The Importance of Mindsets

Have you ever wondered why some people always respond in the same way in certain situations? In the workplace, when faced with change, one response often heard is ‘well we have already tried this, and it didn’t work’.

Another is ‘yes that’s a good idea but…

What is a Mindset?

These responses are signs of a mindset. The mindset in this example is that of a having a negative response to the world around us. Although an overworked cliche, it’s the way of seeing the world as a glass half empty rather than a glass half full.

Mind sets are ways in which we habitually respond to our world and represent our prevailing attitudes. They develop from the way we perceive and how we interpret those perceptions.   As they have become habits we often use them without thinking. They can become automatic.

A Positive v. Negative Mindset

Some mind sets, such as the one I have mentioned above can have negative consequences both for ourselves and others around us. If we are continually responding with a ‘yes, but’, then people will stop involving us in new projects. We will be always putting up barriers.

This is not to say that we should enthusiastically embrace all change and stay positive all the time. This would be unrealistic and does not prepare us for unforeseen consequences.  An element of skepticism is healthy for society provided it doesn’t shut down discussion and we are prepared to listen to all sides. We need people to challenge ideas in a constructive way in terms of what actions are needed. However, that challenge is best made in a way that doesn’t shut down the possibility for change and is accepting of the others view.

So, instead of using ‘yes but’ when faced with discussion of change why not try ‘yes and’. Then  introduce any further thoughts you may have that you think have been overlooked. This confirms that you are open to new ideas and at the same time are aware that there may be issues that have not yet been aired.

How to change our mindsets

As we often don’t know or are not aware of our mindsets, it is a helpful exercise to unearth them, so we can become more conscious about them.

One way to review them is to ask for feedback from others on how we habitually respond. If patterns emerge that are negative, then we should start to become aware of when we use them and start to re-frame our responses.

As mind sets are habits that have built up over time it will take time to change them. You will need to be reminding yourself constantly to remain alert to the language and attitudes that you want to change and work on these a step at a time.


Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developCreativity Cycling booked a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently  published a book on creativity for leaders with Dr. Tracy Stanley, entitled Creativity Cycling 

Habits that inhibit success for women

It seems that every day I receive an email offering advice on habits. The popularity of neuroscience has spurned an interest in how our brains work and what we can do about it. Habits are such simple things. Developed over time, they become enduring and quite resistant to change. They serve a purpose for us, in that they short-cut the need to think about how we behave in certain situations, and they reap rewards when that purpose is served. Continue reading “Habits that inhibit success for women”

The Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it

What is the Imposter Syndrome?

Do you recognize this feeling? You are about to step into a networking meeting or planning a meeting with a potential client and you have this message popping into your head – ‘these people will realize I am not that good’ or ‘I can’t handle this, I am a fraud.’ Then you are not alone. For example, Liz Bingham, managing partner Ernst & Young , once thought to herself: “What are you dthe jokeroing here? What do you think you’re doing? You’re going to be found out.” Maya Angelou has been reported as saying “I have written 11 books, but each time I think, ‘Uh-oh, they’re going to find [me] out now.”

This is something that many people experience at some time and has been labelled the Imposter Syndrome by Clance and Imes (1978)  who believed that it was unique to women. There is some evidence to suggest that it is not unique to women, however it is believed to be less common in men.

Two US sociologists, Jessica Collett and Jade Avelis, researched the trend of women academics who were “downshifting”: ‘setting out towards a high-status tenured post, then switching to something less ambitious.’ The results of their survey of 460 doctoral students suggested that rather than this being about wanting a better work/life balance or having a more “family-friendly” lifestyle, ‘impostorism was to blame’. This was reported as often being exacerbated when these women were being mentored by a more powerful woman.

What causes the Imposter Syndrome?

The research suggests that some of the reasons for the imposter syndrome may be due to childhood influences and parenting. For example parents who repeat messages that you do not deserve this, or that they give praise when you kow it is not deserved.

However an interesting supposition is that those who experience the imposter syndrome tend to attribute their success to external factors rather than internal factors. That success is  somehow due to luck rather than their own ability. It was suggested by Clance and Imes that women have a greater tendency to do this and that this may be one of the reasons why women are more likely to fall into the category of the Imposter syndrome.

Societal pressures only adds to the problem. “In our society there’s a huge pressure to achieve,” Imes says. “There can be a lot of confusion between approval and love, and worthiness. Self-worth becomes contingent on achieving.”

It is also assumed that this syndrome is partially down to a sense of perfectionism which many people carry with them from their early days.

Overcoming the Imposter syndrome

Here are some suggestions for how to overcome the Imposter Syndrome

  • Keep a note of the positive feedback that you receive and re-read this when your confidence starts to diminish
  • Own your success, it is you who achieved this.
  • Talk to a mentor about your feelings; acknowledgement is the start to overcoming this.
  • Mentor less experienced or junior people to help you really feel your competence.
  • If you are mentoring more junior people and you have experienced the imposter syndrome then share this and talk about how to overcome it.
  • Accept that nobody knows everything and you do have a certain knowledge and expertise to offer the world. Make a note of what this is.
  • Stop comparing your self to others, you are unique. Acknowledge this!
  • Realize that no-one is perfect and good enough is already pretty good as an achievement, so celebrate this!

If you have experienced the Imposter Syndrome, and I certainly have, please share your comments.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and has launched RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here.

Working to our Strengths is energising

Focussing on improving or eliminating our weaknesses is the most important aspect of personal development, right? No wrong! When we focus on our weaknesses the messages we take on unconsciously is that we are not good at things.

This  tendency to focus on our weaknesses  is not helped by the constant corporate insistence on measurement against targets. I have worked with many leaders giving feedback on a 360 degree process and in the main the first focus is  what are their weaknesses and how does this effect their performance?

I wouldn’t want to dismiss weaknesses as having no effect uponIMG_20150902_102740our performance however I would argue that strengths have the greater effect.

Strengths can be defined as “Underlying qualities that energise us, contribute to our personal growth and lead to peak performance.” Brewerton and Brook, 2006

If we are not aware of what these strengths are then we are unable to capitalize on them. If we focus on our weaknesses we are led down a path of negativity. We come to believe that we are not good at our work or have issues that get in the way of good performance. On the other hand if we focus on our strengths then we can rise above the negativity and consider what we are capable of doing and build upon this.

There is a positive aspect for organisations as well as individuals in focussing on strengths, as research by Rath and Conchie (2008) has shown,  that by optimizing strengths there is on average an increase in  engagement in organisations by 73%.  A blogpost
I wrote about employee engagement in 2013 highlighted how important it is to have engaged employees as they are more motivated and committed to the organisation.

James Brooke of the organisation Strengths Partnership, asserts that focusing on strengths :

  • Ensure that employees get clarity on their natural strengths so they can realise their full potential
  • Heightens their positive energy and confidence, which is crucial for performance improvement
  • Provides people with an improved understanding of how to manage their weaker areas

One way in which working to understand ones strengths changes us is that it offers a different perspective. If we have always been focussing on what we can’t do and have built up barriers resulting in a lack of confidence then this is the lens we view our world through. If we could change this, re-frame our world and see things through a positive lens, recognizing what we do well, then the change can be amazing. As Brooke states above, positive energy is heightened when recognizing strengths.

Barbara is accredited in strengths assessment and uses this in her coaching. She is also facilitating Renewyou personal development workshops for women in France which takes  a strengths focussed approach to development.