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In part two of the Upskill imposter conversation, Michel, Cadeem, Diana and Tiffany focus on the concept of psychological safety.
The concept was developed by Amy Edmondson and the Upskill group focuses on how it can help people feel more secure in their workplaces. When psychological safety is present, people feel safe to take the interpersonal risk of presenting their ideas and seeking clarification (asking “stupid” questions) from their peers and supervisors.
Cadeem shares his experience of working in a workplace that offered no psychological safety, and the Upskill group uses his experience as a starting point to discuss how imposter syndrome is also linked to the self-fulfilling prophecy.
Michel and Peter also analyze how corporate structures and dogmas also contribute to imposter syndrome, and describe how leaders and authority figures create environments that lead to imposter syndrome.
Please go to UpSkillCommunity.com to review show notes and join a community of leaders investing in better understanding themselves so they can address the imposter syndrome in their work and lives.
In this episode, we’re continuing the conversation on imposter syndrome that we started in the previous episode. And we are looking at the role of self-fulfilling prophecy, power and psychological safety on imposter syndrome.
Welcome to UpSkill Talks brought to you by McGraw Hill. I’m your host, Michel Shah lead UpSkiller at UpSkill Community. UpSkill Talks is a podcast for leaders, leaders who are actively seeking innovative and creative ways to interact lead themselves and others. In every episode, through real life stories and enlightening conversations, we will explore the challenge. And opportunities real leaders face in today’s everchanging workplace. We will present you with real strategies for you to leverage your soft skills and produce transformative results. Thank you for joining me on this journey. Let us begin.
In the last episode, we ended our conversation as Tiffany introduced the concept of psychological safety. Let’s now go back to Tiffany to continue the conversation right where we left off. what a lot of us have talked about, but not labeled is being in an environment that is psychologically safe. The concept was developed by, Amy Edmondson and the concept is about in team environments, people feeling safe to take the interpersonal risk of asking those silly questions or bringing forth their ideas. And I think what we’ve highlighted is that in a number of the environments that we’re working in, whether it’s school, academically, or whether it’s professionally, that we’re lacking some of that. Either because of the structure that we’re working within, maybe the leaders that we’re working for, or maybe our own internal turmoil as a result of imposter syndrome is creating the conditions for it to perpetuate itself. Thank you. They’ve packed a lot into that, Tiffany, and I’m going to make some connections to some of what you’re talking about, but I wanna go to Kade first and get his position on. Actually just want to build off, which I had mentioned there in terms of psychologically safe. Cause I feel like that’s very relevant. especially when it comes to foster syndrome, I realized that my time with one, position where I stayed for nine months, it was three month contracts. One, after the other. And it was an environment where I definitely did not feel, psychologically safe. And then I think it was also position that basically amplified my process syndrome before the position I have now helped to slowly bring it back down. So with that position also, I definitely didn’t feel safe asking stupid questions with my manager. So I didn’t, I didn’t feel safe to kind of clear things up for myself. There was always kind of a push to have more initiatives make your own decisions, but at the same time, there are also repercussions when you made your own decisions and they weren’t read the right ones. And that could be, you know, maybe half an hour discussion where it’s mostly criticism and then possibly followed up by an email, a few hundred words of more criticism. So I definitely was not, you know, an environment where it felt safe to take risks, to kind of trust my own judgment. And, you know, either way, it’s either I make my decision and it turns out wrong. Or if I ask a. It’s a wrong question to ask. There’s an issue there. I think that was definitely, uh, something that amplified the fossil syndrome. It was a more senior role as well. And I think not having the proper kind of environment for it definitely made me feel like I did not belong in that position. And then in contrast to joining, the position I have now, where within the first two weeks I had, someone above my manager actually mentioned that I think you’re gonna do great things with this company. I think creating that psychological space is definitely something that helped me to feel more confident, also making my own decisions and taking initiative when me be, and if mistakes happen, then I also am not criticized as harshly as I would be with the previous role. So I can still take that as learning experience and not have to kind of have it deflate my confidence as much as it used to. And so, and part of that is the very structure of that work, where you really have to make sure that you’re not asking any stupid questions and you almost need to know everything in order to have that next contract, correct. Like three months. You’re sort of on that, that hamster wheel. So that definitely is a very challenging environment. Tiffany, why don’t you respond to that? So something that sticks out to me there is, it reminds me from the other side of it from a leadership standpoint, that sometimes we’re centering our processes rather than the people and the needs of the people. And, and it’s important to recognize that if in the situations that Kaine was talking about, they were looking at, okay, what are the things that we need to do to best support Kaine, to do a better job in the role that he’s in, maybe it’s that deficit thinking, what is he not doing? And just telling him repeatedly what he’s not doing. That’s not going to ultimately get him on the path to where he needs to go. Perhaps if they had changed the approach, it would’ve helped you to have some more of that confidence helped you to feel as though you could take a little bit more step out of your comfort zone, ask those questions. And ultimately if they had gone about it that way, perhaps you would still be working with them or perhaps you there would’ve been a better relationship. your development would’ve been much better going forward, whether you remain in that position or went on a different one. So I thought that was just something that was important to highlight from the other side of it, that we focus on the processes a lot of time, but it’s really the people that we have to center and look at what their needs are rather than just looking at what they don’t have and how they’re impacting the work right. I will say quickly too, In terms of deficit thinking. I think definitely because the, the emphasis of any feedback was always the negative piece of it. There could be a line or two saying doing a good job, but then it’s sort of, uh, neutralized when you have literally hundreds of words after that saying the opposite. I had a question, About the imposter syndrome, because I wanted to know what your thoughts are in terms of its relationship to the self-fulfilling prophecy. I want you to think about that. When it comes to basically how performance is affected or is imposter syndrome is a self-fulfilling prophe. I wanted to touch on that In the case of where I had worked with the three month contracts. Cause it has a solid example of it come. the second three month contract, I had more, leeway to kind of make decisions independently. The person who trained me to start the first three months off that didn’t really weigh in on the decisions I made about art and editing and so forth. And then, so after the second month, contract though going on to the last three months of the nine, then he was brought back in and then that, to me, that was just cost slap in the face. Sort of an understanding that I was basically being demoted. Like the decisions I made independently were not kind trusted. And I think that definitely affect back my performance. Knowing at that point, definitely felt like an imposter feel like I, I was doing it by myself. Wasn’t good enough. And I think my performance definitely struggled in the last three months because I had that feeling of, you know, what’s the point. I, you know, I feel like, you know, the writing’s on the wall. I don’t know how this next contract will go. And then from there on, I think my, focus and performance definitely drops. And so that is such a great, point. And I note that Diana, talked. Focusing on strengths and what we see here is a, a sense of a focus on the deficit, on weaknesses, on what is absent instead of what is present. And since all of us come to environments with many things that are absent, we focus on what is absent, even when our strengths are glaring. And that’s where that imposter syndrome feeds itself. What do you think Peter what comes to mind is some of the systems that exist even in the corporate world. the, the idea of a performance appraisal, the systems that exist in some corporate most corporate environments. And I’m, pointing specifically to the idea of the performance appraisal I think inadvertently, um, creates this, this aura of an imposter syndrome because on the part of the leader, part of the value. Implicit, in the process is that you find the opportunity for growth and that comes on the part of the audience. The employee often be interpreted as more punitive than supportive. And therefore you don’t play the areas where you would be able to say, yes, aha, good job to be constantly looking for the areas where, okay, this is this you can improve upon. And that certainly, results in individuals not showing up in their trues true self. So,, some of the systems in the corporate world, certainly reinforced,, the building up of imposter syndrome. And of course the, the leader who is at the top, making those judgements on other individuals, they themselves understand the game. And therefore, I need to show up in the environment almost flawless, which feeds into this perfectionist, mythology, which I think is detrimental,, in terms of growth and, effectiveness in corporate areas. So, I think definitely, particularly in the corporate world, we’ve created an environment where in advert into the outcome is supportive of this, imposter syndrome and how about that? Going back even further. Earlier than before we get to the corporate world, because isn’t that what we do as parents and teachers and guardians, when we see a child’s performance. So this is happening to us long before we arrived here, the child has gotten 75 or 80 or 90. And What I wanted to pull out from what Kade said was that there are two lines of positive followed by a long page, or two of all of the other things that are negative is not what we do with the children though. You got a 90%, oh, congratulations. This is great. How come you missed this? What a silly mistake you made here. And then we go down that list of what is punitive. And it’s almost as if we think that we can take for granted. You’ll already know that 90% is good. So back to what you said then. So what we have the responsibility to do then is to show you the opportunities to improve it, to get to that perfection, because perfection is what we’re after, because the 90% couldn’t be, you know what, that’s the goal we had. That’s perfect. Let’s move forward. We’re always looking for that opportunity. How can we move this forward? How can we get ahead? How do we deal with that? I know when, When Dan spoke earlier certainly in more creative environments, a support around the idea of failure in that we fail forward mm-hmm, is strongly, supported and inculcated in the environment. That unfortunately is not true. Mm-hmm of all of all environments, including, learning environment. Mm-hmm where we. Take a slightly different approach. And I think the outcome is the establishment of standards that are not always clearly defined. Mm-hmm so it is, a question for myself I’ve established and learned almost implicitly that there’s a standard out there. Ill defined mm-hmm that I need to ascribe to, that I need to aspire to mm-hmm and I’m constantly judging myself against this ill defined standard. And that shuts me down in some circumstances that as leader takes me on a path where I’m taking my team down roots, that may not be the most effective for the organization, because I somehow learned this thing that we are constantly chasing and those standards, not only are they ill defined or inadequately defined, but some of them are no longer relevant exactly for what we’re trying to achieve. Right. And, are there cases where the people we’re leading the students we’re developing recognize us the stage on the stage, the leader that cannot be challenged as foolish as you said, because we are not reflecting. We’re not learning, we’re not listening. We’re not noticing that the standards that we’re holding everyone to are no longer relevant so that we and the standards are no longer relevant. Really. Exactly, exactly. And I have the privilege of leading a team of young people who. Astound me every day in terms of what they bring, to it. And I think I need to be challenged, constantly to say, okay, it’s time for me to, to take off the mask of expert and allow, contribution more contribution. Because I think that that, that saves us in in many ways. I will add to that. Just say in terms of contribution, like looking at that as collaboration too, cuz I think even in the current role I have now, if, if my imposter syndrome was worse, it could be a situation where someone tries to push back on an edit or give another idea, even if they’re doing politely, but I might be inclined to say like, can have that mentality of no, I’m the boss. But in many cases though, we’ve been able to collaborate on things. We kind of reorganize our article together. It’s a true collaborative process, a time to edit with our editing words. So I think that is a piece of it that actually makes kind of the final product better and actually helps you to build better relationships. If you’re willing like you have a better sense of when you need to put your foot down and not every little thing that is possibly against your wishes becomes a challenge to you personally. And that’s tough to do. It takes a lot of confidence. Challenges, most of us as leaders. And I think that as much as you can recognize that you are also a contributor to whatever environment you’re in. Yeah. So show up as authentically and as vulnerably mm-hmm as is permitted mm-hmm to be able to begin to create, a more safe environment for people to show up and say, you know what? I know you expect this idea of an expert mm-hmm but I’m also a expert student. Comes risk and part of what feeds the imposter syndrome is is, is the risk of. Standing up to power mm-hmm, mm-hmm of being, being seen as the Renegade, when really you’re, you’re simply trying to make a contribution and one of the fallacies that I know, in terms of those standards that we create in our brain. There’s no consensus around what those standards are. And you effectively, certainly at the top, could become a leader being guided by a standard. With the perception that you have a broader audience, which is really just the audience of one, you are the player and the audience, and you are the first one to shoot yourself down and go home and, and knock yourself when you didn’t put that comma in the, just the perfect place in that email that you just sent a while ago, because somehow you have created this expectation of yourself, this standard that’s out there, that really in the end, who noticed that the com should have been there,, the message was communicated and nobody kind of delved beneath that, but you’ve created this expectation of yourself that isn’t real. Mm-hmm mm-hmm What we talked about earlier is the importance of noting power dynamic. We touched on that. Very briefly. But I think we need to come back to that because that plays a very important role in how this imposter syndrome is nurtured fostered and that’s the same power that we need to reduce its presence inside the workplace, and to support people, to build themselves and to feel better about themselves even going outside. So how do we navigate power dynamics? Because everywhere we show up power comes with us and is really interesting because no one wants to use the word power power is politically incorrect to talk about, but there is no space that’s absent of power. So why can’t we talk about power and the role of power in structuring imposters and imposter syndrome in many of us, and the thing that I want us to highlight is the very leaders who are, creating the environment, that’s fostering imposter syndrome in others are suffering from the same thing. So they bring it to the environment and literally they share it. And one of the things that the research suggests now in terms of where leaders are and where we need to be is that leadership has shifted from who we are. So the leader is not, you know, before you needed to be honest, you needed to be, attentive, you needed to be responsive to be a leader. And then we shifted to what you needed to do. You needed to do this to produce results. You needed to be able to do this. Now we are at a higher order. Because the world has shifted, and this is why The stagnancy creates the imposter syndrome because now leaders have to go to the place where we have to create. So we have to create a culture, a climate. So we, as leaders are now responsible for the extent and prevalence of imposter syndrome in our environments. We have now the responsibility to create a culture. Where people feel comfortable to ask stupid questions where people know that you can make a mistake, you can trust your judgment. Because if you make a mistake, you are still in a psychological safe space. You’re not gonna lose your job. Your three months contract, isn’t going to be up and they won’t renew it. There are real concerns that people have. The rent has to be paid. Children have to go to school. So we need to make sure this contract gets renewed the sort of real serious consequences for people. So you don’t wanna show up your authentic self really, really deep down and learn, come out of your comfort zone. Instead, you come on and you wear that mask and you bring a particular performance, which you believe is required just for you to keep yourself afloat. Wherever you are in your journey with imposter Or supporting others with imposter syndrome. Here’s what I want you to know. Reduce an imposter syndrome is complex and it takes time, but we can all do our part. By ensuring that we’re inviting others perspectives that we’re collaborating with others that we’re including everyone’s voices, we can all make sure that the people around us feel valued and feel like they belong. And more than anything else. That they do not feel like imposters. We’ll continue this conversation in next week’s episode. Please join us again then.
Thank you for listening to this episode of UpSkill Talks brought to you by McGraw Hill. We bring you new episodes every Monday. Please take a moment to subscribe, leave a five star rating and a written review at apple podcast. Or follow us on. By Google podcast or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts, don’t forget to share UpSkill talks with other leaders like yourself. So they too may gain the skills and insights to produce amazing results. Please go to UpSkillCommunity.com to review show notes and learn how you can join a community of leaders from across the globe. Collaborating to lead in a more meaningful and impactful way. I’m your host, Michel Shah. And again, thank you for joining me on this episode of UpSkill Talks.
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