By Ruth Cornish, co-founder and director of HRi
During my career I have worked alongside some extremely successful people. To everyone in the room they ooze confidence; in their own abilities, in their decisions, in their direction and the vision they share. But, of course, behind closed doors things are rarely what they seem. In fact, many of them will have their dark times, their moments of doubt and of course many of them will experience the dreaded Imposter Syndrome.
But I think that the difference between the aforementioned successful professionals and those that struggle to progress, all comes down to one thing; their attitude. These people have harnessed the power of intent and that is both potent and extremely powerful. This, I believe, is the perfect antidote to imposter syndrome.
And I know this because I too have patented and bottled my own. It’s a heady mix of my days in the City and the public sector. My battles with serious health issues, being a parent and guardian to five children, working for myself for 10 years, whilst developing a big vision for external HR and the future. And so today I wanted to take some time to look into confidence and consider the best ways we can all increase our own confidence, especially those who may be suffering with Imposter Syndrome on a regular basis.
But to do that, rather than sitting here and reeling off a catalogue of my own advice, I thought I would do something a little different. Instead, I have crowdsourced advice from a number of industry experts in the HR and leadership world that I admire and asked them their top tips for battling insecurity and increasing confidence. This is what they said..
Our piece kicked off with some rather unusual advice from Steve Price, HR Consultant at SMP Consulting. Steve said that ahead of key events, he liked to use visualisation to boost his confidence. He explains, “it took me some time to really practice the use of visualisation, as I found it difficult to maintain focus. I started with five minutes every morning, just visualising my day ahead and now use it all the time ahead of key events.” Visualisation is certainly an interesting approach and not something I have personally tried before, but I’m sure that many reading this will give it a go, especially if they can use it as part of a meditation or mindfulness session too.
For those who are less inclined to practice visualisation and prefer a good old fashioned self-help book then Jayne Jones, HR Consultant and Founder at Be Business Fit has a great suggestion. She recommends Mindstore by Jack Black, for those suffering with confidence issues. In the book Black encourages readers to create a mental ‘House on the Right Bank’ in the hopes of stimulating the creative side of the brain. Jayne says, “the house design includes a central hallway containing a gallery of images depicting times from our past when we have been at our very best.” Jayne explains that it’s these memories that help the reader feel that they are as good as anyone else and have their own unique qualities. Jayne explains that “comparisons and imposter syndrome are therefore pointless because there is only ever one version of ourselves.” Jayne says this book has really helped her over the years and certainly I think many people will likely want to give this a try after reading her glowing report.
Rachael Troughton, Business Coach from LatenTalent, explained that one thing that can significantly undermine confidence is worrying about what people think about you or your performance. Rachael advised that we should all “proactively request feedback from those whose opinion is important to you and structure your request in a way that insists on developmental as well as positive feedback.” Rachael says this can really help to quiet the niggling voice that worries about performance.
Rachael believes that confidence stems from a strong sense of self. She recommends people explore their core values and how they relate to their professional boundaries and then stick to those boundaries. She says, “it’s important to understand both your core skills and your capability gaps. Leverage the first and fill the second by either building competence (great for confidence!) or outsourcing to someone you know is great.” She also makes a point to cheer others on too. She maintained that if you do indeed outsource to someone else you should tell that person that you have passed work to them because they are great and thus boost their confidence. This is a key point and one that is so often forgotten in our fast paced, competitive working environments. We all need to become cheerleaders, and indeed, be cheered on.
And talking of cheering one another on and offering support, many of those who fed back to me for this piece suggested finding a mentor to help build confidence. Lindesay MacFarlane, Strategic HR Business Partner told us that early in her career, “as a new Trustee I was appointed a mentor (a former board member) and provided with training which confirmed that my voice, my background, and experience mattered. Knowing I had this support gave me confidence to continue and thrive.” I think Lindesay makes such an important point here and I would actively encourage people to seek out a mentor who can help guide them and provide reassurance.
Interestingly Rebecca Francis-Davis, Independent HR Specialist at Swansea Bay HR said that she actually uses imposter syndrome to her advantage. She said that she is grateful for it because “it pushes me to check my gut reaction and look for a different point of view. When I get that blank mind feeling of not knowing the answer, I embrace it.”
Whether you use imposter syndrome to your advantage, practice visualisations or read self-help books, or indeed, take on board any of the other great tips above, certainly the key advice I have heard loud and clear writing this piece is this; back yourself!
It’s only when you back yourself that you can truly achieve your potential. For instance, Morna Bunce, HR Director at Stowe Family Law, explained that whenever she is sitting in a boardroom, she always tries to remind herself that she is the people expert in the room. Certainly, they might be leaders in their respective fields, but she says “they don’t know HR like I do.” Jill Kay, HR Officer at ASD Lighting also agrees with this sentiment. She says that confidence for her comes from the ability to stand by her opinion in the face of opposition. Put simply she backs herself. Similarly, Lucinda Carney, Actus CEO & HRi partner, advises us not to think, but just to do. She reminds us that plenty of people have been very successful simply because they have been brave and put themselves out there.
And I definitely think we should all back ourselves a little more. People work with us for a reason; because we are experts at what we do, we know our stuff and we deserve our seat at the table. We must not forget that. And whilst we’re at it, let’s cheer one another along too because “confidence is contagious, and so too is a lack of confidence.”