“People buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.”
— JOHN MAXWELL
Checking a Box – Or Providing Meaningful Accommodations? A
s an HR professional, do you do your best every day to accommodate individuals with invisible disabilities and conditions at your workplace? Are there ever times when you find yourself out of your depth? As a life coach for brilliant people who are struggling under the surface, I spend my days working with individuals with invisible disabilities and conditions including: attention deficit hyperactive disorder, learning disabilities, Asperger syndrome, autism, obsessive compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression. My clients are also some of the most interesting and brightest people I know. But even for the most seasoned HR professional, it can be difficult to know exactly how to provide the right accommodations for these individuals at work. During my time as the CEO of the
ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACTIVE DISORDER
Learning Disabilities Association of Canada (LDAC) and over the last 25 years of my life, I’ve worked to learn and re-learn what individuals with invisible conditions really need. One of the most profound learning experiences came when I was working with LDAC on a Supreme Court case that lasted over 15 years. It began when a boy in British Columbia was struggling in school. He had been provided with accommodations, but his parents and interveners in the case argued that he didn’t have “meaningful access” to what he really needed. This phrase became the winning argument and caused a significant shift in the justice system. The Moore family, supported by LDAC and thousands of others, won the first-ever Canadian case in history for an individual with a learning disability.* So – what can we learn from this?
OBSESSIVE COMPULSIVE DISORDER
If you are unsure if the accommodations that you are providing are the right ones, here are my tips:
MAKE ZERO ASSUMPTIONS. Let’s turn our attention to individuals with ADHD. There are two predominate ways that this condition appears – hyper or ‘dreamy,’ and within these categories are other sub-categories. For some individuals with ADHD, technology works – time management applications, mind-mapping software, and scheduling devices can be very useful. For others, these are a nightmare. If, for example, you can’t find your phone, then your app telling you where you need to be is not very helpful, so whiteboards and a vibrating watch work much better. Talk to your employee to find out what will work best for them.
BE PREPARED FOR TRIAL AND ERROR. You have ordered the software, had the workspace modified, and found your employee a quiet place to work. Your work is just beginning. It may take multiple efforts trying out various forms of accommodations to make this employee feel truly supported with meaningful accommodations. Be patient and be prepared to go back to the drawing board. A lot.
GET CURIOUS. The best coaches are
the curious ones, so model coach behaviour by asking a lot of questions and digging deep. For example: “Where have you had success in your life? What made it work? How can we replicate this success at work?” Let’s say you find out that your employee leads outdoor expeditions through unknown terrain and can always see the route ahead because their gut and intuition helps them to see the big picture. What have you learned? Should this employee be doing administrative tasks with tight deadlines, or should their talents be used for longer term strategic planning? I’ve worked with top project managers who have left great jobs because their abilities in big picture thinking weren’t recognized.
MATCH SKILLS TO JOB EXPECTATIONS. Is it really worth
losing a brilliant strategist because they have dyslexia, for example, and are completely overwhelmed by the amount of ‘Word work’ they need to complete? Is there not a way to pare down the project reports, emails, and written summaries they are expected to produce? In the long run, the strategic aspects they bring to the company will far exceed the extra effort and investment.
FOCUS ON THE IDEAS, NOT THE CLOCK. Many brilliant people
can’t command their genius for an 8:30 PM meeting – they might hit their stride at 5:05 p.m. The ebb and flow on when they shine can differ day to day and person to person. Some days are great days – others, not so much. We shouldn’t expect everyone to operate like a drone. Instead, cultivate a workplace where ideas and vision are rewarded – not the adherence to the almighty ticker on the wall. Remember, in a workplace with 100 people, up to 30 of your employees are dealing with something that is not obvious to the eye. Don’t just check the box on accommodations – work with your employees and help them to bring out their brilliance so they can shine. *More information on this case is available at www.ldac-acta.ca. Judy Mouland is Principal of Judy Mouland Coaching. Visit her website at www. judymouland.com. 8 HR UPDATE SPRING 2016
THE HUMAN RESOURCE PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION OTTAWA CHAPTER PUBLICATION •
The Human Resource Professionals Association Ottawa chapter publication