Leadership and Memory

Robin Williams, Glenn Close and John Lithgow starred in a film that received little notoriety. "The World According To Garp", is the life journey of a fictional character that wants to live a usual life while being influenced by an unusual mother. The final scene of the film has Garp fulfilling a childhood dream of flying by being transported to a hospital in a lifeflight helicopter. Bleeding from a gunshot wound, struggling for his breath, Garp looks up to his wife and child and proclaims "remember, remember it all!"

How is your memory? What are the things you are able to rapidly recall? What facts, figures or events seem beyond your reach when remembering? The reason we are looking at the skill of memory and connecting it to the practice of leadership development, is that in a fast paced world, a good memory is directly related to increasing productivity and efficiency in thinking.

French Philosopher Claude Helvetius stated the following; "It is true that the success of the individual in his every-day business, profession, trade or other occupation depends very materially upon the possession of a good memory. His value in any walk in life depends to a great extent upon the degree of memory he may have developed. His memory of faces, names, facts, events, circumstances and other things concerning his every-day work is the measure of his ability to accomplish his task. And in the social intercourse of men and women, the possession of a retentive memory, well stocked with available facts, renders its possessor a desirable member of society. And in the higher activities of thought, the memory comes as an invaluable aid to the individual in marshalling the bits and sections of knowledge he may have acquired, and passing them in review before his cognitive faculties -thus does the soul review its mental possessions. As Alexander Smith has said: "A man's real possession is his memory; in nothing else is he rich; in nothing else is he poor."

Much of what we understand in the field of memory and leadership dates back to the time of Helvetius in the mid 1700's. Time and science has confirmed that not only is memory important, it can also be improved. You can fulfill the words of Garp, "remember, remember it all" by cultivating the following three practices;

  1. Attention and use! Yogi Berra was famous for his malapropos. One of the more famous statements attributed to him is "you will be amazed by what you see simply by looking around!" Your memory will improve by increasing your level of attention, and quickly using the information you are being attentive to. For example, when you are introduced to somebody pay attention to their name and find a reason to insert their name into a sentence.
  2. Give it meaning! Simply stated, we don't remember information we do not deem important. However, much of what we are experiencing is difficult to assess how important this may be later. A great question to ponder when you are taking in new information, data or experiences would be, "what does this mean and why does this matter?"
  3. Anchor and associate! The brains ability to recall information is similar to how search engine optimization (SEO) works. The more connecting points the greater the recall. If we can quickly connect new information with existing information, it will greatly assist in storing short-term memory with long-term memory. When learning something new, ask "how does this relate to something I already know?"

About the Author: Glenn Gutek is the founder of Awake Consulting & Coaching, an organization devoted to helping professionals wake up, and lead in the direction of excellence. The vision and passion he brings to Awake has shaped a team that brings unparalleled professionalism and expertise to making a bottom line impact in the businesses and practices they serve. With a variety of resources Awake Consulting & Coaching has the ability to create a profitable business