Open Thinkering


Do you remember the first time?


A few years ago, someone I know (whom I respect too much to identify) started a new job. This person has a slightly unusual name and, as is often the case in these situations, new colleagues had seen their name before meeting them. Understandably, the first colleague who spoke to them pronounced the name incorrectly. This was a decisive moment.

Ever since that time the person has been called by a mispronounced name – and not just by the first colleague, but by most of those on the team. Why? Because that first person introduced them to the rest of their colleagues, mispronouncing it, and so on. They were not corrected. The error became progressively more difficult to rectify, until they just learned to live with it.

How sad.

It’s important to set your stall out from the start: instead of easing into something, you should be looking to hit the ground running and make a difference from Day One. Preparation is key. Just as good teachers know that it’s the connections between learning activities that are often most important, so with any new situation it’s not only how you act but how you react that matters.

This, of course, is especially important to new leaders. Your first actions and communications set the tone for the rest of your time as leader in that organization. Get them right first time.

Image CC BY-NC Larah McElroy

6 thoughts on “Do you remember the first time?

  1. My partner has recently started a job in a new office. Despite the fact that his name badge clearly states that his name is Col (which is his name, not shortened from Colin) and he introduces himself as such, far too many people have immediately gone on to call him Colin, even in the “pleased to meet you Colin” sense.

    You can do whatever you want to set out your own stall, but if others’ perceptions of what that stall should look like are different then you’ll have to bound across (and perhaps trip over) a few hurdles, rather than the preferred run.

  2. Just a thought but … is there a much wider lesson here?
    Developing a view that trying and not succeeding can actually be a good thing might be really positive.

    If you have a student in your class with a difficult name then handling that politely and sensitively would then show the other students how you go about handling what might be a tricky situation for some.

    Do we (teachers) often model good ‘teaching’ and maybe more emphasis could be given to modelling good learning – and being prepared to have a go and get it wrong is precisely what we do need to show?

    Of course I’m not suggesting being careless, qutie the reverse, the key thing is TRYING.

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