Tag Archive for: Thinking Styles

The loaded 'thank you'

The loaded ‘thank you’

As I went for my run this lunchtime, I put on my gear, got ready to go, and went out the door. The initial part was hard my legs were stiff and really hurt. As I ran along my normal route I approached a couple walking in the other direction, I nodded, and then I heard it, the loaded “thank you”! It shook me a little because I thought had done enough to acknowledge that they had moved out the way, but clearly I hadn’t. This sat with me for the rest of the run –  the loaded ‘thank you’ or rather the thank you that says F U.

So why is The loaded ‘thank you’ important? 

When we communicate we make huge amounts of assumptions about what other people are doing and where they are in space and time. Working with individuals who have neurodivergent traits often means that their view of the world is slightly different. That doesn’t mean that you feel any less, or that you care any less, but it does sometimes mean that you communicate differently. This situation often means that there are misunderstandings that can lead to a huge amount of anxiety and stress.

The problem with this is?

If it isn’t addressed and we are not educated in how to create space to understand other people, we can make poor choices about how we communicate with them. This can lead to teams that don’t work functionally, office places that become toxic and hostile and ultimately individuals that could add huge value to organisations not staying.

The implication of this is?

Quite simply organisations will not be as effective or as inclusive as we would like them to be and as a result, we will spend money, time and effort trying to recruit people that ultimately will not stay. This has implications for how well organisations run as well as what other people think of them and how well they engage with them in what is becoming an increasingly challenging marketplace to obtain and retain talent.

The need is quite simple, we must think about how we communicate and the assumptions we make about the people we are communicating with. 

The people I ran past had no idea what was going on in my head. For all they know I could have lost someone dear to me or I could be experiencing extreme trauma. They made me feel that my nod wasn’t good enough and in a small way that matters!

So what do you think about the loaded ‘thank you’?

When have you felt like giving a loaded ‘thank you’ to someone?

labels and boxes

Why labels and boxes can be lies and distractions?

Do more individuals want to identify with neurodivergent labels?

It seems so, some people seem to like labels and boxes!

Now on the surface, this can often be a healthy to access help, resources and money. Where I believe these labels and boxes can be lies and a distraction is when we use them to define who we are. Labels can only ever provide a lens to look at part of who we are, they are never going to fully describe everything about us and as result, they need to be treated with care.

Stereotyping?

I am describing stereotyping of neurodivergent conditions, for example several specific hiring programs focus on particular neurodivergent conditions. Autism has been the focus of hiring programs from SAP, Dell, Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, JPMorgan, EY, and Google Cloud. This is of course a great step forward but as Churchill said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

The opportunity

There is an opportunity to think more broadly in terms of how we integrate different thinking styles into our organisations. What I mean by this is quite often neurodivergent labels are used to categorise what we think people will be best at, and more often, what we think they will struggle with. This may look like autistic individuals being computer programmers, ADHDers being in sales, and dyslexics being in a blue-sky thinking lab, (meaning brainstorming with no limits). The challenge is that these thinking styles are relevant across our organisations and we need to challenge why they are not able to be present in positions of influence.

The challenge with labels and boxes

The challenge for organisations is to look at roles differently in terms of the skills and competencies needed to fulfil them. There is an opportunity to segment and re-evaluate distinct roles within our organisations giving flexibility to automating and removing tasks that are not core to the requirements of the role. This opens up the possibility of introducing truly great people who can fulfil what is needed as opposed to a wish list of unrealistic requirements.

Conversations

If we genuinely want people to be the very best and their most effective at work, they need permission to remove the human and process barriers that stop them from doing that. This starts with conversations that help us understand what we need in key roles and who are the people we need to deliver them. This goes on to understand the barriers that need to be knocked down and the resources that need to be made available so that they can be successful.

What next for labels and boxes!

As a final thought, I would expand this out to include not only the individuals but also the teams they operate in. The approach is very much the same, assessing what the team is there to do, understanding how they can be brilliant and what the barriers are that need to be removed so they can do that!

The next practical step is to start a different kind of conversation where individuals are listened to, and a plan is formed! – Lets move beyond ‘labels and boxes’.

If you would like to have a conversation about how to facilitate this, please get in contact.

Person Reading - The Medici effect book review

The Medici effect book review

The name ‘The Medici effect’ is taken from the ‘The House of Medici’ an Italian banking and political family that funded and supported innovations in art, finance, and music. These innovations included ideas ranging from double-entry bookkeeping, Opera to the piano.

What jumped out to me was:

This is an important book that explores why we need to look at the intersections between different siloed disciplines to see breakthroughs. The book goes on to help us explore how looking at the same problem from various places gives new insight and discovery.

I also really enjoyed the way the author brought to light why diversity is essential in this process, as diverse thinkers bring not only themselves to the problem but also their network of contacts and relationships.

There is also some wonderful thinking about the quantity and quality of ideas. My key takeaway is that it’s important to have a good quantity of ideas so you can pick the quality ones. This type of thinking has been used by many successful characters including Alexander Graham Bell and Richard Branson.

Operating at the intersection as the author describes it is a fantastic place though slightly scary at times. What it gives you is the opportunity to create innovative ideas and new spaces with the threshold for success often lower because no one else is operating there.

Think about it, if you want to become the very best in your field you have to compete with everyone who has gone before you and everyone who is trying to do it now. If you want to achieve something at the intersection you may be the only person or team in that field so your bar to success is far lower.

I believe neurodivergent individuals naturally gravitate towards the intersection of different fields and ideas.

Why read this book?

It’s insightful, engaging, has been a bestseller for a number of years and has been included in many academic programs. If you take on board what is written it will change your attitude to innovation and potentially increase your opportunity for success.

This is my take on The Medici Effect. It would be great to hear your thoughts.

The unfair test - Neurodiversity and Intersectionality

Neurodiversity and intersectionality: lost opportunities and goldfish?

Situation

A considerable number of people are still arriving in adulthood without a diagnosis or understanding of their neurodivergent traits (ASC, DCD, dyslexia, dysgraphia or other neurodivergent traits). There is often an assumption that people know what they need and know how to access it. The reality is not everyone has access to the support and insight that is needed to help them identify their neurodivergent traits. This is why I think it’s so important to consider neurodiversity and intersectionality.

Neurodiversity is all of us. Some individuals are neurodivergent and have traits including strengths and difficulties that are unique to them. Intersectionality is a framework that considers the social and political identity of an individual. When the two are combined it creates the potential for extreme advantage or disadvantage for the individual.

Neurodiversity is a term originally coined by Judy Singer in her bachelor thesis and later explored by Harvey Bloom who Singer corresponded with. When the term was originally introduced it described the autistic community, but since then it has become synonymous with a far broader range of thinking styles. The neurodiversity umbrella has now opened further to include many acquired conditions and medical diagnoses like migraines and PTSD to mention a few.

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how a person’s social and political identity combines to create discrimination and privilege. This term was first conceptualised by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. The original work was looking at gender and race, but again this term has broadened out to include a much wider spectrum that includes underrepresented groups.

When we look through the lens of intersectionality, neurodivergent individuals can experience huge opportunities while others experience a perfect storm of disadvantages.

For example, a male from a middle-class family with supportive parents is more likely to receive support and opportunities to amplify his strengths and manage his difficulties than a female who has grown up in a deprived area and has a mixed cultural heritage. There are many biases in play including gender, race, language, criminality, and social-economic background. This can put the female mentioned above at a considerable disadvantage before she has even started the race. When we then lay on top neurodivergent conditions for example ASD (Autism), where much of the criteria for diagnosis have been developed around male behaviour and presentation, the female is considerably less likely to be diagnosed and as a result, receive support that would amplify her strengths and help her manage her difficulties.

Task

The task before us is to ensure individuals have access to appropriate screening and diagnostic resources in order that they can be properly identified regardless of their social and economic background. In short we must consider their neurodiversity and intersectionality. This then needs to be followed up with appropriate support and guidance for individuals to understand their strengths and difficulties, allowing for the introduction of co-created interventions that help them be their most effective.

The government this week through Matt Hancock has proposed a blanket policy of screening every child of school age for dyslexia. Though at first, this seems like an excellent policy, what is important to consider is this is a screening of one neurodivergent set of traits. Based on research by Prof Amanda Kirby, co-occurrence of neurodivergent conditions is the norm rather than the exception. So, what will be missed? Is this just creating another silo with partial knowledge that doesn’t allow the individual to fully understand their neurodiversity?

Screening is just the start of the journey. Interventions and reasonable adjustments based on the whole person are essential to help individuals amplify their strengths and manage the things they find difficult.

Playing fields can seem level until you look at where the starting point is!

The challenge is not just to look at the individual as something to be fixed, but to also look to the organisational context that the individual is within. As with this illustration, a goldfish has many strengths, but climbing trees is not one of them, especially if the purpose of the assessment is to find out how well the candidates can swim!

Action on neurodiversity and intersectionality

As we look at how to be truly inclusive, organisations must look beyond the easy silos, considering people as a whole and making sure that we reach out to groups and individuals who have different intersectional backgrounds. We must look at this as a process of changing our organisations instead of fixing individuals to fit in.

As we embark on this process it is important that we engage in constructive dialogue and do not take shortcuts. Quick wins are okay but shortcuts are often detrimental to the overall aims of what we are trying to achieve. Look for evidence-based approaches like work-based strategy coaching that support individuals and teams to deal with their own issues so they can be their most effective at work.

These evidence-based approaches look at supporting the individual with the tools and strategies that are relevant for them to be most effective in the workplace. They also look beyond this and start to consider the organisation or environmental factors that impact the individual while critically reviewing their purpose and their fitness for use with the overall aim of creating workplaces that are better for everyone.

Many adjustments that are put in place to support neurodiversity are person-centric (changing the person, not the problem). Though important they do not address the environmental factors that cause disability. If there are no environmental changes then we run the danger of just putting a sticking plaster on the problem.

How to make neurodiversity and intersectionality work

We talked about insight, environment and impact. The reality is we are all looking for practical measures that can be used to make the neuroinclusive workplaces a reality.

So here are some suggestions on where to start:

  • Understand your colleagues, not just who you think they are, but who they really are. Take time to talk to them, listen to them, and get your head around where they are at.
  • Be compassionate and listen to hear what they’re saying, as opposed to listening to tell them what you think.
  • This is a marathon, not a sprint. Pace yourself for a sustained effort as change is often painful, but the results are extremely worthwhile.
  • Actively seek out and recognise where there is discrimination or practices for disadvantage individuals or groups of people.
  • Record and measure where there are inequalities and start the process of deciding how you are going to measure and record the changes you want to see.
  • Be honest and be ready to own up to the mistakes you have already made and will make in the future.
  • This process is as much about building relationships as changing things.
  • Do not make neurodiversity the ‘charity of the year,’ this is an ongoing effort that needs to be ingrained within your organisation’s culture.
  • Do not be tokenistic, keep it real or it will be worth nothing.
  • Start with people and finish with people (with no campaigns in the middle).

Results to expect from neurodiversity and intersectionality

This all starts with positive power and neutral conversations built on trust. These will open dialogue that enables a more inclusive workplace that considers the intersectionality of the individuals involved. Let’s do this openly, while actively looking to engage others from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, especially those in the groups identified experiencing a greater level of difficulty and or representation within your organisation and society (looking outside your organisation is also helpful).

Review

What has been described here is a process that enables organisations to become more neuroinclusive especially to those with different intersectional backgrounds. As this is a process it has no endpoint, it is instead something that will constantly need to evolve and adapt based on the greatest resource organisations have – your people.

 

Original article published on FE News here.

Neurodiversity

What is Neurodiversity?

Have you ever helped someone and seen their eyes light up as they realise that they can solve their own problem and keep solving their problems? I call this, “Making Neurodiversity Heroes.”

In my mid-30s I faced a stark choice, whether to try and complete a qualification where I needed to write essays in a closed room with no help, or whether to bail out and do something different.

As I had been diagnosed with dyslexia I was able to get help through the government Access to Work scheme and as a result, I now have a diploma in marketing. This wasn’t a magic wand, but instead the start of the process of discovery in recognising I had real strengths I needed to amplify, along with several difficulties I needed to manage to be successful.

Neurotypical and neurodiverse

Neurodiversity is about how we all think differently. What I am specifically interested in are the people that don’t fit what we call, “neurotypical,” which is what the average person is like in terms of their thinking style. Neurodivergent on the other hand describes those people that think differently. This can be in small ways or sometimes large ways.

Where did the term neurodiversity come from?

The term neurodiversity has been used since the 1990s and was originally brought into use through a collaboration between sociologist Judy Singer and journalist Harvey Blume, regarding their work around autism. What the term means has expanded since then and it encompasses all types of thinking. What is important within this is recognising that some people are neurotypical and others are neurodivergent.

Why I became a neurodivergent coach

1 in 8 people are neurodivergent within the workplace and many experience challenges conducting their everyday work. These challenges are often related to efficiency and communication, along with being able to carry out tasks in the same way as neurotypical colleagues. This often means that neurodivergent individuals ignore their strengths and instead focus on their perceived difficulties, not bringing the full value they could to their workplace.

I’ve seen what happens to both individuals and organisations when people are helped and use different processes to complete their work. This is how heroes are made!

Amplify strengths and manage difficulties of neurodiversity

Neurodivergent individuals can be helped to amplify their strengths and manage perceived difficulties. For example, if they are dyslexic, a strength could be around communication skills and emotional intelligence. A difficulty could be around processing and short-term memory and to manage these difficulties new coping strategies could be put in place as well as assistive technology.

It’s important to remember that if you have met one neurodivergent individual you have met only one. Just as each neurotypical person is an individual, each neurodivergent person is an individual too, so they need to be treated as one.

When strategies and potential solutions to help amplify strengths and manage difficulties are being looked at, it is vital that the individual can make choices about the best way to implement solutions in their situation. I have seen with first-hand experience how neurodivergent individuals can become as efficient, if not more so than their neurotypical colleagues.

I started The Neurodivergent Coach to help organisations and neurodivergent individuals to flourish.

If you would like to discuss any of the strategies or ideas mentioned here, please get in touch.