Join our next Humans of Bambuddha Face to Face Networking event HERE

Podcasts- Project Good Boss

Nicole Done on Neurodiversity Hiring

 

 

Nicole Done, is the head of Training and Coaching at Xceptional, which is an award winning firm that celebrates the unique strengths of people with autism. With over 20 years of experience within her field, Nicole shares with us her role as a disability advocate, and helping individuals meet their purpose and reach their fullest potential.

 


 

Intro  00:00

You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast with your host Anna Sheppard.

 

Anna Sheppard  00:22

Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including and not limited to leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes.  Today, I’m very excited to welcome a good friend of mine actually, Nicole Done, who’s the head of training and coaching at Exceptional, which is a multi award winning technology service firm that celebrate the unique strengths of people with autism. Coaching is about thriving instead of surviving. And an individual receiving this kind of coaching has the opportunity to explore who they are, as an employee, understand their natural talents that they have to offer, where they’re heading professionally in the different areas of opportunity to them and understand the patterns of behavior which might not be useful to them getting there. At Exceptional they see coaching as one of the critical pillars to building success. Nicole has over 20 years experience as a special educator, trainer, coach and disability advocate working across the business, tech, education and health sectors in Australia and the UK. Her biggest passion, and her purpose is to help individuals access the support they need to meet their full potential. Today, I am so happy to have actually a really good friend of mine. We worked together for a number of years at Ronald McDonald House Charities. Nicole Done, welcome to a Project Good Boss.

 

Nicole Done  01:57

Thank you Anna, it’s so great to be joining you. So we both went our separate ways from Ronald Mcdonald House, and Nicole ended up working for an amazing organization called Exceptional. We’d love to unpack what this organization does today. But before we do, we just want to learn a little bit about you,  just something a bit cheeky, work out who you are what you’re all about. And I think the only way we can do that is by asking what your favorite song of all time is? Oh, well, I happen to know that this song you’re gonna love to Anna, it is, There Will Be Time by Mumford & Sons. Oh, i love that song. Actually didn’t we have a good night, one night and we’re all playing all sorts of instruments to that song? Absolutely. It is a song that you have to listen at high volume. Yeah, beautiful it’s the one where they all start playing that there’s tons of instruments going into a crescendo, isn’t it? Gorgeous. I love that song to Nic. So you work for Exceptional, tell us what Exceptional, is what does Exceptional do? Sure, so Exceptional is a for purpose company. It’s an award winning tech platform, what we do is harness the natural strengths of autistic people and help them find meaningful careers. Some of the areas we work with is in the business technology areas, engineering, admin, compliance, project management, accounting. So what we do- our assessment tools that we use help identify what recruits or what I should say is what organizations who are trying to recruit individuals, they might not be able to really assess skills, because sometimes an autistic person is not able to demonstrate that in the interview. So by being able to use our platform, they’re better able to see what somebody can really do. What we do is we help with the recruitment, the onboarding, we provide autism awareness training. And we also won’t place anybody if we aren’t able to coach them and the manager. The reason it’s really important to coach the manager is we really believe that the people we place have amazing ability, and we’re not necessarily asking them to change. Sure, there’s adjustments that might need to be made through coaching, but we’re asking managers to really rethink the way they manage individuals.

 

Anna Sheppard  04:38

Amazing. So the actual onboarding process for a lot of organizations would actually be non inclusive for people with neurodiversity wouldn’t they?

 

Nicole Done  04:50

That’s right. So let’s talk about neurodiversity. Because everybody bonds the words around, maybe sometimes without a full understanding of what that means. You hear people talking about the spectrum and this that the other. Can you tell us, what is it? Can you explain for our listeners? What is neurodiversity? How does it manifest within people? Sure, so neurodiversity is a collective term for a lot of different conditions. It takes in things like dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, of course, but we see it in ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, there is actually a wider definition in terms of some of the collective but if- there is no consensus, I don’t believe on this. But the idea of neurodiversity was coined at the end of the 1990s. And it looks at the individual brain function, and behavioral traits of people, and there is natural variations in the human population. And so what we actually see, I guess, in just really easy language is that different people think differently, not just because of their experiences and their culture, but because they’re actually- the way our brain is wired differently.

 

Anna Sheppard  06:13

Amazing. And I think- I definitely myself took a few of those boxes. And I remember working together, and I can see you knew before I did with a few of those boxes as well, didn’t you, Nicole?

 

Nicole Done  06:27

I’m not saying a word. I embrace all.

 

Anna Sheppard  06:32

But the beautiful thing is these neurodiverse traits, diagnosis in some instances, and what have you actually come with a- for some a number of superpowers, don’t they?

 

Nicole Done  06:46

Absolutely. So when we’re talking about individuals who are autistic, and I’m going to just sort of say, before I go on, I’m using the term autistic, because that’s identity first language. You do hear sometimes people are quite regularly people using person first language, they might say, ‘A person with autism’. The reason that I’m using identity first language is because overwhelmingly, all the autistic people that I work with, and all the people that Exceptional employ, because it is really important to me to point out that 50% of our organization is neurodiverse. So we really do embrace individual difference. And what they’re telling us is that they would prefer identity first, they say they their identity is being autistic. So that’s how they prefer it. So that’s why I’m using that term. But I guess when we talk about, oh, I’ve gone off track, and I forgot the question. You were talking about the traits of human traits?

 

Anna Sheppard  07:50

That’s all right. And I was just thinking that as well about how much of a refreshing workplace it must be. One of the traits being people don’t talk between the lines necessary and they’re quite direct in what they’re talking about, and it was for me. I’d find that quite a refreshing environment to be.

 

Nicole Done  08:08

Absoluetly, I love it. And I have to sometimes watch myself because I have become so direct in my communication, that I need to be careful not- sometimes to be too abrupt with individuals. But a lot of the coaching that I do with managers is about being comfortable with the direct, they worried about saying the wrong thing, I say the people you are working with are comfortable with the direct. So give them feedback in the same way they’re going to embrace it. That’s how they want their communication.

 

Anna Sheppard  08:42

Yeah. And that’s a big challenge for a lot of leaders, isn’t it? I remember when- culturally, where I’m from, we’re quite direct in the north of the UK. And I remember it was I actually had to adjust myself a little bit when I moved to Australia, because culturally, Australians aren’t necessarily as direct and you could offend quite quickly. You’d be like, ‘What? I just asked you if you wanted a cup of tea, why is everybody so upset’. It’s a similar thing. And I suppose it’s about going in on yourself and going well, why am I so affected by this person’s directors? They’re just communicating with me.

 

Nicole Done  09:18

Absolutely. But also, you’ve got to remember that people who are autistic, I mean- I read an article the other day where a fantastic young woman was writing about how her autism presents and she was saying, ‘Complement sandwiches just don’t work for me, because I miss the nuances. If there’s something that I need to work on, you just need to tell me directly so I can pick it up. And I know directly what you’re saying to me instead of having to unpack what’s been said, around the fluff of the breed of the sandwich’.

 

Anna Sheppard  09:52

I suppose everyone’s individual as well, as it there’s no cookie cutter approach. Like asking how would you like me to feedback to you so that you can get it really clear with somebody? I think it’s above and beyond neurodiversity. One of the best things a leader can do, really, isn’t it?

 

Nicole Done  10:09

Absolutely. And that’s, I think one of the most important things. The saying that you hear a lot is you’ve met one person with autism, and you’ve met one person with autism. And everybody is different. And just saying to them, what is your preferred communication style? How would you prefer to learn new information? If we’re setting up a meeting? How can I make sure that, that meeting is going to be able to be effective to you? So how can you- how would you prefer to provide feedback? If you’re going into a meeting, what time of the morning is the best time for you to start that meeting? I know, for example pre COVID, one of the most challenging things for the autistic people I am working with, was actually getting to work. And if they were traveling on public transport, sometimes that sensory input on public transport is overwhelming, not just for them for everybody. But we do know that autistic people have very high sensitive needs, particularly some people around proximity and noise in trains or buses. And so they just say once I get to work, I just need half an hour just to decompress. So asking somebody to come into a meeting at 9am, you might not get the best out of them. But if you just held it back 30 minutes, they’d be fine.

 

Anna Sheppard  11:37

Yeah, more in control of that situation in a way.

 

Nicole Done  11:41

That’s right.

 

Anna Sheppard  11:41

I’ve heard stories of where there’s been changed management in certain organizations, and they really haven’t taken into account- something’s happened, which has resulted in a big change and a big shift very sudden, and that there was melt-, somebody having complete meltdowns in- it was an IT department that I heard about, particularly where, it completely, literally devastated a few of the people in that scenario, to the point where they couldn’t move, they couldn’t even leave the room because of this information they had been given. Creating that environment stuff, it’s really important. And we’ll come on to that in a second, actually. But let’s talk about the spectrum. Because everybody talks about the spectrum, like we’re on this rainbow light spectrum. And if you’re on this side of the spectrum, you’re a little less autistic. And if you’re at this side of the spectrum, you’re super autistic, but it- let’s debunk that, because actually, a lot of that’s absolutely not accurate. Is it, Nicole?

 

Nicole Done  12:43

Absolutely. So a spectrum isn’t a gradient, that’s the really important thing. So gradient looks at if you- and hear that term, as you just said, they’re slightly autistic. So you can’t say something’s slightly green. Or if it’s really green, they’re really autistic. A spectrum is not that. So we do know that if you look across the spectrum of different colors, and you highlight different areas of that spectrum, you very much like how some autistic people present. So some are gonna be really good in one particular part of the spectrum in terms of their ability to hyper focus and be amazing in terms of analytic skills, but maybe they’re not so good in communication. So it tends to be that across that spectrum, individuals are better in some areas than others. And just because somebody is presenting, as what we hear a term quite often, highly functioning, doesn’t mean that they’re functioning that great at all. They just manage mask in the community really well. I think what some people, when they use the terms like high functioning mean, that they’re able to hold down a job, or they are able to be verbal and communicate well, but it doesn’t mean that they have actually got any real understanding of the nuances going on around them. But somebody who maybe is non verbal, really can understand those nuances, but they’re just not able to express that clearly. So that I guess is looking at debunking that idea of what a spectrum is but if you don’t mind me going on and saying Anna, at Exceptional we always talk about the autism advantage. So it’s about what actually can autistic people do. And we know that they have really high levels of concentration, attention to detail, really creative thinkers and problem solvers, accuracy in memory and working memory is very high for them. And they also are really have high integrity. So they’re honest to a fault and extremely loyal staff. Once they’re in your organization, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do if they feel that they have been embraced. And you’ll have staff that don’t want to move on to other jobs, the turnover would be dramatically lower with the neurodiverse community.

 

Anna Sheppard  15:26

And there’s certain industries now that actively seek to recruit people with neurodiverse traits, isn’t their? Tech industries in a number of industries, because the skill set is just absolutely perfect for what they’re trying to achieve coding for long periods of time, all these different types of things. And then also the creative element of it. I mean, I’m dyslexic. And I know, a lot of dyslexic people I know, are actually very creative, because they’ve learned to get from A to Z by going on a Magical Mystery Tour to get there. And they’re very good at thinking about outside of the box.

 

Nicole Done  16:08

That’s right. That’s right. So what you’re saying is absolutely true. There is a proportion of the community who are really big in the tech industry, in sciences, in engineering, you’re going to see that there is people in these tech companies who are in labs together, and there is a lot of either undiagnosed autistic people or those who are in there and not necessarily disclosing so I’m imagining there is a lot of people in roles that organizations don’t even know about. But there’s also a lot of companies that are coming to us now and saying, we want to embrace their skills. And let’s be honest, how can you if you’re a business afford not to, because we’re talking about amazing skills. But on the other side, like he said, not only do we place people who are amazing coders, we’ve got people who- got life goal is to write a novel. They’re digital artists. They’re coaching their children’s soccer team. They’re in amateur theater. They’re running youth groups on a Friday evening. They’re gardeners, they’re photographers, they’re puzzle designers. They’re- there’s no one person, everybody is very different.

 

Anna Sheppard  17:32

Diversity is the key, isn’t it? There’s something for everyone. We did touch upon it a little bit. But from your perspective, how can leaders embrace neurodiversity in the workplace? And how can they create an environment that enables people to thrive? If you could choose the top three actions say that a leader could just walk out the door today and be like, right, ‘I’m going to be more aware of this and this is the adjustments that I can make tomorrow’. What would you say those three adjustments should be?

 

Nicole Done  18:06

Okay, so the first thing I would say is the traditional recruitment model is not geared to autistic people, because they’re not great at selling themselves in interviews. So what I would say is that when you go through the process of recruitment, what you actually need to do is get people to demonstrate that what they can do, rather than discussing and telling you what they can do. The other areas that I would just say it’s so simple, ask the person. So if someone has disclosed and said that they’re autistic, ask them how you can support them. I think I went on before about preferences in communication and learning styles. But the other small area is really minor adjustments. So if somebody finds concentration really hard, most people in the workplace now wear headphones, that’s a really minor modification, flexibility, working out considering where their workstation is. So if somebody is really sensitive to smells, you definitely wouldn’t want them near the staff kitchen. But you probably wouldn’t want them there anyway, because it’s going to be a distracting area to work. So it’s about just thinking about how best you can create a environment that is going to make this person thrive.

 

Anna Sheppard  19:22

Yeah. And also, and I’m thinking here as well, you might have already heard some of these responses and requests and feedback from your team who might not have disclosed or even be aware that they have neurodiversity. It’s not sometimes about somebody being hard work or neurotic or this, that and the other. They’re communicating to you that there’s an environment that enables them to thrive, and there’s a few modifications that they are encouraging you to help them make.

 

Nicole Done  19:59

I guess the idea behind that, Anna it’s just universal design, thinking about how some of these modifications actually benefit everybody. If you provide a really structured meeting environment with a clear agenda that has to benefit everybody, but we know that autistic people really appreciate that. You’ve just got to think of how these small things can change and make a big impact for people. But also remembering as a manager, you don’t manage a team, the same- manage individuals. So it’s just making individual changes for people.

 

Anna Sheppard  20:39

And talking about self care and how we manage our routines and everything like that. We- I’d love to because I’ve known you for a long time. I know that you do look after yourself, and you invest a lot in your own well being. You and I and everybody in the industries we’ve worked in, especially around children that are sick, and you’ve been really on the front line with that working in the hospitals with a lot of the kids. How do you look after yourself, Nicole, what’s your- what’s in your toolkit, your well being toolkit?

 

Nicole Done  21:07

I think exercise and sleep is key. I’m somebody who, when I get stressed, the exercise jumps- sort of gets bumped off. And I really am trying very hard to maintain that. And I am definitely an eight hour a night sleep person, I need that. But I also love spending time in my garden. And I’m quite a creative person. So my husband and I are always working on little renovation projects. And as you know Anna,  I’m a really social person, so I get my energy from being around family and friends. I love creating memories, love and laughter is important. And the other thing like you as well, is travel, but unfortunately, we’ve got a pandemic.

 

Anna Sheppard  21:53

We’re not going anywhere anytime soon. There will be one inch of New South Wales, we haven’t an explored by the end of this year, that’s moral of the story and still sending our love to Melbourne. And the fact that you can’t get out much at the moment. So should we do a quick fire round? Would you like some quickfire questions? Are you ready? Hold on tight. Put your seatbelt on. So what is the one trait that you like the most in leaders?

 

Nicole Done  22:22

Authenticity.

 

Anna Sheppard  22:23

Yeah. Beautiful. Who is your favorite and most inspirational leader?

 

Nicole Done  22:30

Oh, this is probably a bit left field. But I have learned a lot recently about Jane Fonda. And I think she is an amazing woman. She has not changed who she is as a person. Over the years, she has not had tried to fit into any mold. She’s an amazing actor and executive producer. But she has been an activist her whole career and unapologetic, she speaks out. And I think she really leads in exceptional ways. She obviously is doing the fire drill Fridays at the moment. Has been arrested for that in her 80s, which is amazing. But she was the original GI Jane protesting against the Vietnam War. So she’s been on the front line for gender equality. So I think she’s an incredible leader.

 

Anna Sheppard  23:23

And a great role model for all the women, all women leaders, and all leaders everywhere, really. Okay, so what’s the best bit of advice anyone has ever given you?

 

Nicole Done  23:37

And I think owning your emotion, I’m somebody who shows emotion on my face. And sometimes I’ve felt that, that’s a bit of a weakness going through my career, but I’ve had a good friend who probably about 10 years ago said to me embrace that all the best leaders see their emotion as their strength. And they don’t try and hide it. And I think that once I realized that I could use that to my advantage. That’s been a really good thing.

 

Anna Sheppard  24:06

Yeah, beautiful. And I think that definitely, that’s one of your strengths is you always- I love it that I always know where you’re at. Actually Nicole by- i could just check and look at you, and im like, ‘Okay, there she is’. So what’s next for Exceptional? What should we expect next?

 

Nicole Done  24:25

So we’re actually really excited. We’re just start- currently starting our Beta Testing for assessment platform. So that’s the tech platform that we have built. That helps job seekers represent their skills, instead of using that traditional interview process. Our plan for 2021 is that the technology that we’ve been using now for two years and developed we’re going to roll that out globally to other employers.

 

Anna Sheppard  24:53

Wow, brilliant, amazing. So if you are in an industry where- you’re already in industry really where you’re going to benefit from some loyal, highly skilled, brilliant talent, and you want to get with the program, get- refresh your recruitment processes and make sure you can actually access these people, and you need to hit Exceptional up. They’re doing some Exceptional work. And it’s a beautiful team of people. And they’re very lucky to have you as well, Nicole.

 

Nicole Done  25:26

That’s very kind, thank you.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:28

Definitely, very much. I look forward to listening to some Mumford & Sons with you again very soon.

 

Nicole Done  25:35

We have to organize it.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:37

Absolutely, and do you have any final words?

 

Nicole Done  25:40

No, just thank you very much for this opportunity. It’s just so lovely to be able to catch up and have a chat with you.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:47

Thanks Nicole. And we’ll see you again very, very soon.   Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss from Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you, visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next time.  A special thank you to Bondi Radio for producing this episode. Music performed and written by Laura Roberts, and artwork designed by Flare Creative.Intro  00:00

You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast with your host Anna Sheppard.

 

Anna Sheppard  00:22

Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including and not limited to leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes.  Today, I’m very excited to welcome a good friend of mine actually, Nicole Done, who’s the head of training and coaching at Exceptional, which is a multi award winning technology service firm that celebrate the unique strengths of people with autism. Coaching is about thriving instead of surviving. And an individual receiving this kind of coaching has the opportunity to explore who they are, as an employee, understand their natural talents that they have to offer, where they’re heading professionally in the different areas of opportunity to them and understand the patterns of behavior which might not be useful to them getting there. At Exceptional they see coaching as one of the critical pillars to building success. Nicole has over 20 years experience as a special educator, trainer, coach and disability advocate working across the business, tech, education and health sectors in Australia and the UK. Her biggest passion, and her purpose is to help individuals access the support they need to meet their full potential. Today, I am so happy to have actually a really good friend of mine. We worked together for a number of years at Ronald McDonald House Charities. Nicole Done, welcome to a Project Good Boss.

 

Nicole Done  01:57

Thank you Anna, it’s so great to be joining you. So we both went our separate ways from Ronald Mcdonald House, and Nicole ended up working for an amazing organization called Exceptional. We’d love to unpack what this organization does today. But before we do, we just want to learn a little bit about you,  just something a bit cheeky, work out who you are what you’re all about. And I think the only way we can do that is by asking what your favorite song of all time is? Oh, well, I happen to know that this song you’re gonna love to Anna, it is, There Will Be Time by Mumford & Sons. Oh, i love that song. Actually didn’t we have a good night, one night and we’re all playing all sorts of instruments to that song? Absolutely. It is a song that you have to listen at high volume. Yeah, beautiful it’s the one where they all start playing that there’s tons of instruments going into a crescendo, isn’t it? Gorgeous. I love that song to Nic. So you work for Exceptional, tell us what Exceptional, is what does Exceptional do? Sure, so Exceptional is a for purpose company. It’s an award winning tech platform, what we do is harness the natural strengths of autistic people and help them find meaningful careers. Some of the areas we work with is in the business technology areas, engineering, admin, compliance, project management, accounting. So what we do- our assessment tools that we use help identify what recruits or what I should say is what organizations who are trying to recruit individuals, they might not be able to really assess skills, because sometimes an autistic person is not able to demonstrate that in the interview. So by being able to use our platform, they’re better able to see what somebody can really do. What we do is we help with the recruitment, the onboarding, we provide autism awareness training. And we also won’t place anybody if we aren’t able to coach them and the manager. The reason it’s really important to coach the manager is we really believe that the people we place have amazing ability, and we’re not necessarily asking them to change. Sure, there’s adjustments that might need to be made through coaching, but we’re asking managers to really rethink the way they manage individuals.

 

Anna Sheppard  04:38

Amazing. So the actual onboarding process for a lot of organizations would actually be non inclusive for people with neurodiversity wouldn’t they?

 

Nicole Done  04:50

That’s right. So let’s talk about neurodiversity. Because everybody bonds the words around, maybe sometimes without a full understanding of what that means. You hear people talking about the spectrum and this that the other. Can you tell us, what is it? Can you explain for our listeners? What is neurodiversity? How does it manifest within people? Sure, so neurodiversity is a collective term for a lot of different conditions. It takes in things like dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, of course, but we see it in ADHD, Tourette Syndrome, there is actually a wider definition in terms of some of the collective but if- there is no consensus, I don’t believe on this. But the idea of neurodiversity was coined at the end of the 1990s. And it looks at the individual brain function, and behavioral traits of people, and there is natural variations in the human population. And so what we actually see, I guess, in just really easy language is that different people think differently, not just because of their experiences and their culture, but because they’re actually- the way our brain is wired differently.

 

Anna Sheppard  06:13

Amazing. And I think- I definitely myself took a few of those boxes. And I remember working together, and I can see you knew before I did with a few of those boxes as well, didn’t you, Nicole?

 

Nicole Done  06:27

I’m not saying a word. I embrace all.

 

Anna Sheppard  06:32

But the beautiful thing is these neurodiverse traits, diagnosis in some instances, and what have you actually come with a- for some a number of superpowers, don’t they?

 

Nicole Done  06:46

Absolutely. So when we’re talking about individuals who are autistic, and I’m going to just sort of say, before I go on, I’m using the term autistic, because that’s identity first language. You do hear sometimes people are quite regularly people using person first language, they might say, ‘A person with autism’. The reason that I’m using identity first language is because overwhelmingly, all the autistic people that I work with, and all the people that Exceptional employ, because it is really important to me to point out that 50% of our organization is neurodiverse. So we really do embrace individual difference. And what they’re telling us is that they would prefer identity first, they say they their identity is being autistic. So that’s how they prefer it. So that’s why I’m using that term. But I guess when we talk about, oh, I’ve gone off track, and I forgot the question. You were talking about the traits of human traits?

 

Anna Sheppard  07:50

That’s all right. And I was just thinking that as well about how much of a refreshing workplace it must be. One of the traits being people don’t talk between the lines necessary and they’re quite direct in what they’re talking about, and it was for me. I’d find that quite a refreshing environment to be.

 

Nicole Done  08:08

Absoluetly, I love it. And I have to sometimes watch myself because I have become so direct in my communication, that I need to be careful not- sometimes to be too abrupt with individuals. But a lot of the coaching that I do with managers is about being comfortable with the direct, they worried about saying the wrong thing, I say the people you are working with are comfortable with the direct. So give them feedback in the same way they’re going to embrace it. That’s how they want their communication.

 

Anna Sheppard  08:42

Yeah. And that’s a big challenge for a lot of leaders, isn’t it? I remember when- culturally, where I’m from, we’re quite direct in the north of the UK. And I remember it was I actually had to adjust myself a little bit when I moved to Australia, because culturally, Australians aren’t necessarily as direct and you could offend quite quickly. You’d be like, ‘What? I just asked you if you wanted a cup of tea, why is everybody so upset’. It’s a similar thing. And I suppose it’s about going in on yourself and going well, why am I so affected by this person’s directors? They’re just communicating with me.

 

Nicole Done  09:18

Absolutely. But also, you’ve got to remember that people who are autistic, I mean- I read an article the other day where a fantastic young woman was writing about how her autism presents and she was saying, ‘Complement sandwiches just don’t work for me, because I miss the nuances. If there’s something that I need to work on, you just need to tell me directly so I can pick it up. And I know directly what you’re saying to me instead of having to unpack what’s been said, around the fluff of the breed of the sandwich’.

 

Anna Sheppard  09:52

I suppose everyone’s individual as well, as it there’s no cookie cutter approach. Like asking how would you like me to feedback to you so that you can get it really clear with somebody? I think it’s above and beyond neurodiversity. One of the best things a leader can do, really, isn’t it?

 

Nicole Done  10:09

Absolutely. And that’s, I think one of the most important things. The saying that you hear a lot is you’ve met one person with autism, and you’ve met one person with autism. And everybody is different. And just saying to them, what is your preferred communication style? How would you prefer to learn new information? If we’re setting up a meeting? How can I make sure that, that meeting is going to be able to be effective to you? So how can you- how would you prefer to provide feedback? If you’re going into a meeting, what time of the morning is the best time for you to start that meeting? I know, for example pre COVID, one of the most challenging things for the autistic people I am working with, was actually getting to work. And if they were traveling on public transport, sometimes that sensory input on public transport is overwhelming, not just for them for everybody. But we do know that autistic people have very high sensitive needs, particularly some people around proximity and noise in trains or buses. And so they just say once I get to work, I just need half an hour just to decompress. So asking somebody to come into a meeting at 9am, you might not get the best out of them. But if you just held it back 30 minutes, they’d be fine.

 

Anna Sheppard  11:37

Yeah, more in control of that situation in a way.

 

Nicole Done  11:41

That’s right.

 

Anna Sheppard  11:41

I’ve heard stories of where there’s been changed management in certain organizations, and they really haven’t taken into account- something’s happened, which has resulted in a big change and a big shift very sudden, and that there was melt-, somebody having complete meltdowns in- it was an IT department that I heard about, particularly where, it completely, literally devastated a few of the people in that scenario, to the point where they couldn’t move, they couldn’t even leave the room because of this information they had been given. Creating that environment stuff, it’s really important. And we’ll come on to that in a second, actually. But let’s talk about the spectrum. Because everybody talks about the spectrum, like we’re on this rainbow light spectrum. And if you’re on this side of the spectrum, you’re a little less autistic. And if you’re at this side of the spectrum, you’re super autistic, but it- let’s debunk that, because actually, a lot of that’s absolutely not accurate. Is it, Nicole?

 

Nicole Done  12:43

Absolutely. So a spectrum isn’t a gradient, that’s the really important thing. So gradient looks at if you- and hear that term, as you just said, they’re slightly autistic. So you can’t say something’s slightly green. Or if it’s really green, they’re really autistic. A spectrum is not that. So we do know that if you look across the spectrum of different colors, and you highlight different areas of that spectrum, you very much like how some autistic people present. So some are gonna be really good in one particular part of the spectrum in terms of their ability to hyper focus and be amazing in terms of analytic skills, but maybe they’re not so good in communication. So it tends to be that across that spectrum, individuals are better in some areas than others. And just because somebody is presenting, as what we hear a term quite often, highly functioning, doesn’t mean that they’re functioning that great at all. They just manage mask in the community really well. I think what some people, when they use the terms like high functioning mean, that they’re able to hold down a job, or they are able to be verbal and communicate well, but it doesn’t mean that they have actually got any real understanding of the nuances going on around them. But somebody who maybe is non verbal, really can understand those nuances, but they’re just not able to express that clearly. So that I guess is looking at debunking that idea of what a spectrum is but if you don’t mind me going on and saying Anna, at Exceptional we always talk about the autism advantage. So it’s about what actually can autistic people do. And we know that they have really high levels of concentration, attention to detail, really creative thinkers and problem solvers, accuracy in memory and working memory is very high for them. And they also are really have high integrity. So they’re honest to a fault and extremely loyal staff. Once they’re in your organization, there’s nothing they wouldn’t do if they feel that they have been embraced. And you’ll have staff that don’t want to move on to other jobs, the turnover would be dramatically lower with the neurodiverse community.

 

Anna Sheppard  15:26

And there’s certain industries now that actively seek to recruit people with neurodiverse traits, isn’t their? Tech industries in a number of industries, because the skill set is just absolutely perfect for what they’re trying to achieve coding for long periods of time, all these different types of things. And then also the creative element of it. I mean, I’m dyslexic. And I know, a lot of dyslexic people I know, are actually very creative, because they’ve learned to get from A to Z by going on a Magical Mystery Tour to get there. And they’re very good at thinking about outside of the box.

 

Nicole Done  16:08

That’s right. That’s right. So what you’re saying is absolutely true. There is a proportion of the community who are really big in the tech industry, in sciences, in engineering, you’re going to see that there is people in these tech companies who are in labs together, and there is a lot of either undiagnosed autistic people or those who are in there and not necessarily disclosing so I’m imagining there is a lot of people in roles that organizations don’t even know about. But there’s also a lot of companies that are coming to us now and saying, we want to embrace their skills. And let’s be honest, how can you if you’re a business afford not to, because we’re talking about amazing skills. But on the other side, like he said, not only do we place people who are amazing coders, we’ve got people who- got life goal is to write a novel. They’re digital artists. They’re coaching their children’s soccer team. They’re in amateur theater. They’re running youth groups on a Friday evening. They’re gardeners, they’re photographers, they’re puzzle designers. They’re- there’s no one person, everybody is very different.

 

Anna Sheppard  17:32

Diversity is the key, isn’t it? There’s something for everyone. We did touch upon it a little bit. But from your perspective, how can leaders embrace neurodiversity in the workplace? And how can they create an environment that enables people to thrive? If you could choose the top three actions say that a leader could just walk out the door today and be like, right, ‘I’m going to be more aware of this and this is the adjustments that I can make tomorrow’. What would you say those three adjustments should be?

 

Nicole Done  18:06

Okay, so the first thing I would say is the traditional recruitment model is not geared to autistic people, because they’re not great at selling themselves in interviews. So what I would say is that when you go through the process of recruitment, what you actually need to do is get people to demonstrate that what they can do, rather than discussing and telling you what they can do. The other areas that I would just say it’s so simple, ask the person. So if someone has disclosed and said that they’re autistic, ask them how you can support them. I think I went on before about preferences in communication and learning styles. But the other small area is really minor adjustments. So if somebody finds concentration really hard, most people in the workplace now wear headphones, that’s a really minor modification, flexibility, working out considering where their workstation is. So if somebody is really sensitive to smells, you definitely wouldn’t want them near the staff kitchen. But you probably wouldn’t want them there anyway, because it’s going to be a distracting area to work. So it’s about just thinking about how best you can create a environment that is going to make this person thrive.

 

Anna Sheppard  19:22

Yeah. And also, and I’m thinking here as well, you might have already heard some of these responses and requests and feedback from your team who might not have disclosed or even be aware that they have neurodiversity. It’s not sometimes about somebody being hard work or neurotic or this, that and the other. They’re communicating to you that there’s an environment that enables them to thrive, and there’s a few modifications that they are encouraging you to help them make.

 

Nicole Done  19:59

I guess the idea behind that, Anna it’s just universal design, thinking about how some of these modifications actually benefit everybody. If you provide a really structured meeting environment with a clear agenda that has to benefit everybody, but we know that autistic people really appreciate that. You’ve just got to think of how these small things can change and make a big impact for people. But also remembering as a manager, you don’t manage a team, the same- manage individuals. So it’s just making individual changes for people.

 

Anna Sheppard  20:39

And talking about self care and how we manage our routines and everything like that. We- I’d love to because I’ve known you for a long time. I know that you do look after yourself, and you invest a lot in your own well being. You and I and everybody in the industries we’ve worked in, especially around children that are sick, and you’ve been really on the front line with that working in the hospitals with a lot of the kids. How do you look after yourself, Nicole, what’s your- what’s in your toolkit, your well being toolkit?

 

Nicole Done  21:07

I think exercise and sleep is key. I’m somebody who, when I get stressed, the exercise jumps- sort of gets bumped off. And I really am trying very hard to maintain that. And I am definitely an eight hour a night sleep person, I need that. But I also love spending time in my garden. And I’m quite a creative person. So my husband and I are always working on little renovation projects. And as you know Anna,  I’m a really social person, so I get my energy from being around family and friends. I love creating memories, love and laughter is important. And the other thing like you as well, is travel, but unfortunately, we’ve got a pandemic.

 

Anna Sheppard  21:53

We’re not going anywhere anytime soon. There will be one inch of New South Wales, we haven’t an explored by the end of this year, that’s moral of the story and still sending our love to Melbourne. And the fact that you can’t get out much at the moment. So should we do a quick fire round? Would you like some quickfire questions? Are you ready? Hold on tight. Put your seatbelt on. So what is the one trait that you like the most in leaders?

 

Nicole Done  22:22

Authenticity.

 

Anna Sheppard  22:23

Yeah. Beautiful. Who is your favorite and most inspirational leader?

 

Nicole Done  22:30

Oh, this is probably a bit left field. But I have learned a lot recently about Jane Fonda. And I think she is an amazing woman. She has not changed who she is as a person. Over the years, she has not had tried to fit into any mold. She’s an amazing actor and executive producer. But she has been an activist her whole career and unapologetic, she speaks out. And I think she really leads in exceptional ways. She obviously is doing the fire drill Fridays at the moment. Has been arrested for that in her 80s, which is amazing. But she was the original GI Jane protesting against the Vietnam War. So she’s been on the front line for gender equality. So I think she’s an incredible leader.

 

Anna Sheppard  23:23

And a great role model for all the women, all women leaders, and all leaders everywhere, really. Okay, so what’s the best bit of advice anyone has ever given you?

 

Nicole Done  23:37

And I think owning your emotion, I’m somebody who shows emotion on my face. And sometimes I’ve felt that, that’s a bit of a weakness going through my career, but I’ve had a good friend who probably about 10 years ago said to me embrace that all the best leaders see their emotion as their strength. And they don’t try and hide it. And I think that once I realized that I could use that to my advantage. That’s been a really good thing.

 

Anna Sheppard  24:06

Yeah, beautiful. And I think that definitely, that’s one of your strengths is you always- I love it that I always know where you’re at. Actually Nicole by- i could just check and look at you, and im like, ‘Okay, there she is’. So what’s next for Exceptional? What should we expect next?

 

Nicole Done  24:25

So we’re actually really excited. We’re just start- currently starting our Beta Testing for assessment platform. So that’s the tech platform that we have built. That helps job seekers represent their skills, instead of using that traditional interview process. Our plan for 2021 is that the technology that we’ve been using now for two years and developed we’re going to roll that out globally to other employers.

 

Anna Sheppard  24:53

Wow, brilliant, amazing. So if you are in an industry where- you’re already in industry really where you’re going to benefit from some loyal, highly skilled, brilliant talent, and you want to get with the program, get- refresh your recruitment processes and make sure you can actually access these people, and you need to hit Exceptional up. They’re doing some Exceptional work. And it’s a beautiful team of people. And they’re very lucky to have you as well, Nicole.

 

Nicole Done  25:26

That’s very kind, thank you.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:28

Definitely, very much. I look forward to listening to some Mumford & Sons with you again very soon.

 

Nicole Done  25:35

We have to organize it.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:37

Absolutely, and do you have any final words?

 

Nicole Done  25:40

No, just thank you very much for this opportunity. It’s just so lovely to be able to catch up and have a chat with you.

 

Anna Sheppard  25:47

Thanks Nicole. And we’ll see you again very, very soon.   Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss from Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you, visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next time.  A special thank you to Bondi Radio for producing this episode. Music performed and written by Laura Roberts, and artwork designed by Flare Creative.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *