Imposter Syndrome & Inclusion

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Imposter Syndrome – you are not alone!

Do you…

  • Work harder than the rest to be sure things will go well, including over-preparing for meetings
  • Expect every aspect of your work to be exemplary
  • Hold back your talent and opinions
  • Procrastinate, such that work is last minute or not finished ?

If you recognize one of these, you might be experiencing Imposter Syndrome.

Taking on a new role, new project, new team, new place to live are all moments in life that can be triggers. Or we have an ever-present nagging background voice that drives us to over-work as the only way to succeed, or to avoid the very opportunities we desire. What is going on?!

Contrary to the feeling many of us have that ‘it is just me’, these types of feelings are experienced by most of us at times in our lives, and they are aspects of what is now often referred to as ‘Imposter Syndrome’. A study conducted by psychologist Gail Matthews, suggests that 70% of successful people experience imposter feelings at some point in their life.

What is it?

Dr. Valerie Young is an expert in this area, international speaker & writer, including her wonderful book “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Womenâ€, where she provides a great definition. “People experience Imposter Syndrome when they dismiss their accomplishments and the recognition of others, and fear their success will disappear when others find out the awful secret that they are in fact imposters!â€

Dr. Young continues with a description of behaviours, which many of us will recognise ….  “People experiencing Imposter Syndrome often unconsciously overcompensate with perfectionism, over-preparation, maintaining a low profile, withholding their talents & opinions, or never finishing important projects. When they do succeed they think, ‘Phew, I fooled ‘em again’.â€

We can beat it, and enjoy & increase our success

On one hand, experiencing Imposter Syndrome reduces our ability to be the best we can be; while on the other hand, confidence is the most significant differentiator of high performing individuals and teams. So how do we beat imposter syndrome and become more confident? There are specific steps of understanding, & behavior change we can work through to beat Imposter Syndrome:

  • What is Imposter Syndrome, why it happens, and realize we are not alone
  • How the feelings ‘reward’ and limit us
  • Identify our own specific behaviours & mindsets, how to reframe them, and replace with practical doable new behaviours and thoughts

When we replace limiting behaviours and feelings with growth behaviours and feelings, we become more confident. Life stops being a non-stop test, and becomes instead a constant wonderful opportunity to learn. Seeing that you really can do the things you thought you could not, in turn generates confidence. This journey is important not just for us, but also for the people around us – colleagues, children, parents, friends. As we build self-confidence, we become a positive role model for others. We enable the individuals and teams who work with us, and we help develop the next generation of strong women and sensitive men.

Imposter Syndrome is real. The great news is every one of us can identify and get over it, increase our confidence, and enjoy increasing our success as never before.

We can even learn to identify and manage the behaviours of some others who live at the other end of the confidence spectrum – those who have Irrational Self-Confidence Syndrome (!), a term coined by the Rocky Mountain news reporter Erica Heath, to describe the unjustifiably confident.

Beating Imposter Syndrome helps us to develop an Inclusive and Diverse Leadership talent pool

People in ‘the minority’ – for example women in male majority businesses – often suffer from Imposter Syndrome. This affects their ability to be the best they can be, to succeed and stay long enough and senior enough for the make up of the leadership talent pool to become truly inclusive and diverse. We can think similarly about most minorities – gender, disability, ethnicity, sexuality.

Leadership is the key to an organisation’s success:

So is the leader so is the culture,

So is the culture so is the organisation.

Particularly powerful sustainable leadership is found in the form or inclusive diverse leadership teams. We know that inclusive diverse teams perform better, create healthier culture, and do better business. Yet it remains a challenge to create and maintain a diverse leadership talent pool. There are things we can do to help. For example:

  • When we recruit / promote someone into a new challenge, especially someone in a minority, provide them with the right coaching to enable them to succeed in role. Getting the right person into the right role is a great challenge in itself. Don’t waste the investment, by leaving them to sink or swim. Give them the right support to ensure they swim. This pays dividends for the individual, the team and provides an example of diversity working well which will ripple across the organization. Often this means providing coaching to the individual, and often that may be best delivered with an understanding of Imposter Syndrome.
  • Run interactive seminars with groups across the business enabling them to understand Imposter Syndrome, develop new habits, and by discovering together they participants will create support networks where they grow and help each other.

Peter Soer
Peter Soer
Peter combines experience as a coach, marketing leader & someone who has faced the fear of being found out. He harnesses this experience with his natural optimism & determination, to help people thrive in their work and enjoy the life they want. To achieve our dreams, we have 2 resources, time and energy – so use them well.

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