Inclusion and diversity and essential to a high functioning workplace. In this article we explore and often under-appreciated dimension of diversity – the difference in how we think.

Neurodiversity refers to the difference in the way people’s minds are made, and the resulting difference in how they think and learn. It’s often missed as a kind of diversity with a team. We’re (finally) becoming more aware of the added benefit of inclusion around diversity in gender, sexual orientation, age, and race.

Many leaders still miss the opportunity present in understanding your teams neurodiversity characteristics. This fantastic article from Further Education suggests that

recognising the importance of neurodiversity within your organisation will set you apart from your competitors

This might be true, but only if the team has an open-minded approach and a willingness to listen to this person’s different perspective. A beneficial approach is conditional on the individual and how their behaviours are regulated and integrated within the team’s ways of working.

The same individual, with the same tendency, might fair very differently in different circumstances. Context is everything in this case.

For example…

In organisation A the individual in question finds herself stepping on people’s toes, causing conflict (that remains unresolved), and sadly lowering the level of trust in herself because of the way that she operates.

In organisation B the individual is recognised as something of a ‘canary in a coal mine’. Their unique way of observing working processes was acknowledged and listened to. Their own level of self-awareness helped ensure their different approaches to work were better integrated into the team dynamic.

Here’s a few ways you can make the most of your team’s neurodiversity.

  1. Ask people about their different ways of thinking and learning

It’s often surprising to find out that many people have a high level of self-awareness about how they think and learn and yet don’t share this professionally. Create space in your 1-1s to have open-minded conversation where you can get curious about your people’s tendencies.

  1. Get a handle on your own neurodiversity characteristics and share them

As we might expect those around us to share their characteristics and preferences it’s good to reflect on and think about your own unique ways of working. This might take some self-observation or conversations outside of the workplace, but we’re often surprisingly aware of the ways that we think.

  1. Do some research and read around the subject, it’s a growing field

A great place to start is with the Further Education article I mentioned above and linked again here. The article was written by the team at Cognassist who I see are pioneering this field in the UK. Or if you prefer a podcast you could start with this ‘Neurodiversity at work’ podcast from the Harvard Business Review.

  1. Ensure your HR team are comfortable in speaking about neurodiversity

It may be that individuals need support to become more aware of their behaviours and how they influence the team. They may need external professional support alongside good supportive conversation within your HR team. It’s worth checking in with your HR people as to how comfortable they are in conversation about neurodiveristy.

This is an emerging area of leadership that we feel it’s good to address. It’s sensitive and unknown so proceed with caution. And yet, have confidence, go forth and explore, you may be pleasantly surprised as to how things unfold for you and your team.

If you’d like support in working with your team in this way then please reach out through our website. We’d be happy to open a conversation around this.