Michael Manners Associates, a consultancy focusing on performance improvement in the SME market, management development, psychometric assessments, recruitment processes and sales training, discusses ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and how it can affect many of us in the vehicle recycling industry.
Most of those at the top of auto-recycling businesses that it has been my pleasure to meet have balls the size of planets and egos to match. However, what I wonder is how many of them are masking their true selves. This is a close-knit industry where both co-operation and competition are common factors, so they feel it is important to put up a bold front. It may be inconceivable to them to reveal any doubts or fears they may have regarding their true abilities.
This is commonly known as the ‘Impostor Syndrome’ where a person (pretty much equal in men and women) doubts their talents and achievements. They have a strong and possibly irrational fear of being exposed as a fraud because their external persona is not matched by their internal (and hidden) perception of themselves. It is not uncommon for them to find it difficult to accept praise and/or to brush off a solid past record of success as ‘luck’. They have a horror of being ‘found out’, or they fear that they are not as intelligent as others believe them to be.
Symptoms can have a close correlation with anxiety, stress, low self-esteem and depression. Research has shown that up to 70% of people will have suffered from Impostor Syndrome at some point in their lives. There are many of the great and good who fall into this category, so if any reader is one of the 70%, they are far from alone. A serious risk is that they may fail to make a key decision in a timely manner (procrastination) with all the consequences that could have on the bottom line and the morale of the team. Any unnecessary delays may prevent the business from exploiting opportunities to move forward.
In order to maintain a realistic perspective if you suffer from Imposter Syndrome, look at what you have already achieved and consider the following:
- Take a look at the physical environment of your business and compare it with what was there at the start of your involvement. Given only average luck, it will be substantially better: better invested in plant, equipment and machinery, staff recruitment and training, financial results, reputation and no doubt a whole lot more.
- Review your top team – have you recruited and developed through your leadership a group of managers/directors who are performing and achieving?
- Are your systems, processes and procedures in better shape now or have they stagnated?
- Do you go home at the end of each day/week/month and feel that your contribution has been positive and that you achieved your objectives for that period?
If you feel positive about any of these factors, then you have to question whether your self-doubt is rational or irrational. Now review all your positive achievements both in and outside of work to expose your self-doubt as irrational. Work on giving yourself credit where it is due.
Belief in yourself can be a determining factor in your success; belief that you can meet the demands of a task. However, there is a very big ‘but’ to this. The ‘but’ is that you also need to be right!
If you are at the top of your organisation or a senior member of the team, you have the ability to influence events, and self-confident people will share common characteristics such as:
- They do what they believe is right even if that invites scorn
- They are more willing to take risks and go the extra mile
- They admit when they make mistakes and learn from them
- They wait for others to congratulate them instead of bragging
- They accept compliments with good grace and discount empty flattery
Do not be afraid to admit that from time to time, you have doubts about your abilities and recognise that you are not infallible. You would be in good company, and a problem shared is a problem halved. Connect with others because it is sometimes cathartic to open up to a trusted colleague, friend or family member. It is always a good policy to engage in a meaningful debate with your top team that challenges previous assumptions robustly.
Be aware that analytical, factual self-criticism is healthy but generalised self-doubt is not. If there is a wide disparity between the confident face we show to the world and the doubting person behind that mask, we need to take a heavy-duty reality check.
To contact Michael for further advice, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on 07710-056-354.