I know you found this article because you were looking for information to address your challenges as a leader and manager with ADHD. And I want to help you do that.
But first, I want you to take stock of your strengths. Otherwise, you may spend too much time shoring up your weaknesses at the expense of leveraging your strengths. Maybe some of your strengths, like being an out-of-the-box thinker, great problem solver, and great in a crisis, are related to your ADHD. Whatever the source, lean into them! They helped get you to where you are today, right?
And then, if you are not the kind of leader you want to be right now, you can make the changes to turn this around. So, as you read below, think about which of the following mistakes you might be making and how you want to address them.
#1 Spend Too Much Time In Reactive Mode
The first step you need to take is to decide what work is essential for you to do. This is the work that will allow you to make your highest contribution as a leader.
If you have not done this yet, you may be spending too much time in reactive mode — doing whatever feels urgent and lands in front of you. In fact, you may over rely on urgency. Makes sense! After all, this is one of the primary means of motivation for your ADHD interest-based nervous system.
The result may be that you:
- accept requests to do work without thinking first about whether you have the bandwidth.
- spend a lot of time putting out fires.
- answer emails as soon they hit your inbox.
- allow people to stop by your office and interrupt your work whenever they want to talk to you.
- answer your phone when it rings even when it is not convenient.
- accept meeting requests without thinking about whether it is the best use of your time.
If you don’t know how you are using your time, filling in the urgent-important matrix for a couple of weeks will help you see clearly how you are spending your time and also help you decide what changes you want to make. So you can start spending more time doing what you decide is essential to manage and lead better.
#2 DON’T DO ENOUGH UPFRONT THINKING
To do what you decide is essential you also need to have a weekly practice of thinking strategically to remind yourself of your intentions and plan how to carry them out. Otherwise, you will likely forget what you had decided and then revert to the business of doing — solving the latest crisis, attending meetings, writing and responding to emails, etc.
Yet, I also know you may feel you do not have the time and will resist doing this, at least in the beginning. After all, you have so many urgent matters on your plate, right? So, it will definitely require a leap of faith.The key to getting past this hurdle is to trust that it is time well spent. And as you begin to see the benefits, it will become easier. Promise. 😉
Of course, faith won’t be enough! You will also need to build the support to follow through. One mechanism is to cowork, with people you know or use a service like Focusemate. In addition, you might try having an accountability partner you check in with when you start and finish your session. Check out How to Create ADHD Friendly Accountability Partnerships for guidance on how to do this.
Ready to take this leap of faith? You can design your weekly planning and review checklist using the suggestions in my post, The ADHD Adult’s Guide to the Weekly Review. And when you do this you will be better able to steer the ship the way you want and become the leader you want to be.
#3 INCONSISTENT EXPECTATIONS
To get the results you want, your team needs to know what you expect of them, of course. But right now because of your ADHD, you may struggle to have consistent expectations. As a result, your team may also end up delivering inconsistently. Sound familiar?
ADHD Memory Problems
One reason for this may be because of your ADHD memory challenges. You simply forget. For example, you ask everyone to send you a preparation form before 1-1 meetings. But then you stop referring to it. Then they stop filling it out, thinking, “Why should I bother?” Maybe you suddenly ask for it. What happens? You are frustrated, and so are they. Not a good scenario, for sure.
It’s ok that you don’t have a great memory! It is what it is. The key to addressing this challenge is to use a mechanism to remember. In the above example, you might use a template for the agenda that reminds you to ask for the prep form.
One of your ADHD-related strengths is your ability to generate lots of ideas. That’s often a great thing! But what happens when you suddenly have a new and better idea? Then without a discussion, change course. Even though your team is well into a project. Obviously, this will be demoralizing.
The key to avoiding this is to do enough upfront thinking in the beginning. Then stay the course unless you have a compelling reason to change direction. And not because the new idea is a shiny penny. 🙂
Resist Following Up
You have a lot on your plate, and following up with your team members can be time-consuming. It is also reasonable to expect your team members to follow through. You just want them to do their work without you needing to hound them! I get it.
But what happens when you don’t hold your team members accountable? They may prioritize other work. Because they think it is not important to you. Even though that is often not true.
So, while maybe not your strong suit, if you want your team members to follow through, you need to have a process for following up. One option is to put reminders of deliverables in your task manager. Another option is to ask them to complete a customized prep form before each 1-1 to report on the status of each deliverable.
#4 Trying To Solve Everyone’s Problems
Being good in a crisis, a great problem-solver, and the go-to person for answers are like candy for your ADHD brain. And these are all strengths you should leverage in the right context. But, if you are in the habit of trying to solve your team members’ problems, it can be problematic.
Because you may unwittingly be:
- creating an expectation that your team members can run to you whenever they get stuck.
- focusing on the wrong problem in your haste to fix what they think is wrong.
- causing yourself more work.
- not developing your team members’ ability to solve their problems.
That is, you are likely stepping in at times when it would be better not to.
The alternative is to adopt a more coach-like habit to help your team members learn how to solve their problems. If you want to learn how to do this, check out, The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. Not only will you be freeing up your time, but you will also be helping your team members grow.
#5 Not Delegating Enough
Ultimately, while it is your responsibility to ensure your team completes the work, it is not your responsibility to do all the work. But, if you are not effectively delegating right now, you may be doing too much. You can turn this around.
IT WILL BE EASIER IF I DO IT ON MY OWN.
One of the reasons you may give for not delegating is it is too hard. No doubt, it is hard! After all, you have to figure out what needs to be done, and in what order and then communicate effectively – all executive functioning skills that may be hard for you because of your ADHD. Because of these challenges, it may be easier to do the work yourself in the short run.
But in the long run, your job will be more difficult and stressful if you do not delegate effectively. For one, because you do not have time to do all the work, of course. And also you will not have the time to do the higher level thinking your job requires, like strategic planning.
The key is likely you need to upgrade some of your skills. And, while you may need help doing this, you can get started by checking out my blog post, 3 Ways You Can Use Planning To Prevent ADHD Overwhelm.
THEY WON’T DO IT THE WAY I WANT.
The other reason you may be reluctant to delegate is that you want a task done a certain way and are not sure they will do it the way you want. If this is the case, you may need to upgrade your skills to communicate the objective and desired result. So you can maximize the chances of getting what you want.
At the same time, you may need to also let go of needing the tasks done in a certain way. That is, you need to give them some latitude to carry out the work in the way that works best for them. This might not be easy to do sometimes and may need some practice. But you may decide it is worth it. So you don’t have so much work on your plate.
I CAN’T ASK THEM TO DO THIS NOW. IT’S TOO LATE!
If your planning skills aren’t where you need them to be, yet, you may also not delegate because you often think of it at the last minute. Of course, as you may have guessed, the workaround for this is to do enough upfront thinking and planning. So you have enough lead time to be able to give your team members the time they need.
The Weekly Review and Planning Time I referred to above is when you can decide what work to delegate.
Question For You
What is one area you will work on improving so you can continue learning and growing as a leader?