4 Tips to Combat Imposter Syndrome

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To look at Suzanne, one would think she had everything. She was attractive, self-assured, and handled her responsibilities with aplomb. Yet in our coaching session Suzanne confessed that, even though she was a highly respected leader who had the C-suite’s ear, she felt like an imposter and worried that she would be exposed as a fraud.

Suzanne is not alone. Many women feel like this.

If you don’t feel like you deserve your success, read on.

Even Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has said, “There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud.” It is estimated that 70 percent of people (not just women) feel this way, according to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science.

Impostor syndrome–the idea that you’ve only succeeded due to luck, and not because of your talent or qualifications–was first identified in 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes,” writes Abigail Abrams. The psychologists initially believed that impostor syndrome was experienced only by professional women, but this has been proven untrue.

Clance published a paper in 1993 acknowledging that impostor syndrome was not limited to women, according to Abrams, and later developed an online test for impostor syndrome. And some psychologists now believe that impostor syndrome is not a distinct, permanent condition, but a complicated state people experience when they are feeling stretched.

Who suffers from this condition?

Imposter syndrome doesn’t discriminate, and can happen regardless of the level of success a person has achieved in their field,” writes Danielle Page, for NBCnews.com. According to Page, certain factors can increase your chances of experiencing impostor syndrome. Your gender is one of them. Women are socialized as little girls to be more risk-averse than little boys, and this socialization can show up in later years in work-related situations.

Then there are the perfectionists. Perfectionists live with the fervent desire for success, but they focus on avoiding failure, which often leads to procrastination and self-sabotage. “Perfectionism and impostor syndrome often go hand-in-hand,” writes Melody Wilding. “Think about it: Perfectionists set excessively high goals for themselves, and when they fail to reach a goal, they experience major self-doubt and worry about measuring up.”

How imposter syndrome could be hurting your career

Your struggles with impostor syndrome could be causing problems for you at work. Think about it. Are you sabotaging your best efforts? Are you overcompensating and working yourself to the bone? Do you hang back from the spotlight? Or do you set yourself up to fail by finishing a project late–or not finishing it at all? Each of these behaviors only serves to underscore your sense of not being good enough or knowing enough. And can lead to trouble with your team and potentially damage the trajectory of your career.

“Imposter phenomenon can also correlate to worse outcomes at work–perhaps due to these unhealthy working habits,” writes Belle Cooper. “A study of over 200 professionals at the University of Salzburg found those experiencing imposter phenomenon tended to be paid less, were less likely to be promoted, and felt less committed and satisfied at work.”

Imposter syndrome can turn into a cycle of self-doubt, self-monitoring, fear, and self-criticism, which can, in turn, cause you to overwork and suffer burn out or miss opportunities because you assume you aren’t good enough.

How to turn it around

If any of this sounds familiar, and you think you may be dealing with impostor syndrome, try this: Think of yourself as a work in progress. Find someone you admire and ask them to go out for coffee. See if you can talk about your self-doubt and ask them how they handle their own. You may be pleasantly surprised at their answers.

Impostor syndrome doesn’t have to last forever. There are a host of strategies and tactics you can employ to help you move through the imposter mindset and into a healthier and happier you. Try asking for feedback and really listening to both good and critical comments. Accept compliments with a gracious and straightforward acknowledgment, and stop being so afraid of failing or making mistakes. Someone who is a work in progress learns from doing things right–and from doing things wrong. You’re going to be just fine, you’ll see.

I gave Suzanne the following assignments in our last coaching session:

  1. Accept that you have those feelings instead of beating yourself up
  2. Overcome it by regularly reviewing your accomplishments (writing them down helps)
  3. Develop a script so you can at least “act” deserving and confident
  4. Ask for feedback often, the more you hear about the value you’re bringing to others, the more you can internalize it

I’m confident she will work through each of them and, in time, her feelings of self-doubt will be a thing of the past.

Note: be on the lookout for my new book, The New Global Manager, due out in September! Click here to get early notice of the book’s availability and receive a free gift.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo: 123rf.com

How To Manage Gender and Culture in Virtual Teams

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Like so many managers in today’s new global environment, you’ve been tasked with the responsibility of leading a team of employees–many of whom report to you from multiple locations. Congratulations. You’re a manager, and you have one of the most critical jobs in business.

You’re responsible for the performance of the group.

As I have said before, leading a virtual team can be challenging. You’re expected to maintain morale, keep communication open, overcome technological glitches, keep your workers on task, and meet project objectives.

Today, you’re also expected to manage diversity in your virtual team.

Let’s talk about this. We all make instinctive choices and assessments based on our genders and our cultural backgrounds. And, when everyone on a team has the same, or similar norms, perceptions, and values, interacting with others and doing business is relatively straightforward.

But things get more complicated when we’re working with people whose norms, perceptions, and values are different from our own, something that is an obvious reality in today’s global marketplace. Let’s take gender, to start. While we can agree on many aspects of life and work, men and women also see things very differently, based on their genders.

Gender differences.

For example, community tends to be an important motivator for women. Creating that sense of community within the team, showing how teamwork helps reach a goal faster and better, and offering opportunities for the team to connect socially and personally, will help the women in the group work well with the other employees.

Men, on the other hand, may feel more engaged and committed to team efforts as long as they see the celebration of individual successes and recognize that there are opportunities to promote the team’s visibility. Research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as powerful and influential. In contrast, it is more common for women to seek recognition, reward, and appreciation.

Now, obviously, these are generalities. However, they are generalities that tend to hold true for men and women in the workplace.

As I said in an interview with Meghan M. Biro, of TalentCulture, different motivations can lead to gendered behaviors that can leave us at a mismatch. For example, women will thank men a lot. They’ll say, “Thanks so much, we really appreciate it.” Behind closed doors, women will tell you they’re trying to stroke men’s egos. But that doesn’t actually work with men. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and useful. Another misinterpretation is men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem when resentment could actually be brewing. As I said in the podcast, if women are silent, there might be more of a problem than you think.

So gender differences can have a tremendous impact on the dynamics of your virtual team. Particularly when you’re trying to get more participation and engagement.

Cultural differences.

Now let’s take a look at the impact that cultural differences can have on your virtual team. We are all shaped by the cultures in which we have grown up. However, while we make choices and decisions based on our culture, people evaluate our actions based on their cultures. And often we aren’t even aware of this fact–and can be brought up short by misunderstandings based in cultural differences.

There are three different types of culture you deal with as a manager. These cultures drive the behaviors of the people with whom you work and for whom you are responsible. First, there is a national or ethnic culture, the impact of the country or ethnicity in which your employees have grown up. Next, we have company culture. Company culture drives important decisions, like the kind of people who get promoted and the kind of behavior that’s praised or condemned. And finally, you have personal culture. You and I and everyone else behave and have certain preferences that have grown out of everything in our life so far.

Each of these types of culture, and often combinations of the three, can drive the behaviors you manage in your dispersed team. It’s up to you to help your employees work through the gender and culture issues that may arise to work collaboratively and as a high-performing unit.

Three tactics for managing virtual teams.

By now you may be wondering how to go forward with what feels like a massive assignment. If you feel like this, you aren’t alone. Here are three tactics you can employ to manage your dispersed team successfully.

One of the first is to create context for your team. When your employees understand the context or what, why, and who, they are more apt to buy into the overall mission and the individual deliverables for which they are responsible. Creating context helps people from differing cultures see the commonality in an experience or directive, which can go a long way toward building bridges between gender and culture or differences in opinions.

Another powerful tactic is to build a sense of community within your group. For virtual workers, it can be particularly difficult to feel a part of something. Statistics show that meeting face-to-face during a project will increase productivity by 50 percent. Building a sense of community can take many forms–like intentionally connecting via email, video, or phone, three times more per week than a brief status update, even if it’s only to chit-chat for 15 minutes.

Where possible, encourage your team members to go into the local office one day a week to network and meet with colleagues can help increase a feeling of community.

Finally, co-share leadership. As a manager, sharing leadership responsibility is one of the best strategies to involve team members. Each should be empowered to take the lead in a team meeting, take charge of a piece of a project or a whole project, as well as be accountable for specific results in their area of expertise. In a leadership role, team members will feel more responsible for outcomes and more connected to the team and project.

Managing a virtual team is both challenging and rewarding. As I say in my new book, The New Global Manager, effective leadership, and management of a virtual team mean fine-tuning your skills in observation, asking questions and adapting before reacting to the situation–and paying attention to how the issues of gender and culture are impacting the team dynamic.

4 tips for managing gender and culture in virtual teams.

  1. Remain open to different viewpoints and ways of doing things.
  2. Create a culture of communication. Encourage your team to reach out to you and to communicate all the time.
  3. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable at times. You must develop the ability to accept that particular situation may be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
  4. Increase your capacity to motivate your team. You need to be able to influence and support individuals across cultures and gender differences to uphold corporate culture and accomplish the company’s goals.

Could you use some assistance managing your virtual team? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building. I have helped countless managers learn to work successfully with their virtual teams.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

10 Tips To Develop Your Firm’s Cultural Competence

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Does your company have what it takes to do business in this rapidly expanding global economy? The importance of cultural competence and your team’s ability to work across cultures cannot be overstated in today’s global marketplace. Determining your organization’s level of cultural competency is essential–but, simply utilizing the available tools may not provide you with the information you really need.

“The world felt larger when the internet was small,” writes Hal Conick, “Twenty years ago, 33 percent of internet users were in the U.S. while less than 1.5 percent of the world’s population was online.”

Well, that was then. This is now.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) “With financial conditions still supportive, global growth is expected to tick up to a 3.9 percent rate in both 2018 and 2019.” As reported in the Global Mindset Index Study, published by Culture Wizard, almost 24 percent of respondents report spending more than 75 percent of their work time on global endeavors. The data shows that globally-minded businesses have a competitive advantage over companies with a more narrow focus.

Nationally, shifting demographics are changing the composition of the American workforce. According to the Pew Research Center, immigration is projected to drive growth in the U.S. working-age population through 2035. The increasing numbers of immigrants joining American businesses make understanding cultural differences an economic necessity.

“In an increasingly globalized world economy, workforces that are culturally diverse can help companies expand their business in worldwide markets,” writes Haley Smith. “Being able to communicate effectively in different parts of the world is a key benefit, as well as knowing how to create relationships and understand the cultural nuances and differences in doing business in foreign countries. With a workforce that understands these concepts, you create the opportunity to effectively develop your business in a global market.”

And, in addition to global expansion, as more and more American companies employ workers from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, evaluating the degree to which employees operate with cultural competency is essential.

Assessing your company’s cultural competence.

“What is cultural diversity in the workplace?” asks Dr. Richard T. Alpert, Ph.D. “Culture refers to the 7 Essentials of Workplace Cultural Competence: The values, norms, and traditions that affect the way a member of a group typically perceives, thinks, interacts, behaves, and makes judgments. It even affects perceptions of time, which can impact day-to-day scheduling and deadlines.

“Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures, and work with varying cultural beliefs and schedules,” he states.

I agree with Dr. Alpert. In my work, I often describe cultural competence as the ability to communicate and work well with people from other cultures. Being able to do this effectively takes a combination of self-awareness and understanding of one’s own biases and cultural worldview. It also takes having a global mindset, knowledge of other cultural attitudes, a cross-cultural skillset and being tolerant of cultural differences.

Assessment is a multi-step process.

Cultures are complex and fluid, not static. So determining your organization’s cultural competence requires understanding nuanced interactions and behaviors. The challenge is, you aren’t just determining your employees’ abilities to work with people from different backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups or religious tradition, you’re also evaluating the depth of knowledge and experience within the company as a whole to identify any gaps.

Assessing knowledge levels is only one part of the cultural competency equation. Evaluating the degree to which an individual or a team can step outside their own cultural boundaries and become comfortable with new and unfamiliar customs and practices is imperative. Next, determining whether the individual or group has both the ability and the motivation to employ this understanding in a cross-cultural environment is key. In global settings, business people are confronted not only with different cultural expectations but with the complexities of a particular country’s business environments including legal, economic, technological, political and social considerations.

Conducting an accurate assessment of an organization’s cultural competence is a multi-faceted process, calling for executive interviews with a cultural expert, workshops, and facilitated discussions with your team. Often, in conjunction with these steps, I recommend the use of tools like the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI) assessment, which measures intellectual, psychological, and social capital to reveal both strengths and areas to develop.

Building cultural competency in a business or team is an ongoing exercise, one that is, of necessity, responsive and fluid in nature. Beginning with the assessment process, it morphs into the development of training and coaching programs, HR policies, and constant monitoring and evaluation. Taking steps to create an atmosphere of cultural competence builds one of the most valuable assets your organization will have–one that will yield tremendous benefits over the years to come.

10 tips for developing your firm’s cultural competency:

  1. Conduct executive interviews with a cultural expert to evaluate your team.
  2. Identify the gaps and create a strategy for developing cultural competence.
  3. Develop and implement training and coaching with a true cross-cultural expert.
  4. Emphasize communication and relationship building across geographic barriers.
  5. Practice active listening.
  6. Be sensitive to language barriers and bridge any linguistic divides.
  7. Encourage sensitivity to issues like time, local customs, religious matters, and etiquette.
  8. Practice effective cross-cultural team-building.
  9. Solicit feedback from your team as they put training to use in the workplace.
  10. Conduct a review and reassessment of your team’s performance and modify your training and coaching as needed.

Do you need help in assessing your team’s level of cultural competency? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building. I have helped countless individuals and organizations to be more equitable, productive, and happy.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

Best Beach Reading List for Women in Leadership

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One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to read more. For good reasons. It’s a fact: People who read books live longer. And truthfully, as I have said before, leadership development is a demanding field–one that requires staying abreast of new perspectives and learning from authors beyond our own particular industries.

Now that summer is here; I’m happy to say that I am enjoying my resolution and am eager to share some new book titles with you. So, as you throw your bathing suit and sunblock into that beach or pool carryall, consider adding one of the books I’ve suggested below, whether it’s to help uplevel your leadership abilities over the summer or to offset that summer blockbuster page-turner you just tucked in your bag.

1. Dream Teams by Shane Snow

Let’s start with this one: Dream Teams: Working Together Without Falling Apart by Shane Snow. Managing high-performance teams is a topic near and dear to my heart, one that I speak about in keynotes across the country. “Award-winning entrepreneur and journalist Shane Snow reveals the counterintuitive reasons why so many partnerships and groups break down–and why some break through.” Snow does an excellent job of walking the reader through the elements that cause a team to be high-performing instead of just a group of people who work together.

I appreciated Snow’s storytelling, which made the book an enjoyable read, and his insights based on history, business, neuroscience, and psychology. It’s a fabulous book, and I believe you’ll enjoy it.

2. Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura

Next up is Applied Empathy: The New Language of Leadership by Michael Ventura. In this Business Insider Best Book, Ventura describes the power of empathy, and how that quality may be what your company needs to connect, innovate, and grow. Ventura is an entrepreneur and the CEO of the award-winning strategy and design firm Sub Rosa. He has worked with brands like Google, Warby Parker, Nike, and General Electric, and organizations including the United Nations and the Obama administration.

In a world where we face the reality of digitalization and our increasing reliance on technology like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the need for soft skills like empathy is vital. Bear in mind that the people who program this technology upon which we depend come to the work with their biases–and those can easily be incorporated in the development and coding processes. One of the key skills for those of us in leadership is and will continue to be, emotional competence; the ability to empathize with, motivate, and engage our teams.

Applied Empathy provides the reader with a framework for building diverse teams that can be successful in our new global marketplace.

3. Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam

Let’s change it up a bit with this next recommendation. Most of us run from one day to the next, frantically juggling the daily demands of our personal lives and our work lives. One of the things I hear from my female coaching clients is that they are doing it all, all the time, for everyone. They tell me they don’t have time for themselves. They don’t have time to work out, time to relax, or time to recharge.

Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam describes seven principles that time-free people have adopted. “Time-free?” you exclaim. Who would describe themselves as time-free in today’s hectic world? It turns out, plenty of people do because they embrace the seven almost counterintuitive principles outlined in Vanderkam’s book. Her book includes descriptions of “mindset shifts to help you feel calm on the busiest days and tools to help you get more done without feeling overwhelmed.”

This book is packed with helpful information and examples of how people using these principles are learning to apply new thinking to formerly chaotic schedules and lives. I found several invaluable pointers in the book that I plan to use in my own life, and I suspect you may as well. Give it a read. I recommend it highly.

4. Presence by Amy Cuddy

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges by Amy Cuddy is a book I often recommend to my coaching clients. Cuddy, who gave the second most popular TED Talk ever, writes about the differences between authentic and inauthentic behavior, and between social power and personal power.

At this point, your instinctive response may be like this one: “I don’t read self-help books,” writes Laura McNeal in a Goodreads review. “Metaphorically I’m a 17-year-old hearing that it would be better to start my homework on Saturday instead of Sunday night at eight. My inner voice screams, ‘I KNOOOOOOOOW.’ ” If so, read on: “I was in deep danger of switching from the Bold Self initiative to my default setting, which is Holden Caulfield at the end of his madman weekend in New York. And yet I kept reading, and it got to a point where I was curled up on the sofa with a highlighter in my hand….” McNeal gave the book four out of five stars in her review.

Cuddy describes the differences between powerless poses and powerful poses and recommends adopting confident power poses and body language until the reader can become her authentic best self.” As a social psychologist, Cuddy bases her work on her research and is considered a leader among ” ‘next generation’ authors and academics who are pioneering evidence-based approaches,” according to a review by Bridgette Beyers.

Try this one and then let me know how you enjoyed it, and whether you found it as helpful and inspiring as I have.

5. Thrive by Arianna Huffington

Finally, I give you Thrive, by Arianna Huffington. Thrive is Huffington’s account of how she manages the challenges of her career and raising her two daughters. It is an intensely personal book, one that begins by describing her “a-ha! moments” after her physical collapse upon falling and injuring herself due to exhaustion. Huffington points out the reality too many people discover the hard way: The dogged pursuit of money and power leads to stress and burnout and a lessening in the quality of our lives and our careers. Thrive provides the groundwork and a blueprint for revolutionizing the way we think, work, and live. I thought it was a fantastic book and I believe you will too.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash