Recently an Improvement Points subscriber sent me this e-mail after

“A colleague recently forwarded one of your ‘Improvement Points’ newsletters to me (Stop Working and Start Living) and it was right on the money for what I needed to hear that day.

Today I am an employee that has been recently moved to a leadership role (overseeing/coordinating a team of 5 people). I was diagnosed with ADD when I was in school — during my education I was medicated but have been working successfully unmedicated for 5 years. Since I have moved into my new role I have seen my ADD return — while it may be a response to the overwhelming change in roles or equally the lack of support I am receiving in this position — I am wondering if you have any suggestions/advice to help guide a person with ADD.”

I am glad to hear that this Improvement Point was so useful to her.What she is describing is an issue I now raise in most of my management workshops. ADD is becoming a major problem for managers and entire management teams. Unfortunately, I am not surprised to hear that she’s experiencing an ADD relapse.

I have written fairly extensively about this problem within management teams. There’s a summary of some of my work in this area in the June 2005 issues of The Leader Letter at In the “Thoughts That Make You Go Hmmmm….. section of this issue I quote the work of Dr. Edward Hallowell from his January 2005 Harvard Business Review article “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform.” Here’s the Executive Summary of this article from HBR’s web site:

“Frenzied executives who fidget through meetings, lose track of their appointments, and jab at the “door close” button on the elevator aren’t crazy — just crazed. They suffer from a newly recognized neurological phenomenon that the author, a psychiatrist, calls attention deficit trait, or ADT. It isn’t an illness; it’s purely a response to the hyperkinetic environment in which we live. But it has become epidemic in today’s organizations. When a manager is desperately trying to deal with more input than he possibly can, the brain and body get locked into a reverberating circuit while the brain’s frontal lobes lose their sophistication, as if vinegar were added to wine. The result is black-and-white thinking; perspective and shades of gray disappear. People with ADT have difficulty staying organized, setting priorities, and managing time, and they feel a constant low level of panic and guilt. It is possible to control ADT by engineering one’s environment and one’s emotional and physical health. Make time every few hours for a “human moment”–a face-to-face exchange with a person you like. Get enough sleep, switch to a good diet, and get adequate exercise. Break down large tasks into smaller ones, and keep a section of your work space clear. Try keeping a portion of your day free of appointments and e-mail. The author recommends that companies invest in amenities that contribute to a positive atmosphere.”

Ned Hallowell, MD is a psychiatrist and the founder of the Hallowell Center for Cognitive and Emotional Health in Sudbury, Massachusetts. He began is career treating ADD in kids. He’s the author of 12 books. Some deal with ADD in kids. But his most recent work is looking at what he sees as a crisis among managers today. I just finished reading his book CrazyBusy: Overstretched, Overbooked, and About to Snap. Strategies for Coping in World Gone ADD. I recommend she get a copy of his book.

What are your experiences with battling this growing ADD problem within your life, workplace, or management role?