He can’t even write properly
Children paint pictures by numbers. There, the respective shape, size, and arrangement within the overall context is precisely given. The situation is similar for me with writing. However, my templates are less colourful and the overall context not so “bucolic” in many respects. I “paint by numbers” words and entire sentences. I use this method to try to find a workaround for a “disorder” or “weakness”: dyslexia. Or rather: I apply my own approach. This, however, has its limits. Street names are the final boss for me because I can’t see the beginning and the end of individual words. That’s ok, just super annoying.
So that’s where I’ve been standing with my companion since the first days of school. Today we get along quite well. However, the stressful everyday life in a successful start-up sometimes ensures that no sentence seems to fit together. But that doesn’t matter. My dyslexia is no secret in our team, it just means that, someone else always has to check important emails and correct spelling and grammar.
My tip: talk about it!
Today I can talk openly about the topic. This was not possible less than 10 years ago. My fears, my shame and my anger at my failure to write quickly made me aggressive and vulnerable. Everything changed in my previous employment. From the first moment, there was enough trust to say openly and honestly that I have to face this challenge and need help. I was able to explain how I wanted to be supported, what makes me feel good and what doesn’t help based on my experience. Rarely has anything changed my professional life as much as working together in this team.
Concentrate on your strengths
I believe that every person has skills that, when used correctly, can have an enormous impact on an organisation. This applies to all of us, myself included. If I can’t solve a problem, I always have to ask myself where and when it will become a problem in the first place. Aren’t my other skills much more valuable and don’t they bring me, the team and the organisation forwards? Dyslexics need to learn to think differently and solve tasks differently and with added difficulty. This results in unconventional thinking and innovation.
I learn faster (e.g., to understand systems), ask questions and connect the answers. In combination with my Excel skills and an interest in the “bigger picture”, this means that I can now be responsible for the finances at SAPERED. I have learned to build tools (e-mail templates, mnemonic techniques, etc.) that help me in the long term. It is better to invest 4 hours today with a lot of care and logic and to have more planning security tomorrow.
What does this mean for SAPERED?
SAPERED offers solutions in the big playing field of Learning & Development. My story at school, my fears during my further education, my embarrassment in front of colleagues regarding e-mails or texts have shaped my view of this topic. L&D must help learners to do their tasks better. Not only in terms of output, but especially in terms of outcome. The individual will then feel better.
From our purpose (“We drive people to grow”) and our vision (“We give learning the effect by which change in the company becomes an opportunity and the future turns into everyday life”) lead me to think that we facilitate other people with supposed “weaknesses” to flourish. This does not always require a big solution. On the contrary: often it is the small, easily applicable and simple answer.
Skills are more important than roles
My experience has also helped to build up our organisational structure. Only we handle strengths, weaknesses, differentiated and complementary skills openly can and will we be successful. For me, success is not only measured through economic KPIs. The team’s well-being is much more important. Can everyone develop and drive the things that make them strong? Does everyone get the help they need?
Skill-based work in an organisation with the courage to include a diversity of perspectives gives us the opportunity to develop further as a company. Let’s take recruiting as an example. The values must coincide to a large extent, the new team members must be able to identify with our purpose and vision. However, the skills should not be the same. We are not looking for people to become our “Mini-Me”, rather for people who bring other skills to enrich our team and from whom we can learn.
Last but not least…
I would like to conclude with an appeal to parents. If you find out that your children have a different level of strengths and weaknesses than the norm, support them. As an example, just look at the big names of our time (Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, etc.) who have a “reading and writing disorder” and are absolutely successful in their field.
To all employers: spelling mistakes in an application suck, yes, I know. But they say nothing about skills in other areas. Ask openly about weaknesses, offer help and you will get passion, loyalty and innovation in return.
This might sound unusual in a business context, but, is there anything normal about this blog post? I dedicate this small post to Wilhelm, Carsten and Carmen for their patience with the many texts, e-mails and everything else. To Pascal, who asked me to write this blog post and invited me to talk about it openly, also outside of our company.
Disclaimer: the original German version of this blog post includes grammar and spelling mistakes.