My mom used to say that “everybody lives somewhere” and the corollary to that is that everything is called something. It may not be the official name or even a proper descriptor but for our communication to function efficiently, things acquire labels.

The excitement about the scientific discovery of an actual black hole was quickly followed by a litany of names to call it. If there is one black hole, there is likely another so astronomers distinguish them and describe the differences – through a name. The first black hole has already been called M87* (with a silent asterisk – it’s official name) and Powehi (its Hawaiian name) but an official designation may still be forthcoming.

It is not just public objects that require labels – we do it in our homes and organizations all the time. That space under the roofline becomes “the nook”, the office work area becomes “the cave”, the sheet with the strategic plan timing/funding matrix becomes “the colored sheet” and the still undeveloped property purchased long ago is referred to as “the snake lot”. I name my car noise “a clunk” because I don’t have the language of the service advisor to refer to it as a suspension system differential.

As a leader or brand ambassador, it becomes your job to name things or others will. You need to give a name to the shopping center you’re trying to develop or it will only be known as “the old K-mart”. Campus activities staff need to lead an effort to designate the common area that borders the University Center, Library and AuDitorium as the UCLIAD so it may be scheduled and referred to in promotion of events. Association leaders should strive for consistency in whether their organization is known by its acronym or the phonetic version of the word the abbreviation forms.

Whether you call it a doohickey, thingamajig, thingamabob or something else, we call everything something. Be proactive and intentional about giving labels to things you care about or others will name them for you.

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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