Have you ever felt scared of being found out? Of feeling out of your depth? Of not being good or resilient enough?

Well, if so, I can guarantee you are not alone. And especially now in this period of profound uncertainty and extreme volatility.

Covid19 has placed untold demands and expectations on manufacturing sector leaders. The massive scale and devastating impact of Covid19 has challenged leaders like never before.

To maintain business stability, they have needed to respond at speed, demonstrate agility and drive innovation whilst under enormous financial and operational pressure. The best leaders have also had the interests of their workforce at the fore – both their financial security and personal safety. This acute burden of responsibility has required leaders to draw deep on tenacity and resilience.

Moving forwards this pressure is unlikely to ease as focus shifts to building resilient business models and sustained competitive advantage to drive growth once the economy begins to upturn.

The mental and psychological toll of this extreme and prolonged stress has yet to be fully gauged. However, it’s clear that bold and strong leadership is essential to navigate the hurdles ahead.

Impostor syndrome is, however, the enemy of strong leadership. It creates self-doubt and corrodes decisiveness. It negatively impacts performance, productivity and proactivity. By sapping self-confidence and self-esteem, it can prevent you from achieving your personal potential and block the organisation reaching theirs.

As a coach to CEOs and senior executives, I know that even the most outwardly confident and successful live in fear of being exposed. Which is why ‘self-confidence’, ‘overcoming self-limiting beliefs’ and ‘resilience’ are some of the most requested skills within VIC - your Virtual Interactive Coach, the unique e-coaching platform I founded.

So, how can you stop impostor syndrome from undermining the confident, determined and passionate leadership you need to lead your teams through the turbulence ahead?

What is Impostor syndrome?

‘Impostor syndrome’ is a pattern of behaviour where people doubt their success and accomplishments despite strong evidence to the contrary. They have an internalised fear of being exposed as a fraud. A 2018 study found that 62% of adults experienced impostor syndrome at work and, within the manufacturing sector, it’s common with well over 50% of individuals suffering to a lesser or greater degree.

You may recognise one or more of these indicators…

  • Being a workaholic – working very long hours, not taking time off, struggling to relax.
  • Being a perfectionist – never satisfied, struggling to delegate or micromanaging.
  • Being strong – never asking for help, being too independent
  • Being the expert – needing to know everything yet never knowing enough

  • Impacts of impostor syndrome

    Imposter syndrome negatively impacts peoples’ work and personal lives in the following ways:

  • Hampers leadership and management – perfectionism and risk aversion impede decision making and obstruct strong leadership
  • Restricts innovation and risk taking – fear of failure inhibits inventiveness
  • It instils self-doubt and low self-esteem – affecting performance and productivity
  • Impedes career growth – a fear of being found out stops people moving outside their comfort zone to take more challenging roles and projects
  • Affects mental health – overworking and mental burn out create stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation. This is particularly relevant now.

    So, what can you do to overcome impostor syndrome?

  • For some impostor feelings are fleeting and for others persistent. Here though are tips that can help:

  • Knowing it’s common. Studies suggest that simply knowing you are not alone helps.
  • Separate feelings from fact. Just because you feel something doesn't mean you are. We all feel stupid or slow or unprepared at times.
  • Accept you will never be perfect and forgive mistakes. Perfection is unattainable and mistakes are how we learn best - so recalibrate yours!
  • Give yourself credit. Recognise your worth and value, internalise positive feedback and don’t fixate on the negative.
  • Attribute success truthfully. Everyone has good and bad luck. Attributing success to luck undermines your abilities and confidence.
  • Identify your ‘rules’, challenge them and rewrite. “I don’t have to be right”, “I don’t always have to know the answer”, “I can ask for help”, “I don’t have to be strong”.
  • Keep a list of your accomplishments and strengths. It’s less easy to discount your success when seen against a backdrop of past successes.
  • How can leaders address impostor syndrome in their organisation?

    Employees suffering from Impostor syndrome negatively impacts the success of your whole organisation. So, take positive action to address it – particularly now with workforces facing multiple challenges and demands and needing to be at their most productive and effective.

  • Build a culture which places emphasis on the employee’s wellbeing both physical and mental.
  • Attribute success fairly; reward innovation, risk taking, teamwork as well as hard work. The current and post-Covid environment will require a new approach to incentives and performance management.
  • Watch out for team members who are feeling out of their depth. Look for signs of loss of self-confidence and anxiety, for example expressing greater uncertainty, becoming self-deprecating, deflecting praise, attributing success to luck or to the skills of others in the team.
  • Spot drop offs in performance or signs of regular overwork - emails being sent way before or after normal working hours, an unusual delay in responding or procrastination over decisions.
  • Discuss imposter syndrome. Studies suggest education and coaching help significantly. Build a culture where it’s ok to not always know the answer.
  • Have a strong inclusion agenda. Women and minorities suffer more from impostor syndrome and strong role models and positive support help.
  • We want to reach out and help businesses, teams and employees during these extraordinary times by offering VIC for free. VIC gives an interactive ‘coach in your pocket’ for all employees with self-coaching tools and thousands of hours of multi-media content to help with self-confidence, stress, resilience and a host of other personal and business skills.

    Peter Ryding is a serial award-winning CEO, top Master Coach to CEOs and HRDs and Founder of VIC.

    To find out more, go to Vicyourcoach or http://PeterRyding.com