Recently I was listening to a podcast called “Influence & Impact For Female Leaders,” hosted by Carla Miller. The entire topic of conversation was with Neurodiversity expert Professor Amanda Kirby. Many of the points Professor Kirby presents are matters that I have covered in my previous post and that my Skills Development Programs teach.
It is because of this I want to highlight some of the key points that came out of the interview, along with my own insights.
Break out of the single-minded viewpoint
Professor Kirby starts off by explaining that Neurodiversity is about breaking the viewpoint that we all have Neurotypical brains when in reality we are all different. We are wired differently; this means that it is not just about having a different viewpoint. The truth is we all have different brain chemistry so we think and do things differently.
The result is that we have a diversity of people who see the world differently and this presents itself in Autism, Dyslexia, ADHD or Dyscalculia. What needs to happen now is to respect, value and utilize those differences.
Restructure and incorporate Universal Design
By definition, Universal Design is about creating structures, environments, products and servers which are accessible to all people despite age, gender, disability, etc. By doing this, we change the mindset and culture of inclusion and diversity. We design and set workplace policies with all people in mind. When we do this, we ensure that workplace onboarding and accommodations for the Neurodiverse are at the forefront of our minds.
Leaders at all levels must remove labels and instead think about people. When we change our perception and language, we start to look at how we can support each other by ensuring that team members have what they need to succeed.
Part of this process is the removal of any stigma people may feel or be made to feel. When we create a fair inclusion and diverse culture, team members who are Neurodiverse will be open about their diversity, they will ask for the support they require and they will have their strengths promoted versus being ridiculed for their challenges.
Know their superpowers and create a balanced team
Their focus should be on individual strengths. Leading team members need to bear in mind that there is no single ‘one size fits all approach. When formalising your team members, structure for a balanced approach: focus on a Neurodiverse strength and allow them to delegate other tasks to colleagues.
Too often, especially from a bottom-up structure, businesses expect employees to do everything and then some. Worst of all, managers punish them because they focus on their challenges rather than their strengths.
Professor Kirby suggests that when you create a balanced team where one handles the other’s weak areas you see several things occur, such as an increase in self-confidence, better work ethic and improved productivity, to name a few.
A balanced team is about building a team where people are welcomed and supported.
Acceptance, no more training
I would like to add an additional point to the above; all too often the belief from managers, human resources and employers that all they need is “more training,” as if that additional training will stomp away one’s Neurodiversity.
Training is a two-edged sword. I am all for training and I welcome it. Managers, employers and human resources also need training to understand what Neurodiversity is, how this affects that team member and what they can do to support them. It will also give them insight into how to assist their superpower along with which team members can aid them in other areas.
Recruitment and & On-boarding
Here I would like to quote Professor Kirby as I feel it very important perspective and I couldn’t agree more;
“CV’s is a document of privilege.” End quote.
Why would she say this? To start, CV’s are very one dimensional and do not give you the entire picture of a person. You require a skill set to compose a successful two page CV or you need to get someone else to create the document.
What if there are short durations in a job history or there is a long haul of time between jobs? This could be related to a lack of understanding and inclusion with a particular manager and employer.
Prior to the interview, why not send them a list of questions that would be asked and let them know who will conduct the interview. Give them an opportunity to prepare, feel comfortable and practice. Too often we judge on memory, whether the answers given are in a quick enough fashion or in the manner we expect. What if that person has a slower learning process and needs time process before they can answer?
During the interview, we give too much attention towards presentation skills, such as eye contact and how they’re able to perform an entire sonnet (just a little sarcasm) when the interview should be based on their skillset and whether they can perform what is required.
Welcoming them to the team
Much of this we have touched upon, such as universal design and focus on strengths. Most of all, it is about creating a culture of acceptance and inclusion. Employees need to feel safe, supported, able to open up about their Neurodiversity and whether they will be disciplined or excluded.
There are many ways this can be accomplished, such as team-building exercises, mentor programs and leadership development for managers.
The investment you do now will generate tenfold in confidence and productivity of your team in your company.
If you want to read more about neurodiversity then take a moment and read: Neurodiversity: The Dangers of Labelling People
Special Thanks and reference to:
Carla Miller – Host of “Influence & Impact For Female Leaders”
Her guest Professor Amanda Kirby