Tag: Millennials

I Got Promoted, Now I Feel Like an Imposter

I Got Promoted, Now I Feel Like an Imposter

I’m new and so there are a lot of things that I don’t know.  I’ve just been promoted out of the rank and file into a supervisory position, so I must know what I am doing, and yet every day I feel like a fraud. Like they are going to find me out and send me back to the floor and take away my office.

I used to have a safety net in my job – it was my supervisor.  They could help me in a tight spot, connect me with the right person, suggest a course of action or pull in other resources to get the job done.  Now I am supposed to be that safety net and I am scared that the wire walkers on my team are going to hit the cement hard because I don’t know how to catch them.

This is a situation that many managers have experienced and there’s even a formal name for it – The Imposter Syndrome.  In some people, it can get so bad that despite years of external evidence of their success they still cannot internalize and take credit for their own accomplishments.  For managers, this leads to a constant feeling of unease with their boss and their team and creates pressure to “perform” in the way that got them the promotion.  It was my seniority in the company.  It was my charm.  It was affirmative action.  My dad is the boss’ best friend.  It was anything except their own experience, skills, and performance.  This self-deception only amplifies a managers feeling of being a phony and this circle of doubt could hang around their neck for years.

Fortunately for most managers, the Imposter feeling is entirely predictable and manageable.

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Predictable as it almost always appears a short time after they get recognized for their prior performance with a new position, project or team.  Not right away mind you.  In the early days of something new, a manager will be riding on the high of recognition, promotion, and bigger compensation.  They will be excited about the new challenge and like a new President, ready to make a difference in the first 90 days.

One of the most taught management training models in the world, Situational Leadership II, describes this manager as the Enthusiastic Beginner – low on competence and job knowledge but high on commitment.

SLII-Color-Model-Exp_inpr

The Developing or D1 manager in the chart above “doesn’t know what they don’t know” and it’s only when they “know what they don’t know” that the feeling of being an Imposter starts to enter the picture.  The D2 manager is the “Disillusioned Leader” who not only doubts their competence but doesn’t feel the same commitment to the job, company or position.

While the Imposter does show up among experienced managers making an upward move in the same company from one management job to another, it is far more prevalent in the following situations:

  • The first move from the shop floor or the accounts payable office or the sales territory or the developers den into a supervisor position.
  • Being a manager who defies demographics in a particular unit or company,  such as a woman in a tech company or a Millennial in a union shop.
  • A new executive recruited into a conservative company that typically recruits from within.

In each of these situations, the environment magnifies an already uneasy transition.  The new supervisor has 10 other developers wondering why they weren’t promoted.  The young manager in a union shop has an experienced staff that feels they have seen and done it all.  The outsider has to learn the culture of the new company and learn to manage at the same time.

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This Imposter phase can last a lot longer than any manager wants it to, but it’s as manageable as it is predictable.

A good manager takes on the Imposter within by being authentic to themselves and by serving the people they manage.

A good manager focuses on the basics  – working hard, being on time, listening, building relationships, and serving the team while they sort out the environment and knowledge they need to develop as a manager.  The team will understand that you are new and for awhile at least, will give you a break based on your newness, as long as you are taking care of their needs in a consistent and fair manner.

At the same time, a good manager also seeks out or creates a routine of personal affirmation to ward off the Imposter.  This can be done by using a daily affirmation journal where you list all the good moments in the day whether it’s people related or business related.  A reminder that your skills, ideas and leadership made a difference.  Ideally, it would also involve your boss, where every week you can outline the good and bad and they can provide the praise, encouragement and guidance that a new manager needs.

And part of that encouragement should be to continue to be the person you were before you got promoted – the authentic you.  Not an imposter.


Read more posts about Managing Not Doing or How a Mgr Finds a Friend.

Vacation Days Are Not the Answer

Vacation Days Are Not the Answer

There was a great article in the Globe and Mail about the trend toward young tech companies in Canada following the lead of their Silicon Valley counterparts and offering unlimited vacation. In the company profiled, this pot ‘o’ gold at the end of the benefits rainbow backfired spectacularly when less than half the employees took any time off in the first year it was offered.

The co-founder attributed the failure as follows:

“…employees may have felt uncomfortable taking time when he and his co-founder hadn’t taken a single day off themselves since founding the company three years before.”

And there you go – young teams are more impressionable more likely  to model themselves after the manager in the room.  Even when you say, “Do as I say, not as I do” they will do exactly what you do.

It’s interesting that a benefit like unlimited vacation is almost always offered at companies where the employees still have spots.  While Millennials may be part of a generation that is often considered entitled, unjustly I believe, their need to believe in a cause and commit to something bigger than themselves outweighs their need to climb the Andes.

From that same co-founder:

”…he attributes the policy’s failure in part to the military-like camaraderie of the startup world, where taking time off can feel like leaving your fellow soldiers behind on the battlefield.”

At this stage, when the company is fighting to survive and become something with staying power, everyone needs to be suited up everyday.  It’s an exciting time and who would want to leave that – even for a surfing vacation in Bali.  Something important, earth shaking and difference making might happen while you are away.

Perhaps a generous vacation policy might be better served at the next stage of a company’s development, when everyone is out of the foxholes and there is less uncertainty about the future of the company.  That’s often a pretty crazy stage, too.  At least it’s a manageable stage, because there is more people and more cash flow and some professional managers, HR people and accountants who will make sure that one person or one bad decision won’t bring the company down while you are hiking the Grand Canyon.

As a founder of a start-up, if you have to offer people unlimited vacation to recruit the talent you need, you might as well shut the doors now and save yourself the time and agony.  If your idea, your product or you personally are not enough to bring in the foot soldiers who want to make a difference, then vacation days are not the answer.

Being a Manager in 2016

Being a Manager in 2016

As part of the SOHO (Small Office Home Office) event in Victoria on January 21, 2016, I was asked to join some of the other speakers, panelists, and experts to provide predictions for 2016.

As I am a manager and my coaching is primarily with managers and business owners that manage small teams, my items are focused on what these “people managers” might see in 2016:

Your employees will get younger and they will better connect you with a younger customer.
Your younger staff will want to mentor you and your business will be better for it – so listen up!
More small business owners or sole proprietors will retire and sell their business – creating an opportunity for you!

The overall demographics of the workplace are starting to get younger as the largest generation in history, the Baby Boomers really start to retire.  2016 will be year 10 of a 25-year retirement window for most Boomers.

As the next group up, Gen Xers will move into executive roles and start or buy companies from retiring Boomers (my third point) the natural generation to fill the empty spots are Millenials, who are already the largest generation in the workforce:

millennials-workforce-compressor

This generation of workers will connect you to a younger customer – and you want these people as customers.  They are the largest segment of the working population – also known as people with regular income to spend at your business –  and will be for the next 30 years.

The long-term success of your business will depend upon your ability to sell to a Millennial.

Lucky for you, as Millennials join your team they can help you market and sell to their own kind.  And they won’t be shy about telling you how to do it (my second point) – and that’s OK.  Soak in what they have to share, give them a job with a purpose that they can pursue with passion and then lean on them to recruit more Millennials, as customers and as team members.  It’s an ambitious generation that will jump to the next job at dizzying speeds – and that is also OK.

Don’t fight it.

In 2016, embrace how Millennials can make your business better now and in the future.