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In the final episode of our discussion of imposter syndrome, we focus on how imposter syndrome affects branding.
For those suffering with imposter syndrome, the concept of branding, or even self-marketing, can be intimidating.
Michel personally knows industry leaders with decades of experience who are hesitant to publicly post their thoughts on forums such as LinkedIn. Sometimes there may be a professional desire for anonymity, other times there is simply the belief that their views are not valid or are not interesting to potential readers.
In contrast, people with much less experience and knowledge are sharing their thoughts on social media daily. Millennials in particular are flocking to social media as a tool of self-promotion and empowerment. How can this shift be handled by an older generation of managers in order to create environments for reciprocal mentorship — the type of mentorship that pushes employees to have more confidence and deliver better results.
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 wrap up our conversation on imposter syndrome by taking a close look at the impact of imposter syndrome on branding and on your brand.
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.
Just before we dive into our discussion of branding. I want us to take a step back and to explore the importance of ongoing learning and upskilling in this unpredictable context, and particularly in the workplace. What we knew, what we know is only as relevant as what shows up at our door, nobody was ready for COVID. There are many smaller things that are showing up. A person shows up in your team. You’ve never had to deal with someone like that. You’ve never had to deal with these approaches, this attitude. What are you doing in terms of upskilling yourself to be ready for that? We don’t know what’s going to show up next. So we, as leaders have to be in that ongoing learning mode. I wanna say that ongoing skill development in a shifting world is non-negotiable. We only need to make sure we’re expert learners. Everything else, it’s about continually refining, tinkering, experimenting, making mistakes, failing, recording lessons that we’ve learned, applying them, filling the hole, collaborating, pulling people in to scrutinize us, to see what we’re missing. That is how we’re going to move this forward. So one thing I want to add as well — and i5 comes back to the theme of collaboration — when you set your goals, when you create your action plan, identify people who can support you. No human being is an island. We need to make sure that we. Creating a plan and designing supports within the plan, designing who do we need to talk to talking to people about our plan and getting supports for the plan and because this is so important. I’m going to say something that I always say from Harvey McKay: “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.” Go out and build relationships and network and get to know people who can support you when you need the support. Because if you wait until the day you need the support, that’s not the day you’re gonna get the quality support that you desire and deserve. You need to make sure you have established relationships. You set your goals and you let people know you’ve set this goal. “I’m gonna need your support with this goal. I’m going on this journey.” Share with them how you’re doing, update them on your progress, support them in any way that you can. We do not walk alone. And as you said, Peter, it’s a journey. It’s not so much about the destination. We also have to make sure that part of the journey we are learning. We’re feeling this, we’re engaged in this. So we need to make sure that we are learning, engaging with each other and enjoying the journey as well as. Planning for and walking towards the destination. Final words for anyone suffering with imposter syndrome.
In the words of Michael Jackson, you’re not alone, you are not alone.
You took what I was going to say.
We’re all, in this together. And I think the idea of imposter is this character that sits in the shadow. The only way that we can help that imposter is to shine a light on that. And we can only shine a light. Stepping up and say, yeah, mm-hmm me too.
Yes, yes. Me too. And we’ve started the conversation. There are other conversations. This extends the body of information that’s out there on imposter syndrome. So wherever you are, whatever you’re dealing with, if imposter syndrome applies to you, if you’ve never heard the word, or if you’ve heard the term, and you’re not clear on what it is. I invite you to dig deeper, go back to the previous episodes where we define it and clarify what it is, what it looks like and how it may show up for you. This conversation is for you to understand that as Peter said, you are not alone. All of us as leaders are dealing with this at every single level.
I know on the podcast, we do discuss about seven out of 10 people have felt it at some point; 25 to 35% of high achievers. So definitely data to back up the fact that you’re not alone. And it’s something that we all go through at least at some point in our lives. Understand that even if it doesn’t affect everything, there might be one area where it is. And there’s always an opportunity to get it out of your life. But I was also thinking that something to mention too, is imposter syndrome does not have to apply only to work or school. It will pop up social situations and so forth, even outside of very rigid environments. There’s always that piece of it. So I think that’s something that that’s also important to keep in mind for people who may feel like it doesn’t relate to them. It might be popping up in your social life or in relationships.
That’s correct. Peter had touched on it even, even in the family, even inside of your familial relationships. And remember, the imposter is that shadow at the back, that voice in your head, but that’s not who you are. And we are gonna focus on our strengths, shine the big spotlight on your strengths and turn the light off so that imposter can’t see to impact your life. So actually I wanna ask a question, how does imposter syndrome affect our brand, and our ideas of branding.
See that that’s the part that I struggle with. Because it’s trying to understand, a brand, in the context of an environment that you don’t necessarily have real control over. And I’m speaking to being an employee in an organization that sets a brand, and the work of the members within the organization is to always align themselves with this brand. So the question then is, to what extent do you truly have control over the things that you wish to do, when there are bigger powers at play. And I think that informs how you show up in the work environment, which will certainly feed into some imposter syndrome as well.
And how do you brand yourself. Cadeem?
So I think part of the issue when we’re looking at imposter syndrome and branding is kind of starting — even before we get to the branding piece — there’s the idea of marketing yourself. I think that is something that, with imposter syndrome, does not come very naturally. And that’s definitely going to be a big stretch for them in terms of trying to promote themselves. I think even just, regular marketing can come across as maybe grandiose or possibly not genuine and so forth. So I think that is sort of leap that has to be made within even imposter syndrome: How do you confidently market yourself to be able to kind of create your brand in the first place?
That’s a really good point because the imposter syndrome does play a significant role in our willingness to market ourselves. First of all, our awareness that marketing of self is a thing and that we are doing it, whether or not we plan to. That you have no option, that you are actively marketing yourself. It’s whether or not the intentionality has been placed around it. And not only does imposter syndrome impact whether or not you will be aware of the need to market, be willing to market. But then even “What do I say, how do I show up? Why, why would I be marketing myself?” So there’s so many ways that the imposter syndrome will cascade into our understanding and mindset around marketing, and then therefore about any action that we take or refuse to take when it comes to personal brand, personal branding. And even if we have a side business or a small business, willingness to put ourselves out there is really, really, a significant concern. I have many leaders who refuse to participate even in a conversation on LinkedIn. And they’ll say I have a LinkedIn profile because “I am sort of required to have one. I recognize now that I need to have one. However, I won’t like a post because I don’t really wanna be seen to be on there. I’m not comfortable. And I’m definitely not going to comment on anything and worst of all, do not expect me to post anything. And I think that may be the imposter syndrome showing up. There are some leaders who have genuine reasons not to participate, but for most the imposter syndrome is showing up. And that may be “What do I have to offer, who is going to listen to me? There are so many millions of people on LinkedIn. I’m certain, there’s someone who is a more of an expert in this area than me. So why would I put myself out there?” And then that imposter syndrome shows up.
I don’t know if this is because of, changes in terms of how educators are teaching students coming out of colleges and such, but I’m seeing a lot more, individuals who are prepared to step up, to say here, this is what I am prepared to contribute. This is my understanding of myself. This is my track record to this point. I am trying to take control of the career path in a more significant and meaningful way, effectively controlling my brand as I find a path through this organization. I’m seeing a lot more evidence of that happening now than I would suggest happened earlier in my career. So there’s a shift, that I am observing. Certainly not as universal as we probably expect or want it to be, but a lot more individuals entering the work workforce are coming into the workforce with a stronger sense of what I want.
Well, this is very good news. Yeah, this is very good news. And, I wanna come back to what you’re just saying. Good news that the younger generation are coming in with a stronger sense of what they want and greater willingness to market themselves. Perhaps better preparation in terms of self-awareness and understanding how their strengths aligned to what they’re coming into the workplace to do. So the question is then how do senior leaders and other leaders who’ve been in the organization for a while — who did not get this preparation — how do they fare in the workplace with this new generation that’s very comfortable sharing who they are on social media; sharing, what they can do, and putting themselves out there. Marketing. If it’s a side hustle, I can teach you how to do this. I have a course on this. And then I have senior executives — 20 years with depth of knowledge — who are uncomfortable to put that out. So how do we support leaders like this who have depth of understanding, but great discomfort in that space. So imposter syndrome, in terms of social media, branding and marketing. The younger generation, millennials in particular, this is their home. Not all millennials by the way. But a majority of millennials, the studies suggest, are very comfortable putting themselves. They live there. And, sometimes to their detriment in the sense that they will let you know what was for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, which is sort of noise and not necessary in the space. But then you are looking at two people. One just listened to some videos, did a two-year program and writes up a course and is ready to sell it. And is doing such a great job at branding that everybody’s buying their course. And then there’s a 20-year veteran who’s been doing all of this work and is not as comfortable to put themselves out there. So what we’re getting sometimes is that level and the depths that senior leaders bring, they’re unwilling to put it out there. How do we deal with the imposter syndrome in the brand, in the social media space to balance off what’s out there so that everyone that’s there can find something at the level that they need it?
The senior leadership needs to get in touch with their own vulnerabilities, and create environments like Cadeem described. I’m coming back to the concept of vulnerability for senior leaders, who are probably not as practiced in that approach to showing up in work environments. But the imperative is to create more of those types of mentorship environments where the individuals who turn up with that more intentional approach, with respect to their career, and documentation around that intentional approach. So they’re coming, throwing the book at you, in terms of, yes, literally this is where I’ve been. This is how I’ve contributed. This is where I want to go. And the challenge then; how do I respond to that? Except to say, “let me help you. Let me find the resources to be able to help you. Let me also be challenged.” Because I too need to have that pass forward. And, and in many respects, senior leaders don’t get to be in senior leadership positions by happenstance. They too came with that kind of focus as well. Sometimes a bit more clandestine, certainly not as overt as is the case. It’s a shifting of the work environment to be supportive and creating that collaboration and mentorship, and enabling our managers to feel more comfortable, occupying that space. Because again, you get promoted into this role. Your focus is on the bottom line and the broad environment sometimes doesn’t get the attention it needs. We just need to introduce more opportunities for that kind of conversation.
So I’m hearing a lot about collaboration and reciprocal mentorship. Not only do those bust up imposter syndrome, that’s really the key to cultivating a sense of belonging, cultivating a culture of care. All of the things that the research suggests that we’re going to need to be able to move ourselves forward to making people feel like we are creating inclusive spaces — that everyone belongs in has an opportunity to contribute, has an opportunity to learn and feel supported — is tied to this collaboration and reciprocal, mentorship and sponsorship. These are going to be really key tools to create that environment, to go beyond the leader. That is, going from the leader that does to the leader that creates, which is a very high-level leadership. So one thing I wanna flag up is that we all have a brand, whether we are intentional in cultivating it or not, we have a brand. And if we have imposter syndrome, imposter syndrome is impacting that brand. Jeff Bezos says, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room, that’s your brand. So whether you’re working for someone, working for yourself or just hanging out, people will say something when you’re not in the room, that’s the brand. And so whether we are working within these clearly defined structures or doing more creative work, we have to be mindful of how we’re showing up, how we’re mentoring, participating, collaborating, supporting, paying it forward, how we’re goal focused. We have to be aware of how all of these are impacting what people say about us when we’re not in the room. That’s our brand. And that’s why we’re going to give it some focus in subsequent podcasts. Well, what a beautiful conversation. I want to leave you with a few questions to ponder. Do you know what people say about you when you’re not in the room? And how intentional are you about influencing what people say when you’re not in the room? What can you do to influence what people say when you’re not in the room?
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