resonate at all with me and so, once read, it was forgotten. So it makes sense that finding ways to find resonance between me and the people I meet is a vital component of remembering them, name and all.

      Thanks very much for your comments Joe. They always add something good to the post 🙂

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  7. Thanks for posting this article. I’m decidedly frustrated with struggling to search out pertinent and rational comment on this matter. Everybody now goes to the very far extremes to either drive home their viewpoint that either: everyone else in the planet is wrong, or two that everyone but them does not really understand the situation. Many thanks for your succinct, relevant insight.

    • Gwyn Teatro

      Hi Kristen,

      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m glad the post holds some relevance for you. There is indeed a lot of commentary about employee engagement out there and I expect it is a matter of our picking through it and deciding what makes sense to us.

      Thanks very much for coming by!

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