This article was based on episode 210 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get one of five signed copies of Make It, Don’t Fake It when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
Imposter syndrome is real. Almost everyone has experienced it at one point or another. (I sure have!) As managers, it often occurs after a promotion into a position of greater leadership or responsibility. “What am I doing?”, you might think. “They’re going to figure out that I…don’t know how to lead people, don’t have the right expertise, don’t have the right experience…” The truth is, you don't need any of those things.
This week, I spoke with Sabrina Horn, an award-winning CEO, author, communications expert, and advisor. Her career is highlighted by 25 years as Founder, CEO, and President of Horn Group, the iconic U.S. tech communications agency she founded in Silicon Valley at age 29. She is currently CEO of HORN Strategy, focused on helping entrepreneurs navigate the early stages of their companies. Her new book, Make It, Don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success helps shed some light on overcoming imposter syndrome.
IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS UNDERVALUING YOURSELF
The classic definition of imposter syndrome is that you have achieved a certain level of success, and yet you feel like you don't deserve it. You worry that you'll be exposed for being a fraud. You believe that everything that you've earned you've gotten by good luck or good fortune, or because someone handed it to you.
The challenge with imposter syndrome is that it can hold you back. It can deplete your self confidence to the point of inhibiting your success. So how do we not let imposter syndrome interfere? Sabrina recommends three approaches: remember your accomplishments, act “as if”, and embrace vulnerability.
REMEMBER YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
While it may feel like you don’t deserve the promotion or aren’t prepared for the responsibilities you’ve been given, you most likely are. To help ground yourself, Sabrina recommends making a list of all your accomplishments that have contributed to where you are today. Reviewing this list with an objective eye can give you a better, and often more realistic, perspective on yourself.
ACT “AS IF” AND THEN MAKE IT TRUE
Acting “as if” is a method developed in cognitive behavioral therapy to help people who struggle with confidence. In essence, you practice the behaviors that you wish you could exude until they become natural and you gain that missing confidence. To embrace this healthy self help approach, Sabrina suggests imagining what a successful person in your position would do. How would she behave? What would he say in this situation? Then, start practicing those behaviors. If some feel like a big stretch, work to develop those skills by learning, practicing and seeking feedback.
Sometimes, the best way to deflate imposter syndrome is to lean into it. Sabrina reminds us that while it can seem like there are expectations for what a manager should know, should do, or should have experienced, those standards are usually false. Instead of worrying that your team will realize you don’t have all the answers, tell them that you don’t! Invite your team in by sharing responsibility for success. Let them know that you’re in this together, that you’re counting on them to help exactly because you don’t have all the answers. The benefit of this approach is that your team will feel more empowered as well as more comfortable sharing their own insecurities.
ACT WITH AUTHENTICITY
Sometimes as managers, we need to do things that don’t feel natural to us but are part of being a good manager. For example, while I care deeply about my team members, I don’t have an innate tendency to check in with them between scheduled meetings to ask how they’re doing. If you’ve identified actions or behaviors that you know would improve your team management but don’t feel natural, it’s OK to “fake it” by reminding yourself to behave in specific ways. You may add a task to your to-do list to send your team members notes of appreciation or keep a sticky note on your laptop to remind you to make space for others to speak first in meetings. The key is to be fully invested in the behavior so that you are showing up authentically even if it takes a bit of extra work.
No matter what level of success you’ve achieved, imposter syndrome can sneak in. Most everyone else has felt this way at one time or another. Luckily, there are simple ways you can boost your confidence and embrace the awesome person that you are. Remember all that you’ve accomplished. Adopt the behaviors you wish you had. Accept that you’re not perfect and invite others to help. While imposter syndrome is real, it shouldn't stop you from being your best self.
KEEP UP WITH SABRINA
Book: Make It, Don’t Fake It
Get one of five signed copies of Make It, Don’t Fake It when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 210 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.