James Davies is Regional Director of Talent’s Manchester office. Around the age of eight, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. He talks about his experience with the learning difficulty and how it has shaped his management style.
I was very fortunate with the amount of support I got for my dyslexia at school. The early diagnosis helped as it meant as soon as I got to secondary school, I had access to a laptop to aid me with my reading and writing in classes.
Back when I was at school, the laptops were not what we would today deem portable. At the time, I wasn’t exactly delighted to have to use one as it signalled me out as ‘different’ from the other kids. But, looking back on it now, it really helped me stay in line with my peers and ensured I came out of school a confident person with a willingness to learn.
After completing a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Information Systems at Liverpool John Moores University, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in recruitment – specifically IT recruitment.
In my head, my dyslexia wouldn’t prove to be a barrier to success in the recruitment industry – and so it has ultimately proved. But those first few years, in particular, were tough.
Early support was crucial
I went into the industry with the mindset that I’d find a way around any long writing tasks. “I’ll just reel off the information verbally,” I told myself unknowingly
Things didn’t get off to a great start. I was being asked to write way more than I was comfortable with – well, I would find ways to avoid it, but the expectation was there. It made me feel stressed, helpless and lacking in confidence.
The early support of my manager at the time changed all that. Rather than see dyslexia as something that was negative, he put processes in place to support it, which allowed me to play to my strengths. He helped me come up with coping strategies so that I could work in a way that suited me, rather than a way that suited the business.
He really championed my dyslexia, which helped me take ownership of it and not see it as a weakness. In fact, I was proud of it.
Paying the support forward
Now, as a manager of people, I try to be the champion for whatever issues my team might have. I like to think my experience has made me more aware of any personal issues within my team. It’s also helped me to focus on people’s strengths rather than their weaknesses, bringing the former to the fore wherever possible.
This approach encourages diversity in the team and ensures we see people as human beings and not as resources. It also helps to create more open relationships between management and staff – they know they can come to me about anything and we’ll search for a solution together.
We foster a collaborative culture at Talent. So, if somebody with dyslexia needs some assistance from a colleague, they feel comfortable asking for it.
In general, recruitment has a little way to go to when it comes to inclusion. There’s still a tendency to have people working on their own. But this doesn’t make it easy for those employees who need a bit of extra support. Instead of speaking up about their issues, they might suffer in silence. That’s something that has to change.
My advice to anyone with dyslexia or any other issue preventing them from working to the best of their ability is to not be afraid to ask for help. If those requests fall on deaf ears, it’s time to find yourself a company that puts you first.