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Four Ways to Overcome Imposter Syndrome

Guest Contributor on May 25, 2016 6:00:00 AM

Prime_Shark_Converted.pngPrime Advantage has invited industry experts to share their insights on the present and future of manufacturing and business success. In this post, Karin Hurt, CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, provides the antidote to curing “imposter syndrome.”

Even highly successful managers who appear to be Winning Well and making a difference will often take me aside and admit that they sometimes feel like a fake…like one false move or one tiny mistake, would reveal to everyone (especially their front line) that they are nothing but a well-spoken fraud.

This is what’s known as “impostor syndrome.”  It’s that feeling of strong self-doubt that you’re a fake, that your success is due more to luck or your ability to fool people than it is due to your work, and it often comes with your fear of being found out.  If you let it, imposter syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your people and achieve your goals – not to mention screw up your life in many other ways.

At earlier times in my life, I felt I had no business leading other people. I had questions like, “Why would people take me seriously? I’m not as smart/musical/proficient/experienced as these folks. I don’t do their jobs on the front line. They’ll never respect me.”

The brutal truth is that you can’t be the manager you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate, or you’ll stay silent when you should speak. Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence.

There are several tools you can use to overcome this self-sabotage. Here are just a few.

1. Honor Your Past and Your Present

A mentor of my colleague David Dye told him, “It’s a good thing to remember where you came from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there. ”

His point is that your experiences in childhood and earlier life can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind. But it would be equally foolhardy to not acknowledge today’s circumstances. That’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.

2. Remember that You’re Always “Too Something” For Someone

These wise words came from 1999 world champion of public speaking and motivational speaker, Craig Valentine. “You’re always too something for someone” gets at the absurdity of it all, because once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.

3. Examine it Before You Swallow It

Sometimes your doubts might have something to tell you. Is a new skill you need to learn or a true mistake you can avoid? How can you tell the difference between legitimate self-doubt and useless insecurity?

Picture someone tossing you an apple. You don’t catch the apple with your teeth, immediately chew it, and swallow it. You catch it in your hand; then you might inspect the apple and decide if you want to eat it. Treat doubts and criticisms like the apple. Don’t automatically swallow them, but do ask if there is something of value.

4. Leverage Your People

One of the most effective tools for dealing with impostor syndrome is simply to focus on the team you serve. They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether you have a big house, a small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else. What they do care about is how you can help them succeed today.  Be confidently humble, and genuinely desire to serve them.

It’s nearly impossible to trip over your own insecurities if you’re serving others.

For a more in-depth look, I invite you to take a look at our book, Winning Well. You can download a free chapter at or check out the Winning Well course.

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Topics: Manufacturing, Talent and Leadership

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