So, you’re the boss and you have ADHD. If you feel like an impostor sometimes, you can turn that around, and become the kind of leader you want to be. Join me to learn about the strategies you can use to do that.
- Your ADHD may affect your ability to lead the way you want.
- So, it’s important to assess your leadership skills and howr your ADHD is getting in your way.
- Then you can upgrade your skills to close the gap and become the type of leader you want to be.
- Here are strategies on how to do that.
- ADHD and Using the Urgent – Important Matrix
- How ADHD Adults Decide What Is Essential
- 6 Guilt-Free Strategies ADHD Adults Can Use to Say No
- ADHD and 20 Ways to Remember What You Want
- Here Is How to Use Checklists to Execute With Less Stress
If you’re not the kind of leader you want to be, it’s likely that, at least in part, your ADHD is getting in your way. Are you ready to turn this around?
You’ve tuned into Scattered, Focused, Done – Reimagining Productivity with ADHD, a podcast for ADHD, adults, like you, who want to learn how to adopt the best strategies, tools, and skills, to be able to get your essential work done in a way that works with the way your brain is wired. I’m Marla Cummins, and I’m glad you decided to join me today on this journey to reimagining productivity, with ADHD. So you can get what is important to you done, without trying to do it like everyone else.
As an adult with ADHD, some of your ADHD strengths, like being an out of the box thinker, creative problem solver, and able to act quickly in a crisis or emergency, just to mention a few, can definitely help you be a great leader. But, if you’re not the kind of leader you want to be, it’s likely that some of your strengths related to your ADHD are also your Achilles heel when it comes to leading other people. And, whether you’re a project manager, an entrepreneur, partner in a law firm, an executive, you’ll make missteps along the way. Because, well, you’re human, and everyone makes mistakes.
But to learn from those mistakes, I’m guessing you may have turned to traditional resources to learn how to lead and manage people better. There’s certainly no dearth of websites, books, consultants, and coaches to help you. Yet, maybe you found that you’re still missing a piece of the puzzle.
Part of the reason for this is because traditional resources likely don’t consider some of the challenges you’re having in executing on these ideas because of your ADHD. And that’s what I’d like to address in this podcast. So you can learn how your ADHD may be getting in your way and then adopt strategies to address these challenges, and become the kind of leader you want to be. Let’s start by looking at some of the traits that are considered important for leaders to have.
To help out I turned to a Forbes article, aptly entitled, 11 Powerful Traits of Successful Leaders. As you hear each of these traits, think about your own competencies. Where are you strong and where do you think you might need to upgrade your skills? The first one they listed is the ability to self-manage, meaning you’re able to prioritize goals and be responsible for accomplishing them.
The second one was having a vision for the future, not just operating in the moment. And third, they listed thinking and acting strategically, looking into the future as you make decisions today. Fourth was persistently setting and working towards goals. And then fifth, being able to communicate effectively, including knowing when to talk and when to listen. And how to do both well, of course. The sixth one was being accountable and responsible for decisions and mistakes. Seventh was being able to solve complex problems and address shifting circumstances. Eighth, the ability to foster creativity and innovation in your team. Ninth, building a team that can work well together. And the last one they listed was creating relationships with employees to enhance their motivation, to work towards goals.
So what did you notice as I went through the list? Where are you strong and where might you want to improve your skills? Depending on where you are in your journey to learning about your ADHD, you may or may not have recognized that the same skills you need to be a good leader are actually also some of the skills that you may have deficits in because of your ADHD. But, before diving into what some of these challenges may be, let me assure you that you can upgrade these skills, if you want to.
So, let’s take a brief look at where your ADHD may be getting in the way. The first on the list was the ability to self-manage, prioritize goals and accomplish them. Yet, one of the hallmark traits for adults with ADHD is having difficulty being able to self-regulate or self-manage. The second and third on the list was having a vision for the future, and then thinking and acting strategically, looking into the future when you make decisions. But adults with ADHD are often in the here and now, sometimes at the expense of working toward future goals.
It’s also important for leaders to persist in reaching a goal. Yet, it can be hard for ADHD adults to do this when their interest wanes, or they become interested in doing something else. Also, some ADHD adults have challenges communicating effectively, sometimes inadvertently blurting something out impulsively. Other times because of working memory challenges or processing difficulties, not being sure what to say.
These are just a few of the challenges you also may have related to your ADHD that can get in the way of managing people well. The good news is once you can identify the gap in your skills, you can definitely work on upgrading these skills, whether they’re a by-product of your ADHD or not.
But I think it’s important to emphasize before we start looking at the workarounds that some of your challenges related to your ADHD may also be your ADHD superpowers when it comes to being a good leader. So, please, at all costs, I don’t want you to rush to the decision that you necessarily need to squash these traits that are getting in your way. Rather, what you want to do is learn how and when to use your ADHD traits to your advantage and when you might need to manage them so they don’t get in your way.
For example, being decisive is key to being a good leader, but you may not be making the best decisions. if they are a result of your ADHD impulsiveness. You may jump to a decision because you really aren’t sure what to do, you’re overwhelmed, or you may just act without enough upfront thinking.
When it comes to decision-making, you’ll need to differentiate between being impulsive and being decisive, obviously. Also, being willing to take calculated risk is another necessary ingredient in being a successful leader. But, again, if you tend to be impulsive and don’t consider the consequences, you may take too many risks, and put the success of your team in peril. Likewise, having lots of energy can be helpful in being a leader. But there’s definitely a tipping point. That point may come when your energy wears people out. That point may also come when your energy is frenetic, rather than productive. Like when you come with up with new ideas, seemingly every other day. Focusing intently on one task and tuning out all other tasks and distractions, hyperfocus, can also be helpful. But, of course, it can be problematic when doing so leads you to ignore your other leadership commitments.
These are just a very of the examples. And, yes, you want to use your ADHD strengths to your advantage. So, let’s get on with exploring how you can leverage these strengths and manage your challenges, both of which may be related to your ADHD. First, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to decide where to focus your energy and time in your role. That is, what are your responsibilities in your leadership role. And which tasks should you really delegate because they’re just not the best use of your time and energy.
There are three common reasons you may not have clarity around these calls. First, it takes foresight, planning, communication, and maybe even mentoring or coaching to delegate effectively. And so you may have decided it’s easier to do some of these tasks than delegate them. True enough. In the short run, it probably is easier and quicker. But you also know, in the long run, if you’re not delegating enough, it will make your job harder.
As you will not have the time you need to do the higher level work your job requires, like thinking strategically. In addition to thinking that it may be easier to do on your own, you may not delegate because, well, you think they just won’t do the task the way you want. This may also be true. You can maximize the chances of getting the outcome you want by communicating the objective and desired result, as well as providing the mentoring needed. Then you’ll probably need to let them carry out the task in the way that works best for them. Not easy sometimes, I know. It might take some practice letting go of needing the task to be carried out exactly the way you want might do it.
The third reason you may not delegate is when you’re behind the eight ball and you don’t want to dump work on your team last minute. Definitely a compassionate stance. Whatever your reasons you’re likely not doing what is essential to lead your team effectively if you’re not delegating enough.
Because, even if you’ve done the upfront thinking of deciding what your role should be vis-a-vis the rest of your team, you just won’t be able to carry out this role because you simply won’t have enough time unless you take the time to do the necessary upfront thinking on a weekly basis. Sure, in addition to having a sense of what your role should be, you might also do yearly or quarterly planning and goal setting. If you have a business, you might even have a business plan.
But, as an adult with ADHD, you can easily forget these plans, right? Unless you have a process for making sure your team’s day-to-day activities are really in alignment with these long range plans. And, if you’re often in reactive mode and on the go right now, you may not think you have the time to do the upfront thinking you need to be more strategic in how you lead.
Sure, you don’t have time, day to day, moment to moment to ponder questions of strategy. But it’s important to trust that having a weekly practice to get back in touch with your vision of what you and your team should be doing is critical to being an effective leader.
Otherwise, you know you may easily revert to solving the latest crisis, attending meetings, writing and responding to emails without being strategic. And, when you become so busy doing, you may even lose sight of how you want to lead. Because you’re not spending enough time doing the planning and reviewing necessary to stay in your lane, so to speak, and delegate effectively. That is, to remember and use your best practices. I know, at least in the beginning, you’ll need to take a leap of faith that it’s a good use of your time to slow down and plan and review every week.
But, as you experience the benefits of less stress and a better functioning team, this muscle memory will make it easier to be able to do the slowing down you need and to take the time to be strategic. And when you do this, you’ll be able to steer the ship the way you really want. Another part of the upfront thinking you may need to do centers around helping your team learn to solve their own problems, especially if your tendency is to want to jump in and help often.
Remember, for adults with ADHD, there’s nothing that can get your brain stimulated, like a tricky problem or crisis, right? And you may also like the validation of being the go-to person, the one with the answers. Of course, this becomes problematic when you’re spending time you don’t really have trying to solve problems that aren’t really yours to solve.
And each time you step in, you may unwittingly be creating an expectation that your team should run to you whenever they get stuck. Also, you may focus on the wrong problem in your haste to fix what they think is wrong. And last, obviously you’re causing yourself more work.
If you want to stop defaulting to fix it mode as soon as one of your employees presents you with a problem, the alternative is to adopt a more coach-like habit. This would mean saying less and asking more questions to help your team members learn how to solve their own problems. And, if you’re interested in learning how to do this, I really highly recommend checking out The Coaching Habit: Say less, Ask More and Change The Way You Lead Forever. Not only will you be freeing up your time, but you’ll also be helping your team members grow. Nice, right?
While you may want your team members to rely more on themselves to solve more of their own problems, they still need to know what you expect of them, right, in order to get the results you want? But you’re ADHD may contribute to your inconsistency in your expectations of them because you may be don’t follow through on what you say.
One of the reasons for this may be that you simply forget. In some cases, it may be that you say something in the moment. But, because of your working memory challenges, you forget it as soon as you say it. In other cases, it may be you forget your intention to do something in the future. For example, you ask your team to fill out and send you a preparation for before their one-on-one meetings with you. Then you stop referring them to it. So they stop filling it out.
Then seemingly out of nowhere you ask where’s the form. Now they’re frustrated at the sudden request and you’re frustrated that they didn’t follow through. Not a good scenario, for sure. Of course, the first step in managing this challenge is to acknowledge that you have a wonky memory and accept that it is what it is that way.
That way, instead of trying to rely on your memory, you can use any one of the many tools to help you remember what you need to remember. In the example of the one-on-ones with employees, you may use a checklist and do a little prep in advance of the meeting. Another reason for your inconsistent expectations may be because you want to follow too many of the great ideas you come up with. Sure, one of the wonderful qualities you may share with other ADHD adults is the ability to generate ideas.
But, if you often change course midstream, it can be demoralizing for your employees, right? For example, you ask one of your employees to work on a project and tell them exactly what you want. Then when he is well into the project, you tell him, “You know, I decided it would be better if we… So make sure you do enough upfront thinking when making decisions, and then stay the course, unless you have a really compelling reason to change course and not just because a new idea sparks your interest.
In addition, another reason for your inconsistent expectations is not holding your team members accountable. It might be because you resent the time and energy needed to do so. After all, you may think, “I told them what to do and they just need to do it. I can’t do my work and their work.” No doubt, you don’t want to nag them yet.
Yet, you know, the success or failure of your team rest on your shoulders, right? It’s not going to look good to tell other vested parties that, “Well, I told them what to do.” But, unless you hold them accountable when they don’t follow through, they might either forget or decide, you know, it just isn’t that important to you. So, while it may not be your jam, you do need to figure out a way to make peace with this part of your gig, as well as create a process that makes it somewhat easier for you to hold your team accountable. You may try putting reminders in your task manager, as well as asking them for regular updates. Just don’t try to rely on your memory, of course.
The last tip I want to leave you with is you really need to find a way to protect your time if you want to lead the way you want. There are many ways to do this. Maybe you have office hours so your team isn’t just dropping in ad hoc. Also, learning how to graciously say no when necessary is really essential. You can check out my article,6 Guilt-Free Strategies ADHD Adults Can Use to Say, “No.” Great title, huh? Anyway, check this article out for strategies on how to say no graciously. Just don’t leave it up to chance as to how your time will be spent.
So, what’s one area that you’ll work on improving so you can continue learning and growing as a leader. That’s it for now. I’m really glad you joined me. And as always stayed until the very end. If you’re interested in learning more about my work with adults with ADHD, check out my website, marlacummins.com. Of course, if you’ve learned a thing or two, which I hope you have from today’s podcast, please pass along the link to anyone else in your circles you think might also benefit. Until next time, this has been Scattered, Focused, Done, and I’m Marla Cummins, wishing you all the very best on your journey to reimagining productivity with ADHD.