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Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian. He believes that business is nothing but a conduit for personal growth and embraces the company’s vision to Love How You Live. When he’s not leading and growing his organizations, you can find Adam either in the mountains or out in nature with his wife and three children.
Have you ever felt like a fraud, an imposter, or just like you don’t deserve to take credit for the success of things going right in your business or career? If so, let me tell you, you aren’t alone. I think imposter syndrome has become even more prevalent over the past 20 years or so due to the increased use of social media, the highlight reels and the comparison culture we live in.
I talk to executives, leaders and even employees all the time who say everything seems like it’s perfect on the outside. On the inside, however, they are struggling with doubt about the value they are bringing to their organization.
We may feel like a fraud because we are not being authentic. We may feel like an imposter because we don’t understand the unique value we bring. Or we may feel unworthy of awards, promotions or recognition because our team is doing most of the “work.”
This, my friends, is imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
When you start to lead others and begin to experience success through people, whether you’re a business owner or are managing a team, you may begin to feel like a fraud or imposter. After all, if your team is the one doing the work of creating that marketing campaign, making the sales calls, or setting up new software, then what contribution are you making?
Doubt begins to creep in. But here’s the thing, you don’t want to run away from that feeling because it’s your next opportunity to grow as a leader.
Now, I’m not a psychologist, but here’s what I know: To overcome imposter syndrome you must work on yourself first. Business may be an infinite game, but leadership is an inner game. The next generation of leaders are just as committed to their inner growth and spiritual life as they are to spreadsheets and bottom lines. When you work on yourself first, everything else will fall into place.
Here are four ways to overcome imposter syndrome that will have you confidently owning your role and consciously leading through others, so everyone succeeds:
The first step is awareness and understanding your own feelings of fraud and then sharing with those who have earned your trust. Vulnerability is a valuable trait in a leader. Sharing your struggles may help someone else share theirs.
There are a lot of negative side effects from impostor syndrome, such as blame, shame, anxiety, aggression toward others, micro-managing, risk-aversion and more. Once you’ve spoken about your impostor syndrome, you can start to right any wrongs and work with your team to start constructively moving forward.
Separate facts from feelings
Sometimes you may feel inadequate, small or incompetent in a client meeting or with another team member. That doesn’t mean you are. But it may mean that you need to level up your skills or knowledge in a particular area.
Role-play your listing presentation. Study your local market and global economy. Increasing your knowledge and being more prepared the next time around will help you overcome feeling like an imposter — because you won’t be one.
One thing I did early in my career was take a new prospecting script and practice it on every person I came in contact with at my real estate office. I watched how they responded. I changed a word or two each time. I went over and over what I would say when making calls. This gave me an edge — and more confidence — in all of my real estate interactions.
Separating the facts from your feelings can be a very helpful exercise.
Fact: I did not have all the answers to the seller’s questions. But I told them I would get back within 24 hours with the correct information.
Feeling: The seller thinks I’m incompetent and is definitely not going to hire me.
One is true, and one is your perception. Do not allow your lack of knowledge to define who you are or affect your beliefs about yourself. Deal with the facts, and move forward. Easier said than done but necessary.
Make peace with the outcome
This is not a one-time event, but an ongoing practice of separating yourself from the situation, conversation or person in front of you so that you do not become the challenge, failure or even the success.
Yes, as a new real estate leader, you may show up to a team meeting questioning your value and why you got the job, but if you are prepared and make peace with however the meeting goes, then you have nothing to fear.
Making peace with the outcome doesn’t mean that you don’t put in the work and show up as the best version of you, it just means that no matter what happens, it will not change who you are at the core. There is peace in that.
Confidence doesn’t mean you have all the answers or know everything. Confidence is knowing you can find a solution to any challenge that comes your way. And, I hate to break it to you, but the only way to build confidence is by getting uncomfortable, trying something new and realizing that you can handle it.
Several years ago I called one of my mentors and told him that I didn’t really know what to do with myself anymore. I had built up my real estate team and hired my replacement to run the sales team. I had a great operations staff running everything else.
I woke up feeling like a fraud. All the success was happening around me, yet what was I contributing?
My mentor said, “Your new job is to read, talk to industry experts, write, listen to podcasts, lead generate for world-class talent, and stay 10 steps ahead of your team so that you can lead them well and find and create new opportunities for them. Your self-growth becomes a gift for others that will give them clarity and vision.”
OK, I could get behind that. It can be very humbling when you have to shift from doing the work on your own to succeeding through other people. But that is part of building confidence as a leader and overcoming imposter syndrome. One step at a time.
It’s uncomfortable to realize that the day-to-day of your business is in someone else’s hands. However, the confidence comes when you set clear expectations, provide proper training, and start to trust others to get the work done — and even better than you could have done alone.
Imposter syndrome is not something that will plague you for the rest of your life. However, you experience imposter moments from time to time as your business grows, you take on a new role in your real estate team or when you are presented with a new and exciting opportunity.
These moments are fleeting but no less real. Get vulnerable, separate facts from feelings, let go of the outcome and continue to build your confidence no matter what stage of your business or career you’re in.
Adam Hergenrother is the founder and CEO of Livian, the author of The Founder & The Force Multiplier, and the host of the podcast, Business Meets Spirituality. Learn more about Adam’s companies and culture here.