🌱 Harnessing Your Neurodiversity Gifts 🌱
Shape Your Role to Maximize Strengths and Minimize Stress
In my role as an executive coach, I’m privileged to be able to work with inspirational ADHD executives, leaders and managers from around the world.
I’m passionate about the unique ways in which neurodiverse leaders can shape their organizations and even entire industries. However, while ADHD executives should see their skills as something to be celebrated, we shouldn’t overlook the very real challenges of leadership and ADHD.
It’s striking how even the most successful and ambitious executives experience times in their career where they feel:
🤯 ✔ Under significant pressure
😩 ✔ Overwhelmed
🥸 ✔ Like an imposter
In this article, I’ve identified some of the most common causes of stress among executives with ADHD, alongside strategies to help overcome them. By tackling these common barriers, leaders with ADHD will be free to maximize their strengths - and achieve something incredible!
8 Strategies to Help ADHD Executives
1. Clearly Define Your Role
The majority of employees have their role, priorities and KPIs defined for them in the form of their job description. The role of an executive, on the other hand, tends to be wider ranging, less well defined, and considerably open-ended.
For a neurodiverse leader, this lack of structure can make it difficult to prioritize tasks and responsibilities.
The good news is that your leadership role gives you license to clearly define that role - so why not write your own job description? You can include all the information you need to achieve your goals and prioritize effectively:
🔵 What are the most important responsibilities and deliverables of your role?
🟢 What specific performance goals do you have?
🟠 How will you allocate time to prioritize the most important tasks?
Once you have identified all of the above, you will have a clear guide as to where to channel your time, energy and working capacity.
2. Strive for competency - not perfection
The saying goes that ‘nobody is perfect’ - yet many executives strive for it nonetheless.
The reality of a leadership role is that you will not be able to complete every task to the very peak of your abilities. All too often, the productivity of neurodiverse executives is significantly slowed by a tendency to strive for perfection and get ‘sucked-in’ by a particular task. For example, you might spend hours on one presentation to the detriment of completing other essential tasks.
You can ensure that each task only commands the attention it deserves by putting in place a strict schedule for your day’s work. Use a planner or online calendar to allocate time to each task, and set reminders to gently nudge you when it’s time to bring work on each task to a close.
Finally, remember to be kind to yourself about what you have achieved in the allotted time.
3. Prioritize Planning
It’s essential that you make time to properly tackle the long-term and short-term plans that will help drive your organization forward.
With proper planning, you can better schedule your own work (as described above). However planning is also vital for keeping your entire organization or department on-track.
There’s no doubt that executives with ADHD face considerable pressures from short-term emergencies (or ‘fighting fires’) - but in the fast-changing world, planning has never been more important.
4. Make repeating tasks your habits
Much like planning, it always seems easier to delay completing those smaller, routine tasks in order to fight fires. Tasks like running through the accounts, checking key performance indicators, or regular team meetings may sound like something that can wait for another day. Even with no fires to fight, these tasks are unlikely to feature heavily on your consciousness.
However, this makes it even more important to form a habit of doing them! Keep things on track by selecting a set time and date each week to rattle through these small-but-important tasks!
5. Delegate and say “No”
Feeling overwhelmed by your workload is one of the most common sources of stress for the ADHD executive. What’s more, leaders with ADHD are susceptible to ADHD paralysis, where the quantity of information, tasks, and demands placed in front of them overwhelms the brain’s cognitive processes.
The only way to combat an overwhelming workload is to reduce it.
One way of doing this is by delegating tasks. You could consider to delegate tasks that other people are able to complete, in turn freeing up time and energy for tasks that require your expertise. Perhaps you’re worried that delegating work will lead to lower standards - but remember what we said earlier when it comes to perfection!
The second way to reduce your workload is to simply say ‘No’. ADHD leaders have a lot of demands placed on them, but shouldn’t be fearful of saying ‘No’. This is especially true if the request does not align with the priorities you defined for your role.
The same goes for turning down meeting requests - especially if a meeting continually changes time and date, throwing your carefully planned schedule into chaos.
6. Switch off from distractions
Distractions are everywhere in the modern workplace - from meetings and emails, to instant messages and even texts. Minimizing distractions is essential in order to focus on priorities, put your unique abilities to use, and drive your organization forward!
The best way to do this is to set-aside specific times at which you will check emails and messages. For example, you could choose to check for updates in the last 10 minutes of every hour, or 4 times a day at specific times.
Outside of these times, make sure you won’t be distracted by the ‘ping’ of a new message by pausing or muting notifications.
7. Manage Meetings & Performance Reviews
Communicating with others is a vital part of leadership, but can be challenging for those with ADHD. In this article I want to focus on two of the most common types of professional interaction you will have: meetings and performance reviews. However you can also find in-depth guidance on igniting your communication power here.
When it comes to meetings with internal or external personnel, it’s important to get the most from the discussion and keep things on track by preparing a concise agenda. This helps everyone - including your own ADHD brain - to form a clear idea of the meeting’s priorities, and get back on track when things inevitably take a tangent!
Performance reviews can be another source of stress for leaders with ADHD, who are both naturally attuned to the feelings of others and keen to keep those around them happy. Not every aspect of a performance review can be positive, making individuals with ADHD uncomfortable about communicating constructive criticism.
To help ease this feeling of discomfort, it is helpful to think of performance reviews not as a time when you have to dish out uncomfortable truths, but as an opportunity for you and your employee to learn and grow together.
8. Replenish your mind and body
During times of high stress, avoiding unhealthy habits is harder than ever. Many leaders have resorted to a takeaway dinner while working late, or have skipped their lunch break to cram a few more minutes into the working day.
However, in the long term, it’s vital that you replenish your mind and body with proper nutrition and rest.
Try to avoid high sugar and high fat foods, which can cause spikes in energy and concentration - followed by significant dips. Slow-release energy foods such as fresh fruit and nuts will help you maintain a steady amount of energy throughout the day.
Finally, give yourself time to recharge on your lunch break or at the end of the day. A short walk outside or - if you are able to - a burst of more intensive exercise is very effective at tackling mental fatigue.
How The Bloom Method™ Supports ADHD Executives
The strategies described above are all fantastically effective techniques to overcome specific barriers experienced by those with ADHD.
ADHD executives can also benefit greatly, in all aspects of their role, by building a trusted support network. This network could include family, friends, neurodiverse peers or non-neurodiverse peers alike. Having an external mentor can help provide clarity of ideas, purpose to your work, and belief in your own abilities.
If this sounds like something that could help you take the next step, you can also find out more about The Bloom Method™ here.
As part of the Bloom Method™ I work together with my clients in tailored ways to bring about instantaneous transformation. Long and short-term programs are available to give you flexibility in choosing a path which will have the biggest positive impact on your life and business.
Are you ready to Bloom? Schedule a complimentary consult here to find out more. I'm excited to start working with you! Kate