It never ceases to amaze me how different our minds all work, but how well are those differences really utilized in the workplace? I’m a bit of a trivia nut myself, even though I’ve failed to qualify for Jeopardy (so far anyway!)
However, my friends will tell you their amazement when I can recall sports scores from games played decades ago. Quick: What was the score when Green Bay beat New England in Super Bowl XXXI? Answer: 35-21. Who was the MVP? Answer: Desmond Howard. Well, you get the idea.
I’m also good at remembering dialogue from old television shows – some would say I am a little too good sometimes at these things – to the point where they’re probably pushing things out of my brain that I should recall!
My wife, on the other hand, couldn’t tell you the first thing about old football games or probably even recite many lines from even her favorite TV programs. However, she is very good “in the here and now.” If she drives somewhere once, that’s all she needs – she’s good to go the next time. Me? Nope … it’d take me “umpteen times” before I’d be sure of the exact route. She is also highly observant in other ways. She could probably recall how many people were in a given room at a given time, and other details that would likely escape me.
As you can see, my long-term memory is quite good, but my short-term memory leaves something to be desired. Conversely, my wife’s long-term memory is maybe average, but her short-term memory blows mine out of the water!
What does this have to do with work? Let’s say a boss, “Mr. Arrington,” expects “Randall” to readily recall nearly everything said in yesterday’s important staff meeting. Randall probably couldn’t come up with many specifics, which would probably make him look like he didn’t care or wasn’t paying attention. More important, why was Randall, a person with short-term memory issues, the employee who was grilled by Mr. Arrington about what transpired?
On the other hand, let’s consider “Sally.” Sally would not remember the name of the employee who spilled food all over himself at last year’s holiday office party. However, Sally could tell you what everyone in the office was wearing yesterday. Why did Mr. Arrington ask Sally about last month’s MT report, instead of the staff meeting, when she was present at both? Chances are Randall recalled the report a lot better, and vice versa.
This isn’t to say that a person with short-term memory issues can’t improve at this by taking copious notes that he/she can refer back to later. Likewise, this also doesn’t mean that individuals whose long-term memories aren’t very strong couldn’t also take good notes, make a video, etc., that they could file away for referral when the information is needed again.
That being said, it also doesn’t make a lot of sense in trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole. Instead of taxing Randall and Sally’s brains by asking them to accomplish tasks they’re not very good at, why not flip their roles and have Randall make a presentation about the MT report, and Sally about the staff meeting? Good bosses recognize their employees “strengths and weaknesses”, and that includes how our brains are wired.
Is your boss like Mr. Arrington? Or is yours the type who would have Randall and Sally in the roles best suited for them? It makes a difference in a workplace.