Many years ago an employee stepped into my office, shut the door and asked me: “Do you ever feel like a big fake?” When I probed about the meaning behind this deep question she let me know that every day she showed up at work and did what was required of her but secretly worried that someone would find out she had no idea what she was doing. At the time, I was a brand new Executive Director and often had these thoughts and had not realized that others shared them and that no matter how much experience and education I had, I would continue to experience this sense of “living on the edge.”
Some years later I began to hear about this in academic articles, it is known as the Impostor Syndrome. There is a great, concise article in Forbes Magazine about this syndrome. https://www.forbes.com/2010/02/22/imposter-syndrome-professional-fraud-forbes-woman-leadership-psychology.html
Some tasks that we perform are routine and we know immediately that we will be able to produce what is being asked of us, but as senior leaders, more often, we commit to doing things with only a vague idea of how we will proceed. As long as we have time, most of us “muddle through,” figuring it out as we go and coming up with the solution.
However, when the demands of work and home add up to more hours than the day offers, or when we have several of these learning exercises all at one time, even the most competent manager begins to feel overwhelmed and incompetent, and often afraid to tell someone how they are feeling. The fear of being found out is great and the stress this creates can be overwhelming.
In reality, the manager is usually quite competent and resourceful. Given the space they would be able to solve the problem. Often they do solve the problem but only after many hours of stressing and obsessing on it. One solution is to ask for assistance. This is a good plan when there are too many non-routine tasks at one time, or when time becomes at a premium such as when there are several competing priorities all at once or when upcoming events such as a vacation, create compression in the manager’s schedule.
Whatever your situation, it is important to remember that you are competent and capable. No one is an expert on everything and developing expertise may take more time than you have.
Streamline New Perspective Solutions offers management consulting services for non-profit organizations. Please visit www.streamlinenps.ca