After attending an insightful workshop by Rita Collins CBE, author of Love Your Imposter: Be Your Best Self, Flaws and All, I began to research the concept of the ‘Imposter Syndrome’, originally introduced by psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978.
During my research, I learned that many, many people experience imposter feelings at work – in fact, as Collins points out, up to 70% of people (and many of these include CEOs, Oscar-winning actors and Pulitzer Prize winners).
The transition between the different levels of Charran’s, Drotter’s and Noel’s ‘leadership pipeline’ model can create high levels of anxiety and much uncertainty for managers, with questions such as: ‘Am I ready to take on a role such as this? Will I be as good as the previous leader of this team? Do I really have the skillsets needed to make this work?’ at the back of their minds.
How do you know if you’re one of those managers experiencing imposter feelings? You:
- Have a constant fear of being called out for not being good enough
- Externalize success – you give credit to others for your achievements at work
- Convince yourself that achieving difficult goals is more down to luck than the hours of hard work and skill needed to achieve them
- Are convinced that others are more qualified than you to manage people – that you don’t really know what you are doing
If this sounds like you, how can you help yourself manage these anxieties and perceptions? Collins shares a few practical tools you can use:
1. Be clear about your personal brand
Knowing what you stand for and what you’re good at will help you to better articulate the value that you can add to your role, your team, and your business:
Clarity. What do I stand for? What is my purpose? Why do I do what I do? What are my strengths? What is unique about what I’m good at?
Tip: You can read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why for some direction on defining your purpose
Tip: Use some personality profiling tools to get a better understanding of what you’re good at, how you communicate, and what your natural preferences are. The High 5 Test is a free online assessment that helps you identify your top 5 strengths: https://high5test.com/
Coherence. How does what I stand for show up in everything I do, say, and know?
Leadership. Do I lead my own brand by regularly challenging myself on whether I’m happy, content, learning, staying alert and interested in what’s happening in the world and technology?
All leaders will be required to communicate information to their immediate teams and report information on what their plans are and what their teams are achieving to their broader leadership team. Knowing how to prepare for these conversations is important, so that you can put your best foot forward and manage your feelings of self-doubt. When preparing to share a presentation or make a speech, check the following:
Have I learned the first few lines of my speech/presentation off by heart? This will help settle my nerves and give me confidence
Have I checked that my presentation or speech is communicating the right message – i.e. is it simple, clear, impactful?
Have I checked (and rechecked) the presentation myself, and not assumed that it is at the required standard if someone else put it together for me?
Have I checked the technology required to give my speech or share my presentation, so that I can navigate the session with confidence?
Do I know who my target audience is, and do I know the key players’ names and roles? Giving relevant examples that are meaningful to my audience will help create a connection with them.
Tip: Below are some numbers to keep in mind when preparing for a presentation or speech, so make sure that you focus on your posture, presence, and projection.
Your audience remembers:
- 55 % of your body language
- 38% of your tone of voice
- 7% of the content of your speech
3. Know your numbers.
The bottom line is that the finance is the language of the boardroom and it is essential that managers understand how numbers work. Knowing the basics of finance will help give managers the confidence they need to make business-related decisions, and the credibility they need to get buy-in to projects for which they need support from the wider business. The depth of understanding needed will depend on the requirements of your role, so it is important to understand exactly what commercial competence your role requires to achieve your targets. Check the following:
Do I understand the commercial components of the business/division in which I am working, specifically linked to my role – i.e. how we make money, how an income statement and balance sheet works?
Am I able to articulate the required financial information to my customers, and my leadership and finance teams?
Am I able to compile a budget, and track spend against it?
Do I understand the relevant compliance and procurement processes linked to managing a budget?
Tip: Book yourself on a ‘Finance for non-Financial Managers’ course and make friends with people in finance so that you have someone to help you interpret the numbers and jargon.
Collins believes that ‘faking it till you make it’ will only get you so far. Using deliberate strategies and tools to communicate your unique personal brand will help you share your authentic self with people, and this will go a long way to managing that inner ‘imposter voice’.
As a manager, it is critical that we create an environment of inclusivity and a culture of open communication in our teams, so that those team members struggling with imposter feelings feel that they can share their feelings of self-doubt, and that they are supported in addressing them.