As a leader, it can be frustrating when a member of your team seems to be holding back. You know they have so much potential but getting them to see that and step into it seems impossible. Imposter Syndrome might be what’s holding them back.
Merriam-Webster defines it as “…persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success.”
Imposter Syndrome typically sets in within the first few years out of college. People have degrees and education but no real-world experience. I remember what it felt like.
When I graduated from Veterinary School, I had a piece of paper that said I knew what I was doing. And I had a license from my state that permitted me to practice. But it seemed like many of the cases I saw daily were far from what I experienced in school.
Was I in the right place? Was I prepared for this? Doubt started creeping in. I wasn’t sure of my abilities. I felt like a fraud.
Companies often create onboarding programs to help get new employees trained on the practices and procedures of their company. These are great for setting expectations and helping people understand how things work. But they don’t always address Imposter Syndrome.
At the root of Imposter Syndrome is a lack of experience.
For a new employee, it can seem like more tenured team members just “know” what to do. They all seem successful. It can make new hires feel even more out of place when they can’t see what happened to make that person successful.
And that’s when looking deeper at the meaning of “success” can be helpful.
Success is defined as, “a favorable outcome.”
When I first read this definition it surprised me. I always viewed the word success as big and grandiose-something reserved to celebrate “big wins.”
It was for people who solved complex problems and always knew exactly what to do. But a favorable outcome is different for everyone. And it’s not about how big or small a problem is. It’s about taking action that has a positive result.
So how can understanding “success” help your new hires deal with imposter syndrome?
One way is for existing staff to share their stories of success. And not just the big ones. The stories of the small successes they encountered when they were first starting their career.
Everyone faces challenges when they start a new job. Having others share how they made it past the challenges they faced, in the beginning, can pave the way for new hires to find their way forward.
And when your newest team members have small successes, make sure to celebrate them!
Asking new hires to name their successes at the end of every day is another way to do this. Acknowledging favorable outcomes helps them see the progress they’re making. They focus less on how much more there is to learn and begin to embrace how much they already know.
Once you start building confidence in a new hire, they begin to soar.
How can you help others connect to their favorable outcomes?