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

You’re Not Burnt-Out. You’re Bored-Out.

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About two and a half years into a job he had previously been really excited about, my client Nick found himself getting increasingly restless and bored. He described his situation to me as a “mountain of sameness,” and said he was beginning to dread going to work.

Margaret, someone at the mid-point of her career, was slowly dying on the vine. Of what? Of boredom. She came to me for help identifying what had gone wrong with her career, desperate to find a way out of the stultifying daily sameness of her job.

Boredom at work is a real problem for business today. According to a survey published in January by the Korn Ferry Institute, the leading reason respondents reported looking for a new job was that they were bored with the job they currently hold. And, participants in an OfficeTeam study reported feeling bored for at least 10.5 hours per week.

Boredom at work can have severe consequences.

Employee boredom, labeled bore-out, is a growing workplace trend and is seen as a psychological disorder that can lead to burnout and illness, according to co-authors of the book, Diagnose Boreout, Peter Werder, and Philippe Rothlin. According to Werder and Rothlin, early symptoms of bore-out include demotivation, anxiety, and sadness. In the long term, they state, burnout will develop, generating a strong feeling of self-deprecation, which can turn into depression, and even physical illness.

According to a study published by Udemy, 43 percent of workers report feeling bored at work. The research found that more women than men report workplace boredom (48 percent vs. 39 percent) and Millennials are almost two times as likely to be bored. 51 percent of respondents who described issues with boredom stated they feel this way for more than half of their work week.

What are the symptoms of bore-out?

As Steve Savels describes it, you are left with little energy. “You become irritated, cynical and you feel worthless. Although you don’t have enough to do – or what you have to do is not stimulating you enough, you get extremely stressed, ” he states. “With a bore-out, you get stuck in your ‘comfort zone’ for too long, until your personal development comes to a halt. A burn-out happens when you stay for too long in your ‘effort zone’ until all your energy is gone.”

The consequences of bore-out can impact an entire organization.

Employees can begin to stretch tasks out for longer and more extended periods of time to appear busy and engaged. They start to do just what is required and nothing more. They come in late to work, leave early and call in sick more often than their counterparts. Moreover, their attitudes can begin to impact the rest of the team.

“A high incidence of boredom among segments of the workforce directly impacts performance, morale, and retention,” according to the Udemy research. “39 percent of surveyed employees called in sick to work due to boredom.” 51 percent of employees stated their coworkers regularly describe feelings of apathy or disengagement, which can spread among the workforce leading to low morale throughout the organization. And, as the research revealed, bored workers are more than twice as likely to quit than their non-bored co-workers.

Boredom is known as a leading indicator of disengagement.

“Not only can disengaged employees create a negative work environment but they can also cause a company to lose money,” writes Paul Slezak for RecruitLoop. “According to a Gallup poll, actively disengaged employees cause U.S. companies between $450 – $550 billion in lost productivity per year.”

What can you do?

Among the things I tell clients who come to me with concerns about boredom at work is that you don’t have to leave your current job to fix the problem. You really can turn bore-out around if you’re willing to work at it, take the right steps, and reach out to others in your company and network.

Here are eight tips to help turn a tedious job into something that has challenge and meaning:

  1. Ask yourself what exactly bores you about your current situation and what kinds of new responsibilities would seem appealing.
  2. Meet with your manager and ask for new challenges. Ask for a career counseling and brainstorming session to come up with ideas for moving forward.
  3. Increase your networking, inside and outside of your company. Take the time to get to know new people and ask them about their jobs and what they find interesting or exciting.
  4. Get involved in volunteer projects within your company. Ask to be included in a corporate social responsibility (CSR) project and work to get to know the other people involved.
  5. Check into job shadowing. You may be able to shadow someone from an entirely different part of the company and learn something utterly unrelated to your current job.
  6. See if you can take part in one of your organization’s fellowship programs. Some companies offer short-term fellowship programs that last three to six months and may take place in other parts of the country or even offices abroad.
  7. Work on increasing your visibility within the company and in building your personal brand.
  8. Work with a coach to uncover new ways to build meaning into your work, no matter where you are employed.

Do you need more help? Contact me. I help to grow leaders, empower teams, and bridge cultures by facilitating innovative learning programs. With over 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: julien-pier-belanger-499884-unsplash.com

Women, Stop Overthinking. Be Like Nike and Just Do It!

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Women, and you know who you areit’s time to stop overthinking things. Take the Nike slogan to heartand Just Do It! Whatever it is. Don’t be the one who never steps up to take a risk.

Overthinking, especially chronic overthinking, can hurt your career and impair your performance. I hear the stories all the time from the women in my workshops, “I didn’t ask, and then my male peer got the job.” Or “I was waiting for the right time, and then my manager left.”

Seriously, we know that women hold 85 percent of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforceand there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet we are still underrepresented in top management, and are less often recipients of VC fundingand we don’t earn as much money than men.

What’s up with that?

Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, the chair of the department of psychology at Yale University and the author of Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life, has found that women are less likely than men to believe that they have control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

The Confidence Gap

As Katy Kay and Claire Shipman, authors of the book, The Confidence Code, point out, evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men–and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. “Compared with men, women don’t consider themselves as ready for promotions, they predict they’ll do worse on tests, and they generally underestimate their abilities.

“Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Of course,” write Kay and Shipman. “But not with such exacting and repetitive zeal, and they don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do.” Yet for all the reasons that the confidence gap exists, that women tend toward overthinking and hold back in risk taking in the workplace, the answer is simple, if not easy: To become more confident, some need to stop thinking so much and just act.

Women who take risks

Amelia Earhart was not the only highly skilled pilot at the time she rose to prominence in a male-dominated industry, but she was determined and confident, and willing to go after what seemed impossible. Amelia Earhart was the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928, and she was – incredibly – only the sixth woman to be issued a pilot’s license.

Vera Wang is almost a household name today. But when, as a young competitive skater, she failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, she decided to pursue a career as an editor. As Heather Finn describes it, when she wasn’t hired by Vogue for the editor-in-chief position she dreamed of, Wang started working as the design director for accessories at Ralph Lauren. Her dissatisfaction with the quality of the wedding gowns available to her as she planned her wedding led to her career in bridal fashion design.

Beyoncé Knowles, a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist who’s acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos and live shows, dropped her surprise, self-titled album at the end of 2013, she was terrified of what feedback she might receive, as Finn describes it. The album was hugely successful, and Beyoncé went down as one of the most fabulous risk-takers in history.

And J.K. Rowling, the ninth-best-selling fiction author of all time (estimated 500 million copies sold) lived as a single mom on welfare and wrote every chance she could get. Her belief in her book about a little boy named Harry Potter was so strong that she continued to send out her manuscript and to ignore the rejection letters. Finally, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was publishedand the rest is history.

So stop overthinking. Be like Nike. Just Do It. Whatever it is.

Be bold, push yourself, and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

– Angie Gels, Chief People Officer at Everything But The House.

Here are six tips to help you stop overthinking:

  1. Talk about your dreams, share them, make them come alive.
  2. Create a plan, and execute it. You can always re-tool.
  3. Confer with your mentor or other knowledgeable people in your network.
  4. Do your research. Find out what you don’t know. This will help with overwhelm.
  5. Have a Plan B. It will make you feel safer and more confident in pursuing Plan A.
  6. Use social media to promote an idea, crowd-source opinions or even funding.

Do you need help moving your career forward? Have you considered working with a coach? Contact me. Let’s talk about your options.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo by Steven Jones on Unsplash

#WorkTrends Recap: Helping Men Become Allies in the #MeToo Era

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Note: I was honored to be interviewed by Meghan M. Biro, of TalentCulture, for her #WorkTrends podcast recently. We discussed the importance of helping men become allies to women in the workplace. This post is republished with Meghan’s permission.

In the age of #MeToo, how are we creating equitable workplaces for women?

This week’s #WorkTrends guest, Melissa Lamson, has been working on this cause for years. She is CEO of Lamson Consulting, founder of a popular leadership program for women and has consulted on management for companies like Space X, LinkedIn, and SAP.

She shared how men can proactively work to understand how the sexes communicate differently, and how they can work with women to build a more diverse culture at work.

Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Gender Parity Requires Work from Women and Men

“If men and women don’t work together in organizations, they really won’t achieve gender parity,” Lamson says. “There has been a lot of emphasis on what women need to do to advance their own careers — networking, mentoring, training programs. The onus has been on women to support their own development.” But, she says, women can only go so far in creating more gender balance at the top of organizations. Companies need to enlist men to support this goal.

Most men are happy to contribute when they realize what’s at stake, she says. “I don’t believe that most men intentionally keep women from advancing today, but they don’t know what they necessarily could be doing to help.” So, she’s worked with companies to develop workshops for men. Through those workshops, some men say they realize their KPIs were gender biased, or that they never knew what women on their team wanted. Opening a conversation between women and men in the workplace is a good place to start.

Men Often Don’t Perceive the Problems

Lamson says that the men in her workshops often have no idea that their behavior or language could be perceived as hurtful or even sexist. “When men have a conversation, they will do that in a really competitive way. That’s normal; they’ll challenge each other and interrupt each other. If they do this with women, it’s perceived as being disrespectful, and they get labeled as unsupportive.”

But Lamson says that’s not what most men want. “In my experience, men really want to be a hero. In my workshop, men will literally start writing down everything I’m saying. They’ll ask for exact phrases they can use with women to show support. They want to make women happy at work. They want to promote them; they want to work with them on teams and collaborate with them. They just literally don’t understand that there’s an issue.”

But, after her trainings, most men start to understand what their female colleagues are facing at work. They buy into the idea that we’ve all been socialized to see things in certain ways — and we can do some things differently to collaborate at work more effectively.

Understand Different Communication Styles

In her workshops, Lamson teaches about five communication differences between men and women. While everyone is, of course, different, she’s learned that some gender stereotypes often ring true for many groups, and understanding these can help teams learn how to work with one another better. She calls one of these communication differences “Status-First Recognition.”

“The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the more important and powerful. In contrast, women seek recognition, reward, and appreciation. So, they want to be appreciated for a job well done and all the hard work that they’re doing.”

Those different motivations 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, Lamson says. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and powerful.

On the other hand, men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem, when resentment could actually be brewing. “Men assume that women are totally fine and feeling good about working with them unless they express that they’re not. That’s not a correct assumption.”

She gives groups this tip: If a man and a woman are talking in a meeting and the woman suddenly gets quiet, a man should notice that and start re-engaging her by asking questions.

“Men aren’t programmed to ask as many questions,” she says. “But if they can pivot and start asking questions, they’ll get the engagement back on track.”

Gender Diversity Drives Business Results

Lamson points to research from McKinseyCatalyst, and others that having more gender balance in an organization, especially at the top, actually affects the bottom line positively.

Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

But that doesn’t just mean adding one woman to an all-male board. Research shows that when one woman joins a group of men, she’ll adapt her style to theirs. When two women join, there still isn’t a substantial change in the group. But when there are three women, they have the power of a group — and will influence change.

5 Ways to Rekindle Your Passion at Work

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‘Tis the season of love. But has your relationship with your work been stuck in a rut? Do you dread Mondays? Do you groan when you look at your emails? Are you always working for the weekend? If so, let me show you five ways to rekindle your passion at work.

Like with people, many fall in and out of love with their jobs. We start in that honeymoon phase, but as the novelty wears off and the responsibilities grow, we can begin to go through the motions and see only the negatives.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. A 2015 Gallup poll found that only 32 percent of us are engaged at work. That means our relationship with our jobs needs some work.

So, this Valentine’s Day, try one or all of these five ways to rekindle your passion at work:

1. Go outside your comfort zone.

People get bored with their work once they’ve mastered it. As human beings, we need to be challenged. We need excitement to energize ourselves. So, take on a new responsibility, like a project outside your usual scope or learn a new skill. I’ve also found that working with new people and attending conferences can kick my enthusiasm up several notches.

2. Make a small change.

Routines are great, but they also feed the boredom I’ve mentioned before. Good news is, even the smallest change can refresh our outlooks on our jobs. Cleaning out or redecorating your workspace can reinvigorate. So, can taking a new route to work or altering your schedule (ask if you can work 8 to 4 instead of 9 to 5 so you can hit the gym after instead of before).

3. Think back to that honeymoon phase.

What attracted you to this job in the first place? Get out that job description (and your impressive resume) and reflect on the positives, including how much you’ve grown. Doing this may also illuminate some forgotten dreams or goals, too. Was part of the reason why you wanted this job to travel more or less, take advantage of benefits like paid graduate school, or even to try a new hobby? Do you still need to do this?

4. Realize what you can fix.

A lot of why we aren’t engaged with work is because we’re frustrated. Write down what’s bugging you and then mark what you can change. If you don’t like the typical review process of a project, suggest an alternate solution. If your schedule is too unpredictable, set boundaries with your superior. Some things may be out of our control, but some things may just need you to speak up.

6. Have a wandering eye.

Sometimes all it takes to appreciate what we have is to think about losing it. So look at other job opportunities. Recruiters exclusively use LinkedIn today, beef up your profile and respond to a few requests. Even go on an interview, and focus on how you’re feeling. Will you miss the people or the work? Or are you filled with excitement about the change? If you’re incredibly excited, then it might be time to try something new.

Like most relationships, our relationship with our jobs needs constant attention and work. We can take it for granted. So, try one or all of these things this Valentine’s Day and see if you might be able to rekindle that passion at work.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

5 Ways to be Happier at Work

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Who doesn’t want to be happier at work? Or in their personal life, for that matter. But, as most of us know, being happier at work is often easier said than done. Turns out though, that being happy isn’t just good for your personal well-being, it’s also excellent for your career–and for your organization, as a whole.

Positive people not only influence the environment around them, but they’re also more productive, goal-oriented and successful, according to the study Why Does Affect Matter in Organizations? The co-author, Sigal Barsade Ph.D., says, “If you’re in a negative mood, a fair amount of processing is going to that mood. When you’re in a positive mood, you’re more open to taking in information and handling it effectively.”

You can decide to be happy.

As crazy as that sounds, you can make a conscious choice to be happier at work and to do things every day that sustain that happiness. Simple but not necessarily easy. “Happiness at work comes from the inside out, says Annie McKee, author of How to Be Happy at Work: The Power of Purpose, Hope, and Friendship. “It’s something we create for ourselves, she adds.

According to McKee, many people will lose or leave a job and go somewhere else and find that they’re just as unhappy. McKee believes that people need to feel that work is meaningful, that they are doing something linked to their values, that they’re making a difference, and that they feel hopeful about their future. People need to see a clear link between the work they are doing now and the future that they want for themselves. “And additionally, we need friendships,” she states.

Here are five simple things you can do to be happier at work:

1. Meditate.

This doesn’t mean you have to get down on the ground and spend an hour in silence. Meditation just means taking some time to think quietly. Just a few deep breaths can quickly reduce stress. You can do this anytime–walking to meetings, going to the bathroom, waiting at the copy machine, or getting water. The key is to be aware of where your thoughts take you and to breathe. We often, in our stress and activities, forget to breathe.

2. Branch out.

As part of your decision to be happier at work, try expanding your social horizons. Network with colleagues with whom you haven’t spent much time. A best practice is to make a list of all the people you’d like to meet or who would be good for your career to know. Then systematically invite them for meetings or phone calls. You may find yourself being inspired and energized by their new perspectives, interests or skills. And you may find yourself having fun.

3. Join a cause.

Many companies have corporate social responsibility initiatives. Jump on board. Doing things for others can add meaning to your life and help you keep perspective. You may find yourself forgetting your own problems (at least for a little while), and you may enjoy feeling as if you’re contributing something meaningful (which can fill the void if we think we aren’t doing so professionally).

According to John Rampton, writing for Inc., “…research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile has discovered that no matter the size of a goal–whether curing cancer or helping a colleague–having a sense of meaning can contribute to happiness in the workplace. People stay in their jobs if they feel like they’re contributing something worthwhile.”

4. Give praise.

A sincere compliment can go a long way in the workplace. Some benefits include a more positive mood, greater engagement, improved performance, and enhanced job satisfaction. What’s more, showing gratitude is a great way to improve your mood, too. You can do it in public or leave a note or email.

Try to get in the habit of verbalizing what you’re thinking, rather than keeping it to yourself. If you’re thinking something positive about someone (whether it be that you like the color of their sweater or you appreciated the points of their presentation), say it!

5. Embrace those silver linings.

Sometimes you make mistakes. Sometimes things go wrong. While failure can feel awful in the moment, it can also be a valuable learning experience. Embrace the silver linings in those situations if you can. When dealing with mistakes and disappointments, try to find the lesson in the situation and shift your focus from feeling unhappy to improving the work tasks at hand.

No one is asking you to blast “Don’t worry – be happy” over the company intercom to help your team members embrace optimism. But you can decide to be happier at work. You can also lead by example, and adopt the five tactics I have just described. As you encourage a sunnier outlook, you just might be surprised at the boost in your performance and your team’s, as well.

Need help with your career? Contact me.

A version of this post was first published on Inc. 

Image: JamesOladujoye/Pixabay