Do you suffer from imposter syndrome as a business owner?

Learn both how to recognise if you have these negative thoughts and how to banish them so you can perform better in your role.

CEO coach and turnaround king, Peter Ryding shares his wisdom to get SME’s business owners out of the detrimental thought processes that can stump and company’s growth. He speaks to Managing Editor Richard Alvin in our podcast, listen to the full version here and refer back to this to ensure you banish any negative thought processes from your mind.

Ironically imposter syndrome is one of so many self limiting beliefs it’s more prevalent in senior people because people tend to be dismissive of how they got to be in that position ‘oh I got lucky’ or ‘I don’t really know how this business works, I should understand it in more detail but at the moment I’m winging it and getting by and no one’s noticed.’

The first element of tackling imposter syndrome is acknowledging it’s there. It can have a massive impact on careers, companies, it can self-sabotage your success. One way of partly recognising it is that if someone comes to you after giving a presentation or meeting, if someone says ‘you were superb in that meeting yo did these three things really well, oh and by the way, you could have improved maybe in this …’

When you suffer from imposter syndrome you tend to focus on that criticism and most of us don’t treat ourselves as you would a best friend.

Treat yourself the way you would treat a best friend. You’d want them to focus on the positives.

As a coach I spend a lot of time with chief executives to deeply understand who they are. If you understand this, you dismiss some of the false stories in your head about how you don’t deserve to be a CEO. If you’re running a business you’re in the top 1% of the population, so you are already unusually good in many different ways. Ask yourself: what are your values, what are the things that you will refuse to compromise even if it would make you a bit more money? Also, ask yourself, who do you want to be? We all should be improving all the time.

One really interesting question which often my clients take a few goes to come up with answer is: who must you stop being so that you can become the person that you want to be?

There isn’t enough time, energy and brain-space to be the person we used to be AND the new one. You have to let it go. Often it’s the things we don’t let go of that actually constrain us so ask yourself these  questions and base the answers not on feelings, base them on facts. 

Try and make a factual CV of yourself, then think, who do you want to be and who do you have to stop being in order to become that person you want to be.

As a coach I know that there are various things called scripts, imposters, rules and values which get in the way.

Imagine you’re a movie star and you were given a script and you go through the film following the exact script with no innovation. In life, by the time we’re about 18-21 we’e all developed our own life script whereby we know what’s going to excite us, annoy us and when you’re going to get bored. Now that script might have been useful earlier in your career, however, as you go through life you need to get rid of the old scripts and  adopt new ones.

Same with the rules. A rule is something that connects a belief to a behaviour. One of my clients ran an IT company and he refused to employ anyone with facial hair because he had this belief that people had this belief that people grow facial hair to cover up their mouths so that they can lie. Now sadly the reason that belief emerged, was that an uncle with a beard tried to molest him when he was younger so at the time there was a reason why it was quite understandable for the lack of trust. Thirty years on it’s not helpful anymore. That’s an example of a rule that makes sense at the time but then it becomes irrelevant and a problem.

So often in coaching you don’t just remove a negative belief you have to replace it with a positive one. You’ll be pleased to know that in the end he ended up recruiting people with beards and created a much more functional, diverse workplace.

Deal with imposter syndrome right now

So in answer to your question, how do you deal with imposter syndrome? Accept it’s a thing, treat yourself as you would your best friend. Define who you are based on facts, not negative self deprecating feelings, use various techniques things like the 80/20 rule.

If you can correctly identify the 80% of things that make you happy and that the 20% of the things that make you successful and you spend 80% of your time on those, you’ll be more successful and THAT will overcome imposter syndrome. And also – get a coach, of course I’m going to say that aren’t I, it’s much easier to address some of these deeper issues and to explore ‘what was it earlier in your life that has given you self limiting beliefs and then when you’ve got that second party it’s like having an added value sounding board, they can challenge you confidentially, get you to recognise that you’ve got an unhelpful rule and a self limiting belief and then overcome it.



Cherry Martin

Cherry Martin

Cherry is Associate Editor of Business Matters with responsibility for planning and writing future features, interviews and more in-depth pieces for what is now the UK’s largest print and online source of current business news.