How Remembering People’s Names Delivers Great Hospitality

man and woman shaking hands
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Many years ago, I was working for a company in the office furniture industry. Every year we had a convention in which dealers, designers, architects, and end users would walk through our showrooms. After the show was over one night about twelve of us went out to dinner to Alan Hale’s Lobster Barrel on La Cienega Avenue in West Los Angeles. (for those of you who don’t know, Alan Hale was the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island) As we were walking to our table, we noticed Alan Hale was there that night, sitting at the bar.

We sat down and proceeded to have a good time while enjoying our meal. After a while I noticed Alan Hale was walking around, going table to table, and talking to his customers.
Eventually, he got to our table. He started on the opposite end, and made his way around the table, saying hi, thanking for everyone individually for coming until he got to me. When he shook my hand, I said, “We love Gilligan’s Island, it’s one of our favorite shows, it would be great if I could get a signed autograph for my kids!” He replied, “What are the names of your children?” (At the time, I had five children, now I have six). I proceeded to tell him, “Heidi, Matt, Brent, Nathan, and Nicole.” He said something like, “sounds like it’s a lot of fun at your house!” And then walked away.

From our table he proceeded to go to other tables, and I didn’t think anything of it—we continued to enjoy our meal and having great and lively conversation. About twenty minutes later, Alan Hale came back to our table, right up to me and handed me, not one, but five signed pictures of himself to each of my children, personalized with each of their names on it!!! All I could think about was how amazing that was. Amazing that after twenty minutes or so he had remembered ALL of my kids’ names! Amazing he chose to sign five autographed pictures! Amazing that he cared that much! This was a movie star, someone famous, he sure didn’t need to do that!

I didn’t know Alan Hale nor the challenges of being a movie star in Hollywood at that time, but I know he had an insatiable interest in others. He lived for people. That’s great Hospitality.

This is an excerpt from my book, Leadership Qualities People Crave. If you would like to purchase a copy go to www.johnelzinga.com/products


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