I’ve been ruminating lately here on my SFS Instructor’s Blog platform on the perils of being a ADHD manager. Of course, just because you occasionally get distracted, hyper-active and/or lose track of time when you’re absorbed in a project doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ADHD.
But if the symptoms I listed in my last post seem all too familiar in your own behavior (or someone you work with/under) then these suggestions might help.
1. Identify “trigger events” that cause you to lose your focus. Something as simple as an employee placing an item on your desk can be a distraction that gets you off track. And before you know it your entire day is wasted! So close your office door and close your window curtains if it helps you avoid being distracted by outside activities or visitors. Don’t open the mail; don’t even go to the mailbox. (Steve Toburen calls this stuff “displacement activities”.) Let your office person get the mail and give it to you— at the end of the day! (Or at least when you have finished your high priority task.) Oh yeah, and clean up your desk!
2. Enlist the support of your staff. Inform your employees about your struggle with being an ADHD manager. (I’ll take odds they already know!) Ask your people to help you minimize the negative effects of ADHD in your business. Tell them to not interrupt you with unnecessary phone calls, pages, or messages. One owner I know actually turns off his cell phone while he’s making sales calls. If at all possible (and it usually is) have your staff limit their questions to specific times of the day— early morning, lunch time, or at the end of the day. Tell them you want absolutely no interruptions unless someone has died or is bleeding copiously!
3. Hire compassionate people. Surround yourself with competent people who are willing to make accommodations for the ADHD. One of the greatest challenges I’ve found with ADHD owners is keeping competent people in management positions. That’s why many ADHD managers have family members working in these positions. (After all, your family may be the only ones who will grudgingly put up with your quirks!) However, if you plan to hire someone outside your gene pool for a key position then someone who is willing to cut you some slack will be essential.
4. Set aside blocks of time for specific activities. Whether it’s invoicing, marketing, training, conducting a meeting or any other important task assign a time limit to it. I once witnessed an executive spend over an hour showing his staff how to maintain the jets on a cleaning tool! He completely lost track of the time. (And lost everyone’s interest too!) Use a timer or set the alarm on your watch. Even better, ask a staff member to be your time-keeper and inform you when “times up”!
5. Make a daily “To Do” list. List the things you plan to do today and then stick to it. (Be sure to cross items off as you do them for a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.) Give the list to your office manager to hold you “accountable”. If you don’t have a day planner or some kind of personal information manager, then buy one and start using it.
6. Enlist an outside advisor. If you don’t have someone inside your organization who can keep you on track then enlist an outside advisor you can turn to whenever you find yourself wanting to impulsively knee-jerk an important decision! Someone from “outside the forest” can be a huge help in sorting out your priorities that present all at once.
Remember being an ADHD manager doesn’t have to limit the success of your company. By taking a few corrective measures, you can stop “stabbing” yourself with your actions and instead start congratulating yourself on your very impressive accomplishments!