I’m sitting in a conference room with three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst. A very talented and professional group.
The meeting is the advisory board for a consulting client of mine who owns a large company out of state. She’s very sophisticated — extremely bright, completely driven and a perfectionist in the best sense of the word. She expects excellence in everything she does. (And in everything everyone else does too!)
She’s reached that predictable growth stage – you know the one – rapid growth, few systems, even fewer policies and the company is completely dependent on her.
Now she’s having a hard time keeping things together. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and things are falling through the cracks. There’s too much to do and everything is a 1-A priority.
That’s where I come in. She hired me to lead the company through a process to get them through this growth stage.
On short notice, she asks me to attend her advisory board meeting. I have no role other than to meet the members and hear their discussions about upcoming plans and decisions.
Ah, that’s what I thought!
Without warning, she asks me to come up to the white board and sketch out the model I would use for the changes that needed to take place in the next year.
I launch in and began to draw a diagram with captions. As I write, I explain that the company needs structure – strategic planning, an organizational chart, job descriptions, and definitions of accountability.
Now, as a trainer and a speaker, I’m right at home with a marker in my hand and a white board.
But now there’s a moment, just one moment…
As I write, I turn to face the board members and notice something.
I’m speaking and they are listening. No, not just listening. They’re taking notes.
For a fraction of a second, my knees go weak.
Three MBA’s, an attorney and a Certified Financial Analyst are writing down what I say.
I push this awareness out of my mind and continue.
As soon as the meeting ends, I retreat to the ladies room and sit down on the floor, trembling with … what? Fear? Adrenaline? (Classy, right?)
I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life because this is the exact moment I went from feeling like a fraud, an impostor, to knowing I was a capable, competent consultant.
I bet you know the feeling I had in that moment. That sick worry that you’ll be discovered, found out.
This feeling, commonly known as “the impostor syndrome” is one of the biggest factors holding women back. We suffer from the dreaded disease of self-doubt.
We were raised to be nice girls and nice girls are humble. We don’t brag and we don’t boast.
Some of us were also raised to defer to other voices. Some of us were taught to be seen and not heard.
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a Professor of Business Psychology, spoke to this gender difference in his article about why so many incompetent men become leaders. “When it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women…is the fact that manifestations of hubris — often masked as charisma or charm — are commonly mistaken for leadership potential, and that these occur much more frequently in men than in women.”
He explains that people in general confuse confidence with competence. Men typically behave with more confidence than women.
Women see right through this mistaken belief. And in a desire to NOT be like that, we go too far in the other direction.
Women confuse confidence with arrogance. They are not the same thing. Arrogance is overconfidence — definitely not a desirable leadership quality.
Women value humility, which is indeed an admirable quality. But any strength overused becomes a weakness. And false modesty is just as distasteful as arrogance.
Women commonly default to self-discounting behavior. We discount our own competence and that’s self-defeating.
This self-doubt is what leads to feeling like a fraud – the impostor syndrome.
Women would be smart to adopt a healthy dose of confidence (stopping short of hubris of course!).
It’s time to stop feeling like a fraud. Give yourself credit for what you do well.
In that advisory board meeting, all that mattered is that I knew what I was talking about — that I was the only one in the room with the particular expertise that the company needed at that point in time.
In that moment (more accurately, sitting on the floor of the ladies room!), I stopped feeling like a fraud. I never want to over-promise and under-deliver. But I won’t sell myself short either.
And neither should you. Believe in yourself! Find your moment. (And tell me about it in the comments!) Take care,
P.S. Would a little knowledge help you develop your competence and find your moment? Check out my webinar: 9 Specific Steps on How to HIre Great Employees for YOU