It’s hard enough to manage myself and now I have to manage others? This is a question my clients ask as they take on management responsibilities. They have proven themselves as being technically adept and knowledgeable, but now they face the additional responsibilities of managing others, and they worry if they can rise to this new challenge.
This can work if you’re willing to be flexible, try new things and seek help from others. You are creative, hard-working, persistent, focused (at times), passionate and care deeply about your work. But, you know another reality. You know that you can be disorganized, forgetful, distracted and easily bored or frustrated. You have a hard time meeting your own deadlines and now you have to set other people’s deadlines and see that they meet them. The whole thing seems so overwhelming. Sound familiar?
You Have What it Takes to Become a Good Supervisor
Start by taking a deep breath and assessing the current situation. How have you structured your work environment to support your success? How can you implement those same strategies in your new position? Did you have an assistant who kept your calendar? Did you have visual or auditory cues that would tell you it was time to perform a task? If those strategies are portable and relevant, they should be implemented from the beginning. It’s OK that your predecessor didn’t do those things. Change is inevitable.
You are Not in This Alone
You now have new responsibilities for which you did not have coping strategies in place. Think, have you ever done anything similar to your new responsibilities? What worked for you in the past? If these strategies can be adapted, go for it. If not, you may want to learn how your predecessor, or your peers handle it. In other words, consult others. This is where a good coach can help you figure out some strategies that will work. Understand that good coaches work with you to custom design systems that work for you and doing that will entail some trial and error as you find out what works for you.
Other people can help you succeed. You can delegate some responsibilities to an assistant or even a talented subordinate. I was fortunate to have an assistant who was amazing at mining data, organizing it and creating beautiful charts for my reports. My reports were high quality, and my assistant got to take on an interesting and challenging responsibility. This was a win-win solution for both of us. Use your team to help you with tasks that you find difficult.
Be Aware of Your ADHD Challenges
People with ADHD are time insensitive. We can’t accurately estimate how long things will take. Now, you have to set deadlines for others. There is nothing wrong with asking your direct reports to set their own deadlines: “When can you complete this report?” “What do you think would be a reasonable deadline?” You will learn from trial and error if your reports can set reasonable deadlines. That does not mean that you should accept a completely unrealistic deadline by any means. Early in my career, one of my subordinates told my supervisor that he would get a project done in 6 weeks–that was wildly unrealistic. I set the deadline at 6 months.
People with ADHD often face challenges setting priorities (everything looks important), organizing complex projects or data from multiple sources or identifying the sequence of steps to execute a plan. This is another good opportunity to use your team. Have the team rank priorities, and a consensus will form. Use affinity grouping techniques to organize thematically unrelated data. Have a brainstorming session with the team to develop the steps needed to reach a goal, to decide on the order of the steps and to work out who will do what in executing the plan. These approaches are inclusive, empowering and compensate for your challenges.
Focus on your ADHD Strengths and Deal with the Challenges
ADHD supervisors can be fun to work with because they are creative, enthusiastic, sensitive, intuitive and passionate about what they do. But sometimes, we get painfully bored and that leads to frustration and snap attacks that blow over immediately, but the harm is done. How do we deal with these challenges? Boredom can be an inevitable part of the job. There are some things you can do to ameliorate the pain. If you are running the meeting set an agenda, limit the length of the meeting and set out how long each topic will take. Your staff will thank you for it and the meeting could become bearable.
If you get frustrated and lash out, apologize sincerely. Afterward, examine why you lost control of your emotions, try to identify the trigger, and envision how you would have liked to have appeared in that situation. Visualizing how you would have liked to have behaved is a good first step to getting there. The next step is to create a plan for how you will change your behavior and to put in place structures or systems that will help you execute your plan. Those structures may be another person, a visual cue, or something you put in your pocket. The point is to have a reminder at hand, to remind you that you want to behave differently when triggered. Learning to deal with your frustrations is a lot like learning to walk. Sometimes, you fall. Just take it one step at a time and in time it will come to you as naturally as walking and talking.