As part of ADHD Awareness Month – and in celebration of the potential positive team impacts of neurodiversity – I thought it was time to share my own experience of Adult ADHD. I also want to stress just how important it is to acknowledge and work with (not against) this condition, with the support and understanding of others.
As managing director of Solomons Europe, I've had my share of challenges and triumphs. However, my journey has been impacted by one unique factor: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD.
Managing a company with ADHD comes with a distinct set of challenges, affecting relationships, concentration, task completion, risk attitudes, and the most challenging of all for me personally …impulse control! Yet, it also highlights the crucial role played by the team here at Solomons, who can in turn be for me both vitally important and occasionally frustrating!
One of the most pronounced effects of ADHD in a leadership role is the impact on work relationships. Maintaining effective communication and fostering healthy relationships with teams, clients, and stakeholders is paramount for any managing director. However, ADHD can hinder interpersonal interactions. I often find myself struggling to stay focused during meetings or conversations, with my mind wandering down many pathways in the course of discussions, and which can often lead others to perceive me as disinterested, aloof or inattentive.
This unwitting and unintended initial impression can be challenging to overcome, requiring extra effort to demonstrate empathy and engagement, but as anyone with ADHD will likely know, we quickly learn shortcuts and disguises in an attempt to avoid conflict, and to maintain the expected business behaviours.
Concentration is another area where ADHD poses a significant challenge. As Managing Director of Solomons, I must juggle multiple responsibilities, from strategic planning to financial management and team leadership. ADHD can make it difficult to stay on track and concentrate on one task for an extended period. This can lead to inconsistent performance and the need for constant reprioritisation, potentially frustrating colleagues and employees.
Task completion is perhaps one of the most apparent areas impacted by ADHD. The role of a managing director demands efficient and timely execution of critical tasks. However, individuals with ADHD often struggle with procrastination and difficulty in following through on projects. To mitigate this, I rely heavily on the frank and honest relationship I have with my life and business partner, to raise the flag when ‘drop dead’ dates is looming and the procrastination must stop. I also often need assistance in, breaking tasks into smaller, manageable chunks, and delegating responsibilities effectively. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as it forces me to be open about challenges but can also create frustrations when I fail to act on agreed plans.
ADHD also has an intriguing impact on risk attitudes and impulse control. While some may perceive individuals with ADHD as risk-takers due to their impulsive tendencies, it's a bit more complex. The risk-taking behaviour often stems from a need for novelty and stimulation rather than a calculated assessment of risks and benefits. As a Managing Director, this can lead to bold and inconsistent decisions that occasionally pay off but can also result in unnecessary risks that harm the company's stability or cause stress and anxiety for other team members.
The role of partners and board members becomes paramount in managing the challenges posed by ADHD. They serve as a support system, offering guidance, checks, and balances. However, this dynamic can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, their input is invaluable in decision-making processes, providing a more comprehensive perspective and helping to mitigate impulsive choices. On the other hand, it can be frustrating when their feedback conflicts with my ideas or causes delays in the decision-making process.
Over time, I've learned to embrace the strengths that come with ADHD. Hyper focus, energy and resilience in the face of setbacks are all assets that can benefit a Managing Director. However, it's essential to harness these strengths appropriately while actively managing the challenges associated with ADHD.
Despite the prejudices which existed in my own and my parent’s generation, where neurodivergent behaviours such as ADHD were often labelled ‘bad’, ‘disruptive’ or ‘slow’ (all of which initially made me reluctant to seek my own diagnosis), even at this stage of my life this diagnosis has been liberating.
I know my own strengths and shortcomings and can openly acknowledge and discuss these with colleagues. And with self-awareness, coping strategies, and a supportive, collaborative team, it's possible to succeed in this role and turn the challenges of ADHD into opportunities for growth and innovation. This feels exciting to me, but I am similarly acutely aware that I must rely on others to support me in striving to maintain a successful business, and that the challenges are no just my own, but those of my team also.
So, I feel fortunate and privileged to have a supportive network around me who pick up some of those challenges and protect me from my own impulses and over enthusiasm on occasion too. As we say at Solomons, All4One!