In an earlier blog I extolled the virtues of helping women to fit and feel valued, identifying eight ways that organisations could stop the prevalent under-estimating of women’s talent and capability for leadership and non-traditional roles.
The question of fit and what it means is something that I’m still struggling to articulate clearly.
We’d do well to stop using the term imposterism and create greater nuance in what is happening both externally and internally.
We’d also do well to make uncertainty and doubt, and the expression of a variety of viewpoints more normal in leadership practice. Saying you don’t know or may not be right should not be seen as weakness, but as helpful, particularly when considering the ramifications of the opposite approach, saying you do know when you don’t.
I appreciate that the word ‘fit’ is a little less than perfect – it’s not about fitting in. Helping women fit means making room for their full talent, which means that the system needs to give it room.
So how do you adapt and grow the system to give women’s authentic fit space to be and grow?
Work on the three levels I’ve outlined in my model:
For each of the three domains – organisation, boss and self – it’s possible to reframe thinking by focusing on two key dimensions, capability (not competent/competent) and style (self-critical/self-promoting). When it comes to reframing culture it helps to prioritise substance over style.
At the organisation level, we need to reframe cultures.
This means making them less competitive and increasing both the value of cooperation and support for cooperative practices. While many organisations say they do this, where reward continues to be focused on individual effort it maximises competition and erodes cooperation. We do need both competition and cooperation, but we also need to be mindful of what the balance between them is and what it creates.
The way the boss enacts the organisation’s cultural aspirations matters. Organisations can have the best will in the world, but unless it’s translated to daily lived experience for everyone, individuals’ experiences won’t change.
At the boss level, we need to reframe support.
How individuals see success and frame their own successes matters. Bosses can support and coach their team by understanding who experiences imposterism and helping those who do to attribute their success to their skills and talents, and failures to circumstances beyond their control. Help them to see the problem as outside-in, rather than inside-out.
Help them know they are not alone, provide praise and recognition, and encourage people to see discomfort as an opportunity for learning.
At the level of self, we need to reframe success.
Context, culture and social settings create impostor feelings. In settings that prioritise overwork, competitiveness and brilliant perfection and which don’t reward effort, humility or learning, you may question your abilities and your worthiness. Know this – that this is the external world affecting how you see yourself, not an inadequacy you have.
Reframe your own success as occurring despite the limitations in the external world. Seek out organisations and contexts that genuinely want you to do and be your best. Find bosses, coaches and other supporters who help you to claim your success. Be curious about your doubts and uncertainties and use them as fuel for growth.
If you’d like help with reframing your own success, or how to do that for others, personal coaching may make all the difference. Find out more here.