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Modern Workplace Challenge: How to Lead & Support an ADHD Team Member

This month I am focused on ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). I am fortunate to connect with Jessica Branham, LCSW, of Balanced Growth Therapy and Consulting who has great thoughts on ADHD which I know will assist to expand the awareness and insight in the workplace.

The reality is that most of today’s work teams are a blend of many personalities, strengths and talents diverse in experience and perspective. Odds are there are also varying styles and tendencies including those who are ADHD. National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) states that nearly 5% of adults aged 18-44 also have the super power of ADHD. These team members may have an energetic drive, high creativity and may bring next level passion to the project. Lucky YOU! However, not every leader is prepared for what an ADHD can offer to the team. Consider the following insight from Jessica on how we can adapt and support our teams at their level providing what they need to reach their best performance.

AKD: What would be top insights for leaders to assist and support their team members effectively or strategies for those who are ADHD?

JB: ADHD does not mean always distracted, high energy and "unproductive" in fact the opposite is true. While it is difficult for an ADHD team member to sit in front of a computer responding to emails and filling out "reports" all day, they are highly productive and often good at multitasking and solving complex problems that might require more visualization than the average person could garner.

AKD: How can we as leaders adjust the environment or apply certain strategies?

JB: A great way to stimulate thinking for an ADHD person is to encourage them to work in an active environment. Brainstorming session on the basketball court, absolutely, engaging prospective clients while fishing, yes please, discussing business strategies while taking a walk , great option. Get creative with where the "office" might be for an ADHD team member. Do not chain them to a desk all day and ask them to read the prospectus, instead get creative with the environment and let them shoot hoops (even in the conference room) while the team is coming up with new ideas.

AKD: Ideas on giving ADHD team members autonomy to be successful their way?

JB: Finding their ideal "productivity time" may also be a helpful advantage, this is a good strategy for any team member who might work better in the afternoon hours, perhaps having them engage with clients in the morning and do their "admin" work in the afternoon is a better option for them.

AKD: What forms of communication should leaders consider?

JB: From a communication standpoint I like the military term of "Bottom Line Up Front or BLUF" for an ADHD team member. In other words, get to the intention or main point or direction quickly, and expect that they will do the same. It is not meant to be forward or uncaring, but if they do not communicate the intention or important info first they may get distracted by the direction the conversation takes and forget the original point.

AKD: Any best practice tips on setting priorities or deadlines?

JB: In the same realm of communication, if something needs to be done, ask them to take care of that "first" and then move on to other tasks. Multitasking is actually fun and engaging for them, so if there is a new podcast someone should review, ask them to do this while working on some mundane paperwork that isn't hard or doesn't take a lot of attention but takes time and must be done. Using multiple senses at one time (listening and visualizing, or moving and discussing) can be really beneficial.

AKD: Any other suggestions?

JB: It is important to meet every team member where their needs are, so sit down (or go for a walk together) and ask what they prefer and how they work and learn best.

Thank you, Jessica, for your valuable feedback to broaden the awareness on the strengths of each and every team member!

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