Photo: Brooke Lark (Unsplash)
My Constant Business Companion: Dyslexia
“For me, the key to effective business communication is establishing a solid connection with my colleagues and clients”
I’m open about the fact that I have dyslexia. When people ask me what it’s like to run a business when I have dyslexia, I have to stop and think about it. Because my dyslexia hasn’t slowed me down. I’ve run my event planning business for just over five years and have worked in the events industry for more than 20 years. My dyslexia is part of that experience.
Being an entrepreneur with dyslexia has its challenges, but I find it exciting and rewarding.
I’m not alone in this. One of my heroes, Richard Branson, says in this interview that his dyslexia was key in shaping Virgin. “It helped me think big but keep our messages simple. The business world often gets caught up in facts and figures—and while the details and data are important, the ability to dream, conceptualise and innovate is what sets the successful and the unsuccessful apart.”
Over, Around, or Alongside My Dyslexia
When challenges stemming from my dyslexia come up (and they often do), I find a way around them or over them. I struggle with certain letters when I’m reading, and many sentences look backwards to me. Since childhood I’ve come up with ways to overcome my difficulties with writing and reading. This includes finding trustworthy people in my life to whom I can hand responsibilities.
Take this blog, for instance. I’ve written the themes, created an outline, and decided what I want to say. The content is mine, but I have a trusted person who supports me in making the blog readable. I’m lucky to have these kinds of confidants in my circle. And delegation has become essential for me, which is not unusual for leaders with dyslexia.
CEO Magazine says that “thinking outside the box and creating simple solutions to complex business problems is one of the hallmarks of successful dyslexic CEOs with the role allowing them to play to their strengths and delegate the tasks they don’t excel in.”
Keep It Simple
I’ve adapted my communication style to serve my dyslexia. People tease me for my one-word answers or abrupt responses to emails, but people with dyslexia need to keep it simple and get straight to the point. Verbose email exchanges don’t work for us. Misspellings and mistakes still occasionally slip through, but I’ve learned to accept people mocking my spelling or pronunciation. For anyone in business—with dyslexia or not—tough skin and a sense of humour are lifesavers.
For me, the key to effective business communication is establishing a solid connection with my colleagues and clients. A phone call works best to hammer out the details of a project. It also helps prevent misunderstandings that can happen in email communications. People with dyslexia typically have very strong verbal communication skills since the written form is more difficult for us. We work tirelessly to make sure our verbal communications are clear, with hearts and minds aligned. We are people-oriented people.
- Here are tactics I’ve found helpful as an entrepreneur with dyslexia (they’re good for people without dyslexia too!)
- Be open with people about the fact that you have dyslexia.
- Surround yourself with fantastic people you click with. Find your business tribe.
- Seek out and use technologies that can help fill in the gaps. For me, it’s Spell Check or Grammarly.
- If you’re working on an important document, ask a trusted friend or colleague to proofread it for spelling and grammar.
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help. We all need help at times. The sooner we accept our challenges, the better. For most of my career I’ve leaned on my Mum or friends to check my work. (Admittedly, I bribe them with cups of tea or wine. Or both…)
- Make lists and take notes. (Only you will be reading them, so misspellings won’t count.) I also record ideas on my phone when they come to me, so I don’t forget about them later.
- Recognize that you’re going to mistakes and try not to let that prospect intimidate you.
- When mistakes happen, dust yourself off and get back at it. Don’t quit.
- Allow yourself extra time for tasks you know are challenging. Like getting my thoughts together for this blog. It took me a bit longer than the work I do on spreadsheets. I can’t stare at a blank piece of paper. Nothing will happen! Give yourself time to get things done to avoid last-minute panic.
- Take a break when you need it. Go for a walk. Dance around your office. Stand on your head. Whatever works for you and your unique brain. I find getting away from that blank piece of paper or my laptop screen helps.
My dyslexia has made running a business difficult at times. But nothing truly worthwhile comes easy. The journey is the essential part, my favourite part. And the journey with dyslexia just has extra spice.
“Dyslexia and strategic, innovative thinking go hand-in-hand,” says Helen Boden, CEO, British Dyslexia Association