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Discover how neurodiversity in the workplace is a catalyst for success

Brandi Douglas standing and holding her black blazer, wearing a black rim hat and smiling.

VG Staff

May 16, 2023

Has your business created an environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive? With more companies learning how they can foster an inclusive workplace that respects and nurtures the unique abilities of neurodivergent individuals, we begin to pave the way for broader social acceptance and understanding, bridging the gap between diverse communities.

We had the privilege of interviewing Brandi Douglas (she/they), a neurodivergent leader whose inspiring journey demonstrates the power of embracing diversity and overcoming challenges. Her story emphasizes the importance of cultivating a safe and supportive workspace that empowers neurodivergent individuals to thrive, which in turn contributes to the overall success of an organization.

Who is Brandi?

Hailing from Tacoma, Washington, Brandi, proud member of the Puyallup Tribe, has a rich background in legal and entrepreneurial endeavors. A serial entrepreneur, she co-owns multiple businesses and founded a number of them as well. Their current focus is Mending Matriarch, where she produces works inspired by her intersectional experience as a queer, multiracial and neurodivergent person.. Additionally, Brandi advocates for the LGBT+ community and serves as a board member for Native Women Lead.

In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of understanding and embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, drawing from Brandi’s experiences to illustrate effective communication strategies for virtual teams. Together, let’s challenge misconceptions about neurodiversity in the workplace and instead focus on how these unique strengths contribute to a more inclusive and diverse future.

Brandi Douglas quote, "Neurodivergent individuals can bring unique strengths and insights to the leadership table."

Unique strengths and perspectives neurodivergent individual bring to their teams

Throughout her career, Brandi has faced challenges related to her neurodivergence, such as difficulties with time management, organization, and communication. However, she has managed to turn these obstacles into opportunities by leveraging her exceptional strengths. Some of the ways she’s transformed her challenges into strengths include:

  • Enhancing her creative thinking skills to develop innovative solutions to problems
  • Cultivating empathy to better understand and connect with her team members
  • Adapting to changing circumstances to remain flexible and resilient in the face of adversity

By embracing her neurodiversity in the workplace and developing strategies to navigate her challenges, Brandi has become an effective leader and teammate, inspiring her team and fostering success in a virtual work environment.Brandi Douglas quote, “...having those conversations and recognizing that folks are, you know, wanting to provide these trainings and kind of normalize this…because we don't know what leaders are neurodivergent or who might not know yet."

Personal strategies or techniques that support neurodiversity in the workplace – stay organized and manage your time effectively 

Through trial and error, Brandi has found strategies to embrace neurodiversity in the workplace and use it as an advantage She’s found several personal strategies and techniques to help her stay organized and manage her time effectively, especially while working with a virtual team.

Drawing from her experiences, she shares the following insights:

  • Recognize individual communication preferences and adjust your approach to cater to each team member’s needs.
  • Establish routine check-ins to ensure everyone remains on track and informed about the progress of projects.
  • Utilize tools such as project management software, shared calendars, and collaboration platforms to streamline project organization and boost productivity.
  • Foster an environment of open communication and inclusivity, where team members feel at ease expressing their thoughts and ideas without the fear of judgment.

By implementing these strategies, Brandi’s been able to harness her strengths to help overcome the unique challenges she faces with her neurodiversity in the workplace, which in turn has helped her team succeed. Further demonstrating how leaders can benefit by supporting their teams and even excel when they embrace an inclusive work culture.

Brandi Douglas quote, "Understanding different communication styles is crucial for effective team management."

Common misconceptions about neurodivergent individuals, and how organizations can foster a more inclusive work environment

When we spoke with Brandi about some common misconceptions that people hold about neurodiversity in the workplace, Brandi highlights a stereotype she’s personally experienced throughout her wide array of leadership experiences.

She shares that it’s common to hear people think neurodivergent people are scatterbrained or unable to handle stressful situations and the negative view people have of this. It’s important to recognize and celebrate these strengths rather than perpetuating stereotypes and stigma.

 We’ve compiled a list of other misconceptions neurodivergent individuals often face:

  • They lack social skills or have difficulty connecting with others, when in fact, many have strong empathic abilities and form deep connections with their peers.
  • They cannot focus or maintain attention on tasks, although they often have the capacity for intense focus and can become highly engaged in tasks that align with their interests.
  • They are not capable of holding leadership positions when in truth, they can bring valuable insights and innovative approaches to leadership roles.

To remove bias and misconceptions in the workplace regarding neurodivergence, organizations should educate employees about neurodiversity, encourage open dialogue, and implement tailored accommodations and support systems.

By doing so, you can foster a more inclusive, innovative, and high-performing work environment. This shift in perspective not only benefits neurodivergent team members but also enhances the overall success and growth of your business as a whole.

Brandi Douglas quote, "Neurodivergent leaders often possess unique strengths and perspectives."

Brandi’s advice to other neurodivergent leaders or leaders with neurodivergent team members 

In response to the question of what advice she would give to other neurodivergent leaders or leaders with neurodivergent team members, Brandi emphasizes the following points:

  • Embrace your unique strengths and perspectives as a neurodivergent individual, as they can contribute to a more inclusive and innovative work environment.
  • Seek out a supportive community of like-minded individuals to share experiences, insights, and encouragement.
  • Leaders with neurodivergent team members – actively create an inclusive atmosphere that celebrates neurodiversity and acknowledges the valuable contributions neurodivergent individuals bring to the table.
  • Communication is one of the most important tools you can use. This holds true not only for neurodiversity in the workplace but for neurotypical employees and leaders as well.

By following these recommendations Brandi outlines, neurodivergent leaders and those who support them can foster a more inclusive and innovative workplace, ultimately leading to your business retaining and attracting a roster of top talent.

Brandi Douglas quote, "Embrace your unique strengths and perspectives, and seek out a supportive community."

Key takeaways

Understanding and embracing neurodivergence as a  leader is essential for fostering a more inclusive and effective work environment. By dispelling misconceptions and promoting the unique strengths of neurodivergent individuals, we can create a more diverse and innovative business landscape.

For neurodivergent leaders and those who support them, consider exploring the benefits of a virtual assistant to help you stay organized and manage your time effectively. Combined with the tips Brandi has shared, you’ll greatly enhance your ability to lead your team efficiently and productively.

So, speaking to all neurodivergent individuals in the workplace and their allies – embrace your unique strengths, seek support from your community, get help when you need it, and watch as you and your team thrive in an inclusive environment.

Brandi Douglas quote, "Understanding and embracing neurodivergence in leadership is crucial for fostering a more inclusive and effective work environment."

VG Staff

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