What’s In a Name?

To add value to others, one must first value others.

–John C. Maxwell

During her second month in nursing school, the professor gave the students a quiz. The last question stumped most people in the class. It read, “What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?”

All the students had seen the cleaning woman several times. She was tall, dark-haired, and in her 50’s, but how would any of them know her name? Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward their grade.

“Absolutely,” said the professor. “In your career, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello.”

The students never forgot that lesson. They also learned that her name was Dorothy.

As a leader, your interactions with people matter. And how you treat people is a reflection of your character. The value that you place in others says more about your leadership than any title or position you have. And while you may think it makes you look important to name-drop and take selfies with certain people to impress people you will never meet, I believe it’s a greater reflection of your leadership to know the name of the person who empties the trash out of your office.

Value is given where value is placed. If the person in the lowliest position in your estimation is not worthy of your time, smile, or greeting, then perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the way in which you look at people.

Here are a few simple reminders for all of us on this journey of life together. It will make you a better person and a better leader to remember them.

Everyone’s fighting a battle

Someone once said (various attributions), “Be kind, everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” You never know how your one word of kindness can make a difference in someone’s day.

You don’t know the hurts, the fears, the concerns that people around you carry. With this in mind, just be kind.

Be merciful

Mother Teresa said, “Be kind and merciful. Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.” And this is our mission – to make other people’s interaction with us the highlight of their day. It’s not as hard as you might think.

Be in the moment with others

Marcandangel said, “Don’t be lazy and make judgments about people. Be kind. Ask about their stories. Listen. Be humble. Be open. Be teachable. Be a good neighbor.” Being your best self begins by seeing the best in others.

Walk slowly through the crowd

This is a leadership principle taught by John Maxwell that’s so powerful. We can be so busy and in a hurry to get on to the next thing on our agenda that we walk right past our real work- people. Tasks are important, but not as important as the people you lead.

Know their name

Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” And this is why, I believe, the professor wanted to make sure that the students knew the name of the lady who cleaned the school. And it’s why it should also matter to you.

Final Thoughts

Be a person of value and add value where you can. See the value in those around you and always do your best to be kind and merciful. The world needs it now more than ever.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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