Quiz #112. Let Me Explain
Would you want to quarantine with me? Steve's Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz for January 26, 2022
You don’t need me to tell you–-so why am I telling you?--that your world gets a lot smaller in the stay-at-home life of coronavirus.
With the recent surge in Omicron, Sara and I have returned to a life of near-total isolation here in January, 2022. Even though we’re both vaccinated and boosted, we don’t go out–-and no one comes in. Groceries-–and just about everything else–-are delivered and confined to the front porch. We’re working–-and living-–from home.
Just imagine a world where I am your primary human contact. No need to ever use a step-stool again–-just ask me to reach that serving tray that sits most days on top of the kitchen cabinets. No need to ask, but your photos will be scanned and organized, your life will be chronicled for others to read. Explanations and solutions will be offered free of charge to every question and problem you’ve ever faced—no questions asked.
For Sara, this is not a thought experiment. I am her primary human contact—a Covid reality she’s been living for almost two years now.
All of which leads me to Saturday, January 20th. I’d spent the morning doing my things around the house. I’d walked the dogs and gone to the town dump to drop off the recycling which included styrofoam and cardboard. Back sitting in the living room and wasting time on my laptop, I heard Sara laughing in the basement. Like a lot of us, she’s spent this stay-at-home time organizing things she’s gathered over the decades in boxes and plastic bins across the house. I thought she was talking to one of her girlfriends or one of the kids and they were sharing some funny stories so I decided to give her some space to enjoy a laugh or two in private. When the laughter continued, I ventured downstairs to discover that she was laughing at something she was reading from some papers she’s saved. The document that had made her laugh was about me.
In December, 2011, my then-NBC-HR-rep Dana Tomechko recommended that I take a course for mid-level managers called "Behavioral Styles At Work." I did not know completely what I was getting myself into. It was based on the so-called DiSC personality test and the idea is that there are four basic personality types at work: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance. A few weeks before the session, I took a computerized test with 24 multiple choice questions, asking me to rank my 4 different responses, 1-4, to different situations. When the session started, the presenter told us that our pre-test ranking was important. In short, what bothered me--my #4 ranking--was just as important as what made me most comfortable--my #1 ranking. At the session, each of the assembled 20 mid-level managers received a personalized, printed report that described what we liked and what we didn't like. The report was written with our first names inserted in the text as if they'd been written by someone who had known us or at least talked to us or seen us or watched us.
Here are the first sentences of my computer-generated narrative:
Steve is deadline conscious and becomes irritated if deadlines are delayed or missed. He is forward looking, aggressive and competitive. His vision for results is one of his positive strengths. He likes to be forceful and direct when dealing with others. His desire for results is readily apparent to the people with whom he works.
When I first read this more than a decade ago-–and even now–-I had no argument there. This was good, strong stuff. This was me, getting things done. And yet, as I read on, I realized these people had nailed me—and there was more to their assessment.
The narrative continued:
When faced with a tough decision, he will try to sell you on his ideas. Sometimes he becomes emotionally involved in the decision-making process... Steve tends to influence people by being direct, friendly and results-oriented.... He tends to be intolerant of people who seem ambiguous or think too slowly. He likes people who present their case effectively. When they do, he can then make a quicker assessment or decision. He should exhibit more patience and ask questions to make sure that others have understood what he has said.
The class was designed to help people realize how they communicate at work--and to realize that others communicate differently. There was a section called "Checklist for Communication" with a list of Dos and Don'ts for how people should communicate with Steve. Under the heading, "Do," there was a list of 13 things.
Here are my 3 favorites:
Be open, honest and informal.
Motivate and persuade by referring to objectives and results.
Be clear, specific and to the point.
Under the heading "Don't," there was another list of 13 things of how people should NOT communicate with me.
My 5 favorites:
Don't ask rhetorical questions, or useless ones.
Don't talk too slowly, or dwell on details to excess.
Don't be redundant.
Don't leave loopholes or cloudy issues if you don't want to be zapped.
Don't reinforce agreement with “I'm with you.”
One thing I remembered from the session was that after we each got our reports, there was a PowerPoint presentation about the findings and then some in-class work. The presenter noted that the 3 people in the session who finished their in-class work first were those identified by the personality test as scoring highest in “Dominance.” I was one of them-–and once done with my in-class work, I’d also gone forward to the presenter to let her know there was a spelling mistake in the PowerPoint. This, she noted to the group in the discussion that followed, was noteworthy—and not surprising.
(Even now, I have no issue with my going forward for telling her about the spelling mistake–-she needed to know, right?--and no issue with her calling me out for doing so. At work, a colleague once accused me of being “a spelling freak.” I’ve never understood that criticism. Unless you’re a little kid and just trying to learn how to spell by writing down what you think you hear, there IS a right way to spell a word. Spell it another way and you’re wrong—especially if it shows up in a graphic seen by millions on TV or in a digital article. Nothing freakish about that, right?)
Being me, back in 2011, I made a copy of the report and gave it to Sara. I presented it to her as a guide for how she should deal with me. It even had a list, I proudly pointed out, of things she–-and others-–should avoid in talking with me. (I loved the “Don’t” list.) She took the papers and filed them away–-unread in a box until now. More than a decade later, in the middle of yet another Covid surge, alone in the basement, she’d finally read them–-and her reaction was laughter.
Sara laughed—she had to explain to me after—because she’d seen what I’d mostly missed back in 2011. The whole enterprise was designed to help me—to let me know about my own shortcomings in dealing with people and to get me to appreciate that others work and communicate in different ways–-and are quite successful doing it their way. And yet, I had shared it with Sara so she’d have a better understanding of what bothered me.
Despite all that, I’d like to think that the report and the passage of time have helped change me–-both at work and at home. Others will have to be the judge of that, but-–as always–-I remain aware that I have fallen short of perfection. I’m always trying to be better–-along the way, I’m more than willing to laugh at myself. (Truth be told, I think if we’re honest, we’re all ridiculous-–some more so than others).
Sara and I send out our holiday newsletter in the form of a–-you guessed it-–multiple-choice, “What did NOT happen?” quiz with questions about each person (and animal) in the family.
In 2021, I added a few twists. The quiz was available as a Google form in actual quiz format. I set up the form so that people could submit their answers to the 10 “What did NOT happen?” questions on the Google form, instantly receiving a notice of their grade, including which questions they’d gotten right and which they’d missed.
As noted in Quiz #111. No “... One!” in 2021, I also included a rare “What DID happen?” question, poking fun at myself and noting the challenges of spending the year in isolation with me.
Here was the final question in the quiz:
10. SELF IMPROVEMENT: With the isolation of Covid, Steve and Sara continue to spend a lot of time together--and not a lot of time with others, especially Steve who hasn’t been to the office in nearly 2 years. Sara laughed with delight at the Saturday Night Live short film called “Man Park” about the need for men to get outside the house and talk to other men. As a bonus, here’s a question about one thing that DID happen in 2021. According to Sara in 2021, what is the ONE thing that Steve needs to work on most? A. Throwing things out; B. Keeping track of his things; C. Wearing and keeping his hearing aids fully charged; D. Avoiding mansplaining and explaining everything as if no one knows anything; E. Brevity.
The 2021 holiday quiz was tricky and out of the 10 questions, most people scored 5 or less correct answers. However, it should not surprise anyone to discover that this was the question that almost everyone got right. Avoiding mansplaining is the one thing Sara says I need to work on most. Sorry about that.
Re-reading the report on my communication skills more than a decade later, I was struck by two sections. First, there was this one under the heading of “See Yourself As Others See You.” For self-perception, it listed the following: Pioneering, Competitive, Positive, Assertive, Confident and Winner. For others’ perception, it listed: Demanding, Aggressive, Abrasive, Arbitrary, Controlling and Opinionated.
Second, there was a list of the “Keys to Motivating.”
Under the heading, “Steve wants:” it listed:
A wide scope of activities.
Opportunity to verbalize his idea and demonstrate his skills.
New challenges and problems to solve.
More time in the day.
Control of his own destiny.
To be seen as a leader.
Outside activities so there is never a dull moment.
Prestige, position and titles so he can control the destiny of others.
I turn 65 in a few weeks. I’m not retiring–-at least not yet-–but it’s both sobering and yet reassuring to see this list as I contemplate what’s coming my way in the next decade. Power, title and leadership will be gone for me at some point soon, and yet I look forward to more time in the day and–-hopefully-–controlling my own destiny. Thanks, as always, for giving me the opportunity to verbalize my ideas here.
Still, maybe I need to get out a little more.
Footnote: Back on May 22, 2020 in Quiz #57. 1 in 12,766 , I talked about how my brother-in-law Larry and Google had identified the baseball player seen behind me in a 1965 picture I found of me at Shea Stadium. He was the Cubs catcher, Vic Roznovsky, #8.
Well, Larry just informed me that Roznovsky died last week at the age of 93. Roznovksy’s obituary is online and there’s a form that you can use to send a message or upload a photo. I uploaded the photo with a short message for his family.
Like what you’ve been reading here? Please feel free to share this quiz with others who you think might enjoy it.
What did NOT happen in January during the Omicron surge?
A. In the basement, I put together a work bench for my tools and projects that Sara ordered for me from Home Depot;
B. Sara and I binged “For All Mankind” on Apple TV. It’s a great, alternate history drama based on the space race. There are several references to William and Mary throughout the series;
C. I recommended “For All Mankind” to my sisters Ginny and Susan. Susan likes it, but Ginny and her husband Larry could not get into it and stopped watching after the third episode;
D. Sara is playing Wordle, but I am not;
E. I was tired Sunday night so went to bed at half-time of the epic Kansas City Chiefs-Buffalo Bills football game. I recorded it on DVD and watched the second half after waking up at 4:30 a.m.
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Here’s the previous quiz in the series: Quiz #111. No “…One!”
Here’s the first quiz in the series: Quiz #1. Stella and Social Distancing, March 13, 2020
Here is an archive of all the quizzes.
The quiz is explained here: Steve’s Stay-at-Home Coronavirus Quiz.
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