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059 | ADHD – a personal story of the strengths, struggles & strategies that help, with Julie White
Episode 594th November 2022 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
00:00:00 00:32:57

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In this episode of HR Coffee Time, Fay Wallis is joined by Julie White, who shares her personal story of obtaining an ADHD diagnosis as an adult, while working as an HR professional. Listen to Julie’s supportive advice and different strategies for anyone who thinks they have ADHD or wants to support others in the workplace with ADHD.

Key Points From This Episode

[00:37] Fay takes a moment to thank one particular listener who inspired this episode

[03:32] An introduction to Julie White


[06:00] Julie’s journey to getting her ADHD diagnosis


[08:11] Some of the challenges Julie has experienced


[09:46] Julie offers a range of strategies to help with ADHD


[16:58] Julie’s advice to anyone who wants to support a colleague who has ADHD


[18:27] Julie’s advice for anyone who might think they have ADHD


[19:31] Fay refers to episode 24 - Understanding & supporting neurodiversity at work, with Melanie Francis


[21:42] The strengths Julie is beginning to recognise in herself


[22:54] Fay refers to episode 57 - Using the Johari Window to develop & grow in your HR career


[24:09] How coaching from Creased Puddle has helped Julie


[25:47] ‘Access to Work’ explained


[28:32] Julie shares her book recommendation - The Bullet Journal by Ryder Carroll


(Disclosure: this book link is an affiliate link which means Fay will earn a small commission from Amazon if you choose to purchase the book using it)


[30:56] How to connect with Julie


Useful Links



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If you're kind enough to leave a review, please do let Fay know so she can say thank you. You can always reach her at: fay@brightskycareercoaching.co.uk.


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Transcripts

Fay Wallis:

Welcome back to another episode of HR coffee time with your host me, Fay Wallis, a career coach and executive coach with a background in HR. And I'm also the founder of Bright Sky Career coaching. And whenever anyone gets in touch to say that they like listening to the show, I always say thank you, because I really appreciate it. It's always so lovely to hear from anyone who listens. And then sometimes I'll ask if there is a particular topic or career challenge that they think it would be helpful for me to cover in the future.

Fay Wallis:

One listener called Devon went above and beyond with his reply to my question, he came back to me with a detailed message listing several topics. And we also had a zoom chat so that I could learn more about his ideas. Devin, if you're listening to this. Thank you again, for all your suggestions. This episode is the first of several but addressed the topics that you suggested. And Devon pointed out that as HR professionals, we're often busy looking after everyone else in the workplace. And everyone tends to us and expects us to lead the discussion and education around different topics that are important for everyone to know about.

Fay Wallis:

One of those topics being neuro diversity, but he then questioned, what about support for ourselves? If we are neuro diverse? Where's the support for HR? As with most questions, there is no one, perfect answer to this. But I thought it might be helpful to hear from HR professionals who have had a neurodiversity diagnosis to learn more from their experiences.

Fay Wallis:

Hi, Julie, welcome to the show, I should say again, because for anyone listening, Julie has just been the loveliest person in the world. We have already done this entire interview last week. But unfortunately, there was some sort of challenge with the recording software. And it meant that we lost the entire recording. So I'm so grateful that you've given up your time again, Julie to come on the show.

Fay Wallis:

So for this episode, you are about to meet the wonderful Julie White, who after beginning her working life working in hospitality went on to have a long HR and l&d career. Before then launching her own business recently, she had been pursuing her own personal development while working in her HR roles, so she qualified as a coach and Mental Health First Aid instructor. She now provides wellbeing consultancy, Mental Health First Aid training, and resilience coaching to organizations through her company which is called Bright White's Life.

Fay Wallis:

Julie has come on to the show to talk to us about receiving an ADHD diagnosis as an adult, the strengths and struggles that show up for her as part of having ADHD strategies and approaches that can be helpful for supporting yourself if you think you may have ADHD or you have had a diagnosis or supporting your colleagues. If they do. I'm sure you're going to enjoy meeting her. Let's hear what she has to say.

Fay Wallis:

Oh, you're very welcome. It's my pleasure.

Fay Wallis:

And you've very kindly agreed to come on the show today to talk to us about ADHD. Would you be happy to share your story about your journey to getting your ADHD diagnosis?

Julie White:

Yes, certainly, it really only came a couple of years ago that I started to have a little bit of a realisation that I may have ADHD. It was when I was qualified as a mental health first aid instructor in early 2020. And we had a speaker that came to talk to us about ADHD and the link between neurodiversity and mental health. And he talks about his own lived experience and how he was fortunate to have a supportive mum who was a mental health nurse. But in contrast, his teachers didn't really understand the challenges that he faced. He's gone on to be a researcher at himself and a mental health nurse. And in that talk, he was describing his childhood and his childhood behaviors, and his school reports.

Julie White:

And I was listening intently actually, because my partner shows all of the typical male boy traits of ADHD and I was keen to learn and understand more. But as he talked about his school reports, this penny just started to drop for me and I thought back to my own school report, and I just remembered that when I was sort of seven or eight, my teacher wrote on my school report that if Julie could only curb her tongue and wandering feet, she shows great promise. That's what it actually said.

Julie White:

I remembered it slightly differently, but it certainly it stood out for me that I was a very disruptive child and easily fidgety and so on, but I'm learning now that that often gets missed in girls in terms of the tension of focus because we tend to be more daydreaming and away in the clouds or easily distracted, but we kind of conditioned a little bit to behave ourselves, I would say and certainly my generation was. And so I kind of that fidgetyness has gone more internal and more mental. So I tend to overthink a lot. And that's what's really shown up for me in my adult life. So yes, I then decided I would explore diagnosis. And last year this time last year, pretty much I got a formal diagnosis of inattentive type ADHD.

Fay Wallis:

It's really interesting to hear you talk about what it was that helped the penny to drop, and actually that that was thinking back to your school days. Can I ask you, the behaviors that you were experiencing and the challenges that you had while you were at school? Have they evolved and changed now that you're an adult? How is the ADHD showing up for you as an adult?

Julie White:

Well, I can certainly think of some of the examples that helped identify it. For me, I'm, I'm particularly easily distracted by things going on around me. When I was in, day to day hospitality operations, everything was ticked lists everywhere, because team needed to make sure we were all doing those things from a safety point of view and process point of view. And every day was a new day and a fresh target. And it was also very fun. So all of that I think helped me but when I moved into a more office based role, I found it so difficult to concentrate and get work done. When there were other people in an open plan office having conversations around me, and, and so on.

Julie White:

So I recall, there was one particular time I thought, I just need to be able to shut this noise out. And it's before the days of noise cancelling headphones being a very common thing. So I wore a pair of ear muffs into the office. But the trouble with that is it just meant that people came up to me and said, What are you wearing those for, which just gave me the interruptions I was trying to avoid? So yeah, tactics that I try techniques I tried and failed. Lateness Oh, that's my biggest challenge time blindness, I would say where I just lose track of time, or I think I can get all those little things done in the 20 minutes I've got left before I need to leave the house.

Julie White:

And I think that the journey is only 15 minutes when it's properly 20 minutes of driving, not 15. And then you've got to think about the getting your bags together and getting down the steps and getting to actually to the platform at the train station, not just physically getting your car parked up. So learning and learning painfully is probably where I've really noticed that so I over plan, things like that. And make sure that I know about the train before and the train after. And I've kind of pay real attention to those things now because they matter. And they make a difference if I'm going to end up seriously late for things. That's another real example for me.

Fay Wallis:

So it sounds like you've come up with some brilliant strategies to help you with those particular challenges.

Julie White:

I have Yes, but it's come with bit of trial and error. And it's really only now I've had my diagnosis that I'm very deliberately making sure that those strategies are in place. And I'm recognizing when those strategies perhaps, aren't working particularly well for me or they've stopped working. Because another challenge with ADHD is boredom. And we can easily find that great system we've put in place is no longer exciting us and keeping us motivated to do the things. So just changing it up from time to time and thinking about different things that will will help me typically boring tasks.

Julie White:

And now that I am working for myself things like doing my account, it's how can I find something that makes it sound fun when I put that time in my calendar, I don't know, bean counting or counting the jelly beans, but something that makes me think, Oh, that would be fun. Even though I know really, it's not going to be particularly fun, but it's necessary. So little things like that, that I'm playing around with as a result of also having some coaching to really help me, which is making a huge difference for me.

Fay Wallis:

I love the idea of making things fun by calling it things like bean counting. I have to say I don't relish the idea of doing my accounts. So maybe I need to start using some of your strategies, Julie.

Julie White:

You're welcome to take that word and see if it works for you. Fay.

Fay Wallis:

Thank you that sounds great. And as far as strategies are concerned, then how have you come up with them? Is it by trial and error or research or people sharing ideas with you?

Julie White:

It's a whole combination of those because my realization is that we are all different and our thresholds for overwhelm are different and can be different at different times. Well, so, for example, I can find myself opening 10 different emails and starting to reply to each of them. And then my brain shifts and I, oh, shiny thing, I need to look at that. And next thing I know, I've got, none of those emails actually finished and sent, that's harder working for myself.

Julie White:

But when I was working in a role in HR, when I found myself doing that, that would be the point at which I would know that I need to perhaps ask someone to help me prioritize what my workload is. So having time and having regular time, that helped keep me accountable on knowing and communicating to my manager that this is what might be an indication of me being a bit overwhelmed. And to help me identify what's the just the one next thing I need to do, and really support that need to focus and making that a little bit easier to achieve? That's one particular technique that I found.

Julie White:

And another one I would say would be that when you ask the question, Where Where do these techniques come from? I say having some coaching is really helping, but also now finding myself a network of other freelancers and self employed people, many of whom do have neurodivergent conditions, and have opted to work for myself partly because of that, but to work with them and have accountability buddies and have time where we log in, perhaps online, and we're on a call together where both are off microphone, but we can see that someone else is working, we kind of have that body doubling that body mirroring accountability that I've said that I'll do this, therefore I will stick at doing this can be hugely helpful as well.

Julie White:

But yeah, it's a bit of trial and error and finding what works for you. Because we are all different, and building a network of people and support accountability. My mum's always been brilliant at following up when I've said I'm going to do something, she will check in and go, how's that going? And particularly with my mom, I will feel guilty that I haven't made progress. So I feel that I need to make sure that I do that. So that's also a real useful technique, tell somebody that you're going to do it gives you much more likelihood that you're going to do it as well.

Fay Wallis:

I completely agree. That's something that I do all the time. And I think it's one of the only reasons I managed to get the podcast out every week without fail is I know, there's the public accountability of Apple podcasts have got a timestamp that shows you when the podcast was released. So it's really having that huge accountability, because anyone can see it that helps keep me on track. And it also I think, highlights a message that just comes through again, and again.

Fay Wallis:

And again, when talking about anything to do with inclusion, or neurodiversity. It's that so many of these strategies and practices are good for everybody, and helpful for everyone. Because it's not just going to be if you have ADHD that you may struggle with planning or, or time or any of the things that you've been talking about. So I'm sure that for lots of people listening, lots of those strategies going to be really helpful for them too.

Julie White:

As with so many of these things, you're right, they help not just people with neurodivergent challenges, but they could help any one of us. And very often they don't cost anything either. It's just about having that support that emotional and mental support alongside you that can make such a difference.

Fay Wallis:

Absolutely. And I know that people listening will be listening with different hats on. So some people may be listening, thinking, Oh, I wonder if I have ADHD or I know I have ADHD, it's really interesting. Listening to Julie share her experience. Other people will be listening thinking, I really want to make sure that I am supporting anyone with ADHD, well within the organization or within my team. You've already mentioned a manager that you use to speak to if you felt like you were experiencing particular challenges or needed some support. That sounds as if you have had really supportive managers in the past. Julie, is that true? Have they been a help to you in the past?

Julie White:

Well, I would say I've had a mixed bag and I think we probably all have in our career. I can think back to a time when one of my traits and tendencies of ADHD is to perhaps talk over other people and interrupt. And I had a tendency to do that. Because if an idea comes into my head, I want to share it there and then and it's quite difficult to hold that thought and be able to remember that thought when your opportunity to speak comes in. And we're talking back in the days when we all just we had meetings physically in a room together as well. So this was something that was seen as a negative behavior and a fault and something that I knew needed to curb and was there in my school report, I needed to curb it when I was seven. I didn't do too good at that.

Julie White:

But what it then did was it caused me probably to not speak up to not say what I thought, unless I was invited to say what I thought, because it was easier just to stay quiet than be criticized for interrupting. So I think it's really important to be mindful of that and give opportunity for people to have their voice in a meeting for different reasons. And online meetings are really helpful actually, in that respect, because you've got the chat box that you can type what you're thinking, even if you're don't press send, and it goes out to the to the whole room. But you can take what you're thinking to send to one individual, or you can type it and have it as though I've captured my thoughts.

Julie White:

And then I'll use the raise hand functionality, and say, I've got a thought to my ad. But then it's there, you've not had to hold it in your head, you've typed it out so that you can recall. So little techniques like that, that I used once we were in the online world as well. But yes, having a supportive manager and opening up about it, for me, was hugely valuable. But when I didn't know that that was my diagnosis, and I had perfect reason to be behaving as I did. And it wasn't necessarily a fault, I can understand why it's perceived as one, I do totally get that it's rude to interrupt people. But it's something I had very little control over and found then quite challenging to manage. So I think it's really important to to recognize that it might not be deliberate bad behavior or rudeness, when people chip in like that as an example.

Fay Wallis:

So for anyone listening, who wants to be a supportive manager or a supportive colleague, to someone on their team, or within the organization who has ADHD, what would your advice be to them?

Julie White:

My advice would be to approach any concern that you might have with curiosity. So that's me putting my coaching hat on there. Because I think any anything that you approach with curiosity, you're doing it without judgment, you're doing it to understand, rather than to criticize or find fault with I think, if we always start with, I've noticed this, can you tell me more about it? What do you notice, then it allows that individual to have ownership of what's going on. without judgment, I think that's really, really important, and then working together on a strategy that's going to help.

Fay Wallis:

That's great to hear. And it's really the fundamentals and having a supportive conversation, almost, regardless of the reason that you're doing that or what the challenge is, it's similar advice to what we've heard come up a few times on the podcast, Julie. And I think hopefully, that's really reassuring for anyone listening. But if you just keep it to the basics, start with compassionate and curious mindset, then it's much more likely to be a productive and helpful meeting. So thank you again for sharing that. And then, on the flip side, so anyone who's listening who thinks, do you know what I do wonder if I might have ADHD? What would your advice be for them?

Julie White:

My advice would be to seek a diagnosis. Now that is something that might not be an easy thing to do. Because I know that there's very long waiting lists by the NHS at the moment, you can go privately, which was the route that I took. But even without a diagnosis, you can access support, because there's a recognition that it's not a quick and simple process to get diagnosed. So you can make an application to access to work in order to get support for coaching and training, and potentially other tools that might help you in the workplace to perform the job that you're doing. And equally, reach out to organizations, such as the ADHD Foundation, read books, learn and understand more about it. And and explore what you're noticing for yourself and try different strategies and see if they help you whilst you potentially seek a formal diagnosis.

Fay Wallis:

I'm so appreciative that you're sharing all of this wonderful advice for everybody who's listening. And it also makes me think of a previous episode of the podcast, which was episode 24 When I spoke to guest Melanie Francis. And that was the first time that I had an episode specifically to talk about neurodiversity. And in that episode, Melanie, Mel, I called her for short said a couple of things that really stayed with me. One of them was about the fact that with any sort of neuro divergence, there are strengths.

Fay Wallis:

And there are struggles. And I'm really conscious that we've been focusing for the most part on the struggles today. So some of the challenges, but I do know that there are so many strengths that can come with it that sit there hand in hand. Can I ask you to talk about that? Would you be happy to talk to us about some of the strengths?

Julie White:

I would, yes. And I know, we chatted prior to this, about this, and the terminology you might see in some social media and so on talking about superpowers. And I know, you said that, you were cautious to use those terms as they might have been used previously, because because I very much don't see myself as having superpowers. And I think for me, that's partly because I've only had my diagnosis for about a year. And I'm focusing on overcoming the challenges at the moment.

Julie White:

And perhaps I'm not putting as much effort into recognizing the strengths, but you yourself very kindly Fay, acknowledge to me before this, about compassion, perhaps being one of my strengths, in the fact that I've been so compassionate to you about the challenges to record this and need to record again. So yeah, sometimes it's seeking that feedback, isn't it and being able to listen to the positives that other people are telling you because it's often hard to see our strengths, because for us, that perhaps it comes easy to us, therefore, we don't see it as a strength.

Julie White:

And that's, that's the double edged sword, I suppose, of the condition is that we tend to see the struggles and the challenges more than we see the positive. But that's human nature, isn't it, we do see the negatives in the situation, because it has to protect ourselves. For me, I'm starting to see my strengths, I'm starting to recognize that I can crack on and get something done in a short space of time, if it's, if it's urgent, and that's what I need to do. And other people have said, Gosh, I couldn't have done that in the time that you've done.

Julie White:

I'm also quite good at winging it, because I'm perhaps so used to doing things last minute that I just get on and do it and get out there and have a go. So yes, I'm starting to see some of those strengths and acknowledge them. But perhaps I'm less likely to talk about those, because I'm just not that kind of person. It's a skill to sort of pitch myself and sell myself and I'm still working on that is quite new to business as well. It's easy to hide away from that when you're in a job. And just now I'm needing to be be stronger at doing that. So thank you for the opportunity to think about it.

Fay Wallis:

You're very welcome. And I really believe that it's important that we do highlight each other strength. I recorded a podcast a few weeks ago, which was just forgotten what the name is all about the Johari Window, which is a tool for self reflection and self discovery. And you can use it to talk to your team as well. And there is one quadrant within the Johari Window tool, which is to be able to activate it. You have to ask people for feedback.

Fay Wallis:

And that feedback can be what are some things that I could be doing better. But I think it's just as important to ask, What am I doing really well, because we really don't realize a lot of the time and I think that is so important. So you've just given me another opportunity to start talking about strengths again. It's something I'm really passionate about. So um, thank you for letting me sneak that in there, Julie.

Julie White:

Oh, you're very welcome.

Fay Wallis:

And that's one thing that you mentioned a couple of times earlier. But I haven't asked you about yet. And that is you mentioned you've had coaching, which has been really helpful. Is that a particular type of coaching?

Julie White:

It is yes. So my coach that I've been assigned, it's come through my Access to work funding that I applied for. So again, it's something that hasn't been a cost directly. She's been assigned to me and matched to me through an organization called creased puddle, who specializes in neuro diversity coaching. And they very kindly looked at what I was looking for and what my situation was, and found a coach that would be best suited to coach me. And she has ADHD herself.

Julie White:

So the tools that she's using, and the way in which he's approaching the coaching with me is with that new neurodivergent lens. And it's certainly helping me to therefore see my strengths because she's focusing on picking those out and making me question What's gone well It's not gone so well, and so on as each session that I have with her. So that's proving really, really valuable. And I'm, as I'm learning those things, I'm sharing those with the people I know as well. So it's definitely proving a really positive experience for me to have that coaching.

Fay Wallis:

That's wonderful to hear, I'll have to look creased puddle up and make sure that I put a link in the show notes, because I'm sure that other people will be interested in finding out more about that as well. And you touched on access to work. So lots of people may be familiar with Access to Work and tapped into that before, but other people may not have come across it or ever tried to use it before. Would you mind just quickly talking us through exactly what it is and how it works?

Julie White:

Yes, certainly. So Access to Work. It's a government funded scheme, here in the UK, that any individual who has difficulties with work related to a possible or diagnosed disability, so you don't have to have a diagnosis can make an application for support. And someone will then make an assessment and talk through with you what your job is, what it is that you have challenges with what you might find would be helpful to have additional tools, equipment, or support to help with and then that is assessed, and you get a grant towards that some of which employers need to part fund.

Julie White:

But some of it is fully funded by the government. So it depends on the size of the organization, and the particular recommendations that are made as to what that cost might be to an employer, but certainly for coaching and training that is fully funded. So it's well worth making an application, if you believe that you may have ADHD or any other disability that would benefit from additional support in the workplace. And you can also apply as someone who's self employed as well. So you don't have to be in an employee's job, you can also apply yourself employed.

Fay Wallis:

It's absolutely brilliant for everyone to get to hear about that. Julie, is it something that was really time consuming or difficult to access?

Julie White:

For me, it perhaps wasn't again, flagging on my strengths, because I've had some experience on both sides of it in my HR roles. But it is a simple case of going on the government website, filling out a form, and then they will contact you and ask you plenty of questions. But if you need some additional support for doing that there are organizations out there that can help support you through that application process.

Julie White:

So do seek those out as well if you're finding it difficult to fill out the forms because that can also so with it with ADHD, you can procrastinate overdoing it, and it can take some time. So it's important to do it sooner rather than later because it's a process. So it's but it's not particularly difficult or onerous to fill out. It's a short form, and then take it from there.

Fay Wallis:

Well, that is brilliant to hear. And you've shared so many fantastic resources and tips with us already. can I possibly start to wrap things up by asking you to share one more thing with us? Is that a nonfiction book recommendation that you have for us all, the question that I ask every guest who comes on the show?

Julie White:

Yes, there is. There's one particular book that I would like to share. And that's called the Bullet Journal Method. And it's by a gentleman called Ryder Carroll. It's an American guy. And he created the bullet journal method. And it's really fundamentally it is using bullet points and other bullet signifiers in a journal to to note down everything that you need to do. It's about tracking your past, ordering your present and planning your future is the kind of that the overview of what the books called. And it's very much that and I've used the bullet journal method to help organize the things I need to do.

Julie White:

And there's a couple of things that particularly about it in that you're physically writing it down, which helps your brain connect to what it is that you're writing. By doing that, and then crossing things off a list. Everyone likes to cross things off a to do list, or what I like to call a to die list because I'm one of those that writes things down. I've already done just so that I can cross them off. But recognizing as well, there's a process of migration where you might not have completed the tasks that you've written down to do. So recognizing then that you're migrating a task. Are you putting it off? What's the reason why or is it that it's not important?

Julie White:

I find that much more valuable through handwriting it than using all the fancy apps that you can quickly write things down which is great, but it's so easy to snooze things or reschedule things. But this helps you really recognize what you're not doing. And it's also all about just keeping everything in one single notebook, rather than having the 15 notebooks that we might have on the go at once as well. So it's a really valuable tool to if you want to understand more about organizing your life, it's a really useful method to you. So I'd recommend that.

Fay Wallis:

While that's definitely one that we haven't had recommended before, and it sounds a little bit different to all of the other books that have been recommended. So it's nice to be able to throw something a bit different into the mix. It's great to have that recommendation. And that takes me on to my very final question, which is, if anyone would like to get in touch with you, Julie, or learn more about your work through your business, what is the best way of them doing that?

Julie White:

Well, I would say probably the best way is LinkedIn, because that's where I'm most active and posted what I'm up to, you can find me on there as Julie white, not the most original of names, unfortunately. So you might have to do a little bit of searching. But my business name is Bright White life. And there's a story behind that. If you want to find my website, bright white life.co.uk. You can find a bit more about that. And I also use that name on both Instagram and Facebook. So at Bright White life.

Fay Wallis:

Well, I'm going to have to go straight onto your website after this chat to find out why you chose that name vent, Julie, because I don't know the answer to that. And I'm just so grateful for you coming on the show today. I hadn't realized until we chatted last time that you're happy to do talks about ADHD businesses, not just on podcasts. Is that right?

Julie White:

Yes, absolutely. I'm more than happy to do guest talks for businesses to help managers to understand more about how to support their team for diversity groups to be able to recognize and feel comfortable about opening up about a diagnosis or about whether they suspect they may have condition. So yes, more than happy to do that. And so feel free if someone's interested, drop me a message. And I'll certainly have a chat about that with you.

Fay Wallis:

So all that leaves me to say is a huge thank you for coming on the show. It's just been brilliant to have you here.

Julie White:

Oh, you're very welcome. It's been a pleasure to join you.

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