Or: How to make the Big Step Up!

As businesses grow, there is a need for the people who have grown in their roles to eventually step up to being at Board level and becoming a Director / CXO.

Whether this is in Sales, Marketing, Operations, Finance, HR, or even the Managing Director/CEO, the skills that you have built up doing the job are not necessarily the skills you will need when you are running the department or company. The lack of know-how for the new role can often lead to increased self-doubt, and the beginnings of the psychological phenomenon known as Imposter Syndrome.

Everyone from sports stars to CEOs have struggled with the feeling of inadequacy, fraudulence or self-doubt at some point in their journey to move up, and achieve more. In fact, statistics show that over 70% of people will suffer with imposter syndrome during their life.

So how do you stop Imposter Syndrome hindering your success? Here are some of my top tips…

1. Know the signs

Is this even an issue for you?  Well, ask yourself if you have ever experienced the following:

  • You think you got lucky, rather than you earned your position;
  • You feel awkward when accepting praise;
  • Fear of failure is crippling you;
  • You hold yourself to ridiculously high standards;
  • You don’t like showing confidence, as you feel this is overcompensating;
  • You apologise, even though you’ve done nothing wrong.

If any of the above resonate with you, then you are probably suffering from imposter syndrome. But don’t panic – remember, you are not alone!  You’d be surprised how common this is.  The good news is it can be overcome; the trick is not to suffer in silence.

2. Talk to someone

Sharing your thoughts and experiences with someone will make you better equipped to deal with feeling like an imposter.  I recommend talking to both a mentor and your line manager.

Your mentor will be able to talk to you candidly about your struggles, whilst being able to give you an objective point of view.  Talking to your manager may help you to realise that they too have struggled, and they may have suggestions to help you. For example, they may be able to help you with systems to track your success, and figure out which metrics you should measure. Your manager will understand your difficulties in the context of your current job, and may be able to seek out further opportunities to help you shine, and gain further visibility within your organisation.

Speaking of opportunities, don’t avoid them.  Whilst it might be intimidating to take on new challenges and roles, remember you have been offered the opportunity for a reason!  There is nothing wrong with asking questions and learning along the way.  As Richard Branson once said…

If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you are not sure you can do it, say yes. Then learn how to do it later.”

3. Know your stuff

“Winging it” is not an option in today’s fast-paced world.  Those inner feelings of inadequacy will be helped tremendously if you feel like you know your stuff and are prepared.  So focus your attention on your own preparation.  As they say ‘if you fail to prepare, then prepare to fail’.

You might not have the specific set of skills yet to fully perform your role, and that’s ok. If you need to learn new skills in order to be prepared and understand what is required of you, then make this your first goal. Knowledge is the foundation to building confidence.  Having a firm grip on the requirements of your role, measuring them and achieving your goals will ultimately keep the pesky negative self-talk at bay. Don’t forget to celebrate the wins, it is allowed!

4. Keep growing

Even those that have been at the top for years can suffer from imposter syndrome! But what these people learn is that they don’t know what they don’t know, and there is always more to learn.  If you have this belief, then you will stop worrying about what you don’t know and instead be focused on always learning something new.

5. Failure is inevitable

As the late, great Colin McRae said:

“if you don’t crash you are not trying hard enough.”

The fear of failure is what holds people back the most.  Young children learning to walk just see falling as a part of skill of standing.  When you are leading people, you are going to make mistakes, annoy some people and make bad decisions.  If you accept that fact, are open to know when you have done it, and honest and humble enough to admit it, then you will build the respect you need.  Nobody is looking for you to be perfect, just to be decisive and provide the leadership that they need.

So, if you or someone you know is thinking about taking the BIG step up, and you would like to know more about what it takes to move up from being a good Manager to a great Director, then please do get in touch.