A while ago a started with a new coaching client. In her Discovery Session to explore if we wanted to work together, she shared her nervousness about her new leadership role. “What if I’m not up to it?” she confided. “What if I should have stayed where I was?”. “What if they find me out?”

a woman feeling like she will be found out

Ah, yes. What if they find me out? So familiar!

You too?

You are not an imposter

I can see from our chat and from a quick look at her profile that she’s hugely capable. I have every faith she’ll thrive in her new role. Yet, like so many of my coaching clients in the purpose-led world, she has a powerful feeling she doesn’t quite deserve to be there. That somehow she tricked her new colleagues into appointing her and will shortly be exposed as a fraud.

You’ll have heard it called Imposter Syndrome and I’ve seen it a lot. Men do experience it too, but it’s really common among high-performing women. Even among the women I’m lucky enough to support in my Sweet Spot Group Coaching programme.

I can usually see the signs – massive perfectionism, a reluctance to acknowledge successes and working very, very hard. Underneath it all is a feeling that they’re not quite good enough.

I’ve experienced these doubting thoughts myself, seen them in my clients and have written and researched lots on this topic. And, with everything I’ve learned on my own journey and in my coaching, if I were running a workshop on Imposter Syndrome now, this is what I’d be teaching:

Imposter Syndrome is a fraud and a fake. It doesn’t exist except in your head.

But still, what on earth to do about it?

1. Manage your thoughts

Thoughts are powerful. They easily turn into strongly-held beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions about what is possible and not possible for you and your organisation. There’s no doubt about it – thoughts will definitely affect the results that you get. Go shower yourself with positive, affirming thoughts and see what a difference it makes.

2. Nurture a growth mindset

Reframing so-called failures and mistakes into learning opportunities is a big part of managing thoughts. Nurture a ‘growth mindset’ and you won’t write yourself off as a fake when things don’t go so well. The most successful non-profit leaders I know acknowledge when things don’t work out, grab the learning and move on without beating themselves up. It can be hard, but it’s crucial for not sinking into the self-fulfilling prophecy of not being enough.

a woman feeling great after celebrating, no longer feeling like she will be found out

3. Celebrate your successes, however small

I encourage all my coaching clients to keep a ‘success diary’ to boost belief in themselves. Read over your achievements (both big and tiny) and remind yourself what a great contribution you make, especially when the ‘faking it’ feelings hit.

4. Visualise what success looks like

For your organisation, for your team and for you. Make sure you plonk yourself slap bang in the centre of that successful image. I promise you, if you allow yourself to step into a positive future in your imagination, you’ll see yourself there doing what you’re good at and doing it excellently, making your unique contribution to the better world we’re all working towards.

5. Connect with other charity leaders

Isolation makes us super self-critical. When you share your journey with other leaders, you’ll get the support and validation that can be lacking more officially. Few leaders in my experience find time for these vital connections but they can be so affirming. I’ve seen the power of this first hand in my Sweet Spot Group Coaching programme.

Over to you

If you doubt your abilities and feel like a fraud, you’re not alone. And it’s time to do something about it! Take a moment to read those five tips again and then commit to making a change. Let me know via email what you’re going to do.

What next?

If you’re struggling with self-doubt and need support, email me at katie@katieduckworth.com to see how I can help.