Imposter Syndrome: The most frequent visitor when you become manager 💊
You may have felt that you are not up to your job more than once.
You know you have a good job, but you don't really think you have the skills needed to perform.
You deliver the tasks, you do what is asked of you, but the feeling is still there.
Has it ever happened to you?
That's the imposter syndrome: the feeling that you are not worth, you are incapable, or not enough WHEN IN REALITY you are worth, you are capable, and you are enough.
Most first-time managers face it, and I need to tell you: IT’S ABSOLUTELY NORMAL.
Managing a tech team is hard, managing a remote one even more so.
It's tough not to feel it when you find yourself out of the code for several days in a row. Or when you don't review technical documentation so often. Or when you literally spend whole days jumping from meeting to meeting, from Slack to email.
You feel "outdated" and that your work has no impact.
I get you. — I am someone who has felt the imposter syndrome in almost all my stages: first-time CTO, first member of my team, first big project to deliver, first presentation to investors…
In fact, at Lidr.co, I have felt (and still feel) the syndrome more than ever!
At the end, I am wearing MANY hats for the first time, all of them out of tech, my domain, and I am not taking a proper formal training for any of them. Being a great speaker, salesperson, or CEO that way, all at the same time, is not something easy to deal with.
💭 A couple of examples I remember:
When we started creating Ignite, it was initially a master, and I had the goal of bringing top reference CTOs in the industry, those who built amazing products like Typeform, Badi or Carto, to be mentors of the master.
My heart raced just of thinking if such top-notch talents would believe in me and in a product that had not even come to market yet.
But who were I to convince them? How could I be a priority for them? They were rockstars, for sure they would have much better things to invest their time on.
Some months later, when we ran the #CTOweek, our first official event in Lidr.co, I felt the imposter syndrome at its peak!
I was supposed to be the guest star, but the camera panicked me A LOT. Speaking in English for 90 minutes, 4 days in a row, sounded terrifying.
I worked many, many hours to improve the slides, the speech, and the technical setup as much as I could, literally until the last minute. It was never good enough.
All that perfectionism didn’t make my stomach stop tingling, or my hands stop sweating.
Then the show started, and more than 300 people joined.
I had never been in such a big Zoom meeting, and everyone was expecting me to deliver real value.
I just wondered: “What am I going to teach these people who don't even know me? Mine is just an opinion, there are thousands out there from well-known and trusted industry leaders. — Why listening to me?“
All of this happens when we face new situations in life. — You are trying to perform a new task, something you don't know (yet) 100% how to do.
Do you think that if you are required to write the same lines of code for yet-another-endpoint, week after week, as you have been doing for the last 3 years, you would feel that tickle in your belly or that bitter feeling that you won't succeed?
It's normal to feel the imposter syndrome when you are trying something new, mainly because you don't know what might happen and even less if the results will finally come.
But the reality is that you have to face it and take action, otherwise, you will never know what could have happened.
In my case, I went ahead! — I got in touch (with fear tho) with those top CTOs. They made me realize that my hypotheses were wrong, they wanted to invest their time in Lidr.co because they believed in our mission!
I also went ahead with the #CTOweek and It was a huge success! Actually, we got the first sold out of our Ignite Program.
Taking action is good, what we have to do is obvious and clear. But, the problem here is to do it.
How do you prepare yourself mentally to take action?
If I had to sum up in just one single piece of advice: Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen?
When you see that most of the time you have achieved and overcome what you were so afraid of, it will be easier each time to challenge yourself to face the new and unknown.
— And the extended version?
Here you are some tips that helped me to deal with the syndrome all these years, in many different situations, and I would love you to take them with you today, so you don't postpone your goals or dreams anymore.
✅ The first thing to do if you want to become a great leader, is to address those insecurities first. Talk to your manager and your team, be vulnerable, and don’t keep them just for yourself. You will learn that many of the assumptions about the future, only live in your mind. And they could also tell you what they expect, so you avoid the perfectionism trap.
✅ Get a mentor to discuss your fears or insecurities. She will help you to set an action plan to overcome them based on her experience dealing with similar situations, and that pair of fresh eyes could be the objective perspective you are missing to balance your thoughts. It’s an accelerated growth.
✅ Ask your mentor, manager, or team for feedback about your performance. They could also give you tips, examples, or resources to improve. Ask for help, or come to Lidr.co, that's exactly why I've created this space, so you can find a support network.
✅ Reflect on your goals achieved... DAILY, even if you think they are "insignificant”. Especially those that were hard to reach. When you come back to everything you have achieved over a longer period, i.e. one year, it will be easier for you to celebrate and gain confidence. Don’t just look above in the ladder, only to find out how far you are from the top. That will always be moving. — Instead, take some time regularly to look below and see how far you are now from the ground.
✅ Compare yourself… but only with yourself. Today you are BETTER than yesterday! That’s the one and only thing that matters, and what you need to ask yourself every night. Don’t waste your time comparing to others, it will never be a fair comparison, and it will make you feel worse. Instead, invest that time and energy wisely working on your improvement.
✅ Do the exercise of writing good things about yourself on paper, so you don't forget them. — Not only those you perceive, but also think about those moments in which someone else told you something good, and you did not value it.
✅ Don't stop doing new things! — Do things that are a challenge for you, things that involve leaving your comfort zone. Things that scare you and imply a change. Whatever it is, dare! Only then can you understand that you have much more capacity than you think to face the new and unknown.
If you want to become a great leader and build a high-performance team, you can do it against all natural odds of fear. Just, learn to live with the imposter syndrome, put yourself first before your fears, look for external perspectives, and TAKE ACTION!
Only when you feel free to do what you want, you really choose the path you deserve. And only then you will unleash your full potential.
P.S. If you are interested in growing as an Engineering Lead, I’d like to invite you to join the waiting list of Lidr Academy, our new cohort-based course with 100% actionable content that covers all areas needed to become a great leader in tech.
Self-confidence is just one of the many modules under our Self-Leadership course (One of the 6 areas of leadership in our own skills framework).
Sounds relevant? — Join here.
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. Most articles tend to give dry advice that is hard to apply. Real stories motivate to talk that damn action! :)