Who is the Imposter?

The late actor Paul Newman, who won numerous awards, always feared that one day someone would push through the crowd, grab him by the arm, and say, ‘It’s over. It was all a mistake. You are coming back to paint houses.’

Do you ever feel like that?

I have a love-hate relationship with Imposter Syndrome. I am frequently reminded of one of the guiding principles of Strengths-based development  Lead with positive intent. If we lead with positive intent towards ourselves, maybe we wouldn’t feel like an Imposter. I am also high in the CliftonStrengths theme of Self-Assurance.

Self-Assurance is similar to self-confidence. In the deepest part of you, you have faith in your strengths. You know that you are able—able to take risks, able to meet new challenges, able to stake claims and, most important, able to deliver. Source Gallup

Last week this was tested a little.  I was working with a team at one of the leading Universities in Queensland. The team consisted of the Dean and his heads of school for Health, Medical and Applied Sciences which included Psychology. These were seriously smart people with degrees, double degrees, PhD’s and years of experience.

Who was I to be working with them, this C-grade student at best who didn’t even go to university let alone teach other people about human behaviour?

But that was not what I was there for.  I am not a teacher, whilst it was a path I considered as a child until I found out how much study is involved. My last CliftonStrengths theme is Learner.

You love to learn. The subject matter that interests you most will be determined by your other themes and experiences, but whatever the subject, you will always be drawn to the process of learning. Source Gallup

Yep, not me.  I do however love to help individuals and teams understand each other better to be able to meet business and personal goals.  I am not a teacher but a facilitator, my role is to facilitate the conversation.  To help each individual put a voice to their unique talents and strengths.  To make connections for them like pulling threads on a tapestry or connecting dots.

Participants in a workshop know themselves better than I know them.  I find it useful to ask early in a workshop “What percentage of your report did you feel sounded like you?” I ask them to show me on their hands, if 80% then show me 8 fingers, usually its around the 80% mark, some as high as 100%. I might get the occasional 50%, these are often the sceptic or those people who get a little hung up on some specific wording in the reports like Connectedness where it might refer to a spiritual connection and they say “No that’s not me” and when they understand the impact of the other themes, then they get it and after the workshop their number shifts upwards.

When I asked this percentage question of this group of academics, their responses were high.  I had also sent in advance the technical paper so they could see the research and validity of the assessment.  I knew by looking at their results that they would want the facts, data and evidence.  I could also see they were curious to learn and valued building strong connections with each other, which is what they did.

When I walked into the room, one of the participants shared that they had already listened to 4 Called to Coach episodes and loved them.  I knew I had at least 2 people on board, the Dean who engaged me and this podcast listener.

At the end of day one I was invited to join the group for dinner.  I was having a conversation with the Dean whom I had worked with a few years before when I was his coach.  I shared that I was wondering how they would respond, with me not being ‘educated’. He said  ‘It’s clear you know your stuff, it’s all up there in your head, you make connections so easily, share in simple language and ask great questions.’

This helped me put that little voice that chirps up occasionally in its place.  That voice that has me doubt myself (momentarily) is there to keep me safe. But it could keep me in my comfort zone if I gave it too much airtime and that is not where things grow.

How much airtime do you give that little ‘imposter’ voice in your head?  I say I have a love-hate relationship with it, but I think it’s the word imposter.  It’s not an imposter, you are not an imposter, you are you.  You bring an amazing set of talents and strengths to the table, to the individuals you are working with and the teams you are facilitating.  If you have been through the Gallup training and completed the exam at the end, that is more than they have. 

Yes, the knowledge and experience I have of CliftonStrengths have grown over the last 10 years of doing what I do.  I can shift and move with the group and the agenda, I don’t need slides, but I don’t pretend to know how each of the talents show up for each person, the possibilities are endless.  You don’t need to know them all in depth either.  You do need to love each one though. 

You do need to know their desired outcomes and what they want to get from the coaching or workshop and knowing questions to ask helps with that.

Listening to pretty much every episode of Theme Thursday has helped me gain a better understanding of the themes and again working with me people.

The first workshop I ever ran, the client didn’t know it was my first one.  I do subscribe to Amy Cuddy’s fake it until you make it. I must have done a good job as they booked me again, again and again.  It’s practising the skills of facilitation (to make possible the needs of the group) that helps you get better.

If you never put yourself out there and show up as you for the group or individual you are working with, then you deprive them of an opportunity to be their best.  That’s what a coach and facilitator bring to the table.

One thing I would like you to do is to create a ‘Brag file’.  Create two folders in the file. One folder for all the positive comments you have gained, the feedback that something went well.  Another for all the criticism you got for the thing you stuff up or didn’t do well (not you ‘think’ you stuffed up but the actual evidence of it).  When you have that moment of ‘imposter’ look at the files and see which is bigger.

At the end of day two the participants from the University group I worked with wrote their suggestions and ideas from the session on post-it notes.  The sessions I ran were part of their strategic planning.  I was thrilled to read suggestions like ‘have students take the assessment’ and ‘cascade down to our staff’ on their ideas.  I also received a few emails of thanks and how much they enjoyed the session and found it useful to go in my brag file.

My talents and strengths drive me to do what I do.  I don’t think I have met a coach or facilitator yet who doesn’t do what they do through a sense of purpose and wanting to make a difference. Knowing how your talents and strengths show up for you to be the best coach you can be.  Look beyond the top 5.  Engage another coach to help you with that.  Get clear on your WHY but that will be another post. I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s book Find your WHY.


Charlotte Blair
10 August 2023