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In the third part of our discussion about imposter syndrome, we explore its connection to organizational structures, power, influence, vulnerability and collaboration.
Hierarchical structures in our workplaces or academic environments can often leave those who aren’t at the top feeling powerless. As an employee we don’t want to challenge the manager. As a student we don’t want to challenge the professor.
However, we break down how it is possible to have power and influence, no matter your position. We delve into how being a mentor can help to reinforce knowledge and give a sense of value. Seek out opportunities to mentor, because no matter your level of power or influence there is someone out there who can benefit from the knowledge you can share.
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.
we are continuing our conversation on imposter syndrome. And in this episode, we explore the connection to organizational structure, power influence. The role of the expert alongside vulnerability. And collaboration.
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.
Here’s Tiffany providing you strategies for navigating hierarchical structures.
In many organizations that are hierarchical or where there’s a very defined, management level executive level, that sometimes we tend to focus on those ranks or titles and forget that there’s so many other types of power that we’re able to leverage to navigate these systems and structures in a way that allows us to feel more powerful despite not having those titles. So I had a hard time when I thought about, okay, what are the strategies? How, how do we navigate this within the confines of a power imbalance or a dynamic where you are on the side, where you don’t have the power in terms of the title, but sometimes it’s. About the big acts, the speaking truth to power, the, really stepping out and risking your job. Sometimes it’s those sort of smaller acts, the smaller things that you do to navigate your working environment. The relationships that you build, the people that you talk to, the connections that you make that provide you some level of personal power to navigate the organizational structure in a way that’s not commensurate with your rank, position or title.
Michel Shah: What are your thoughts?
Certain cultures, you know, being very hierarchal, especially a police military, it’s tougher to sort of just, you know, shake things up in a sense and offer different ways of approaching things. But I think in, in some cultures, Basically any job, sometimes it’s not necessarily about, trying to impose in any way. It’s like you can try to frame as she touched on the idea of basically helping. So in my, in my case, you know, I’m with working with my manager because she’s new to newer to the company. Actually helping her understand the different systems we use, like the content management system and so forth. So in that sense, I was being, a source of guidance or an advisor as she started off and kind of getting her up to speak with the company. I still was able to have a power in that sense, but not necessarily because I’m overpowering her It’s just, I show that I still have value. And I think being able basically to have that act of helping out someone who’s more senior than me, I actually helped my confidence as well. So that helped me to combat my imposter syndrome actually helps my sense of belonging. Meanwhile, also helping her feel like I’m also invaluable in that sense. So I think that was kinda a, a good cycle kinda a quid pro quo of value.
I really like this idea around how we can show up powerfully at any level in an organization that at every level you bring value and at every level we can add value. I think one of the things, when we think about change and change in our organizations is that we expect to go in and turn the big ship around the same day. And I think the approach of understanding is gonna happen one step at a time, one bite at a time we have to bring that patience. We have to bring that process that long-term mindset to understanding we’re not gonna. Huge organizations steeped in culture over time. And just going this week, say something and it turns right around that is not going to happen. That’s not going to be the reality. It doesn’t happen in our families. It doesn’t happen in our social circles. It doesn’t happen at school and it’s not gonna happen in the workplace. So we really need to bring that mindfulness to it. And that’s why I always say, remember the saying, “How do you eat an elephant, one bite, one bite at a time.” And so what are the little things that you can take board, whether that’s trying to manage the culture within your sphere of control, whether that’s supporting up, whether that’s reaching out, whether that’s highlighting, but don’t have the expectation that because you’ve brought something forward and it has been rejected. I give up. I’m done here. They didn’t listen to me. They haven’t turned it around based on what I’ve said, that this is a long term process and project changing organizations, making sure that there’s greater sense of belonging, creating cultures, creating climates with people’s complex. It’s going to take time. It’s going take a lot of our efforts, but it has to be that we are committed to continuing to influence the process at our level based on our skills and capabilities, but all of us add value to creating and fostering cultures that make people feel safe psychologically to be themselves to take risks. Because if you cannot take a risk, you are not growing because you have to stay in your comfort zone. And that means the development. Is going to be hampered and that’s gonna impact the organization, the individuals, the entire world suffers in those kinds of environments. So we have to be willing to do our part by making sure that at the level that we are at, that we are influenced in there. Not all of us can influence at the next level or several levels above our heads, but that doesn’t mean there is no influence, it’s one drop in the bucket at a time. But if you keep dropping it at one point, the bucket will be full and it takes that long-term mindset. No matter what I’m gonna keep dropping one drip at a time in the bucket. This culture needs to change. These things need to happen. People need to feel safe here. People need to know that they can experiment and make mistakes and try again. And that, that doesn’t mean you will not be able to pay your rent next month, when we are committed to that, then I think we can create climax as leaders where people don’t show up feeling so much as an imposter, even though they may have the imposter syndrome and it shows up in all these other places, maybe work will be that place where, I can take risks here. Maybe I can’t take the risk at home or at school or in my social circle, but at work. I can be myself. So we as leaders, we can start right here. We can start where we are to make sure the people within our sphere of control. If that’s two people, if that’s five, if that’s 15, just those people. That report to you, just those people that you’re responsible for making sure every single day you’re showing up and saying, I don’t want you to feel unsafe here. I don’t want you to feel like an imposter here. And to be Frank, sometimes we’re not saying this a lot, but sometimes this is the leader that feels like the imposter in the organization. And this is why I say everyone has influence, how can we create a culture and environment where our leaders feel safe, feel safe to say what they need to say feels safe to show up, feel safe, to take risks themselves. Cuz some leaders are put on this place where you better make sure you are perfect and give us space to make mistakes. So we need to make sure we are showing up with a full understanding that we are impacting the environments and the cultures that we’re a part of, and that we are influencing it. And so, even though we feel this imposter syndrome from time to time, we have to work collaboratively to reduce imposter syndrome for all of us, because we are not the only people that are feeling it. We are feeling it as leaders, but our people are feeling it. And when you are sitting in the space of someone who reports to a leader, you also are affecting the culture and the climate that the leader is part of the leaders, feelings of safety in that environment, you impact that. So this is, uh, two sides of the same coin conversation, where the leader creates a safe environment for us. But the leader is the one with the power. By title by position, but there are many powerful people who sit in our divisions and in our departments that make the leaders feel unsafe. So we all have a responsibility to show up, identify where the power structures are. It’s not just in the people, within the position, work and collaborate with all of the power structures to help people feel safe. Sometimes there’s a senior executive with the executive assistant. So powerful, such a blocker so much that no one can even access the person. And no one feels safe coming and sharing because of that one person. So it’s not just a position. And sometimes there’s a department that there’s someone off to the corner that says nothing. But’s been there for 35 years. And nothing can change around that person. No one is going to pass through here. Everything passes through me because I have been here forever. New people come in because they know someone or there’s so many people who are power brokers impacting the culture, creating the psychologically unsafe space for others. We have to come together and collaborate to create spaces where people feel like themselves feel comfortable enough at work, to take the risks, to make mistakes, to ask the stupid questions and to not feel foolish and judged when they show up.
I will say too, as a bow to that story is just that, in my current position, associate editor and then going towards, senior editor, there’s positive feedback coming down to me, but I’ve also been able to get positive feedback to writers, kind of focusing, not on the deficit, but focusing on what they do well as we work through the other issues. And I’ve also what helped my, my pasta syndrome was hearing back from someone above me saying that one of the writers viewed me as a great mentor that was helping him a lot with his writing.
So just as a two way street, fantastic. I really like that example because sometimes we have our hands out for others to support us. To provide the right tools for us to make us feel safe. And we’re not looking for opportunities to help others feel safe, to provide tools and so on. And that mentoring helps to reduce the imposter syndrome. That’s one of the keys that the research suggests that helps us, because if you are mentoring, you can confirm that you are add in value and all of us have the ability and opportunity to mentor someone. There will be someone there who can benefit from something that we do. So I’m glad you touched on mentorship as a really key skill to develop talent, to make others feel safe, but also to make you feel better about yourself. Peter. How do you respond to all of this?
I wonder how many corporate environments have vulnerability as an important value, huh? that they expose because, the more we can embrace our vulnerabilities, I think we go a long way towards enabling individuals. I mean, you won’t ever get rid of, imposter syndrome. It really is a complex phenomenon. But it, it goes a long way. In supporting the types of environments, we’re speaking about where, from the leadership down, can recognize, an environment that allows for me to turn up to say, I don’t quite get that, or this is how I am. Feeling, in this, in this particular space at this particular time, and supporting people in terms of the language that they used to in introduce those kinds of concepts, into the world. Something happened, to me in the organization that I was employed to,, prior to the current, engagement, we we’d invited a director to one of our meetings and I was so impressed by this woman in that she was on shame to say,, I don’t understand that. Can you please explain it to me in very simple term? Wow. And I thought, oh, wow, wow. Yeah. That you have allowed yourself the permission to be able to, to say that among. Individuals who are your juniors, who are ones who report into you? There is no pretense. That was very, useful for me that allows me and gives me permission then to turn up in other environment to say, at this point in time, I don’t know that I know everything, and I’m gonna need you to support me and I will do likewise. And we work together collaboratively towards the outcome that doesn’t happen very often.
Wow. We are continuing to come back to this concept of collaboration, this really important value attitude and mindset of collaboration. And I wonder. When you share about the director who is saying to her direct reports, I’m sorry, please go ahead and explain that to me. She puts herself out there vulnerably and honestly, and advances herself by being able to understand whatever it was that she didn’t understand. And I’m pretty sure Brene brown. I need to invite her into this conversation just about right now, but I wondered the extent to which if we reversed that and she preside in over the meeting, if one of her reports. one of her direct reports did not understand something. Would they feel as comfortable to be vulnerable to say to her? I’m sorry. I don’t understand. Please explain that to me, in simple terms, would the power structure allow for that? And would that person be able to feel safe enough in that environment to ask the same question that she asked, this is coming back again to how power plays in our willingness to open up and be vulnerable about what we don’t know, because we have been issued the card, the expert card, and you’re supposed to come to these meetings as an expert. And I think we need to, problemize this whole term of this expert, like who is this expert? What does it mean? Because it’s one of those ill defined concepts. As an expert, you need to show up knowing everything about everything and you cannot not know everything. I think this idea of the expert really creates imposter syndrome, because if you are supposed to come to the table as an expert in communication or in security or in editing or in leadership, then the expectation that’s weighted on that concept is that you come with everything. But what is reasonable when we give out these terms and label people as experts, do we need to go back and reimagine and reframe what these concepts means? Like an expert is someone who asks important questions on these topics, as opposed to who comes with the content and all the knowledge in this topic. I think that’s going to relieve some of us of the burden of knowing everything. And that’s why nobody’s listening. Because we’re not tasked to listen or to learn or to invite perspectives and include perspectives and engage in that collaborative effort of knowing together, we are tasked to come knowing and to impart knowledge. And so that is something that, you know, when you talked about these standards that are ill defined and irrelevant, the expert may be one of those that we have to come back to when we are thinking about imposter syndrome, because imposter syndrome originally was only identified to be associated with women in senior leadership positions, because obviously they were stepping into male roles, and that’s when it was originally identified. So clearly. This notion that you are supposed to be an expert in a space in a new space, in a new role is one way that triggers this. So we need to be exploring a little bit more, some of these concepts that we use on a regular basis, the relevance of them because the way how our world is evolving in becoming complex, there’s no expert that can know everything contextualize everything, make everything relevant to this great diverse world of people that we have. So we have to relabel and reframe experts so that people can feel safe to say the wrong thing as an expert, because I have this knowledge, but I learned this 20 years ago, and I’ve been using this tool key for 20 years, however, This new pocket of information. I’ve not had a chance to superimpose on it, to layer it on, So I need this information to make sense of my knowledge in this context, experts need that permission. They need that space to be able to reduce the imposter syndrome and not show up feeling like, as you said, silence is how it manifests for you. And I think there are a lot of experts who are experiencing exactly what you’re experiencing, where you know what, this is not a safe space for me. I’m not sure about anything here. Cat got my tongue.
Please take some time to consider the role that you’re playing in cultivating your organization’s culture. Are you contributing to a culture that weeds out imposture syndrome for you and for others? We’ll continue this conversation. In the next episode.
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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