A talented salesman who is neurodiverse has praised the housebuilding company where he works,saying its support has changed his life – and he now wants to see more education across the industry.
Michael Laws, a sales consultant at Vistry Group, has a development co-ordination disorder and said his success in his role is partly down to the support of his managers and colleagues. With more training sessions he believes there could be an even better understanding of different disabilities across the housebuilding sector.
Michael, who is based at Vistry’s Brook Park location in Stoke Gifford, Bristol, and covers Bovis Homes and Linden Homes locations in the housebuilder’s Western region, was diagnosed with dyspraxia, which affects cognitive skills and coordination, as a child.
He said: “The willingness and the desire to engage within Vistry is enormous, I’m proud to be a part of this business and to work with my colleagues here. This ensures my loyalty to the company and my desire to provide a quality service to my customers and teammates, and to support them and their goals. Working with great and supportive people is more important to me than anything because when you’re neurodiverse, you see the world in a slightly different way, you interpret stimuli differently to other people, not necessarily in a worse way.
“I have a fantastic relationship with my regional sales manager, and my area managers. Through their patience, understanding and willingness to engage, they’ve been able to see the huge positives that I bring and the effectiveness I have in my role, but they’ve also been able to identify that every now and then I might need some help and I’m not always able to identify that myself.
“It’s taken time and trust to develop those working relationships and it’s changed my life. It’s a credit to all my managers, my team and the company. I’m extremely fortunate to have found that because too many people with the disorder never find employment. Even more so will never drive a car – it’s a condition that vastly affects your quality of life and for me to have these opportunities, and to be able to be vocal about it and raise awareness, it’s a great feeling. It helps employers know there are employees like me, and how to get the most out of them.”
Outside of work, Michael is a big rugby fan and travels to watch the Six Nations most years with a group of friends. He also enjoys history books after reading a degree in Ancient History at Cardiff University.
He lives in Yate and worked for Linden Homes for nearly four years after a career in the hospitality sector. He said that he felt the housebuilding sector was the perfect fit for him to utilise his skills and have a long-term career.
“I felt comfortable working in sales in the housebuilding industry very early on and we sold all 11 properties at the first location I worked at in less than a couple of months,” he said. “I certainly felt like I had something to offer and that I could really be good and turn my talents to it. I’m quite gregarious and outgoing, and I think that helps. With my long-term memory and ability to grasp and attain information and understand and be able to communicate that, I think it really puts me in good stead. But at the beginning I was just very grateful to be there. I was delighted to be in an environment where I was valued and respected, and everything else was a bit of a bonus.
“The expectation on me and my job performance is exactly the same as for anyone else. But my managers will make an effort to explain things to me in different ways, if needs be. I’m not very good at picking up on small cues. If I was asked what I thought about doing a task a particular way, I might answer directly and not realise they’re suggesting I change my method. It’s not a case of being obtuse, I genuinely just don’t get it, it goes over my head a little bit – things are very literal. There’s certainly an understanding that I might do things differently, I might approach a task with a different idea on how to accomplish the goal. I think having managed me, it has benefited my managers in that it has enabled them to take a step back and realise that not everyone operates in the same way. It doesn’t mean that other ways to complete a task are necessarily the wrong way. The biggest thing is sometimes emotional regulation, people with developmental coordination disorder can get extremely tired because the small things in life that other people take for granted can take an enormous amount of effort on our part, and that can be quite frustrating.
“When it comes to neurodivergent people, there can be a lack of education and I would like to see greater support for managers when it comes to identifying members of their team who might be neurodivergent and, crucially, an acknowledgment of the fact that entry to employment for people with neurodivergent conditions is extremely difficult.”
Michael added he found the job interview process particularly tough. He said his appearance was something he found a challenge, but having a company uniform helped. He was born with a paralysed squint and his eyes were locked into position. Despite multiple surgeries as a youngster, he views two images at once, though his eyesight is fine.
“Interviewing and applying for jobs and the expectation of what a good interview is, isn’t always compatible for someone who is neurodivergent,” he said. “For instance, I struggle with my appearance – the length of my tie, or making sure I’ve done all my buttons up. All these things that so many people would just take very much for granted do not come naturally to me – I have to work quite hard at it. That’s why I’m personally delighted to have a uniform. It suits me very well, I have a clear expectation of what my appearance is meant to be, what’s acceptable or not.
“My left eye is the only physical thing about me that would give away the fact I have a disability. It’s a very obvious cosmetic difference between me and other people, I literally see the world a bit differently. I see two images, one through my left eye and one through my right, my brain processes one at a time. I have a full driving license – my eyesight is considered fine. If it were just my left eye, I would be registered blind. But it’s all I know and it doesn’t stop me from doing a good job.”
Susan Scholfield, regional sales and marketing director at Vistry Western, praised Michael’s teamwork and ability to get great results and said his managers had improved from working with him.
“Michael has taught us to be better managers – he is such an important asset to the sales team and Vistry,” she said. “He is incredibly hardworking and has a great rapport with customers and his approach to tasks can get great results for the team. Michael’s a natural salesman and we’re lucky to have him in the business – he has a great future ahead in housebuilding.”
26 August 2021
All images are used for illustrative purposes only and are representative only. They may not be the same as the actual home you purchase and the specification may differ. Images may be of a slightly different model of home and may include optional upgrades and extras which involve additional cost. Individual features such as windows, brick, carpets, paint and other material colours may vary and also the specification of fittings may vary. Any furnishings and furniture are not included in any sale. Please check with our sales consultants for details of the exact specifications available at the development(s) for each type of home and the associated prices.