People on the neurodiversity spectrum can become superb assets to your organisation. 

Some of their talents include:

  • being exceptionally good at focusing
  • flawless attention to detail
  • boundless creativity 
  • original ideas. 

Keeping that in mind, there are certain challenges with which they will need your support, such as misunderstanding social rules, sensory difficulties, and coming across as chaotic and indecisive.

Bias to neurodiversity

Neurodiversity can benefit a company’s ability to innovate and problem-solve, yet many employees with neurodevelopmental differences have encountered less-than-ideal experiences getting hired, being supported at work, and growing in their careers.

The term neurodiversity refers to the neurological differences that are the result of normal variation in the human genome. Some forms of neurodivergence include autism, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, ADD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Asperger’s syndrome and Tourette syndrome. There is a long ‘spectrum’, so the range of associated characteristics varies from person to person.

This challenges the previously prevailing notion of neurological diversity as pathological. Instead, the term encourages that we recognise, respect, and value neurological differences, as we do with gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. 

With the current global talent shortages, this is an opportunity for organisations to rethink the benefits of embracing a neurodiverse culture to provide a competitive edge.

The neuroscience of leadership

Studying the Neuroscience of Leadership, changed my world. Firstly with raising my dyslexic son who had struggled to fit into the school education system. Then it changed the world of my clients and friends in my community. It has enabled me to understand how different brains work, knowing no two brains are the same even when there are commonalities and similar experiences. Spatial pattern codes are different for each person. This difference in spatial codes makes communication one of the hardest skills to master.

Today I coach clients with all types of different learning requirements. My life experiences and studies have led me to share some of my knowledge, passion and insights with others. 

Look to the opportunities

Life is an obstacle course, but one with many rich learnings, possibilities, and opportunities to grow including reviewing our biases and how we perceive others who think, act and communicate differently. Some of the most talented people I have met and worked with have a neurodiverse superpower and I wouldn’t change them for the world. 

An Australian leader I admire is Booktopia CEO Tony Nash who recently shared valuable insights into the benefits of his superpower and how he harnessed ADHD to create a successful business that has won many business awards. Click here to read the article in the Sydney Morning Herald. 

Another inspiring story is that of Elaine Halligan TEDx speaker on the topic of ‘Neurodiversity is a superpower, not a problem’. Elaine explains her journey of raising her neurodiverse son and the obstacles she faced. She states that all behaviour is a form of communication. 

All behaviour has a cause. Communicating differently like noticing the small steps of improvement, progress, attitude improvement and effort as opposed to the end result improved her son’s confidence and self-esteem. When your self-esteem is strong only then can you start working with your strengths and accept those weaknesses without lowering your self-worth?

Often I am asked for considerations on how to embrace a neurodiverse culture:

Lead from the top
Leaders from the top tier of your organisation down to the frontline of your organisation will require education. They need to know how to effectively lead and embrace people who think differently to them, including the benefits and desired outcome. 

Dealing with biases that may be holding leaders back can be an adjustment to how you have collaborated with teams and behavioural differences from the past. Leveraging the knowledge and experience of experts like consultants, non-for-profits and associations can provide valuable insights.

Identify the cultural pillars and values that underpin a new way of thinking on how you assess performance, productivity, engagement to gain the desired outcomes.

Focus on strengths

Explore the full range of people’s abilities – both existing members of your team and potential new hires. And don’t let someone’s neurodivergence blind you to the unique things they may have to offer.

Rather than searching for skills gaps, appreciative enquiry lets you consider what people do well. You can then find ways to apply these strengths to other parts of their job and ultimately to your organisation. 

Once you have the right mix on your team, focus on these strengths. Neurodivergent team members may find parts of their role trickier or easier than their colleagues. To allow everyone to perform to their strengths, be flexible with roles and focus areas. 

Continue to invest in learning and development of their strengths to the next level in alignment with the future direction of the organisation and leverage technology advantages (keeping current).

Communications
Understand each of your people’s preferences for receiving communication and the best way to prioritise what’s most important. Communication considerations include the right mix of visual, auditory and written. Knowing what language that puts your people in a threat (avoid) and reward state (more of) is important as well as knowing the triggers for distress. 

Communicating where your people’s strengths fit within the organisation’s WHY/ Purpose makes a difference as most people want to contribute and feel a part of the company culture.

Regularly check-in
Make sure you regularly check in with your employees – this is now more important than ever with remote or hybrid workplaces. Starting and continuing conversations about how they are coping will help to overcome challenges and help them feel supported.

Remember to check with individuals in a way that they prefer to be contacted, i.e., by phone, web chat or video call including frequency. One-to-one sessions with employees are to be used to support them. Avoid spontaneous calls and meetings as this can cause the person to feel unprepared and raise anxiety levels. Perhaps text or email first to see if it’s convenient to talk and state the topic you want to cover to avoid a threat state trigger.

Where and when your team do their best thinking
For decades, work was mostly undertaken in an office and between 9 am and 5 pm, then COVID-19 forced us to work remotely, and many people discovered that they could be more productive outside traditional work hours. Others noticed that they were most efficient working in small increments of time. 

There is an optimal way to work, but when and how you do your best work differs for every person. Knowing the following can be insightful:

  • When and where do your people do their best work i.e., morning, afternoon, evening or combination. Identify strategies together to protect deep thinking time from distractions internally and externally
  • The importance of brain breaks in between tasks to re-energise the brain, increasing oxygen to help reset the brain’s ability to perform at their best throughout the day and week without draining the brain of all your energy
  • When and where to have team meetings and what information does each team member require prior so they are prepared and able to contribute including time of day that works for the team
  • Building in time each day to our calendars to deal with known and unknown obstacles around your key priorities. Often, we fill our days full of tasks and then when obstacles arise, we feel we don’t have the capacity to deal with them and our emotions can get the best of us when we feel frustrated, overwhelmed and fatigued.

Conclusion

Neurodiversity is an opportunity to make organisations and ourselves as leaders more successful. By empowering people who think differently with understanding and enabling them so they can contribute to your organisation and to society as a whole. 

Self-confidence has an impact on how we interact and connect with people around us (both at work and personally). From experience, being a successful leader isn’t just to boss people around, it is to find a way for all of us to work together – leveraging the collective intelligence of your people around the WHY/ Purpose.  

Interested in learning more, feel free to connect with me via;
Email: vannessa@linksuccess.com.au

Call: +61 416 148 338

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/vannessa-mccamley/