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Ep 468: Embracing Neurodiversity

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One of the most encouraging aspects of our changing world work has been the number of employers actively seeking to recruit neurodiverse talent. However, it is estimated that 15-20% of the world’s population is neurodivergent, and there is still a vast amount of work to do to ensure that our workplaces are inclusive for all and that employers benefit from supporting everyone to work to their full potential.

My guest this week is Genie Love, an Executive Function Coach who works with neurodiverse professionals to help them achieve their personal and professional goals. In our conversation, she offers many practical insights into how employers can support their people at work.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Understanding the unique strengths of neurodivergent people

• Time, attention, decision making and organization

• Energy levels and strategies for deep work

• How can employers be more inclusive?

• Re-imagining job descriptions and interviews

• The power of thinking differently

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Transcription

Matt Alder (Short Survey) (0s):
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Matt Alder (Short Survey) (40s):
Go on, press pause, and do it right now.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 2s):
Hi, there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 468 of the recruiting future podcast. One of the most encouraging aspects of our changing world work has been the number of employers actively seeking to recruit neurodiverse talent. However, it is estimated that 15 to 20% of the world’s population is neurodivergent, and there is still a vast amount of work to do to ensure that our workplaces are inclusive for all and that employers benefit from supporting everyone to work to their full potential. My guest this week is Genie Love, an Executive Function Coach who works with neurodiverse professionals to help them achieve their personal and professional goals.

Matt Alder (Intro) (1m 50s):
In our conversation, she offers many practical insights into how employers can support their people at work.

Matt Alder (1m 59s):
Hi, Genie add welcome to the podcast.

Genie Love (2m 3s):
Hi.

Matt Alder (2m 4s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Genie Love (2m 11s):
Hi, yeah, thanks so much for having me. My name is Genie Love. I am an Executive Functioning Coach. Typically how I explain that is I help people who have ADHD, or autism, or other neurodiversities. I help them manage their time and attention. And so I am a coach. Some of the executive functioning aside from time and attention, they’re things like problem-solving, decision-making, organization, those kinds of things that happen in the sort of prefrontal cortex, the front part of your brain.

Matt Alder (2m 49s):
Tell us a bit more about your backstory, how did you get to where you are now?

Genie Love (2m 56s):
Yes, I was a high school teacher of public education for 20 years. I primarily specializes in working with students who had ADHD and autism. Really found that I connected well with them. And then during the COVID time, there was sort of a time of reflection, I wasn’t teaching, I had taken a break from teaching and was trying to figure out sort of halfway through my career, and was thinking about what I might do for the second half of my career and was just researching and studying and typing in all the vocabulary that kind of describes what I do, what I enjoyed, what I like to do, and found that there are a lot of adults who are now beginning to diagnose themselves as either having ADHD or autism.

Genie Love (3m 46s):
There’s so much more information out there, maybe their children are getting diagnosed, and they’re recognizing some of the same characteristics in themselves. And they’re looking for help to understand who they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what that means for them and what they can do to sort of support their areas of weakness. And so I just dove in and started coaching adults and really enjoying it. I’ve had some success with my clients. And that’s what I that’s where I’m turning my attention now.

Matt Alder (4m 18s):
I mean, it’s really interesting that you say there that actually you’re working with people who to this point haven’t been diagnosed and, you know, obviously things have moved on in terms of how schools and things diagnose in young people. To tell us more about the people that you work with, what is it that causes them to diagnose themselves or to seek the kind of help that you offer?

Genie Love (4m 43s):
Yes, I think that um, as I said, I just think there’s a lot more information out there so it’s coming to people. And so then they start to read more about for example, what ADHD is, and a lot of them say then I took the survey, and checked the boxes, and ticked all of the box access. And then it’s sort of this like profound moment of like, “Okay, now I understand better who I am, how my brain works, the experiences that I had in school.” And likely so many of them struggled and didn’t fit in with the typical structure of school, and so they carry some baggage with them, if you will, that is that they feel a little less than inferior, maybe some imposter syndrome, that kind of thing happening because they’ve been hiding it for so long.

Genie Love (5m 39s):
Just trying to appear normal, like, “Why does everybody else have it together? And I just can’t figure out where this file should be filed, or everybody else can find it. And I know I put it in a place, but I can’t find it.” And it just has this like, this is this perceived weakness? Why am I less than and so like, it’s great, because they’re identifying with it, and then kind of coming to terms with their history.

Matt Alder (6m 5s):
I think it would be really important for people to understand, you know, some of the strategies that you help people put in place.

Genie Love (6m 12s):
Yeah, and you know, they do want a lot of helpless work. And most of them, most of my clients are self-employed for whatever reason, entrepreneurs. But, you know, I do a lot of things with like, let’s just identify what your workspace looks like. And how can you make that so that you’re better able to focus and work deeply? And then what can you do when that you sort of run into a block and your brain just gets so busy with all these ideas? So what strategies do you have to kind of like, let go those ideas and bring your attention back?

Genie Love (6m 55s):
Sometimes it’s as simple as like changing the perspective in the room that you’re working or an opportunity for movement, which is hugely underutilized, I think, or an opportunity to just stand like a change of perspective can really change your creativity level, your attention, your focus, your ability to come back to it. So we do a lot of work with space. Also just sort of analyzing the work that you’re doing, and what sort of attention does that need from you? And where could that be? So that I work from home. So that could be as simple as like, sometimes I just feel like sitting at the dining room table, or maybe the work that you’re doing is simple.

Genie Love (7m 42s):
It doesn’t really require a lot of taxing energy, so the sofa might be a better place. So analyzing your energy levels throughout the day. So when do you have higher focus? A lot of people have ADHD are not morning people. And so really analyzing, well, when do you have the energy to think a little more deeply? What tasks should you allot for that time chunking? Taking a look at your schedule, and allotting chunks of time this, I know that my I will be super focused. For me, it’s in the morning. So I’m going to put my deepest thinking in the morning.

Genie Love (8m 22s):
And then later in the afternoon, I get a little sleepy as the day gets warmer. Okay, so these are the tasks that I’m going to tackle during that time of the day. And so not breaking your schedule into 30-minute chunks and assigning a task for every 30 minutes, but longer chunks, what would that look like. How to minimize distractions? How to manage the constant emails and notifications that are coming at us? Just all those sorts of things, because those can become overwhelming. And so I really just get to know the person. Generally, they come to me because they want help managing their schedule, and their time, and meeting their own personal goals.

Genie Love (9m 3s):
But then we get into a lot of other deeper things as well.

Matt Alder (9m 11s):
What are the sort of unique strengths that some of the people that you work with have?

Genie Love (9m 21s):
The ability to really hyper-focus on a task that they’re really motivated? So there’s that one. So if they can just be, I would really love to, to work with organizations to really provide a space and the tools to help people really focus. So whether that’s as simple as I mean, I wear headphones at all times because I get easily distracted by sound. What it looks like to really turn off all of your notification notifications and not expect immediate responses.

Genie Love (10m 0s):
Then they can really focus and be creative and there work can be really brilliant. So the other thing that neurodiverse people bring is creativity, because they’re looking at things. From a different point of view. Sometimes the ideas just bounce from place to place to place to place. And, for example, me sometimes when I speak, it’s my ideas have bounced all over the place. And maybe the person I’m speaking to doesn’t understand how I got there. And so there’s like this creativity bouncing around in their head. And so they can bring that if the environment is really set up for them to do that.

Genie Love (10m 43s):
And if the people in the organization are really open to understanding where these ideas come from, and so, you know, things like, really shouldn’t ask people to sit at a desk, they need to be able to move, perhaps even to walk outside and let all the thoughts that are bouncing around in your head settle, can bring new and creative ideas. So just looking at the way your environment is set up, the way the social structure is set up, the expectations are set up can really bring deep focus and creativity out of your neurodiverse employees.

Matt Alder (11m 18s):
You kind of mentioned a few things there that employers can do to really get the best out of people and work to people’s strengths. What else can they do? Or how should they be thinking in terms of providing an inclusive workspace for everyone?

Genie Love (11m 33s):
Yeah, so um, they’re there. And so if there’s just more of an open conversation, a willingness to share our weaknesses, where we struggle because none of us are perfect. And if we can have more of a conversation around that, then they’re not going to be hiding it. And we can have more. So for example, I’m a big ideas person, and many neurodiverse people are, so they have all these big wild ideas. But when it comes down to seriously how to put those pieces together? How to manage the details of a project, multiple projects? That can be incredibly challenging. And so that’s where he like the team support can come in, because you want that person, you want those ideas, but I just can’t put them together.

Genie Love (12m 18s):
So some support, whether that’s an assistant or just the other team members, and like we really work to support each other. So, I was just a more open conversation, like, where do you struggle and how can we provide the supports, for that, and then you’ll learn from the people who are already there. And they can help you because your organization has its specific spaces, it’s specific routines and specific expectations. So if you can have an open conversation, then they can begin to tell you what’s working, and what would better benefit them to do a better job.

Matt Alder (12m 58s):
Looking at things from a recruitment talent acquisition perspective, what could organizations do during the recruitment process to make sure they’re being inclusive? And they’re making things straightforward for your neurodiverse? People?

Genie Love (13m 8s):
Yeah, so I think it’s as simple as like, I just look at job descriptions sometimes. And it’s just like this overwhelming list of qualifications, and skills, and certifications. And perhaps some of the people who just have already felt a little beat down by the system are just not going to feel like they have a chance. You know, where other people might be like, “Well, I’m just going to go for him or throw my hat in the ring and see what happens.” So really think about, you know, we can be trained, I can get whatever certification you want, I can get whatever skill you want. But I think if you could just like if part of that job description at the top would be that we are really seeking neurodiversity and people who are creative and problem solvers and deep thinkers, you know, that’s kind of tucked away at the bottom sometimes, like as part of the requirements for diversity, equity and inclusion.

Genie Love (14m 7s):
But if you want to call attention to that, put it at the top, and then just maybe rethink how you list all those expectations. Because I don’t know how to tell you, I’m pretty sure. I mean, I would really love to tell you what I could do for you, but I can’t get past that initial like, I might not have the three certifications. But that’s technical. But I’ve got really great creative I think I can add to that. So that’s one example. The others if you are in an interview process with a person and they’ve got just sort of this idiosyncrasy about them their thoughts, they come at the question a different way, really dive into that.

Genie Love (14m 50s):
Ask them how they got there. Ask them to tell you more. That’s a creative thinker. They’re thinking about things differently than perhaps the typical answer. And so, I think too often we just kind of brush these sort of random The responses or randomness aside, but I would dive in and just ask. Tell me more about that. How did you get there? Explain that to me, I want to know all about that, because that’s a creative thinker that you are going to want on your team. So those are a couple ideas.

Matt Alder (15m 24s):
I know that there will be people listening, who are leaders within their organization or advising leaders within their organization, who will be very keen to do what they can to be more inclusive to the neurodiverse communities within their companies. What advice can you give to those people, you know, maybe with a practical example,

Genie Love (15m 46s):
I think we’re just so caught up with time and efficiency that we forget to, or just moving through the day on autopilot, just solving the next problem that comes in front of us. And I have an example where I was recently talking to a man who is a retired manager of an office 15 or 20 employees that he was responsible for. And so one of his employees missed a deadline for like a legal documents. So, I mean, he was just, he was just furious. He’s like, I have to fire this guy like this was absolutely unacceptable. And gave him you know, this has to be on my desk, Monday morning, you’ve got the weekend.

Genie Love (16m 28s):
And he was like, I have to fire this guy. And then, so went away for the weekend, the report comes back in on Monday, and it’s brilliant, like just this brilliant piece of writing. And so then the employer explains to him, I have ADHD. And so keeping track of the deadlines, managing multiple projects, it’s all very difficult for him. But when he’s focused, when he knows exactly what he needs to do, it was brilliant. He’s like, I can’t fire this guy, we have to come up with workarounds because I need him on my team. And so this is what I really encourage you is to take the time to get to know your employees and don’t just write them off.

Genie Love (17m 13s):
If they have this sort of perceived weakness of time or attention or organization. You need them, you want them to provide amazing service to you. So, how can you what are the workarounds? How can we get creative in meeting them where they are so that they can give you their brilliant creative selves?

Matt Alder (17m 33s):
Genie, thank you very much for talking to me.

Genie Love (17m 37s):
Thank you, Matt. It was so great to talk to you.

Matt Alder (17m 41s):
My thanks to Genie. My thanks also to everyone who’s already filled out the audience survey. I would be really grateful if as many of you as possible gave me the feedback, I need to develop the show in 2023. So please go to mattalder.com and answer a few short questions. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple podcasts, on Spotify or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list and receive the monthly newsletter with the inside track on everything that’s coming up on the show.

Matt Alder (18m 56s):
Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me

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