The Imposter Trap.

by, Joseph Clementi

Many high performing managers struggle with alter-ego’s in their own professional traps that create voids in their leadership skills. 

The ultimate goal may be extraordinary business performance but, you can still be uncomfortable in the relentless pursuit of excellence.  High performance is not about doing more because you can.  It is more about zeroing in on the specific strategies and priorities that are most impactful to the organization. Leadership transcends the traditional course of management as we learn to manage the emotional and psychological impact of intellectual conflict.

These feelings of professional inferiority manifest themselves in unproductive communications that strain relationships and divide teams.  Many mismanage the balancing act of performance and the pressure to perform by cultivating a “do as I say” environment to solution resolution. The truth is, I have experienced this myself.  If you are a top performer (or leader that manages others), its important to understand the career traps that alter behaviors.  High performance people share internal conflicts with the four most common career traps that may be draining confidence and diminishing the sense of value.   

Such problems are especially insidious because individuals lack insight into their own core beliefs. Those are the key core beliefs that disconnect the leader from the potential.  Social Scientist identify these four traits that encapsulate the mental barriers of career traps:

  1. The Emptiness trap: The concept of having everything but feeling empty with a sense of boredom.
  2. The Alone trap: The emotion of not lonely but being alone. Feeling of missing the drive to continue forward.
  3. The Isolation trap: The emotion of exhaustion but the urge to continue for fear that stopping reduces future success results.
  4. Imposter trap: despite overwhelming proof that they are talented and insightful, many top performers desperately feel like a fraud.  What if their years of achievement luck runs out?  What if someone comes along and discovers they aren’t as innovative as others think they are?  They go through the motions of success while secretly waiting for the people around them to discover their inadequacies.  Clearly, not a good way to lead others or to successfully navigate this changing economy. 

The most common performance trap is the Imposter trap.  This trap often manifests itself in unfavorable emotions that diminishes creativity by increasing doubt and insecurity.  The coaching methods to avoid this trap while increasing the desirability of imagination and leadership creativity.

  • Recognize this as negative self-talk. Understand the triggers that create self-talk and interrupt the internal conversation.
  • Make a gratitude list. Identify your accomplishments, talents, skills, and ideas that have positively impacted others during the journey.  Visually reinforce your validity.
  • Shift your thinking from the what to the why.  Leverage is always gained when there is clarity to the reason you are leading others. 
  • Reinforce the behavior through activities that add support the growth mindset.  Feeding the funnel with new and innovative ideas builds skills that bridge the confidence-competence gap.

The examples I have mentioned have affected countless individuals across a wide variety of professions.  These behavior traps can sabotage many organizations as well as individuals – especially because they reinforce insecurities that drain productivity. 

The reason these behavior traps remain so damaging, is that despite all we have learned about these soft skills, is that, whatever price they extract, they do satisfy certain psychological needs.  To escape these beliefs, individuals must battle their own resistance, as they would in trying to change any entrenched beliefs.

“Higher emotional intelligence helps us to have stronger internal motivations. In this way, we reduce procrastination; increase confidence and improve our ability to focus on a goal. It also allows us to create better support networks. Overcome failures and persist.”

– Unknown

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