Doug Rabold on embracing neurodivergency at work

Understanding and Embracing Neurodiversity in the Workplace with Doug Rabold

In this episode of Relationships at Work, Russel chats with neurodivergent leader Doug Rabold on embracing neurodiversity in the workplace, what it might look like and its importance.

A few reasons he is awesome – he’s the senior manager of customer support at Amwell, Chairman of the Board of HDI who named him a Top 25 Thought Leaders in IT service and support and customer experience, International speaker and member of European Customer Experience Organization (ECXO) AND he’s recently embraced a role as a neurodivergent leader to bring attention to this area in the workplace, as he is autistic, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome almost 20 years ago. 

Connect with Doug on his platforms:

ARTICLES – How Doug Revealed his Neurodiversity

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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • What neurodivergency is.
  • Typical misconceptions of neurodivergency.
  • How autism and neurodivergency can show up at work.
  • Why organizations should embrace neurodivergent leaders.
  • The benefit of neurodivergent “superpowers” (though Doug hates that term).
  • Why embracing neurodivergency is hard for some organizations.
  • Neurodiversity’s connection to innovation.

“The idea is don’t look at people as a label, look at people as what their capabilities are. That’s how we should be evaluating people is what their strengths, capabilities and abilities are, not ‘Are they neurodivergent?’ …What’s important is ‘Do they add value to the organization and the team?'”

Doug Rabold

FULL TRANSCRIPT OF INTERVIEW

Russel Lolacher
And on the show today, why it’s Doug Rabold. And here is why he is awesome. He’s a senior manager of customer support. Amwell, he is the chairman of the board of HDI which named him a top 25 thought leader in IT service and support and customer experience. He is an international speaker, don’t you know, and member of the European Customer Experience Organization, and which is a big reason why he’s on the show besides being all brainy and such, he’s recently embraced a role as a neurodivergent leader to bring attention to this area in the workplace, as he is autistic. And having been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, which is a form of Autistic Spectrum Disorder almost 20 years ago, and we’re gonna talk a bit about how that impacts and how we need to better understand all of neurodivergent see in the workplace. Hello, Doug.

Doug Rabold
Hey, Russel. Thanks for having me on.

Russel Lolacher
Yeah, no, I’m excited to talk to you about this. I mentioned this to a few people that I was going to talk to you today about neuro divergence. And I either got, oh, that is a really interesting topic, or, Oh, I have some questions that I need you to ask. So lots of interest, lots of Top of Mind, I guess, would be the nicest way of putting that where people are like, this is something I mean, they’re hearing about, or know a lot about, and we need to champion this a lot more. So I’m thrilled you’re on here.

Doug Rabold
Great. Yeah, it’s interesting that you bring that up that it piqued curiosity or piqued interest because I’ve, it’s funny, while I had, you know, sort of a following, you know, because of my customer experience work and my IT Service Management work. Even my Software Asset Management work I had, I had a following of of people. But it’s amazing how many people have you know, I guess, the the level of interest and level of engagement in in my content and the things that that I bring to the table, it seems like it’s exploded just in the last several months since I you know, since I made this this great reveal, if you will.

Russel Lolacher
Well, it’s funny, because you’re, what you’ve done is shifted it from professional to personal, even though it’s still in the professional world. Customer Experience, though human and very involved in understanding, but it is connected to sales, it’s connected to the finance of it all. So that’s okay. You can see that that relationship. But once you talk about something that is neuro divergence, it being something that people have, and are not even comfortable talking or revealing about it because of possible stigma, possible judgment. They want to be heard and to hear somebody like you, that’s gone, you know what, this is something I need to champion, they’re immediately going to feel connected and sort of going, I either I want to know more, or I have staff that I know, there’s something there that I need to better understand them with. So I not surprised at all that you’ve touched on something that I think has been long past not touched on.

Doug Rabold
Yeah, agreed. And, you know, I kind of threw caution to the wind. And it’s interesting that some of my fellow speakers and thought leaders in the area that I’m in, have come out and they’re like, Doug, this is your this is your thing going forward. It’s like, all the other stuff is great. And you can weave that in. But this is your story going forward. So very, very cool. And, you know, while while I held back on telling this story for 20 years, because of concerns about how it would be received, and you know, what the perception of me may be? It’s funny, it’s actually had exactly the opposite, you know, of what my what my fears trepidations, and concerns were, it’s had the opposite impact on on where my career career trajectory is going.

Russel Lolacher
And I’ve got so many questions on that, Doug. But first, I have to ask the question, which is, what’s your best or worst employee experience?

Doug Rabold
I always tried to focus on the positive, so I’m going to give you the best. So I had a first career in sales. I was in sales and sales management for about 18 years before 13 years ago, I moved into it. And in that first career, one of my career stops was with UPS freight. When UPS had acquired overnight freight out of Virginia, we decided, hey, it would be great to take some of our smaller small package accounts, which is what you know, the typical little brown truck. That’s the small package group, take some of these smaller small package accounts and try to cross sell freight. And so Doug was put over this program to, you know, outbound calls to some of our small package accounts and tried to cross sell freight. And I had a team of 13 people that that were making these calls and our goal for year one was, hey, we want you to generate $1 million in new revenue for freight off of our small package accounts. Well, I put together I mean, I picked and chose the best people I brought him onto the team. And not only did we more than meet that goal, we were generating a million dollars in new revenue per month within the first six months. And so, you know, we had 300 people sitting in a call center. And you know, the powers that be were like, hey, you know, if you can take 13 people and generate a million dollars in new revenue a month, why don’t we have all 200 or 300 people making these calls? I’m like, well, that’s great. But what are you going to do with these people? Right? And they’re like, well, we’ll make them subject matter experts. So they’ll take, you know, take turnover calls when when the two or 300 People can’t close the deal. I’m like, Well, so what you’re doing is you’re taking people that are really affected, really efficient in sales, and you’re turning them into sneeze, and taking what they’re good at what they enjoy away from them. They’re like, well, you, when you put it that way, you know, the program has to end we’re going to do this. So what what’s your thought? And one of the things that I did is I said, Hey, can I take these, you know, anybody that’s interested from this 13? Can we find field jobs for them, get them out selling freight in front of the customer, put them in front of the customer, instead of on the phone, I said, Hey, if you can find them, you know, if you can find the positions for him do it. So I managed to find of the 13, I managed to find eight positions, got eight of those 13 out in front of customers selling freight, three of them, well, six of them are still doing that this is, what 17 years later. And three of them are in executive leadership positions in that industry. So I mean, like, senior directors type thing. So I mean, that to me was the right thing to do. If you’ve got these people that are phenomenal, and really good at what they do, don’t take them out of their comfort zone, if they don’t want to be if they want to move into something different, great, given the opportunities, put in front of them, you know, a career path so that they can get there. But if they’re having it, then doing what they’re doing, capitalize on that strength, I’m a huge proponent of Strength Finders, and if people are in their wheelhouse, keep them in their wheelhouse, don’t give them something different to do. So that’s my employee experience. You know, that’s, I always say that’s the thing that I’m most proud of. And it’s it’s funny, when when you look at my bio, at any conference, it asks, as Doug, if you have a few minutes, what what he’s most proud of in his career? That’s the story I tell.

Russel Lolacher
And it’s nice that it’s, I mean, I love it, that’s your experience, but how dependent is it on a culture that will listen to their stuff in order for experiences like that to be able to happen?

Doug Rabold
Yeah, absolutely. Culture is a huge component of that. I mean, you know, a large corporation, like UPS just ship could have said, Hey, this is what we’re doing. What like it, you know, like it or leave it. But, you know, to their credit, you know, my, my leadership was, was very open and receptive to, and the whole call center thing was new to them to you. So the fact that they even had a call center, and then you know, get somebody else that has call center experience coming in from a different arena, and says, Hey, there’s, there’s a better way of doing this, rather than than just, you know, forcing something on these people. You know, kudos to them for having that open air and listening and acting on it.

Russel Lolacher
Our topic today, neurodiversity, it seems to be quite an umbrella term, in that it covers quite a bit. But I’d really like to maybe start by defining what we can before we move forward on getting more into the corners of it. So how would you define neurodiversity or neurodivergent?

Doug Rabold
So great question wrestling. And I’m glad you asked it that way. Because there’s really two things so neuro diversity encompasses everyone. That’s, that’s the whole idea behind diversity of any kind, right? There’s a full gamut. There’s everyone includes those who are neurotypical, which is the terminology. Neurotypical is those who think alike, and then there’s the neurodivergent. So neurodiversity encompasses neurotypical and neurodivergent. neurodivergent encompasses multiple different things. So there’s autism spectrum disorder, which is, which is what my condition is, there’s Tourette’s, there’s ADHD, so and you know, I could probably name a dozen other ones, but most of the ones that that are in front and center in the world today, are those three, it’s ADHD is probably the one that gets the most attention. And then autism spectrum disorder. And then finally, Tourette’s is probably a distant third, but there’s there’s literally like over a dozen different neuro diverse neurodivergent classifications. And one of the things that I’ve found and it’s funny because as as I’ve sort of embraced this, you know, frankly, this, this didn’t just happen overnight, Doug didn’t just say, you know, wake up one morning and say, you know, I think I’m gonna come out to the world that I’m neurodivergent it was a process of, you know, I probably plan this whole thing out for about three years saying, Should I shouldn’t I go and back and forth. But part of that process was educating myself about what I had, it’s one thing to get a diagnosis, it’s another thing to educate yourself. And I spent a couple of years actually educating myself, so that if and when the day came that I did decide to reveal that you know that scenario to the world, then I’d be able to speak to it and help people understand. And what’s truly interesting is when people hear about autism, they think about the nonverbal autists. While that is, is one of the highest percentage of folks with autism spectrum disorder, it is certainly not a majority even it just happens to be the most visible. And that’s one of the interesting things about autism spectrum disorder is it’s called the hidden disability, because there are a lot of people out there that while they may, you know, there may be some interesting things about them that may be intriguing, or that that may, you know, somebody may go well, they’re, they’re a little strange, or, you know, they have problems communicating. But you don’t think that they may be afflicted with a condition like Autism Spectrum Disorder, they just seem a little different. And, you know, I would say, that’s probably the category that I fell in. Fortunately, I spent many years being, you know, I guess, in a sense, what they call masking, hiding, that finding ways to cope with what was going on inside me. So that it didn’t present itself externally. And, you know, that’s become sort of part of me. I’m now to that point, having having made my big reveal that I’m okay, if, you know, when there’s a lot of noise going on around me, I got to shrink away, I got to find a place to decompress, even if it’s just 1015 minutes. And it used to be I just disappear. Now. I’m like, Hey, folks, this is little nuts. Right now, I got to step away. And, you know, now I’m comfortable saying that, but in the past, I wouldn’t have been I just would have disappeared and people would have been like, where’s duck? You know, bird duck go?

Russel Lolacher
What’s possibly a misunderstanding about neurodivergence? Is there certain things that people like, oh, that falls under, but it doesn’t.

Doug Rabold
There’s a lot of things misunderstood about neuro divergency. See, you know, and I mentioned one of them, people think, typically of autism, just as, as the person that, you know, is in a wheelchair and non communicative. But there are a lot of leaders out there that that have self identified recently as neurodivergent, Elon Musk recently, Sir Richard Branson. I mean, there’s a lot of business leaders now that are, you know, having that moment of clarity and saying, I’ve been like this all my life, and yet I’ve been successful. So it’s not necessarily a negative. And I think that’s probably the the biggest misconception is that if you have something like autism, or even Tourette’s, you’re probably not going to be successful. And maybe you cannot lead. And, you know, kind of dovetails into into our conversation today, I’m sure. You know, I’ve been very successful as a leader. And it’s, it’s, you know, I wouldn’t even say it’s necessarily despite the fact that I have ASD. In some cases, it’s because I do and I’ve learned how to be a very effective leader, by leveraging, you know, I hate the term superpowers, but that kind of gets thrown around, leveraging my condition, leveraging certain aspects of my condition, to make me a more effective leader,

Russel Lolacher
As someone with Asperger’s, and going to work, maybe take us back, before you revealed it to everybody what you had what was different from you, that others may not understand that being in the workplace having a neurodivergent condition, you know, I’m just trying to look your examples of how you would look at the workplace differently than somebody else might, just to raise some awareness about it.

Doug Rabold
Sure. Yeah. So Russel, one of the things that that I found early in my career and you know, I am afflicted with the the lack of natural empathy, which is, which is fairly typical, fairly common among autism, you know, those with autism. And so one of the things that I found early on is I had a very directive, very bull in the china shop approach to leadership and that didn’t serve me well. It certainly didn’t serve the people that reported to me well. And so one of the things that I discovered is I had to stop and think So, before I say something, what can I expect the result to be from what I want to say, versus what I should say and versus how I should say it. Because my natural inclination is just to be very like, like, just say it, you know, just blurt it out, get it out of the way, you know, and then let’s move on. But that doesn’t always work well, when you’re leading people, because they, they, you know, different people are motivated by different things. And so, what I found myself doing, and what I do to this day, to a lesser degree, because now now it’s sort of, I’ve gotten that hardwired. But over the course of my career as a leader, one of the things that I found myself hanging having to do is, is gauge people’s reactions to certain ways that I would say things, or things that I would say, and then, you know, sort of catalog that away. And in the future, when I need to say something, or, you know, say Say something, do something, rely on that experience, to gauge how or, you know, to really formulate how I’ll present it the next time. And so I, you know, I sort of build up this repository of experiences, that I, you know, go through whenever I’m, whenever I’m talking to people, whether it’s one on one, or even in, particularly in group leadership situations, is, before I speak, going through that catalog, in my mind very rapidly to, you know, to make sure that I say things, the way that I think will be received in the way that I intend them to, not the way that a neurotypical person may perceive them. If they’re not, you know, couched in the right language or with the proper sentiment.

Russel Lolacher
Why should organizations embrace neurodiversity as something that they should understand better and look for people in leadership roles, to embrace this different way of thinking?

Doug Rabold
Well, so what when using the term neurodiversity, diversity of any kind, it should be embraced. I mean, that’s just the reality. Whenever we fail to have a diverse workforce, a diverse team of any kind, what you do is you give yourself blind spots, there’s always going to be an element that’s missing. And, you know, I’ve, I go back to, you know, some some of the leadership positions I’ve had one of the first things I do is look around the table and see, do we have underrepresented individuals on this, you know, on this team, if we don’t, we need some, bring some on? There were often cases where, you know, I didn’t have to ask, do we have neurodivergent on, you know, on this team, because I knew we did. So but, you know, I think it’s critical that as more and more people and you know, the statistics show that upwards of 10% of the population probably has some sort of neuro divergence. So if if you’re leaving out 10% of your customers, 10% of your employees, you know, obviously, there’s going to be a gap and somewhere along the way, there’s going to be a failure. And so, diversity of any kind is absolutely to be embraced on any kind of team, any kind of leadership that that you’re involved in. You know, it’s it’s not just neuro divergence, it’s divergence evolve, or diversity of all kinds, you know, race, creed, religion, gender, and even looking at at non traditional gender non binaries, making sure that that you are, every team is capturing every sort of diversity out there.

Russel Lolacher
Again, using you as an example. And you were kind of mentioning the quote unquote, term you hate to use superpowers. What are you using for your own neurodivergence See, that you think is benefiting the organization and your own leadership in in the way you think?

Doug Rabold
Yeah. So you know, I’ll use the term I don’t like so so one of my superpowers, if you will, is just absolutely finding the these areas of interest and, and immersing myself completely and totally in them for for sometimes it’s weeks, sometimes it’s months. Sometimes it’s years. You know, I’ll throw out just a stupid example here. There was a period in time when I was in college and all my buddies and I played Dungeons and Dragons. And I got to where I mean, I knew how to create these broken characters that because I knew the rules inside now, I understood all the mechanics of the game, and it’s just like, I can treat these broken characters that were just undefeatable. And, you know, that sort of thing. I spent months learning those mechanics and then, you know, then it was time to move on to something different and that Something that I’ve done throughout my life, I’ll find something to latch on to something that I absolutely and, you know, kind of obsessive about and learn everything about it. And then I’m ready to move on to something new. Case in point, I had five different majors in college because I get into a major, I fall in love with it, I learned everything I could I show myself to be an A plus student in it. And then I’d be like, kind of done everything I can do here, let’s move on to something into something new. Eventually, my parents said, You got to figure out how to finish one of these up. But you know that, what that’s done for me and I sort of referenced that I have this experiential repository in my mind, I also have this this catalogue of facts and data and, you know, really strange topics that that don’t seem in any way related to what I do is service management or customer experience. But in point of fact, what I do is I actually harken back through that catalogue of things that I’ve done and things that I’ve known in the past, in order to come up with really strange, unique and outside the box ways of doing things. It’s funny, and I’ll throw out like, philosophy quotes when when I’m composing an email. And people just kind of eat it up. I mean, they’re like, hey, you know, that’s really cool people, people in our business don’t really think that way, usually. So So getting people get getting the employees and the teams to think of things in a different way. And not just think in the silos of you know, and I always say, I’m not an IT lifer. I only been 13 years after prior career. And that ability to think outside the box, I think, has served me my teams and my companies and my clients very well.

Russel Lolacher
As I’ve been doing this podcast, I just keep hearing and seeing this connection between innovation and diversity, which most organizations will talk about innovation and drop it like a buzzword, but they don’t see the connection that if you want innovation, you have to embrace people that think differently, that are not the norm that you might be, you know, comfortable with. So that begs the question, Doug, why is this so hard for organizations to more embrace in the workplace?

Doug Rabold
Yeah, so excellent question. And, you know, I always say, I’m a disrupter by nature. I mean, that that, to me is, is just I was born to be a consultant and born to be a disrupter already referenced, strengths finders, and my top Street’s top three strengths, are learner, arranger and futurist. So it’s like, I mean, to me that just says, Doug, you are you were born to like, go in, learn everything about something, figure out what how it should be versus how it is today, and then put it there and then move on to the next thing, right. And so you’re right, there’s that innovation aspect. And, and there’s that disruption aspect. And I think some of the organizations out there that talk about innovation, but don’t really embrace it. It’s because there is sort of that status quo mentality that I sort of referenced in my last response. People learn things one way, they learn things somewhat linear, in a linear fashion. And they learn from people who have always done it one way. And so it’s just sort of this continuity. Disruption is exactly the opposite. Disruption is okay, I get how it’s been done. But is that really the best way to do it now? You know, particularly in the world I live in, and IT Service Management and customer experience, those things evolve in the marketplace constantly. I mean, not just evolutionary change, some cases, it’s revolutionary change. What was good in, you know, January of 2020, in March of 2020, was no longer considered to be good, you know, things just changed overnight, because everybody went from working in an office or the majority went from working in an office to working from home and you had to figure out new, better different ways of doing things. And so those who are accustomed to doing it one way, didn’t really embrace that very well and didn’t really succeed very well. It’s those who were were willing, able and capable of disrupting, and looking at things this other way that that really thrived in that environment, which I find very interesting because now some of these same organizations are starting to move people back and forcing people to move back into the office. And so, you know, it’s kind of that ebb and flow of innovation is great as long as I need you to innovate, but when I don’t want you to innovate any any longer, I want you to back on my campus type thing. There’s absolutely that that disruptive component to innovation and organizations that are, are going to be future leaders are the ones who truly embrace innovation as opposed to just speaking about it.

Russel Lolacher
The bread is well that one of the most substantial challenges to neuro divergent acceptance in the workplace is that people don’t view cognitive differences as a disability. What are your thoughts on that?

Doug Rabold
I mentioned Russel earlier that ASD is what’s known as a hidden disability. And that’s because, you know, I, I, quote, unquote, passed for 20 years of just being dug, you know, it’s dug his dog. But it’s funny, because when people do make that reveal, suddenly, you know, and actually, the way that I did this reveal was through an article that I wrote for HDI. And and in that article, I, you know, I kind of referenced that some people may, when they read this be like, Oh, well, that duck makes a little more sense, because he’s had these little quirks that, you know, we thought it was just, it was just a little odd. But that, ultimately, I’m still just who I am. And I’m no more nor less, no different than I was about a week ago, a month ago, six months ago, a year ago, or even 20 years ago, when I was first diagnosed. So So ultimately, the idea is don’t look at people as a label. Look at people as what their capabilities are. Yeah, I mean, that’s how we should be evaluating people is what their strengths, capabilities and abilities are not. Are they neurodivergent? Are they black, white, Hispanic? I mean, none of this is important. What’s important is, Do they add value to the organization into the team?

Russel Lolacher
Do you think hiring practices are a problem for this?

Doug Rabold
You know, it’s interesting, you asked that, Russel? And you know, there’s, there’s thoughts on both sides of this? So I don’t have the key to the key answer to this question for you. But I will give you some insight. Personally speaking, I wouldn’t put on an application that I am that I have a disability, what I do is I I would put declined to answer. I do the same for every one of those. And the reason I would do that is because you know, and there’s there’s the questions of you know, are you a veteran? Are you disabled, you know, all these different protected classes. And the reason I would do that is some organizations may give you preferential treatment, others may, you know, put that put that resume to the, the bottom of the pile. I think as someone who is neurodivergent, I don’t want either those, I don’t want preferential treatment, and I don’t want to be, you know, singled out as a poor candidate, I want to be evaluated on my merit, the value that I bring. So, you know, how an organization you know, determines if they do or do not want to hire neurodivergent AI, to me, I could care less. And I would hope that everyone that is in any, you know, underrepresented class would feel the same way. You want to be evaluated on your merit, not on what underrepresented class you’re part of.

Russel Lolacher
So as an employer, and you’re You You have all the power here, Doug, as an employer, how can they better embrace neurodiversity in the workplace, because we know everybody likes a to do list, but I know this is much about mind shift is about tactics they can take. So what are some actionable tools that people can start looking at either start looking to the future or things they can do now?

Doug Rabold
Yeah, and that’s another great question, Russel. You know, when I look at, and I, you know, I went and got a certification through University of South Florida, which I recommend to anybody, it is a free certification on diversity, equity and inclusion, they run it a couple of times a year. One of the challenges with any diversity program is that it often winds up being a check the box exercise, and and it’s just do we have a program in place? Are we doing our best? Do we educate our our leaders and our employees on what diversity, equity and inclusive and inclusion is, and then move on? And oh, by the way, you know, for whatever month it happens to be, whether it’s Black History Month or autistic Awareness Month, whatever month it is, do we celebrate that in some form or fashion? And that’s a start, but I don’t think it’s really culture changing. i There’s a difference between awareness and acceptance. And I think most of the DEI programs that I’ve seen, and I’ve worked for major corporations, multiple fortune 500 companies, and most of the DEI programs I’ve seen are awareness campaigns, which again, is a good start. But that’s all it is. acceptance means it goes beyond that it’s we embrace a diverse workforce. You know, we understand that and it goes back to the earlier question, we understand that there’s a need to have underrepresented classes of workers as part of our staff, and is even part of our leadership, because they bring a different perspective. And they help us to avoid those blind spots. I don’t see much of that happening. And if you know if I can wave my magic wand and get my one wish, when it comes to neuro divergence, and neurodiversity, it would be that we moved from awareness to acceptance.

Russel Lolacher
How has it been in your organization, you came out and told everybody this is, you know, this is me, this is who I am? How has it embraced your organization? And how have they made it better for you or not?

Doug Rabold
Well, I just made the announcement, I made the announcement on LinkedIn, I made it through a couple of podcasts that I’ve been on. And thank you for having me on Russel. And then through the article that I wrote for, wrote for the HDI service management world, or support we’re live. I also spoke about it incorporated that into a couple of the presentations that I did at the at a couple of conferences this year. I didn’t make it the topic I just incorporated it in. But, you know, again, I didn’t wave the flag within my within my day job, because that’s not what I’m really about. What I’m about is, I just want to be authentic of who I am. And I want to pave the way for others to be authentically who they are. I’m not here to be an activist. That’s not my intention, by any stretch, what my intention is, is really to pave the way for that acceptance and awareness. You know, and to me, that’s, that’s what it’s all about is, you know, I feel like I had to navigate some some challenging waters for 20 years. And if I can make it a little bit easier, if I can smooth those waters for someone else, that that at the stage that I’m in my career that I’m at now, if I can do that for someone else, that to me is what’s most important.

Russel Lolacher
I reached out to my community and asked them to throw me a couple of questions that to pitch your way. And there was one that really stood out to me, which is one person was asking how do you educate supervisors and managers who may not see neurodiversity or the traits of neurodiversity as real? Or they put their own label on it? Ie Oh, you’re just lazy? Oh, you can’t focus well enough. Oh, just these other traits, rather than the reality of the situation? How do you educate those people?

Doug Rabold
Yes, that’s a really good question. And the reality when it comes to any diversity campaign is there there are going to be some people who will not embrace it doesn’t matter what it is that there are going to be some who are just closed minded. And, you know, I say this with a degree of hesitancy. But I don’t waste my energy on people that I can’t make a difference with. And it’s not that I wouldn’t be willing to educate somebody that that was close minded about this. But I also would rather focus my energies on those who are who are at least willing to listen. And, you know, it sounds like a non answer. But, you know, I think there’s there’s a critical element to knowing when it makes sense to put out effort, you know, sort of that risk reward analysis, which is another thing that I do inherently, I always look at risk reward. It’s like, is the juice worth the squeeze? And, you know, there’s some cases where the answer to that is “No”.

Russel Lolacher
At the beginning, you did mention that there was a lot of fear from you about being more vulnerable and revealing your neurodiversity. I’m kind of curious about what you were afraid of, but also what ended up happening once you did?

Doug Rabold
Yeah. My concern, and I have always had leadership skills, just I’ve always had this leadership mentality I’ve always had, people would gravitate toward me and I don’t mean that to sound conceited in any fashion, but I was always sort of the central sphere of influence in whatever group I was in. My concern was 20 years ago, when when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Because it’s like, if I tell people I’ve got Asperger’s, they’re gonna think I can’t lead. They’re gonna think that, you know, Doug’s got this, this disease or, you know, whatever, whatever they want to call it this condition this disease. Because back then, in particular, there’s very little understanding about neuro neurodiversity and neuro divergence. And so my concern was, if I come out and have this big reveal, 20 years ago, I killed my leadership career. And that’s what I’ve always wanted to be is I’ve always, always wanted to lead people. And I always, you know, my desire is always to help people improve, get better, you know, get eight people promoted into into sales roles in the field. That’s why it’s my proudest accomplishment, because I did something to help their careers. And so my biggest concern wasn’t about, you know, does it? Does it shut the door on on Doug and you know, he’ll he’ll always be an individual contributor, the rest of his life? It’s, what is the what is the impact on the people that I could potentially have been helping?

Russel Lolacher
So Doug, what’s one simple action people can do right now to improve their relationships at work?

Doug Rabold
Right now, what we need is we absolutely need to connect with our peers and with our leaders, and as leaders, we need to connect with our entire team. And one of the challenges. One thing I will will say is that there has been a bit of fragmentation around connection between teams, as everybody’s worked from home. And that’s not because it’s not possible. It’s because there hasn’t been enough effort put forth to keep people connected. I think early on in the pandemic, there was that connection element of, you know, open office hours, you know, a leader would have the water cooler time on a Friday afternoon, the virtual water cooler, if you will. But a lot of that, as we became more productive at working from home, a lot of that started falling by the wayside. And so I would say that’s one of the elements that we need to recapture is connectedness.

Russel Lolacher
That’s Doug Rabold. He’s the senior manager of customer support at AmWell. But also he is a neurodivergent leader are trying to bring attention to a very important topic through his own experience and through the getting the awareness of others. Thanks so much for being here, Doug.

Doug Rabold
Thanks, Russel. Appreciate it.

 

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