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A Question to Fight Imposter Syndrome

Of all the leadership capabilities and leadership competencies coaches help with, one of the most common is overcoming imposter syndrome.

Coaches don't break confidences. It is part of our code of ethics not to disclose what our clients tell us. That bond of trust is crucial in allowing clients to explore their deepest feelings and emotions. But we can talk about the common things that we see. Trends that that repeat.

For example, following the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a time when even highly successful clients were using coaching conversations to help them to cope, rather than to help them to aim for big goals. They found that coaching conversations were helpful when they were under tremendous pressure. In general that period is coming to an end and clients are looking to grow again.

But one theme is common to the vast majority of coaching conversations. And that is that, at some point, the client will reveal that they feel like an imposter.

That might surprise you, given that I specialise in working with Executives and Senior Leaders who outwardly project confidence and assurance. But then, that is part of their job, isn't it? To seem like they know what they are doing.

I find it reassuring that people in positions of power and privilege question themselves even though (for the most part) they are brilliant at what they are doing. It is great that, in a safe space, they are willing to work through their doubts and uncertainties to become better. Usually the coach can help them to find a sense of perspective, to feel more at ease and to channel those thoughts into positive action.

The problem with unresolved imposter syndrome is that it can stop you making good decisions or prevent you from doing what you want to do. If you find yourself having these sorts of thoughts, there is a great question you can ask yourself at any time:

What decision would I make if I were twice as confident and twice as strong?

When you ask that question, usually there will be a first reaction. An "of course" moment when you see clearly what you need and want to do.

That might be closely followed by negative thoughts that you "can't" or "shouldn't" do whatever it is you want to do.

Don't be afraid of those thoughts. See them just as that, as thoughts or feelings. They happen because of a habit, or because you think too much about all of the possible outcomes.

So, the next thing you need to do is to break it down into something more achievable. Ask yourself:

What's the next (or first step)? And when will you take it?

Once you have answered that, all you need to do is to be brave and put one foot in front of the other.

But, don't forget really are twice as brave and twice as strong as you thought you were. Good luck 🙏

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