THIS is why you need to take Neurodiversity in the Workplace seriously

Simon Stapleton, CEO of Truthsayers®️ hosts this conversation with Terry Lees, Head of Client Experience at The Centre for Inclusive Leadership and Neurodivergent, high performance coach and entrepreneur, Remi Ray. Remi was voted one of the UK’s top 50 most influential neurodiverse women.

Series 8 – Episode 1 from Truthsayers®️ Neurocast™️
This compelling conversation gets to the truth of what it’s like to be neurodivergent in business today.  Remi shares insights into her personal struggles as a neurodivergent business woman and Terry offers sound guidance on the foundations needed to become an inclusive leader.

Watch or listen in to find exactly WHY we all need to be taking Neurodiversity in the workplace seriously.

At Truthsayers®️, we are currently carrying out a global assessment of how people are feeling about their workplaces and how well they feel Neurodiversity is supported. Your feelings matter – we’d love everyone to take part in this. You can contribute right now to this important Neurodiversity research by clicking the button below:

 

❇️ Reach out to Remi Ray: https://www.linkedin.com/in/remiray/

❇️ Reach out to Terry Lees: https://www.thecentreforinclusiveleadership.com/

❇️ Watch more from the Neurocast™️: https://truthsayers.io/truthsayers-neurocast

❇️ Contact Truthsayers®️: contact@truthsayers.io

 

Transcript

Simon Stapleton

Coming up today in the Neurocast™️ –

Remi Ray

I’ve been questioned whether or not I’m really dyslexic. I’ve been under-supported. I’ve been reprimanded. I’ve been forced to disclose – or be fired.

Simon Stapleton

Instantly, there’s a barrier put in place for visually impaired, visually stressed, dyslexic people –

Terry Lees

There’s a certain amount of instinct – bad practice, negligent at worst, certainly discriminatory – people are setting the conditions in their own eyes.

Simon Stapleton

Hello, I’m Simon Stapleton, and I’m Chief Exec of Truthsayers and I’m here this morning with two wonderful people. Firstly, I’d like to introduce you to Remy Ray, who’s a freelance coach, would you like to tell us a bit about yourself, Remi?

Remi Ray

Yeah so I am a high performance coach, I work predominantly with neurodivergent women. And it’s really around the work that I do is really around helping women to understand their strengths. A lot of the time, people who are neurodivergent have been told consistently about their weaknesses. And actually, in order to build up the confidence, and for them to show up and do the work that they want to do, it really needs to come from a place of strength. So yeah, I’m a high performance coach, and I predominantly work with women, but not exclusively, it’s just how the cookies kind of crumbled.

Simon Stapleton

And neurodivergent and neurodiversity, are actually, I think, fairly new terms to a lot of people in business. And would you be able to just help us understand actually what those terms mean.

Remi Ray

So I actually try not to use them as regularly, I mean, they are buzz words at the moment – they’re trending. Ultimately, for me, and the way that I describe the work that I do, it’s just around how you operate in your differences. And that, for me, sits outside of what society says it’s the norm. And so I just ask people to move into and love or lean into their differences. So for me, neurodiversity is about doing things in a different way, than, you know, what you may have been told previously, that works against your natural flow in how you operate as a human, right? or a person, right? So for me, it’s around your differences and embracing those differences. Also, I’m dyslexic, I can’t even spell neurodiversity on a good day, much less neurodivergent and all the others, you know, so it’s not, it’s not fair for me to label my clients who have already been labelled multiple times, and now they have to figure out this new terminology because it’s buzzing. So I just, you know, call it as I see it, which is a difference in this capacity, right? And we lean into that and figure out what that looks like for you, and how you can show up and operate to your fullest potential.

Simon Stapleton

Really like that definition around differences, because it it does remove the labels, and the takes – it’s an opportunity to take away some of the stigmas and and the kind of them and us that it might actually infer, because actually, at the end of the day, we’re all different, aren’t we? And we’re all together in that having differences. I really like that it’s refreshing to hear it defined that way. So yeah, thank you. Now we’re here really to talk about neurodiversity in the workplace. And so I just want to get your view on what do you think employers are actually doing in that space? And what, what challenges they’re facing? And can they do more?

Remi Ray

Absolutely, I think all of us could do more, all of us could be more considerate across the board, even me as a neurodiverse person, right. And my lived experience from working in professional environments has been quite turbulent. I’ve been questioned whether or not I’m really dyslexic. I’ve been under supported. I’ve been reprimanded for entering information into systems wrong, because you know, numbers bounce around on screens for me as a dyslexic person. I’ve been forced to disclose my dyslexia, or be fired. I’ve had to use legal teams, to help me construct documents to make sure that you know, I was protected and things like that, because it’s still new language, it’s still a new, erm, I don’t know it’s, these are all new terms, employers, managers, unless they really care, right? They probably don’t even know what half of the stuff means in the first place, and so even with my clients I’ve had, some of my clients have become my clients because they’re about to be fired, and they don’t know how to protect themselves in the workplace. So I think what employers can do is create safe spaces for people with differences to allow them to feel like this is a space that they are trusted, they are seen and they are heard. And then from there, you can figure out what additional needs or support somebody requires, because in some instance, again, we are all different. I may be dyslexic, somebody’s dyspraxic, somebody’s autistic, they’re not one size fits all. We cannot all wear the same trainers, you know, I mean, so I think employers need to listen and create safe spaces first. I think there is there has been an effort, right? There’s a load of networks, every organisation – sorry – every organisation – that’s London for you! – every organisation has a network – a disability network, a this network, a that network, but rarely do they ever have buy in from like, SLT, and so very little happens. And then people go again, feeling unseen, unheard, unsafe, and the cycle just consistently continues. So, for me, it’s foundational, it’s to start with a safe space.

Simon Stapleton

Well, you’ve just described some quite dreadful experiences there. And ones that would, you know, you know, if it was me, it would have affected me quite badly, and I would have felt quite excluded within the workplace. And that leads me on to introducing Terry Lees who’s practice manager of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership. Hi, Terry.

Terry Lees

Yeah. Good morning, Simon. Morning Remi.

Simon Stapleton

Morning. And so you’ve heard Remi, you know, just share those stories. What what do you think? Firstly, what’s your response? And what do you think employers need to do to help neurodiversity in the workplace?

Terry Lees

Well, I think I think Remi’s very articulate explanation of her lived experience demonstrates that all of us need to do far more, because this is commonplace. Particularly in a time when we are so far apart from each other, you know, we are living in what’s best described as a hybrid world, but actually, we’re in a virtual world where for most of us the workplace is being completely redefined. The workplace is our home place, our workplace is not ordinary. So I think that’s a good place to start. I think what we would say so, from The Centre for Inclusive Leadership, our definition is to say that ‘Diversity is difference. And inclusion is about all of us.’ And that’s, that’s really important. Diversity is not inclusion. And that goes to your point, Remi about how we can remove labels, which we know creates stigma for people, it gives a perception of whether people are good, bad or indifferent, which, frankly, are just unhelpful. All of us are different, because we’re all diverse. If there are 8 billion people on the planet, then by proxy, there are 8 billion different types of diversity. And if we use inclusion to the best of our ability, then we can seek value through the diversity that we’ll bring. And if we, if we just hold on to that, then surely at its heart or at its root, all of us, whether that’s organisations, whether that’s from a team perspective, whether that’s individuals as leaders, or simply as humans, we could all do more to make workplaces more inviting, more inclusive for all of us, that that’s probably a good place to start.

Simon Stapleton

Okay, thanks, Terry. Just this is a question for both of you, then. Maybe we make this a bit more of a conversation around: Employers have this challenge right now about being more inclusive to neurodiversity? What practical steps can an employer who’s really facing into something which is quite new, and probably the all the policies haven’t caught up yet? You know, what the what the things that actually an employer can do today to start making a difference?

Terry Lees

Yeah, okay. I’ll start. I was I was thinking about how we, how we treat people. And I think you’re right, Simon, there is an element of this, which is, of course, protective, legal compliant. That’s about policy; that’s about process and that’s making sure that we’re doing the right thing. I think for me, it goes way beyond that. I think it is making sure that and let’s think of it like this, if the gold standard is I’m going to treat you how I feel I deserve to be treated, then surely, the platinum standard is, I’m going to treat you how you deserve to be treated. And each of us have a very different – there’s that word again – way of how we’d like to be treated; of what is important to us. And the best route that we find through that is great conversation. It’s unlocking those barriers to understand; if the three of us on this call, each of us will have a different way of – if we go to that neurodiversity piece – we each of us have a different way of thinking; we each of us have a different way of working through information and understanding what good looks like; what good looks like to me is going to be different to what it is to Remi; it’s different to you, Simon, and at the heart of that is a great conversation and it’s really understanding if you’re in – the practical bit is – if you’re in my team, Simon or Remi, is get to know you really well. And understanding actually what’s important to you. That’s, I think, at the heart of it that conversation is a good starting point.

Remi Ray

And for me, there’s a few things. So what does that even mean? You know, employers are becoming more inclusive or more – you know, what does that mean? What, what does that mean for company culture? You’re also inviting, maybe a different type of person you’ve never employed before into this new space – how are the people that are currently in the space going to react to, you know, new people enter in the space? And what does that look like as well, because that’s, you know, when you miss some of these things that leads to bullying, it leads to misinterpretations and things like that. So that’s the first thing. The other part for me was around recruitment – this has to start earlier. It can’t start at the point where, you know, the person who has a difference, has gone through all this additional trouble. Not for everyone, but from my lived experience, right, applications aren’t easy for me. I can articulate myself perfectly fine, if we’re just talking right, but sitting down in writing any application and tricky questions and things like that, that isn’t a strength for me. So I already show up was a weakness before I’ve even got through the doors right to even be considered for employment. So it has to start at the recruitment process for me, what are the changes that you’ve created for people who are applying, that have these differences? Right? So how accessible is this role in the first place, right? Those kinds of things. And then the other part was, policy must really reflect the melting pot of diversity across the board. We cannot shout about “Yes, you know, we’re hiring all neurodivergent people over here.” But actually, what does that really mean? When we’re talking about D&I and how is it like, again, how does it reflect in the workplace? And what are the true considerations that are implemented or, you know, discussed in the workplace, about how people with differences are absorbed into teams and managed in leadership to get like, all of the things because without any of these things discussed – policy, recruitment – and what it really means to hire people with differences, I think we’re just, you know, this is going to be another thing, that’s a trend and it will disappear again, and we’ll be back to square one.

Simon Stapleton

Well, you raise a really important point, I think there, that a lot of employers probably are not even aware of their doing and that is around some of the discriminative behaviours that are completely unintentional, but are there any way. You talk about the application form. Instantly, there’s a barrier put in place for visually impaired, visually stressed, dyslexic people, you know, and but that’s pretty much what everybody does, right? They create an application form whether it’s online or on paper or whatever. But I just wanted to ask you about … It’s often seen as a management issue around diversity and inclusion, in general. But what about the inclusivity of neurodivergent people amongst colleagues, amongst the workers themselves? What’s been your experience around, you know, your lived experience with the people in the organisation?

Remi Ray

For me? So it depends, right? It depends on the organisation. This isn’t true for all the places that I’ve worked, but for the last two organisations that I’ve worked with, if you do not keep up, you look like a slacker. If you are, you know, I am not somebody who receives information verbally, you know, like in a lecture theatre, where the lecturer is consistently talking at you, that’s not the best way for me to receive information. I need to take notes, I need to digest my notes, and I need them printed out on paper. And then I need to go through them line by line, that takes a lot of time, right. And so, I’ve said it multiple times, I’ve sent emails about it, because, you know, a manager when I was in a professional environment, and it’s just like, they just forget, you know, I do not digest information well, if it’s spoken at me. Please send me an email so that I can print it off. Or please do not bombard my inbox with multiple emails about the same thing. Please condense it so I can, it’s just you’re constantly telling people how best you work and unless they care enough, unless, you know, somebody from the top is saying, “Listen, this is how this person works. Do not pressure them in this way”, it just falls on deaf ears. And sometimes it’s the managers that are complicit, right? Sometimes it’s the person who is my manager, who doesn’t care. And so actually, why would anybody else in the team change or do things in a different way? I’ve been under immense pressure, immense pressure to deliver, to provide information on the spot – even though we’ve had all the Myers Briggs training you can think of, which says, this person is an introvert or this person operates like this – it just all falls on deaf ears. And it’s, it’s really unfortunate, because I do worry, especially like for my clients and stuff, who are literally in my DMs, crying, sometimes “I’m about to be fired. I did this wrong, because, you know, they didn’t understand that I work like this. And I haven’t disclosed because I’m afraid of this”, and, and it’s all connected to your livelihood. And can you imagine that pressure every day of worrying if you’re going to be fired? Because you haven’t been able to keep up with what they deem as the norm in that that space? So my experience has been quite turbulent, I will say that.

Simon Stapleton

Yeah. Okay. Thanks for sharing that story. What about you, Terry?

Terry Lees

Yeah. Can I come in? And again, that was fascinating, Remi. I think that what that says to me is, again, we have – the one thing that we’ve all got in common, particularly right now is we’re all time poor. Yeah. And there’s, there’s a certain amount of instinct; you might say, bad practice; negligent at worst, and certainly discriminatory, is without that time, people are setting the conditions in their own eyes, and in my own shadow. So I’m setting the conditions for people to work based on what I like and what I need. And actually, listening to you Remi, what that’s not taking account of is the conditions and the environment for Remi to succeed, or Simon to succeed. And that’s really important, and because that takes time. Because that takes time to understand. Okay, so what is it that’s going to be… and the questions I would I would always be referring to would be, put quite simply, what are the conditions for you to be at your best? What are the conditions when potentially you are at your worst? So I can try and avoid those? And actually, when does it get more serious for you? So you started talking then Remi, about information overload, and how that can lead to you feeling stressed, anxious, and actually, at its worst that leaves people feeling excluded. And I think for us, when we think about exclusion, we very commonly go to thinking that it’s about protected characteristics; that people feel excluded because of gender, because of race, because of sexual orientation, because of social mobility, and of course, all of those things are absolutely true. But we know, as we started this conversation, we’re learning far more about the human brain, we’re learning far more about neurodiversity, there are far more reasons why people can feel excluded. And at the heart of what we can try and do is create that psychological safety within organisations to make people feel like they can belong and set the conditions for all of us.

Remi Ray

I think the questions are fantastic. And I think that that’s just a common ground just from like a human to human, you know, like interact. It can be that simple. It can be as simple as asking how best can you like, “what do I need to provide you with for you to show up”, you know, “and be the most productive in the best possible, you know, employee that you can be?” It can be as simple as that, and you would be surprised how often that’s missed. And then there’s the judgement, right? Everybody’s looking at you, you’re a new person, you’re trying to figure it out, but actually, you have additional needs. And so, I’ve resorted in making sure that everybody knows I’m dyslexic from the jump. I put it in, if I applied for roles, it was in my application forms, and it’s on my signature, and I don’t even have the autonomy to be private, because if I do, it’s probably to my detriment, right, I’m probably not going to be considered for a role that I’m more than qualified to do and have the expertise in and things of that nature. So I think the questions is a great space to start. Yeah, I like that.

Simon Stapleton

That leads me on to just a question that’s foreign while she were talking the Remi around the nature of dyslexia, and what it means to you as an individual that, you know, any, any other kind of diversity, we wouldn’t need to disclose on our email or whatever, you know, diversity from a from a race perspective you wouldn’t need to put that “I am black or I am white” on your email, and so why is it that you have to do for dyslexia? Is it because it is considered a disability? and therefore you have to do that? Or is it you know, what actually – what is it then?

Remi Ray

So from my perspective, it’s if there are spelling errors, right, depending on who your manager is, I’m not sure if you’ve had a stickler before for like grammar, and imagine if your dyslexic, right? And so everyone’s nodding – imagine if you’re dyslexic and you’ve used grammar wrong, or you’ve spelt something wrong, you can only imagine a judgement, especially if you’ve entered the space for the first time and things of that nature. Tech has only really become a thing in the last, let’s say, eight, maybe eight years, right, especially for somebody who has a disability like dyslexia, it’s moving, you know, at quite a rapid pace now. But when I was in university, I was handwriting and, you know, I had spellcheck that was as far as it went, and if you didn’t use grammar properly, oh, well, you know, spellcheck may or may not have picked it up. And so I don’t think I have a choice. I really don’t think I have a choice. And I think it’s a level of protection as well, for me, from the gate. And also, it’s funnily enough, I’ve had other colleagues in the past say, “Oh, my God, I’m dyslexic too, I saw it in your signature, can we have a chat?” So I think, it’s almost like a lighthouse, for other Dyslexics or others who have differences in organisations as well. And I don’t mind because I’ve had such an experience with having dyslexia, that if somebody needs to lean on me for a few moments, just to vent, because they’re having such a turbulent time, I’m fine with that, too, but it is from a space of protection. And I didn’t know it was a lighthouse effect in a way, but that’s what it’s kind of become to others who noticed that, you know, I’ve got that in a signature or something.

Terry Lees

That lighthouse effect is so important, Remi. I mean you’re talking about a really strong human characteristic, which is that piece around vulnerability. And people connect with people, under those circumstances when… particularly in leaders, when leaders are able to say, “here’s my lived experience, this is what happens to me every day. This is some of the reasons why potentially, I’m different to you. And I think differently, and I look differently, and I act differently”, I think to be able to share that is just such a great trait. And it really embraces – it allows other people to say – to your point, I will actually, “do you know what I experienced that as well”… And you know, it’s really interesting, we find there’s certainly a number of occasions over the last 12 months where we’ve worked with clients, who have got people who are more senior in their leadership roles, who are being diagnosed with things that are starting to help explain to them some of the reasons why they’ve experienced what they’ve experienced. And that’s extraordinary in itself.

Remi Ray

Yeah, yeah, there’s a level of masking, I think that, you know, has so much depth to it as well, because people have had no choice. A lot of people have had no choice but to mask. And I’m not sure if we’re going to touch on this, Simon, but I think that this is the reason why I became a coach, because people just kept coming. The more honest I became around my experiences being dyslexic, you know, my entrepreneurial journey as well, people just kept coming and asking questions and you know, wanting to know how they could engage with me further and stuff. So I used to think I was a natural entrepreneur, but what I’ve realised is that it’s probably a lot more to do with survival, because a lot of the professional environments that I’ve experienced just haven’t, they haven’t worked for me. They haven’t worked for me as a dyslexic black woman, you know?

Simon Stapleton

Well, what you’ve really described there is leadership, in its truest sense. The traditional model of the leader, particularly the middle class, white male leader, is around being strong and not weak in any way not showing vulnerabilities. And what you described there is showing your vulnerabilities and people have begun to follow you, passionately. Yeah. And so I think that that’s a model for leadership anyway, but certainly a model for leaders who want to be much more inclusive in their organisations because they’ve realised the impact of exclusion and the benefits of inclusive leadership

Terry Lees

I think we would say that leadership is inclusive leadership, that they are one of the same thing. And it’s creating that psychological safety for all of us to, so that we can belong, we feel that we have a connection with something, there’s that there’s a there’s a shared future. And more than ever, particularly over the, what the pandemic’s done to us is, made us understand that we’re connected to purpose more than we ever have been, I think. In an inclusive environment, leaders – inclusive leaders – create the conditions for people to be authentic, and be me. I’ll be me, if you can be you. That allows us all to – all of us – and this is the important bit, it’s not just organisations setting the conditions, we meet it to because we manage our own inclusion. We’ve got the ability to develop and grow; we can make a meaningful contribution with our skill set. And it was fascinating, Remi, at the start that you talked about, you know, people picking you up and colleagues like you, because of your weaknesses. And actually, it’s about accentuating your strengths, and really thinking about the traits and the talents that you bring. And then finally, I think for us, it’s about, you know, Do I have a voice? And can I use that voice with effect? So if I’m going to use my voice, are people going to listen to me? Because the leadership that’s in place in the organisation are really going to say, “Absolutely, I hear you”. And with those in place, I think inclusion is a great tool for us all, to make sure that we all feel like we can belong in organisations for the future in what has been a huge time of transition for us, but, here’s the key: It’s transition, but change is constant. It’s here to stay.

Remi Ray

Absolutely. I think that inclusive leadership thing – thing, I say thing, right – but like, it’s so important, because there aren’t enough of us with differences in those positions. And like, I’m constantly seeing that there is not much space even for somebody with a lot of differences in those spaces as well. So, it’s like we have to keep having these conversations we have to keep talking about it, even if it hurts, even if you know it really peels back some of the wounds, right, like peels the skin back from some of the wounds, because if we don’t we just send out these messages, these signals to say, you know, there is no space here for you. There is no space here for you. And I was thinking about this the other day, I was gonna put a post on LinkedIn, but it was more around race, but it works here too, around when you only allow one in, the amount of pressure that person has, to show up and deliver, otherwise, they may never be considered again in that space. It’s the same, it works here with these differences as well. It works with race, it works for gender, it works across the board. But imagine the amount of pressure that person has to now face to show up and deliver properly. And if not, nobody else, you know, who’s dyslexic or ADHD, will ever be allowed in this space again? And that’s why inclusive leadership for me is so important. What does that look like? What conversations are we having? You know, are people feeling safe, seen and heard in their organisations? And those are the things that we need to constantly keep pricking at.

Terry Lees

Completely.

Simon Stapleton

I’ve really enjoyed this conversation. And hopefully like everyone else watching, you know, we’ve learned something, and it’s been educational, which we set out to do. And I just wanted to thank both of you for joining me this morning. And, you know, thanks again for sharing your honest views and you know, disclosing quite uncomfortable things, Remi, so thank you ever so much. And so I wish you all the best. Thank you very much.

Terry Lees

Thank you, Remi. Thank you, Simon.

 

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