Trouble Remembering Names?

I have a secret – I am terrible with names!  I can remember Earned Value formulas, map directions, and complicated architecture structures – just don’t ask me to remember names.  Do you have that problem?  I thought I was the only one with that issue, but as I talked to some peers I found that lots of people have the same problem.  So, as a manager or a PM it is really embarrassing and degrading to people if you can’t remember their names.  What can you do?

I have tried many techniques to overcome my fear of forgetting someone’s name but I thought this would be a good time to share a few of the experts’ opinions on the subject.

I read a really good post by Rita J. King on LinkedIn entitled “Five Tricks for Remembering Names.”  Her tips were well thought out:

  1. Don’t psych yourself out.  (This is my primary issue and I have to not  stress out)
  2. Slow down, take a breath and concentrate on the person.  (Especially at functions like parties, conferences, large meetings – don’t let all the activity going on distract you from concentrating on the person and their name)
  3. Ask questions.  (Ask something about their name – is it hard to pronounce? Is it passed on from their family? Anything that will be memory jogger)
  4. Use the person’s name.  (I have a rule that I try to say the person’s name 2 or 3 times as I talk to them)
  5. Create an image or some mental picture associated with the person’s name.  (OK- I have tried this one and it does not work for me – but some people find this a good technique)

I also found a few other techniques that can help.  Another good tool is to create a “face association” with their name, like Jim is thin, or Suzy looks like some famous actress.  And speaking of face, Benjamin Levy, author of Remember Every Name Every Time, advocates the FACE method: “focus, ask, comment and employ.”

If you are managing people or responsible for interacting (Like a PM) with lots of people, then it is extremely important that you use people’s names and that you REMEMBER them!

My favorite technique was discovered in Harvey Mackay’s book, “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”.  In Chapter 5 Harvey tells us that there is no such thing as a bad memory if we will just capture the information we get when we talk to people.  With the age of iPhone and Android Phones there is no excuse for not jotting down a few notes and name after meeting someone for the first time.

Now, I would love to hear if you have the same problem or any other techniques for remembering people’s names.


The De-valued Professional Project Manager

I have seen a very upsetting trend in the United States over the last three years – organizations have stopped valuing experienced, professional Project Managers.  Don’t tell me you haven’t seen it – companies put out a call for a position such as a business analyst, developer or technical specialist, and when you read the competencies for the job, it has project management all though it.  So, do they really want a business analyst, or have they asked for a business analyst with a PMP because they don’t want to pay for a professional project manager? In how many of these situations do they really need a professional Project Manager because the project is complex or mission critical?

I will admit that even I have questioned certifications in our industry, such as the Project Management Professional (PMP).  What does it really mean today? And does it help to filter out people who don’t have real and deep experience in project management?  I have met more non-experienced PMs with a PMP certification in the last 2 years than ever before.  I wonder – has PMI sold out? Are they no longer enforcing the experience requirements for obtaining the PMP?  Can anyone earn a PMP?

So, as more and more companies post job openings where they want project management as one skill among many, will the project management profession become obsolete? The biggest problem with this trend is the de-valuing of thousands of professional project managers who have years of experience managing projects and applying project management principles to complex projects.  I am not saying every project manager has to be a certified or professional – not all projects are the same or require full time project management.  But many of the new projects we are seeing, which were delayed due to the recession, are strategic, with high visibility and should require a professional project manager.

If you have devoted your career to being a professional PM, like I have, you are frustrated watching companies put individuals into project manager positions who do not have the experience nor the skills to do the job.  And why does our profession end up as a just a skill on another job position?  Would a company do this with any other professional, certified position? For example, would they hire a telecommunications engineer and require that they have a CPA?  Probably not, even though the engineer might need to know accounting. To do so would de-value the career associated with the CPA. By the same token, the skills set of a Project Management Professional (PMP) is not the same as someone who just needs to understand project management as a part of their job.

Well, now I will step down from my soap box!  But really, this is a main concern of mine for 2012.  In this cost-cutting, post recession environment, how many of my PMP peers are seeing this disturbing trend as companies try to “do more with fewer people?”

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