The Vulnerable Parts of ADHD with Kristen Carder (2/2)

Welcome to episode 217 of the Nerd Journey Podcast [@NerdJourney]! We’re John White (@vJourneyman) and Nick Korte (@NetworkNerd_), two Pre-Sales Technical Engineers who are hoping to bring you the IT career advice that we wish we’d been given earlier in our careers. In today’s episode we share part 2 of a discussion with Kristen Carder, talking through ADHD from a leader’s perspective, behavioral trends in people with ADHD, the start of Kristen’s coaching career, and how she became a podcaster.

Original Recording Date: 02-06-2023

Kristen Carder is a complete ADHD nerd and says she is obsessed with ADHD and how it affects adults. Kristen has been studying ADHD for about 10 years and has worked exclusively with adults with ADHD for the last 4 years. If you missed part 1 of our discussion with Kristen, be sure to check out Episode 216.

Topics – The Leader’s Strengths and Weaknesses, Giving Time and Attention and Presence, Operating Manual for the Self, ADHD in Tech and the Challenge of Getting Help, Becoming a Coach, Developing Expertise, Curriculum Builder, Hosting a Podcast

4:36 – The Leader’s Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Kristen says being in a leadership role with ADHD is going to take a hefty amount of self-awareness and self-acceptance if you intend to do it well and without burning yourself out.
    • Leaders with ADHD may want to hide it and ensure no one finds out about the ADHD individual’s struggles with details, time management, and deadlines. What can often happen is a sense of guilt and shame in who the leader really is underneath everything.
    • One of the ways Kristen combats this and encourages clients to combat it is make piece with who you are. While it sounds simple to say, Kristen believes this is the work of our lives. This starts with really understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are.
    • If you can understand that you’re in the leadership role for a reason, it gives you perspective. Kristen uses herself as an example.
      • It probably isn’t that she is amazing at managing her time.
      • It’s probably that she’s very creative, she solves problems quickly, and she can do many things at one time.
      • Knowing all your strengths helps you understand why a company is really paying you.
    • Your weaknesses could be supported by someone in a different position, some kind of assistant, or some other form of accountability.
    • Kristen recommends being willing to share your weaknesses even if you don’t want to share your ADHD diagnosis.
      • Sharing your ADHD diagnosis is a different animal altogether. There is no obligation that you share that with anyone.
      • If you are going to share the diagnosis, Kristen recommends understanding who you’re talking to – whether they are a safe person, whether they have a track record of being understanding or critical p/ dismissive, etc.
      • Kristen has heard people say things like "everyone has ADHD now / everyone is on medication." Beware of people who make statements as it really shows you who you can and cannot share information with.
    • There is a way to share your weaknesses and the things with which you struggle without revealing you have an ADHD diagnosis.
    • Kristen is open about ADHD because it’s her life’s work.
      • She recommends thinking about why you want to share the fact that you have ADHD with someone.
      • In the United States you are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act if your ADHD is severe enough, which may be a reason to disclose it to an employer.
      • The decision to share your diagnosis is individual and very personal.
    • Once your strengths and weaknesses are known, find the people who can work with you to support the weaknesses. Kristen uses herself as an example.
      • Kristen tells us she has a team of people managing her and that her company would not exist otherwise.
      • There are 2 people who work very closely with Kristen on tasks like managing her calendar, ensuring e-mails are responded to, and even sit with Kristen while she does the things she hates to do.
      • Kristen shares the story of having a contractor who had to be paid by paper check only. When it is time to do this, Felicia on her team has to make her do it.
      • "I’m running a 7-figure company. Why can’t I just write a check? Because I don’t want to. That’s not what I actually get paid for. That’s not what I’m actually growing my business for….I need support with the easy things so I can get the hard things done. And every ADHD leader is going to resonate with that." – Kristen Carder
      • People with ADHD are able to achieve amazing things that people wonder…"how are you able to do that?" But they may not be able to get their dishes done or get to a meeting on time. They are going to need support with the little details.

11:12 – Giving Time and Attention and Presence

  • John likes the idea of sharing weaknesses with the people you work with and putting some structures in place. It’s the life’s work that is embracing that part of yourself.
  • Kristen says this can be extremely difficult. Those with ADHD have been shamed since they were toddlers for the fact that they are unable to do the easy stuff (putting a backpack away, turning in a paper, transitioning from video games to homework, etc.). "Why can’t you just (insert comment here)?"
    • Because of this shame being carried over the years, Kristen tells us it is hard for the ADHDer to advocate for themselves and to communicate their needs to others.
    • There is a fear of being told you’re stupid or that some judgement will come from others for asking for help on something so simple. Think back to Kristen’s example of needing support / accountability to write the check.
    • When clients get down on themselves about not being able to do something they believe they should be able to do, she has to remind them to think again. It is the basics, the things we might consider very simple, with which the ADHDer struggles (despite their ability to do incredibly complex things with ease).
    • John says we don’t understand how much effort something takes someone else (even if we might categorize it as "easy").
    • John was thinking about how hard it can be for anyone to ask for accommodations. People with physical disabilities might find it hard to say they can’t walk the same speed as others and that the pace needs to be slowed.
    • We need to be more thoughtful about the hidden things. If it’s in your brain that isn’t externalized like someone sitting in a wheelchair is. People don’t wear an ADHD flag on their back to let everyone else know or to serve as a reminder that they need help.
  • Kristen says the most vulnerable part of the disorder is being willing to ask for what you need. You recognize what you need, make peace with what you need, and then you have to externalize it (and ask for help).
  • "We’ve started creating actual meetings for the tasks that I just hate to do. My team just gathers, and they just sit there. And I do the thing, and they are there with me." – Kristen Carder, on getting support from her team
    • This is called body doubling. Kristen sees her team there in the meeting, and it helps her stay on task.
    • Kristen wants to do the hard stuff on her own (walk around, take notes, etc.). But for the "easy stuff," she needs to do it in a group.
    • "I need to write these 4 e-mails. I don’t want to do it. Please, somebody sit with me while I do this." – Kristen Carder, on having a body double to hold space for her
    • Kristen only hires people who are empathetic and understanding and who are willing to help with the smaller things so she can get the hard stuff accomplished.
    • Not everyone has this luxury, of course. You won’t always work on a team of empathetic people. It may be time to find some new people or a different place to work.
    • Nick feels like he has seen a part of the body doubling happen and mostly been on the support side. He feels like supporting someone in that way helps them to de-escalate situations.
    • Kristen says you don’t even need to be a participant. You can (for kids with ADHD, for example) just sit with them and do your own thing. And you might need to get onto the person if they pick up their phone, and tell them to get back to work.
    • For the parents of children with ADHD out there, offering to sit with your child who struggles to complete homework can be very helpful (even if you pretend to do something / work on something as you sit there).
      • "While you do your work, I’m going to do my work….And when you get really frustrated, I’m just going to breathe with you. We’ll take 5 deep breaths together, and then we’ll get back to work. It’s an amazing tool." – Kristen Carder
      • Nick says this is the gift of your presence (as a parent in this case).
      • "Hey, I’m with you. I know you’ve got to do the work. I can’t do the work for you, but I’m with you in it. I’m here." – Kristen Carder describing a beautiful picture of humanity and the gift of being present with someone else
    • Nick remembers as a kid his mom would sit up with him while he finished his homework. She would just be there and be present to support him, and he’s never forgotten it.
      • Nick shares that now his daughter often needs the same thing from him, even when he’s tired. "Tough it up, man" is what he has to tell himself in those moments because she needs him.
    • John says time and attention are two of the most powerful gifts we can give.

19:28 – Operating Manual for the Self

  • John asked if Kristen has come across the idea of publishing an operating manual for your team which describes how you work, the strengths you have and how you can support them, and the areas where you need support from the team.
    • Kristen has not come across it formally but loves the idea of it.
    • To be able to write something like that down you have to know something about yourself. And it might be worth going through this exercise even if you never publish the manual. Think about…
      • How do I work best?
      • What do I actually need?
      • What supports would work best for me?
    • If we’re going to share such a manual with others, Kristen advises that we should know who we are giving it to in advance.
    • There are two types of people in the world, safe people and unsafe people.
      • A safe person is going to read this and appreciate the opportunity to learn more about you. They are going to make an effort to refer to the manual, trying to work with you in the most effective way.
      • An unsafe person is going to think it’s strange. They are going to treat it more like a "thanks but no thanks" kind of thing.
    • Kristen tells us that knowing the audience is key because we cannot control how others will respond.
    • John says he heard about this from Jim Hogan at Google (someone with the principal title, also on the spectrum). John remembers hearing a talk Jim gave about this concept of the self-manual which detailed how Jim preferred to be scheduled for meetings, best communication methods for reaching him and working with him effectively, etc.
      • For example, John knows he tends to go on and on with his stories, and if he was managing a team, he would tell them to feel free and interrupt him with "hey, I get it."
    • Thinking about this again, Kristen thinks handing something like this to people who work for you is awesome. She was picturing handing it to colleagues at first.
      • Leaders could hand this to people and tell them it’s a way for others to make the most of the relationship with that leader, and it also sets the standard for a culture that allows expression of needs and boundaries right away.
      • Kristen says a leader could even have their team members do a similar exercise. For example, develop a half-pager of the most important items to communicate to your colleagues how you work in the best way.
    • John even thinks about it from a sales engineering perspective. Many times we need to bring in more specialized colleagues to help our customers, but those specialists have requirements / things they want to know ahead of time before meeting with a customer.
      • Doing the work ahead of time allows the specialist to be more effective in helping to solve a problem, and it parallels the operating manual idea.
      • Nick calls it a preferred engagement model that fits the operating manual and procedures within it.

25:53 – ADHD in Tech and the Challenge of Getting Help

  • Nick asked Kristen if she’s seeing any specific trends with ADHD in the tech industry.
    • Kristen sees trends in a behavioral way.
    • Kristen says many of her clients work in the technology space and that she is seeing brilliant minds who can hyperfocus in amazing ways.
      • Kristen tells us that hyperfocus is the ability to sit and be extremely persistent with one task for so much time you’re ignoring basic needs to do it (i.e. not going to the rest room, not eating, not sleeping, focused on solving a problem / whatever the task is, etc.).
    • She sees a lot of perfectionism in these clients (people wanting to make something perfect / do something perfect) and even some spiraling when things are not perfect.
    • There’s also a lot of overwhelm (sort of thriving in the hyperfocus but being overwhelmed by it at the same time).
    • Meeting deadlines can also be very difficult and stressful for these folks.
      • "The ADHD brain is just an amazing thing; however, sometimes it just does not cooperate." – Kristen Carder speaking on the ADHD brain and deadlines
    • John mentioned if you had thousands of people on which to do a research study to capture industry, you would be biasing toward the population who had thought to get a diagnosis.
  • John mentioned people who need help might seek a diagnosis and realize it’s not pure medication to solve all the problems. The next step could be behavioral coaching.
    • And kudos to people out there with ADHD who got past all these hurdles to get the help needed.
    • Kristen agrees wholeheartedly, especially since ADHD can be so debilitating and so many people are walking around undiagnosed.
    • If you’re listening and believe ADHD is over diagnosed, it is very likely you are misinformed.
    • Kristen says so many people out there just think they are lazy, who just think they are a bad person who cannot manage their time, who just think they are selfish because they cannot seem to show up places on time, who just think they are bad with money, who just think they make bad decisions, etc.
    • So many people are walking around with shame and don’t realize the things they hate about themselves are symptoms of ADHD.
    • Even getting access to healthcare can be a challenge. It could be a year wait or more to get a diagnosis even (outside the US and sometimes inside the US).
    • Think about all the executive function needed to keep track of medications and various appointments. Kristen has 2 kids who are on medication for ADHD, and she keeps track of all this for them plus herself.
      • It is hard for people with ADHD to get the medication they need.
    • Getting to that next level (hiring a coach, seeing a therapist, doing trauma informed therapy, mindset coaching, etc.) is so admirable. It’s nice to see people taking advantage of those things.

31:17 – Becoming a Coach

  • Kristen was listening to a podcast about business back in the days when she was running BeyondTutoring. She wanted to learn more about how to grow and scale the company.
    • This podcast happened to have a life coach as a guest on the show who said something that changed Kristen’s life – "B- work can change the world, but work that never gets done doesn’t help anybody."
    • Kristen did not really know what a life coach was at this time.
    • After this Kristen went straight to this lady’s podcast and started hearing other things like "you can make more money than you’re making" and "your thoughts impact how you feel."
      • These were things Kristen hadn’t really heard.
      • "I was a 37-year-old woman just trying to live her life, not knowing that the way that I think actually impacts how I feel. That was news to me." – Kristen Carder, on listening to advice from a lie coach
    • Kristen joined this coach’s program soon after, and it was extremely helpful.
      • Joining the program was the extra push Kristen needed. She had been medically treated for ADHD and was at the same time deepening her understanding of what it means to have ADHD, and she was also bringing in the life coaching tools learned from being a part of the group coaching program.
      • The combination above according to Kristen was life changing and was exactly what she needed at the time.
      • Kristen modeled her coaching program after the one she had joined (Brooke Castillo was the coach, a pioneer in the life coaching field, Self-Coaching Scholars was the program), but Kristen is no longer values aligned with this coach.
    • Kristen got certified as a life coach and built the FOCUSED program, bringing in her knowledge of ADHD and the coaching tools.
    • "It’s just explosive what the ADHD brain can do once there’s more understanding of who you and why you are acting the way you’re acting….And then, how does the human brain work, and how can you sort of hack it to get yourself to do the things you don’t want to do." – Kristen Carder

34:32 – Developing Expertise

  • Kristen’s ADHD expertise journey began when she was supporting students through her tutoring business.
    • So many of the students Kristen worked with had ADHD. Kristen knew she had ADHD, but other than being medically treated for it she did not know much about it.
    • Kristen started researching ADHD to help her students. This led her to understand that things like time blindness, an inability to remember things in the moment, and being emotionally explosive were all symptoms of ADHD.
      • "And so I just ferociously began devouring all kinds of ADHD material." – Kristen Carder, speaking to the realization of understanding so many things she was experiencing were ADHD related
    • Kristen cites Dr. Russell Barkley’s work as well as the work of Dr. Ned Hallowell, Dr. Ari Tuckman, and Sari Solden as sources for her research (big contributors of research and writing for the ADHD brain).
    • Kristen realized once she started doing this that reading information like this (research, etc.) and synthesizing it for an audience like her podcast audience and clients (i.e. pulling out the parts the ADHDer really cares about) is her superpower.
    • Nick thinks Kristen and John share a superpower with that consumption and synthesis aspect. Sometimes Nick will find himself saying something and then John will say it so much better.
      • John says part of this is listening and echoing back. If you’re actively listening / have those skills and are focused on what the other person is saying (maybe even hyperfocused), you’re paying attention to context and what the person is going through in the moment as well as the future state.
      • Echoing back what someone said with their context and their future state seems very profound to the person who was originally speaking.
      • Kristen agrees John should give himself a bit more credit in this area. The things that are complex come quite easily to the ADHD brain, while the things that are easier do not.
    • Not everyone can do these complex things. Kristen can read a book and know very quickly the things her audience cares about (i.e. what to highlight for them).
    • From all the books Kristen has read and conversations with ADHD giants, Kristen is able to create classes for her coaching program. At the time of this recording she mentions one about money. Doing this kind of thing is a joy for Kristen.

38:38 – Curriculum Builder

  • John sees a lot of parallels between us and our audience with Nerd Journey and Kristen and her audience.
    • We’re trying to help people understand they could be making more money, they shouldn’t limit themselves, etc. We like to discuss books that we’ve read with some important takeaways for listeners (giving them the option to go and read the book if they want).
    • John wonders if he and Nick should look at putting in the time and effort to create a class?
  • Getting to the point of creating classes relates back to Kristen knowing herself.
    • She’s never going to record something in advance for her students to digest later. Kristen is always going to record it in real-time. She likes the feel of community and the adrenaline rush from having so many people at once on a call.
    • All calls are hosted webinar style. Kristen comes prepared with some bullet points but likes to keep things conversational.
    • Kristen doesn’t really understand how people create courses for others to consume later.
    • For example, in FOUCSED they are studying money for the entire month. Kristen is doing 4 strategy classes (what she considers the teaching element), 4 coaching calls on money, and then 4 body double type budgeting sessions. These will be recorded and stored somewhere (i.e. a money course section) for people to consume later.
    • Kristen knows she is not going to develop a curriculum and just record it in front of her camera (i.e. without the live element). She’s not that person.
    • It’s fun for Kristen to do these live. It allows people to ask questions in the moment. And it makes people feel like they are not alone. Kristen can read feedback people share in the webinar shat back to the group to help here. It’s the community element.
    • When Kristen first started she was creating a new course each month. She did 11 courses her first year and was pretty tired.
    • Kristen tells us she would write the entire workbook for the class (the part she can do on her own). She is a good writer and writes the way she talks, leading people through a self-coaching practice in her writing.
    • Kristen would use the workbook (which could be 50 pages or so) as a guide to teach the class. In her mind, once the workbook was done, the work was done.

42:58 – Hosting a Podcast

  • Kristen created the I Have ADHD podcast out of necessity.

    • In the 2015 – 2017 range Kristen kept looking for a podcast on ADHD (and would look every few months). But she didn’t like any of the ones out there.
    • Kristen would listen to those she could find and think "this is not what I want" or "this is not what I need." She remembers having conversations about it with her husband.
    • "When is somebody going to create a podcast that is concise and fun but also full of really useful info? When is somebody going to create a podcast that has coaching tools and ADHD resources combined? And I just kept waiting around for someone to do it, and I got really frustrated. And then that little voice came that was like ‘excuse me, why aren’t you doing it?’ But you never think that you can do it." – Kristen Carder, speaking to why she created her podcast
    • Kristen told herself she wasn’t an expert and that the was still learning and that "grown ups needed to do it" (create the podcast she wanted).
    • Kristen realized if she were looking for this others were too. And maybe it would be a gap she could fill.
    • It was around the end of 2018 when Kristen dropped her first episode.
      • "I just kind of threw it out into the darkness of the night and hoped that nobody ever listened to it…and it is THE most downloaded episode I have…." – Kristen Carder on releasing the first episode of her show
    • But Kristen was right! People were looking for a resource like this. The I Have ADHD podcast is now one of the top rated podcasts with over 4 million downloads.
    • Looking back, Kristen says it’s (still) really fun.
    • "I feel very grateful that there were other people out there just like me who appreciated a straightforward but fun vibe…and who were looking for real ADHD resources combined with some mindset tools." – Kristen Carder
    • Kristen says podcasting is the hardest thing she does. It’s hard for her to sit in her own office by herself to record.
      • "I like having a podcast, but I hate podcasting. I love interviews like this…but if it’s a solo episode, there’s a lot of drama." – Kristen Carder
      • Kristen tells us she often thinks about other things she needs to do or procrastinates and that it’s very hard to pull a solo episode out.
      • Kristen knows the work is important and that her solo episodes are some of the best episodes she has. Reminding herself of how much she loves having a podcast helps her do the hard work.
  • If you want to follow up on this episode, you can find Kristen on…

  • Mentioned in the outro

    • Being open about an ADHD diagnosis can be really hard.
    • John has built an operating manual for himself but hasn’t yet shared with his team. Stay tuned to hear how that goes when he does share it!
    • Are John and Nick on the verge of working to build classes? Or should they?
    • Nick mentions Kristen’s discussion of "what I get paid for" reminds him of Don Jones’ discussion of knowing the problem you solve mentioned in Episode 137.
      • Would you be able to say you know the things you get paid for? It’s something to ponder.
    • We talk about the idea of ignition from Dan Coyle’s The Talent Code.

Contact us if you need help on the journey, and be sure to check out the Nerd Journey Podcast Knowledge Graph.

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