Your executive leadership team is filled with the best and brightest at your organization. It’s easy to think they’re all confident and fully comfortable in their roles.
That would be a mistake.
In one study, 70% of people admitted they suffer from imposter syndrome. If the term is unfamiliar to you, don’t worry. Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks) is here to break it down for you.
An Explanation of Imposter Syndrome From Tom Hanks
The actor Tom Hanks once provided a perfect explanation of imposter syndrome. In an interview, Hanks shared: “No matter what we’ve done, there comes a point where you think, ‘How did I get here? When are they going to discover that I am, in fact, a fraud and take everything away from me?’”
Why People on Your Executive leadership Team Are Most Likely to Experience Inner Doubts
Hanks was able to perfectly capture imposter syndrome, because he’s the type of person most likely to suffer from it. And when you splice his statement, you see how imposter syndrome hits high achievers – like your executive leadership team – hardest.
“How did I get here?”
Imposter syndrome starts after a person reaches a career or life milestone. They’re incredulous that their peers are praising their work and value what they’ve done.
“When are they going to discover that I am … a fraud?”
Instead of being elated with the accolades and success, your high-performing leaders think it’s undeserved. People with imposter syndrome foresee a day when it all crumbles. Eventually, the people heaping praise or promotions will realize their mistake and take it all away.
It’s not just your executive leadership team
Your rising stars are vulnerable to feeling like frauds too. Don’t let them. Put in place a workplace culture that reinforces positivity and defeats imposter syndrome.
5 Strategies to Overcome Imposter Syndrome
You want to root out imposter syndrome before it becomes a problem. But you can’t take a top-down approach. You need to quash feelings of inadequacy across your organization.
1. Empower everyone
Micromanagement makes people second-guess their decisions. If you promote from within and have managers who micromanage, your new leaders will carry their self-doubting habits into their new role. This feeds their feelings of inadequacy.
Delegating builds confidence
When you stop breathing down someone’s neck, they ease up. It’s easier for them to work, and their inner confidence grows. Delegate tasks and give people the space they need to make the project their own.
2. Set attainable goals
Goals should motivate without demoralizing your team. It’s a tricky balancing act, and a little messaging goes a long way.
Always explain your expectations
If your workplace uses ambitious goals, tell people upfront that hitting 70% is more than acceptable – it’s a win! If the goal is the number make sure it’s achievable.
Then be sure your leaders and employees have the resources they’ll need to get there. Never let an employee feel like they’ve been set up for failure. And when failure occurs, don’t treat it like the end of the world.
3. Embrace failure
We demonize failure. This creates a culture where imposter syndrome flourishes. People worry they’ll make the wrong move, misspeak, do anything wrong.
But failure is part of everyday life. We can’t avoid it. What we can do is treat it as a catalyst for success.
Have a process in place so that when something goes wrong you:
- Figure out why you didn’t get the outcome you wanted
- Discuss what could have been done to increase chances of success
- Create a game plan for what to do next time
This turns “failure” into part of your path to success. It eliminates feelings of fear and helps your employees grow – personally and professionally.
4. Create safe spaces – mentally and physically
Changing the discussion around failure is one way to foster a healthier work environment. You can go further and help your team maintain positive attitudes.
Celebrate team successes
You don’t need to order a cake and tell everyone to meet in the conference room at 3. A simple email or announcement at the beginning of a meeting show you value the contributions people make.
Lead by example to make work–life balance achievable
If your executives send emails at 11 p.m., it signals to the rest of your organization that this behavior is expected.
Enforce boundaries for yourself, and make sure people know they should stop checking and responding to emails outside of normal working hours.
Help your team build healthy habits
Work–life balance is about more than shutting the computer down at 6.
- Encourage people to take breaks
- Schedule regular check-in calls, and really listen to what’s shared
- Put out healthy office snacks
- Organize social events – like happy hours or volunteer opportunities
5. Discipline your mind
Let’s go back to Tom Hanks for a minute and one of his most famous roles: Forrest Gump.
In the movie, Gump’s mother tells him: Don’t ever let anybody tell you they’re better than you. It’s a good piece of advice – and you can take it a step further. Don’t let the voices in your head say other people are better than you.
Positivity and rationality are the antithesis of imposter syndrome
When you tell doubting inner voices they’re wrong, you train your mind to reverse negative thought patterns. Your disciplined mind looks past obstacles and sees potential. Decisions are firmly rooted in logic, not emotion.
Instead of saying: No one in this meeting will listen to me; they have more experience than I do –tell yourself: People value my thoughts. My strategic recommendations helped me get promoted to the executive team.
These Changes Make It Easier to Add Top Performers to Your Executive leadership Team
When you take the steps to eliminate imposter syndrome, your business builds a reputation as a healthy, positive place to work. This makes talent acquisition easier.
Research by Gallup shows that workplaces with a strong culture are more likely to get top-tier talent. There are 2 main reasons for this, and they feed into each other.
1. Company values matter
People want to work for places that have a mission that aligns with their values. When alignment occurs, they’re more engaged and will have a generally positive outlook about their jobs. This gets reflected in their conversations with friends – and that’s the second reason.
2. People talk
According to Gallup, 71% of workers discover job opportunities by talking to current employees. In private conversations, your team shares the good, bad and ugly about working for you. When it’s positive, the listeners will want to work for you too.
Pair Skillset and Mindset to Build a Thriving Team
At ProActivate, we help organizations find executives with the right skillset and mindset.
Our executive recruiting services make it easy for you to hire top performers.
Mindset training makes sure they and the rest of your team have the inner confidence they need to defeat imposter syndrome and continue their success.
Call us today to get started.