Coaching for the Future-Forward Leader
I have just moved up to an executive job, and while I know I’m ready, I don’t feel very confident in front of my team. I was the first in my family to go to college and still carry the feeling of having to prove I belong, even though I have a track record of accomplishments at this company. How do I tamp down the impostor syndrome and feel like a leader?
Don’t beat yourself up for experiencing impostor syndrome. Some self-doubt is normal when taking on a more senior role. Instead of trying to banish it, you can transform it into something powerful as you build new relationships with your team members.
Impostor syndrome is seen as concern about our capabilities, but I think that concern arises from whether we feel that we belong in a particular space. Insecurity about being seen, included, and accepted is a relational issue that others on your team likely also feel at times.
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One of the best antidotes for impostor syndrome, especially for someone in a leadership position, is to build a sense of belonging and community. By creating connection and fostering inclusion for others, we can also create a greater sense of belonging and confidence for ourselves. There are three practices that managers can use to increase inclusion and inspire confidence among their team members.
Acknowledge contributions. It can take courage for people to speak up in meetings. But when we fail to adequately recognize the speaker, or adopt their idea without giving credit, they might leave the meeting feeling unheard or unappreciated. Make a habit of acknowledging people in the moment: “That’s a new idea — thank you,” or “To build on Tom’s idea … ,” for instance. Managers can and must create an atmosphere where team members feel their contributions are welcome.
Make good introductions. Build a sense of belonging by introducing people with some comments about their strengths, expertise, and history. Good introductions help others know the role the person plays and the value they bring, but they also reinforce the person’s sense of self and confirm their ownership of their responsibilities. As a leader, it can be especially meaningful to introduce members of your team in this way to people outside the company. It shows respect for them and confirms that they matter.