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neurodiversity and networking

Neurodiversity and networking

Walking into a room full of strangers that you are supposed to be interacting with can be incredibly daunting. Add on top of this anxiety around who you are and how you communicate and suddenly there is a bit of a recipe for potential problems. Welcome to neurodiversity and networking.

As a neurodivergent person, I have always found networking a little bit challenging as it seems everyone else knows exactly what they are doing. So here are some things that I feel can help make what is a tricky area into something far more manageable and something you can achieve at.

Being ready to talk

The best spontaneous conversations are well practised!

This may sound like a completely bizarre statement, but the truth is if you want to be spontaneous and have something to say you need to practice. This could be as simple as practising engaging with strangers in conversation or just being ready to start more conversations with your friends about topics that you think they may be interested in.

Asking questions that make connections

With networking the key thing is finding out what the other person wants, not telling them what you want. I would encourage you to start conversations by asking questions about how you can help. For example, you might want to ask:

  • why someone is there?
  • or what challenges they are experiencing, that you could help with?

Telling real punchy stories

Think about your own stories, the things you have done, the people you have met and how they can be relevant to the people you are talking to now. No one can resist a story, especially when they help them solve problems. When telling stories it’s important that they are punchy and to the point and that while you’re telling them you are seeking feedback to make sure they are relevant to the person you’re talking to. (if their eyes glaze over or their face changes make sure you ask them if this is useful – if in doubt ask!)

For example, you might have a story about a recent client (you do not have to use the client’s name) or a problem that you solved as part of your work.

I would always recommend using stories as they illustrate not only the benefits and strengths that you can bring, but they also bring you alive as a person.

Being ok with who you are

Believe it or not, you are the very best person at being you, and there is no one else quite like you. Do not try and be someone else, be yourself that’s why people want to get to know you. It is important to celebrate who you are as well in terms of your attitude towards yourself. I can assure you that you have value, things to offer, you do things other people cannot do and you are the very best at being you. – Be yourself!

It takes a village to successfully network

What I mean by this is that contacts you already have will provide you with information that allows you to connect with others. This will help you engage in conversations and communicate better with new connections. No person is an island, utilise people you know, learn from them, and ask for feedback.

Drive, the Partnership Network has been this place for me.

What can hold you back

Mindset is key, when getting involved in networking start with what you want to achieve then ask others what they want and see if there is space to build something. People never stop talking about what they need. If you can tap into that you will network effectively because you will be able to help them find solutions for their problems.

Do not be the limit to your network

Research shows that we love to talk to people like us but unfortunately there is only a subset of the human population that are anything like us. If you are looking to network the chances are your skills and experience are going to be more useful to people that are nothing like you. Don’t be afraid because people are different they still breathe and have a pulse just like you.

Having a Goal

Having a goal is key. We network because we want to achieve something, so be clear about what you want to achieve. You then need to think about what, why, how, and when you are going to network and make sure that this fits with your other commitments.

Make time to network

Unfortunately, networking does not happen by magic, you need to make time for it and be consistent. Think about how much time you would like to spend networking and set that time aside and then see if it works for you.

Be proactive

You are not an impostor you have every right to share what you are doing and mix with others to find common ground. You need to accept no one knows what you know the way you know it, and no one will ever know it unless you interact and have real conversations with them. Also do not be afraid to ask for help there are a lot of people out there in a similar position who want to help and see you succeed.

Find allies and champions

Allies and champions are vital especially if you have got questions about things like, what is the value you bring?

These people will often know you best and can help you cement this value. They will also be the people that open doors for you and invite you to new places, and you will be able to support them. This is not an awkward thing to do, it just starts with a conversation

So do not be afraid to ask!

If you would like some help with networking skills, please get in contact

Perfection vs excellence

Perfection vs excellence mixed with neurodiversity

I recently worked with Peter who is responsible for managing union activists within a teacher’s union. Peter had been a successful teacher who had left the classroom due to frustration with government policy that got in the way of his passion for teaching. He then moved into the union supporting teachers to be the absolute best they can be in their job. Peter has a dyslexic diagnosis, and this impacts his ability to process along with his short-term memory. I should emphasise that he is extremely competent at his job and exercises a high level of emotional intelligence especially when dealing with union members but he has struggled with perfection vs excellence in his role.

Recently Peter has undergone some changes at work as his union has been taken over by a larger union which has meant a complete change in infrastructure and IT with many new systems being introduced along with additional processes. I should mention at this point Peter has a well-rounded education including a master’s degree in organisational management, He is a well thought of and highly trained individual working in a frontline role because he wants to make a direct difference to teachers. The other thing to point out about Peter is that he always wants to do the absolute best job he can, often at the expense of personal time and well-being.

Working with Peter through a series of coaching sessions we were able to explore the difference between excellence and perfection and why it is vital to understand it. I must emphasise here I’m not suggesting Peter should be doing shoddy work that is unfit for purpose, the issue was that the work he was producing was so far above and beyond what was required it meant other clients were not getting what they needed (nor was he).

Excellence vs perfection

Excellence is about doing the right things, in the best way possible and doing them well enough to meet what is required. It also means accepting that there is always room for improvement and ironically that perfection should be your goal. You also need to have a reality check that you are highly unlikely to get there but if you keep aiming in that direction your current working processes will just get better and better. This is a growth mindset it’s about building on yesterday recognising what could have been done better and doing it. In addition to that, it is also about being kind to yourself.

It is a journey of wonder and surprise

Perfection is the definitive 100% right way to do something and is completely unobtainable and if you do try and obtain it you will use a disproportionate amount of energy and gain a diminishing return for what you are doing often causing anxiety stress and disappointment. This can further manifest in depression, procrastination and ultimately poor performance within individuals and teams.

It is a destination with no seats

For Peter, much of this was to do with the changes that were taking place in his role and responsibilities and how he felt he needed to be able to continue to deliver one hundred per cent even though all these changes were happening. A breakthrough moment happened when we talked about the concepts of working in your job and working on your job as for excellence to take place your processes and working practices need to be a well-oiled machine. This means taking time to understand them and innovate them to meet the needs of your organisation but more importantly to meet your own needs to achieve your objectives. For Peter, this was a breakthrough moment that enabled him to look at his job completely differently. He recognised although he wasn’t the most senior person in the organisation he was the most senior person who had control over what he did because he was able to manage himself. Once Peter started to take this point of view excellence became the only option because you can’t have perfection in a changing innovating workplace because by its very nature improvement involves failure and learning from it and that just doesn’t work with perfection.

This was a life-changing moment for Peter and something he has been able to use as he has moved to a role with more responsibility since completing his coaching. If this is something that is of interest to you, please get in contact.

dyslexic

How does a dyslexic person fit in at work?

Have you ever stopped to think about who you are and what you are doing? It’s a big question!

I now identify as being neurodivergent and dyslexic (along with a few other things) but this wasn’t always the case.

I have worked across several different professions including sales, marketing, business development, technology, and fundraising. What I have recognised over this time is that you are not the job you do, but instead the skills, experience, and attitude that you bring to that job. This can mean you can perform well in many different roles, bringing new and more effective approaches to age-old problems.

There is a flip side. Sometimes it can be hard to fit in, understand alien processes and feel that you are not accepted as part of the organisation you are working for. You may have felt like this at certain points in your life but for some individuals, this is an everyday occurrence and something that stands in the way of them progressing at work. This is something that I experienced first-hand. Not being able to work effectively, struggling with my short-term memory and ability to process information and as a result not being able to perform effectively at work.

What does a dyslexic diagnosis mean?

Getting a dyslexic diagnosis helped me understand some of my points of frustration including how I thought. I recognised that some of the things that were difficult are to do with how my brain works. For example, thinking big, having big ideas and thinking outside the box are strengths of mine but areas of difficulty include getting these ideas down on paper and remembering stuff. This doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to say, and it doesn’t mean that I can’t actually put it down on paper it just means the process is really difficult and as a result is something that I have avoided for a long time.

Workplace needs assessment

After diagnosis, I was assessed by a workplace needs consultant who took the time to understand how my job worked and what help I might need. This resulted in a number of recommendations including strategy coaching and various pieces of assistive technology. With associated training, it enabled me to manage some of the things I found more difficult far more effectively and to amplify my strengths. After being through this experience I recognised that this is something I wanted to help others with, bringing not only the skills I had gained in coaching and training but also adding on top my real-world commercial experience.

So ‘The Neurodivergent Coach’ was born, an organisation designed to help individuals and organisations amplify strengths and manage difficulties so that neurodivergent people can be the assets that they were always meant to be. We offer support around coaching, technology training and workplace assessment. What is important in all this though is that it is focused on the individual and their needs so that they can develop and be effective at work.

If this is something that has impacted you or one of your team, you might like to know that there are several different ways that you can get help.  Please drop me a line and it would be great to talk further.