Taking on a Leadership Role with ADHD

Can you take on a management or leadership position with ADHD? Absolutely! Not only that, the structure of management in many organizations can be the perfect fit for the way your ADHD brain works. But, it comes with a few caveats.

This week on the show, Nikki and Pete are talking about some of the considerations that go into moving into a new role. Do you tell your team? What’s it like working with an assistant? How do you build in the structures that feed your brain and inspire you creatively without creating angst in the people who report to you? Join us this week and get ready for your next big promotion!

Thank you for supporting The ADHD Podcast on Patreon!


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello everybody and welcome to Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast on RashPixel.FM. I’m Pete Wright and I’m here with Nikki Kinzer. Hello, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, Pete Wright. How are you?

Pete Wright:
I’m feeling good.

Nikki Kinzer:
You are.

Pete Wright:
Yes, I am.

Nikki Kinzer:
You shared a little bit earlier in the pre-show of why you’re feeling so good.

Pete Wright:
Well, those who listen to the show may know I’m kind of a movie guy and I love me some movies, and last night was the high holiday of the US Academy Awards. For the first time in more than a decade, my favorite movie actually won and all of my favorite movie.

Pete Wright:
It was like my fantasy dream roster of my picks. I lose terribly at this thing. You play the game with your friends. You do your picks and I consistently lose until this year. I won a lot.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yay.

Pete Wright:
I won a lot and I’m very excited about that. So, it was a great night. You’re not much into that. You don’t follow quite so zealously, do you?

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t, because most of the time, I have never seen the movies. There’s maybe one or two movies that go up for best picture that I actually have seen. And same thing, of course, with the best actors and actresses and supporting roles, because those are usually the movies that have been nominated for the best picture, and I haven’t seen that, so I don’t really know. So, yeah. I don’t know.

Pete Wright:
I’ll tell you, this year’s slate, if you want a great list of movies to watch that are current, you should look at the slate of nominees, because they really were. I mean, in terms of a representative of great movies that are being made this year globally, the international submissions were fantastic. The best picture nominees by and large were really quite good. It was a great year for movies last year, so there’s some good stuff to put on your watch list I’m very excited about.

Pete Wright:
We’re not talking about movies though today. We’re talking about leadership. Taking on leadership roles in your organization with ADHD. We’ve talked about a lot of this in terms of being an employee, what are your considerations around disclosure. What if you turned the tables? What if you’re the boss and you’re living with ADHD? What do you need to think about in terms of how you manage your team? So, we’re going to talk about that today.

Pete Wright:
Before we do that, head over to takecontroladhd.com, get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list, and we will send you an email each time a new episode is released.

Pete Wright:
Connect with us on Twitter or Facebook, @takecontroladhd. And if this show has ever touched you, it’s ever helped to change your life for the better, we sure would appreciate it if you consider joining the ADHD podcast group over at Patreon.

Pete Wright:
Patreon.com/theadhdpodcast is a way for you to throw us a few dollars each month to help us support the long-term development of this show to do more fun things, to go more places, take part in more national events, and build more resources for the ADHD community as we’ve been doing for nearly a decade. We deeply appreciate those of you who support us already, and thank you to those who are considering joining the crew.

Pete Wright:
One thing I got to point out this week, we had our very first brain playgrounder from the group takeover this weekend. So my deepest thanks to Suzanne in the group. What is the brain playground, you’re wondering? It’s my favorite place on the internet right now.

Pete Wright:
We spent so much time in our lives with ADHD trying to find focus and to rein it all in and figure out the systems to make ourselves pay attention and get work done. And I thought I want a place where we don’t do that at all. Where we can just post links without judgment and comment to the most amazing things that are on our brain right now today. And so I opened up the brain playground.

Pete Wright:
The only person who has permission to post is the person who’s in charge of curating the playground that day or that weekend. Usually, it’s about three days, so I go in and I give you permission and you run with it. You post whatever you want, wherever your brain will take you. Follow all of the breadcrumbs and post links back and share where your brain goes when it is unrestrained, unfettered.

Pete Wright:
And it has been really fun, fun to share and fun to read others, so thanks to Suzanne, our first guinea pig that wasn’t me. I’m looking forward to many others jumping on the brain playground train. It is. It’s a playground. It’s really great. So, there you go. All right, Nikki. Leadership in the workplace.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, leadership in the workplace. So, this actually came from a question in Discord, and it was a request for us to talk about this, so here we are.

Pete Wright:
So here we are.

Nikki Kinzer:
Here we are.

Pete Wright:
I’m going to give you just a little bit of background about me very briefly. When I got out of broadcasting, I started out in sales and marketing and advertising. And I was in that role, I worked up to a place where I had 15 business development specialists representing Western states and provinces in Canada.

Pete Wright:
I was in charged with flying around all these different places leading this team, developing the business. I moved from there to the communications department at the national level. I was a director over advertising and marketing functions, and then into public relations.

Pete Wright:
I was a director over new media, which is reporter relationships working nationally, but online. This was a new thing. The company that didn’t know how to do it, so it was still called new media. Now, it’s just all media, but it was still new media then.

Pete Wright:
So, I have experience working with teams under me, teams of writers, and communications experts, and designers, and specialists. And it was a great part of my career. And it was met with all kinds of the wonderful complications that you can imagine dealing with ADHD, because it was over this period that I was diagnosed.

Pete Wright:
I went into this sort of chapter of my life undiagnosed, and then I became diagnosed and had to kind of weather that. How do you do that once you know a big secret about yourself that you have all these people who are working for you and some of them are very close to you. You developed these close working relationships and how do you handle it when you’ve suddenly got a secret?

Pete Wright:
And so that was a tricky part of my life. I share a lot of this. I know some of you are going through this right now. I share this in the spirit of please let my life serve potentially as a warning for others. So, here you are, you’re living with ADHD, and so the big question is can ADHDers nab management and leadership roles?

Pete Wright:
I mean, if you’re sitting with ADHD, and you’ve never applied for a role that involves having a team, or if you’ve never been assigned somebody to work for you, you may be thinking, “Oh my gosh, of course, I’m never going to get a job like that. I’m too disorganized.” Whatever limiting belief, limiting belief, limiting belief.

Pete Wright:
And I have to assure you, that is not the case. A lot of leaders, company leaders are living with ADHD. And if you join those ranks, you will not be alone. And in fact, I did a Google search just out of curiosity, and I typed, “My boss H …” I started thinking has. “My boss has ADHD.” But I just stopped at H, and you know the recommended results? Number three, “My boss has ADHD.”

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s pretty ironic, isn’t it?

Pete Wright:
Right. It’s fascinating, but it starts to make sense as you start to pull apart the pieces. So if you’re listening to this, you’re already worlds ahead of those who take on leadership roles and don’t even know that they’re living with ADHD. Right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Correct.

Pete Wright:
You’re probably in a camp if you’re listening to this that you recognize the ADHD behaviors even if you don’t have a diagnosis yourself. You recognize it in yourself and you recognize that the tools that we talked about on this show are useful for managing whatever behaviors that you exhibit. That’s great.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right.

Pete Wright:
You’re in a great position. The thing about taking on a leadership role and when you think about the opportunities before you, it is really easy to lead with HD or without when the wind is at your back, when everything is going so well.

Pete Wright:
It’s easy to take on a job when the market is great and everybody is happy. People like each other. They like their jobs. The biggest question you have to ask is do I have what it takes to bring people together when things are going wrong.

Pete Wright:
When the company is making decisions that you might not agree with, when there are riffs in the team, because that’s when your ADHD is going to be the most challenged. There will be many things you don’t want to talk about, you don’t want to think about. It will be easy to get distracted and let that get in the way of the work.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and I think it’s a good point. You really have to sit back and ask yourself, are you a leader? Are you a natural leader? Is this something that you’re interested in? Are you interested in managing other people? Are you okay with making decisions?

Nikki Kinzer:
Because other people, as soon as you start managing other people, people are going to look to you to answer their questions. And so do you want to be in that role? With or without ADHD, you have to really get to the core of, is this a job you really want?

Pete Wright:
Yes. It’s really tricky because many of us, I think, gravitate toward these sorts of opportunities, because they are rationalizations or they are somehow paying off the struggle that we’ve had living with ADHD to this point that somehow we’re paying out. The house is paying us back for all that hard work. So, we’re going to take this job because it’s a promotion, not because it’s the right promotion.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. Yeah. Because it always seems like that’s the logical next step. Like that’s the next tier in your work hierarchy of wherever you’re at. Yeah. But you do. I mean, yeah, you do have to think, “Is it the right job?”

Pete Wright:
And there are perks, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah.

Pete Wright:
There are perks. With all of these promotions, there are perks. Maybe it’s the simple stuff, maybe its infrastructure, maybe it’s, “Oh, I get an office? I get a door that I can close?” That’s the panacea. That’s the thing I’ve been looking for all along is a way to close the door so I can get my job done. But what you’re not recognizing is that, that’s not the job anymore.

Pete Wright:
Whatever you are planning for was based on those constraints or those expectations that you had before. So really understanding and coming clear headed to this decision is super important.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, and I just want to say again, you said can I have these jobs? Absolutely. I mean, if this is the right job, and this really sounds interesting to you, and what’s holding you back is the fear of some of the ADHD challenges, then let’s confront that because you really can …

Nikki Kinzer:
You can do anything you want to do. We just have to figure out what are your fears and work through those, but don’t … My suggestion is don’t just say no right away because you fear that you’re disorganized.

Pete Wright:
Right. Absolutely. And I think when you balance that, some of the resources that you get just naturally by going into a leadership role can certainly help with that and indeed become, dare I say, a little bit addictive to somebody with ADHD.

Pete Wright:
One of those, and I want to start with this, the very first thing that I got when I was promoted into management was an assistant. It was somebody who was in charge of the details of my life. Somebody who was not living with ADHD, who was super organized, who had been working in the department for 20 years and love the job, love the work. We got along great and she just got me through the day.

Pete Wright:
Manage all the communication, the schedules. Extraordinarily helpful with outsourcing the parts of the ADHD that would get me in trouble, right? And the benefit of that is huge. It lets the ADHD drive a little bit. You can hyper focused on new projects. You can bring energy, and creativity, spontaneity. You get to just sort of improvise, and that feels really good. It lets you sort of come off the leash because you’ve taken the part of your brain that you’ve always struggled with, and you’ve given it to somebody whose whole brain is better than yours at that. It’s a huge gift.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. It really is. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, it’s stunning. Obviously, not every new leadership or management position will have an assistant, but there is a way to think about teamwork and outsourcing those sorts of activities from your brain to those who do it better once you are working on a team.

Pete Wright:
The negative is that it’s not long before you habituate to the outsourced brain, and it’s a little bit scary when somebody goes on vacation and you suddenly find, “Oh, I have to do a lot of this on my own and that is …”

Nikki Kinzer:
“And I forgot how to do it.”

Pete Wright:
“I forgot how to do it. I don’t know how to do it.” Or just stopped doing it. When she’s gone, the work just doesn’t get done. And so that’s hard to do.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s totally how I felt last week. My assistant was on vacation. I know. I thought, “Do I do a Facebook post? I don’t know.”

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I don’t know how to do that.

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t remember.

Pete Wright:
“Am I even on Facebook?” It’s hard. No, I would say … We’re going to talk about this big question next, but I want to say clearly, I think you come clean to your assistant about your ADHD. So, let’s call that table stakes.

Pete Wright:
If you know you have a diagnosis of ADHD, it’s going to take teamwork to figure out how to navigate a complex position, whether your project manager or team leader, department leader, division leader, whatever, it’s hard to do, and transparency is important. The location is hard.

Nikki Kinzer:
What if you tell your assistant but you don’t tell anybody else? How do you know …

Pete Wright:
Figure that out. I mean, frankly, you have to make that judgment, but I don’t … If you have a bad assistant, an assistant you can’t trust, an assistant that you feel like you’re not building a relationship of mutual trust, then you need to figure out how to …

Nikki Kinzer:
You probably have the wrong assistant.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, you have the wrong assistant. Right.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Delegation is hard, right?

Nikki Kinzer:
It is.

Pete Wright:
And that is the number one skill that you need to figure out when you make this transition. Get good at it, practice doing it so your assistant can effectively help you and that you can work effectively with your team.

Pete Wright:
You will say things like, “Oh, it’s just easier if I do it myself.” Or, “I know how I want it done. And they don’t know how I want it done.” Or, “I can’t ask them to do it now, it’s too late. I missed the deadline to hand this off and now I just have to do it myself.” Yeah, all of that is really hard.

Nikki Kinzer:
Or it takes too much time to train them.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. It takes too much time. Absolutely.

Nikki Kinzer:
[crosstalk 00:15:47].

Pete Wright:
Absolutely. It just takes too much time to tell them how I want it done. And all of that is it’s natural. You’re going to say it and it’s all stuff you have to move past. You have to figure out getting good at it. Getting good at delegation means becoming a leader. It means becoming a smarter and more efficient leader so that you can do the things that your organization is counting on you to do. That’s why you’re here. So, the question, do you tell your team? What do you think about this?

Nikki Kinzer:
I know people are going to just be like, “Oh, stupid answer.” It really depends on the culture of the company. If you’re in a financial type of job where either like you’re a financial advisor, you’re accountant, you’re … I don’t know. I mean, there’s some industries that you just kind of think of as being very conservative.

Nikki Kinzer:
I would say, you don’t need to unless you have to. I don’t think it’s going to serve any purpose, because you just don’t know how somebody is going to respond to you and it could be negative. It could backfire.

Nikki Kinzer:
However, if you’re in a creative environment, you’re in a startup, you’re in somewhere … I mean, I don’t know what it’s like to work at Google or any of these like Twitter or any of these places. I assume, just from what I see that they’re going to be more laid back and a little bit more …

Nikki Kinzer:
They want you to be there all the time, but they’re going to be a little bit more … I mean, they’re creative, right? They want forward thinking. I just really think it depends on who you’re working with, and how comfortable you are in the environment.

Nikki Kinzer:
And I suppose I would also ask the question why. Why do you want to say anything? What’s the purpose? And if you can answer those questions, and you really have a good reason of sharing this with your team, or you know people on your team that have ADHD and this is going to help them in some way too, then it could be a really positive thing. It’s just such an individual question, Pete. It just really depends on where you work.

Pete Wright:
So, I’m conflicted on this too, but I definitely lean toward transparency and I’ll tell you why. Fundamentally, moving into a leadership role is different than being an employee, not in the leadership role where you have to be concerned about things like … The kinds of things that we’ve been talking about over the last several weeks that puts you in a place of suspicion that your job is on the line, you’re concerned that people are not … You’re not doing your job or people don’t think you can do your job.

Pete Wright:
If you are getting a leadership position, if you’re a candidate for a leadership position, it’s different. You’ve already demonstrated that you can get a job done. That you’re in a different place. The thing that burns you and that I’ve seen more times than I can count is when leaders …

Pete Wright:
One of my peers when I was on a management team, directors team for our Western region, their reputation would start being talked about at the water cooler. That is disastrous. When you hear people say, “Oh, did you catch Bob? He’s so impulsive. You can’t ever see which way he’s coming from. His team hates him. His team can’t trust him. He’s always canceling meetings. He’s late to stuff.” That is disastrous for somebody’s leadership career. It’s disastrous. It’s the end.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is. It would be a bad thing regardless if you have ADHD or not. Anybody that’s leading in that way is not leading correctly. Because if you are going to take a leadership role, I would have to say you have to have your ADHD intact. You’re going to have to figure out how do you get to those meetings on time, having those systems and those accommodations in place.

Pete Wright:
Of course, which is why I lied with that. Of course, you’re going to be there. But if your ADHD is on lock and you have the accommodations in place, you can probably get away with not disclosing. But there are some also real benefits to letting your team know once you get to the point where you know each other, you understand each other. And frankly, you may need to count on them knowing to help you help them get their jobs done.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
Right? It creates a very different kind of conversation when you enable yourself to have a conversation with them that says, “Here’s how I need you to engage with me and how I’ll engage with you so that we can both meet deadlines and do great work together.”

Pete Wright:
That is incredibly important. You want to avoid putting yourself in a position in which your team is going to start taking care of you, not giving you all the information because they don’t think you can handle it. You don’t want to have your team start saying things like, “Don’t give them more than three things to talk about. They’ll never be able to keep it all straight. Show them pictures. They don’t know how to read.”

Pete Wright:
They’re trying to figure out how to manage you manage up so they can get their job done, because what they see in you is you’re in the way. Whether or not you decide, “I’m going to come clean with my ADHD,” I think it’s incredibly important to go through a list of things that determine how you want to be worked with on the job.I want to walk through some of these ideas and things that have worked for me in the past. Now, what were you going to say?

Nikki Kinzer:
I could just see it go both ways. I could see being transparent and them understanding what’s going on. But then I can also see them knowing that they have ADHD and saying the same things.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, but when you’re hearing somebody say it out of disrespect, it’s a very different thing. When your assistant comes into you and says, “Hey, did you take your meds today?” That’s one thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, sure.

Pete Wright:
When somebody else is telling you, “Hey, Bob didn’t take his meds today. He’s crazy.” That’s disrespectful, and that’s not the kind of relationship you want to have with the organization.

Nikki Kinzer:
No, it’s not. I’m conservative when it comes to this, because I don’t trust people. I don’t trust how they’re going to necessarily respond. And again, I really think it depends on the work environment. I just think it depends on who you work with, and what their personalities are.

Nikki Kinzer:
And I would love people to be more transparent, but I also have seen it so many times where it didn’t go very well, so I don’t know. It’s hard. It’s so hard.

Pete Wright:
Well, it is hard, but I tend to be … Just because of my experience. For 12 years, I worked with teams where transparency was better. Transparency always worked out better for me.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. It always is better. It’s always better if you have open-minded people who are willing to be open about what you’re telling them. You get closed-minded, fixed mindset people, and they may very well hold that against you. Or in their mind, have it back there and not have it go in your favor. It’s tough.

Pete Wright:
Well, let me continue my thread here, because we’re getting a little bit sidetracked. I think the presentation that is most important, and we can say my experience, it usually comes with …

Pete Wright:
I’m living with ADHD and here’s some things you need to know about me, but you don’t have to open with I’m living with ADHD. You can open with, “Here are some things you know about me.”

Nikki Kinzer:
This is how I work. This is my style. Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Let’s start with communication style. Why is it important for working with me that you understand how I work? Am I better on the phone? Am I better with email? Am I better with texts? Am I a visual person or an auditory person? Is it better for you to leave me a voicemail so that I can hear the information multiple times? Or do you need to send me an email so I can read and engage with it? That’s an important thing for your team to understand whether or not you disclose that you have ADHD.

Nikki Kinzer:
And that’s where I go. That’s where I stand is that can you do that first without disclosing the ADHD? I don’t know.

Pete Wright:
How can you best get my attention for urgent matters? Am I going to pay attention to notifications on my phone? Or am I going to ignore those? Am I not going to notice my phone is in my pocket? Do you need to actually interrupt me in meetings with a tap on the shoulder and pull me aside? Is that the best way to get in touch with me on urgent meetings? Or can you trust that I’ll notice something on my watch?

Pete Wright:
They need to know that. How can you best communicate complex topics that need my focus? That’s another huge one. And I am a big believer that distilling information that is important just because it’s complex down to two or three sentences does a disservice to the job.

Pete Wright:
If it’s something that I need to know, I need to know it. I don’t need the comic book version of it. I need to know the detail. I just need to understand the context so I can best find the time to engage in it, and the environment to engage in it.

Pete Wright:
So, let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about that because I’m coming at you from a perspective of knowing I have ADHD. I want you also to know that I have ADHD, my personal preference, so that we can have a conversation on even ground and not feel like we’re hiding anything there.

Pete Wright:
What are my most productive and focused hours? Will you find me in the office at 6:00 in the morning because that’s a great time to reach me, you know that I’ll be quiet and alone? Or am I going to be coming in late, generally, around 10:00 or 11:00? Am I going to be working in the evening? Understanding that will get all the ventilation stuff worked out.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right.

Pete Wright:
How can your team expect new ideas to come from you and land on their desks? That was always a very difficult one for me because before I was diagnosed, I would just throw ideas at people when they came to me. It was very sort of improvisational, and I was like the office space guy. “We should totally do this. Can you come in on Saturday? Let’s do this.”

Pete Wright:
That’s not a great thing for building a trusting relationship. It feels like I’m out to sabotage them every single day just because I’m improvising all the time. I’m fireworks. When I’m excited about something, I’m really excited about it and I want to be excited about it.

Pete Wright:
It’s hard to do that when people are also trying to do their jobs. They have their own things that they’re trying to do as part of the team. How do you manage your flow of new ideas so that they can respond to you? And related, what do you as a leader expect from them in determining cost, schedule, and performance variables?

Pete Wright:
What needs to happen, what needs to be in place to actually start a brand new thing or change something that you had this brand storm in the shower and you just really want them to explore it. How did they know to get you information that will show how reasonable your brand new idea is? That is a challenging thing to do. And you need to be able to have a transparent conversation about those expectations up front. Otherwise, it just builds resentment. That’s all it does.

Pete Wright:
How do you best frame deadlines and due dates for key decisions? This is another one that gets back to your personal accommodations. If somebody says, “We’ll be able to get this to you by March.” What is your, as a leader, assumption? Is that March 1st? Is that March 15th? Is that March 30th? Is that even March this year?

Pete Wright:
When you just say March, I will not be thinking about it anymore. I’m going to forget, because months mean nothing to me. But if you give me a more specific detail, something I can put in my calendar, I’ll be able to stay on top of it.

Pete Wright:
And I think there are some interpersonal ones that are important too that I started doing that I had to have some … I got burned a little bit because I feel like I didn’t set up expectations properly.

Pete Wright:
When I would be sitting in a meeting, and I would pick up a fidget, something to play with in my fingers, if my team did not understand me, they would walk out of that meeting frustrated that I wasn’t paying attention.

Pete Wright:
But as soon as I started sharing with them, “Hey, I’m doing this so that I can keep my brain on track.” That changes the temperament of the room. As soon as they understand why. Same thing with I’m standing up. I stand up during meetings because I have to keep moving, or I’m a walking meeting guy. You want to have a meeting with me for 15 minutes, let’s go walk around the building. Let’s change the environment so that we can engage and keep all those neurons firing.

Pete Wright:
And finally, I set audible or vibrating alarms to remind me that our meeting is over. And that’s not a sign of disrespect for you. It’s a sign of respect for the person I’m talking with immediately after you. I need to move on. And so if there’s more to talk about, let’s schedule another time. When you can trust that I’ll be as respectful for you as I am to the person that I’m about to meet, because I’ll have set an alarm to remind me to do that.

Pete Wright:
Setting those kinds of things as table stakes for your team can go miles toward building a team of trust and respect that is mutual. That is mutual between you, and they’ll start to share with you. And you will find, I guarantee, there are people on your team who are struggling with ADHD too and they deeply will love that you’re setting these kinds of boundaries and will feel more comfortable to do it themselves.

Nikki Kinzer:
That communication is very, very … It needs to be very clear and open. No, I think all of that is really great.

Pete Wright:
It’s important not just to look at this as an interpersonal thing. It’s important to look at it as a team thing. How can you build structures into your leadership that highlight your ADHD strengths so that you can get contribute as a leader?

Pete Wright:
So, things like how do you manage creativity and energy on a team level, the mood of the team. We know ADHD comes with lots of energy and spontaneity. How do you bring that into regular meetings and projects without frustrating your team, without it feeling like, “Oh, he’s just going to throw 50 new ideas at us again today. It’s a real sort of asteroid storm of a meeting.”

Pete Wright:
People will hate that. But if it is an experience where you can and what I started to do when I was on the advertising marketing team. This is a team that is constantly having to come up with great new ideas. And so we would gate our upfront thinking time. We would say, “We have a project. We have some deadlines that we need to meet for new creative or for new insights.”

Pete Wright:
And I was getting in trouble because I would have new insights and new thoughts and new things I’d like to try up to the day we’re due to deliver new creative to our … I’d be changing copy at the very last minute. I’d be changing voiceovers at the very last minute.

Pete Wright:
People hated me for that. But as soon as I said, “You know what, I’ll make you a deal. I’m going to gate our upfront thinking process and I’m going to step out of the way at a certain point at that drop dead date.”

Pete Wright:
This is just smart management, but for me, it was a trigger for my ADHD and said, “Okay, I’m going to be done. I need to have something to replace this on my mind so that I’m no longer in creative idea generation mode and on this project. I can move into idea generation on another project. I need to replace myself here so that the people who are actually building assets can build their assets.”

Pete Wright:
And that was hugely helpful for everybody to understand that Pete is done now. Pete has done all of the free fire stuff, and he’s moved on. So, we are able to go in and actually design and create, and we know that Pete is going to be back to review, but he won’t be throwing us new ideas. That was a kind of a structure that I put into our creative process that was super helpful.

Pete Wright:
An idea that I never did but I always loved, and this one is deeply dependent on your team, is that what I’m attributing to Shawn Blanc, the Sweet Setup work schedule, and I think he got it from Scandinavia, some sort of a Scandinavian work structure where they work. His whole team works for six weeks straight, very hard. And then they all take a week off. It is a team-based work sprint.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s cool.

Pete Wright:
And I love it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, that’s smart.

Pete Wright:
I love it. I’ve never done it. I’ve never tried it, but I think that is putting hyper focus to work for your team. That you’re leveraging all of this in a way that’s designed to both engage the energy of the brain and free it at the end.

Pete Wright:
I think creating a culture of invention and honesty is important. And I struggle with this one a little bit. We always had a wall of pride. We had our clips wall, which was great. Any articles that we had posted that reporters did for us, we would print them out and put them up on the wall. We would get high quality prints of all the ad creative that we’ve done that was working.

Pete Wright:
And we kind of buried the stuff that didn’t work for whatever reason. But I always wanted to put up a celebrated kind of wall of … I don’t like the word shame. The wall of shame campaign. Things that didn’t work. Things that we weren’t proud of, just so we could share and laugh about them and say, “Remember when we tried that thing with the pink duck? Yeah, that didn’t work. But look what it led to.”

Pete Wright:
And I think that’s the piece that is most exciting to me is how do you create the energy around the spark, the creativity, the insights that come from all of the things that we’ve created, not just the things that we’re successful. So, I always wanted to create a wall of shame. We never actually managed to do it.

Pete Wright:
Celebrating simple solutions in terms of invention. ADHD brain loves simple things. If you can help your team find simple processes, put those on your wallet pride. Even if it’s an accounting thing that you managed to take five steps out of. If it’s a receipt scanning tool that you did for expense reporting, whatever it is, celebrate those, because you’re leveraging your ADHD insights at the team level helping them celebrate quick things, simple things that solve quick problems.

Pete Wright:
And finally, cycles of feedback. I think embracing the 360 is really important. And I wonder, you have experienced with 360 with [Hughes 00:34:57].

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I thought it was very … And it’s nice to be able to give feedback to your supervisor. Because we had a group that was … I mean, obviously, he knew. He didn’t know who it was coming from, so that was always good too, because you could be really honest.

Pete Wright:
Yes. Yeah. I think you can’t lead if you don’t know how you’re perceived from all around you. I think that’s really important to get that feedback. And it’s incredibly hard. It’s incredibly hard to hear news that isn’t unanimously applauding your greatness as a leader especially if you’re new at it.

Pete Wright:
And I think that leads to our rejection, the RSD topic that is now a perennial favorite. Rejection and respect. The biggest emotional challenge for me was always figuring out whether or not my team likes or respected me at any given moment. That’s the first thing I think about is what is it that is going to help them respect me as a leader. How am I going to earn their respect?

Pete Wright:
And it takes me back to my first therapist, which said to me … I don’t actually remember his name. I remember he wore a lot of brown and he said to me one day, he said, “Your power ends with your skin. You can only influence that which you can touch.” That which you can touch. Your power ends with your skin.

Pete Wright:
Show and share respect for others, because you have no control over whether others respect you. You have to do your best to let go of that. All you can do is demonstrate your respect, communicate clearly to others. People will lose respect for leaders who disappear, who hide, who fail to communicate. Even if you’re doing a clumsy job of all of those things as long as you show up and try, people will notice and they will respect that.

Pete Wright:
More than anything else when you’re the manager or a leader of a team, you are the mover of rocks and the carrier of water. And that is a mental model that I’ve had in my head for years. They will remember less about your day-to-day interactions with them than they will about your ability to be present and solve the biggest of their problems when it counts.

Pete Wright:
Can you show up and clear the road so that they can do jobs better? If you can do that, then you will earn their respect and you will earn [Clara Hyde 00:37:34] admiration. All of it comes as a reciprocal gift of what you give to them.

Pete Wright:
So whether you have ADHD or not, I hope some of this can act as a meditation of how you approach taking on new leadership roles. It can be incredibly exciting. It can be incredibly exciting.

Nikki Kinzer:
Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
What do you think?

Nikki Kinzer:
Just as a job itself. A lot of variety, a lot of different situations. I mean, there’s just a lot of really positive things that can come from being a leader. Absolutely.

Pete Wright:
Yeah.

Nikki Kinzer:
Good. Good stuff.

Pete Wright:
I just happened to glance at the chat room, which I don’t normally do during the recording, but we do have a question that I feel like I opened with kind of an open ended story, and here we are now at the end. “Pete, I hope you’re going to sum all of this up with why you decided to stop being a leader.” That’s kind of a good question.

Nikki Kinzer:
That is a good question.

Pete Wright:
So, yeah. Just over a decade ago, my role at the time was Director of Corporate Communications. It was a national job and I was … The company had changed in some pretty significant ways. And I spent a lot of time on planes and writing apologetic press releases and distributing those to the media and working with reporters, fighting fires in a way that no longer was healthy to me.

Pete Wright:
And at the same time, I was hiring a lot of people to push buttons and create wonderful videos and explore new technologies for advertising and communications. And I was very excited about that. And I found myself really longing to actually be the guy who pushes buttons. And I literally, without a net, I called my boss who was the chief communications officer and I said, “I thank you for all the opportunity. I have to leave.” And that was the end.

Pete Wright:
And I was able to be around to drive carpools and I was able to watch my kids grow up. And hat was an incredible gift for me, but it was terrifying. So, that’s why I left. It was not because I don’t like being a leader anymore, but because of other reasons.

Nikki Kinzer:
Well, you’re a leader. You’re just a leader in a different way now. I mean, you’ve got your own entrepreneur company that you lead.

Pete Wright:
Well, thank you, I appreciate that. I like to think so. So, it’s just very different. It’s a very different scope, but I hope some of this helps. Again, please let my life serve as a warning for others.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s a good life.

Pete Wright:
Sure. Appreciate all of you hanging around and listening to this meditation on leadership. Now coming up soon, we are going to be having somebody talk about the entrepreneurial experience. Which kind of spins off of some of the things I was thinking about as I was putting together my notes for today. All of this is leading to us kind of wrapping up our workplace, ADHD experience. What are we doing next week though?

Nikki Kinzer:
So, next week, it’s going to be a little bit about working from home, because you and I both do that, which is going to lead into the entrepreneur conversation that we’re going to have with Linda Walker the following week.

Nikki Kinzer:
But we also got some follow up questions that were on discord that are just so good. And I think that one person had like maybe four questions and one little message and I’m like, “These are great.” And so this is what I want to really focus on next week as we kind of start to wrap up the workplace stuff. We still have a couple week.

Pete Wright:
It’s good. It’s been a good series. Yeah. A couple of weeks. So, if you have any questions, drop them in discord, either in Show Talk or Show Request. Show Talk is probably a good place for those kinds of things. So, drop us your questions in preparation for next week’s show. And thank you, everybody, for hanging out and talking about leadership today.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you, everyone.

Pete Wright:
On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete right. We’ll catch you next time right here on Taking Control: The ADHD Podcast.