Delivering Value with ADHD

Episode 177

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Asher and Cam shift from advocating one’s value at work to discussing how to deliver one’s value. This brings in the universal question from one of our earliest episodes (ep 10 and 11) –  Why do I not do what I know I ought to do? Ash and Cam spend considerable time talking about what value work is and typical barriers to delivering value work. Value work is often the work that is not necessarily in a job description and that no one is expecting to see today. Here in lies an ADHD dilemma – How do you deliver consistent value work when it keeps slipping off your To-Do list to the next day?

The hosts share a series of obstacles from the tyranny of the urgent, to the challenge of perfection. They share a few client examples and invite clients to locate advocates to discuss and develop space for getting touches on the high value work. They dig deep into the meaning of completion and how an iterative process of experimentation can help develop best practices here. Common themes like journey thinking and pause, disrupt, pivot are visited.

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Episode Transcript:

Ash: Hi, I’m Ash.

Cam: And I’m Cam.

Ash: And this is Translating ADHD. So Cam, what are we talking about today?

Cam: Ash, what we’re talking about today is delivering value. Last week we talked about advocating ADHD in the workplace. Before that, we talked about advocating ADHD in a misunderstanding world. A larger context of when we’re not really sure about the environment we’re trying to share. And I love what you talked about with distinguishing advocacy to advocate. For one is educating versus the other is really looking for support – support for what we’re trying to do. We brought in that BEANS acronym like boundaries, expectations, agreements, needs and safety. Really focusing on the needs and safety aspect, is the environment safe to advocate for? Is it possible to identify needs?

And today we’re gonna talk about talk is cheap. We can only do so much there. We have to back up our words with action. This smacks right into the universal question, why do we not do what we know we ought to do? This is our ADHD dilemma, and so folks can feel, again, a lot of frustration here – a lot of shame, a lot of blame, a lot of negative emotions. But this is the work that I do with my clients. My tagline used to be, I don’t know if it still is, I sort of have moved away from it, but match action with intention.

On my way to becoming a leadership coach, I was a follow through coach. I wrote a book on accountability, and it’s that how do you deliver the value that you have? Because that right there is where ADHD really impacts. It’s not you, listeners, it’s not you and that one downness or not seeing yourself in the picture. This is specifically ADHD, so today we will talk about it.

We’re not gonna necessarily give you specific steps on how do I deliver value by the end of today, right? I’m gonna listen to this and I’m gonna deliver value at the end of the day. No, as you said, Ash, it’s about starting places to identify a place to begin. And so we’ll talk about like what are challenges that get in the way of delivering our value?

We’ll start there and then places to kind of look at, to address, to experiment, to play around with. But back to that idea of the environment you’re working in is so key. Right. Is your environment one of built on respect and trust, clear communication, support, or is it something else? Is it that one we talked about where it’s about unwritten rules and politics and ego and emotional volatility? It really depends on your space.

But one place I’d like to begin is this place we can get – I’ll use the term underwater – I’m gonna get backwards on, so that notion of under-promise and over-deliver. And I kind of made light of that a couple weeks ago, right? It’s one of those sort of, I think it might be a Dale Carnegie thing. I don’t know. It’s one of those LinkedIn CMS of baked back in the 1920s. You know, under-promise and over-deliver.

So how we get backwards on that is because of our ADHD. At our under delivery of not being able to do, as we say, we start to flip the script on that. By getting underwater on a mortgage, we start to over-promise and we under-deliver, and that is a really tough scenario. Because magical thinking – this time will be different, this time I can shed all my demons and correct for all my air quote here since. So we’ll do that sort of an extreme version of green light planning. I’m gonna put all my money on this horse. And this is where then this pressure mounts and pressure zaps our prefrontal cortex and immobilizes the very thing we need in order to move from that planning state to that doing state.

We talk about planners and doers. Thinkers and doing. That ADHD is this dilemma of being able to go effectively from a thinking, planning state to a doing state and back again, and often we see that people will get stuck in one or the other where we are over-thinking, over-planning and unable to move into that activation to take a step forward. Or we’ll just sort of be chasing stuff down a rabbit hole. Not really thinking about what we’re doing.

So this kind of toggling back and forth is actually something I do with my clients. We talk about experimentation and journey thinking. This is how you develop journey thinking. Mindset is through this practice of being on a journey of trying this out. Now, again, it’s gotta be a safe place. It’s gotta have some element of safety that you can try. And to think about, okay, first of all, what is my value?

That was something I struggled with, Ash, for so many years. Like, well, it could be this, it could be that, it could be this. I can see myself in so many different scenarios of adding value. That’s that big idea generator coupled with shiny object syndrome, kind of bouncing all over the place. And this, oh, here’s another one. In order to proceed, I have to know my value.

That’s a biggie. In order to proceed, I have to know my value. That was a thing that I let go of eventually. Finally was letting go of this I gotta know my value in order to proceed. Now that’s my presentation of ADHD as an attentive type where I get hung up in the thinking, over-thinking, over-rationalizing, over-studying. Or researching a situation, hesitating taking a step so that, oh wait, I need to do an experiment in order to locate my value.

We all don’t have that luxury. You might be in a situation, listener, where it’s like you’re feeling the pressure to deliver. And so this approach is not gonna necessarily help you right now in this moment, but I’m guessing that you’re in a place where an advocate, there are resources that are available that you can start to have a conversation and start to develop these feedback loops – these signals of reassurance that we mentioned last week – to get a sense of identifying what your value is, talking about that value, and then looking at what’s the expectation there and what might be a demonstration of that value, and how can you exhibit that, demonstrate that in a way that doesn’t put too much pressure on you and freezes out your prefrontal cortex.

Ash: Cam, I kind of wanna go back to what gets in the way. And you mentioned one thing, the ADHD disposition to over-promise and under-deliver despite our best intentions. That is certainly one way we can dig ourselves into a hole here. And the second is not knowing what you bring to the table, not knowing your value, and I will add to that.

If you do know your value, it might be not knowing what the opportunities are to work within your strengths and your unique value where you are right now. I think another one can be, and this is something I’ve talked about many times before on this show, this idea of the magical land of caught up.

There are so many other things happening in a traditional workplace. For example, emails in traditional workplaces. I do not believe that it is possible for anyone working in a traditional work setting to keep up on email. It’s just too much. But even beyond the things that we can’t control, because email is coming from someone else to us, sometimes it’s the things we can control.

I have a client who works in a school, is in special education, and is also pursuing a PhD in her field and would like to spearhead some initiatives at her school, but felt like there was no time left in the workday to do that. One of the ways that we’ve started finding time is by handling end of month reporting differently. So this client was on a cycle where all of her reporting for all of her kids would not get done until the last week of a given month, and we discovered that it took a lot more time because she was having to remember sessions from three or four weeks ago to put together an accurate description as part of her job.

We also realized that it wasn’t realistic to expect that she would complete these reports on a daily basis because in the type of school that she is working in, one cannot count on a quote unquote typical workday. Crisis management is part of the picture, and things can change rapidly. However, we developed this system where she could capture the relevant information at the time of the session very quickly and very easily, which makes that reporting process a lot less painful. So when she does have windows here and there, she can do it a little bit at a time.

So instead of being this huge signal that shows up the last week of the month and then a crash in recovery afterwards, it’s now something that she has figured out how to work into her workday incrementally so that she can still be flexible and roll with the punches and address what is urgent, but that she’s setting herself up to do it in a way that isn’t so all-consuming, freeing up not just some time, but some bandwidth as well.

Cam: I so appreciate that. We talk about the plight of the knowledge worker and that we will always have more work than we can possibly do. And it’s a great example of this onslaught of information. Listeners, your value is not getting your inbox to zero. It’s not.

And Asher, that this juggling of these things we have to do, whether it’s a compliance thing or just an expectation of your job getting to the high value stuff, the high value stuff tends to not be the most urgent. It tends not to be the most valuable to other people in that moment, right? Their priority. And it also takes a little bit of time to break into.

This is the other thing that I see is that it’s like we come in and we want to be effective and it’s like, okay, what can I knock off my list? So we start knocking things off, and the value things tend to end. They’re a little bit bigger, a little bit more complex, and all of us know about the challenge of, you know, breaking into a larger project. No one else is asking for it necessarily.

So listeners, starting to really think about, okay, what is my value? What is it that where I bring something to this organization, and what brings me a sense of fulfillment? I was just talking to a client who has just got into a startup situation. It’s like clicking in so many different ways and I just, again, the coaching opportunity there is to what is making this click? What’s making this work for you?

And he was able to just rattle off, you know, it’s something that is going to contribute to the greater good. That’s value-based in the sense of core value, right? Something that matters to this person, that he feels like he’s contributing to something, it makes a difference and it’s in this area of technology that he’s really fascinated with. It’s checking all these boxes, and yet it’s the type of work where he could easily get distracted by all the office work. By all, you know, all these other things that are easy to get into and check off, but they’re not the big value items.

So starting to think about what that is, what brings fulfillment for you at the end of the day, at the end of the week when you look back? Over past months, what were those things that you were doing, that you were involved in that just felt good, likely something of great value.

So again, listeners, as you’re listening here, you might be thinking well, Ash and Cam bring up some good examples. That’s not necessarily my obstacle. Yeah, your obstacle might be totally different. It might be something that we’ve talked about, maybe not, but starting to look at it with that keen observer. And to think about how can I get a little more time on this value stuff? How can I bring that in?

So, Ash, you shared a great example of then finding a way to address this thing they have to do, and to kind of disassemble that cycle that wasn’t working of having to recall from two weeks earlier and here’s this deadline every single month they have to kind of get up for, and that kind of becomes the big signal. And the value work, it’s like one of those needs we talk about. It’s there, but it’s pretty quiet. It’s not gonna be clamoring for your attention. So addressing these things where, again, it might be the work you have to do, but starting to think about what would be an intention, what would be a practice, what would be an exercise or an experiment in some work of value?

And this is where, again, communicating with others to check in. Another person I just started back with, because he came into a new work situation, he was like, yeah, I spend a lot of my time trying to guess what others are expecting. Yeah. Guess how that’s going, Cam? I sort of like kind of this mind reader thing of trying to read others’ minds versus really to start to have a conversation about, what’s your thinking here? What’s your reasoning? This is the ladder of inference stuff of, to disrupt that cycle. That doesn’t help.

Where we go on limited information and then we start to run up that ladder of inference or make assumptions to get a little vulnerable. And if you’re not clear on your value, to seek that out from some trusted source. And then also to start to think about what could be a structure. This is a big part of it. It’s like people talk about time boxing and systems. You know, the time box, the system will not make sense to us because they are structural in nature. A rich amount of process there that, okay, once you do it for a while, it can become habit forming like a routine or ritual. But to actually get started is really tough. And what’s missing is the structure of urgency, the structure of being able to respond to an immediate situation.

Asher, the other thing is we’ll have that kind of, the grass is greener on the other side, right? Once we start working on one thing, all of a sudden it feels like, oh, I’m not in the right area. Right. The other thing becomes more of a priority. This inverse law, as we go in one direction, like everything else becomes, like, is yelling at us like, no, no, no. Over here, over here. But starting to kind of think about what would be useful structures in order to engage with your value work and play around with that to a completion point.

Ash: Cam, it’s really funny that you ended on completion point because that’s exactly where I was going to go next. Another place that my clients get hung up is either not knowing what completion looks like or not defining it well. Particularly if the value task isn’t something assigned. It’s something extra. Or they’re self-employed.

Cam: And so that’s our next episode. Self-employed and adding value. 

Ash: Yeah, so I find myself working with my clients on two things in that regard. The first is defining completion points along the way, particularly if the final product isn’t something that you can envision. What is a starting place? What is a completion for today? I do this a lot with my clients who are PhD candidates working on dissertations.

Cam: Ooh. Yeah.

Ash: What can those completions, those celebration points along the way look like? And then that second one of not defining completion can really get us in hot water, can have us stuck in a way. I had a client who is a fellow coach who comes from an education background and was developing a presentation for educators.

This is just right in her wheelhouse. She has such incredible stuff to say because she’s seen both sides. She’s seen the education side and the coaching side of ADHD management. She has a tremendous amount of value to bring there, and yet she was stuck. She just couldn’t bring herself to approach the project, and so I threw this at her. I said, if somebody hired you to give this presentation tomorrow, they hired you tomorrow and you had a week to give this presentation, could you do it? And that was an immense clarifier for her because she realized that the information was the easy part. The message was easy. She knew exactly what she wanted to say.

And yes, she could very, very easily put this presentation together and deliver great value in a week’s time because, again, it’s right in her wheelhouse. Where she was getting hung up was on perfectionism. The slides need to look a certain way, this has to be just so, without really realizing that that was the barrier.

So listeners, and I do this a lot with my clients, ask yourself a clarifying question. if you’re not sure what completion looks like, try to envision what you’re going to do with it when it’s completed. Or if you’re not that far along, if it’s just a thread you’re pulling on, define a completion point in terms of pulling on that thread or moving it forward in some way. What does it look like to move this forward? If you don’t know what the end product is, what is the next stepping stone? That might help get you closer to that end product.

Cam: I appreciate you bringing in the celebration piece means the six Cs. We’ve done an episode, or several episodes, alluding to the six C’s. So, listeners, the six Cs are on the front end choice and curiosity. And it’s about commitment, right? It’s like committing to an action, creative in action, and then that completion point in the sense of defining that.

You’re absolutely right. It is so difficult for us to really consider the concept of completion, just like the concept of time. It can be difficult to define, and yet if we get creative with it, let it be an iterative process and as you said, there’s a celebration aspect where it’s really acknowledging what you did – is to acknowledge so you can then shift gears and pivot.

This is pause, disrupt, pivot is in play. To pivot from this sort of creating, planning into doing and back. Every one of our classes that we teach, everyone’s wanting to create change, and we always go in and talk about pause, disrupt, pivot. And really, again, to pivot into their intention. What’s the thing you’re going to do?

In our classes, and in I think successful coaching situations, there is a positive form of accountability there. It’s like as you come back, you have a safe place to share what happened and what didn’t happen. My definition of completion, I could not create it until I actually went and tested it. That was my big learning.

Again, the sort of Cam playing it safe back in the day is like, you know, I want guarantees. I wanna know what my completion is. I wanna know what my value is. I wanna know all this stuff. I wanted to know on the front end. There’s no way I could get it, and this is exercise and vulnerability to go out and try and do, but my definition of completion is very different than what it used to be. And it only came about through this IT experimentation approach.

Ash: I’m a little bit different in terms of where it was coming from, but I had similar challenges with completion. I got really stuck in perfectionism. Everything has to be perfect before I can put anything out there. And I too have shifted there. And this podcast is a great example of that. We haven’t talked about that in a while, where when we set out, we defined completion for our first year, we decided we were going to put out an episode a week.

And we were going to do it for one year no matter what happened with listenership, whether people were listening or not listening, because consistency in terms of growing a podcast listenership does matter. And then at the year mark, we’d evaluate.

Cam: Right. And during that first year early on, we had no idea. We had no feedback of who was listening, how much – we had just a little bit of data – but we had no idea. And so we had to really suspend that whole evaluation aspect and just trust and commit to that intention. But yeah, great example.

Ash: And that did two things that not only defined completion for us, it also defined our scope and cut out what wasn’t completion. Because we both have this tendency, and we did it several times in our early meetings about this podcast, about, Ooh, it could grow into this or into this, or what about this, or what about that?

And we decided, let’s do a year and then let’s see. And we really didn’t do much else in that first year. I think the only other thing that we did in year one was start the Patreon because our listeners were requesting it, and it was a relatively easy step to take. And we may have, in that first year, gotten to the point where we made the decision to do some group coaching because we had the listenership to support it.

But what we weren’t doing is we weren’t pushing for any particular direction, right? This is journey thinking. We weren’t attaching to any outcome, we weren’t attaching to, we’re gonna have group classes, and we’re gonna have a discord, and we’re gonna have this and we’re gonna have that. We let what was happening with the show and what we were hearing back from all of you dictate what we did based on what was wanted.

Cam: And you and I learned to work with each other by understanding and appreciating each other’s value. That was the other big thing.

Ash: And we’ve gotten better at this, too. It cracks me up sometimes to go pull a really old episode and listen to it. Those of you that take the time, and I know there are many of you who start with newer episodes and then decide to go back and listen to them all, I don’t know if you hear those differences as strongly as we do, but they’re there. And it’s okay because we don’t hear from all of you is how green we sound in those episodes. You know what we do here is what’s resonating. And so if we would’ve waited until we were good at this, really good at this to actually put this show out there, we would’ve never made it.

Cam: That’s right.

Ash: And we would’ve wasted a lot of time and good content. 

Cam: So, as we head out, Ash, I just want to pivot to one last piece here. And that’s gonna, considering your own situation, context, and I’ll use two examples here very quick, but I think that when we consider our situation, when we consider like what’s around us, resources around you to kind of consider this whole idea of delivering on value.

So the first example is of a client who, he’s an engineer and he could do these technical drawings. And it would take, you know, our coaching concepts and make them into three dimensional models. And it was just brilliant. I was like, wow, that’s so cool. And one of the things he did was he worked at a Japanese car company where they’re very much into process and this iterative process of learning and growing and building.

And so engineers have this PDCA model, which is plan, do, check, act. And this is something he knew for years because it was a part of his, you know, he’d show up, they’d have these meetings of plan it, you know, do as in test, check, verify, and then implement, act. And he made this like connection like, oh my God, I see where I struggle is at these places in between. The transition points. That I’m pretty good at all of these, but I really get hung up between each of these points.

So we start to think about how can we kind of grease the skids there to make those transitions easier. How can he bring in his team members? And he’s not necessarily talking about his ADHD directly. He’s advocating for a need to, yeah, how can we move through this process? And that not to get hung up in testing or just planning, but to move through that. And so he kind of integrated it from something he knew, and then he outsourced it in a way that it wasn’t just dependent on him.

What happened was he became better at moving through this completion cycle. Identifying the completion, identifying the valuable completion to engage with, do it, get through it. Practice that whole journey thinking, letting go of outcome, letting go of perfectionism, letting go of having to know what’s gonna happen.

So that’s one example. The other one was from my kid, actually. You’re gonna love this, right? Okay. I’m talking to him and he says the most profound thing, we’re talking about I think getting stuff done. He’s like, yeah, dad, you know what you wanna do? And I’m like, what? Well, you wanna short run through everything except life. I’m like, short run. What’s short run? It’s like, what’s a gaming term? Short run is to like get through and, and solve the dilemma as quickly as possible. Right? Some kind of level in game is like short run. It’s just like you just get through it, get through it. Short run through everything except life.

I was like, that’s brilliant. Like, yeah. Wow. Here’s this 20 year old and again, so the thing that he knows, he is a gamer. He is on the eSports team at Virginia Tech, knows this stuff, and so this resonates with him. This idea of short running a level. I think that was probably more for me, for dad, you know, the second part. But it’s a cool little statement to kind of think about, like, yeah, move through things, but pause too and enjoy life.

Ash: Yeah. I love that, Cam. I think that’s a great place for us to wrap up for today. But before we do, listeners, I just wanna say we’ve tossed a lot at you today in terms of what’s potentially getting in the way when it comes to you getting to execute on and deliver from your unique strength and value. So this is one of those episodes where don’t try to take it all in. Right. Whatever stood out to you, that’s the place for you to get curious. And once you’ve made some movement there, come back if you’re still not there yet, and maybe see what else you might be curious about, what else might be standing in the way.

Listeners, if you like what we’re doing here on the show, one big way you can help us out is to not keep us a secret. Tell somebody else about the show. Host a favorite episode on social media, share in your work support groups if you have a group for Neurodivergence. And until next week, I’m Ash.

Cam: And I’m Cam.

Ash: And this was the Translating ADHD podcast. Thanks for listening.

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